Ace webcomics you should read

Today’s the last day of Asexual Awareness Week.  I don’t do many things for AAW, except this survey thing.  There’s a sample of AAW activities in this linkspam.

But today, I have a small bonus: webcomics with ace characters.  Although ace characters in fiction are in general quite sparse, webcomics have been an exception.  There are more webcomics with ace characters than I can keep track of!  This is great for me, because I am occasionally picky.

For a more complete list of webcomics with ace characters (including much more obscure examples), I recommend the LGBT webcomics list.  To avoid “archive binge”, I use Comic Rocket to bookmark pages and generate custom RSS feeds.

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Take my survey!

I volunteer for the Ace Community Census, an annual community survey.  The survey is open anyone over the age of 13, both asexual and non-asexual people.  The purpose of this survey is to measure various demographics of the asexual community in order to create an annually updated database of quantitative information which can be used for future asexual research.

The 2016 Ace Community Census is run by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) Survey Team. If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, you can contact the AVEN survey team at  You can also ask me directly, for a more informal response.

Click here to take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

For answers to common questions about the survey, please see the FAQ here.

You may share this, but I’m going to specifically ask that PZ Myers not share it.

Gerrymandering in the US

An intermission from the presidential horse race

For all the problems with US presidential elections, US congressional elections are arguably worse. The US president is at least usually in line with the popular vote; the US congress never is.

The two chambers of congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, suffer from opposite problems. The House of Representatives has one member elected by each district, but the district lines are redrawn every ten years by politicians. Thus politicians can control their own reelection by the process called gerrymandering.

The Senate, on the other hand, never redraws its district lines. Instead, each state elects two senators. The state lines are the result of gerrymandering from a long time ago, but at least aren’t under the power of current politicians. Unfortunately, that means that the Senate is never proportional to the population sizes of the states, and heavily favors rural regions.

Although the Senate is blatantly unrepresentative of the US, the House arguably has it worse. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can tell by how Republican the House is. Although Hillary is winning the popular vote and Democrats are likely to win Senate majority, the House will comfortably remain under Republican control.
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Made in Criticalland

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2014.  Relevant to my recent review of the Sokal paper.  Note that the blog Scientia Salon is now defunct.

Massimo Pigliucci started a new blog Scientia Salon, which is already bearing fruits.  I enjoyed this essay by Alan Sokal (yes, that Sokal) about academic postmodernists and extreme social constructivists.  In the 80s and 90s there were many such academics claiming that science was entirely based on prejudices.  Interestingly, Sokal claims that they have now backed off from the most extreme views, particularly because they were upset at the way the Bush regime used postmodernism to justify its anti-science policies.

Sokal’s primary citation for this is “Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern” by sociologist of science Bruno Latour in 2004.  I thought it was worth a read. [Read more…]

Why isn’t homosexuality (or religion) a mental disorder?

In a comment discussion last month, we touched on the question of whether religion could ever be considered a mental disorder. This is a common idea among atheists, sometimes expressed as a joke, or sometimes claimed seriously. I am not mentally ill, so I would defer to other people to explain why it is wrong to compare religion and mental illness even as a joke. Here I will ignore the jokes and consider only the serious question: Why isn’t religion a mental disorder?

According to the DSM-5,

A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’ s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above. [emphasis mine]

There you go. Religious behavior isn’t a mental disorder because the DSM-5, an authoritative document, says so. However, you could be forgiven for not taking the DSM’s word for it. Let’s dig deeper.

Look at what else has been excluded from mental disorders: socially deviant sexual behavior. This exclusion arises from a famous controversy, which led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in the DSM in 1973. And until 1987, homosexuality remained as a mental disorder (“Sexual Orientation Disturbance” and later “Ego-dystonic Homosexuality”) as long as the patient was distressed about their orientation. The architect of these decisions was psychiatrist Robert Spitzer. I believe that Spitzer himself offers the best insight into the definition of mental disorders.

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Inheritance of sin

In my Catholic education, we learned that Adam and Eve committed original sin, which released evil upon the world. I don’t recall to what extent Adam and Eve were literally real people, but that was beside the point. The point was that original sin causes temptation, temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to evil.

I have heard many critiques of the content of Christian morality (e.g. homosexuality is a condition like alcoholism, no sex before marriage) and its methodology (e.g. it is right/wrong because God said so), but relatively few critiques of the most common frameworks. Temptation, whatever pedagogical value it might have for kids, can be quite damaging when it’s your primary moral framework. Temptation produces a strong association between sin and anything mildly hedonistic. People sin because it feels good, so if you feel good you must be doing something wrong.

The concept of sin itself also has many problems. It refers to wrongdoing, but it is also the source of all evil. Therefore, any evil arising from natural causes must also come from wrongdoing. How does bad behavior produce bad weather? Apparently sin kinda floats around and sticks to people. Or maybe sinning sets in motion an invisible Rube Goldberg machine–a Rube Goldberg machine of evil. The mechanism has never been very clear.
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Linkspam: October 10th, 2016

Earlier this month, Niki Massey of Seriously?!? died.  Dana has a roundup of memorial posts for Niki, and to that I would like to add one from Prismatic Entanglements.  All I can say about Niki was I ran into her blog around February, and it just immediately clicked for me.  I didn’t even know her and yet I feel this was a great loss.  On a side note, she was also openly ace, although not known in the ace blogosphere.

In more positive news, new bloggers are now being added to FtB.  I’ll link them all later, once they’ve been given a chance to settle.  Now, for links from the past month.

Rebirth of Dudebro – Great American Satan shared this one in the comments, in response to the idea of atheist jerks.  I definitely agree with the observation that the atheist dudebro type is systematic, and endlessly replenishes itself.  Just the other week in the local student group, some new guy made jokes about Asians.  Dude, you live in California, you can’t be that clueless.

When people complain about atheist assholes, I have a mix of feelings.  First, I don’t necessarily believe you, because everyone is a jerk according to someone else.  Second, you think you have it bad, but I willingly associate with these people on a frequent basis.  Which maybe makes me a jerk too, although I’m a different kind of jerk.

Thoughts on cults – Ozy suggests replacing “cult” with “spiritual abuse”.  “Cult” has the problem of targeting strange (but not necessarily harmful) behavior, and targeting new religions, whereas “spiritual abuse” can equally apply to major religions, and is not either/or.  I largely agree with this, although I also agree with the first comment that “cult” captures a bunch of heuristic properties of a certain kind of problematic group.

I generally avoid calling groups cults because I think of it as basically an insult for new religions, and I don’t have any particular beef with new religions.  On the contrary, since non-belief is gaining popularity among the younger generation, I fully expect to see more sympathetic atheistic new religions in my lifetime. [Read more…]