2007-11-27

Still Funny

I can't help it. I know that this has been around and back on the internets already, but I just can't stop finding it funny as hell.

That, in case anyone was wondering, was not a recycled screenshot. No, I took that screenshot my very own self around nine this evening. Let it be known that as of nine this evening, Conservapedia's Homosexuality page had received twenty thousand more hits than its main page. Freakin hilarious!

Melissa Wins

Via Pandagon, Melissa McEwan of Shakesville has an excellent post up about the problem of disembodied girly bits.

If you can stomach the whole thing, I recommend going through it one at a time, if only to allow the effect of "okay, that's gotta be it. What?!? ANOTHER one?!?" to sink in. But if you really can't stomach it then at least scroll to the bottom and read what she actually has to say. My favourite bit?

I'm a girl with absolutely no interest in participating in my own subjugation, thank you very much.
This post was part of a so-far-ten-part series McEwan is doing on the appalling prevalence of bits-of-women novelty items available for sale, everything from rape-me pencil holders to vagina urinals. The tenth post here linked has links to the first nine. The above-linked exhaustive boobie list was number eight.

2007-11-26

Controversial

Misogynist pipsqueak, perpetual moron and Dembski minion Sal Cordova recently discovered that evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden is a trans woman, and he spent the first half of his post about her clutching his testicles crying "Oh noes! Do not be takin mah harbls!!!" About that there's not much to say that Myers at Pharyngula hasn't already said, so I'll just refer you to him, and then pick up where he left off.

After his flop sweat subsided, Cordova non sequitured his way bizarrely into a bloviation about how men are better leaders than women because... um... hrm.

Well, let's see. It would appear that Cordova is personally acquainted with a statistically significant proportion of beautiful 24-year-old girls, and that given the choice between

1. A male boss who has a lovely wife and family

2. A female boss who is 50 years old

[...]I’ve found that the beautiful 24-year-olds will generally realize an old female boss might have many hidden jealousies, the male boss will be more desirable in various ways
Of course this survey Cordy conducted* is flawed in a number of ways. For example, we're not given equivalent information about the two options. Does the female boss have a lovely wife and family? How old is the male boss? I'm disappointed that such a distinguished researcher as Cordova would make such an elementary mistake.

In an equally rigourous examination of "intelligent and ambitious" guys, Cordy finds that "a lot of guys would be inclined to think the man will be a better leader to lead them into battle."

Now, it's not clear to me what leading people into battle has to do with the sexist discrimination that Roughgarden encountered at Stanford after her transition, but I'm sure Cordova had excellent reasons for choosing that criterion.

There's just one small mistake Cordova made that I feel I should point out:

"I’m sure my statements are controversial..."

Listen, you moron. Parroting tired stereotypes does not qualify as making controversial statements. To make controversial statements you first have to have something resembling an original thought.

Jackass.



*And I'm sure he conducted a survey. How else would he have reached his conclusion?

2007-11-24

Best. Sentence. Evar.

From Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte:

To sane, normal people, the willingness to engage in slavery denialism is a sign that someone is both delusional and a rabid racist, but to the Discovery Institute, it no doubt showed a stellar willingness to stand up to the tyranny of reality.

2007-11-23

Okay Everybody, Chill Out.

There's apparently a big flutter (at least Pharyngula's all worked up) because the Halton Catholic school board has pulled a book authored by an atheist from the shelves. I think this is a little out of proportion, though. The parts of the article that I found most interesting, actually, were this:

Scott Millard, manager of library services with the board, told CTV.ca on Friday that the review has been board policy since 1990 and that "any community member has the right to request a re-examination of learning or library material."
and this
After reading the book, the committee will complete an evaluation form that examines a "wide variety of criteria" including grammar, plausibility, language, plot, etc.
It seems from the article that any parent can request an evaluation of any book, and that book will be pulled (not banned, mind, just pulled from public display but available on request) until a committee has made a decision. I don't think this is necessarily a bad policy. I tend to lean towards allowing lots of freedom in what literature should be available, but there's a valid argument to me be made against a school library carrying, for example, hate speech, and this policy could help weed that out, depending on the exact criteria the committee uses. Obviously there's plenty of room for the policy to be abused, as in this case, but if the committee evaluating the book is actually objective (and there's been no indication that they aren't), then the worst that can happen is the book will spend some time behind the counter and everyone's time will have been wasted. Maybe these abuses could be curbed by having a list of valid reasons why books should be reevaluated, and sticking to it.

Speaking of criteria, though, here's what I'm really wondering about: If a parent were to request an evaluation of the Bible, would it pass an unbiased committee? Obviously, finding that committee would be problematic, but if you could. I think it should be tried; at the very least it would be funny.

2007-11-22

Snöfiskkaviar!

yay! Woke up to white stuff on the ground and it's still falling. *glee*

2007-11-21

I'm Not Sure

But I think Seth may be right.

He says that the Intelligent Design assertion fails, not because that something looks designed shouldn't be taken as evidence that it is designed, but rather because

Living things don't look like they were designed. They don't look remotely designed, at any level, from super-macro to super-micro. From forests to molecules, the incredibly paucity of structures or systems that even vaguely resemble human creations is astonishing. Sure, we've copied natural features to supplement our terrible, inefficient, and ridiculous attempts at designing usefull things. But nothing that we do looks even a little like the inside of a cell, ccd chips don't look like retina, we can't build a decent sphincter and as for proteins... don't even get me started. We can't even model the mechanisms of protein folding, much less design something that works like one. Nothing designed looks or behaves anything like a protein.


I'm not sure, though. I'm not convinced that saying something is more complicated than anything we can design necessarily implies that it therefore doesn't look designed. And I think maybe Seth is misinterpreting Dawkins. I doubt very much that any biologist (well, except Behe), would say that living things look designed once they're examined properly. But I think it is the case that on first, uncritical glance, living structures can look designed. Once we understand how evolution works, of course, then that becomes a better explanation for what we see, because it accounts for inefficiencies and suboptimal configurations that intelligent design wouldn't bring about. So on more detailed examination living things don't look designed, because they instead look evolved.

Of course, this is all very fuzzy, because we talk about things that may or may not "look designed", but we never really say what 'looks designed' means. I think we need a specific definition for that term, but I'm not going to provide it because I'm tired.

And there are other, entirely sufficient reasons why ID is a non-starter. It makes no predictions. It has no explanatory power. It is therefore not falsifiable.
What more do we need?

So, yeah, I take it back. I think Seth is wrong.

2007-11-20

Do Want!

ZOMG!!

2007-11-15

By Jaköbische Decree

All arguments of the following form are hereby banned from use:

1. "No/yeah, cuz I knew this guy once, and he..."

2. "If we had data, I think it would probably show X. In light of X, so-and-so is clearly right/wrong"

All people using arguments of this form shall be sentenced to live in a world such arguments produce.

2007-11-12

My Psych Prof Sux

Since I can't send this email to him, I'm posting it here instead. Gotta vent somewhere.

It seems to me someone might want to update the dates and information on the assignments page. I mean, I know the prof is terribly busy, what with having to create a midterm – no wait, the questions are reused from year to year... okay, marking a midterm – no wait, that's done by machine... okay, adjusting the midterm grades – no wait, that's also a job a machine can do... okay, marking our assignments – no, we do that... okay, preparing lectures and slides – nope those are reused year to year too... okay, answering email – nope, three emails I sent this semester went unanswered. Anyway, I'm sure he spent at least an hour writing that screed against cellphone use while driving that we have to respond to, so he's clearly a very busy man, but maybe one of his minions could bother to update the instructions and due dates on the assignment page.

You know, for the assignment that's due on Wednesday? That page.

Gormless

It's an adjective usually applied to faces, but after reading this article, I couldn't think of a better descriptor.

It's not that the content is idiotic (though it is), but that the style is uniquely, um,
...
*sigh*

Superfluous parentheses. What else can I say?

Via Pharyngula.

2007-11-10

Philosophy is Stupid

There's a story my mother likes to tell about her experience with a philosopher. The philosopher gives her an example of what, to him, is an interesting philosophical question. He asks her, "is gasoline wet?"

"Well," responds my mother, "that depends on how you define 'wet'. If 'wet' means 'contains water', the no, gasoline is not wet. If wet means 'is liquid', then the answer is yes."

"All right," says the philosopher, "but is gasoline really wet?"

What my mother said in response, history does not relate.

My father told me the other day about a revelation he had had about the nature of philosophy. Philosophers of all stripes, he had realized, seem to be convinced that there is some sort of really real, objective Truth out there, that is unrelated to our human ideas about the universe and how it works. And they see their jobs as being to figure out what this capital-T Truth is.

And, I added, they seem to think that they way to do that is to sit on their asses and scratch their heads.*

Well, a couple months ago I had my own revelation about the field of philosophy. I realised that the entire field consisted of a group of people who were always talking at cross purposes because they refuse to define their terms. And they refuse to define their terms, I realised, because if they did their entire field would disappear. You can't have any kind of lengthy, balls-scratching discussion about how wet gasoline is really if you can agree on what 'wet' means. Once you do that, the question becomes empirical. That's not just true of entirely inane questions like the gasoline one, either. Once you define your terms, most questions become empirical.

When I told my dad about my revelation, he suggested that maybe philosophy could be a worthwhile endeavor if it limited itself to discussion of how to define terms. For example, it might lend itself well to the question of what 'truth' means. But no, I replied, that just takes it a step back, but doesn't change the situation. Because if you're asking how you should define 'truth' (for example), then what you're really asking is what is the best or optimal definition of the word. At which point all you have to do is define 'best' or 'optimal' and the question once more becomes empirical.

But, as I said above, if you define your terms, only most question become empirical. Some may not, depending on how you define your terms. If, for example, you insist on defining 'truth' as this unknown, objective "reality" that exists entirely external to our senses and reason, then the question of whether any statement is true is not empirical. But, since it is in that case a question that it is theoretically impossible to answer (since it is, by definition, impossible to know if the truth our senses and reason show us is the same as this hypothetical, objective Truth that it is supposed exists), I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would waste time thinking about it.

And that's why philosophy is stupid.



*I'm fairly certain that the word I said out loud was heads, but the word I was thinking of was balls

2007-11-09

Sux

So, we already knew that Toronto sucks, but I guess didn't realise just how much.

So, a year and a half ago I took a quiz to determine how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like me. It turned out the answer was 2.4, which totally blows.

My lifestyle isn't substantially different now from how it was then in terms of the choices I make, but where I live has severely constrained those choices. For example, I can't use my bike as my primary mode of transportation anymore because here in the suburbs nothing is fucking biking distance, but we can't live downtown because it's too damned expensive. Also, I buy all my groceries at supermarkets, because that's the only place there is, which means that I have no idea how much, if any, is locally grown.

Now it would take 3.4 Earths to sustain 6.5 billion of me.

Stupid Toronto. grmblgrmbl

2007-11-07

I'm Surrounded by Children

To the morons in my anatomy class: If you're old enough to be taking classes at university, you're old enough to use the word vagina. I mean really.

I had hoped that not having a television would protect me from this unfortunate new phenomenon (Amanda Marcotte has more on the topic here), but apparently not.

2007-11-06

Watch Keith Olbermann

Especially his latest Special Comment.

As usual, I find his American exceptionalism to be kind of offensive, but other than that he's always quite good, and this time he's amazing.

video

And while we're at it, on a considerably lighter note, everyone should also watch this recent talk by Richard Dawkins.

I haven't bothered to watch the Q & A (you can find it here if you're interested), so I don't know if anyone has asked him to elaborate on his throw-away "abuse" comment at the end of the talk, which I would have liked him to do, but other than that I found this to be one of his better presentations.

Not yet...

The temperature is high and the ground is wet and puddle-y, but the rain drops swirling around under the street lamp are starting to look suspiciously flake-like.