Month: November 2013

Polywater Science

News Flash: Scientists are human, too!

Above is a great article which illustrates exactly why people should remember their daily dose of skepticism whenever scientists start talking. I point this out because, first of all, science is brought in – usually in the form of dubious studies and biology lessons – when talking about social policy and other issues which should be understood as subjective and cultural by nature. Also, the political left has a strong tendency to see the science as irrevocably on its side, and therefore to characterize them too generously. Particularly when people start talking about environmental issues of all kinds, it’s scientists that are good and decent and dedicated to the truth, while businessmen have hearts as dark as the power suits they wear.

That’s just another manipulation of people’s perception. The world is, I’m quite sure, more complex than that, and while everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, we can’t even agree on how to define the right thing, let alone how to analyze human action within the context of a winning formula. In this mess, scientists are just like everyone else: self-interested, block-headed, eminently fallible.

Calling such people evil is meaningless, but calling them stupid is safer than a Volvo.

Look out for polywater science.


Gun Fundamentalism

In what’s being described as a coup against gun rights, Dick Metcalf just got himself sort of fired from Guns & Ammo for writing an article that stood in defense of gun laws.

The article about the article:

The article (copied, bad display quality):

The firing:

Now, maybe you want to take a deep breath and relax, because none of this is really a thing. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

The problem comes when discussing rights, as the Constitution comes into play because the Holy 2nd Amendment says that people have a right to keep and bear arms. As opposed to keeping and arming bears:


This is basically the problem with being a legal fundamentalist. As Metcalf pointed out, having a Constitutional right doesn’t mean that the right is unregulated, as per the usual ‘freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can scream “fire!” in a crowded movie theater’ scenario. There are limits. But gun owners, bless their hearts, get all freaked out about rights being infringed because they flatly don’t trust the democratic process to rationally regulate their rights. 

I agree with them. I know perfectly well that more gun regs are a terrible idea for a number of reasons. I know that gun owners are fighting against a group of people – liberals – who are fundamentally and severely opposed to gun ownership. They don’t want guns to exist, let alone be an available product for the average American. I also know that “well-regulated” referred to the military in the 2nd Amendment, not to gun owners generally. None of this means that guns cannot be regulated.

But you can say an awful lot about how extreme this shit has gotten from this one instance. Think about the dynamics here. One guy – ONE FUCKING GUY – says, “gun regs are okay” and suddenly it’s both a coup and a betrayal. Gun rights people are incensed. Gun control advocates think it’s the second coming of the Lord Jesus. 

And you know why. The debate here is between more and less control. The controlling side talks as if admitting that the government has the prerogative to set regulations means that they can legislate gun ownership to death. Dianne Feinstein has said this. Obama has waffled on the issue, clearly for reasons of political self-interest. Liberal mouthpiece Bill Maher has come right out and said that the 2nd Amendment is bullshit. They want guns gone.

It’s well laid out by this guy, a pro-gun liberal (yes, there is such a thing):

Gun owners know perfectly well that they don’t have “gun rights”. If they thought any such thing, there would be nothing to worry about. But with enough popular support, their “rights” can disappear, because this is a democratic country subject to effective mob rule any time someone can exploit the emotions of Joe Sixpack. They try it with every (very rare) mass shooting. With anything called a right, political strength is required to maintain it. Rights are an idea, what Richard Dawkins might call a ‘meme’. You have to keep them alive, same as with the right to speak freely and practice a religion. Any of them can go if people stop giving a shit. The reason gun owners care about what Metcalf said is because he gave – technically correct or not – hollow-point, exploding tip rhetorical ammunition to the other side of a fight by stating the obvious, sane conclusion regarding a collection of words written on parchment over two centuries ago. And sane is a bad idea when you’re fighting liberals. They use any admission of non-extremism against you.

Metcalf was correct, in theory. He didn’t say in the article, “there should be more regulations”. What he said was, gun owners need to stop being extreme about their rhetorical position. There are good reasons to believe this, namely the rather obvious fact that people on the fence or otherwise unmoved by gun issues look at the gun lobby and can very easily see a bunch of kooks. Making absurd arguments like, “Constitution says I can own all tha guns, nanny nanny boo boo!” doesn’t help. But Metcalf’s statement was still stupid as a matter of political strategy, because the survival of gun rights in America requires that gun owners be intense enough to convince the rest of the country that more attempts to destroy the 2nd Amendment aren’t worth the political cost.

Everyone in the country knows – or should know – that automatic weapons are already nearly impossible to own in America. We DO regulate guns, and I have yet to hear the NRA say that every American should own a Thompson submachine gun or an AK-47 assault rifle, let alone an M2 Heavy Barrel. Nor do they say that states must allow everyone who isn’t currently in jail to carry a boomstick wherever they go. Maybe a couple of them will support positions like that in an argument, but that’s totally a matter of staying logically consistent and winning the argument. That’s the kind of shit they have to do, because liberals will otherwise turn the argument towards, “you don’t need a gun, so you don’t have a right to a gun if it’s dangerous or offensive to others”, and that idiotic thinking would have all sorts of shit people like getting banned.

We shouldn’t even have to be discussing this, because the Constitution writers DID make it quite clear that owning a weapon is generally a good idea, or at least allowable, and I have yet to see anything which clearly points to this not being the case. What I do see are a handful of tragedies used for the sake of greater political control, knowing that there are plenty of ways to kill people en masse without using a legally owned firearm. Illegally owned firearms, for example, and there’s always diesel fuel and fertilizer. Liberals: stop trying to control shit you can’t control, at cost to people you don’t culturally identify with.

A Pointless Articulation of Faith

What to make of this?

What word describes the kind of deep-seated confusion you smell when reading something like this?

It’s hard to pin down, because it seems like an empowering, uplifting message of how weirdness is bringing together people in their love of God. But really, cut the shit. What kind of God is this? It’s certainly a Lutheran God, as Bolz-Weber has her theology right. It’s the God offering grace regardless of action, regardless of who you are, a non-judgmental God with no answers. This is what she says, no argument. It’s not supposed to be an actionable faith.

Come on, ask the obvious question: what’s the point?

You might say the point is in the belief itself, but if the belief creates no consequence, then why does it matter if they believe? Bolz-Weber assaults “spirituality” as a cheap form of self-help; bless her, she’s right. But then, what’s the big deal about God? If it isn’t to make people feel good about themselves, help them cope with reality – a la “spirituality” – then why does it matter if you believe? Why does this come off as such an alien piece to the religious fabric, while grabbing so many people who can’t see themselves as the kind of people who are religious? Why pull in the freaks and geeks

Let me just go ahead and tell you what religion is as a matter of my opinion:

In the past, religion legitimized the hierarchies and social demands of society through various types of divine narrative and mandate. In societies rife with stratification and forced discipline, where stupid people were perpetually confused and disoriented by their existence as subjects, religion offered an explanation meant to be grasped by anyone, and reinforced it through ritual that bound people together with the artistic identity of the culture they lived in.

Then, the idea left its moorings as monotheism took over, resulting in purposelessness as the paradoxes of faith failed the sniff test. What all-powerful entity would set up existence as a losing test or game for creatures he loves, knowing some will fail? This started around the Protestant Reformation. 

Religious variety required selling the faith to people, and the non-judgmentalism came gradually, as near-militant Protestant faiths built on gratitude to God for their grace gave way to institutional competition, theologies built to draw in customers like streamers at a used car dealership. No expectations of rigor sells well with a consumerist people, and we live in a world now where religion is basically expected to be what people want it to be. This is how God becomes irrelevant, taken from an shared idea with meaning to a symbol of the biblical literalist’s desperation.

But it’s really beautiful, tho!

Ah, but beauty is a subjective matter, an element of personal recognition that comes with high practical value ex post facto. If it has no practical purpose, then it’s vestigial and a waste of resources. You might not think it’s totally pointless. It helps with issues of conscience and alienation. But at this point, religion is just barely easing the pain of the side effects it’s own ideas created. The conscience element is a direct result of living in a society still surrounded by ideas of sin.  The alienation comes from living in a society which has found identity through shared ideas and faith, and then suddenly didn’t. If we know these ideas to be wrong, then why not just deal with it directly and kill them off?

We’re workin’ on it already! 

The last facet of the faith with value? Specialness. This is the idea that people grasp when they realize how disposable they are. Imagining an intangible parent figure loves you is how modern Western freaks and geeks cope with the fact that not only do they not belong, but there’s no practical reason for anyone to care. In a world of 7 billion people, what’s one more? Well, the Big Guy cares about you! God now exists for the sake of your self-esteem.

Do we have a word for this?

Yes we do.

That word is pathetic.

Religion’s value is disciplinary. The idea that God is love was, and is, the fever dream of childish ideologues. No matter how hard you market the idea, it will never make sense that an all-powerful God loves you yet still allows you to not live in a state of perpetual bliss.