Friday, January 28, 2011

Limbaugh's "Ching-chong" shtick

No, I haven't bothered to listen to it, but the actual "rant" is not the focus of this post. I continue to be confused about people who abuse the word "racism" to shut people up. I'm not clear if they genuinely believe they are confronting racism, or if they have ulterior motives.

Let's get a few things straight: it's not racist to mock another culture or language or nationality. It may (or may not) be tasteless, low-brow, ignorant, offensive, stupid, or mean, but it's not racist. How do I know? Because culture, language, and one's nation of origin are not racial markers. East Asians, or what they used to call "mongoloids" (analogous to caucasoid or negroid, terms from anthropology) are a "race." But the Chinese aren't. If "Chinese" is a race, then what are Koreans? Japanese? Vietnamese? They are all the same race in the sense that white Germans, Britons, and French are all caucasians. Big whoopty-doo.

I'd say that the liberals who are calling Limbaugh racist for doing a mock-Mandarin are the ignorant ones, because they are assuming that "Chinese" is the "race" of all Asians. But there are plenty of East-Asian-descended American politicians criticizing him as well. Hard to know if the average Asian American is as angry, or cares. Judging by most Asians I've known, I'd have to say that there are plenty of Asians out there who would have thought Limbaugh was being hilarious. But that's beside the point.

This is just one example of phony racism accusations. I think a lot of people are just ignorant about racism and they assume that whenever a white person makes any criticism or joke about a non-white person then racism must somehow be involved. But I think a lot of people are just using the word "racist" like a club to get their way. Either it's to shut up people who they disagree with politically, for fear that they will influence other people, or non-white people who claim to be the targets of racism make these accusations to bring attention to themselves and differentiate their identity from the crowd, especially if you are, say, an upper-class black American who doesn't feel "connected" to most other so-called authentic blacks. Even though you live a cushy life, if you can claim you were the victim of racism, it connects you to that much larger crowd and sets you apart from the mostly-white people you work with and live amongst. That's just a conjecture. I could be wrong.

I also think that, for some people, if there are large achievement gaps between one racial group and another, it makes them hypersensitive to criticism of any kind from the majority, "dominant" racial group, and all such criticisms get labeled as "racist."

Back to the main point, whatever one things of making a mock Chinese language (although I understand Limbaugh's intent was not to mock Mandarin but to make a point about how Jintao wasn't being translated during a speech), it cannot, by definition, be called racist. Call it whatever you want, but don't confuse it with racism. Charlie Chaplin mocked Hitler in "The Great Dictator" by doing a mock German language. Nobody accused him of being "racist" against Germans, because the idea was absurd. The change of nationalities from German to Chinese doesn't change anything. It's still absurd to call it racism.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I am not a biologist, but....

When it comes to the evolution/creation debate (which most scientists see as a political/cultural debate, not a scientific one), I am best described as a creationist. So now you know. I don't waste my time trying to come up with models to explain creationism or miracles such as the global flood, because an inherently miraculous and supernatural event is, well, supernatural. Meaning that science, which is a tool for understanding the natural world, doesn't help there.

So I think many creation scientists are wasting their time. I'm all for looking at the Earth to learn more about the flood, but I don't sit and worry about how it happened. If it happened, and I believe whole-heartedly that it did, then it was a miracle. Models don't enter into it. Although I do believe that miracles can and do leave naturalistic traces of themselves behind and it's worth looking into those.

I think that scientifically, my position is best described as anti-Darwinist, but even that isn't quite right. The long and short of it is that evolution does indeed happen. It has happened, it's continuing to happen, and will go on happening. Evolution is nothing more than selective breeding, with nature doing the selection for us. But I definitely do not believe that, for example, reptiles became birds, or unicellular organisms eventually led to humans. I do not believe that apes and humans have a common ancestor. I believe that new species do come about by evolutionary processes, but these are not the same processes by which we went from a barren world to a world teeming with whales, puppies, and yeast.

Now, anybody's who's spent any amount of time among actual scientists or on science forums (oh, I forgot to mention, I'm a physics major, currently in my sophomore year, so now you know where to "put" me) knows that the above paragraph is worthy of galaxy-sized levels of scorn from the scientific establishment (sci-stab?). You can Google this if you don't believe me. Creationist scientists are treated like communist scientists were in the 1950s, and that's by other scientists, not by the administrative or political powers that be.

I've been a long-time observer and occasional participant in the creation/evolution wars, and I think I've developed a few analytical points about the scorn that creationists receive that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere, so I'll mention them here:

1) I think a lot of the scorn from the scientific establishment is well-deserved, because most creationists are not scientists but lay-people. Let me explain. The lay-person creationist stance ranges from that of outright hostility to all of science, to those who are well-versed in all of the common critiques of Darwinian evolution but not well-versed in anything else (like actual Darwinian theory), to those who are knowledgeable about science but put bulls eyes on their backs by using a discredited argument (such as saying that Eohippus is the modern Hyrax or by using straw man versions of evolutionary theory), to those who are actual bona fide scientists (including biologists). From PhD to science-hating lay-person, the farther down that scale you go, the more often you encounter Internet-style histrionics and uninformed arguments. These people should educate themselves before talking and tarring all creationists as unscientific rubes.

Probably the most useful thing any creationist could do would be to study evolution the standard, textbook way, or at least books written for the non-biologists but which are from a Darwinist standpoint. Read the critiques that Darwinists are making of what creationists are saying.

2) I think a lot of the scorn comes from the common human error of seeing multiple things as a single thing. For instance, evolution of the "micro-evolution" variety is well-documented by experiment and observation. It is undeniable. Evolution of the "macro-evolution" variety has lots of evidence which is largely circumstantial and has alternative explanations which go entirely ignored by the sci-stab (hey, I'm liking that term more and more). And yes, I'm aware that the terms "micro" and "macro" evolution are controversial, but they provide a useful shorthand.

Where I'm going with this is that there is a two-pronged scorning going on here. On the one hand Darwinists ridicule creationists for doubting evolution when there is all of this evidence (experimental and observational) in favor of "evolution" and they also ridicule creationists for doubting evolution when there is all of this evidence (circumstantial) in favor of "evolution." Most neo-Darwinists do not make distinctions between micro-evolution and macro-evolution (maybe because by dividing evolution into two parts, the real one and the inferred one, it made Darwinism more vulnerable to attack? I'm not sure what made those terms fall out of favor). Anyway, because they don't make this distinction (although they really should for practical purposes, because the latter is merely inferred from cherry-picked circumstantial evidence and the former does not guarantee the latter, it is not a mathematical proof-by-induction), any creationist who says they "don't believe in evolution," when they really mean "I don't believe in common ancestry, or molecules-to-man evolution" then a Darwinist hears "I'm such an ignorant Bible-thumping cornpone I refuse to believe all of that factual experimental and observational evidence," when all they are saying is "I don't believe in something that allegedly happened eons ago, when there is only circumstantial evidence of it and nobody actually observed it."

Refusing to believe in that is hardly far-fetched. Heck, the entire Biblical story of creation, or any ID theory, is based on circumstantial evidence and inference, just as Darwinian evolution is.

The second prong is that people also have the common error of confusing a particular interpretation of the facts with the facts themselves. For instance, all of the evidence for common ancestry can just as easily be considered as evidence for common design (and was, before evolution ever came around), or just because quantum theory seems to be true, that doesn't mean the Copenhagen Interpretation is true. So when evolutionists hear "I don't believe in evolution," the confusion between the facts (fossils, genetic similarities, etc.) that are used to bolster common ancestry and the theory of common ancestry, leads the evolutionist to hear "I don't believe all of those verifiable facts."

People who don't believe obvious facts, like Holocaust-deniers, flat-Earthers, geocentrists, etc., deserved our scorn, and they deserve our action when they hold great political and cultural sway. But evolutionists are so stuck inside their mental box they can't tell the difference between a difference of opinion and a difference of fact. Among reasonable people, facts are rarely in dispute. But particular interpretations of the facts often are.

3) I think evolutionists are wasting energy by trying to keep creation teaching out of schools. Let me say now that I don't want the government deciding on school curriculum, but leaving that aside, I think that if everything neo-Darwinian evolution has to say is true, then there can be nothing to worry about if creation is taught along side it. If you put forward two theories in a science class, and one is true and scientific and the other is phony and unscientific, even most lay-people would be able to distinguish fact from fiction if the science is well-taught.

It's like of like what some people say about sex education, they either hear it in the class room or hear it on the streets. The argument I'm making here is that if I were an evolutionist, I'd be more worried about people hearing about evolution from a one-sided book or web site and becoming involved in creationism that way, then by hearing it proposed as a possible alternative espoused by some people, in a class room setting.

The fear that Darwinists have of competing with creationism in a class room makes me think that they are worried people will opt for creation rather than evolution when it is presented to them, or that the critiques of Darwinian macro-evolution from creation teaching can't be refuted. I'm not saying this to be provocative, that's just how I see it. After all, if the government forced private religious schools to teach evolution, and parents and teachers at these schools objected, wouldn't the gut-reaction from evolutionists be "Ha! They're worried their kids will learn the truth!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sarah Palin Has An Amazing Talent

Merely by speaking, Sarah Palin has the power to make leftists' brains stop functioning entirely for a short time, even at a distance of a thousand miles, during which time they rely on their brain stems to keep them breathing or from falling down stairs or anything.

Sarah Palin was defending herself and others against the outrageous accusation that strident right-wing rhetoric created the context, or whatever, that led to the Arizona shooting, or something. The fact that the shooter was a left-leaning, Bush-hating looney tune conspiracy guy who didn't listen to Rush Limbaugh, it seems, judging from the Internet's reaction, that the debate has quickly switched gears.

Leftists, having made a HUGE stink over the course of just a few days about how Palin practically pulled the trigger, are now confronted with direct evidence that they are 100% wrong (nothing new there) in this case. Anger has a momentum though, and it's got to go somewhere. So it focused on two words in a short speech by Palin where she described the accusations made against her and Limbaugh and seemingly 33% of the population, as "blood libel." In other words, people were making blanket false accusations, laying the blame for shed blood at the feet of people who don't deserve it.

She couldn't have made the liberals madder if she'd called Obama the n-word, to be perfectly honest. Trolling the lefty message boards, I can see that the PDS is in overdrive, and that's saying something.

At first I didn't see what the outrage was about, until I realized that it was just leftover outrage from earlier in the week when liberals still thought they had a shot at pinning the shooting on right-wing talk show hosts. The outrage took on a different form, Palin gave them something to be easily confused about and thus angry.

There seem to be a few different takes on this. Some of the lefties seem to think that "blood libel" is, itself, an anti-semitic term, and a very ugly one at that. Well, no, it isn't. Actually, the very word "libel" clearly tells us that it is a term which defends Jews from false accusations. It's like when you say "fish story," or "tall tale." It's obvious from the very term that you are disparaging the accuracy of said tale. It wasn't anti-semites who coined the term "blood libel," it was anti-semites who perpetrated blood libel.

The other, less-crazy take on Palin's use of the term goes like this: "blood libel refers specifically to historical blood libel against Jews as perpetuated in Europe a long time ago and in the Middle East today, and it is an offensive appropriation of an injustice suffered by Jews by a clueless middle American."

It's less crazy, but even if it were true, it's not worth getting as worked up about (unless, of course, you are simply manufacturing reasons to be angry) and also it's just not true. "Blood libel" has become a generic term for a false accusation. You can Google on this if you don't trust me.

Basically, leftists still have a ton of outraged left over from their disappointment with Obama and the Democrats in Congress and also from having lost the election, and that anger is going to continue to pop up in various guises for the foreseeable future. Because as we all know, leftists are always miserable.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Gifford's Shooting Was Not Political

I honestly can't tell if leftists are being serious or not. Are they simply trying to score some cheap political points against their enemies by associating the rhetoric of right-wing activists and politicians with the actions of a looney tune gunman (and he was a looney tune, not an activist with a cogent agenda, just look at his youtube videos), or do they seriously think that passionate rhetoric actually leads people to take this kind of action?

If the former is true, shame on them. If the latter is true, then I have to question their grip on reality.

Yes, to a certain extent people are shaped by their environment and the culture(s) they live in. But the best your environment can do is bias your towards certain options, it can't actually make you make certain choices.

More to the point, if the type of words this article is complaining about caused shootings, there would be a lot more shootings. I have a far better explanation for what happened: a crazy man got his hands on a gun and had an freakout that left six people dead. This isn't South America (or Revolutionary France), where assassinations are a regular part of the political process (that was tongue-in-cheek, so hold your angry emails). Assassinations in this country are virtually always motivated by crazy people. That's probably because it is a lot easier to get rid of a particular politician in America--through the ballot box--versus a country where they have regular rotation of dictators.

Anyway, if the left is serious about what they are saying here, then they aren't going far enough. Where were they when Republican offices were having bricks hurled through windows? When left-wing activists were calling Bush a terrorist, the next Hitler, a maniacal dictator (and also simultaneously an idiot), or calling Rove or Cheney Darth Vader incarnate?

Of course, I don't expect serious thinking or self-restraint from politicians or activists. They are partisan after all, if not to a party then to a cause. I'm sure that if some nut had taken a shot at Bush then Republicans would be saying that the hyperbolic anti-Bush rhetoric played a part in it.

I'll leave you with this link. It's from the occasionally weird World Net Daily.