What does Sam Harris have in common with the Republican presidential candidates?

Sam Harris is fully supportive of the latest bigotry craze sweeping the country.

Is it crazy to express as Ted Cruz did, a preference for Christians over Muslims in this process? Of course not. What percentage of Christians will be jihadists or want to live under sharia law? Zero. And this is a massive, in fact the only, concern when talking about security. If we know that some percentage of Muslims will be jihadists, inevitably we know we cannot be perfect in our filtering, if we know that a larger percentage, if not jihadists, will be committed to resisting assimilation into our society, then to know that a given refugee, or family of refugees, is Christian, is a wealth of information, and quite positive information, in this context. So it is not mere bigotry, or mere xenophobia, to express that preference.

(He then says he’s not endorsing all of Cruz’s politics, he just thinks Cruz is right on this one thing.)

The fact that we have a president who will not even name the problem is giving the right enormous energy that we really don’t want them to have.

No, guy, making the assumption that being Muslim, the group most lethally targeted by ISIS, makes one more likely to sympathize with fanatical jihadists, is most definitely bigotry. It doesn’t even make sense. Complaining that being Muslim automatically makes one less likely to assimilate assumes that Americans can’t really be Muslim, and is also bigotry.

You need something to cleanse your brain of that awful man now. Here’s John Oliver on refugees.

Feel better now?

How not to do research

Oh, man. What did I just read? It’s on medium.com, and it perfectly reflects the twistedly wonky and uneven character of that site — it’s a piece by techbros for techbros titled How San Francisco’s gender disparity affects the attractiveness pairings of couples.

It is truly, deeply, monumentally awful. It’s the work of a dude who knows how to use R, is happy to invent lots of numbers to feed into R, and is himself full up to the brim with unjustified assumptions that he never bothers to question. And apparently he got enough people remarking on how stupid his article was that he had to add a disclaimer:

There seems to have been quite a bit of misunderstanding stirred up by this article, so please read this disclaimer: this analysis makes absolutely no value judgements about how attractive men & women in SF are, or how attractive they should feel. I lay out all the simplifying assumptions and I’ve tried to explain that this is not how the real world works. Nor do I believe this is how the real world works. No sane human should heed any advice from this article. None of this has any basis in reality. It’s not supposed to. This is just a thought experiment about how one might build an economic model for dating with gender ratio imbalances. I’ve preserved the entirety of the original text below. There’s plenty of room for miscommunication because the assumptions are buried inside the text. That’s my fault. But I urge everyone to read the piece in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.

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Jesus Fascist Christ

Trump goes full Nazi. Never go full Nazi.

So he endorses religious registration, watch lists, surveillance on mosques, and, the shit icing on the big cake made of poop, torture.

We have to be strong, the candidate insisted. You know, they don’t use waterboarding over there, they use chopping off people’s heads, they use drowning people.

I would bring it back, I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us, he opined. I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation.

And he’s got crowds cheering for that.

We don’t need no education

Cristina Odone is not happy that her daughter is required to take science and math classes — and it’s all those damned feminists pressuring girls to go into STEM fields. She thinks it isn’t right that, under the British system, kids are required to take a couple of GCSEs in the sciences.

Now this is where my Americanism gets in the way — I’m unfamiliar with the British system, so I had to do a little digging to relate her complaint to the American system I understand. GCSEs are qualifications that demonstrate basic understanding of a subject — students take exams, after a couple of years of coursework, when they’re about 16 years old, in a collection of subjects, some of which are required, and others which are elective. They’ll typically get 8-10 GCSEs.

Speak up, readers from the UK, if I’m getting any of this wrong!

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Scott Adams, master of ignorance


I used to regularly take slaps at Scott Adams, but it got old — he’s so imperturbably stupid that it seemed mostly pointless. He thinks he already knows everything, so he’ll never learn. Either that or he’ll talk to himself in a series of positive affirmations to confirm that he’s right anyway…PZ Myers telling him he’s wrong can’t possibly compete with Scott Adams telling Scott Adams how brilliant Scott Adams is.

But now David Futrelle reminds me that not only is he stupid, he’s just an awful person. Adams has written a complaint about how poor men are so put upon by feminists, because of their rules. He tries to explain what a typical imaginary date is like.

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How English is weird

John McWhorter explains the peculiarities of the English language — note, not why English is the bestest language of them all, but what’s so idiosyncratically bizarre about this language we native speakers all take for granted. I remember learning German, for instance, and wondering why they had all these annoying articles and declensions and confusing stuff that wasn’t like my language, instead of wondering why English had so many confusing oddities.

For instance, he explains how early on the collision between Germans and Celts produced a peculiar hybrid.

Crucially, their languages were quite unlike English. For one thing, the verb came first (came first the verb). But also, they had an odd construction with the verb do: they used it to form a question, to make a sentence negative, and even just as a kind of seasoning before any verb. Do you walk? I do not walk. I do walk. That looks familiar now because the Celts started doing it in their rendition of English. But before that, such sentences would have seemed bizarre to an English speaker – as they would today in just about any language other than our own and the surviving Celtic ones. Notice how even to dwell upon this queer usage of do is to realise something odd in oneself, like being made aware that there is always a tongue in your mouth.

At this date there is no documented language on earth beyond Celtic and English that uses do in just this way. Thus English’s weirdness began with its transformation in the mouths of people more at home with vastly different tongues. We’re still talking like them, and in ways we’d never think of. When saying ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe’, have you ever felt like you were kind of counting? Well, you are – in Celtic numbers, chewed up over time but recognisably descended from the ones rural Britishers used when counting animals and playing games. ‘Hickory, dickory, dock’ – what in the world do those words mean? Well, here’s a clue: hovera, dovera, dick were eight, nine and ten in that same Celtic counting list.

And then we get the Norse and the French barging in and weirding the language even more. But it’s still refreshing to see an article that talks about the accidents and contingencies of language without trying to rank one as better than another.

However, we might be reluctant to identify just which languages are not ‘mighty’, especially since obscure languages spoken by small numbers of people are typically majestically complex. The common idea that English dominates the world because it is ‘flexible’ implies that there have been languages that failed to catch on beyond their tribe because they were mysteriously rigid. I am not aware of any such languages.

What English does have on other tongues is that it is deeply peculiar in the structural sense. And it became peculiar because of the slings and arrows – as well as caprices – of outrageous history.

By golly, McWhorter sounds a bit like an evolutionary biologist there.

Is World Net Daily for real?

It’s practically a cartoon of far right idiocy, but it’s popular, and no one ever seems to stop and wonder that they can promote such hatefulness and ignorance and still maintain a readership. But then, this is the country of Trump and Carson, where a race towards stupidity has become a successful strategy for running for the presidency. And that scares me. We’ve got loons promoting murder and fascism, and we shrug our shoulders and say it’s just a fringe, don’t worry.

But look at what that fringe is saying.

My own politically incorrect suggestion is that we remove ISIS from the face of the earth, hopefully as a joint effort with every other nation it has threatened or attacked, and that we then bomb Mecca off the face of the earth, not concerning ourselves in the least with collateral damage, letting the Muslims know once and for all that our God is far more powerful and, yes, vengeful than their own puny deity.

It’s harsh, but they’ve been asking for it for over 1,400 years, and it’s time they got it. I, for one, am sick and tired of seeing the Islamic bullies demand our lunch money and, like a bunch of scrawny wimps afraid of our own shadow, we hand it over. What’s even more appalling, we then pretend we did it because we’re good guys who realized that they’re human beings just like us, and who just happen to be a little bit hungrier than we are.

not concerning ourselves in the least with collateral damage means killing innocent civilians. And that is OK to this fellow, because the important thing is destroying a religious center (yeah, that’ll win us friends and allies), and demonstrating that our god is more vengeful, barbaric, and murderous than their god.

I’m also baffled by the resentful claim that somehow, we are the weak country that’s getting taken advantage of by bullies, as if Iran is the bad guy sending drone strikes against outdoor weddings in Poughkeepsie, Scranton, and Walla Walla. As if Kuwait is forcing Americans to buy their oil at gunpoint. As if our little dribble of foreign aid is going to countries that are faking their poverty.

That guy, you can be sure, gets out and votes in every election, and he votes angrily against those damn liberals on the basis of that kind of bigotry and ignorance. And that’s why we’ve got the representatives we do.

We should be terrified not by terrorism, but by the lunatics in our own country.