A quick note

Months ago I accepted a position at http://canadianatheist.com but as the policy at the time was more restrictive, I couldn’t move any of my current posts. I am happy to say that the policy has now been relaxed which makes things considerably easier for me. I am not going to move my posts from here but may re-write and re-publish from time to time as some of the posts are rather dated now.


Chapel Hill

Many posts have been made already on the Chapel Hill shootings, some defending atheists against the charge of being a hateful ideology and some attacking– The one thing I have noticed lacking is the observation that both sides are actually correct.

In reality the term Atheist is now seen as an ideology by many atheists but, is still seen as a simple statement of non-belief in the supernatural by many other atheists. Is it any wonder theists (and some atheists!) pounce upon the atheist as a worldview position? It did not help us make the case that atheist was only one position about gods and the supernatural when some atheists pushed the term Atheism+ either.

The analogy of language with biological systems for such terms as ‘mind virus’ and evolution of language is as true with atheism as it is with feminism. No matter what we do, language change is inevitable– I would argue the new fangled term egalitarianism will also evolve and become a term proponents argue over as well in just a few years, as Identity politics hits that movement(?). I don’t even need to mention the argument over the term Agnostic do I?

This is precisely why I judge people on their behaviours and positions rather than any labels we use. It is why those of us who begrudgingly label ourselves atheist (After all, why is the sane position the one needing a label) are careful to make clear our position. There is no charge of ‘No true Scotsman’ for the usage of ‘atheist’ possible if we have a well defined definition that does not change in response to an attack. Incidentally it is precisely for this reason many organisations write open letters reiterating their positions after any event such as this.

The Chapel Hill shooting is also a real life example of the topics of many of my prior blog posts. e.g. ‘On heroes’,  ‘Propaganda’, ‘In Living Colour’, ‘Us vs. them’, ‘I’m not a true Scotsman’, ‘Why I am still a feminist, ‘I’m not a foot soldier in your war’ and ‘How to argue on the Internet’.

How to argue on the Internet – A guide for the Internet Newbie

I’ve been on the Internet quite a while now, from USENET and IRC to twitter and google+. The one thing that I find striking is there is no guide for the Internet newbie on how to effectively argue.

First you start out with disagreeing with someone and be sure to be sarcastic. “How could you be so stupid to think that?” is a good line to use. If you get a polite response then be sure to come back with your rejoiner in all CAPS LIKE THIS. This demonstrates your opponent is stupid as obviously they can’t read.

If they persist in disagreeing with you, your next step is to wait for all your friends to call them stupid too. Extra points to each team if you can call them one of ‘Homophobe, Transphobe, Racist, Islamaphobe, or just plain MRA or SJW.’ Double your points if they have not demonstrated any of the above but they said something that could be construed that way. (You can do this easily by sticking to twitter to argue.) Remember, these are not people you would want to be friends with anyway so the more you can depersonalise these evil people the better.

If you are arguing on twitter, at this point you should be using a Hashtag e.g. #yourideaisstupid. Be sure to assume everyone using that hashtag is either completely for or completely against.

If they are still wrong at this point, now it is time to call into question their rationality or competence. Use google at this point and find out everything you can about at least one of your opponents then attack their competence in their profession. After all obviously they must be incompetent in something or they would not be wrong. Here’s some examples to use. If they are a female programmer, they are obviously incompetent as women can’t code. If they are a male school teacher, they are obviously homosexual.
Remember, old stereotypes about what men and women can do are useful weapons in your effort to destroy your opponent.

Don’t forget that phrases such as the one I just made above ‘women can’t code’ can be effectively turned into a verbal weapon so don’t forget to take phrases out of context.

Next step is to contact their employers. Someone so incompetent, is a nasty person and should be on the streets where they will be kept away from the Internet and you will win.

Sometimes this fails and this is time to find some hacker friends who agree with you so you can get them to DDoS the person that is wrong. Extra points here if they can claim they are with Anonymous. Double your points if each side DDoS’s and claims they are with Anonymous.

Your last resort is to get one of your hacker friends to SWAT your opponent. After all, they are evil and deserve to be accidentally killed.

Ignore the other side when they complain that your side is using this guide, after all you are the one that is completely 100% right about everything and the other side is absolutely wrong about everything.

I hope you find this guide useful!

Why are you reading my blog?

Why are you reading any atheist blog for that matter? Yes for some of you, they were helpful for your deconversion, but why are you still reading them now? What is the point of continually reading one atheist blog and agreeing with everything said? You’ve come out of the dogma of religion only to take on the dogma of another person’s thoughts. Wasn’t the point of deconverting to learn to think, and evaluate evidence for yourself? I want to be challenged not pampered as religion does.

There is so much work to be done in our own communities, are you there helping with your local atheist groups? Are you active politically arguing for reason and science over nonsense?

Our local group has meet ups where I have met the most interesting people, and perhaps helped some come to grips with their family not accepting their atheism. I have met an active minister a member of the clergy project, trying hard to find other work, an atheist immigrant from Iran and several who have found reason and left evangelical lifestyles behind– they need our help and reading or even writing (!) a blog does not help them.

There is a reason the sub title of my blog is “Yet another atheist blog”. I don’t write to flame up controversy for the sake of followers– I write because I see things are not said. That said, I’ll concede more atheist blogs are good, if it translates into real action not keyboard warrior action,

So do you do anything in your local community?


The Mind counter-Virus

I’ve always despaired at the inability of atheist/skeptical blogs to make any difference in the crazy nonsense people believe and even my own blog sub-title reflects that despair.

At the last skepticamp here in Ottawa after I had given my talk on propaganda I was asked by a member of the audience if perhaps the techniques of propaganda could be used for good instead of evil. I pointed out that the problem with that was “who gets the choose what is for the public good?”. Yet the question has haunted me. Recently at our local Unsermon one of the regulars wondered if we couldn’t somehow use propaganda techniques to teach people how to become critical thinkers? In the process they’d become immune to propaganda, much like a computer anti-virus to remove malignant computer virus.

I love the idea but sadly I don’t see how it could possibly work.

One of the techniques of PR (a modern name for propaganda) is “hero worship”. That is, one is more likely to believe and accept the ideas of a famous person and that to me directly contradict the ideals of critical thinking. Maybe all we can do is to encourage more science education.

I’d love to hear other ideas.

21 grams

I saw recently from twitter that the mass of a soul was once claimed to be 21 grams. This claim was made by a Dr. Duncan MacDougall in 1907 but the measurements he undertook were not  very rigorous and so have no validity at all.

Still I thought it would be fun to work out just how much mass this would amount to, considering  the amount lost by all  people who had ever lived if it had have been true.

I’m lazy so I looked online and found a reference to Keyfitz’s calculation.(http://www.math.hawaii.edu/~ramsey/People.html) So let’s assume the figure 96,100,000,000 people have lived on the earth. That’s 2.02 x 10^9 grams or 2.02 x 10^6 Kg. To give this some perspective, assuming an adult bull elephant is 5000Kg thats about 400 bull elephants worth of souls.

So that’s a lot of bull.

If Real life was like Social Media

I have learned a lot about modern social media since I have joined the party but it has got me to thinking; What if real life was run like some common social media sites?

Here are some real life scenarios and what could happen if real life was like twitter or a blogsite.

You are at a meetup at a restaurant. You make a comment that is misunderstood by someone, instead of asking what you meant they shout.  “You are a (one of MRA, racist, homophobe, transphobe)” for everyone in the restaurant to hear. You are then berated by dozens of their friends before you are escorted out of the restaurant.

You are an artist displaying at an art gallery. One day you walk in to see a display of plastic trinklets next to your painting. You complain to the gallery and when they refuse to move the trinklets you complain to the newspapers. The next day you are escorted out of the gallery and told that you are banned from the gallery because friends of the trinklet artist had signed a petition asking you to be banned.

You are on your way with some friends to see a movie. At the door your ID is checked and, you are told that because of a new computer system you are banned. Someone had put you on their computer system because they did not like your politics.

I think I am getting the hang of modern social media now. Wouldn’t real life be better with these modern social media improvements?