Dissolving calcium carbonate (aka chalk) is cooler than I thought it would be. One drop of concentrated hydrochloric acid makes it go *ffzzz*. Another drop and *fzzz*. A squirt makes large bubbles and *ffffzzzzzzzzzzzz*. And after I put in the entire 3 mL capacity of the plastic pipette, I swirled around the solution, and there were even more *ffzzz*! Internally, I was giggling after every *fffzzz*. At first, the powder looked like it was being bombarded by bombs. Then it looked like paste. Then, it looked like milk. Now it is looking like murky white water. Except now, the fascination of hearing the *fzzz* is gone and replaced with boredom as I get tired of sitting behind the fume hood with the stuffy neoprene glove dripping acid and drop at a time for 1 hour all so that I can dissolve just a handful of white powder. And guess what? It takes forever to dissolve that thing. Not cool.
A few days ago, I had a conversation in skepchick comments about atheism. I tried to ignore it, but it has been bothering me. Note, the post from skepchick in general doesn’t have to do with atheism, it has more to do with skeptics who exclude people. But still, I can’t help but think some of the commenters argued against atheist strawman. Honestly, coming from such an intelligent group of people, it amazes me how dissonant their ideas of skepticism can be when atheism come into play. Not that they aren’t a bunch of wonderful people, because they are wonderful, and I do not wish to drive you away from them, since everyone there have intelligent discussions, and not so serious really funny ones. Sure, sometimes we have conflicts, but overall, we are all friendly towards each other. But there are also weaknesses which I want to expose, and I hope that by doing so, I can strengthen the movement.
The weakness has to do with some people in the group who criticize atheists and the sheer hypocrisy of some of their criticism. For those of you who don’t know, skeptics hope to educate people about the nature of this world and the weakness of our mind which perceives it, and at the same time, fighting falsehoods which may or may not threaten people’s life. Basically, skeptics search to nail down the truth, even though the truth is not absolute or transparent, but approximate. But at least we try. And oh boy, when a skeptic fight against a brand of magical woo woo, you better watch out, because they are going to kick your ass. And that is what they do to EVERY SINGLE BRAND OF WOO… except for some people, religion. And when religious skeptic people become cognitively dissonant, or when some atheist skeptic becomes uncomfortable because they are afraid of… something, they shove us the strawman atheists that supposedly hate theists and are trying to expel them from the group. If you ask me, that is the same type of persecution mentality that fundamentalists exhibit, except scaled down x1000 (nothing can be greater than the persecution complex of a religious fundy 🙂 ).
Now, let me tell you something about atheists. Atheists may be loud, they may be overly critical, but as far as I can tell, that is nothing the skeptic movement haven’t done against woo woo. Look at these example from Phil Plait or the sheer amount of ass kicking James Randi has done or the logorrheic insolence from Orac. Which is why, again, it amazes me that seemingly intelligent people accuse the atheists for being too aggressive and hostile. Are you kidding me? I bet you that every single one of those criticisms coming from the people linked above sound exactly like hostility to those who are at the receiving end of it, calling them “suppression” and “censorship.” But you know deep down, or above up (I don’t know how else to say the opposite of deep down 🙂 ), that their complaints are a bunch of crap, stupid and cowardly in design. Criticism is not censorship, nor does it mean that you are excluding a group of people. It means that certain arguments have flaws, and those flaws shouldn’t be ignored. What do atheists do? They do exactly the same thing, criticize religion for what it is. What most atheists don’t do is exclusion, because we all understand that we are not perfect. Nor do atheists expect everyone to fight against religion or every single brand of woo. Everyone has their blind spots and specialties, and that the human mind is inflexible in many cases. In a recent comment from PZ in his own post, he explains it the best:
Yes, we all have our blind spots and special cases…which is why it is important for the skeptical community to be consistent and not grant special exemptions for certain weird beliefs, and it’s also why skeptics can’t exclude individuals from that community for weird beliefs. If we did, there would be no skeptics!
In that case, it is important that we invite people, even if they have certain irrationalities like believing in psychics, because our purpose is to not only fight, but educate while doing so. And if the psychic person wants to fight certain woo woo, that is fine, but when the conversation ever gets to things about his beliefs, he shouldn’t expect us to make special exceptions to his beliefs. While I believe politeness is important, the right application of criticism is also important. That way, we all educate each other, and cover for each others’ blindness.
If you became a skeptic to seek comfort, I am sorry, but if so, you are in the wrong place. Often times, hearing criticism of your own beliefs can be mentally painful, especially if you grew up with it. Especially if it is religion, because religion tend to be more ingrained in one’s identity. If so, the mere existence of atheists, especially atheists with voices, are offensive and threatening to one’s identity. But if the only things you look for as a skeptic are ideas which conform or help other people to conform to your own ideas of how the world is supposed to work, then what is the point? A skeptic is supposed to challenge world views, change one’s own or other people’s minds , go against unreasonable and inhuman cultural norms (criticizing religion is a mores in many parts of America, which is in part why some atheists fight religion), or fight against the creeping advance of pseudoscience which could cost others their money, happiness, and lives. I am not suggesting that skeptics should be unhappy. After all, skepticism is a tool, and whether you become happy by it (I am) or lose faith in humanity and become grumpy (me too, somewhat) depends on each individual. Rather, I am suggesting that you should apply consistency to your skepticism, or rather, allow others to apply consistency to their skepticism and let them criticize you when the conversation comes up. Even if that very idea is your religious belief. Let criticism fly!
For another take, read from Shaun Philly, which I wholeheartedly agree with.
Recently, there has been a tremor (from Skepchick) in the internet among skeptics and whoever might have heard of the sensationalistic headline that Richard Dawkins was going to arrest the pope, who is visiting to England. Well, it’s not like he is going to go and arrest the pope personally, but he and Christopher Hitchens support the idea that the pope should not be above the law, and that he indeed should face justice.
Honestly, I don’t know what the big fuzz is. I am totally for that idea. Not even a religious person with a conscience could reject this one. The pope has been personally responsible for aiding and abetting child molesters and obstructing justice. If a priest was found to have molested children, basically that person would be moved around to other areas and make sure to hush up everyone involved. Not only does that sound like something a criminal organization would do (which by the way, I believe the Catholic Church to be one), if a person doing this was not part of a religious organization, that person would have probably been brought to court and jailed. I don’t see how anyone could disagree with this.
I have heard of stupid excuses like, “they are too powerful, bwaaa!” Yes they are, which is why we have to try harder. Not to mention that there has been previous instances of leaders being arrested, like Pinochet. If people are vocal enough, at least the British people won’t have to pay the extravagant cost for the pope’s visit to England. Yeah, you heard that right. The Vatican is not paying any of it even though they probably have enough money to feed the world or something. And really, the whole child molestation thing is not even the pope’s biggest crime. In my opinion, the pope’s worst crime against humanity is his contribution to the AIDS epidemic in Subsaharan Africa, which kills millions. Basically, he is actively working against the use of condoms for sexuality, and why is that? Apparently, every sexual act has to be done in order to birth a child, and condoms prevent that. And I used think Christianity was above such petty mideaval reasoning (well, at least most religious people are above it… hopefully). After all, I have heard Christians say that certain moralities are appropriate for certain times in order to justify the horror of the Old Testament. Apparently, that is not true, since to them, morality is something you have to follow as written or commanded. For them, it is not something you do for human decency. And that is the ultimate irony, since according to them, without God there is no morality, but it turns out that those who are moral don’t need God as an excuse. They do it because they feel like it.
In the end, think of it this way. By arresting the pope, justice would be served, and it would be the beginning of a major restructuring of the church. You think we don’t have hope? That is the exact same attitudes that have prevented justice or reforms prevailing in the past. While I think the chances aren’t too good either, fighting can create change, even if slooowwwly. At the very least more people will hear about the depravities of the organization. Pfftt… “Sensationalistic.” Rubbish. People are always offended with something.
Sorry for the rant, folks, but this issue has been making me mad to no end. That is why I hate the news, even though I sadistically torture myself with them everyday. They always manage to give me high blood pressure in one way or another (I am going to die young, I swear) either because they are full of propaganda and news acting, or because so many stories are chock full of morons who make the wrong choice (like a certain pope whose hat complements his clownishness).
So, random deviation aside, who is with me?!
There is a video that has been released on an intelligence squared debate on whether “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world“. Of course, I call BS on that. I believe that this position is indefensible. But what do people think, and do they support my conclusions? Well, just see the shift of opinions after the debate:
Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens owned them, both awesomelly in their own way. Look at their faces, so happy… From what I heard, it is one of the largest intelligence squared margins ever, in not, the largest. Not that popularity is evidence for a position, so why not watch the debate via the link above and convince yourself?
Here is the first part of the debate:
Yesterday, I tasted sweet freedom. I was happy.
Why is that, you may ask? Well, you see, due to unforseen circumstances, including the screw up of a lawyer, me and my family ended up undocumented status even though we have social security numbers and all. So as of now, we are in the process of applying for residenship… again. Well, meanwhile, I am attending college with out of state ratings without federal aid since I am undocumented. Thankfully, they had a scholarship which was supposed to pay for my college. Well, yesterday, I found out that it only covers the in state costs, so my family had to pay the rest out of their pockets. Thankfully, we had a way to register as instate through paperwork, which meant that we could even have refund.
But before we filed the paperwork, I had a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach, a panic rising through my chest, a feeling of total loss of control. A similar terrible feeling happened when I found out that the lawyer cancelled the application for residency, and that our visas expired, which meant there was a chance we would be deported if things didn’t work out (although the plan for Spain or Korea sounded nice). I tell you, feeling secure in one’s future, and then loosing that security is a blow. It feels like you are a prisoner of fate. It was meant to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. Not that I believed that, and especially not my father. But that feeling was strong, allright? The problem is to make sure to not succumbing to the feeling, keep a cool mind, and do something about it. Thanksfully, a solution was within my grasps.
For a brief moment, I felt an intense relief, and then joy. I was free for now. Problem solved, the worry was gone for a while. I want that feeling of security again, forget about the worries. Now, I know that life isn’t perfect, and there will always be obstacles, but I want a semblance of stability. Although I don’t want just mere feelings, I want stability to be a reality, which is not something my family has. My parents are almost 50 (although remaining strong, I might add) and they still have to work over 8 hours everyday to get enough money for the necessities and everything else. When I stop freeloading and get a secure position someday, hopefully as an influential astronomer, teacher, and writer (hey, I can have dreams too, okay? ^_^), that will be the day when I will make sure they won’t have to work from morning ’till evening.
I want us to be free from the burden of our thoughts.
Often times, I like to think of Poe’s Law of absurdity, which according to rationalwiki: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing”
Another way to describe it is:
As limit of fundamentalism approaches infinity,
A being the absurdity values.
I know I know, putting it in math notation is useless, but I like math expressions. ^_^
Although I don’t think it has to be necessarily a fundamentalist idea, but any idea so absurd as to render satire meaningless. But then again such ideas seem to be fundamentalist in nature, so I come back full circle. Such ideas are inherently fundamentalist, I guess. That is the thing about extremist views, though. It does exactly what satire does, it takes a horrible premise, and takes its logic to the furthest extreme possible, which is why satire and fundamentalist views are so similar. This is something slacktivist writes much better than I do, so I recommend you go there.
The reason I am doing this post is that I have been thinking hard about this. It seems like there truly is no limit to the absurdity that people will go through in order to maintain their belief. For some reason, this disturbs me greatly. Especially because I can’t understand their mindset, I can’t empathize, there is no way for me to see their point of view. It feels completely unphysical, as if something so absurd as that shouldn’t exist, and yet, they do. Take the following video, for example, of Colbert “supporting” Glenn Beck:
Vodpod videos no longer available. In that video, Colbert, which is a satire, compares Beck’s own performance to his. See how eerie it is to see Colbert compares himself to Beck? Beck feels and looks like a satire. The thing is, if Beck is dishonest and he is lying about his sincerity, that just makes him another Poe, albeit a dangerous one. You see, there are millions who watch Beck, and believe it is actual news. Can you see how astonishing that is? It implies that people are watching actual satires, and thinking that is news. Even if Beck is sincere, the implication of such is disturbing. The masses are unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, finding comfort in maintaining their beliefs, acting selfishly at the expense of others. Also, the thing is, there are tons of other people who support crazy right wing policies like him, not only from the general public, but people at the position of authority. Plus, when you find that there are people who think that a measly 2 ton spacecraft can alter the orbit of a giant ball of rock, I can’t help it, but find myself depressed. And that is the kind of situation we find ourselves in 21st century America.
Look at the following video, it is something you can’t possibly make up:
Once again, if you take Republican logic of voting against the bill that would prevent rape in defense contractor workplaces to its full extent, yes, they are supporting rape, or they just don’t care. Such position is so indefensible, it is a wonder that they are not being fired at this very moment. At this time, I come wondering, what if not only is the absurdity of fundamentalism=satire, what if there is no singularity, what if fundamentalist absurdity is so ridiculous it can’t possibly be a satire? Because if it were a satire, it would be such a ridiculously unclever satire. Or it could be a point in which the fundamentalist idea reaches to the absurdity before a satirist even has a chance, or even beats the full extent of the ridiculous outcome of the satire. in which case, we are almost there. I call that hypothetical point the Poe’s equillibrium. It is like a black hole’s event horizon, or the chandrasekhar’s limit, it is extremely hard to reach, but once there, the results are quiet explosive (spaghettification AKA rack extremo and supernova, respectively).
Of course, there is a cure for all of that, and that is a good education and skepticism. Unfortunately, those doesn’t seem to be a high priority for these people, and they delightfully relish in their ignorance. Ignorance is good, knowledge is bad. After all, experts are just corporate shills. Who needs experts when you have got the “University of Google.” Irony escapes them because while accusing others of being shills, they themselves are shills, gaining money using bogus facts and evidence.
Seriously, humanity can’t get any more disappointing.
I have a physics notebook, and not only do I write the usual class notes, but I also wrote a lot of derivations. Now, the notebook is becoming somewhat annoying. If I want to fit in something else in the section a topic is on, I have to squeeze. When I erase things, the graphite smears all over and once I make a million mistakes, the spot is messy. Also, as I started adding more and more things, many sections became disorganized. So, I want to add some order and cleanliness to them. I have thought of rewriting my notes on my computer, but the softwares I have don’t write equations. But I know one place that can write equations, and that is a wordpress blog. So, the question is, should I make an effort to grab my notes and transcribe it in a separate blog? Hmmm…