I’m worried about David Silverman

He may have joined a cult.

He’s the new executive director for a shiny new organization, Transformative Humanists of America, which may not be so new: their web pages sometimes refer to themselves as humanist.com, which seems to be some kind of generic humanist forum. But they’ve gotten together and put together a nearly unreadable mass of words. I’m not sure what they’re all about, but what they seem to consider their main selling point is their mediocrity.

Society is fracturing at an alarming rate with the right hemorrhaging integrity while the Left is cannibalizing itself. As a result the majority middle is increasingly apathetic, disillusioned and without a home. Most people are good, which means suffering is increasing at our own hand. Transformative Humanism can and will help reunify society so we can get back to the business of the Greater Good.

They’ve got a whole section on the Extremism Horseshoe. Yup. Horseshoe theory again. The idea that the left is just as evil as the right, but those who straddle the fence are the best people. Politics are just the worst.

Trump took over and he was more polarizing than Obama had been. Now the left is doing anything it can to make Trump fail, even if it is good for the country. Just imagine the dehumanization and echo chambers that are in effect when we cheer for the failure of nuclear arms talks with North Korea! Trump is a pussy-grabber, so he hates women, so all of his supporters hate women to some degree – that is what the left is saying – dehumanizing en masse, shouting in their echo chambers, and indeed posting things like “please unfriend me if you support Trump”.

How dare you dehumanize Donald Trump for dehumanizing women and minorities! Don’t you realize that makes you as bad as he is?

I tried to figure out what “transformative humanism” is, but the section on “About transformative humanism” wasn’t at all helpful.

Humanism is not a religion, and therefore, is secular by default, like golf is secular. You can be a religious or nonreligious golfer, and you can be a religious or nonreligious Humanist. The rules in golf are secular, because they have no religious position, and the secular morality that we champion here at Humanist.com are also devoid of religion. “Secular Humanist” organizations by definition are exclusionary, divisive, and can be pretty hostile to religious people, but we at Humanist.com are doing this right. Everyone who agrees with our secular reasoning and wants to be a good person by the definition we set forth, is invited, whatever your opinion is on God.

Wait a minute…they differentiate themselves from other organizations that are hostile to religion, but they hired David Silverman as their director? The David Silverman I saw at the World Humanist Congress a few years ago, in which he pissed off a fair number of humanists for aggressively telling them they were all actually atheists, and they ought not to be pretending otherwise? Dave Silverman, Firebrand Atheist? I am mystified.

But maybe this explains the association. It has a whole section that emphasizes forgiveness, and condemns that whole social networking thing.

On-line, with echo chambers in full effect, redemption is often hard to come by. The ability for people to just disconnect from others makes redemption easy, because dehumanized ostracized people are easily replaced, so there is very little incentive for anyone to go through the process that goes against their outgrouping brain and take someone back in, even if they deserve it. Additionally, the outward, proud ostracization that accompanies the echo tunnels creates the Culture of Fear, making it incredibly scary for people who disagree with the outgrouping to voice their support for the ostracized person for fear of being outgrouped themselves. So the silent majority sits in fear of the social extremist minority and the latter rules and the former sits in fearful silence.

Then there’s the section on civil discourse that starts with a quote from Steven Pinker.

“Left-wing and right-wing political ideologies have themselves become secular religions, providing people with a community of like-minded brethren, a catechism of sacred beliefs, a well-populated demonology, and a beatific confidence in the righteousness of their cause.”

― Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

If there is one place where the need for social improvement is most evident, it is the area of civil discourse. All over the country and all throughout the Internet, the apparent demise of calm civil discussions and their replacement with hate, extreme labeling and dismissal, and intellectual echo chambers dominates those of us who miss such ideals.

Yeah! The left and right are indistinguishable, just look at the hateful extremism that condemns people like Donald Trump. We need calm civil discussions to deal with Nazis…oh, fuck it. This is just another centrist gang of status quo warriors who want to adopt rules that promote stasis and acceptance of whatever the assholes at the top tell us to do. We may be sliding into a pit, but don’t you dare criticize the people who pushed us in, and you will accept your fate graciously. Namaste.

I find it hard to believe that Silverman has joined these do-nothing wankers, but he himself announced it. I guess it’s all about desperately trying to retain relevance, although I don’t think he’ll find it with these do-nothing babblers.

They really do go on and on at painful length without saying anything. For instance, I read their Who and What We Are page to try and find out who was behind it, who the organizers are. They don’t say! It’s just more platitudes, with a little rebuking of the Left, but nothing specific. It’s tediously empty of any specific content.

You know what else it’s missing? Any mention of major social issues, like racism or misogyny. I guess they’re taking the middle ground on that, too. There’s nothing about science, or concern for the environment — I guess they don’t want to risk colliding with the righties they want to woo! Nothing about politics other than “why can’t we all get along”? No concern about church/state separation. Its only message seems to be that they won’t criticize anyone for being far right reactionary assholes, therefore you should join them.

I don’t think the American Humanist Association has to fear any competition here.

No poors allowed

Our administration wants to slide in new rules to keep those poor people out of the country.

In a 447-page proposed rule issued on Friday, the administration proposes sharply limiting legal immigration for those that aren’t already wealthy and privileged.

The proposed rule would favor granting permanent legal status to immigrants who make more than 250% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, that means an income of $62,750 per year.

This exceeds the median household income in the United States.

I will only accept this if it is applied retroactively, meaning Trump’s immigrant grandfather and all of his descendants must leave immediately. It means I’ll also have to move to Norway or Sweden, but that’s a small price to pay.

Why free speech is sometimes a curse

John Oliver rips into the Republican efforts to prop up Kavanaugh in the first 9 minutes, but go ahead and watch the rest where he describes Facebook as a toilet. A lot of it is spent on how Facebook blithely allowed inflammatory hate speech to flow in Myanmar, with the excuse that they didn’t have enough people fluent in the language to police it, but I have to say — they allow it fo flow pretty freely in English, too.

Another account

Here we go again…another woman, Deborah Ramirez, has stepped forward to testify about Brett Kavanaugh’s drunken behavior at Yale. It’s a story vetted by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, two journalists with a rock-solid reputation.

Will the Republicans finally withdraw this nomination? If they push it through, all they’ll accomplish is to diminish the authority of the Supreme Court still further.

Maybe the Intellectual Dark Web isn’t as profitable as they dreamed

Oh, look. “Pangburn Philosophy” the guy who’s been sponsoring these talks by alt-right asshats all over the place, maybe isn’t doing quite so well lately.

Can’t pay his speakers? Sam Harris and Majid Nawaz refusing to go on stage? Wow.

Can this get any more embarrassing for them?

Whoops. There go Jordan Peterson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Whatever will happen to this conference?

They just lost 4 of their 5 headliners. That’s a catastrophic collapse.

From now on, I’m going to send all those obnoxious Peterson cultists to Adam Rutherford

I hope he enjoys them, because I’m more than a little tired of those obtuse wankers. Rutherford is writing about what makes humans unique, and isn’t shy about pointing out that most of the pop sci claims are nonsense.

Because sex and gender politics are so prominent in our lives, some look to evolution for answers to hard questions about the dynamics between men and women, and the social structures that cause us so much ire. Evolutionary psychologists strain to explain our behaviour today by speculating that it relates to an adaptation to Pleistocene life. Frequently these claims are absurd, such as “women wear blusher on their cheeks because it attracts men by reminding them of ripe fruit”.

Purveyors of this kind of pseudoscience are plenty, and most prominent of the contemporary bunch is the clinical psychologist and guru Jordan Peterson, who in lectures asserts this “fact” about blusher and fruit with absolute certainty. Briefly, issues with that idea are pretty straightforward: most fruit is not red; most skin tones are not white; and crucially, the test for evolutionary success is increased reproductive success. Do we have the slightest blip of data that suggests that women who wear blusher have more children than those who don’t? No, we do not.

Peterson is also well known for using the existence of patriarchal dominance hierarchies in a non-specific lobster species as supporting evidence for the natural existence of male hierarchies in humans. Why out of all creation choose the lobster? Because it fits with Peterson’s preconceived political narrative. Unfortunately, it’s a crazily poor choice, and woefully researched. Peterson asserts that, as with humans, lobsters have nervous systems that “run on serotonin” – a phrase that carries virtually no scientific meaning – and that as a result “it’s inevitable that there will be continuity in the way that animals and human beings organise their structures”. Lobsters do have serotonin-based reward systems in their nervous systems that in some way correlate with social hierarchies: higher levels of serotonin relate to increased aggression in males, which is part of establishing mate choice when, as Peterson says, “the most desirable females line up and vie for your attention”.

I’m definitely buying his new book, The Book of Humans: 4 Billion Years, 20,000 Genes, and the New Story of How We Became Us when it becomes available in March. I’ve been praising his last book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes, to everyone I know, and I just learned that it’s going to be used as a text in one of the anthropology electives offered at our school. He’s an author you must not miss if you’re interested in good explanations of evolution and genetics.

America is Animal House

The Washington Post has a good story on Christine Blasey Ford, and let’s get this out of the way: she’s also a product of wealthy, preppy, privileged, private school and country club culture. I despise those people. That they are the class that dominates politics is one of the big problems with this country.

But she got out — she fled as far as she could from the kind of people that Brett Kavanaugh instead chose to wallow with. The kind of people who thought getting drunk until they vomited was the height of fun.

Every summer, the “Holton girls” would pack into a rented house for Beach Week, an annual bacchanal of high-schoolers from around the region. The prep schools that formed Ford’s overlapping social circles usually gathered at a Delaware beach town each year. Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

Like Kavanaugh, Ford was part of that alcohol-fueled culture. But those unchaperoned parties, at beach rentals and Bethesda basements alike, frequently left the girls feeling embattled.

“The boys were pretty brutal,” Evers said. “They would do what they could to get you drunk, and do whatever they would try to do to you.”

And then those boys go on to become lawyers and politicians, and do whatever they would try to do to the American people.

I have to say that this Twitter thread (read it all here) pretty much has American culture pegged.

Remember those cheap comedies from the ’80s, like Porkies or Revenge of the Nerds? I remember laughing at them, but what they were really doing is instilling in us a forgiveness for the excesses of Asshole Culture. Sure, they’re committing rape, they’re humiliating women, they’re praising turning the tables on bullies by becoming bullies yourselves, but boys will be boys, and isn’t it funny to peek in the girls’ showers or their bedroom windows and see boobies?

Try watching them now. They haven’t stood the test of time, and are painful to see, because now (I hope!) we can all see that the underdogs are all privileged white boys who have managed to succeed only by finding a new group of victims, usually women, to exercise power over. They are stories about clawing your way up the hierarchy by stomping hard on people, where you win by being cunning and brutal and making your opponents suffer, and your reward is getting the girl, whether she likes it or not.

And today, Cthulhu help us, it’s the people who absorbed those messages who now run the country.

You know, it pains me to say it, because I loved the anti-establishment message of another of those ’80s comedies, Animal House, and it actually does have some funny moments, but…it’s part of the problem. It celebrates sexism (don’t you like to see boobies?), and it is underdogs battling the privileged, but it’s two frat houses fighting for dominance. It’s the frat system that is the problem, and no one ever seems to think of leaving the whole rotten edifice. Then the hero is Bluto Blutarski, who is a crass, crude, ignorant failure who uses bluster and unearned confidence to claw his way up the ladder…he is the archetype of Trump. Real-life Blutarskis are not funny anymore.

It is sort of funny in a laugh-through-the-tears, ironic way that in the closing credits of the movie, they say that Blutarski goes on to become a US senator. It’s too true. That’s why we can still laugh. But do you still laugh when you see all the Blutos actually running congress? Becoming Supreme Court judges? Getting elected president? I don’t think so.

Traps are so manly

I love this video — it speaks the truth.

Although, I have to confess, the bit at the end is a manly punch to the gut, because it’s too true — I never told my father I loved him, and he never said it to me, not because we didn’t, but because Real Men don’t talk about it. I’m not a particularly macho kind of guy, but this poison has affected even me.

I blame the voice of Pappy Jack, and I’m gonna beat him up if I ever meet him.