Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My thoughts On The Anti-LGBT Laws


Recently, several American states, almost all of them in the South, have passed so-called "bathroom" laws against transgendered persons from being able to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with. The laws, they say, are intended to protect women and girls from being victimized by men who will dress up like women just to enter a female bathroom for the purpose of assaulting or harassing them. To date, I don't think there has been a single case of such an incident ever being reported in the US.

But regardless of lack of evidence that there are men dressing up as women to victimize women in bathrooms, these "bathroom" laws were passed and I don't think many of these conservative lawmakers have fully realized the consequences of these laws they're passing. At least one potential problem came to my mind immediately once I heard about them.


Meet Buck. Buck Angel that is. Buck is a trans-male — he was born as a female but identifies as a male. He has a vagina. Under the new bathroom laws, Buck, and all other trans-men who were born female, would be legally required to use the women's bathroom. How do you think women are going to react when they see trans-men like Buck in a women's bathroom? They are going to think a man has entered and some of them will call the police. And trans-men like Buck might get arrested over and over again and each time have to prove their birth gender by showing the police their vagina. That is a very degrading and humiliating prospect when the obvious solution is to let them use the bathroom of the gender that they identify with. I'm not sure the lawmakers have considered this. And I'm not sure that they realize such a policy could make it easier for real men to enter a women's bathroom since they could be posing as a trans-male. There are also many trans-women out there that can pass as a natural woman and for me seeing one in a men's bathroom might give me a second look. I personally have no problem with trans-women in a men's bathroom, but not all men might be.

That's one reason why I think these anti-LGBT bathroom laws are not made with common sense in mind and will very likely lead to unintended consequences. North Carolina's law goes even further and prevents local municipalities from passing their own laws preventing these bathroom laws; Mississippi's law allows any person or business to deny services to same-sex couples, people who engage in premarital sex, or transgendered people under the guise of "religious freedom." They also allow employers to fire employees merely for being gay.

Oh Mississippi, you never fail to show the world how regressive you are.

This also means that I could be fired for being an atheist if my employer wants to on religious grounds. And I can be fired for having a sexual relationship out of marriage. This is madness. Since many theists often accuse atheism of being a "religion," then shouldn't I be able to fire Christians or deny them services based on my sincerely held "religious" belief that Christianity is immoral? Would any conservative law maker take that seriously?

When you offer a service to the general public, you must serve the general public. I'm a vegetarian. I'm against eating meat. And at my job I'm required to help companies that sell meat products make more money, enabling more meat eating. This is against my personal beliefs. But do I refuse to offer services to these companies? No. I even had to help a Christian company whose mission it is to strengthen faith in Christ make more money through the company I work for recently. Did I protest and refuse to support them on account of my anti-theism? No. I did my job. I don't make personal choices against customers at work. I was hired to perform a service and I perform that service for everybody regardless of whether their business conflicts with my personal beliefs. If I find that my beliefs conflict with the duties of my job, I should either quit or be fired. So the cashier who won't checkout pork products or alcohol products because they conflict with their beliefs should either quit their job or be fired. And the county clerk who feels it is against their beliefs to issue a marriage licence to a same sex couple should either quit or be fired. We all have to sometimes enable those who do things that violate our beliefs due to our jobs. And prepending the word "religious" to those beliefs doesn't make them any more important.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MEME TIME: What's The Problem With Complaining About Climate Change While Eating Meat?



Basically, eating meat and fish are the single biggest contributors to man-made climate change. So if stopping man-made climate change is important to you and you happen to eat cheeseburgers, fish, chicken, and you love you some bacon, you're the worst part of the problem.

Food for thought.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Brian Greene On Language And Reality



Don't confuse language with reality. Human language is far better at capturing human experience than at expressing deep physical laws.



All too often, we think that our language captures reality as it really is. We confuse the map for the territory all the time. Think of the property of solidity. Science tells us everything made of atoms is almost completely empty space. Solidity is just a property we experience at our human-level conscious experience of the world, but it is nowhere to be found at a fundamental level. The same is true with temperature, color, and even motion and the flow of time. None of these things truly exist, as we experience them, at a fundamental level. And so it's important to keep in mind that language doesn't always capture reality as it really is.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Entropy


I remember on the Thursday, two days before she died, walking home from work in the evening and looking west to the beautiful orange sunset, and hoping that the universe would spare me at least one more day to spend with her. I was terrified that she might have died when I was at work and that I'd come home to her corpse laying in some dark corner of my apartment. With fear, I unlocked the door to my apartment and was relieved to see her sitting on the bench of my exercise machine. She just stared at me, unmoved, as I took off my jacket and shoes. Usually she would come and greet me by the door and sniff all of my stuff and anticipate the food I would give her. But that Thursday was different. She just sat and watched me. I was just happy she was alive. I had Friday off, and so I knew I could spend all of the next day with her as I knew deep inside it would probably be her last few days alive. She was in pain, it seemed, but I just couldn't bring myself to take her to the vet as I knew she'd have to be put to sleep and at the time I just could not psychologically bear the thought of her being dead, even though I knew her imminent death was a near certainty.

She died the following Saturday on the couch right next to me. I never had anything close to me die before. I've been spared the deaths of any close family members and friends. So Sheba dying hit me hard. I keep replaying in my memory the tiny whimper she let out just moments before she died as she lay nearly motionless on the sofa next to me. And so as is generally customary, I had her cremated. I decided to keep her ashes, which I got a few weeks ago. I held them in my hand, astonished that this pile of disorganized matter used to by my adorable Sheba. But alas, I know it is no fiction that all things break down. All order eventually surrenders to disorder - it is the second law of thermodynamics. It will be my fate as well as yours, and it will also be the fate of the entire universe. Entropy eventually conquers all; some of us sooner than later.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Logical Argument Against Free Will


This is a logical argument I created several months back that attempts to prove free will is impossible. It's been tested but it's not necessarily in its final form. Let me know if you think it succeeds or not.



Most people believe in libertarian free will. That is, they reject determinism, are incompatibilists, and believe that our will, mind, and consciousness are not determined by anything and are free to choose any number of possible courses of action. Libertarian free will requires at least 3 things:

(1) We are in control of our will
(2) Our mind is causally effective
(3) In the same situation we could have done otherwise

This view is popular among lay people but not among scientists and philosophers.[1] Why is this? It's because not only is libertarian free will in violation of our best scientific theories, it's incoherent.

One simple question to ask the libertarian is: Do our thoughts have causes? Yes or no?

If our thoughts have causes, whatever caused them can't be our will or our mind, because our thoughts are our will and mind. And saying that our soul causes our thoughts (or will or mind) just pushes the issue back one step further, because the question now becomes is the soul caused when it causes the will? If it is caused, then whatever caused it can't be the soul (or the mind or the will), it has to be something else that is not you. Once you have that you are essentially admitting that your will is not truly free since it has a cause that is not a part of you and not something you could have had any control over.

Therefore this premise is true: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are caused we cannot be in control of them

If our thoughts do not have causes, then you are saying that they begin to exist without a cause. Without a cause they would be totally random fluctuations and it would be a mere coincidence that they had any connection or relationship to the physical world or reality. Since you can't have any control over something that is uncaused by definition, you cannot be in control of your will if your will or thoughts are uncaused. This would also apply to any claim that the soul causes the thoughts if you claim the soul is uncaused. Additionally, this would violate the kalam cosmological argument's first premise (everything that begins to exist has a cause) and would essentially falsify it. This is a very popular metaphysical principle many theists believe (who also believe in libertarian free will).

Therefore this premise is true: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are uncaused we cannot be in control of them

On top of that, the ability to "choose" your thoughts is logically impossible. You can't choose what your next thought, desire, or idea will be, without that thought, desire, or idea already popping into your consciousness in a manner you couldn't have freely controlled. In order to choose your next thought, you'd have to think about it, before you think about it. That's incoherent. You can't have a thought, about a thought, before you have the thought. If you can't choose your next thought, or any of your thoughts, how is your will or mind controlled by you, and in what sense is it free? It isn't. Thoughts arise in consciousness and we have no control over it.

Therefore this premise is true: It is logically impossible to choose our thoughts

Hence we can argue:

P1: Our thoughts (mind or will) is either caused or uncaused, no other option is available
P2: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are caused we cannot be in control of them
P3: If our thoughts (or whatever caused them) are uncaused we cannot be in control of them
P4: It is logically impossible to choose our thoughts
P5: Being in control of our thoughts (mind or will (or whatever caused them)) is a requirement of libertarian free will
C: Therefore libertarian free will is logically impossible

Right now I'm only asking for a justification of (1) above from the requirements of libertarian free will; (2) and (3) are a whole other argument that only adds to the difficulty the libertarian has. Basically, one must first establish whether libertarian free will is even logically possible before one can establish that it's true. And that's my challenge. Notice that this argument makes no assumption about whether things must have causes or not, nor does it make any assumptions about whether we have a soul or not, or whether materialism is true. It is agnostic on all of these views.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hitchens On Why Islam Is Nonsense


 This is why I love Hitchens.

Friday, April 8, 2016

When Liberalism Shoots Itself In The Foot


I feel the need to write more about politics given that this is an election year and I've always been a political person. I want to gravitate towards writing about higher level phenomena like politic and economics, and discussing the issues and the philosophies around them.

I've been thinking for some time now about the negative, and perhaps, unintended consequences of political correctness that some on the left don't seem to acknowledge. One of the problems with political correctness is that it sometimes forces you to deny reality—to deny facts, in the name of not offending people. There are some facts about this world that are inconvenient to the liberal agenda. But facts shouldn't conform to political ideology. Rather, ideology should conform to the facts.

I think political correctness when gone too far can sometimes hurt the liberal agenda by shooting itself in the foot. Let's look at two examples.

Take the issue of the treatment of women in Islam. You have feminists in Western countries who will challenge every aspect of the patriarchy, and every perceived threat of male dominance to the status and treatment of women, yet on the issue of Islam and how women are treated in cultures dominated by that religion, the criticism almost disappears. Instead, the idea goes, since most Muslims are brown, and since the Western colonial powers have historically done bad things to brown people, criticizing Islamic culture for its treatment of women exemplifies this legacy Western colonial dominance, and so we must be respectful of not criticizing the treatment of women is Islamic cultures too harshly—or at all—thereby enabling the mistreatment of hundreds of millions of women to persist. This is a case of political correctness hurting the liberal agenda.

Or, take the dicey issue of race. Political correctness has made talking about race and racism more difficult. The social justice warriors of our day want to effectively shut down anyone who disagrees with their "facts" or who violates their preapproved accepted terminology on how to "properly" talk about race. If someone accidentally "misspeaks" and uses the wrong word, they are labeled a racist and must either step down, be fired, boycotted, or shamed into apology or hiding. What this ends up doing is making many people terrified to talk about race publicly. But racism still exists and not talking about race doesn't make racism go away. We have to talk about race in order to address the causes and solution to racism, and if everyone's terrified to talk about race because they're afraid of accidentally offending someone and being labelled a racist, then no one talks about race except for those perhaps on the far left, and actual racists. This will alienate people in the middle who might have important input to the discussion but who don't agree with the most liberal positions of the far left agenda, and who don't want to get associated with the actual racism of the far right. And so hugely important issues about race might never get discussed and addressed. This is a case of political correctness hurting the liberal agenda. It's 1984 with a liberal Big Brother.

I understand the need for some level of political correctness. I don't want to live in a world where everyone is openly racist and sexist like it was sixty years ago. I abhor actual racism and sexism. But political correctness gone too far shoots liberalism in the foot—and I still consider myself a liberal, by and large. We have to be able to be real with one another when talking about the tough problems we deal with as a society. For example, if you suggest that black culture is partly to blame for the systemic problems in many black communities, should that automatically disqualify you from the conversation? No. If you say that the Islamic religion and much of the culture based on it has sexist elements and is a large part of the problem with how women are treated in Islamic cultures, should you automatically be labeled a Islamophobe who's upholding the racist colonial dominance of an oppressed people? No. We need to be able to discuss about these things without the PC police shutting down the conversation before it even starts.

This is by the way, not an argument against liberalism, but an argument about how liberalism should change, because too much political correctness is hurting it. This is enabling a backlash that is empowering the rise of the far right. And I don't want to see that happening.

Unintended consequences.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"The Thinker - A Novel" Now Has Its Own Website


So I decided to create a unique website for my novel The Thinker in order to keep it separate from this site. I think it makes more sense. Now it will have its own domain to live on where all the content will be about the novel instead of a post here and there mixed in with my other rants. In hindsight I should have done that from the start.

Here is the link: The Thinker - A Novel

I have another part in the works but I've been super busy lately with work and hanging out and drinking after work, sometimes until late at night. This leaves me little to no writing time (or reading time). I would ideally like to publish one part per week, but that looks like it will be unlikely. Maybe every other week is more possible. There may be times however where I post two parts at a time to make up for not posting one week, and there may be times where I can only post one part a month when I'm really busy.

As far as the novel is going, it's just getting started. I haven't even really begun to get to the good part. In the first chapter I'm really just laying the ground work for the journey. In chapter 2 the fun really begins. My character will begin learning the views that I hold now. Basically, I see him as a version of me, searching for meaning, and coming to learn all the views I know of and hold now through the journey, which is what the book is really about. Chapter 2 will really begin the journey, and that's where it gets fun.

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