Preachy Twits: Please Go Away!

Aug 17 2010 Published by under Chatter

And I fell into a rant... Please pardon this off-topic diversion. I'm almost certainly going to get myself into trouble with this, but I don't care. I'm sick of being harassed by twits of all stripes. (Do go listen to the song at that link; it's a very fun bit of silly modern Klezmer by a really brilliant performer.)

I've mentioned around here that I'm Jewish. I don't actually talk about what I believe - but I've mentioned the fact that I am a religious, theistic, reconstructionist Jew.

Every time I mention my Judaism, I get two related clumps of email. One of them is from Christians, who feel a deep need to tell about how my beliefs are all wrong, and I desperately need to listen to them tell me about Jesus. And the other clump is from atheists, who feel a deep need to tell me about how my beliefs are all wrong, and I desperately need to listen to them tell me about why there is no god. I don't know quite why, but this seems to have gotten worse since we launched scientopia; even though my average daily pageview rate is down by about 50%, the number of preachy emails I'm getting from both christians and atheists is up by about 30%.

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Mr. Spock is Not Logical (book draft excerpt)

Mar 17 2009 Published by under Logic

As I mentioned, I'll be posting drafts of various sections of my book here on the blog. This is a rough draft of the introduction to a chapter on logic. I would be extremely greatful for comments, critiques, and corrections.

I'm a big science fiction fan. In fact, my whole family is pretty
much a gaggle of sci-fi geeks. When I was growing up, every
Saturday at 6pm was Star Trek time, when a local channel show
re-runs of the original series. When Saturday came around, we
always made sure we were home by 6, and we'd all gather in front of
the TV to watch Trek. But there's one one thing about Star Trek for
which I'll never forgive Gene Roddenberry or Star Trek:
"Logic". As in, Mr. Spock saying "But that would
not be logical.".

The reason that this bugs me so much is because it's taught a
huge number of people that "logical" means the same
thing as "reasonable". Almost every time I hear anyone
say that something is logical, they don't mean that it's logical -
in fact, they mean something almost exactly opposite - that it
seems correct based on intuition and common sense.

If you're being strict about the definition, then saying that
something is logical by itself is an almost meaningless
statement. Because what it means for some statement to be
logical is really that that statement is inferable
from a set of axioms in some formal reasoning system. If you don't
know what formal system, and you don't know what axioms, then the
statement that something is logical is absolutely meaningless. And
even if you do know what system and what axioms you're talking
about, the things that people often call "logical" are
not things that are actually inferable from the axioms.

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The Disgrace of Memorial Day

May 28 2007 Published by under Politics

Today is Memorial Day, and I feel compelled to say something about it.
We're in the middle of a horrible and pointless war. A war that we started, based on a bunch of lies. Since we did this, we have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and thousands of American soldiers. And we did it for no reason.
As the situation has grown progressively worse, and more and more people have been maimed and killed, we've heard an endless drumbeat from Bush supporters: me must support the troops!
I support American soldiers. As the son of a WW2 veteran, I grew up with a lot of respect for soldiers. People who join the military voluntarily give up many of the freedoms that we take for granted, and allow themselves to be put into situations that people like me can't even really begin to imagine. We ask the members of our military to go and put themselves into a situation where they have to pick up a weapon, point it at someone, and kill them in cold blood - because they're a member of the enemy's army. We ask them to put themselves into a position where other people are going to try to kill them. These are horrible things, things that most of us can't even really contemplate. Because my father put himself into that situation many years ago, he understood what it meant, in a way that I can only imagine.
When soldiers go to war, they're taught to dehumanize the enemy. They don't do that because they're bad people. They do that because they have to: normal people, sane people, can't pick up a gun, look through its sights at another human being that they don't know, and pull the trigger and watch them die. People put into that situation hesitate - and hesitation in battle costs lives. As horrible as that sounds to us sitting in our comfortable homes, that's what must happen to create effective combat soldiers.
When we ask people to do that on our behalf, we take on a great responsibility. We are asking them to do terrible things, things that will, under the best of circumstances, leave deep emotional scars. What happens when we put them into the hell of war is our responsibility. When we send them to war, we are obligated to respect the kind of sacrifices that we ask them to make; to make sure that we only ask them to do it an a cause that's truly worthy of the price that they will pay; and to care for them and their families after the war is over.
In this war, that hasn't happened. We've asked people to kill and die for no good reason; and while doing it, we have consistently neglected the soldiers we put in harms way, and the families that they left behind.
Our president criticizes people who want to get our soldiers out of harms way as "not supporting the troops" - while opposing funding for medical care for soldiers, housing wounded people in rat-infested hell-holes, denying financial assistance to them and their families. He talk about sending people back into combat three and four times as "support". He sends them to die, and never attends a funeral, never watches the coffins coming home, never takes any responsibility for the horrors he's inflicted on them and their families. He works hard to oppose things as simple as funding medical care for returning soldiers. But people who fight him on that, he tars as "not supporting the troops".
He's given the orders to teach them them to torture people, given the orders to tell them to torture people, and them blamed them for doing it. The horrors that he has chosen to inflict on them are, in his eyes and the eyes of his supporters, unimportant. He feels no responsibility for what he's made them do. He's sent near-children to the front lines, and watched as they're punished for following his orders, while pardoning - or even rewarding the people who created the policies and gave the orders.
We should honor and respect the people who make sacrifices for our country. Instead, we spit on them, and call it support.
Today is memorial day, the day when we are supposed to remember the people who gave their lives for our country. And instead of honoring them, we're sending more of them to die for no good reason, in a phony pointless war. Honoring them means making sure that we never ask them to sacrifice themselves unless there is a real need. We deserve to be deeply ashamed of what we've permitted in our names. On this day when we honor them, we should be begging them for forgiveness, for what we made them give, and what we made them do.
And meanwhile, our president's idea of celebrating memorial day is giving a five minute speech, and then rushing off to his barbecue.

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My Take on Framing: Don't Frame Framing as Spin

Apr 19 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Ok, I give up. I've stayed out of the framing debate until now, but I just can't take it anymore.

As much as I respect people like PZ and Larry Moran, the simple fact is: they've got it wrong. And not just them: there is a consistent problem with the political left in America when it comes to things like framing, and it's a big part of why we've lost so many political battles over the last decade.

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Casey Luskin, Proud Idiot

Mar 28 2007 Published by under Debunking Creationism

So, over at the DI's media complaints department (aka evolutionnews.org), it appears that Casey Luskin has noticed how we SBers have managed to tear apart his buddy Dr. Egnor. Given that we did it so thoroughly, though, there's no legitimate way to defend him. He's repeatedly made incredibly idiotic statements, and many people have, quite rightfully, called him on the stupidity of his statements, the degree of ignorance that he's demonstrated, and his astonishing arrogance as he spouts nonsense.

But since when have Casey and friends at the DI ever worried about doing the right thing? Or responding to any kind of argument in a legitimate way?

So for humour's sake, I thought I'd address the part of Casey's post that was directed at me.:

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