What is meaning?

PZ Myers has an interesting post discussing the motivations of people who join ISIS, and which attributes similar motivations to the alt-right. In short, it’s about people “who feel a lack of significance in their lives”, people “who felt culturally homeless”. People start “from vague dissatisfaction, and desire for social status and sexual success” and become radicalized.

For the most part, I feel powerless to do anything about the radicalization of men. The world is big and incomprehensible–and also I live in California. So the reader may forgive me if I turn this more introspective.

What even is this desire for “significance”? I feel that we in the atheist community have been discussing it for years, usually in the context of discussing the appeal of religion, and calling for the atheist community to fill the void that religion has left. If PZ is correct, some of those atheists went on to fulfill that need by joining the alt-right. But for all that discussion of “meaning”, I don’t think I understand it. I don’t know if this is something I feel myself.
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New FTB bloggers

I said back in October I would plug all the new bloggers on FTB, and then I forgot about it.  And now I have remembered.

I Have Forgiven Jesus
Small Town Deviant

Note that FTB accepts applications for new bloggers, and reviews them quarterly.  If you are interested in applying, the next review is on January 17.  Please see this page for details on how to apply.

I had postponed posting these links because I wanted to give the new bloggers a chance to settle in, but one of the new bloggers (not linked) apparently never settled in.  Sigh…

Expert caution, amateur engagement

In an earlier post, I talked about whether it is appropriate to judge historical people using today’s standards. I was surprised that commenters were so opinionated on an issue of arguably little importance.

On the “anti” side, multiple people argued that to truly understand history, you shouldn’t be so judgmental about it. But the thing is, I am not a historian, so why should I act like one? I do not perform any original historical research. The only way I might ever teach history is by sharing stuff I learned from Wikipedia or news articles. If I were to withhold judgment on historical people, I would not learn more about history, I would learn less because I would be less engaged.

Let’s switch to talking about my area of expertise, physics. I am a professional physicist, and most of my readers merely have an amateur interest in it. We have different attitudes towards physics, as well we should.
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A scandal per week: Trump headlines from the past year

Brought to you by Google’s time-range search function. Note that many links include autoplay videos.

January 1-7: Trump: Clinton, Obama ‘created ISIS’

January 8-14: Donald Trump: NFL ‘football has become soft like our country has become soft’

January 15-21: Donald Trump Quotes Scripture, Sort of, at Liberty University Speech

January 22-28: Trump: I could ‘shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters’

January 29-February 4: Trump: I Would ‘Strongly Consider’ Appointing Judges To Overturn Same-Sex Marriage

February 5-11: Trump puts a price on his wall: It would cost Mexico $8 billion

February 12-18: Donald Trump on 9/11: “You Will Find Out Who Really Knocked Down The World Trade Center”

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On judging people of the past

A bold statement: People of the past should almost always be judged by today’s standards. This results in thinking of a lot of historical figures as horrible people. So yeah, I’ll say it: most historical figures were horrible people. Some of them were horrible because their surrounding culture was horrible, and others were just plain horrible.

My basic reasoning: Moral judgment isn’t for people of the past. The people of the past are dead, and their actions are already foregone conclusions. Moral judgement is for people of the present. I do not wish for people of the present to valorize or emulate people of the past just because they were great by the standards of their own time. I strive for the perpetual improvement of humankind, not the stagnation of virtue. [Read more…]

Japanese “herbivore men” hold a mirror to our culture

This is a repost of an article from 2013. There were a lot of comments on this one, probably because it upset MRAs.  To MRAs I say, cry more.

Herbivore men briefly explained

The Japanese subculture of “herbivore men” seems to hit the news every so often.  Here is a recent example in the Guardian: Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?  What exactly is going on over there?

I’m no expert in Japanese culture, but my coblogger on The Asexual Agenda, Queenie, is an expert.*  I will defer to what she’s written about herbivore men.  My summary: In Japan, men are expected to be “carnivores”, aggressively pursuing relationships with women.  But many men in metropolitan areas have become “herbivores”, being less assertive in relationships, more sensitive, and even willing to be friends with women (in Japan this is a big deal).  And there’s probably other stuff as well, like their attitude towards money, jobs, and fashion.  Women of course are expected to be herbivores to begin with, although there is also talk of carnivore women.

*She’s actually an expert in Japanese religion, but close enough.

In Japan, herbivore men are sometimes the subject of moral panic because they’re not forming relationships, are defying Japanese gender roles, and may be contributing to the declining birth rate.  Cry me a river I say.  People aren’t obligated to make babies just to uphold the national birth rate, and if Japanese people really wanted population growth so badly they could try being less racist and accept more immigrants.

In the English speaking world, the reaction to herbivore men is… different.  Sometimes, the reactions really say more about our own culture than about Japanese culture.

Here I will briefly show the reactions coming from three different groups: mainstream news, asexuals, and men’s rights activists. [Read more…]

Time for some music

I have hangups about sharing music. Basically, I hate everyone else’s taste in music so much, I can’t see why I should expect anyone to feel different about my tastes. At the same time, I hope that people hate it, then they might know how I feel about culture in general.

Multiple people have said the music I like is “depressing”. I can see why, although I have never thought of it that way myself. I just like the tonality. But fair warning. Streaming videos below the fold.
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