Archive for Stupidity

Kick the truth and shatter it

Posted in Things You Should Read with tags , , , on April, 2011 by melendwyr

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s program (again, brought to my attention by Entitled to an Opinion) “All in the Mind” from April 9th, 2011. (Instead of this being something you should read, it’s something you should listen to, but the categorization is the same as for text.)

This program concerns the nature of violence and murder. A psychologist on the program – in its opening moments, immediately after the interviewer’s setup – had the following to say:

Violence itself is a form of communcation. It’s a way of sending a message, and it does that through symbolic means, damaging the body.

There are certain words that, over the course of my adventures through the incoherent and generally idiotic realm of human discourse, I have learned are signals – warning flags – that alert me to examine their user’s arguments carefully. They don’t necessarily mean that the arguments or the person making them are foolish, fad-driven nonsense nuggets. The correlation between their use and idiocy are striking, though. To rephrase a famous saying: Whenever I hear the word ‘symbolic’, I take the safety off my Browning.

Generally, when humans damage the bodies of other humans through uncontrolled or poorly-controlled violence, it’s not a form of ‘communication’. It’s done because they want to damage the bodies of the humans in question, probably unto death, because they want them to be injured and/or dead.

The cigar might have certain associational linkages, but people smoke them because they’re cigars, regardless of whatever ‘symbolic’ value someone might perceive them has having. It is so easy to generate at-will an association between any two arbitrary things – especially if you’re not picky about the nature of the association – that arguments based on asserted symbolic value are virtually always fallacious. This was one of the big problems with Freudian psychology, which was based heavily on authorities telling people that their behavior was a symbolic restatement of various basic drives people were asserted to have – the arguments could encompass anything, and thus explained nothing.

The topic is worthy of a post in itself, but to return to the subject at hand: it’s a bad, bad sign when someone begins an argument by saying something as straightforward and uncomplicated as murder is engaged in for symbolic reasons.


‘Piss Christ’ Destroyed

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , on April, 2011 by melendwyr

See Guardian article here.

Thoughts: 1) What a stupid piece of ‘art’. 2) What a stupid museum for showcasing such a stupid piece of ‘art’. 3) The protesters and vandals aren’t much better.

As far as I can determine, it wasn’t even a government-funded gallery. A privately-owned picture, shown in a private gallery, open to the public – and people protest it? Not wanting your tax dollars funding art you find objectionable or unaesthetic I can understand, but I see no reason those hundreds of people should have been concerned about the situation as it stood. What business is it of theirs?

It’s especially stupid because the photograph in question can presumably be recreated with its negative. Unlike a painting or most sculptures, photos are usually so easy to replace that destroying them is meaningless… except that the museum is going to continue to display the damaged photo, “to show what barbarians can do”. Arguably the vandalized ‘art’ is even more valuable in a monetary sense, and a case can be made that it possesses more artistic value now than before!

Then why have them in the first place?

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , , , on March, 2011 by melendwyr

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italian schools may display crucifixes, despite the objections of non-Catholic students and their families, because there is no evidence that such a display affects students.

Tell me something: if they don’t believe that putting up a symbol of a particular faith has any effect on students, why are they bothering to put the symbol up in the first place? Surely the school isn’t in such dire need of interior decoration that they will desperately grab any random object and affix it to their walls. The crucifixes are there for the express purpose of influencing the students. Obviously.

The Vatican has approved the ruling. No surprises there.

Dealing with Idiots

Posted in Reviews with tags on August, 2010 by melendwyr

I’ve lately come to remember why I don’t read or respond to mtraven, owner of the Omniorthogonal blog. In short: he’s a fool.

See this post and its associated comments. Consider particularly this bit:

The essential difference between mathematics and the natural sciences is that theorems of mathematics can be proved, whereas theories of natural science can only be disproved. You would not say that mathematics was empirical if you understood the nature of proof.

Both statements are wrong. Disproof is equivalent to proof of its negation; if it were not possible to prove statements about natural science, disproof would be equally impossible. If mathematical statements could not be disproven, they couldn’t be proven either.

‘Proof’ as it is meant in mathematics means that a stated derivation of an assertion has been generated through application of logical operation from more rudimentary operations, and this derivation has been evaluated as valid by analysis. It is fundamentally empirical.

As for ‘social construction’, see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the concept. mtraven is utterly and completely wrong about what it means to say that a thing is socially constructed. The Wikipedia entry on the subject is perfectly acceptable, although mtraven rejects it out of hand.


Posted in GIGO with tags , , on July, 2010 by melendwyr

Blake Stacey complains that his blog, Science After Sunclipse, has no readers.

Turn on comments, Stacey. I mean, DUH.

Maybe after that’s done, we can start working on the rest of your problems… baby steps, baby steps.

Stupid Marketing Gimmick

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , , , on April, 2010 by melendwyr

I see quite a lot of marketing in my everyday life. But one bit of inspired marketing psy-ops has always made me smile:

It’s the Food for Life Baking Company’s Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Products, specifically, their sprouted bread. Which contains the electrolytes – your pardon, I meant the assorted sprouted grains and pulses – the Israelites presumably craved. It’s Biblical!

Except if you actually look up the chapter and verse cited, you’ll find that the bread in question was a symbolic punishment ordered by God to demonstrate how Israel would suffer if it did not repent. It was originally supposed to be cooked over a fire of human excrement, but after Ezekiel complained the order was changed to dried animal dung instead. Also, Ezekiel was supposed to eat it while lying on his side continuously for weeks at a time.

It’s also one of the many examples in the Jewish scriptures of a mixing of things or qualities being represented as bad or wrong, or as symbolic of corruption and evil. Similar cases include the prohibition against weaving with more than one type of fiber, plowing with different types of animals yoked together, and planting different crops in the same field. (Having animals of different strength and endurance levels pulling a plow seems a rather bad idea, but the other two examples rule out both modern fabrics and interplanting, which is one of the most effective and powerful low-tech agricultural techniques.)

So this bread is marketing itself on being biblical, when its biblical appearance is as an omen of suffering and a symbolic lesson of the dangers of racial and cultural intermixing.

Nice work, there.

Their Lips Are Moving

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society with tags , on December, 2009 by melendwyr

In the aftermath of the barely-aborted “Christmas Massacre”, in which an alleged terrorist tried to blow up an airplane with a potent chemically-triggered explosive hidden in his underwear and was prevented from doing so only because his detonator was defective, resulting only in his setting fire to his pants.

Nevertheless, government heads quickly appeared on television, reassuring everyone vigorously and repeatedly that everything was fine, that travel was perfectly safe, and that the system functioned as it was intended to.

Humbug. How do you know when a representative of the government is lying, again?

If the system had worked as it was intended, the man could never have made his way onto a plane and managed to engage the detonator of a bomb. If the device had worked, the plane would have been destroyed; the fact that it did not has essentially nothing to do with our detection systems, aside from the obvious fact that the simplest and most reliable detonators can’t make it through a metal detector. No amount of removing our shoes or carrying shampoo in tiny bottles within plastic baggies are helping anything.

Given the terribly ineffective state of our anti-terrorist activities, I can’t help but wonder if there have been successful terrorist attacks that were passed off to the public as something else.