Monthly Archives: October 2013

Stop Asking For Evidence



Intense online debates tend to go only one way. Some hapless dude makes a claim that is more or less self-evidently true, and a high-minded scientismist-debutante asks for “EVIDENCE??”.

That’s really not the only way but many debates can follow this simple framework. The implication with this triple-syllabled rejoinder is that a failure to produce evidence means the interrogator gets to ascend to the golden heights of online debate glory like the apotheosis of a retarded worm crawling over roadkill suddenly, disgustingly, levitating before the oncoming tire has its way with it. Sounds like a bad deal but I hear people would be into something like that.

This argument happened to me recently on Facebook. Don’t know or care to remember the context or on what page it took place on but the argument went like this. Keep in mind this isn’t the actual conversation nor the subject but instead is a re-imagined exchanged for dramatic effect.

Me: All bachelors are unmarried.

Assuming this schmoe knows English (he did), the request for EVIDENCE?? is a non sequitur. The proposition is true by deduction if we know the proper definition of bachelor. Which I did. And he did. There’s no examination of EVIDENCE??? required to arrive at a strong inference except a half second of thinky-thinky.

We can extend the EVIDENCE??? situation by looking at example that uses an inductive inference and a little bit of common sense data:

Me: All bachelors have more disposable income than married men with children.

Deploying what we know about children—that they consume a lot of resources and don’t earn income—this proposition is nigh-undebatable. Sure, there’s induction involved and there is wiggle room to quibble about particular definitions or situations so it’s a few notches less strong than the first category statement above. Even so, the EVIDENCE??? asked for in such a case would come from some basic counter-reasoning, not a damnable graph from some overpriced taxpayer-funded study. If Guy needs someone else to reason for him then he has some bigger problems.

Lastly, here’s one more commonplace but more complex:

Me: God created the universe.

The statements “God created the universe” and “God didn’t create the universe” and “God created Galactus in Marvel Multiverse instance Earth-552” are difficult to evidence mostly because they are assumptions, not conclusions. We are using a finite set of symbols (language) to describe something wholly abstract and outside of the realm of human intellect. There are perceptual things we can sense that we can use to induce either of those propositions—and propositions like it—but this induction is a rickety tower. It’s based nearly entirely on the agent (person) themselves and in their weighing of the epistemic raw material: what’s considered “viable proof” to you may not be for me, and there’s not a reliable, externalized, objective set of standards for judging strong proof versus weak proof. How could there be?

However, all of this is for naught if Guy is mired in the fever-swamps of the Romantic-influenced scientism fantasy land, where the working assumption is that man will have perfected knowledge of everything eventually, via mass consciousness hegemony, Goliath-sized Kickstarter-funded socio-engineered kajiggery, transhuman mechanical overrides, or reaching the snowcapped mountain-top apex of endless free porn on the Internet. Good luck and Godspeed to anyone who thinks they have the axe to fell he who clings to this idea.

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Weird Language on The Walking Dead

I heard this sentence on last night’s episode of The Walking Dead:

“If you weren’t in here already, you’d be here.”

It was spoken to a doctor who had gotten sick and was being quarantined with a load of other non-doctor patients. It was meant to show the speaker’s (Herschel’s) regard for the sick doctor’s character—that his dedication to patient care would persist in dangerous situations.

Knowing that context makes the line pretty clear. I just noticed how non-meaningful it would be as a standalone sentence.

Page of Sarah Palin’s redmarked resignation letter stolen from Vanity Fair’s website somewhere.

* Don’t know if “semantic” is the correct term to use here. I just work here. I’m not management.

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Orson Welles Narrating Plato’s “Parable of the Cave”

Via Aeon Skbole’s Facebook, witness the double-surrealism of this video explaining Plato’s Cave analogy of human knowledge narrated by Orson Welles. I know him most as the voice of Unicron because that’s what I grew up with, but that he was the broadcast voice of the fake alien attack that people took seriously yields some kind of irony.

The animation isn’t bad in that it sticks close to the original text, and the boffo half-abstract animation is an effective aid rather than a hindrance to understanding. It also really drives home the “rah rah Greek epistemology” angle, which is kind of expected and is good if you’re already all for that. I and others would have some reservations—namely it presupposes that the sun isn’t already another cave-fire in itself, another type of illusion that is really a shadow of higher level of reality.

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Personal Employment History and Happiness

This was a neat exercise, mapping my employment history and assigning levels of happiness to them. I used the word “nurp” as a unit of happiness, a play off of Alvin Plantinga’s “turp” as a theoretical unit of evil.

THe ratings I gave each position were based on pay (duh), the actual work itself and the environment, and how it compared to my basic position in life—so it’s very contextual. An 8 position 20 years ago could be a 2 position now.

I used this kid-friendly graph creator.


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Italicizing Foreign Words in Fiction

The dialogue in my current work in progress uses three languages: English (most of it), German (here and there), and Franco-Arabic (it is what you probably think it is). I was under the impression from previous reading that some or many foreign words that were actual foreign language words and not common loanwords (i.e., “taco”) should be italicized. But doing some Google poking there’s some different opinions and no hard and fast rules.

My particular problem is that, as I said, the foreign words are dialogic, not narrative. I’m not a fan of inserting foreign phrases during narration when it’s not basic and descriptive (“Her hijab wafted up in the wake of his forceful gas-passing.”), both in my writing and with others. It comes off as a cheap shortcut to variate writing flow but I’m sure there are some cases when it’s warranted.

I started out with one rule: definitely italicize are words/phrases that are homographic to an English word, like sine, as in sine wave, and sine of the Latin usage. Context can help clarify—i.e., “sine wave” and “sine qua non”—but not always.

Here’s probably the best set of guidelines I came across:

1. If only one unfamiliar foreign word or brief phrase is being used, italicize it.
2. If an entire sentence or passage of two or more sentences appear in a foreign language, type the passage in plain type and put the passage in quotation marks.
3. If the foreign word is a proper noun, do not italicize it.
4. If you are using two foreign words or phrases, one familiar and one unfamiliar, italicize both of them for consistency and appearance.
5. Common Latin words and abbreviations like etc., et al., and ibid. need not be italicized. An exception is sic, which should be italicized and placed in square brackets.

So, taking this advice, in one certain case in my book:

We have a saying back home: Was du allein wissen willst, das sage niemand. If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it to anyone.”

Would be, using rule 2 above:

We have a saying back home: ‘Was du allein wissen willst, das sage niemand.’ If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it to anyone.”

THe problem with these rules is that, while reading from now on, I’m going to be unduly noting all the italicized/non-italicized foreign words. Language be trippin’.

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Jesus Was Invented By Rome, Why Not?

IKEA's assembly instructions are always confusing.

IKEA’s assembly instructions are always confusing.

Old, old news by now, but there’s another guy claiming Jesus was invented by Rome in order to appeal to the occupied Jewish population, and he has suspiciously non-peer-reviewed evidence to prove it. That a nation would go to such great lengths and expense to play pattycake-nice with (or a joke on) people who where more or less second-rate citizens for is unclear. But it’s clear that if a subject normally dealt with in the academic realm happens to bounce over to the documentary realm, then caveat vigilem:

Sometime in the mid 70s AD, Atwill suggests, Greco-Roman intellectuals wrote the now-well-known stories—in Greek, not the popular Aramaic of the Judaic populace—about the Jewish messiah who defied the Judaic traditions of militancy to preach a sweet, accommodationist message.

Explained in better detail better here, but the fake historical Jesus theories arrive and depart in Internet-rhythm cycles with varying degrees of marketing stickiness and profitability, due to the abbreviated long-term memory of consumers and a circadian need for world-scale scandal. The last really profitable one was the The da Vinci Code installment—other ones haven’t fared as well, I think. I don’t prefer to keep close track of rehashed material.

But if the evidence is “overwhelming” (evidence that scholars for centuries have somehow missed), the amount of ‘splainin’ to do is of equal magnitude. Immense, undeniable revisionism doesn’t sprout in a vacuum—there’s a despot’s harem-sized ton of things that need to be explained via logic at the first level, then historically at the next level, before they can be taken seriously.

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Desire the End

This came up on a randomized Youtube playlist I was streaming on cred.fm, and it reminded me of how much I liked the lyrics.

There’s not a whole lot there, and I get that the music isn’t the first choice of everyone who reads my posts, but it encapsulates the view the church should have of this world (beyond repair) vs. the next one (perfected).

I desire the end
The touch of armageddon
This world encased in flames
Bodies lie beneath fallen kingdoms

I walk on fallen kingdoms
I desire the end
I desire the new beginning

Featured image painting by kari c.

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Food Chain Makes Jesus Wafer Burger, Some People are Allegedly Pissed

Via Metalsucks here. A specialty burger at Kuma’s Corner has a communion wafer as a garnish. A Catholic foodie blogger (ugh) reacted negatively.

From the Director of Operations at Kuma’s:

“People have been kind of upset,” he said. “The thing with this is, the communion wafer is unconsecrated, so until that happens, it’s really just a cracker.”

The guy seems to have a better grasp of Catholic teaching on communion wafers than the Catholic guy. It’s just a wafer. If someone in Kuma’s supply chain management successfully procured consecrated wafers for the burgers, God has the ability, if I remember high school religion class correctly, to redact the consecration.

Aside from the grumpy foodie guy, though, there’s probably not a really big uproar about it. Just another inflated news story.

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Why God Killed All Those Egyptian Babies

Old page (a decade old!), but it does a good job of laying out some bare historical facts and estimates on the background of the “creeping death” plague from Exodus:

As in many of the skeptical questions I get, the conclusion they end up with is often correct in some basic sense (i.e., ‘we should not worship a vengeful God who slaughters innocent children’), but the reasoning which leads up to the conclusion doesn’t indicate that the conclusion applies to the biblical God. In other words, their ethics are okay, but their exegesis (and sometimes hermeneutic or theology is mistaken).

The key concept here is context. Remember: at that time there was no scripture, no theological framework on which to reference. Moses, growing up as Egyptian royalty, was probably educated in what those Hebrew slaves believed but there wasn’t much written down. God more or less had to work directly with people, which means most anything He did or commanded was very personal and situational.

I disagree somewhat with Glenn Miller Orchestra’s conclusion. He said God was working well within “propriety”. But he’s answering the wrong criticism. God may have been working within “propriety”; we don’t know what He said to pharaoh though I think there was some communication going on there, but it’s a strange suggestion. God literally doesn’t give a damn about propriety but perhaps, in a sense, would play the game when convenants are concerned.

On a lighter note, enjoy Metallica’s rather accurate thrash-narrative of the Exodic plague cycle.

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