blog merge!

There can only be one...No worries: more rants coming up soon, as soon as I get over this dods-damned hangover.


Mendacious twits no 1

Knowing that one's comments are not going to be lost in some censor's virtual desk is strangely liberating. This was written yesterday in response to this post. I figure that 12+ hours is sufficient time to decide whether one will go with the open discussion that they claim to crave so much, or whether one would rather sweep opposing opinions under the rug. I admit that there is perhaps a slight surfeit of snarkiness in my response, but come on: Strobel? AFFS, here it is:

Strobel? You must be kidding. He is a paragon of intellectual dishonesty, and, quite frankly, is about as ignorant as one can be on the subjects he purports to make categorical claims about. To wit: (1)the Big Bang Theory makes no claims about the causes of the Universe, nor does it postulate a beginning since it breaks down at Planck time or thereabouts. There is absolutely nothing in it to support or contradict the existence of God. (2) and (3) are completely vague and almost nonsensical, and an appeal to ignorance is hidden within each of them. (4) is ridiculous to anyone familiar with the basics of biology: it is not that the Earth is fine-tuned for life, but life is fine-tuned to its environment, which is precisely what is expected under the standard evolutionary paradigm. (5) and (6) are again, simply begging the question. What's more, (6) uses the term "information" in some esoteric sense: most information theorists and mathematicians are quite puzzled at Dembski's redefinition and--apparently--wilful equivocation. (7) is, indeed, an unanswered question, but there is no reason to invoke "goddidit" to explain it. (8) is easily explained within standard evolutionary theory, again (common morality is tio be expected in the members of the same species, as an evolved response to the pressures of social living). (9) is incorrect historically: there are several cultures who did not have a concept of the week at all, and its usage for those that do have it is quite simply explained in several ways, including geometric (stable configuration) and astronomical (the number of "planets" known to the ancients). Basically, Strobel's case disappears into thin air with only a modicum of critical thought. I am not interested in arguing the (non)-existence of a deity here; only pointing out that there is no valid argument for it in the source you seem to admire.


Hi there

I must admit, I have reached some kind of critical mass. There is a plethora of Christian apologetics blogs out there; some political, others just silly. All of them are guilty of cherry-picking their data, quote-mining opposition, willful misrepresentation of facts, absolute ignorance of logic (while professing their undying love for it) and constant censorship of comments. This blog will be dedicated to making sure that comments filtered out by the censorious idiots running such blogs see the light of day. Yes, I know: arguing with them is akin to playing chess with pigeons...but someone's got to do it. Otherwise, pieces of rampant idiocy like Wintery Knight's blog present an appearance of monolithic agreement. From the comments on that blog one would be justified in concluding that there are no valid arguments against clearly moronic points made there, but that is not the case: he simply censors any disagreement. Or consider the mendacious twits at the Discovery Institute: they simply disallow any comments whatsoever. There are plenty of such vehicles of disinformation on the internetz, and I will, in due time, provide a list of them in the sidebar. Meanwhile, google them yourself,

In any case, this blog is dedicated to rectifying this problem: anyone who sees a ridiculous piece of anti-intellectual tripe and wants to comment on it is welcome to send me a link to said tripe and their comment. It will be published in due order, and I promise: I will refrain from censorship, except for "bleeping out" direct attacks on the individuals in question, rather than their dim views or reality, and threats of violence. Those shall not be published: at least not in their original format. Mentions of them and links to commenters will be produced on a regular basis.

So, google some apologetic blog, go there, read their incoherent ravings, and if you feel like it, compose a rebuttal, which may not be allowed to be published there, but will certainly make it here. Even pieces defending the apologists will not be censored. What are you waiting for?


dream-quest inverted, reflected

The nightmares were out in force last night. One, with an elfin face in which two giant eyes were black bottomless voids, a mouth shaped like an anteater's with a prehensile rasping radula, and a shock of pale spiky hair, sat next to me, gingerly holding my hand in the two hooked claws that jutted from her wrists and gnawed the flesh from my fingers. Another perched at my feet: a diminutive creature of unearthly beauty wearing a corset and blue furs, peeking at me from underneath half-closed eyelids beneath which nuclear fires raged and smiled demurely. Her lips parted; her teeth were thousands of shiny fat sowing needles. A third climbed up onto my chest; all sparkly edges and angles and an impossible multitude of sinuous limbs, grasping me, crushing me to her terrifyingly sharp surfaces while fluting some profoundly Lovecraftian gibberish into my ear. Yet another one loomed by the window: I couldn't make out the details of its face shrouded as it was in the shadows, but the madly swirling patterns of dull grey liquid that I could see hinted at the details I was better off not knowing. There was a sound like the flapping of giant rotting wings outside the window. The music playing on my computer sped up and slowed down, became softer and louder in tune with the brightening and fading auras around each object in the room. A roaring patch of bleeding darkness moved about the floor, throwing writhing pseudopods in all directions, and, as always, far in the distance those giant gods vaster than the universe and yet smaller than my hand moved about the mad landscape and watched me mutely with eyes the size of planets.

I woke up and opened a beer. It was quiet. The song--it was something by the 3rd and Mortal--ended and the creatures faded slowly into shadows. An insistent blue-jay imitating cries of the damned outside and the fizzing of bubbles in the beer-bottle were the only sounds. Then, suddenly, the walls of my room rushed away from me, shrieking like a flock of insane geese and I was suspended in a pattern of delicate trembling light, each strand a set of arcane equations running with fire along their infinite stretch, fluttering, a moth caught at the everpresent heart of this infinite cosmic web, impossibly convoluted and full of meaning. I wondered if the spider would come soon. I could see all the way to the edges of the infinite universe which are its center, where blind idiot gods churn out more mathematical monstrosities, where everything and nothing begins and ends and is and isn't, and for a second I could hear all the music ever written all at once. Everything expanded at the speed of light and disappeared into a void without stars.

I woke up and opened a beer. It was quiet.

I woke up and opened a beer.

I woke up.



An empty post is a sign of a cool and collected consciousness.


thinking and drinking only differ in two letters

Eventually, we all have to recognize that we have certain specific skills and it is noone's fault that we have them. We cannot be blamed, or found wanting for what we do not know if we show at least some desire to learn, to change ourselves, to renew ourselves. My lack of knowledge of pilotage, or internal combustion engines, is no more worthy of contempt than your lack of knowledge of mathematical cosmology, or religious history--or, to put in into a more practical context, of survival in the tundra in January. The only offense against others and the Universe (but what is the Universe but others?) lies in treating another person as inferior, or their desires as somehow insignificant on the Norns' loom. Even the lack of the above understanding does not qualify one as an inferior entity.

Ouch! I have just talked myself into a tidy corner in which I have to accept an equal standing for any living entity (and perhaps rocks as well!). Before I do so, let me reassure you that one's personal opinions are also included in the above all-encompassing statement. Perhaps the only true offense against life, the universe and everything lies in denying the validity of the Other's thoughts, feelings, lusts, reactions, before killing her. One has to be able to love, respect, and recognize the reality of their victims as well as their lovers, friends, SOs and tentacular bedmates. I thank my bloody breakfast eggs each morning, for obvious reasons. Otherwise, there is no future.

Um, lest I appear somehow optimistic, let me reassure you: there is no future.

And, just in case I sound too pessimistic, let me remind you: a small word of kindness goes much farther than all the philanthropies of the world. And there's always a bridge to stare at the surface of the water from nearby...:)


wise words for the ages

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler on the racket of war, here.


For shame, New Scientist!

New Scientist is not a bad magazine. I read it regularly, despite the occasionally weirdly wanky physics story that looks as if it were published for sensational value only. But overall it is no bad, coming out strongly on the side of reason. However, I am very close to cancelling my subscription and encouraging others to do so.

Last week, the print issue carried an article by Amanda Geffer concerning creationist code-words and how to recognize them in pretend-science publications. It was an excellent, rational and thoroughly admirable article.

Apparently, someone complained to the editors about it and the article is currently removed from the online edition of NS, apparently "while they investigate".

I encourage everyone to follow the link and leave a complaint in the comment section. Demand that the editors restore the article immediately, or, at least, provide a reasonable explanation for their action (not that I think there can be one, besides intellectual cowardice).

Since the article in question is no longer available at the NS site, I reproduce the complete text of it below:

How to Spot a Religious Agenda, Amanda Gefter, New Scientist, Sat, 28 Feb 2009 22:35 UTC

As a book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives. I have learned to recognise clues that the author is pushing a religious agenda. As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to... well, evolve. That means ensuring that references to pseudoscientific concepts like ID are more heavily veiled. So I thought I'd share a few tips for spotting what may be religion in science's clothing.

Red flag number one: the term "scientific materialism". "Materialism" is most often used in contrast to something else - something non-material, or supernatural. Proponents of ID frequently lament the scientific claim that humans are the product of purely material forces. At the same time, they never define how non-material forces might work. I have yet to find a definition that characterises non-materialism by what it is, rather than by what it is not.

The invocation of Cartesian dualism - where the brain and mind are viewed as two distinct entities, one material and the other immaterial - is also a red flag. And if an author describes the mind, or any biological system for that matter, as "irreducibly complex", let the alarm bells ring.

Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

When you come across the terms "Darwinism" or "Darwinists", take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for "evolution" and "biologists", respectively. When evolution is described as a "blind, random, undirected process", be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. When cells are described as "astonishingly complex molecular machines", it is generally by breathless supporters of ID who take the metaphor literally and assume that such a "machine" requires an "engineer". If an author wishes for "academic freedom", it is usually ID code for "the acceptance of creationism".

Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religious motives make shameless appeals to common sense, from the staid - "There is nothing we can be more certain of than the reality of our sense of self" (James Le Fanu in Why Us?) - to the silly - "Yer granny was an ape!" (creationist blogger Denyse O'Leary). If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn't need science in the first place.

Religiously motivated authors also have a bad habit of linking the cultural implications of a theory to the truth-value of that theory. The ID crowd, for instance, loves to draw a line from Darwin to the Holocaust, as they did in the "documentary" film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Even if such an absurd link were justified, it would have zero relevance to the question of whether or not the theory of evolution is correct. Similarly, when Le Fanu writes that Darwin's On the Origin of Species "articulated the desire of many scientists for an exclusively materialist explanation of natural history that would liberate it from the sticky fingers of the theological inference that the beauty and wonder of the natural world was direct evidence for 'A Designer'", his statement has no bearing on the scientific merits of evolution.

It is crucial to the public's intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.


scientism and balderdash

An article in Catholic News tries to defuse the evolution "controversy" (itself a product of deranged creationist minds) by claiming that evolution is not to blame for the recent surge in atheistic books and the open spread of atheism. Rather, scientism is the evil beastie here (an old claim!). And they define scientism as "the use of science beyond its proper sphere of investigating physical nature".

Of course the dolts do not realize that such a definition is certainly begging the question of whether there is anything at all "beyond physical nature". Meh, they never cease to amuse me.


Kepler launch tonight

Kepler telescope, an instrument that will look for Earth-sized exoplanets, will be launched today. It may find thousands of them, another step in our search for life elsewhere in the Universe, and a boon for future navigators of sublight colony ships...;)

as if we need another reason

...to know that religion and the Church are great forces for evil in our world: here.

Excommunication may be a weak concept, but they are excommunicating the wrong people! These scumbags are punishing the people who have saved the life of the 9-year old girl while refusing to pass a moral judgement on the actual perpetrator. And they feel persecuted? they fucking dare to complain (about trivialities: notice the prominent place given to The Golden Compass in this one)?


bad eggs broken

So the bankers are saying that they do not need the TARP money and that taking is was a mistake. So, why don’t they give it back now, instead of possibly within 2-3 years. I am sure that I am not the only one puzzled by the discrepancy: for fuck’s sake, if they really don’t need it they should cough it up now...


I think, therefore I do.

According to the Typealizer, this blog is written by
INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Now that's all good and fine, but WTF is the "thinker" in the silly pic doing with an Apple laptop? Unix ATW forever! ;)

Even more curious is the fact that my LJ, in which I hadn't written for a long time, is apparently written by A Doer. have I changed so much in the last six months? Or do I combine the best (or worst?) features of both?

Anyway, check it out. Good silly fun.


a dash of cynicism

You know how easy it is to report a blog as being a spam generator? Here. I have done so myself, on several obvious word-salad blogs. (I shan't provide any links to them, but no day passes by without at least one showing up in one of my daily alerts). Now this blog may be a lot of things: ill-kept, sub-par, irrelevant—but it is not spam in any sense of the word. However, it was apparently reported as such in early September, and I had to spend some time proving to Google that I am actually human (well, I am super-human, but one has to make some sacrifices occasionally) in order to have my blog and my email (!) unlocked. And then it happened again, three more times. It was not difficult, only annoying. To tell you the truth, I didn't even wonder what happened. Now, looking back, I realize that all of that brouhaha came within 24 hours of me publishing a mild (well, that is an exaggeration...) criticism of Sarah Palin on September 6th. A coincidence? Perhaps. The rational part of my brain insists that it is; the paranoid conspiracy circuit is naturally convinced that a typical action by some lil censorious Rethuglican was taken. Not that it would be something new for them. And I thought: it's amazing how they are the ones accusing us of suppressing free speech. Who moderates (read: censors) comments on their blogs? I have never seen any scientist/liberal/atheist do so, only theocrats/right wing crazies. Do you doubt it? It's hard to prove, but most of what I write as comments on religious blogs never makes it past moderation. What are they afraid of? Themselves? Reason? The very real possibility that their set of beliefs is utterly incorrect and will melt when exposed to the tiniest amount of logic, common sense and reality? Hmm. Food for thought.


the iniquitous fist of destruction

The communal vacuum-cleaner is a piece of shit. It moves the dust and the dirt and the beer-bottle caps across the room, but its wheezy lung is too weak to actually pick any of them off the floor. When you combine that pitiful weakness with my hippie-length hair, you end up in a contaminated disaster zone. I shed all the time, sitting naked in front of my desk, madly scribbling (can one use that term?) esoteric perl code, and feeling a soft tickle of spider legs on my back once in a while. A wayward insect? No, just another hair, slithering its way free of my scalp to join its compatriots in the jungle of a low-pile brown carpet. This subconscious delapidation turns the floor of my long-suffering bedroom into a waste-basket of doom, a horrid toxic sludge. You know the 20-second rule? If you drop a piece of food, it's okay to eat as long as you pick it up wihin 20 seconds? Well, it doesn't work in this neck of the wasteland. A piece of bread comes back up gladly, entangled in a forest of hair: some mine, some, naturally, belonging to the two house-cats and a house-dog that have a penchant for sitting down behind my chair and staring soulfully at me as I—oblivious to their presence—type in imprecations and insults into the interwebz.

No small children should be allowed here; they'd be coughing up hairballs the size of my fist after the first beer. And nothing I do seems to help. I raked my room once, coming up with enough hair for 10000 maleficient spells, and the next day the floor turned back into the jungle it was the day before. I suppose the most important question is where all that fucking hair is coming from. I am not going bald, far from it; with each passing day the stupid neglected garden on top of my head becomes wilder and more rebellious. Is it going forth and multiplying?

I should walk less and drink more, that doubtlessly is the answer. Orion is on top of my sky, glaring madly down upon me, daring me to do something utterly useless. I think I'll listen to him, for once.


Meanwhile, for those still confused...

Western news' slant on the Russian-Georgian war a few months ago was bloody clear to anyone who cared to investigate a bit and go past the mainstream platitudes and lies. Now, Georgian claims of being the victims of a Russian aggression are being dismantled quite rapidly. This movie should help.


Everything you need to know

Live election results, starting about 4 hours from now: http://politicalwire.com/aggregator/electionresults.html

Now, have YOU voted yet (assuming you are a registered US voter, of course). The future is really being decided right now...


For those about to vote...

Don't forget to visit http://stealbackyourvote.org/ .


The return of the wastrel

I came back! The Nordic Roots festival is over, and a wonderful time was had by all, including even me. So, for the next week or two, I will be listening to nothing but Fennoscandian roots music, which all can keep track of on my last.fm.


My dear friends and co-conspirators!

So I am leaving tomorrow, to go to MN for the weekend. I'll be in Minneapolis from Friday 26th till Mon 29th, going to all the Nordic Roots festival shows at the Cedar, and spending my time drinking and harrassing innocent Mid-Western wenches at several venues (assuming they still exist): Sgt Preston's, that awesome hot-dog place half a block from the theatre, that wondersome cheap dive a couple of blocks up from the theatre, or, if all else fails, in the lobby bar at the Holiday Inn. I shall wear black and be loud, so if you feel like stopping by for a philosophical discussion, a drinking competition, some nefarious plotting or a friendly game of fisticuffs, be my guests!


the fight is on

I do not have the right equipment, but any woman reading this should consider going to Women against Sarah Palin blog and adding her name to the already rather distinguished list. A short quote:

"We want to clarify that we are not against Sarah Palin as a woman, a mother, or, for that matter, a parent of a pregnant teenager, but solely as a rash, incompetent, and all together devastating choice for Vice President. Ms. Palin's political views are in every way a slap in the face to the accomplishments that our mothers and grandmothers so fiercely fought for, and that we've so demonstrably benefited from."

Yeah, that's absolutely correct.


A Palin for the rest of us

Come on, join the revolution: Michael Palin for President!

I mean, the other Palin has no chance...