Sunday, August 28, 2005

Daniel C. Dennett: Agent of SATAN!

Daniel Dennett will surely BURN IN HELL FOR ETERNITY for allowing SATAN'S CLEVERNESS to reach his pen. In his adoration of Satan, Dennett even wears a beard like Satan's!

Satan has used Dennett to compose a piece filled with as much trickery as the leftist New York Times could decently publish in its ongoing attempts to prevent the teaching of humanity's REAL origins.

Children must be protected from tricky screeds like Dennett's, especially if their "open mindedness" makes them vulnerable to the arguments of these "scientists." I urge you to block the ENTIRE NEW YORK TIMES WEBSITE from your home computer, and make sure any library or school computers are also blocked from the Times' evil influence before letting your vulnerable children be exposed to Dennett's blasphemous tirade.

Pat Robertson made a mistake recently. Hugo Chavez! Give me a break! Daniel Dennett is the one we should assassinate! What was Brother Robertson THINKING?!

If you must know the enemy, and if you are confident of the protections of your prayers and tithes, the offensive op-ed is here (or see the whole thing (Fair Use) in the first comment to this post). You are forewarned: BE WARY OF SATAN'S CLEVERNESS.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Phoenix OzzFest 2005

I went to the tail end of Ozzfest with my friend Chris on Thursday night. We saw sets by Mudvayne, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. I wasn't familiar with Mudvayne; they sounded good and I'd like to hear more. Iron Maiden I was familiar with, of course, but to my surprise I didn't have any Iron Maiden on the computer. Now I do, having downloaded the greatest hits Edward the Great album, which is playing as I type, Apple having received some money from me via this marvel of modernity, iTunes.

Wow! What a show! What a crowd!!

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Queensryche and Judas Priest at the same place, Cricket Pavillion (west side Phoenix area). That crowd was a third the size of this one. The demographics were markedly different, too. This was a surprise because, after all, the four bands, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, all hail from similar times and climes.

This event had been going on all day though. I suppose that make some difference. Had we come to Ozzfest earlier we would have seen Rob Zombie and some others I wasn't familiar with. Oh, well, work you know.

At the Priestryche show I had no problem spotting people my age or older, but at Ozzfest I must have been the oldest guy there. In addition to a much larger and quite younger crowd at Ozzfest, they were more aggressive! There were as many as five different bonfires going simultaneously after dark. Trash fire bonfires. I saw several attractive young ladies topless, having had their breasts and torsos artistically painted. They looked good! Toward the end of the show we headed to the top of the grass to better walk over toward the exit (Friday being a work day for Chris). From the top the view was pretty impressive. Some great song was blasting its way through the air, lit by what seemed like one lighter in every other attendee's fist. A LOT of people had lighters going, and it was a cool sight. Great music. Ozzy was great. Looked great. Sounded like Ozzy.

Ozzy and Black Sabbath put on a great follow to Iron Maiden, who'd also put on a great set. Iron Maiden set a great stage for Black Sabbath! It was all just great. Great show.

I could have done without the fires. Burning plastic's aroma is not particularly pleasant. Might even be toxic. Anyway, people wanted their fires to dance around. Participants at one particular fire as we were headed out had apparently just run off a group of security people, who were headed the other way with angry young men yelling unpleasantries after their retreating asses. Apparently the fire dancers just wanted to be left alone - they weren't messing with people that I noticed.

I studied my hearing aids for a while. They are definitely providing some protection from loud concert sound levels. If I turn off the hearing aids it's like wearing some hearing protection. Not industrial grade hearing protection, but some. When I would take off the hearing aids it allowed some very high intensity higher-frequencies to come through that were actually uncomfortable for me. With the hearing aids turned on, I still got some protection from those high-intensity -higher frequency sounds, but I could hear the lower frequency stuff almost as well as without the hearing aids, during which I thought the automatic dynamic range compression was doing what I'd like it to do.

Anyway... Jolly good shew!

Friday, August 19, 2005

The 98% Red Hammer

There's this Internet email meme, I think of it as the "2%-98% red hammer meme". Click directly to the comments to read it. You might want to read it first, then return to the spoiler below. That is what I would have opted if presented with a spoiler before reading the thing.

Anyway, the email arrives (thanks Rick), boldly proclaiming "This is really weird." Then it gives instructions to scroll down the page doing some simple additions along the way. Toward the end it primes you further with "Just a little bit more". When I reached the punch line, it did have a weird effect on me for a moment. I hope it is "for a moment" with others on whom this trick works, but I suppose some people may go on misunderstanding the reality.

Here, I already wrote this in an email (OK, now I've edited it a little bit):

No, it's just a trick.

When I read this thing and did the additions and scrolled down and then it asked for the color and the tool and I thought "red hammer" and then scrolled further down to be told I was part of a certain important group of people, I felt . . . . impressed. When I came to the part where it says "You were thinking "red hammer" weren't you?", I got a really strange sensation for a minute. Complete incredulity. How the hell...?

It's just a trick that works sometimes.

First, I think the 2% / 98% claim is bogus. It's a lie for effect. It's to increase the stickiness of the meme. Which will work better?
  1. Telling them they're in a highly significant and, by extension, prestigious group, or
  2. Telling them they part of a large but probably non-majoritarian group, but that the grouping itself is irrelevant?
If they'd said the more-true number 2, the trick wouldn't work as well on those for whom it works. Even if it doesn't work on most other people, the ones likely to think something other than "red hammer", the trick would still play on a lot of people, whose who will say "red hammer".

So the number is bullshit.

Then, apparently they have researched the likelihood of a person answering a question a certain way out of the blue ( "they" being the scientists). The majority of people (a large number of them anyway), when asked for a color out of the blue, will say "red". It's the same when people are asked to name a tool out of the blue. Most, or a large percentage, will say "hammer." They're just two thing that are likely to come to mind first, except these are more likely. Put the two together and you get some percentage (not necessarily a majority) of people who'll think "red hammer". For that group of people this thing can work (at least the first time they see it). For some people the most likely answers are not "red" and "hammer", but who cares. Then they give you the false 2% / 98% statistic and prime the ones who answer "red hammer", they are primed with the apparent (though explainable) weirdness that the email "knows" you were going to say "red hammer". Some of the supposed 2% wind up wondering what's wrong with them.

If you are falsely primed for an answer to an unanswerable question about an unknowable truth, you'll stand for something so won't fall for anything. Besides, those other people may be stupid. HA! Let's make that meme more sticky. Bullshit can be sticky.

The purpose of having you do the additions as you scroll down the page is to put you into concentration on something else, so that your answers to the questions actually do come from out of the blue.

Maybe some day scientists will discover subtle neurological differences among different types of different sorts of people's brains. I wonder what they'll find different about some people, who read the red hammer meme in the email and pick the color "fuck" and the tool "you" and wonder why they read this far. Why they did the additions. Why they forwarded the email.

Anyway, it was an interesting diversion. I thought the momentary initial reaction when the trick worked on me was pretty cool, and I think the explanation (though there's more to it, I'm sure) is pretty cool, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design

What is ID, and does it have a legitimate place in the high school science curriculum?

Of course not, because it is not science.

People behind "intelligent design" are taking a stab at memetic engineering, it seems to me.

The New Republic Online: Creations

The New Republic Online: Creations: "The cunning souls who propound intelligent design are playing with fire, because they have introduced intelligence into the discussion."

HA! That's just the opening line.

Actually, the opening sentence is softened a bit by the one following. The author, probably being a nice guy, may prefer that I place the two in continuity:

"The cunning souls who propound intelligent design are playing with fire, because they have introduced intelligence into the discussion. It is a standard to which they, too, must be held."

Here are some more gems:

[I]ntelligent design was prompted by the consequences of literalism in the interpretation of Scripture.
Sanctity is not an excuse for stupidity.
Truth is never heresy, except for those who make their religion vulnerable to truth.
The gates of figurative interpretation were opened in my face, and I grew up.

"..., and I grew up." Yeah!!

And finally:

For His agents on Earth have cultural uses for anti-Darwinism. They think it will make us good, because Darwin makes us bad. No doubt this is why President Bush wants "to expose people to different schools of thought," and have intelligent design taught alongside evolution: to retard our corruption. But isn't the idea that morality is founded in nature itself a sin of materialism? And are we to teach other false ideas alongside other true ones? I do not want my son to waste his time on phlogiston. I mean, what is truth? The question is begged yet again, this time by the pomo of Crawford.

What is truth? The question is begged yet again...

...the pomo of Crawford.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | Berners-Lee on the read/write web

BBC NEWS | Technology | Berners-Lee on the read/write web:
When you write a blog, you don't write complicated hypertext, you just write text, so I'm very, very happy to see that now it's gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium
Tim Berners-Lee
Well, I seem to be enjoying it, along with about 9 million others who are being joined by a new blogger every second or so.

TBL: ... My goal for the web in 30 years is to be the platform which has led to the building of something very new and special, which we can't imagine now.

ML: Tim Berners-Lee, thank you very much.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Politics of Ignorance - Sam Harris - Huffington Post

The Politics of Ignorance - Sam Harris - Huffington Post
Great piece.

"Because it is taboo to criticize a person’s religious beliefs, political debate over questions of public policy (stem-cell research, the ethics of assisted suicide and euthanasia, obscenity and free speech, gay marriage, etc.) generally gets framed in terms appropriate to a theocracy. Unreason is now ascendant in the United States -- in our schools, in our courts, and in each branch of the federal government. Only 28 percent of Americans believe in evolution; 68 percent believe in Satan. Ignorance in this degree, concentrated in both the head and belly of a lumbering superpower, is now a problem for the entire world."
"Garry Wills has noted that the Bush White House "is currently honeycombed with prayer groups and Bible study cells, like a whited monastery." This should trouble us as much as it troubles the fanatics of the Muslim world."

Dawkins seems to like Harris' piece, too.

There's one part of Harris' piece that gives me pause:
"According to several recent polls, 22 percent of Americans are certain that Jesus will return to earth sometime in the next fifty years. Another 22 percent believe that he will probably do so. This is likely the same 44 percent who go to church once a week or more, who believe that God literally promised the land of Israel to the Jews, and who want to stop teaching our children about the biological fact of evolution. As the President is well aware, believers of this sort constitute the most cohesive and motivated segment of the American electorate. ..."

I pause not because Harris is wrong but because he's right, and because actions that weaken this dominant superorganism weaken it in comparison to other, rising superorganisms that are inherently stronger. Look how Sistani has been able to contain Iraq's Shia population, commanding them to go to the polls and so on. Not that Sistani or the Shia pose any threat for the time being or necessarily in the future, but I am somewhat ambivalent about the weakening of the dominant superorganism, the one I live near.

I'll have to explore this and try to put it to better words some other time, but right now it's past my bedtime.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Taliban Go Home!!

What a bunch of BS.

I like and respect many of the religious people I know, but I can't stand the ones so deeply hooked by their own particular memeplex that they'd shove it down everyone else's throat by force if they could get away with it.

In case my graffiti obscured too much of the sign I'd love to have sprayed it on, the sign reads, "Whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a BORN child is legitimate to defend the life of a PREBORN child."

No, Fool! A fetus is not a child. It has no soul because its brain has not developed sufficiently to produce a soul. In any event, the soul you believe in, which exists independent of the brain, is a figment of your imagination.

Believe in myth if you must, Taliban, but leave my female friends and relatives the hell alone.

Hat tip.

Art prankster sprays Israeli wall

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Art prankster sprays Israeli wall
I like Banksy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Brain-dead woman dies after birth" - No, she died three months ago.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Brain-dead woman dies after birth:
"... she was brain dead, but they offered to keep her alive ..."

If she was brain dead, then she was dead.

Susan Torres did not die when life support was removed after giving birth. She died three months ago when an undiagnosed cancer reached her brain, causing the stroke that killed her. Since the time of her death, the deceased woman's body has been kept on life support in order that her unborn child might survive.

The soul is what the brain does. When the brain dies, the soul dies with it and the person is dead.

Ms. Torres' death three months ago was a tragedy. That people think she died just yesterday represents another.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005 Culture: Atheists claim discrimination (8/2/05) Culture: Atheists claim discrimination (8/2/05): "'We should not be tolerant of people who exercise such intolerance.'"

I am about >this< close to being an atheist, and though it may be pissing in the wind, I support the Brights and the Universists. I've met some great people through their meetings and in their online fora.

I have also met many great people of genuine faith with whom I could coexist in cooperation and harmony or even be friends. I understand that world views are as varied as the people who hold them.

The problem is that some religious people assume they are under orders from the one true god, and that people who think otherwise are somehow ... wrong. Well, if you have people of different faiths all claiming the authority of the one true god, then if follows that most of them are wrong. It is impossible for all of them to be right, right?

Well, actually, I see one out, which is that an omnipotent god can be all things to all people. But that clashes head on with the dogma most such people adhere to. These people, in effect, imply that their omnipotent god is not omnipotent because it cannot be all things to all people.

In other words, they are full of shit.

Having said that, and since humanity is seemingly hard-wired for belief so that the faithless will forever be a minority, I'd prefer to live in a relatively secular society with a Western-style god in the wings than in, say, an Islamic theocracy. The former may tolerate secularism and even encourage it out of self interest, but the latter will kill me if I tell them my truth.