Fox Newscorp Ticker Hacked! Maybe.

If this is real, it’s impressive. I’m a little concerned for the safety of the accomplices, though, especially with the girl’s face clearly visible on camera. And of course, the “uprising” message seems a bit too… I dunno. Inflammatory? I suppose it’s sort of the modus operandi for a country as steeped as it is in violent rhetoric.

Update: The more I watch this, the more I think it’s fake. The pedestrians’ reactions are too unimpressed and Adobe AfterEffects is certainly capable of this sort of thing, regardless of how still you’re (not) holding the camera. The before/after text could easily both have been inserted into the video. So, pretty actress hired to make a video intended to go viral?

Hat tip Alternet.

Unscripted public responses to gay-bashing in Texas

This is heartening. If only some of these people were elected representatives, maybe you poor folks might see a bit more tolerance in your southern states.

I can’t believe the thumbs-up dude. Didn’t even have the guts to own his agreeing with the hatred.

I put it in religion because of the tolerant religious guy in the middle. Also, because every single justification for hatred of homosexuality is grounded in religion. I cannot think of a single good argument for disdain or outgrouping of homosexuals, though George W tried to play devil’s advocate once. Even his best, most rational arguments were wanting. (Not that religiously motivated ones are any better, mind.)

We are free to “presuppose” that there is a reality here, because there is.

Sorry for the sporadic posting schedule, once again. Been running myself ragged over work. Need to tone that down a bit.

There’s a piece over at Cosmic Variance by Sean M Carroll, the brilliantly titled Physics and the Immortality of the Soul, that dovetails perfectly with the “denouement” to an otherwise ongoing “conversation” (and I use that term loosely) going on over at George’s place. The crux of the discussion is that we, as atheists, do not appeal to some transcendental force to explain why reality has the rules that it does. Beyond that, we apparently have faith (e.g. presuppose the Law of Non-Contradiction) in order to go on making sense of this universe, such that the universe doesn’t up and change the rules on us every time we think we have a handle on things.

Carroll talks about this concept this way, in context of a dispute he’s having with someone on the verifiability of the concept of life after death:

Our conviction that green cheese makes up a negligible fraction of the Moon’s interior comes not from direct observation, but from the gross incompatibility of that idea with other things we think we know. Given what we do understand about rocks and planets and dairy products and the Solar System, it’s absurd to imagine that the Moon is made of green cheese. We know better.

We also know better for life after death, although people are much more reluctant to admit it. Admittedly, “direct” evidence one way or the other is hard to come by — all we have are a few legends and sketchy claims from unreliable witnesses with near-death experiences, plus a bucketload of wishful thinking. But surely it’s okay to take account of indirect evidence — namely, compatibility of the idea that some form of our individual soul survives death with other things we know about how the world works.

Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die. If you claim that some form of soul persists beyond death, what particles is that soul made of? What forces are holding it together? How does it interact with ordinary matter?

I’m applying this same principle — the non-fallacious version (definition IV) of the argumentum ad ignorantium — to explain why this universe has the rules it does.

We do not know it to be otherwise. The pooled, collective knowledge of humankind (also known informally as “science”) contains record after record of things happening in non-contradictory ways. Things cannot both be and not-be in the same way at the same time. Simultaneously, things MAY be different elsewhere simultaneously. If M-Theory holds true, it’s well possible that we live in an 11-dimensional universe where every single way that a universe could have been created, was created, simultaneously, at the Big Bang singularity event. We live in THIS universe, with its rules of non-contradiction, only by virtue of the mechanistic nature of this universe.

In other words, we’re here to experience this universe, only because this universe is capable of sustaining life like us. In all the vastness of this universe, we don’t know how often life (especially sentient life) has emerged, but it would be egocentrism to claim we’re the special ones, we’re the only ones. In ignorance of the evidence of other forms of life, or other ways the universe can be, we have to use the evidence that we have accumulated in order to make the best guesses we can. We know through observation that this universe is a mechanistic one, where fundamental particles behave in predictable manners if you know all the variables. One of those ways that these particles behave, involves the inability for them to be something else at the same time in the same place or in the same way. Thus, the law of non-contradiction holds, though it was no more imposed on this universe by our codifying it than the sky made blue because we gave that hue a name.

This universe operates something very close to a fractal. We know certain derived properties of these particles, and we know the amazing complexity that these particles gain when “zoomed out” to the atom level. We know how the elements interact with one another. We know that some of these elements form molecules. We know some of these molecules form amino acids, which can self-replicate and self-arrange in the presence of their constituent building blocks. We know these amino acids can, given enough time, become microscopic organisms, which can, given enough time, become multicellular organisms, which can, given enough time, become sapient meat computers.

We know all of this provisionally based on the concept that the information we have on-hand is the only information we have to make that judgement, and we know that we may not have all the information and may have to revise our body of knowledge as that new information becomes available.

The fact that we live in a comprehensible universe that can, at least in one tiny pocket of it, sustain us — that fact alone is not sufficient to prove God. The God hypothesis is not even necessary, given how little evidence for “direct intervention” by an all-powerful deity we need invoke to develop a clear picture of how our universe could have developed mechanistically since the Big Bang.

We may not know what happened at that event, and our euphemistic placeholder name of “Big Bang” is a guess that happens to fit with the evidence we have at the moment. It may not hold true in other universes, should they have emerged from the Big Bang in other dimensions. We know that the math we’re doing right now mostly fits with the M-Theory model, but it’s hairy math, and it’s new math. Another, better, model may supplant it. But it is the best model to explain not only the evidence we see, but why we’re in a comprehensible universe that supports us. That should be enough for now, you’d think. That some people see it as the “gap” into which they can stuff their god is a testament to how tenacious old ideas (like the God idea) can be in the face of all the new stuff we’re learning.

Never mind that most theists still don’t have any evidence for their specific conception of God outside of their faith. They shouldn’t get to shove God into a gap that’s already long since closed (like that there’s something instead of nothing), much less one that we’ve only just discovered a potential solution for.

The Politics of the Null Hypothesis

If you’ve been in the blogosphere as long as I have, you’ll know that certain arguments about science stem not from the science itself, but from a desire to affect political change despite the science based on one’s own personal biases. In the case of IQ and race, much of the “controversy” appears to come from people who really, really want intelligence to be race-related, so as to give themselves cover for racism, latent or otherwise. Notwithstanding the potentially hairy idea that IQ is even a proper proxy for “intelligence”, people will argue for a genetic link for certain aspects of humanity based only on the most tenuous of lines of evidence, ignoring gigantic confounds like motivation or affluence. Why? For no other reason than because they’ve already decided this must be the case. It’s a rampant case of selection bias, with a helping of argumentum ad ignorantium on the side, suggesting that because we don’t know the cause of a particular trait, it must therefore be genetic.

The ineffable Stephanie Zvan has written up a guest post on Scientific American (!!!) about this very topic, and about the politics at play in a number of genetic-intelligence proponents’ arguments.

Nothing about the field of IQ studies is free of political influence. It’s naive to believe that any kind of research on a purported measure of individual merit could be politics-free in a self-proclaimed meritocracy with wide inequalities. Binet’s original work was meant to determine which children should have access to additional educational resources. IQ scores are used occasionally to sort out “inappropriate” candidates for various jobs, including those whose IQs are too high for a role. IQ as a proxy for merit is used to argue that a group does or does not face discrimination in educational or career opportunities. This is all terribly political.

The question isn’t whether there are politics surrounding this issue or where. They’re everywhere. The question is where does the politics get in the way of the science? Again, the answers don’t favor Pinker’s view of a fatwa against genetic explanations of individual differences.

I can’t think of a better person to take on a nuanced meta-analysis of this argument, especially given that it appears every bit as cyclical as say the accommodationism debate, the gender debate, the nuclear power debate, et cetera, et cetera. Given how entrenched the players are in this argument, and how much influence they wield in scientific fields, it’s terribly sad to see their arguments go unanswered. I’m grateful that Stephanie stepped up, and I can only hope her popularity snowballs from there.

There’s a damn good reason I’ve dubbed her “Our Lady of Perpetual Win“. And it’s not because she has an adorable nose.

(But she does, by the by.)

The problem with Christians throwing Camping under the Rapture-bus

I’ve noticed, in the wake of the massive Rapture failure this weekend, a number of Christians jumping to dissociate themselves from Harold Camping and his failed prediction (which, by the way, he’s revised to the “end of the world” day, claiming merciful God is skipping the Tribulation altogether, and is just going to end the universe wholesale on October 21st).

I have a few problems with this. First, why do people love the idea of armageddon so much that they desperately desire it? Seriously, this is what they WANT.

Click this image for another major problem I have with this whole endeavour.

(Via someplace on the intertubes. Not my work. But damn funny. And damn true.)

In Kansas, your choice of genitalia brings you legal obligations

You have got to be fucking kidding me. In yet another blow against a woman’s right to choose, and yet another blow for the Forced Birth Movement that is the Republican party and the “pro-lifers” who only give a shit about life until it’s out of the womb, the Kansas legislature just approved a ban on insurance companies covering abortion in their general health plans.

Via Peter Rugg at The Pitch, as reported in the McPherson Sentinel:

Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told her: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”

Bollier asked him, “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?”

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, “I have a spare tire on my car.”

“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

Like being drugged and raped and impregnated. You never know when some stranger might accidentally put their penis in your vagina and inseminate you while you’re minding your own business! Because that’s the actual analogue to what happens when you accidentally get a flat tire, you see. Hey, women, by taking on the responsibility of vagina-ownership, you need to be aware that you’re now legally obligated to insure yourself against being raped and inseminated. Shoulda thought of that before you picked the womb with a view, because now you’ve got legal responsibilities that come from your choice of genitalia.

As though women get a fucking choice.

Until DeGraff is forced to take out an insurance policy on his pecker in case it happens to impregnate a woman while he’s being raped, this is unduly onerous to women.

Oh rapture, oh bliss!

If you’re reading this, then I’ve been carried away by the angels to sing the praises of our heavenly lord for all eternity. Or I forgot to disable this scheduled post, due to hit the tubes exactly ten minutes after I’ve been bodily transported to heaven’s kingdom. Either way, I hope the tribulation is going well for all those that have been left here on Earth. I hope the mega-earthquake that would have hit your time zone at 6:00pm killed you swiftly, so you don’t have to endure the three months worth of suffering at the hands of the agents of the great evil, Sauron. I mean Satan.

If you’re stuck here on Earth (and who would waste bandwidth to read this blog from heaven’s OC3 connection, when we could get the best Netflix streaming service we want instead?), well, first, sorry for all the death and dismemberment. You’ll probably want to read the instructions left on Judgement Day 2011‘s blog, as the proprietor was kind enough to schedule posts through until October documenting all the things that surely would be happening from now til then. Assuming the internet will still exist after the demons sweep across the land and the supervolcanoes erupt and cats and dogs sleep together. If the Rapture is postponed for whatever reason, I’m sure the proprietor will swiftly remove the inaccurate posts queued on his blog. If not, then we’re certainly in for a treat as we get to see all the stuff we narrowly avoided via all that extra prayer the Good Christians of this world stored up in God’s batteries. Surely we must be forgiven if we can read this post, and the posts on that blog. You know, at least til December 21, 2012, when Quetzalcoatl Jesus will return. Oh, and tornado warnings will occur off the coast of California. In the ocean. Like tornadoes do.

Good theist readers, do check in to let me know whether or not you’ve been raptured away! I’ll check my blog comments from heaven on my iPhone 5, while streaming the highest-quality Megashark vs Crocosaurus via Netflix, and if you’re up here with me, feel free to stop by over on Cloud 42. Don’t you worry, folks. With me, you’ll never be Left Behind(tm).