Keeping some perspective

I think it ironic that my critics so often accuse me of demanding that everyone in this movement must agree on every point. Because I’ve never said anything like that.  Quite the reverse in fact. For example, I’m constantly accused of having said that “you’re either feminist or you’re sexist”, even though that’s not what I actually said; I said we’re all sexist to some degree.  I’m still accused of promoting divisive dichotomies even by those who know and admit that I said it’s not a dichotomy.

I’ve said many times that I rarely agree with anyone completely, that we should be able to express disagreements respectfully, and that we should be able to strategically overlook some differences in opinion in those who would otherwise be useful allies. We don’t have the resources to do otherwise, not when we’re outnumbered, out-gunned and out-financed as much as we are.  I have also come to the defense of some prominent person who said something dumb once, or who wasn’t very knowledgeable of some issue well outside their expertise.

So Dawkins didn’t know about the Men’s Rights Movement, and he occasionally alternates between supporting feminism and sounding sexist. Thus he is criticized from both sides, even though gender equality is obviously not his primary focus or area of interest.  So I hardly think it fair to say that “Dawkins has lost it“, just because he’s not up to speed on that topic.  Yeah, I know.  “Dear Muslima’ wasn’t his best moment.  He’s said a few other things I don’t agree with, and not just about that.  I wish he’d stop using the word, ‘Darwinism’ -for example.

I don’t expect anyone in this movement to agree on all philosophies, policies, or politics, just like I don’t expect science nerds to understand fashion statements.  Being critical thinkers doesn’t mean that we should criticize our associates more than our adversaries.  Because I also don’t like when our opponents publish comments that “the atheist movement has petered out“, based on the impression that “even atheists think Dawkins is a joke”.  Not only is that overwhelmingly not the case, but believers don’t know that it doesn’t really matter what any of us thinks of Dawkins or anyone else.  However we don’t seem to understand how infighting diminishes our own capacity.  For that and many other reasons, I would rather give credit where it is due. respect where it was earned, and reasonable criticism when and wherever necessary. But then, I’m not trying to sell my blog with sensational headlines.

 

Whether black lives matter against Police force

Tonight the Ra-Men talk to Bria Crutchfield, president of Black Nonbelievers of Detroit – on how racism is disproportionately imposed by police, prosecution, and imprisonment.  We’ll also talk to her associate, Evette Stanton who lives in Ferguson Missouri.  And we’ll talk to James Croft, who was actually involved in the most recent riots there.   You can watch out discussion here, live at 9:00pm central time, Thursday 12/04/2014, or on YouTube thereafter.

Turnout!

This is what happens when believe the polls and ignore the turnout.

Do NOT tell me that your vote doesn’t count. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be getting automated phone calls from the Republican party every single fucking day to tell us what godless baby-eating commies their opposition is, and “somebody please fear for our children”.Why do you think they do all that gerrymandering? Why did they create this issue with the voting rights act? Why are they trying make voting more difficult? They’re acting like that because they’re worried, because your vote DOES count!

They tell us this or that hopeful is behind in the polls. They tell us that to discourage the turnout vote, because the turnout voters could change everything!  It’s happened plenty of times before.  Here in Texas, they said Ann Richards was behind in the polls, but  the turn-out upset the predictions and elected her anyway. They made a difference. So could you, and if you’ve looked around a bit, you’ll see it would be a big difference.  So turn out! This election is close here and elsewhere.  So in this election especially, your vote fucking counts!

http://www.pleasefuckingvote.com/

 

 

The Religious Wrong

So Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal, irreversible, and inoperable brain cancer. She suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, and increasingly severe head and neck pain, and even stroke-like symptoms. So she made the wholly understandable decision to bypass the otherwise inevitable agony to herself and to her helpless loved ones. She chose to end their suffering under more positive circumstances. Would that everyone could die this way.

Yet, the Religious Rong says “We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example,”

Fuck you.

What is it about religion? Always wrong all the time, absolutely wrong about absolutely everything, as wrong as it can be, every way that it can be, on every subject, not just science, history, and medicine, but philosophy, epistemology, morality, ethics, every fucking thing. The only time I’ve ever seen the words ‘wronger’ or ‘wrongest’ used by an educated person, they were talking about religion, and those words uniquely applied.

Telephoned Campaign Propaganda

I just got a recorded phone call saying that Wendy Davis, (Texas’ Democratic candidate for governor) promotes abortion, “at any time, for any reason”, and that she opposes “common-sense” legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks, “when the fetus would feel excruciating pain”.

Obviously this came from the campaign to elect Greg Abbott. I hate when politicians lie like this.  Of course the real issue is that, (1) women shouldn’t need to appeal to a court for permission to get an abortion, and she shouldn’t have to defend her reasons why.  (2) It’s a shame that every time I hear anyone talking about ‘common sense’ they have no idea what that is. What they’re calling ‘common sense’ legislation is actually a series of restrictions wherein not even cases of rape or incest or life-threatening conditions can be considered. That and (3) a fetus doesn’t experience pain or terror at 20 weeks. Not that it matters, because Abbott wants abortion illegal in all instances at any time for any reason, no matter what.

This is Abbott’s campaign tactic. If he wins, I will have so much more work to do!  Because he also wants to integrate church and state, and teach creationism as fact, excluding evolution. He has already proved to be a huge obsticale to the health care, the environment, and education.  According to the current demographic trends, if he does win, he will almost certainly be the LAST Republican governor of Texas.

Can’t call it ‘Islamophobia’ anymore

I should thank this speaker, Fahah Ullah Queresh for explaining that we needn’t worry about offending moderate Muslims – because there aren’t any; they all self-identify as unreasonable homophobic misogynists endorsing excessively morbidly violent reactions to what they say are ‘offenses’, but which don’t even count as crimes in civilized society.

It’s also important to remember that since this kind of atrocious medieval barbarism is a chosen position, rather than an ethnicity, and can be adopted or discarded regardless of one’s cultural background, then such generalization cannot be considered racism either.

I reserve that there might be Shiites or other Muslims who disagree with this sort of backward evil malevolence, and I invite them to step forward. But until otherwise indicated, I can thank this speaker for this demonstration showing that Sunni Muslims at least really can be generalized in a way that can no longer be called ‘Islamophobia’. Because we’re not actually generalizing them; they’re all that bad, by their own admission – as if embracing such inhuman injustice were something to be proud of.

If you’re Muslim, and you think you can counter the damage done by Queresh here, talk to me; show me how you could do that. Otherwise you’ll have to live with this image.

Likewise if this is yet another twisted parody that I foolishly took seriously, someone please show me the joke. Because this isn’t funny.

Scott Lane on the Ra-Men

The summary of tonight’s podcast is that Scott Lane has a son in a Louisiana elementary school -“-where the state government fosters creationism and religious proselytization in schools.  One of the test questions asked [something along the lines of] “Isn’t it wonderful what the ______ has done?”  Lane’s son couldn’t have guessed that the answer might be ‘Lord’ -because he’s a Thai Buddhist. The teacher saw fit to criticize the child for that, telling him and the whole class that his religion was silly and stupid. The faculty in the office were no better, suggesting that Lane enroll his kids in a different school if they refuse to convert their religion.

https://plus.google.com/b/101347975184866858916/events/cq3ond20pc4meo65ier742n70a0

On this date, once upon a time…

I would just like to point out that 52 years ago, on October 15th 1962, my existence was documented in a small Arizona hospital that was later converted into a jail. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president of what was then the most scientifically advanced country – in world that still had not been to the moon. At the same time, interracial marriage was illegal.

We walked though airport security with our shoes on, and we didn’t need passports to cross any continental border. Children left home on their bicycles without helmets or knee pads, nor any means of tracking or communication, on the orders that they return home by dusk.

A brand-new Corvette only cost about $4k and only had about 300 horsepower. Gasoline was $0.35 per gallon. The minimum wage was $1.15 per hour, and they spent it watching the first movie about James Bond, or on records by Ray Charles, the Drifters, or the Four Seasons. TV only had a black & white screen that was 19” at most, but it had the Ed Sullivan Show, the Dick Van Dyke Show, the Andy Griffith Show, and the Twilight Zone.

MIT and IBM had just invented the first disk storage system and the first video game –for a computer the size of a small car, but with far less processing power than an average cell phone today.

That round screen is showing the dot-pixel game, SpaceWar!

There was one more species of tiger and one more species of dolphin than we have today, and the global population was twice what it was when my grandmother was born, but still less than half of what it is today.

Think about that for a moment.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy

I’m doing a movie review AFTER everyone else has seen the damned thing.  Can you believe, I couldn’t get anyone in my family to go see Lucy with me?  I finally saw it on my own alone at a dollar movie.

Why wouldn’t anyone see it with me?  Because it wasn’t remotely real.  We seem to have a double-standard when it comes to fantasy films vs science fiction. We saw Frozen and Maleficent as a family and we enjoyed both of those.  Fantasy doesn’t have to be plausible.  Science Fiction however does, and is therefore subject to severe scrutiny.

I wouldn’t say I loved Lucy, but I have to say I enjoyed bits of that movie.  If you have to stare at one woman for an hour-and-a-half, Scarlett Johansson is a pretty good choice. If you liked the way she whupped ass in the Avengers, you’ll like her in this too.  If you liked all that reality bending of the Matrix, this film could be a sequel to that.

No Kung Fu though.  Pity.  This film could have gotten away with a LOT of Kung Fu.

OK, I liked that it didn’t impose religious beliefs. It didn’t even acknowledge them!  I also liked that it showed elements of evolution and cosmology as eye-candy, because we experience “awe and wonder” -no matter what Oprah says.  But the movie got a lot of the stated facts annoyingly wrong.  Life didn’t begin one billion years ago. It was at least 3.8 Billion years ago.  Animals weren’t only around for millions of years, but for HUNDREDS of millions of years.  I even winced when Morgan Freeman (who I think should know better) said that humans were at the “top” of the “evolutionary chain”. Ouch!

For those of you not in the know: evolution isn’t a chain or a ladder, and there is no ‘top’ either.

Then Freeman’s character describes his scientific theory as an untested hypothesis, which sounds to me an awful lot like conjecture.  Scientific theories are not hypotheses!  They’re not guesses, educated or otherwise.  Aaaaggggg!  I hate having to re-explain that all the time!

Hey Hollywood, would it kill ya to have a science adviser when you’re making Sci-Fi?

Worst of all, of course is the premise of the film.  Lucy, (Scarlett Johansson’s character) is accidentally overdosed with a mystery drug called CPH4.  For some reason, movie producers never seem to know anything about the periodic table. (Remember Unobtanium in the movie, Avatar?)  Combining one Carbon and one Phosphorus atom with four Hydrogens isn’t that complex or mysterious.  In real life, it’s a metabolic enzyme called 6-carboxytetrahydropterin synthase, and it doesn’t have the properties the movie gives it.  The director insists he made up the name of the drug -to hide the real name of a real chemical which is naturally produced “in tiny quantities” about the 6th week of pregnancy.  He wants to keep the name of the real drug secret, because it might do what the drug did in the movie.  However biologists discussing this online say that chemical isn’t what the director says it is.

Anyway, because the director thinks the properties of this mystery molecule can’t be known, then maybe they could really cause the outrageous development of her activated intellect. We can’t prove that wouldn’t happen, right? So we take advantage of the ignorance of the audience so that anything sounds plausible.

The back story isn’t the real issue though.  The problem is the premise, the old (and erroneous) adage that “the average human only uses 10% of their brain capacity, so imagine what we could do if we tap 100%?”

When questioned about this, the director said: “It’s totally not true. Do they think that I don’t know this? I work on this thing for nine years and they think that I don’t know it’s not true? Of course I know it’s not true!”

Thus Science Fiction becomes Science Fantasy.

In the movie, a gargantuan dose of this drug is accidentally released into Lucy’s system, and she begins to access more and more of her brain’s total efficiency.  As she does, she acquires new powers; not just of perception or cognizance, but of psionics. She can visualize the fabric of the universe as if reality were an illusion constructed by the computers from the Matrix. And like that other movie, Lucy develops all the seemingly miraculous powers of Neo. She can even turn back time –manually. Consequently she becomes a sort of deity, complete with all the powers of Spock, the X-Men, and ET combined.  All of that is not even on speaking terms with reality.  But that’s still not my primary complaint.  As I said, my issue is the premise of this film.

I always knew there was something wrong with that old saying. We only use 10% of our brains? That can’t be right. It didn’t make any sense, either from a material nor a theistic perspective, unless brains are just really inefficient. Everyone seemed to believe that when I was in school, everyone. And no one could tell where that claim first came from.

So I’m sitting in my 2nd level college course of biology for science majors, and the lecture is on the brain. The basal portions regulate glands and bodily functions, process sensory input, enable motor control, and so on, but all our wisdom, intelligence, and personalities emerge from the ‘thinking’ part of our brain, the cerebral cortex, or ‘grey matter’. So we use our entire brain. There is no portion of it which has no known and necessary function.

Then the lecture mentioned that intelligence can be correlated with the number of neurons, and that our neurons represent only 10% of all the cells in the human brain, as if we only use 10% of our brain cells for ‘thinking’. Once I heard that, I thought, “THAT’s where that came from!”

Not that anyone cares, because of course people would rather believe that if you unlock the mysteries of your own imagination, then you can wield telekinetic powers. Faith promises much the same thing.