Just saying…

So recently, “Psychic” Sally Morgan has settled out of court with the Daily Fail to the tune of £125,000 for accusations of fraud. Yes, it’s the Daily Mail, and no self-respecting intelligent person should ever be on their side, but in this case it is a Very Bad Thing.

Those familiar with lawsuits levied at national newspapers should be well aware of how much they cost. The suit levied against Ben Goldacre cost just over a full million when it was finally dropped – with the bill kindly picked up by The Guardian – while Simon Singh’s respective legal bill went over £200,000 just as a personal expense. In short; this shit is expensive, and it’s quite clear the Mail isn’t doing this out of any admission of guilt but to merely cut its losses. Settling for a mere eighth-of-a-million out of court is simple financial common sense.

Yet that decision hands victory over to all the known fraudulent hacks who can now trumpet this as a victory for justice and vindication of their shit – it hands them a massive weapon to wield as they fight for legitimacy in the form of persecution, rather than with evidence and clear demonstrations. With this, they can further trick their insipid fanbase (aka, gullible fraktards) into believe that what these bullshit merchants do is real without any evidence that it’s real whatsoever:

However, to libel me and falsely accuse me of a con trick does not constitute rational commentary or debate. I hope now this settlement and apology will repair the damage that has been done.

No, Sally, it doesn’t work like that. It just fucking doesn’t. Suing someone for libel does not constitute rational commentary or debate – proving yourself to not be a fraudulent hack, however, does.*

Let’s be very, brutally, honestly, frank here; people can talk to the dead all they like, but if you think they can get a response back, you’re a gullible idiot. No apologies for this, no caveats, it’s just a fact. If you think someone can get up on a stage and communicate with someone whose emergent consciousness has long since stopped functioning, then you need to get a quick, hard dose of the harsh reality that you’ve been conned.

If you have paid money for their services, you have been duped. That’s plain and simple. If you’re one of the many, many people who turned up to one of these live shows and found them to be complete and utter crap once stripped of their clever TV editing, or then found yourself at the mercy of a non-disclosure agreement to stop you coming out about it, then I’m sorry for your loss. Hopefully you learned something from it and now are slightly more weary of Nigerian princes that call you up out of the blue to offer you their fortune. If you’re one of those who continue to go back again and again and again, not only have you been duped but you have bent over and opened your anus wide and ready to accept a ton of bullshit shovelled inside you and compacted in with a heavy boot, all at your own personal expense. I have less sympathy for you. One day, you’ll get a call from Microsoft saying there’s something wrong with your PC and you’ll learn the hard way.

How can I say such harsh words so easily? Because it’s simply true. Psychics are frauds – and the evidence that they’re not can be summed up as follows:

Or in English: fuck all.

That’s not because it’s difficult to test. If I claimed I could set any object on fire with my mind, and I consistently failed to do so to any object I hadn’t physically tampered with first (as was effectively the case with Uri Gellar back in the 80s) then you’d be mighty suspicious that I was full of shit. This is no different to the position mediums and psychics are in. They can demonstrate it, because they have a claim that can be demonstrated, but evidently choose not to. And let’s not forget; mentalists can do exactly the same thing – usually better – without claiming any supernatural ability at all. While simultaneously, every time we do look behind the curtain we see, surprise surprise, the exact same techniques the non-magic mentalists talk about! What is so fucking difficult about all of this to grasp that makes people still believe in this horseshit?

But do supposedly real psychics have a motivation to submit to “scientific” testing?

Hell yes they do (unless they’re frauds, of course because that’s just embarrassing**).

Psychic Sally didn’t have to sue the Daily Heil for libel and blow two years of her life on it. She could have just proven that she wasn’t a fraud and won by default. Her winnings in this case were a nice £125,000 but this is chump change compared to the cool $1 million James Randi famously offers anyone who can prove such claims. Then there’s the $1.1 million you’d get from the Nobel Committee for re-writing physics completely. Then there’s the fame and fortune that would inevitably come from being the one psychic whose powers are as controversial as the phrase “gravity attracts”. They already rake in a fuck-ton of money from shows, phone lines, books, DVDs and so on – so the claim they’re not doing it for the money is just classing bullshittery.

It’s not difficult to prove you have an ability (I claim the ability to type, here it is!).

They have the motive to prove it (hey, starving kids could do with Randi’s cash***).

The deck is stacked highly in their favour (seriously, we want there to be psychic powers, that’s just fucking cool).

So why is no one doing any of this if they’re real? Why are we – the skeptics, the ones pointing out the elephant-in-the-room called “lack of evidence” – accused of being unreasonable, or buzzkills, or unfair, or haters, or victimisers, or closed-minded when we say that claimed psychics are full of shit? If “oh, this only applies to the fake psychics and not to the real ones” then where the fuck are these real ones? Hiding on Mars? Someone please just put me out of my misery here.

So, psychics are full of shit. Prove me wrong already.

* Then again, psychics don’t often come out and say that they’re “genuine” in such clear-cut terms. They have some interestingly worded disclaimers.

** Really, watch that video, it’s hilarious.

*** Asinine? Perhaps. But again it’s true. Mediums of the world! Starving orphans need your help! Fuckers.

Sunday School Environmentalism

For the two-and-a-half people who care, I recently added an entry to the RationalWiki quasi-official blog on Sunday School Environmentalism. Having spent a not-insignificant part of my university eduction doing environmental chemistry and studying impact metrics (even this extensive blog scratches the surface of that topic) it’s something I’m quite involved in.

Refuse in Absurdity

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at some true internet weirdos, and so I’d like to bring everyone’s attention to this one; Orgy of the Will.

It’s spectacular, isn’t it? It’s like a thing of beauty and a work of art. It’s brings satire and parody to new heights – or maybe not, since you wouldn’t necessarily want to blow that much time writing a merely satirical piece. It ticks all the boxes from extreme length, to batshit crazy asides from all the way out of left-field. There’s racism, sexism and a tiny bit of homophobia. It has it all except, perhaps, a terrible design – it’s actually quite readable.

I wouldn’t recommend going through it all – it took me a long time and a lot of professional procrastination to get through all of Time Cube – but you can get some great highlights by picking a word you just know will be in there and doing a quick Ctrl-F on it.

By the way, it is totally natural that women, by and large, are horrified by children’s deaths. What is not natural is that men have been feminized to a degree that they effectively feel the same way, and that they have allowed women’s narrowmindedness… to lay hold of the whole of society and tyrannize it with the values of small and petty creatures.

The guy isn’t a fan of women. The philosophy is to keep them down and submissive, because it’s just, you know, their place.

“Waaaaaaah, mooooooommy, he swears a lot, I don’t like him!” — I don’t like you either, fuckface. As for the swearing, Earth to flaming faget: that’s how men talk. If you don’t like it, go sit with the womenfolk.

Oh please, there’s hardly any swearing in this at all. Believe me, if you want to see a lot of swearing, I’m the fucking master.

Wittgenstein is — once you have got past “that hocus-pocus of mathematical form”, in which, like Spinoza, he encased and masked his philosophy — utterly exasperating. Ethics is transcendental, aesthetics is transcendental, logic is transcendental! — everything is transcendental! But all these things are in the universe, you goddamn brainless twit, how can they be transcendental! The universe is everything, nothing is transcendental! that’s just a word imbeciles use to signify that they are incapable of understanding something! — And sure enough, he understood neither logic, nor ethics nor aesthetics — among a great many other things, practically everything! — partly because he didn’t bother reading enough of what his predecessors wrote, but mainly because he was a little man with small experiences and therefore incapable of making any progress in psychology, which is where all these “transcendental” categories begin — and end.

Convoluted sentence structures, with many asides, which, like a a large building, with floors stacked upon each other, where you push from one level or pop to the next constantly, so that it’s hard to keep track, is difficult, take time to reconstruct, to distract you, don’t make you smart. I’ve read better criticisms of Wittgenstein on the toilet paper the morning after I’ve had an especially warm curry.

Semiotic optics: the time for it has come. The idea is basically that no one (and nothing) is “wrong”; they can’t be wrong because they are part of the universe, and whatever is in their brains — in the brains of even the stupidest person — is as correct as what’s in my mind or Nietzsche’s or Baudrillard’s. What we need then is an art of interpretation so subtle and powerful that it can bring out the “truth” that’s hiding inside even the dumbest person’s brains. […] Which is why I say that true genius ultimately lies, not in proving anyone wrong, but in proving everyone right.

This is just hilarious. It’s taking subjectivity and solipsism to even further absurd reaches.

Getting a woman is very different from keeping her. Here, perhaps, Machiavelli was wrong. Wanting, and getting her, is normal and highly laudable; the expression of a natural desire, etc. Expending any great effort to keep her, on the other hand, is ignoble; a sign that you are dubious about your chances of getting another, perhaps a better one in future.

AVFM or MGTOW should totally get this guy to speak at their next big gig – should they ever, of course, do anything of note. This is real hardcore philosophifisising, guys, and it clearly proves life is about fucking sluts and whores without overpaying the stuck up bitches. Righteous!

Napoleon and Hitler: two faces of the same coin, with devastation following at the end in either case. Why the extra hatred for the latter? Partly increased brutality in the man, partly increased power in the means of war and the ensuing devastation, partly Jewish lies and propaganda.

Anti-Semitism, with a slight build-up towards holocaust denial. DRINK!

We die twice, once when the last breath leaves our bodies, and again when the last person who knows our name dies.

Actually, I like this one. I’m putting it here just to be fair (unsurprisingly, it’s not original not even remotely).

The popular metaphor that a man “takes” a woman is well-meant, but wrong. For it is obviously the woman who takes, and the man who gives. He who gives, however, is stronger. And since from the slaves’ inverted perspective the opposite appears, it has come to pass that popular usage has created this expression.

I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger…

The best thing that happened to the blacks was that they were taken slaves.

I like racists when they’re not-even-in-the-closet about it. Like when John Safran tried to join the KKK and and the Grand Dragon outright said “I am a racist”. I respect them more for their honesty. It means we can at least agree that they hold those views. It’s dealing with fucktards who outright deny their fucktarded opinions exist despite evidence to the contrary that are the trouble.

When simulation is preferable to reality. E.g. it is sometimes better to masturbate with the idea of a beautiful woman, either using the imagination or some sort of simulacrum, than to have actual sex with an actual woman. Because sexual pleasure is physical and mental, there is a threshold of female ugliness past which the simulacrum is preferable. The same with videogames and war or business — or real life. The aesthetic wretchedness of activities, which may be more demanding physically, accounts for people preferring the simulated, i.e. physically debased, but aesthetically heightened, alternative. Sex with an ugly woman is terrible. Past a certain point it’s not even physically possible, since one cannot even get an erection.

That’s just too good not to share.

And just as the weak creature inserts God wherever it feels its weakness, the strong creature inserts itself wherever it feels its strength, and ultimately in itself. To believe so much in oneself as to become one’s own religion. And people think that I am an atheist. I am not an atheist, I am God.

Glad we cleared that one up.

Why argue?

I recently had a friend send me the quote below – I’m sorry I can’t provide wider context for it, as it is all hidden behind Facebook’s privacy settings. Anyway, it probably doesn’t need much wider context:

If you’re an atheist, uhm, why are you arguing with fellow atheists???

The answer to this doesn’t get much more complicated than to paraphrase Joss Whedon and say; “because you’re asking me that question“.

It’s very simple, really. The problem with indoctrination is that it’s indoctrination – not that its indoctrination about an unfalsifiable almighty Creator Deity. The problem with homophobia is that it’s homophobia – not that it’s justified using the Bible. The problem with the anti-science movement is that it’s the anti-science movement – not that it uses the Christian creation myth at its core. And so, all of these problems that people seem to associate with religion are, in fact, problems that can occur in any worldview, or any movement, or any group of like-minded people.

All people suffer the danger of groupthink. It’s something we’re prone to because it’s just plain easier that way. It’s probably impossible to completely eradicate it, but we can take steps to minimise it – or at least minimise its harmful effects – or track the degree that it’s happening and adjust for it. That’s the trick we need to master. Closing yourself off from criticism or challenges is a self-perpetuating cause and effect of irrationality; and you don’t have to believe the world is 6,000 years old to fall victim to it. Asking why someone would argue with their “fellow” atheist isn’t just a precursor to this danger of groupthink,  it’s a full-fledged symptom.

Surrounding yourself with people that disagree with you is healthy. Everyone has a fundamental right to disagree – although with the caveat that no one has the right to disagree after being proven wrong (yadda yadda, we all know this). Surrounding yourself with sycophants who continually click the “like” button just because you said “Jesus is a zombie!!!11 LOLZ!!” for the hundredth, unimaginative time, is not.

I don’t mean to say atheists should hang around with priests and try in some abstract clichéd way that they should “see things from their view” because that’s not as constructive as you might think – as anyone who has seen Richard Dawkins in a well-publicised debate with a theologian should attest to. It ends up being fundamentally uninteresting because you end up just debating axioms, can’t really progress anywhere, end up “agreeing to disagree”, and with anyone watching left unfulfilled and even less enlightened than they started with. Yawn. I may think that presuppositionalist apologetics has absolutely dire axioms, but I’m not going to change someone’s mind through rational argument over that – almost much in the same way I doubt anyone is going to change my mind regarding the tautological validity of using empirical methodology to make empirical statements about the universe (aka, looking at the world rather than making shit up).

I mean  that you should hang around with people who can challenge you on the things you can flex over, based on systems and axioms you do agree with. You want a real debate? Watch researchers fight over the evidence, rather than Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams – or at least Copleston and Russell because they’re at least talking the same philosophical language. Talk with people who have a different view of the extent linguistic relativity plays on our perceptions, or discuss differing approaches to social justice issues. Or if you’re serious about being a non-believer, chat with people who hold more robust views on the historicity of Jesus rather than derping on about Jesus being a sun god, or even try to consider why certain atheist clichés are a load of crap. The list of things you could do to become a more well-rounded person and better because you’re non-religious is extensive – just leaving it at “being” non-religious and assuming it automagically makes you smart just turns you into a bullshitting moron.

So where are the millions of these?

Note: I found this image copy-pasted to a popular Facebook page – although they did decide to edit out the “stupid” from “stupid questions”, which I think is a travesty as “stupid” is a relatively honest assessment. However, they didn’t link back here for the fuller description (that’s okay, I could do without the hundreds of notifications of new derperific comments). Reading through the Facebook comments revealed several dozen rebutal to the effect that the image is “wrong”. Of course it’s “wrong”. It’s wrong for the reasons laid out in the rest of this blog post. But the page owners decided not to link to this blog post, and so no one could read all of these additional thoughts and caveats. Thus, they were all left thinking the image was “wrong” in a much more absolute way, and that the author was an idiot. I’m sure there’s a moral in this story somewhere…

This is apparently quite an old meme, but it cropped up somewhere recently and I thought I’d have a shot at de-bunking it in a single image. Creationist ideas are depressingly easy to debunk, but the problem with truly bad arguments is that it’s time consuming to refute them – so if you can do it in one image, why not try for the efficiency?

So where are the millions of these?

So, that’s it. The intermediate forms are dead, idiots. What next?

Actually, the original is wrong on a further level – which I suppose technically classes it as Not Even Wrong. It mis-identifies the starting animal in the linear ‘Descent of Man’ image as a chimp, and so infers that there are millions of them – although that number is off by an order of magnitude or two. This is wrong.  That starting animal, the common ancestor, is not alive today. There definitely are not millions of them around. Even that creature is dead along with the transitional forms connecting it to us.

While that makes it wrong from the very start, I think it’s important to also dispel the idea of linear evolution – instead of a straight line it’s a criss-crossed tree of inter-breeding, separation, diversification and extinction-driven pruning that’s unbelievably complicated. But I suppose that’s the price we have to pay for the nice, fun and clear ‘Descent of Man’ image. It gets the main message across – we evolved from ‘lower’ life forms, but it’s a simplification. Any simplification, where the nuances of the real picture are compressed to save space and get a message across, is prone to misunderstanding when people try to decompress it again without the right knowledge. And this is what happens here; creationists have taken the ‘Descent of Man’ image, unpacked the cute little diagram to figure out what it means, but made the wrong assumptions about the identity of the first creature in it. And so, “how come there are still monkeys?” remains a frequently asked question – and “where are the ones in the middle?” is the next logical question to ask.

It’s possible that modern chimps are relatively unchanged from the common hominin ancestor (not a completely unforgivable assumption, I’m sure, but it might be a tad awkward) making the idea that we are evolved “from” them have some degree of truth to it. Evolution is driven by environmental factors that make adaptation necessary; if you lack those factors, then only a minor amount of genetic drift will occur and so our closest living relatives may have a lot more in common with our common ancestor than we do. As a result, we can throw some caution to the wind about assuming that there are millions of chimps that we evolved from, and wonder where we can find the intermediate species that connect us. In this case the answer is still the same: they died out a long time ago. The branched species went extinct (as do the vast majority of species) while the surviving line eventually evolved into us.

So where are they? They’re buried under tons of rock, that’s where. Mostly crushed and eaten away by time.

We could reinterpret the question in a different way, though, and ask why there aren’t countless extant intermediate species today. Why are species alive today so diversified into the concept of a “species”? Why isn’t there a living continuum of different species that blend nicely from one related animal to the next? Why do we have discrete species rather than a continuous species? Now that is an interesting question, but it would be for another time.

How to stop sucking at non-belief (Part 3)

Here’s a real quick, to-the-point way of stopping yourself sucking balls at being a non-believer. It’s simple, straightforward, and so I’m putting it in large letters:

Stop mistaking parody, satire and Markov-chain-esque spam for the real thing!

Many people get suckered in by Poe’s Law. It’s understandable at times. Yet you can get around it with due diligence and a little bit of basic skepticism. I did write an pretty extensive guide to what you need to think about when checking for parody a while ago (for the two people out there who care) and the short version is that if it’s too funny to be true, it’s probably not. That’s just a guide to things to think about, though, as there is no easy litmus test.

Most of the time, the response should really be “Of course its’ parody. Why is this even a question?” Yet people still get suckered in by piss-taking. this isn’t the bad thing, per se, it’s the fact that when they do they almost inevitably take the wrong lessons from it.

If someone persistently mistakes parodies or satire for the real thing, they’ve got a big problem. They haven’t proven how stupid the real thing is, they’ve proven that they have a straw man view of what the real thing is and are interested only in having their biases confirmed. Someone might declare “oh, it’s just like a real fundie xian*” when it probably isn’t anything of the sort – but they may as well declare “oh, my preconceptions of how Christian evangelists speak has just been confirmed” because that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Making this mistake repeatedly is not a bad reflection on fundamentalists, it’s a bad reflection on you.


*Also, stop using “xian”. That’s another thing that marks you out as an idiot.