Was I philosophically checkmated? Don’t think so

I mentioned earlier that I’d been on this “Philosophical Checkmate” discord server. It was an odd experience — a few trolls, a rather eclectic assortment of outre positions, a large group of people who politely lined up to ask questions. I went ahead and uploaded my copy of the conversation so, if you’re rather hardcore, you can listen to an hour and a half of random Q&A.

(It’s just audio. I put a painting by my nephew, Michael Myers, on it so you’d have something to look at while tearing your hair out.)

I wanted to single out one point, though. Early on, and scattered throughout, there appeared a type, a kind of person I’m going to call, for the sake of putting a handle on them, Logicians. I can’t stand them. They appear among creationists and atheists, theists and skeptics, about equally often. You know them. They’re typically the “Debate me, bros” who have some gimmick that they can’t wait to try out on you.

Ray Comfort is one, for instance (so you know you don’t have to actually be logical to play the game). His gimmick is his gotcha question: “Have you ever told a lie? Then you’re a sinner and need Jesus.” Lots of atheists play it, too — street epistemologists are the worst. They have a set patter that’s supposed to lead you into a logical contradiction between what you claim are your values, and what your values actually are, to get you to admit that you were wrong-wrong-wrongety-wrong, and that you therefore have to turn your views inside out and reconsider everything and become an evangelical Xian, if it’s Comfort, or an evangelical atheist, if it’s a street epistemologist. It’s perpetrated by people who may have seen one too many old Star Trek episodes in which the artificially intelligent computer explodes when Captain Kirk exposes a logical contradiction in its programming.

Guess what? Computers don’t usually do that. They just keep compounding the errors repeatedly.

Also, people don’t do that.

We are already bundles of contradictions and incoherent views, every one of us. We have developed cognitive mechanisms for coping — witness all the End Times fanatics who see the prophesied date of the apocalypse pass without the big kaboom, and then struggle briefly to rationalize it before reaffirming their beliefs with minor revisions. We are not creatures ruled by rigid logic who can be knocked off our rails by a stranger showing us where we forgot to include a semicolon in our code.

I’ve learned to recognize the Logician. They come up to you with a smug tone in their voice, prepared with a clever syllogism that they’re sure will totally stump me; typically they’ll start by announcing something obvious that they know about me, like, “You believe it’s not necessary to reference god as the precondition of facts” (as at the 15:30 mark in the video), and I know instantly that they’re about to unroll a canned script on me. When I say “yes,” as they know I will, they’ll then try to launch into Act II of their script with a statement like “that logically entails”, which it usually doesn’t. In the video, he is obviously trying to trap me, claiming that because I acknowledge that I don’t know everything and and ackownledge that maybe there is some cosmic force out there that I don’t know about, that that is a logical inconsistency with my rejection of his peculiar definition of god. I have no truck with that BS. I just sent him away.

But, you know, even if what he said wasn’t irrational, I wouldn’t have been concerned. Go ahead, catch me in a logical contradiction, and smoke won’t come out of my ears and I won’t stagger off to melt down in failure. My philosophy is that we are human beings, and humans are not intrinsically logical. We fail all the time, myself included. I am unbothered. Bring up a good contradiction in my views, and I’ll think about it, because that’s all you can ask of rational, flawed people.

My perspective is that I, personally, am a bundle of disparate parts — I have biases, I have bits that I have assembled into a mostly functioning, shambling mess that I’m constantly patching and nudging and revising, and that’s OK. My name is Legion, and I contain multitudes. I was born as the product of 4 billion years of evolutionary forces that pushed my ancestors hither and yon, I was raised in an environment that shaped the many aspects of my mind in ways that may have been correct and may have been wrong, and then I spent my adult life struggling to test and evaluate and fix my thinking. You want to tell me that one module of my personality conflicts with another? I will agree. It’s probably true. Happens all the time.

I think of my life as a rather battered old jalopy, traveling from where I started to some destination unknown, a destination often redirected by circumstances or by growing enlightenment. I occasionally break down and need to stop for a while to make repairs. In my travels, I sometimes find some new part that I find enlightening, and I bolt that on and try it for a while. There are multiple mes that take the driver’s seat; sometimes I’m gunning it down the road, other times I’m idling and looking around wondering what to do next. It’s the human condition, rattled by chaos and trying our best, using the tools we’re born with and gradually acquire, to make sense of it all.

What I can’t abide, though, is these damnable Logicians. They’re the ones who bunker down in a set of premises they find comfortable and that they claim are absolutes, and then spend their life building rational defenses so that they never have to change, never have to face intellectual challenges, never experience the thrill of hammering a new idea into the rat’s nest of circuitry we call a brain. Instead, they prefer to pretend that their ideas are all shiny and chrome, wired perfectly on day one, often with the guidance of an imaginary deity.

One other thing, outside the bounds of the video. About a half hour before we wrapped it all up, my granddaughter called. I had to refuse to pick up so I could finish, but then a little later she called up at the very end of the session and we did get to talk for a while in a video hangout.

What impressed me is that when I finally answered, she immediately summarized in her adorable little girl voice: “We called you but you didn’t answer. But we called again and you did answer!”

Her language is getting better fast. What I most noticed, though, was that she encapsulated this trivial event with a narrative, a story with a conflict and a resolution. How human of her!

Where this anecdote fits is that I think that’s what we all do all the time — we take chance and chaos and random events and tie them up in a sweet simple story, and already she’s a master. We just have to be wary of thinking the story is the whole of the truth.

Naomi Wolf’s brain worms have to reach the brain stem soon

As you should know, Naomi Wolf, former Clinton advisor, is now on the COVID denialism bandwagon. She has gotten worse. Much worse. She has come out with a video denouncing the COVID-19 vaccine as a nanotechnology upload that can be manipulated by developers. Mind control! Tracking! Who knows what nefarious schemes these people are up to.

Note: I have not seen the video. It’s banned everywhere because she’s spreading gross medical misinformation. She has talked about it on Twitter, though, and affirmed that she really wrote this.

You know, I read the Moderna website and the sources in my video about how the mRNA is not actually a vaccine but a software platform. I actually work with developers who create software so I understand how dangerous it is to have a tech in one’s body that can receive ‘uploads’.

Here’s a link directly to it, if you can’t believe she would say something so stupid. Oh, yeah, she works with software developers so she knows this is possible. She’s also the CEO of a data tech company so she has inside info on Apple’s time travel technology.

Untrue. ‘Time Travel’ as noted in my much-banned video, is an Apple product. A self-described Apple employee reported a product unveiled at a secret Apple product demo that used ‘Time Travel’ in a medical nanoparticle delivery technology. I am CEO of a data tech company so…

Oh boy. Time travel. That’ll be one killer app.

As a branding exercise, though, Wolf has some potent kool-aid. She’s got a fog of science denialists cheerleading everything she writes, and she got invited on the Tucker Carlson show. That’s peak internet famous, right? Getting to promote your nonsense on Tucker Carlson?

She’s so full of herself that now she has offered to join the Republican team in South Dakota.

I’ve been a lifelong Dem, Clinton/ Gore team advisor. I don’t agree w/many GOP positions. But basic liberty is being destroyed by Biden/Harris. If you run for Pres., restore freedoms, I’ll do all I can to mobilize support. Heck, I’d join your team if asked.

Please, please, please do.

Sarah Braasch lets the world know how evil I truly am

Yesterday, I visited a Discord server called Philosophical Checkmate for a bit of a freewheeling discussion. It was a mixed mob of creationists and atheists and odd indefinables vs. little ol’ me — maybe I’ll post a recording (I’ve learned my lesson, don’t do these things without independently recording them myself) later, and let you visit the spectacle yourself.

I thought the moderator did a good job of maintaining order and reducing it to a series of single combats, but then this morning I discover a Discord user posted the video below. I guess I didn’t endear myself to him, and he thought this would punish me. It’s a YouTube video titled “PZ Myers is an evil a$$hole”, posted a few months ago.

I totally missed this when it came out, because I don’t name-search myself, although Sarah Braasch professes that she does. Boy, she really hates me, although I think she might hate the “Embrace the Void guy”, as she calls Aaron Rabinowitz repeatedly, even more, because she won’t even say his name.

If you can’t remember who Sarah Braasch is (How dare you? She’s famous, as she says), you’re not alone. It took me a moment to jog my memory and recall her claim to fame, too. She’s that Karen who called the police on a black woman who was napping on a couch in a Yale dormitory.

Thanks to Philosophical Checkmate for doing the name-search for me, and bringing this delightful video to my attention. I had a good laugh, and figured it was only fair that I let all my readers know what an Evil A$$hole I am.

Somebody else says it: Musk is a charlatan

It is stunning that anyone still thinks Elon Musk is a smart guy. Shannon Stirone tears into one of his recent performances, in which he read from Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and took exactly the wrong message away from it.

Musk reads from Sagan’s book: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.”

But there Musk cuts himself off and begins to laugh. He says with incredulity, “This is not true. This is false––Mars.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Mars? Mars is a hellhole. The central thing about Mars is that it is not Earth, not even close. In fact, the only things our planet and Mars really have in common is that both are rocky planets with some water ice and both have robots (and Mars doesn’t even have that many).

Read: Can we still go to Mars?

Mars has a very thin atmosphere; it has no magnetic field to help protect its surface from radiation from the sun or galactic cosmic rays; it has no breathable air and the average surface temperature is a deadly 80 degrees below zero. Musk thinks that Mars is like Earth? For humans to live there in any capacity they would need to build tunnels and live underground, and what is not enticing about living in a tunnel lined with SAD lamps and trying to grow lettuce with UV lights? So long deep breaths outside and walks without the security of a bulky spacesuit, knowing that if you’re out on an extravehicular activity and something happens, you’ve got an excruciatingly painful 60-second death waiting for you. Granted, walking around on Mars would be a life-changing, amazing, profound experience. But visiting as a proof of technology or to expand the frontier of human possibility is very different from living there. It is not in the realm of hospitable to humans. Mars will kill you.

If anything, you’d think that the recent and ongoing confinement due to the pandemic would hammer that lesson home: most people don’t want to live in a tin can, where the outside is deadly and nasty and unpleasant. We’re just dealing with a mundane virus, not a hostile atmosphere, and people are freaking out over wearing a mask and not going to a restaurant now and then. Imagine…you have to wear an airtight suit and bring a tank of your atmosphere if you go out, and you have to recycle your poop in order to grow lettuce. This is what Musk thinks is a desirable future for other people, but not him, oh no. You’d have to be crazy to colonize Mars yourself.

This is an accurate summing up.

The influence Musk is having on a generation of people could not be more different. Musk has used the medium of dreaming and exploration to wrap up a package of entitlement, greed, and ego. He has no longing for scientific discovery, no desire to understand what makes Earth so different from Mars, how we all fit together and relate. Musk is no explorer; he is a flag planter. He seems to have missed one of the other lines from Pale Blue Dot: “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”

Is there some kind of epidemic of stupidity right now?

OK, I’ve dealt with creationists. I’ve bumped into flat-earthers and walked away moaning. But now, people are claiming that there’s something suspicious about the snow in Texas? That it won’t melt? Do they think liberal agents of the lizardoid government were dumping millions of tons of artificial snow on good Republican states? Rebecca Watson is on it.

She links to a clip of a Texas dumbass using a lighter on an icy snowball made of wet snow (I couldn’t do that when it’s really cold, for instance — the snow is too dry and powdery). He seems…impressed. My opinion of Texans plummeted. Sorry, all you Texans reading this, I’m sure you are exceptions.

“Trust the Science,” Marjorie Taylor Greene

What a buffoon. To respond to a colleague who posted support for civil rights for LGBT folk, she had to put up a big loud stupid sign of her own, demonstrating her own ignorance.

She doesn’t have a clue what the science is. Here’s Keith L. Moore, publishing in JAMA in 1968, in an article titled “The Sexual Identity of Athletes”, pointing out that sex is more complicated than a simple binary.

In short, there are 9 (at least) parameters that are diagnostic of sex, and they aren’t always in concordance with one another. For the majority of people, they are in alignment; for some, though, they aren’t, and you can’t deny them their rights.

I despise those people who swaddle themselves in the cloak of science in the name of claims that are explicitly denied by science. Greene is a liar and a fraud.

The lure of the exotic! Adventure awaits!

I was served up an ad that, for once, triggered a deep yearning in me. It was for a Lake Superior circle tour, a collection of 84 museums in various states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario — that ring the big lake up North. Many of them looked like somebody’s old house that is used to show off some local artifact, but still, I am so desperate to get out that the whole thing looked like grand fun. It’s a measure of my need to escape that even this place looked appealing.

I wanna see the largest motorized tricycle “possibly in the world,” the world’s largest working chainsaw, the world’s largest working rifle, and I want to use the “free batrooms”.

Not really. Once I get vaccinated and once my teaching obligations are over, what I really want to do is flee Morris, Minnesota for a while.

Nothing against the Da Yoopers Tourist Trap — I appreciate the honest advertising, at least — but if I hadn’t been cooped up for a year I wouldn’t be ogling that place like it was the Louvre. Although, actually, there are probably more spiders in Da Yoopers than there are in the Louvre…