Mythcon was, as expected, crapola

Sargon of Akkad “won” his interview with Thomas Smith. I’ve only seen a few short clips (the con organizers are going to be selling the videos, so they were limiting recording), and it was deplorable. Carl Benjamin aka Sargon sat there with a smirk; Smith would try to confront him with something, like the time Benjamin dismissed a victim of sexual assault by declaring “I wouldn’t even rape you”; then Benjamin would say “Yeah!”, turn to the audience and wave his hand, and the place would erupt with cheers and laughter. He didn’t need to reply, he had a claque on hand to howl approval no matter what vileness was brought up, who would howl the louder the more vile the Sargon quote was.

The speakers/attendees who backed out before they got on stage were wise. This was a theater packed with giggling misogynists.

I also saw a small bit of the “Armoured Skeptic”. He stood on the stage reading from a handful of papers, and made absurd declarations, such as that adding social justice to atheism made it a religion, that there was a god of SJWs, etc., etc., etc. It was unprofessional and ridiculous.

I pity the well-meaning people who stuck it out. Sargon won by being more disgusting than reasonable people could tolerate. Remember that next time Mythicist Milwaukee puts on a conference — it will be only for the dregs of atheism.

Robin Ince on PC

Robin Ince has a few words about political correctness.

Political correctness means different things to different racists homophobes misogynists concerned citizens. For some, it is a mindless removal of offensive words based purely on doctrine, they are cancelling the racist jokes for no other reason than statue 8 paragraph C. Some people cannot believe you may not make homophobic jokes and quips about rapes because you’re playing it safe rather than because you’ve thought it through and, via a combination of empathy and reason, you’ve decided it may be a better night without those jokes. You haven’t banned those jokes, you’ve just come up with other ones.

This is why I think PC can be good for comedy. It makes you think about what you are saying and why you are saying it. You still have the freedom to say it, you just might have spent a little more time thinking why you are. The cost of free speech when well-used is to think about its value and what you want to use it for.

So true, not just for comedy, but for any kind of communication. If you aren’t thinking about your audience, you aren’t being effective. You can spit on a Bible in front of an audience of atheists, but if you’re trying to talk to a group of creationists, you’ll lose them immediately and they won’t bother listening to you. “Political correctness” is a bullshit term used to disparage something important: thoughtfulness and honest discussion. Complaining about political correctness just means you’re admitting that you have zero interest in listening to the other side.

A question of character

Trump on the Howard Stern show:

I was at Mar-a-Lago and we had this incredible ball, the Red Cross Ball, in Palm Beach, Florida. And we had the Marines. And the Marines were there, and it was terrible because all these rich people, they’re there to support the Marines, but they’re really there to get their picture in the Palm Beach Post… so you have all these really rich people, and a man, about 80 years old—very wealthy man, a lot of people didn’t like him—he fell off the stage.

So what happens is, this guy falls off right on his face, hits his head, and I thought he died. And you know what I did? I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away. I couldn’t, you know, he was right in front of me and I turned away. I didn’t want to touch him… he’s bleeding all over the place, I felt terrible. You know, beautiful marble floor, didn’t look like it. It changed color. Became very red. And you have this poor guy, 80 years old, laying on the floor unconscious, and all the rich people are turning away. ‘Oh my God! This is terrible! This is disgusting!’ and you know, they’re turning away. Nobody wants to help the guy. His wife is screaming—she’s sitting right next to him, and she’s screaming.

What happens is, these 10 Marines from the back of the room… they come running forward, they grab him, they put the blood all over the place—it’s all over their uniforms—they’re taking it, they’re swiping [it], they ran him out, they created a stretcher. They call it a human stretcher, where they put their arms out with, like, five guys on each side

I was saying, ‘Get that blood cleaned up! It’s disgusting!’ The next day, I forgot to call [the man] to say he’s OK. It’s just not my thing.

Now, San Juan Mayor Carmen Youlin Cruz:

Trump, from his golf course in New Jersey:

How can anyone be surprised? We’ve elected a callous narcissist. A psychopath. A corrupt and greedy monster. A sane and responsible republic would have gotten rid of him long ago, but we also have a corrupt and greedy Republican party in control of everything, and they do nothing. They’re also more concerned with blood getting on their marble floors than with human lives.

WTF did I just read?

Wanna read some classic science fiction from 1958? No you don’t. You will decide that all men are evil; you won’t believe that this monstrosity got written at all, and that it was then actually published. It’s The Queen Bee, by Randall Garrett. The basic story: spaceship with a handful of men and women gets stranded on an earth-like, habitable planet. The men of the crew immediately announce that their destiny is to populate the world, with the assistance, willing or not, of the women. There’s a law, Brytell’s Law, that says they must. They need the women, because they’ll have no purpose in life if they can’t procreate. And they have rules about how to maximize genetic diversity that require pairing off in strict rotation.

You can tell this is some kind of perverse male fantasy.

But there’s a problem: one of the women refuses to be used this way! She’s also useless (she’s a clothing designer, and not useful clothes, but frilly flimsy women’s clothing), and violent in her resistance. So the men come up with a solution. I read it.

Damn. It’s a pdf. I can’t set it on fire, and I can’t afford to throw my computer in a dumpster with a bucket of napalm and set it on fire. Maybe it would make more sense to gather up all the men and throw them in that dumpster with the napalm, me included. Gah. Unclean.

Thanks, Gary Farber. You’ve destroyed the last trace of hope I have in humanity. Although I suppose Randall Garrett is more to blame.

A brilliant comparison to counter homophobes

A gay Muslim man is going through conversion therapy, when an idea comes to him.

“After deciding against suicide, I decided to change my sexual orientation,” says Khaled. “I started reading articles on the internet, successful stories about people who managed to turn straight. I realized that I needed a professional help, so I started my journey with therapy, psychiatrists, and physiologists. Horrible experience in the Arab world.” Mainly because their general approach seemed to be less “pray the gay away” and more “shame the gay away.” Khaled explains: “Most of them make you feel guilty, and that you are not a good Muslim … Some of them treated me in a bad way, as if I’m disgusting, though some of them felt sorry for me … The last one was horrible. He used to give me exercises of watching naked women and [masturbating]. It was awful, I used to cry every time I did that.”

Finally, after all the humiliation, Khaled had an epiphany. “At the end, and in the last session with him, I asked him ‘What is the fruit you hate the most, and can’t eat?’ He said ‘banana.’ I asked him … ‘What is the one you love the most?’ He said ‘mango.’ I said to him, ‘If you can change, and love bananas and hate mango in three months, I will continue with the sessions.’ Of course, he answered that it is impossible, and that’s when I became totally OK with my sexuality … God is fair, he won’t punish me for something I didn’t choose. Being gay is part of my life.”

It’s a great story, but there’s one unfortunate thing about it. I asked myself, how can you possibly hate bananas? And then I asked myself, how can you hate mangos? And then I realized that I must be bi.

A food science scam

Where’s the data on this sign’s effect on spelling?

Brian Wansink has a problem. First, he’s been jiggering his data until he gets a statistically significant result, which to me means that none of his conclusions are to be trusted. Then, he was reworking these thinly significant results into multiple papers, taking watery gruel and sliming the literature with more noise. And now he’s accumulating more retractions as his shoddy research practices are exposed.

I’m just increasingly appalled at the crap that is earning him tens of millions of dollars of research funds. It’s cartoonishly superficial. Let’s put goofy names on the food in school lunchrooms!

The most recent retraction — a rare move typically seen as a black mark on a scientist’s reputation — happened last Thursday, when JAMA Pediatrics pulled a similar study, also from 2012, titled “Can branding improve school lunches?”

Both studies claimed that children are more likely to choose fruits and vegetables when they’re jazzed up, such as when carrots are called “X-Ray Vision Carrots” and when apples have Sesame Street stickers. The underlying theory is that fun, descriptive branding will not only make an eater more aware of the food, but will “also raise one’s taste expectations,” as the scientists explained in one of the papers.

You know, I believe this actually does work — I have no doubt that creative labeling can draw the attention of kids (and adults!). But would it make a significant difference in kids’ eating habits? Don’t you suspect that there would be a bit of a backlash? Kids aren’t stupid. They’re going to see right through this game fairly quickly, and a trivial relabeling is going to have only a transient effect. And they’re paying 30,000 schools up to $2000 each to try out these labeling strategies! Is it worth it? I don’t know. And you still can’t trust Wansink’s work.

People are finding inconsistencies in the papers, statistical errors, and outright statistical abuse. What can you say about a paper that decides p=0.06 meets the criterion for signifcance, and further, miscalculated the p value in the first place?

In a blog post, Brown expressed concern about how the data had been crunched, and confusion about how exactly the experiment had worked. He noted that a bar graph looked much different in an earlier version. And, he pointed out, the scientists had said their findings could help “preliterate” children — which seemed odd, since the children in the study were ages 8 to 11.

In yet more scathing blog posts, Anaya and data scientist James Heathers pointed out mistakes and inconsistencies in the Preventive Medicine study, “Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools,” which claimed that elementary school students ate more carrots when the vegetables were dubbed “X-ray Vision Carrots.”

Worse…when those mistakes were pointed out, Wansink discovers that all the original data for those papers is ‘missing’. How convenient.

Wansink runs something called the “Food and Brand” lab. You can guess from just the name that he’s encouraging corporate support, and I suspect that’s a big part of the problem — this lab isn’t about science, it’s about reinforcing economic values for the benefit of their corporate collaborators.

Well alrighty then

The latest from Mythicist Milwaukee: they will bring Amos Yee up on stage as a “special guest” (which is just weird…to give credibility to their con, they’re flying people in who won’t be speaking, they’ll just be there. Why has no one ever flown me to a con to just stand and look pretty? They reek of desperation.) Yee has some notoriety for being jailed in the autocratic state of Singapore for his criticisms of the state and religion. So yeah, sounds good.

Except…he has lately been banned from Twitter for something else, his endorsement of child pornography. His heated, angry, vocal support of child porn. Why, if you don’t agree with him on child porn, you’re a fascist.

Lately, it’s clear that Yee is aiming for nothing more than shock value. Last week, in a series of tweets, Yee defended the practise of child pornography. Sex with children, so Yee claims, is acceptable if a key condition is met: The child demonstrated consent. He also said that to deny the child sexual pleasure that he or she sought for amounts to fascism.

As anybody with even an IQ of minus-200 will know, a child’s consent to anything (let alone sex) is not the be-all and end-all for deciding if s/he should have the thing.

Ask any responsible parent. Children can “consent” to anything from eating two tons of ice cream to setting off firebombs in the kitchen to using their siblings as trampolines. Doesn’t at all mean we should let them.

Yee knows this, of course, but his love for attention won’t stop him from declaring that if I stop my child from hurling toys from the apartment balcony down to the road, I’m really no different from Saddam Hussein. I must be a bad fascist father.

Mythcon is this weekend. It’s hard to believe, but some people are actually going to attend the shitshow.

Wait, so social justice is not supposed to be part of the atheist agenda — which is only a denial of the existence of gods — but advocacy of child pornography is?

After first defending him, they have now disinvited Amos Yee.

Pure amateur hour.

They are also saying they did not deplatform him, because he was only invited as an attendee. I’m going to say again…what kind of conference is it that needs to invite specific people to attend, and then plugs their presence in their advertising? It’s fucking weird, man.

Half the experiment is done!

One common refrain among MRAs and such trash is that it’s the women’s fault: they’re using men, they’re money-grubbing gold-diggers, they tease and never put out. So let’s test that: in the absence of manipulative women, are men angels of probity and restraint? We can test this: use a proxy for a woman, one that doesn’t lie, has no ambitions, isn’t going to abuse men. It’s been done. A female sex robot at a tech fair was put on display, and the results were not nice.

Santos complained, ‘The people mounted Samantha’s breasts, her legs and arms. Two fingers were broken. She was heavily soiled.’

‘People can be bad. Because they did not understand the technology and did not have to pay for it, they treated the doll like barbarians.’

Strike one against men.

I did say that only half the experiment has been done, though. We need a complementary test in which a male sex doll is put into the hands of women convention attendees. The result of that experiment will tell us whether it’s just us men who suck, or whether it’s the whole human species that needs to be puked on. I have an open mind, it could go either way.