Friday, April 27, 2012

Two sides my ass.

I just saw these cartoons over at NPR.  They reminded me of an oft heard mantra about there being two sides to every issue.  Without saying which side is correct, when I looked at these toons, I realized that there is at least a little truth to the statement.  That is to say, there is a right side and a wrong side.  They simply can't both be true.  Therefore, one side is complete bullshit.  I believe that this applies more often than some would have you believe.  All points of view are not equally worthy of consideration as some of them are blatantly false.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reality wins again!

I just read this post at Bad Astronomy. It looks like an interview with the president of anti-vaccination organization, AVN, has been pulled from American Airlines' inflight video programming and magazine after a swift outcry from concerned netizens. Three cheers for science and the Internet!

Friday, April 20, 2012

On the many side effects of cat scratch fever...

Ted Nugent, if you weren't aware, is a scary individual. Politifact has his recent speech at the NRA convention in its entirety. If you see him coming, run.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gut reaction

I read this article today on an antivax website.  I didn't like it.  It suggests that we should always follow our gut instinct.  I think that this is terrible advice.  I am not saying that we should never trust our instincts.  In fact, in day-to-day life there are many situations where following our gut is perfectly fine.  The problem is that often in our lives our gut instincts about things are simply wrong.  Especially if you have a complex decision to make, the correct decision is often something that is counter-intuitive.  In my life, going with my gut has often worked out fine.  Other times it has been disastrous.  My point is that if you are making an important decision, it is a much better idea to carefully weigh the pros and cons and base your choice on the data.  I know that it is very hard to remain rational when we are faced with difficult circumstances (I have failed that test myself a few times) but I honestly think that at those times it is most important to keep our wits about us. 

Sorry, a bit obvious, I know, but I can only facepalm so much without getting this stuff off my chest.

Also, the author of the above-linked article is in favor of homeopathy, which, while I accept that some people get comfort from the counseling, is really just water and sugar pills.  If you have a serious disease or want serious prevention, go to the experts.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Catholic Church cannot be trusted with children

The Catholic Church is pretty unbelievable.  It would be hard to make up some of weird shit that they have pulled.  Whether it is direct child abuse, more child abuse, or child abuse involving mutilation, they have a remarkable ability to create scandals involving children.  Just yesterday, I read a new article about Spain's baby stealing scandal that lasted from the 1950s until the 1980s.  It was carried out by nuns who told new mothers that their babies had died and then proceeded to give the babies to families that the church found more suitable.  I wish this was a lie.  It is so fucking evil, I have a hard time believing that I read it in Time magazine and not the plot of some bad horror movie.  I am not sure at this time if the Catholic Church could do anything that would make me say, "surely, the church would never do that!"

Given all of this, it shows some pretty amazing cojones for this organization to still tell women what to do with their bodies, particularly in the area of procreation.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Information overdose

I just bought a used computer to use as DVD player for the TV in my living room. It struck me last night that I now have in my apartment six devices that can access the Internet. That means that even if I trained myself to surf the web with both hands and both feet, I would still have two web portals for any guests who drop by. /connectivity level up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All your uterus are belong to us II.

Whenever I hear about personhood amendments I feel like I am going crazy. How little do you value human life to consider a single set of 46 chromosomes to be the same as a real live person who has feelings, desires and dreams. A person who can hear and smell and taste the world. A person who has fears and worries and pain. Someone like, say, the woman this lucky set of nucleic acids find themselves in...

Sunday, April 8, 2012


This weekend I found myself embroiled in a debate on Facebook with an Anti-vaccinationist.  Well, "found myself in" is perhaps the wrong term.  I kind of started it.  It is one of the issues that I really have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about.  Anyhow, things stayed surprisingly civil.  I found it interesting that in the midst of our back and forth, my opponent included a link to Google Scholar about the risks of vaccines.  I was surprised because looking through several pages of the abstracts and conclusions, I could not find a single study that suggested that vaccines are dangerous or that they should be avoided. 

He also dropped this bomb on me: you can cure autism through a special diet of "clean food".  I told him to look up the Baloney Detection Kit.

Rock on.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Comments on the internet often horrify me.  What horrifies me more are the comments that are removed.  As though the comments that are up are the ones that made the cut.  *shivers*

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A thought experiment

I love reading Free Inquiry magazine.  The writers offer up some very interesting perspectives. However, interesting as they may be, due to a pretty busy schedule (and my recent obsession with Call of Duty) I am about a issue behind on my reading.   Last week I was on holiday, though, and was able to do a bit of catching up.  One of the articles I read was on the dangers of human genetic enhancement.  It was an interesting article in which the authors brought up, what I think, are some valid concerns about the subject.   It also got me thinking.  What if, instead of modifying a persons genes to make them a kinder person, some diabolical parents altered the genetic code of their unborn child to make him a bloodthirsty and hateful killer.   Furthermore, after that child is born his parents raise him to believe that violence is good and killing is even better.  When he eventually goes on a murderous rampage, is he really to blame?  I want to say no.   He committed the crime to be sure, but he was only doing what he was given a strong instinct to do and what his parents taught him to do.

Assuming that up to that point he had no interaction with anyone but his parents, would he qualify for the legal definition of insanity?  (Not knowing right from wrong)

Now I want to try and muddy the waters a little bit.  This time let's imagine that the child is taken from his (disturbed) parents just after he is born.  He still has the genetic modifications that are meant to make him a killer, but this time he is given to a loving adoptive family.  The loving adoptive family do their best to give him a solid upbringing.  Nevertheless, one day the young man still goes on a killing spree.   Where does the responsibility lie now?  He knew right from wrong this time, but his natural instinct to kill won out (I am assuming that this is a strong instinct in this case).  Would it be fair for us to condemn him given what we know about his genetic make up?  It is not as clear cut as the first case, but I still feel that we cannot.  I don't think it is really much different from a person being forced to kill against their will, which is to say, by another person's will (in this case, the original parents'). 

Now to confuse things more, let's get rid of the original parents' genetic modifications all together, but due to genetic chance alone, our young man is still born with the same genes that his evil parents were going to give him that would make him a killer.  He is still given to the adoptive parents and still given the loving, nurturing upbringing and still eventually goes postal.  Now the biological parents are absolved of this massacre; clearly, they had no control of him or his genes.  I don't think the adoptive parents are to blame at all in either scenario as they did their honest best for him.   So the blame clearly rests solely on the young man's shoulders.   That doesn't seem right either.  From his perspective his life has been exactly the same as it would have been in the second scenario.   The only actual difference here is that in the one situation his genes were designed to be that way and in the other they were a product of random chance.  In both situations, he had no control over his disposition at all.   So can we condemn him for it this time?  On deep consideration, I want to say no.

So what can we do? We certainly can't have a bunch of crazed killers running about.  So we have to separate the killers from society.  Which is pretty much what we do now.  However, I would posit that given what I have discussed here, the emphasis of that separation should be on rehabilitation instead of punishment.  The question is when should the person be locked off from society and rehabilitated.  In this thought experiment I have I have included a person that has an irresistible urge to kill.  Someone who no amount of nurturing will help.  If you have such a person and somehow know it, it would seem that the time to remove them from society is as soon as possible, before they hurt anyone.  That isn't really fair to the person, but then it isn't really fair to lock them up for something they were predisposed to do either, and this way we save the lives of his victims.  In reality, however, I am sure no case would be so cut and dried, and we could never know how certain a person would be to commit a violent crime.  Still things like this are what make me a) a determinist and b) a person who questions our traditional notions of justice.