My compiled live-tweeting of #scio11 sessions

So I’ve made it to Minnesota, where the lovely Stephanie and Ben Zvan are hosting Jodi and I for the rest of our vacation, and this is literally my first chance to actually sit down and post anything on this damn blog. My pre-scheduled posts have all gone up, so it’s time to actually sit and put some effort into my blogging again, as time allows of course. Got lots planned for the week, such that chiseling out some time here and there will be difficult at best. I’m going to have to post some short-form synopses of conversations and events that happened during the conference. Completely out of context of course. Because it’s just funnier that way.

For today, here’s what you missed at the various sessions as I saw it. Distilling conversation to 140 chars on the fly is something of a dark art, so if I took anyone out of context, I apologize, and you’re more than free to correct the record. I was the official live-tweeter for the It’s Geek To Me session, so that’s obviously going to have the most thorough live-tweeting. Enjoy!

[Read more…]

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear

Catchy tune, and probably the first time I’ve heard it, though it appears to have been around for a while. I hate the interstitials though. They’re exemplar of the song, and they certainly fit with the song’s intent, but couldn’t we have had the tune carry through instrumentally so it’s not so jarring to jump back and forth?

Oh, if only I could edit videos myself.

Wait, I can. Um, “oh, if only I wasn’t so damn lazy.” Yeah, that’s it.

Rachel Maddow and others on Loughner and guns

NOW I ought to be in the air on my way to Science Online 2011. I hope so.

I can’t properly blog about all the things I’m thinking about this. And I’m sure, since I’m writing this a few days in advance of publication, that more information will come out that provides more context to some of these links. However, I can say this — I am scared for Americans in a country that so values its “right to bear arms” that any attempt to make “arms” reasonable and limited, such that Loughner didn’t have the ability to fire 31 bullets without reloading, is quashed at the starting gate. And I am seriously concerned that politicians are being assassinated by idiots influenced by antigovernmental conspiracy theories, and that the political discourse contains popular people like Sarah Palin claiming “blood libel” when someone says “hey, maybe you shouldn’t be talking about ‘don’t retreat, reload’ and putting gunsights on politicians”. I’m just going to link a bunch of stuff below the fold. Tell me what you think. What are our options for restoring sanity to the political discourse? Is it possible in an environment where one is expected to only be able to take the 7.62mm anti-aircraft machine gun from someone’s “cold dead hands”?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[Read more…]

Reducing Irreducible Complexity 2: Biological Boogaloo

I should be somewhere in the air at the moment, on my way to Science Online. I’m probably pretty excited at this point. Either that, or very very tired. Or, I suppose, both. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Further on QualiaSoup’s excellent Reducing Irreducible Complexity, some of the counterarguments he received and why they’re, well, basically, wrong.

Why is it that religious apologists think that by attacking evolution, despite the mountain of evidence for it and lack of evidence against it outside of one gigantic argument from incredulity, would somehow prove their god? Even if you knock out evolution as a plausible answer (and you really ought to stop trying — scientists have been trying for 150 years and haven’t managed!), how exactly does that prove YOUR god over the god your neighbor proposes? Or the multiple gods someone proposes down the street? Or the giant star turtle suggested by the guy living under the bridge across town?

Edit: yeah, so, flight was cancelled. Twice. Rescheduled to tomorrow. Gives me more time to blog, sure, but dammit, I could be relaxing at the Marriott having a drink over lunch with Stephanie Zvan in an hour if it weren’t for this nor’easter.

Pope quote more nuanced than I thought – but he’s still no moral authority

My mea culpa on this one quote — widely reported out of context, which I accepted uncritically as the full context based only on its widespread dispersal — doesn’t mean I’m softening my opinion on the Pope’s past duplicity and his inability to own up to simply being wrong about anything. Nor does it mean that I was particularly wrong about my assessment of his quote, even with context, though the distinction you have to cut for it is rather fine.

Daniel Fincke pointed out at Camels With Hammers that I was wrong about what the Pope was trying to say when I denounced any claims to moral authority he once had in this post, stating that he all but admitted morals are subjective. Having read the full address, the section that everyone’s been quoting as stating that pedophilia was in some way acceptable in the 70s, is in actuality a claim that some people with that philosophy “corrupted” the otherwise incontrovertible stranglehold on objective morality the Catholic church claimed — and therefore this (wholly fictional) pedophilia meme was drawing the Church away from the objective morals that exist in their doctrine.
[Read more…]

Assange and More Fallacies

I’m going to be doing a significant bit of blogging in advance for the next week or so, as I’ll be attending Science Online 2011 shortly, followed immediately by visiting Minnesota and a number of people I’ve grown to adore and miss terribly since meeting them on our honeymoon this past June. Blogging will probably be sparse, as will activity in the comments (though I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on things at the absolute least, so no funny ideas!). I’ll try to liveblog a few of the discussions, if not all of them; and if I can’t manage that (dunno how the netbook battery is going to last, it’s only a 3-cell!), then at least I’ll take copious notes and turn them into something worth publishing after the fact.

So with that, let’s get a few posts into the hopper, shall we?

Stephanie Zvan’s ongoing series, which examines the absolutely ridiculous number of tropes that people have developed while grasping for any argument to use in defense of Julian Assange, continues with three more posts. I’ve covered the first one personally, but it definitely bears repeating.

Assange and Sex by Surprise:

I wasn’t expecting to have to write this post. I thought this issue was done when the charges for which the Swedes were requesting Assange be arrested were read out in a British court. I should have known that no bad information dies in a situations like this. But no, just two days ago:

The original Swedish charges were for Sexual Surprise- a term that doesn’t have an equivalent here in the US and that carried a $750 fine. There is nothing in the original post that supports a charge of rape or assault–if you define rape as an act of sexual violence and assault as an act of physical violence.

The myth has merely morphed from “Assange is being charged with this ludicrous crime” to “Assange was charged with this ludicrous crime before…something happened.” However, despite the attempts to continue to fit it into the evolving reality of the legal process, it simply isn’t true.

Assange and Lover’s Revenge:

In short, in order to believe that the post Ms. A translated is anything like a blueprint for what happened, we would have to believe that Ms. A viewed Assange’s behavior as (1) beyond forgiveness, (2) emotionally comparable and proportional to being charged with rape, and (3) worth having her life torn apart and her privacy violated. We would have to believe that Ms. A’s friends agreed with her to the point of being willing to lie to the police about what she told them when instead of telling her to snap out of it and get a life.

Assange and Eyes on the Prize:

The basic idea is that by telling the world that rape allegations are to be taken seriously, those of us engaged in the process have been keeping people from talking about Wikileaks, its work, and the very serious threats it’s under from various governments. By focusing on this narrow issue (then more broadly construed as identity politics), we’re missing the big picture.

While I’m sympathetic to the frustration that the rape allegations have gotten far more press recently than the appalling lengths to which politicians and governments have gone or advocated going in the attempt to shut down Wikileaks, this particular argument isn’t going to fly. Why? Because we were there first.

I noticed that there are very few comments on these posts. I have further noticed that the posts that get the least comments around here, are posts that everyone generally agrees with or can find no valid counterargument against, and stupid Youtube nonsense. Since this post series contains no embedded videos, I’d assume the former. But just in case, I strongly encourage you to read this, especially if you’ve already read the other posts in the series. The nonsense being argued by the blind followers of Julian Assange really needs to be put to bed.

And don’t get me wrong. I support Wikileaks. Maybe not materially, but I’m totally with them in spirit. But as I’ve argued elsewhere, its founder is not Wikileaks in toto. Wikileaks has a separate and distinct existence. Do not conflate them.

How to argue a presuppositional religious apologist

Monty Python demonstrates:

The only quibble I have with their tutorial is that I’ve never had to pay for one of these arguments — the disagreeable chap as portrayed by John Cleese tends to show up at your door unbidden, calling you by the wrong name and ignoring your wife entirely, completely fail to make any sort of point, then scuttle off and claim victory behind your back just when you were starting to get warmed up. Thankfully, at least, he didn’t charge me a pound each for the combination of argument and abuse I got. That’s like four bucks! And the bugger owes me a coffee, now, too. Doubt I’ll ever collect. Lousy welcher.

Presuppositional apologetics, in a nutshell

This entirely explains why, in the last post’s comments, Peter of Atheism Presupposes Theism claimed that because there is no objective moral imperative to accept evidenced facts as facts, he could simply disagree with the facts under the subjective nature of the moral framework we understand today and he’d therefore be free to do anything he wanted, including pedophilia.

If you presuppose that there is a God, without evidence, then you are forced to defend a number of ideas that are undercut by actual demonstrable facts about reality. Facts like that morals are a tool of society to keep society stable, and are subjective, demonstrable by the existence of multiple moral codes across multiple societies. Presuppositionalism is, frankly, intellectually bereft. It depends on philosophical legerdemain when evidence exists to the contrary that can be easily and directly observed. You may not be under any objective moral imperative to be intellectually honest in arguing for your case, but you damn well better, lest you be proven a complete idiot in public.