Fallout

There’s this phrase about being careful what you wish for. If only someone had been around to remind me of it when I said to David Gerard “Aw hell, just drop it on Reddit to make sure that prophecy of it biting me in the ass comes true”. Because, for a blog that ticks over with between 0 and 5 views per day, shooting up to around 20 when I link it to Facebook, I’ve just had it hit with around 17,000 27,000 31,000 35,000. For a day or so, I was surfing through a tempest in a Reddit-shaped teapot. A small blip in grander terms of what gains traction on the internet (and now consigned to a bin of forever-forgotten blog posts), but quite the Black Swan event from my perspective, since I thought it would never gain any traction at all.

What have I learned?

Well, frankly, that most people “liked” the overly-verbose, profanity-ridden, borderline-psychotic rant that came to me after seeing one-too-many Creationist “refutations” of what I was trying to say (the individual post that triggered it wasn’t even a refutation). People mostly grokked the point; that it was wild venting, intentionally and ambitiously offensive, and that the over-the-top ego-boosting was, in fact, an act. This is reassuring. It was written for those people more than the hypothetical recipient(s). Writing like a character from The Thick of It is arduous, I’m pleased the effort wasn’t wasted.

I do like some of the calls of “you’re my new hero”. That’s nice. Though, while I’m sure you’re being rhetorical, please don’t put me up on a pedal stool, I’ll only disappoint like a damp squid.

But there are negatives. About 20% or so, which is not insignificant. I’ll quote or paraphrase them below.

That was a long verbose self-aggrandizing way to just say “creationists are stupid, I’m really smart.”

Yes, yes it was.

This reads as tripe designed to inflate the ego of the writer at the supposed expense of the Creationist. All of the–I can only call it wanking–doesn’t further any logical end, nor does it reveal anything about the ridiculous nature of today’s Creationism.

Complaining that publishing a venomously cathartic rant doesn’t further a logical end is like complaining that J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy does nothing to further our knowledge of the social structure of 16th Century Mongolia. If creationism today is ridiculous, then I merely added to the ridicule. Vehement and rather disgusting, if slightly ad hoc, ridicule, but ridicule nonetheless. This was intentional – and, if I remember rightly, noted as such.

As for the ego-inflating or self-aggrandizing parts, well, that accomplished two things. Firstly, personal catharsis; I suffer the same impostor complex as practically every other grad student in the universe, I have to get it out there that I’ve done something with my life if even just for personal benefit. Secondly, to demonstrate I do have the qualification to know what I’m doing when it comes to science. So many angry rants exist out there just come across as pathetic because at no point do we get a feel for why the author should have a right to feel so superior.

Wow, you really need to get laid…. and for goodness sake, get a girlfriend(or boyfriend, I do not judge).

Argumentum ad cellarium. Usually employed by people who almost certainly have less sex than their targets. Though, quite clearly this person is judging, because their comment is highly bigoted towards asexuals. That’s not very nice, you know.

[from someone who copy-pasted the rant] The internet is public domain… when a person lists their thoughts on that public domain and someone else thinks “Right on” and promotes that thought in some way… well… I’m expanding his audience free of charge.

Actually, copyright infringement is a strict liability offence, meaning that all cases of unlicensed replication of intellectual property is an illegal infringement upon the right of the originator to control the copy and distribution (and modification) of the original work. BUT, as no money is involved and no loss of income (as much as I would love to be paid to rant like an arsehole all day) can be demonstrated, such an infringement would be a civil, rather than criminal act. In short, I’d have to sue for it to mean anything. But I don’t care, I really don’t. Have at it. Translate it, do what you like. I should release this stuff under CC-BY-SA or something, but I’m not sure that’s entirely appropriate for my purposes.

I will point out that “in a public place” is not the same as public domain. That’s a very specific legal term that an author needs to expressly release their work into. People need to stop mixing these up. Please.

Then again, having read the comments on that article… well, I’m kinda pleased it was a copy-paste job, I just couldn’t have dealt with that much derp appearing here.

when steam is coming out of your head, is exactly the time when you should NOT be writing and publishing, unless you want to do severe damage to your own cause

Writing coherent vitriol is actually quite difficult. You need to be in a mood of sorts, sure, but you also need to be focused. I’ve had experience of losing it, and then writing and submitting quickly, and suffering the fallout and regret of it. This was not one of those times. The first draft was, I’ll admit, but that was saved and then worked on. In reality everything was said in a (relatively) calm and deliberate fashion; building up layers, expanding insults further, and challenging the boundaries of my own personal taste. I wasn’t hammering away at a keyboard like a lunatic – I simply can’t keep that sort of thing up for more than a paragraph.

Live and let live provided no one forces their views on you.

Well, I don’t force my “views” on people. A view is like “The Phantom Menace was terrible” – okay, bad example as The Phantom Menace is terrible, but still. So, sure, I can let another view live easily enough. Arguing about opinions, which have no objective basis in reality, is an embarrassment to human intelligence.

What I prefer is for people to honestly appraise evidence for something where it’s presented. If you can present evidence for something, it’s not really an opinion. The universe doesn’t care what we think or believe – we can stop believing in things and it wouldn’t automatically make them untrue, and on the other hand there are other things that would outright disappear if we stopped believing in them. Consider “gravity pulls things towards the Earth at about 9.8 ms-2” and “we should wear clothes because nakedness is shameful”. That’s the difference.

But there are people who flip this around. They conflate fact and opinion, and make it look as if actual facts – the things that “are” regardless of our belief in them – are subject to opinion, or a vote, or are malleable with respect to this bizarre concept of a “worldview”. They pass or try to pass legislation to help them with this. To deny the existence homosexuality and to brainwash kids into thinking it’s objectively wrong; to say that evolutionary biology is “just a theory” and that their personal specific religious story is equally valid in scientific terms; or to put God in schools with no room for other beliefs; or to remove funding from climatologists because they discovered an inconvenient truth. None of those things are opinions that we should “let live”. I won’t apologise for treating such people with the contempt they bring on themselves.

The first post is the one that grabs my attention, and his/her use of the word “atheistists?” In correlation of the word evolutionist. What a dumbass. If you are trying to “prove” a point, use real words you ignoramus.

I’m just adding this one because, pray tell, what is a “real” word? After all, “evolutionist” isn’t a “real” word – there is no -ism behind evolutionary biology so I can’t be an -ist, it’s not an ideology, it’s not an optional personality cult. Clearly, the writer of this particular comment understood this absurdity, otherwise they wouldn’t have spotted the correlation between the unnecessary -ist on the end of evolution and the doubly unnecessary -ist on the end of atheist.

Now, if you want to deride a rich tradition of manipulating arbitrary vowels and consonants in a creative way to demonstrate points in new ways, in favour of a rigorous and unyielding prescriptive use of words in only their arbitrarily decreed “correct” way, then you’re not only reading the wrong blog, you’re using the wrong language – as this is simply how English as we know it today… hmmm, how do I put this… evolved.

Also, the use of “dumbass” here triggers the red squiggly line in my spell checker, so please, use “real” words if you’re going to try making a point!

Oh, and it’s ignorami, obviously…

seems like a sad rant from someone with anger management issues. I begrudge no one their beliefs (lest they hurt others), but to brand all creationists as slack-jawed yokels who deserve to die seems brazenly ignorant and vile.

I can’t see anywhere in the rant where I say people “deserve to die”. In fact, if you really want to know, I don’t think anyone deserves to die. My views on killing and intentionally causing death are based around the necessity of the act, not the apparent worthiness of the victim. If you care (which you almost certainly don’t) you can read a more thorough opinion on the subject here.

 it would actually be more powerful and funny if he went back now and edited it so that less profanity etc.

You’re fucking kidding, right? That was, like, the entire point.

can’t spell mechanics, though

Only really including this to introduce Skitt’s Law. And a rather nice example of Skitt’s Law it is, too, as this particular complaint lacks capital letters and a full stop! (well, it’s funny if you’re me…)

But seriously, I like to make a distinction between “can’t spell” and “typo”. Writing “mechaincs” rather than “mechanics” (corrected with an edit button, just like, you know, science corrects itself) isn’t quite in the same vein as the egregious errors I was thinking of. I’ll mock when people make horrific errors and repeatedly do so, I’m not actually a Grammar Nazi most of the time. I leave that to someone else I know, but I always get my own back on him by intentionally mixing up “clip” and “magazine”.

I want to meet this guy and give him a big, sloppy kiss straight on the mouth… He’ll probably run away, severely disturbed, but it would be worth it.

I’d only feel disturbed if I felt that, at the time (I can’t guarantee anything in advance), I felt my personal space was disturbed without my informed consent. I’m fairly open and liberated, so I wouldn’t be necessarily disturbed by the thought nor action of hot, sweaty, saliva-drenched, sloppy, stubble-on-stubble, man-on-man snogging. I’m straight, though, so it just wouldn’t mean anything. Sorry.

I’m sure it was therapeutic to write, but regarding ignorance vs. stupidity he’s wrong – almost always, creationists are ignorant of evolution and some of them would accept it if they were introduced to it correctly…

I contest this heavily. No matter how many times we try to say “no one says evolution works like that” and post either a correction or a link to a correction, the same thing will crop up again later. Often immediately in response. The fact that “ducks don’t give birth to zebras” doesn’t disprove evolution – and, in fact, is an actual demonstration of it – hasn’t percolated down at all. There are countless people who have ventured into Ray Comfort territory to correct him on basic facts. The sheer weight of numbers suggests at least one person will have phrased it in such a way for him to understand. He clearly doesn’t understand, or, as I would argue, doesn’t want to understand. As I said in the original rant, there’s a difference between ignorance and wilful ignorance. I only take issue with the latter. Once you’re actually keen to learn why there are still monkeys, you’re fine. This is emphatically not something we see coming from the top brass of creationism.

Interestingly enough, religious people generally don’t score lower on measures of intelligence from the population average. Somehow even intelligent people can believe wrong, strange, unlikely or superstitious things.

This is true. Though I wasn’t really aiming it at religious people. I was aiming it specifically at creationists, and creationists that use long refuted arguments or intentionally misrepresent evolutionary biology to further their cause.

I can bring this briefly back to the IQ test; this is a test that is designed as a statistical proxy to measure the general intelligence of a population. Every single qualifier in that last sentence is very important, and once you step outside that, the test fails. Scoring highly doesn’t indicate much (everyone on the internet seems to have an IQ of 135). You still need to do a lot of reading to get to grips with complex ideas – they don’t just magically come to you for scoring highly on the IQ test. You need more than just that “raw brain power” associated with a high IQ, if the IQ test even means just “raw brain power”.

Consider as an analogy the reasons why the Ariel Atom (500 bhp) went around the Top Gear test track faster than the Bugatti Veyron (987 bhp). You’ve got to get that power and apply it to the road. With good handling, a good weight-to-power ration, a good transmission and so on. Now, enough petrolhead metaphors. In this case, if you think the planet is 6,000 years old because cats don’t give birth to zebras despite scoring highly on a thinking test, then solving the nine-dot-problem clearly hasn’t helped your thinking skills.

Heh, I get it….sigh Even though I agree with them entirely I still feel like they’d look down on me too because I’m not all that smart either, religion or no religion. ._.

I don’t actually.

Ugh. I hated this. Just mean for the sake of mean. If you consider that religions have been around for a very long time and that most people have been followers of one or another, then you realize that plenty of religious people have been very smart, intelligent, and capable.

What part of this being aimed at creationist – and young earth,  Biblically literalist ones at that – have some people out there been incapable of understanding? I really don’t understand this. Seriously, go to that rant, use “ctrl-F” for the find function and look up all the instances of “god”, or “atheism”, or “religion”. There is nothing there bashing the merely religious. I should know, I wrote it.

Sure, intelligent people have been religious, and more intelligent people than me have been religious (Copleston comes to mind).  But this is not even remotely related to the deceitful and willfully ignorant nature of modern creationism. Was Isaac Newton (I’ll straw man a typical example) a believer and a creationist? Yes, sure. But Isaac Newton died in 1727. I would no more lambast him for being ignorant of modern geology and evolutionary biology than I’d lambast him for being ignorant of quantum mechanics. I’d lambast him for his crackpot alchemy days, but that would be because even by Newton’s time alchemy was pretty much the discredited hokum we know it as today.

If you want to find me ranting at the religious in general, it’s probably out there somewhere for you to froth over. But please, cite those examples and be specific to them, rather than make up an entirely imaginary slight against religion that has nothing to do with what I wrote in the piece that gained all the attention.

Well, at some point back in time the entire human species came from a single male and female at one point, somehow the inbreeding didn’t kill us.

This was in response to the fact that Adam + Eve = inevitable incest. The thing is, the Biblical story states that only two humans were alive at the time, and so the breeding population must, if not line-bred back with the mother, be all brother-sister relationships. This is not the same thing as being able to trace ancestry back to the same two individuals in an evolutionary system. I don’t even want to take the time out to correct it, but here it is: Imagine a single person has two children; each of those two kids pairs off and has two kids, each of those does too… and so on. Eventually a single person will have 4, 8, 16, 32… descendants until this number explodes exponentially to be greater than the whole population. In short, statistically speaking that original person is an ancestor of every living human (in fact, this only takes just under two millennia or so). BUT, we do not instantly conclude that the original person was part of the only couple on the planet and that all of their offspring took part in direct brother-sister incest. In fact, because we worked forward in the example, we know it isn’t.

There should be more dicks. I would love to stand at the door of every church in my town and hand this rant out as leaflets to all who enter…

I don’t think this is a good idea. A big sweary rant from me is a rare thing. In the countless pages of tripe I’ve submitted to the world, big sweary rants have happened 3 or 4 times. And not without good reason; it would get stale and boring if everything I wrote was “fuck this” and “fuck that”. At best, people would just learn to ignore it and no matter what you said you’d slide into irrelevance pretty quick. Such things don’t convince, they alienate.

I’d like to, sure. But I’d like to do a lot of things. I would like to have a week-long S&M orgy with Anne Hathaway, Mila Kunis, Emilia Clarke, Samantha Barks and Eva Green, but that’s neither realistic nor am I taking any steps to make it realistic. So while I’d like to just stop thinking and just viciously call out creationists for the moronic bullshitters that they are, the simple fact is that I am not doing that. I’m not posting this rant on multiple creationist Facebook pages, or emailing it to them at every opportunity. That wouldn’t accomplish anything, and I hope no one attempts to do this in my name.

If I were

The sources I can find say that the were/was distinction is more a case of being formal/informal, than absolutely incorrect. “Was” seems to be considered a colloquialism used mostly in speech, whereas “were” should be used formally in writing where off-the-cuff colloquial speech patterns don’t limit what you tend to say and how you pronounce it (such as how people pronounce “then” but mean “than”, although at least was/were is the same verb rather than a different thing entirely). Further, the distinction doesn’t damage the semantics in the transfer of an idea from one brain to another; meaning is preserved through either variation and so the linguistic prescription isn’t necessary. See also the distinction between prescriptivist and descriptivist linguistics.

But frankly, in a blog post with that much swearing and psychotic piss-taking, this should be the very least of your worries. If this is the one problem you find so weighty as to bring it up, then you have some Issues that need addressed.

But you ARE a dick … you have issues … you’re full of hate…

I’ve saved this one for last because it’s a general paraphrasing of multiple things and is something I’m about to sermonise about.

That was one post. It was 3,000+ words (I feel bad…) but it was one post. Trying to use that one post to infer anything about me is, well, being a bit silly at best, and being a fundamentally hypocritical, judgemental moron at worst. The majority of people saying this sort of thing fall well between those extremes, though.

Sure, it’s a fair accusation that I acted in the manner of a total douchebag by writing a rant (I recommend E-Prime for these kinds of problems). I’ll throw my hands up and admit it, because it was mostly the point – the point being that this is precisely what I do not do at every opportunity. You have an entire blog to peruse to find out more (I know from the WordPress stats that people haven’t, nor do I blame them), or a substantial number of contributions to RationalWiki to judge me on. For all you know, I could have been writing in character (many people do that; the Nostalgia Critic, the Pub Landlord, Stewart Lee, Miranda Sings, just to name a few off the top of my head) and you would have still extrapolated an accusation from a single data point and made a generalised assumption based on it.

Anyway, I hope you got something out of it.

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12 thoughts on “Fallout

  1. Great follow-up. I’m particularly happy that you didn’t bother addressing that one tl;dr essay of a response one creationist wrote in the comments section that essentially just reciprocated your rant, but with what felt like twice as many words (of incoherent pro-creationist nonsense.) I’m not being sarcastic; anybody that responds with what can be summarized as “no u” just isn’t worth any publicity.

    Reply
    • I think I read all of it…. I can’t quite remember. I’ve certainly forgotten most of the content, though. I wouldn’t have minded if it was vaguely coherent, but it just wasn’t. I’m sorry for not having deleted it and having wasted a lot of peoples’ bandwidth having to download it whether they liked to or not.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for the rant and this eloquent follow up . I have often desired to possess such skill in verbal discourse , hat’s off to you sir !

    Reply
  3. Personally, I thought the rant was great, it was humorous in some places, insightful in others, and quite cathartic. It did show, in a few places, that you weren’t entirely serious with what all you were saying, as it felt as if you were reaching, from time to time, to be offensive, but all in all it was a good read. Thank you for making it and sharing it with us. It did make me wish I could give you a hug, much as I do most people who have had to deal with creationists. I wish you well.

    Reply
    • I’m glad someone managed to spot that! No, it isn’t actually an “outpouring of anger” as people assume. It was crafted fairly rapidly, sure, but there were 3-4 passes over the entire thing to send it more over the top. I think if I had left it at the first draft it would have come across as more serious than intended and people would have been right to judge it negatively.

      The length is the price everyone had to pay for that overkill, though. For which I apologise.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: What I would say to creationists if I was more of a dick | Spherical Bullshit

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