Are You a Man or a Whiny Crybaby?

Over the last week, a Twitter phenomenon has come to my attention that reminds me that absurdity and whining never go away–as if such reminders are necessary. The subject in question is meninism. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read many of the relevant tweets, I understand. They’re a bunch of misogynist jokes, pictures I didn’t want to see, and whiny-butt crying about how men just want to be equal.

That’s nice–the goal of equality, that is. But here’s a clue: Your rights aren’t being violated if a woman doesn’t hold a door open for you. If you think that my example is an exaggeration of the meninist position, perhaps you should read those tweets.

I’ve written about questions of masculinity and equal rights for men and women before, so it’s not that I find the subject trivial. Presuming this isn’t some parody movement and thus a joke in poor taste, I have two main objections to meninism:

1.  Language

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Feminism is derived from feminine.  If people are serious about this, they should call the movement masculinism.

2.  Manning up

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When you can prove to me that men are somehow suffering a loss of rights under a matriarchy, I’ll listen. Until then, cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

In fact, it’s best that “meninists” follow this fellow’s advice:

Jaw, Jaw

Winston Churchill once said that jaw-jaw is better than war-war.

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He’s famous for leading Britain in the world’s most recent global war, among other things, and his comment came in 1954, after he had written his history of World War II, but presumably it recognizes the superiority of talking to physical fighting. More recently, the Dalai Lama, speaking of his nation’s occupation by the Chinese, expressed the idea that dialogue is the only way to solve human problems.

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Not that dialogue has done anything to free Tibet, but he’s sticking to his verbal guns.

These statements do raise the question of whether discussion solves any problem. How often have we heard people insisting that we just need dialogue, that we just need to listen to each other? And yet, anyone who’s been in an argument with a family member or followed politics or engaged in a conversation on Twitter should know that talking so often doesn’t reach agreement or cooperation on matters that people hold deeply.

As regular readers of my weblogs know, I support both gun rights and gay rights. I also accept the science of evolution and climate change. These things make for some interesting discussions on Twitter in which I find myself supported by my fellow Twitterati on one subject, while being vehemently opposed by the same people in other areas. It’s fascinating to watch someone make what looks like a good argument one day, then turn around and make a sloppy one the next.

Of course, it’s harder to spot the logical and factual errors on a position we support, since we tend to be much less critical of ourselves and our allies, and when given the choice to go after errors, it’s more comfortable to attack an opponent, rather than a supporter. But of greater concern is the fact that so many people develop a conviction about a topic and then become impervious to facts and logic.

What are we to do about this? One answer that I’ve addressed before is a slow but steady solution: education. The more ideas and information people are exposed to, the more open–it is to be hoped–they are to considering a variety of positions in a logical manner. Note that this comes from what we call a liberal arts education. The liberal arts are aimed at teaching the skills and knowledge a person needs to be a free person, rather than focusing on some specific requirement for a particular job.

But as I said, education is a slow process, and even educated people get caught up in the passion of belief. This leaves us with the question of why we should bother to debate ideas at all. I offer three answers:

1. Not everyone is decided on every subject

We must remember that for every infuriating true believer out there, many more people will be undecided on the subject. Make a good argument, don’t take crap tossed at you, and trust to the potential goodness in all of us.

2. Support freedom of choice

These debates remain theoretical and intellectually interesting so long as we don’t rush off to pass laws. This is the reason that I call myself an eleutherian. Whenever possible, and it’s possible much more often than we’d like to believe, leave people free to act on their own beliefs while we act on our own.

3. Consider the argument being made

That means keeping this open:

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and engaging this:

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Those, naturally, are the hardest part.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.

Binary States

Old programmer’s joke:

There are 10 kinds of people–those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Falling into binary thinking is often a fallacy–namely, that of the false dichotomy. But there are things that genuinely fall into one group or another. One example of these is views on acceptable conditions for beds.

Made:

made

Unmade:

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There are advantages to each.

A made bed soothes the anxiety of people suffering from OCD. Making a bed restores order to sheets and blankets dispersed during the process of sleeping–something that must be done before going to bed again. Doing so also fulfills a Kantian sense of duty.

By contrast, leaving things as they are is something Italians do–at least according to someone I knew a while ago. The purpose is to let the mattress and sheets air out before reuse. Letting things lie also saves time at the start of day, pushing off until tomorrow (or later on, anyway) what doesn’t need to be done immediately. And as long as there are enough covers to pass the sleeping comfortably, who needs aligned bedclothes anyway? (OCD people.)

Like many a poem by Robert Frost, there are two answers, and both have their merits. Which is the right one?

Whichever one you’re having to say, “yes, dear,” to.

Yes, dear.

Deep in the Heart of Dixie

Last Friday (9 May 2014), Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled that Arkansas’s ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional. Are we going from

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to

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One can only hope. Given the judge’s rank, the ruling will be applied county by county at the choice of the license clerks until higher courts confirm or deny the finding. The attorney general of the state, Dustin McDaniel, will appeal. He claims he supports marriage equality, but is bound to defend state laws.

Those who have read this blog over the years know that I support equal rights. Gay or lesbian couples don’t threaten me. They don’t harm me. So why would I object to them marrying?

With that in mind, here’s the message that I sent to Attorney General McDaniel:

Please do not appeal Circuit Judge Piazza’a ruling that the state ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. That ruling is plainly correct, given rulings from both the Supreme Court last year and many state rulings in the months to follow. Our ban also violates the Fourteenth Amendment and likely the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Don’t waste our tax dollars defending the indefensible.

I expect he won’t listen, but rights delayed do tend to become rights demanded and asserted. But over the last several years, this country has been recognizing rights more and more, so I remain hopeful.

That Chewing Sensation…

Life occasionally offers us delicious examples of comeuppances to our enemies. Recent events have provided two in quick succession:

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I hope you weren’t eating. But we need a reminder. This is Dianne Feinstein, U. S. senator from the State of California. Those of us who care about rights are well versed in her dedication to tyranny, but just in case some of my readers have missed the memo, here’s what she told 60 Minutes:

More recently, she’s taken time off from pushing gun control to criticize the actions of Edward Snowden, accusing him of treason. She has no problem with the NSA spying on American citizens.

But in the last few days, she’s swung around so fast that I’m surprised her hair isn’t on backward. It seems that the CIA had the nerve to spy on the Senate. And that’s too much for her highness. Has she become a born-again good citizen, ready to protect our rights? I doubt it. But it is pleasant to see her cooked in her own sauces.

This story recalls the tale of the frog and the scorpion. The scorpion asks the frog for a ride across a river, and though the frog is suspicious, he allows the scorpion on his back. The scorpion stings the frog in midstream, explaining that such an act is in its nature. The characteristic of spy agencies is that they spy. It’s the job of legislators to provide oversight, not carte blanche, but when someone like Feinstein falls down in her duty, she has only herself to blame when she is on the receiving end of violations.

She’s not alone, though, in experiencing a comeuppance. Blowhard British loudmouth, Piers Morgan–this fellow:

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is set to have his show, Piers Morgan Live, cancelled by CNN. Morgan developed a reputation for telling Americans how we should run our country and for shouting over his guests who didn’t meekly agree with his every comment. And lo! his ratings plummeted.

Now he’s welcome to express himself however he chooses, but at the same time, we’re not under any obligation to listen to him.

These two deserve each other:

With any luck, they can buy an island and inhabit it together, monitoring each other’s activities and explaining to each other how they are superior to the rest of us.

Barring that, we can enjoy seeing them wake up to the chomping sensation in their bums. Feinstein and Morgan, what you’re feeling is called life biting you in the arse. Since sitting will be difficult for you, how about joining us in standing up for our rights?

Adaptation

Bryan Fischer, former minister and current right-wing talkshow host, has concluded that he has the means of defeating Darwinism in four easy steps: first law, second law, fossils, and genes.

Isn’t that easy?

Well, not so much.

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1. First law

By this, he means the first law of thermodynamics. Said law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed in a closed system. Recall that matter is superconcentrated energy, as Einstein’s famous equation tells us.

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Our universe is a closed system, and Fischer claims that this means that the universe cannot have come into existence on its own. Of course, how the universe actually did come into existence isn’t specified, other than to say, God did it, which qualifies as passing the intellectual buck.

What he also doesn’t recognize is the possibility that the universe–or the collective multiverse–always existed. There is nothing illogical in an infinite series, despite how disturbing that notion has been in Western philosophy.

2. Second law

The principle here is that closed systems tend toward disorder. Put another way, the energy of a system, while not destroyed, becomes unavailable to do work. The early work on this was done by this fellow:

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one Rudolf Clausius, who gives the impression with his look that he might know something about disorder. But this law, along with the first, explains why perpetual motion machines are impossible. Energy available to do work runs down over time. Fischer claims that this invalidates the concept of evolution, but what he misses is that the law applies only to closed systems. The general entropy of the universe increases, but local regions can trend the opposite way. Our planet receives energy from the Sun, making us energy trust-fund babies.

3. Fossils

I like trilobites.

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For whatever reason, they’ve always struck me as an aesthetically pleasing creature. Unfortunately, they went extinct some 252 million years ago, but they had a good run.

Fischer claims that there are no transitional forms in the fossil record, thus the idea of gaps. This has been tossed about in the more than 150 years since Darwin’s publication, but it’s a lot of heat without light.

For one thing, every creature in existence is a transitional form from ancestors to descendents. While species may last for a long period, there is inevitable change over time, and the fossil record shows this.

And then there’s the fact that only a tiny percentage of individual creatures actually fossilize. It’s the equivalent of looking at a set of encyclopaedias and seeing C, F, P, T, U, V, and Z. The sequence is there, but a lot is missing. That doesn’t deny the sequence. It just shows that we’re missing intermediate steps. But the overall history is clear.

Of course, what Fischer doesn’t notice is that there are no trilobites in rock layers younger than 252 million years of age. It’s odd–for his beliefs, anyway–that a consistent chronology of Earth’s living organisms can be seen all over. If as his narrative insists, lots of species died off in a single global flood, we should see a jumble of fossils, instead of an orderly pattern.

4. Genes

Here, Fischer tells us that mutations never produce good results and that changes from one species to another haven’t been observed, anyway.

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The ones pictured are E. coli, a good reason for being careful about cooking meat. But evolution is also why the antibiotic, triclosan, is becoming worthless. It’s been used in soap for too long, and some nasty germs have adapted to it. That is because individual bacteria show different combinations of genes, and those differences arise through mutation. Many mutations are bad, and those cause the death of the organism. But some are beneficial.

There’s an irony, though, that somehow I think Fischer has missed. Are you familiar with the fish symbol for Christ?

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They’re ubiquitous here in the south. The Greek word, ichthus, meaning fish, just so happens to be the initials of the phrase, Jesus Christ, son of God, savior, also in Greek. And there’s the frequent references to fish in the Gospels, the story involving a lot of fisherman. As does today’s subject, Bryan Fischer, but let’s not go too far down that punny path.

The fish showed up a while ago as the original bumper ornament, existing peacefully in its natural environment. Later, a bit of speciation occurred when a cross appeared as an eye on some of these fish.

But then, due to selection pressures, new species came along:

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And predictably, whenever a niche is filled in nature, there will come along other species to compete for those resources:

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More than that, new environments are exploited by new species:

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Of course, the reality of nature is that if species that don’t adapt, particularly ones that can’t shed maladaptive behavior, end up like this:

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Dear Facebook: Fuck You

Facebook keeps blocking me for making friend requests. Of course, I know hardly anyone who is called my friend on that site, and the reality is that it exists for two purposes:

1. Keep fools occupied with baby pictures and cheesy inspirational sayings

2. Businesses trying to separate the former from their money.

I fit into category number two.

But who cares? There’s an easy way to reject a friend request. Reject it. Big deal. The truth is that Facebook was created by a college dropout screwup who had to buy himself a wife to have someone who would pay him any attention. The site needs to hire someone with actual social skills to form rational policies.

Until then:

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