Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Macchiavelli Was Right

The events of the past few years has had a strong if gradual effect on my political, economic, and moral opinions. I started off this century quite conservative, I guess it's a side effect of being intelligent, young, and living in a well-off area. But I finished the first decade having experienced a huge shift to the left. The core of my political leanings are inherently conservative and I think that anyone who doesn't have that is an idiot, but my belief in ideals has grown. Is our country currently capable of complete medical coverage for its population? Perhaps, perhaps not. Should making it so be a social imperative? Most certainly.

But the two-fold election of George Bush and the economic crash have sent me reeling. George Bush was a terrible president, his staff were self-serving people (at best fools, at worst evil), and yet people elected him twice. People continue to rack up credit card debt while happily becoming indebted to corporations that try very hard to fuck them. I live for my ideals, because what other reason to life is there, but the realities of life in a world of blithering idiots can't be ignored.

I don't mean to absolve myself of idiocy. I am very idiotic about many things. They are things about which I think I am knowledgeable but am not. It's one of the reasons why the dialectic is so important to me. That clash is the only thing that reveals me to be an idiot, and revealing areas of idiocy are the goal of any truly inquiring mind.

The extreme idiots that populate the world aren't of that nature, though. They are ignorant and willfully happy about it. They do not desire to discover where they are wrong because they aren't wrong. They're right, dammit. They watch Glen Beck, roil themselves up with self-righteousness, and then take to the streets and scream and holler about it to anyone who will listen. I have been randomly taken up in conversation about the conspiracy that is global warming THREE TIMES. I wasn't doing anything else but walking.

I have since taken a sort of Machiavellian approach to life. This is actually a new thing. It's an exhaustion, really. I've given up. I can't care, not any more. If banks are out to fuck us, let them. If the government is out to fuck us, let them. My goal, now being aware of that dynamic, is to avoid being fucked and try as hard as I can to throw other people in front of the train. It's not really a pessimistic position, nor is it realistic. It's a deferred idealistic position. I'll have ideals when I think that they'll actually do something. Currently, ideals have no place on the national scale. Hell, ideals on a local scale are even on life support.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Genius of Design

The BBC produced a five-part documentary called The Genius of Design. It's absolutely fantastic and is currently airing in the US on The Smithsonian Channel. As with lots of BBC content, they're trying their hardest to prevent it from being seen online because... I don't really know why.

I found all five parts online here. It's a Chinese website and as such takes forever to load the videos. You can also go to Isohunt.com and download a torrent for both it and the producers previous series, The Genius of Photography.

It is easily the best television retrospective on design ever produced. It's thorough, detailed, wonderfully shot, and managed to straddle the line between design porn and legitimately informative.

Africa Needs More Help Than We Can Give

George Ongere has an article over at Skeptical Inquirer about superstition in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa. Basically, he's arguing that all of the economic advancement in the world won't help them since that will cause a greater rift between the haves and the have-nots, and a strong, deeply engrained superstitious culture will hamper if not outright ruin any attempt at education and development.

I've ranted about Africa before, basically saying that the West can do two things. They can continue what they're doing and keep Africa in the dark ages, or they can invest in business and take a strongly moral stance. Namely, we will only do business if you knock off this garbage. No superstition, no killing albinos, no corruption, and if we catch so much as a whiff of this, we're out. We'll come back in another decade and see if you're ready.

We're not doing this anywhere else. In China, human rights violations are rampant, but we don't care. Same as India. We can't do that with Africa. We have to put our money where our moral mouths are and pay more than lip service to our quest to actually help them. Because, let's face it, Bono ain't doing shit.

Will Africa Still Be Immersed in Deep Superstition by the Year 2030? (Skeptical Inquirer)

Suck On It

I'm not one to hate on someone else's lifestyle, but vegans piss me off. Veganism can be necessary for health reasons, for example, I had a friend who developed a build-up in his joints of animal proteins, but it usually is a moral decision. Vegetarians are off the hook, mostly, since that can just be a really healthy diet.

The overcharged moralizing of vegans results in nonsense like the organic movement and PETA who make explicit, public statements that I am evil because I eat animals and animal products. As you can imagine, being called a bad person doesn't sit well.

We are animals. We eat animals. It's the only damned reason that our brains are so large. At one time, a moral drive was critical for the survival of our species. Understanding right and wrong made sure that we never fell out of the good graces of society to die in the woods. Now, that moral drive is still there, but even if we're amoral assholes hated by everyone, we can still survive just fine. Without a serious need on which to focus the moral drive, it runs amok trying to find something about which to moralize.

There Is No Escape From Cows (Gizmodo.com)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Believed the Darndest Things

A new study shows that kids are especially prone to believing things that they're told. The obvious connections to religion are worth a mention, but nothing more. It reminds me of when I was younger. I was around nine and read an interview with Weird Al in the magazine Disney Adventures. He said that when he was thirteen he sold his family's house for a lifetime supply of wax lips. Even at nine years old, I believed it! So yeah. Funny story.

Young children are especially trusting of things they're told (Eurekalert)

Fuck You And Your Manly Men

I hate gender stereotypes. I hate masculinity and femininity. I hate the nebulousness of it all. And, most importantly, if you want men to be MEN, and conversely demand similar things from women, I hate you.

I've talked about it before, and here it is again. Shocker(!), this complete garbage is being spewed by someone who fashions herself a "conservative." I mentioned that these ideas are nebulous, and Katherine Miller does nothing to bestow clarity on the subject. She simply embraces facile, insulting ideals and runs with them. As you would expect, a good chunk of society's ills can be explained by men not being manly enough, oh, and skinny jeans.

Fuck you. I am who I am. If I'm a man and I want to wear make-up and dance to Lady Gaga, THAT'S MY FUCKING BUSINESS. Idiots such as these seem, to me, to be embracing 300 like it's actually tenable. Rock Hudson, James Dean, and Alexander the Great were all fudgepackers. The bouncers dressed as Dorothy at a gay club could easily kick the shit out of you and your entire cavalcade of conservative friends.

So don't give me this bullshit about indecisiveness and mamby pamby feelings being what actually annoys you. You want Pa, smoking a pipe, working his job, mowing the lawn, and grilling on weekends. You've got nothing concrete. Because anything concrete can be said of both men and women (because we're all people!). No, you want the same arbitrary differences that allow you to fantasize about being a sitcom from the early 60's.

Fuck you. Happiness, no matter how I achieve it, is good. You can take your comical ideals and shove them so far up your ass that you puke out Donna Reed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Science Can Answer Moral Questions

Scientific American has lent a perspective on Sam Harris' new book The Moral Landscape, where he argues that science is the best choice for answeing moral questions. Both surprisingly and sadly, the criticism is terrible.

The one point that the article touches on by proxy, via a link to an article in the New York Times, that is valid is Harris' actual moral statement: morals are a function of human suffering. This sounds like utilitarianism, which as you would expect, has some problems with it. But what's important is that this perspective is empirical and thus scientific. We can analyze and determine the best ways to get the best outcomes for the most people. It allows of a discussion, a dialectic, on the subject. Religious morals are not based on anything empirical! They're based on books, scriptures, and are, arguably, total nonsense.

He brings up the issue of scientists who did lots of damage in the past, but that misses the point entirely. Scientists did what they did while "rogue." It's like saying that scientists who falsify data negate all of science.

"Some will complain that it is unfair to hold science accountable for the misdeeds of a minority. It is not only fair, it is essential, especially when scientists as prominent as Harris are talking about creating a universal, scientifically validated morality. Moreover, Harris blames Islam and Catholicism for the actions of suicide bombers and pedophilic priests, so why should science be exempt from this same treatment?"

There is so much wrong with this I barely know where to begin. You can not hold a process accountable for what people do with it. You don't blame physics for the atomic bomb. Religion is a pre/proscriptive belief system, science is a process for achieving things. If we can all agree that morals are the rules defining right and wrong, and that wrong is wrong because it causes suffering, science applies! With morals as a function of suffering and happiness at the core, science is all we need.

Moreover, religion can be blamed where science cannot because science is a process to try and determine truth, religion is a system of posited statements. Moreover, we don't do things in the name of science, but truth and all of the good concepts that result from science. People do perform actions in the name of their religions. Finally, we don't blame religion, per se, for the pedophillic priests, we blame the system that claims to be moral and righteous that then hides them. What we do is mock the idea that the religion can have any weight or truth to it when the supposed arbiters of God are some of the biggest assholes on Earth.

Be wary of the righteous rationalist: We should reject Sam Harris's claim that science can be a moral guidepost (Scientific American)