Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A rant about right-wing politicians and gay marriage

I may sound horribly intolerant, but I have no more patience for right-wing politicians' moans about same sex marriage. When will they be honest and realise that they have no arguments at all? They keep saying about how their constituents won't like it but they never, ever come up with any justification for the dislike. 

I'm also fed up with people using arguments that, if they had put any effort into listening to any of the discussions on the subject of same sex marriage, they would realise have absolutely no validity. You can't say "the Bible is against it" when you know that the Bible also condemns eating seafood.

I get so annoyed when people who obviously think they are being clever use arguments that even the slightest research shows are worthless. It indicates that, hypocritically, they just can't be arsed to put any effort into actually thinking about a matter that they insist is important.  

There really is no debate left worth considering.  

Monday, 20 May 2013

An Intuition Pump - the spoken thought and reality

I'm reading Daniel Dennett's excellent new book Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking,  and so I am taking this opportunity to present an Intuition Pump that I use that has helped me enormously when it comes to trying to understand questions of ontology - about what is real.  This Pump is to consider the significance of someone actually saying the words which describe their belief about reality.  Words are a result of movement of mouth and lungs and throat, and that movement is under control of our brains.  This is utterly uncontroversial and yet has great significance, because it means that for someone to speak justified words in support of the reality of a thing, that thing has to somehow make that person's brain act differently, no matter how indirectly.  Again, this seems trivially true, but just consider the significance of this when it comes to subjects such as the nature of consciousness and matters supposedly supernatural.  For conversation to be meaningful someone has to say what they believe is real because what they believe is really is real, and the cause of someone saying a thing involves brain function.  This utterly destroys the idea that there is any sensible concept of non-interacting dualism, because no speech about that idea can be because of the truth of the idea.

Try this Pump on other ideas - I have found it to be extremely effective!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Why we need gay marriage

A man is shot in New York.  Because he was gay.

While there is social inequality for such people it sends a dangerous message.  It says that people who aren't straight are not deserving of full respect, that society needs to exclude them.  (Exclude us.  I'm gay, I'm one of the excluded).

Gay marriage is essential because it's not gay marriage, it's marriage equality.  Marriage should be for all, no matter what their sexual orientation.  Anything else is social poison that can end up concentrated to such toxicity that it can lead to violence.   Children should not grow up being taught that gay people are different in any way other than sexual orientation.  This corrupts the minds of straight children and creates fear and self-loathing in those children who are not straight.  Gay marriage indicates to children that their dreams of a relationship that is fully accepted by society can come true no matter who they love.  

Anything but full social equality spreads fear and fuels hatred.  The oppression, the bullying, the violence and the flow of blood from those cut down because of who they love has to stop.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Please, no 'atheist identity'.

I started reading this, but as soon as I came across the phrase 'my atheist identity', I gave up.  If there is to be 'an atheist identity' then that is a backwards step for reason.  If atheism is anything but a conclusion then it becomes a political platform that many won't want to support.  If we really do want freedom of thought then we must not get in the way of even those we fundamentally disagree with identifying as atheist.  There should no more be an atheist identity than a believer in evolution identity.  It's both absurd and politically damaging to say otherwise.  Reason, and the conclusions of reason, are for everyone - even sexists, misogynists, racists, homophobes.

Atheism should have no more of an identity than particle physics.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why skepticism must involve more than scientific testability

There has long been considerable debate about the matter of 'testability' of claims and the right approach by skeptics.  Here is an up-to-date example of this discussion:

I'm definitely on the side of those who don't believe in any exemptions.  After reading the well-written article linked to above, you might wonder how I manage to disagree with it.  I disagree for two reasons.  The first is that supposedly untestable claims can have huge political consequences.  Someone can believe in God just because of faith, which puts their belief in the 'untestable' category for some skeptics, and that belief can lead them to all kinds of positions on moral questions.  So, these 'untestable' claims really do matter.  The second reason is that it's always possible to investigate claims even though the subject of the claim is supposedly beyond the reach of science.  We can take a look at the origin of the belief, such as the cultural and psychological influences, and we can look at what the claim actually means, and in doing so we can sometimes show that claim is nonsensical even though it is beyond physical investigation.  This was shown clearly by A.C. Grayling in his latest book 'The God Argument'.  The claim that the Christian God exists is nonsensical because that God has contradictory attributes; the label 'Christian God' doesn't refer to anything that could exist, no matter whether or not the existence could be scientifically verified.

There are more ways to be skeptical about existence claims than by using science, and we should not limit ourselves to debunking claims which are only testable physically.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Watch out USA - here comes Melanie Phillips!

I see Melanie Phillips is trying to get influence in the USA:
There is a simple objective test for reasonableness in a commentator like her - do they believe in global warming? It's a test of whether or not you have an astonishing belief in your own ignorant authority or whether you go to experts in a field to get your facts. It's quite a simple test really - it's effectively your brain vs. thousands of thermometers.  

This kind of rejection of expertise is always selective.  I expect Phillips has no problem with the belief that a car mechanic is the best person to fix her car.  I can't imagine her driving along with smoke coming out of her car and insisting that automotive smoke production was a conspiracy of garages to increase their income.  This rejection of expertise is culturally relative - expertise of car mechanics is approved, while expertise of scientists is not.

Phillips denies global warming, and so she is objectively arrogant and unreasonable and supportive of cultural relativism. To deny this about her would be... political correctness gone mad!