Philosopher Helen DeCruz has recently posted on Prosblogion an analysis of a survey conducted on how various groups rate the strength of arguments for atheism. Most of the results aren’t very surprising (atheists rate arguments for atheism higher than theists, agnostics are somewhere in the middle); but one thing stood out to me when I was reviewing the analysis. Check out this data:
Argument from inconsistent revelations – no difference in rating between philosophers of religion (PoR) and participants who are not philosophers of religion (non-PoR)
Argument from poor design – also no difference
Argument from evil – also no difference
Argument from divine hiddenness – PoR 1.54 times more likely than non-PoR to rate it as “strong” vs. “neutral”, “weak”, or “very weak”.
Argument from parsimony – non-PoR 1.82 times as likely than PoR to rate it as “strong” vs. “neutral”, “weak”, or “very weak”.
Pragmatic argument – non-PoR 2.26 times as likely than PoR to rate it as “strong” vs. “neutral,” “weak” or “very weak”.
Argument from incoherence – non-PoR 1.76 times as likely than PoR to rate it as “strong” vs. “neutral,” “weak” or “very weak”.
Argument from lack of evidence – non-PoR 1.64 times as likely than PoR to rate it “more favorably”.
I found these results quite interesting, as I consider the arguments rated more highly by non-PoR’s to all be weak at best. The arguments rated more highly by non-PoR’s are also the arguments commonly used by many new atheists.
The even more interesting thing is this: the survey was originally posted on Prosblogion (I’m not sure if it was also posted anywhere else, though), which has many theist readers – readers which would be unlikely to rate these non-PoR favored arguments as “strong” (even if they are non-PoR’s). So I suspect that a poll of only atheist non-PoR’s would show that they rate these arguments even higher than this, perhaps at 3.00 or even 4.00 over atheist PoR’s.
More and more, it’s looking like the upcoming presidential election will be decided by a select number of hot-button issues, rather than overall policy. But this is not the way to go about deciding who you vote for, especially since these few issues only serve to confuse the voter, or to not differentiate the candidates at all.
First let’s look at the issue of healthcare. Obviously, Obama has his “Obamacare”, and Romney is opposed to such things…right? Well, no. Romney had a similar system for Massachusetts when he was governor – so similar, in fact, that it’s virtually identical.
The biggest issue, though, is LGBT rights. Obviously, Obama is for full rights, and Romney takes a more traditional approach…right? This is where it gets messy:
1996 – supports gay marriage.
1998 – undecided on gay marriage.
2004 – supports civil unions but opposed to gay marriage.
2008 – states that marriage is between a man and a woman.
2012 – supports gay marriage.
1994 – said he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Edward M. Kennedy, and that we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern; supported DADT, and supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
2002 – supports neither gay marriage nor civil unions, but opposes a Massachusetts constitutional amendment that would prohibit domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians.
2006 – no longer supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and supported the Federal Marriage Amendment.
2007 – still supports DADT.
2011 – will not re-enact DADT.
July 2011 – refuses to sign a pledge opposing gay marriage.
August 2011 – signs another pledge opposing gay marriage.
The only thing I can infer from all this is that both candidates’ real views on this issue are completely hidden from the public, and they’re both using it to play the political game and win more votes. So don’t think one candidate agrees with your views on gay marriage, whatever they may be – because who knows for sure if they do.
(Cross-posted at Walking Christian.)
Charity doesn’t just involve giving money to some sort of organization – it’s any action that helps those less fortunate than yourself. Whether it be donating money, volunteering time, or even just counseling a friend; all of these count as charity.
Unfortunately, there are some charity organizations which aren’t as good as advertised, taking big chunks out of donations for personal profit or to fund solicitation of more money. Giving money to a charity organization is great; but research the intended organization’s practices before you give. There are also many specific options available – foreign aid charities, medical charities, homeless charities, and religion-based charities are common options.
If you can’t afford to give very much money, there are other options. If you see a homeless person on the street, you can buy him or her a meal. You can volunteer time to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You can give canned goods to a church or international organization sending supplies overseas to third world countries.
But don’t be a jerk – give good food, not something gross like potted meat! Canned green beans, tuna, soup, and fruit are both tasty and nutritious. Boxed items are hit or miss – oatmeal or pasta is good, but macaroni and cheese or hamburger helper is not, since they require additional ingredients to make that the recipients may not be able to afford. Avoid anything in a glass jar (it will probably break en route). It’s also a good idea to donate non-food items, such as clothing, can openers, razors, or toothpaste. People need these things too, and they are often overlooked! Finally, probably the most important item to donate is baby food. While this usually comes in glass jars, you can find it in plastic if you look.
The worst times to donate are actually around thanksgiving and christmas – far more people donate during the holidays, and there usually ends up being a surplus of food which can’t all be reasonably sent out. The best time to donate depends on the items being donated. Clothing should usually be donated at the beginning of winter, and food donated in the summer, when the thanksgiving and christmas stock has run out. Other items should be donated at any time.
In addition to donating food or other items, you should also donate your time. It’s easy for lots of people to spend a few bucks on canned goods, but far too few people are willing to spend even part of a day serving soup or packaging goods for shipment. And not only is there a shortage of people volunteering to help, doing so arguably is even more beneficial to those in need than simply giving food. While people do need to eat, getting a box is a bit “faceless” – if these people see others actively working to help them, it does wonders to raise their spirits as well as sate their hunger.
There are many benefits of charity, so many that almost anyone can find a good reason to participate. Here are the most prominant, in no particular order of importance:
1) makes you feel better about yourself.
2) makes others view you more positively.
3) looks good on job applications and CVs.
4) directly saves lives by meeting the basic needs of the less fortunate.
5) indirectly saves lives by giving the less fortunate hope and lifting their spirits.
6) motivates others to also be charitable.
7) relieves the temporal and financial burden on the government to care for its less fortunate citizens.
8) puts the less fortunate in a more fortunate position, who then may help you in other ways later.
9) it honors and pleases God.
Not all of these reasons are going to appeal to everyone. Certainly, some of them are not good reasons for being charitable. But the issue of which ones are good reasons, and by extension which ethical theory is correct, is a topic for another time. For now, it’s enough to say that most ethical theories give some motivation for being ethical.
Charity helps yourself, helps your friends and family, helps those in need, and helps society as a whole. Charity also has a “snowball effect” – the more there is, the better off everyone will be, and the more it will create. Basically, charity begets more charity.
All these benefits mean that regardless of which theory of ethics you hold to, you can find some reason to participate in charity. Objectivist ethics, virtue ethics, consequentialism, Kantian ethics, divine command theory, feminist care ethics, or anything else – there is always some argument to be made in favor of charity. There’s no reason not to participate.
“Fad diets” have been a big thing for awhile now, but there’s one problem with them – they don’t work. At best, your weight stays the same. But they can have even worse results as well – some of them might actually cause you to lose weight, but at the cost of your overall health.
The Atkins Diet, for example, stresses eating foods high in protein and eliminating carbohydrates. This does lower weight, but it’s where the lost weight comes from that’s the problem. This diet puts your body into “starvation mode”, causing it to burn fat and protein instead of carbohydrates for energy. Burning fat sounds great, but protein – that’s muscle tissue. That’s right; some of the weight loss in the Atkins Diet comes from losing muscle mass. That’s not good at all.
Other diets focus on eating specific foods, such as the infamous “grapefruit diet”, or the “cabbage soup diet”. The problem with these is that they tend to create nutritional deficiencies. No single food has everything your body needs; and what’s worse, some of these food-specific diets aren’t even based on healthy foods. Cabbage soup is pretty bland by itself (as are many soups), so the only way to make it palatable is to add lots of salt, or crackers, or something else. And grapefruit is pretty acidic; overconsumption may lead to stomach aches or heartburn.
Finally, some diets are based on replacing meals with liquid nutrition formulas, such as slim fast. The problem with primarily liquid diets (apart from the fact that they’re often very expensive, and not very filling either) is that they can really mess up the regularity of your digestive system. But perhaps the biggest problem with almost all fad diets is that they’re marketed as a “quick fix”.
There is no quick fix to weight loss. It’s really hard to lose substantial amounts of weight and keep it off. Depending on how much weight you want to lose, doing so permanently while still remaining healthy overall can take months or even years. It sucks, and you will feel horrible for awhile. Here’s the only real solution to healthy weight loss; it’s simple in theory but very difficult to carry out in practice:
1) Eat right.
2) Exercise a lot.
Yep, that’s it. Eat only modest portions of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products; and get plenty of aerobic and anaerobic exercise throughout the day. Don’t starve yourself, don’t focus on one food or food group, and don’t drink formulas or pop a bunch of pills. If all this sounds too difficult, and you still want a quick fix, or you’re not concerned with being healthy but merely losing weight; there is one option that’s virtually guaranteed: take incredibly large amounts of methamphetamines. The pounds will shed from your body like butter sliding off of a hot biscuit, and you’ll feel amazing…until you die from an overdose, or have all your teeth fall out and go into withdrawal convulsions.
Gil Sanders of Walking Christian has responded to my article on logic, math, and presuppositionalism. While his objections are far more well thought out than the non-responses of presuppositionalists, there are a few points I need to clarify about logic.
First, he takes classical logic as something metaphysical. This is fine in a general sense, but as I have mentioned in my previous article, classical logic doesn’t always match up perfectly with reality (here I am taking metaphysics as a discipline to be something which attempts to describe the features of reality). I cited relevant logic as an example of this – material implication just does not capture reality all the time* (hardly an obscure problem!).
Gil writes, “A language could even create a contradictory syntax and strangely arrive at some ”coherent” function but at that point, it just gets ridiculous. If that’s all “conditional logics, relevant logics, paraconsistent logics, free logics, quantum logics, fuzzy logics” do then I think they’re useless in telling us what reality is.”
He is actually touching on an important point here – not all logics are useful. Elsewhere on my blog I’ve mentioned Douglas Hofstadter’s MU puzzle, and said that it’s possible to define a logic with only one theorem. While we can do this, there’s really no utility in doing so. But there are some nonclassical logics that are highly useful, and do seem to say something about reality in a sense. The relevant logic example is only one – there is also ternary logic. The database language SQL implements ternary logic, and we’ve even built ternary computers a few times in the past.
A third example is fuzzy logic. I’ll simply say this – I challenge Gil to solve the Sorites paradox using only classical logic.
Now, as for classical logic, I do think it is useful at describing reality – most of the time. I see classical logic as analogous to regular, “everyday” English, with nonclassical logics being analogous to the various technical jargons of different fields. This doesn’t seem exactly right to me, but it’s the best analogy I can think of. One might say that technical jargons are merely extensions of everyday English, but I don’t think this is the case, because everyday English includes many slang terms not acceptable in technical fields; thus there is some exclusivity.
Now, this article is admittedly a bit short, and doesn’t touch on every point. This is intentional. I could write pages and pages and pages about logic, with hundreds of citations, but that really won’t get us anywhere. Rather, this is just to continue a back and forth discussion about logic with Gil, and I would suggest that we focus specifically on the paradox of material implication and the Sorites paradox, and the failure of classical logic to explain these things well.
*addendum: this can be seen in the truth table for p → q (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Material_conditional#Truth_table). When p = True and q = True, p → q = true. This leads to natural language problems where “If the sun is a star, then cheese is made from milk” is true. But this obviously doesn’t follow. For this to make sense, there needs to be a causal connection that classical logic just can’t capture.
Ethika Politica has just published an article titled “The Real War on Women—Followed To Its Logical Conclusions”. I am going to be extremely critical of this article, dissecting it piece by piece in severe detail, so first a disclaimer: I am a feminist. I mean this in the sense that women should have the same social, political, and economic opportunities and responsibilities that men do. I do not mean this in the sense that women are in any way better or more deserving of anything than men.
There is no denying that there is a War on Women, in not only this country, but throughout the world. One cannot turn on their TV, read a newspaper or magazine, or even check their Twitter feed without seeing the violent verbal assaults on females that are taken for granted.
I deny it (and I’ll be returning to this topic in a moment). To make a comment specifically about things like Twitter feeds, yes, there are violent verbal assaults on females that are taken for granted on some parts of the internet. But there are also such things directed toward men, Christians, atheists, muslims, buddhists, hindus, jews, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, moderates, anarchists, homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, punks, goths, emos, nerds, geeks, dorks, jocks, preps, whites, blacks, indians, asians, teenagers, and the elderly. People who make such attacks are called trolls. Their entire goal is to get a rise out of the group they’re bad mouthing. Don’t feed the trolls!
And, consequently, the phrase, “War on Women” has been being strewn about like condoms at a public middle school.
If the strewing about of this phrase is supposed to be a bad thing, you’re only contributing to the problem. And while someone in middle school having sex isn’t a good thing, if they’re going to do so, it’s better for them to do it with condoms than without.
What is the “War on Women”? Whether it’s the commonly accepted misogyny in the media, the promotion of birth control, or the repression of it, the referring to women in the public eye as “MILF’s”, “cunts”, or “prostitutes”, or even the low blows about their weight or appearance; you name it, and whichever you believe it is, it’s there.
This is just defining the “War on Women” into existence. What if I believed that it consisted of nothing more than the sale of chocolate to women? Bam, there it is. A war. Her examples also don’t work – just look at all the public outrage directed at people like Rush Limbaugh and Dom Imus. When public figures refer to women in a disparaging manner, society rails against it, not accepts it.
But these few more recently witnessed attacks on women are merely the wages of the real War on Women, a one-sided war which has been fought for years, and whose army has no intention of surrender.
Yeah, ok. I’ll go get my fatigues and combat boots. Has the author not noticed the rise in popularity of women like Hillary Clinton?
Femininity, not just femininity, but true femaleness, in its purest, most natural, genuine form, is being attacked. It is downright hated.
I missed the biology lesson that talked about a One True Femaleness (TM). Perhaps you could enlighten me?
Real life-giving, life-affirming, God given femaleness is being ragingly stamped out, and those who posses this trait (females) are punished and forced to change. Under the guise of equality with men, those who claim to advocate better, or equal, treatment for women, are actually not treating them equally to men at all. They are treating them worse.
Oh. I guess this is about how God apparently intended all females to have similar personality traits which are distinct from all men. I’ll call all the female kung-fu practicioners and tell them that they’re behaving counter to how God wants them to behave – being loving and caring all the time, no matter how much enjoyment they might get out of competitive physical activity. The author can pay my medical bills when they kick my ass for being sexist.
Notice how with regards to our Armed Forces, for example, even the most conservative of narrators will never neglect to say, “… Our men and women in uniform…” when addressing the topic. Women. Women. Women are being enlisted into the armed forces in droves, and are told that they can serve just as their male counterparts do.
Because they can serve just as their male counterparts do. Or do you think that no women are just as physically capable as men are?
But if this is the case, why are the women immediately turned into men in order to be acceptable for the position they seek? Why are they de-feminized?
They’re…not? News flash: women in the military have breasts, vaginas, and ovaries.
Why are they put on the Pill? Why are they forced to dress in drag? Why are they required to turn off all sensitivity and nurturing instinct?
No women are “put on the pill”. No one is forcing them to take it. They choose to. Regarding sensitivity and nurturing instinct, have you never read any of the numerous stories of soldiers comforting dying comrades? And why in the world do you think military fatigues count as “drag”? Would you rather that female soldiers be allowed to wear long, flowing skirts or dresses that would hinder their movement in vitally important combat situations? What do you have against pants? Do you have the same objections to kilts?
Why, after inflicting both physical and psychological pain on themselves in an attempt to ensure their safety by being “one of the guys”, are they still threatened with misogynistic treatment, and even rape?
While such things are of course horrible, its not the military’s policy to do this – individuals are to blame for the recent military rape scandal, not “the military”. But it should be pointed out that military women aren’t trying to be “one of the guys”, but “one of the soldiers”.
I’m not saying that many women cannot outperform men physically. They can and they often do.
That’s good, even though you seemed to imply that earlier.
But why must they? When did it become so taboo for a woman to simply say, ”Sure, I can do that, but I’m not going to”?
It’s not taboo at all! Women say this all the time – look at all the women not in the military, not in sports, etc.
Society tells women that they can do anything a man can do—if they become like men.
There’s tremendous variation in personality type, intelligence, and physical ability in both men and women. There is no “like men” or “like women”.
Women in the Armed Forces are just one example of society’s overlooked and accepted War on Women. Civilian women are just as victimized, but in a different (yet still the same) way. In order to obtain and retain approval from society they are dead set on being the polar opposite of the physically adept, and consequently, forced masculinized, women mentioned above.
Ok, so if a woman is physically adept, it’s wrong; and if she’s not, that’s wrong too? What are women supposed to do?
They have decided that they will be “women”, or at least, what society says women should be. They are reared to please a man (and I use the word “man” loosely), and simultaneously, are taught to “do anything they want”. As it turns out, though, women can only do anything they want if they are man pleasing while they do it.
Perhaps the author was taught this way, but if she was, she’s the first example I’ve seen. None of my female friends are anything like this. I have no clue where this idea is coming from.
These women too, are forced to forgo their femaleness. They are put on the Pill without question, and told that they are now “feminists”.
Again, no one is being forced to take the pill.
Exactly how shutting down the very essence of femaleness, her reproductive system, which is so pivotally different than a man’s, is feminist is still utterly baffling to me. Again, she has been masculinized. She has had her cycles made into a mere caricature of their once perfection, or removed completely,
Perhaps the author enjoys bleeding every month, and not being able to have sex without worrying about an unintended pregnancy, but there are women who don’t enjoy these things. News flash: women like sex. Second news flash: women don’t enjoy bleeding. Third news flash: women don’t like unintended pregnancies.
and has been told that she must also be a ready and willing masturbation tool for whatever stray man she happens to be fostering at that point and time. Society not only expects this of women, but prefers it. How is this not an assault on women?
What??? This is so ridiculous I don’t even know how to respond. See the first news flash above: women like sex.
Not only is her pesky femaleness now in check for the convenience of men (i.e., society), but she is also a worker. A very hard worker. She will not fall ill every month and need to take to her bed to care for her body.
I’ve never seen any example of a woman taking time off work, or “taking to her bed” because she’s on her period. Also, a woman being a hard worker is good, because anyone being a hard worker is good.
She will not usually become pregnant, but if she does, rest assured she will continue standing for eight hours a day at a cash register or stocking shelves. She won’t breastfeed or bond with her child, and she won’t ever simply stay home and rest.
Ever heard of “maternity leave”?
There’s another crucial part of femaleness that is regularly under attack: Breasts.
Oh noes – hide the breasts, they’re under attack!
Breasts are another strikingly female, and even outwardly visible sign of difference from males.
Except for women who have small, or even almost nonexistent breasts. And except for men who have large breasts.
All female mammals basically have breasts.
And no female non-mammals have breasts. So citing non-human animals at all seems irrelevant.
They have a way to nurse their young, culminating their own sexuality and reproductive cycle.
Males can lactate too, you know (although they usually don’t).
Women’s breasts have had more emphasis placed on them by society than ever before, but not in a good way, not in the way that honors life and the breasts’ ability to nurture it. Instead, due to rampant pornography, they have been reduced to a mere caste of breasts. They, in all of their plastic, nonfunctioning glory, now exist to remind the female hating, un-masculine men that they are still technically men, as they possess male genitalia, and therefore aid in enough of a hard-on for the “man” to satisfactorily jerk-off in his basement.
An attack on pornography. I’m not surprised. News flash: many men (including myself) greatly prefer natural breasts. Second news flash: many women enjoy pornography. Third news flash: most men (and women) masturbate in the bathroom or bedroom, not the basement.
Breast implants have been wildly popular for years with women who feel they need to please men by as closely resembling a mannequin as possible.
I’d just like to suggest here that the author actually talk to men about what kind of woman they like. Cause this is silly.
Here’s the brilliant twist, however, that really gets me: While women are flocking to have their breasts artificially augmented, those with naturally large breasts are flocking to have theirs artificially reduced, touting the phrase “back problems” right and left.
Mello AA, Domingos NA, Miyazaki MC. Improvement in Quality of Life and Self-Esteem After Breast Reduction Surgery. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 19 September 2009.
Conclusion: Both self-esteem and quality of life significantly improved after breast reduction surgery.
O’Blenes CA, Delbridge CL, Miller BJ, Pantelis A, Morris SF. Prospective Study of Outcomes after Reduction Mammaplasty: Long-term Follow-up. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery February 2006;117(2):351–358.
Conclusions: The long-term results of reduction mammaplasty indicate that this procedure is an effective method to reduce or alleviate both physical and psychological symptoms associated with macromastia. This study shows that this procedure should be covered under Canadian medical insurance plans.
Science is fun, isn’t it?
This detestment of life and womanhood does not even stop at human women. On the contrary, female animals, because they have no rights, no voice, and no impetus to fight back, yet are indeed still female, are a prime target for the hatred and violence geared toward women.
Here is where the author goes on a rant about the atrocities committed toward animals – but oddly enough, only female animals. She doesn’t mention all the male cows, pigs, and chickens that are routinely slaughtered for our consumption; nor does she mention the bulls artificially masturbated for impregnation purposes; nor does she mention the castration of other bulls, turning them into steers. She even writes: ” Their lives are misery manifested, and they experience this because they are female.” (emphasis mine) While there may be a good case for vegetarianism or veganism (and I think there most certainly is a good argument for at least reform of food production facilities), the author is merely co-opting arguments for their practice in order to support her unrelated position.
It is a war that goes much deeper, and is far more evil, harmful, sexist, and which has an intense desire to not only demean, but destroy, all females.
This is a comment near the end of the article which I find perhaps the strangest in the entire article. Men like women, why would we want to destroy them? And men want women to like us, so why would we want to demean them? I can only conclude from the tone of this article that the author wants to shift this supposed war on women in the other direction, and wage a counter-war on men. But that’s counter-productive, and just as bad as the war on women would be, if it existed. Here’s to real equality.
Shocking title for a blog post, isn’t it? Don’t worry, this isn’t about what you may think. It’s about a journal called “bio-complexity”.
(http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/index) On the About page for this journal, we find the following statement under “purpose and scope”:
BIO-Complexity is a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a unique goal. It aims to be the leading forum for testing the scientific merit of the claim that intelligent design (ID) is a credible explanation for life.
Ok, fair enough. It’s even peer reviewed! That’s great; peer review is very important. But in looking at some of their papers, I noticed something odd – many of the authors are on the editorial board. So, I decided to look at every paper (there’s only 8 as of this writing, and their archives go back to 2010). Here is what I found:
The Case Against A Darwinian Origin of Protein Folds
author: Douglas Axe (managing editor)
Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations From Taking Simple Adaptive Paths To High Fitness
authors: Ann K Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela F Fahey, Ralph Seelke (2 on editorial team)
A Vivisection of the ev Computer Organism: Identifying Sources of Active Information
authors: George Montañez, Winston Ewert, William Dembski, Robert Marks (2 on editorial team)
The Limits of Complex Adaptation: An Analysis Based on a Simple Model of Structured Bacterial Populations
author: Douglas Axe (managing editor)
Can the Origin of the Genetic Code Be Explained by Direct RNA Templating?
authors: Stephen C Meyer, Paul Nelson (0 on editorial team)
The Evolutionary Accessibility of New Enzymes Functions: A Case Study from the Biotin Pathway
authors: Ann K Gauger, Douglas D Axe (2 on editorial team)
A Stylus-Generated Artificial Genome with Analogy to Minimal Bacterial Genomes
authors: Douglas Axe, Philip Lu, Stephanie Flatau (1 on editorial team)
Climbing the Steiner Tree–Sources of Active Information in a Genetic Algorithm for Solving the Euclidean Steiner Tree Problem
authors: Winston Ewert, William A Dembski, Robert J Marks II (2 on editorial team)
So, something to point out here: out of 20 total instances of authors of papers for this journal, more than half of them work for the journal (11 out of 20)! It’s also worth pointing out that 7 out of 8 papers have at least one author on the editorial team.
This is what’s known as an incestuous journal, meaning that it creates and reviews its own work. Of course, this sometimes happens with other journals which we all consider reputable, especially ones dedicated to very narrow fields (Bio-complexity is quite broad – check their purpose and scope), but never with this frequency. The problem with this is simply that people are often biased in favor of their coworkers as well as their own career affiliations; and thus we should at the least be wary of the strength of Bio-complexity’s peer review process.