Sunday, August 31, 2008
And Budai putting that belly to good use on God:
Found this on Stuff God Hates. Had a link to the game, so downloaded and the first thing I did was hammer them all with Buddha. I think you can only play as Xenu if you download. This is recommended. Dropping nuclear weapons on God and Jesus is surprisingly satisfying...
AnthroVlog and Digital Ethnography came to my attention from a fascinating Youtube video regarding anthropology and the growth of Youtube. Both are relevant to my interests in studying the impact of the Net on society at large and have quite a few worthwhile articles and reports. Well, most of the time. One of the papers I downloaded suffered from a painful lack of scientific method and consisted entirely of a so-called "Phd" engaging in dozens of interviews, no quantitative methods, not much qualitative methods and nothing even vaguely resembling a concrete conclusion. Suffice it to say that I'm still a bit bitter about wasting a couple of hours of my life wading through garbage and finding sodall. But really, do take a look at the video if you've an hour or so to spare.
TUFTS Centre for Cognitive Studies is the site of philosopher of science Daniel Denett's department in TUFTS University. Lots of goodies, mostly pertaining to cognitive studies, including this detailed thesis on memetics that I'm currently reading.
Panda's Thumb came to my attention due to its role in the ongoing extermination of the Creationist movement. It should be point out that it is in fact many other things, and in its own words:
"First, it is an example of jury-rigged evolutionary adaptation made famous by the late Stephen Jay Gould in an essay of the same name. Second, it is the legendary virtual bar serving the community of the legendary virtual University of Ediacara somewhere in the Ediacaran hills of southern Australia, growing out of the lore of the Usenet talk.origins newsgroup. And now it is a weblog giving another voice for the defenders of the integrity of science, the patrons of “The Panda’s Thumb”.
Much as in any tavern serving a university community, you can expect to hear a variety of levels of discussion, ranging from the picayune to the pedantic. The authors are people associated with the virtual University of Ediacara (and thus the talk.origins newsgroup), and various web sites critical of the antievolution movement, such as the TalkOrigins Archive, TalkDesign, and Antievolution.org."
Call me a geek, but the only CSI I'd give a toss about is the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a veritable bastion in the conflict between reason and superstition. I think of it as a more intellectual Mythbusters. Energy healing, qi punches, ghost sightings, UFOs, holy "relics" and of course religion all fall under the purview of Skeptical Inquirer and are given the thorough debunking they deserve.
And that's it from me for now. I'm a-go check out the papers and see just what those arseholes who run M'sia have been doing to put the 'merde' in Merdeka...
Saturday, August 30, 2008
It's a study in which evidence is presented showing that contrary to the claims of theists, religion is NOT a benefit to society. In fact, in the world's prosperous democracies, there is a relationship between quantifiable social problems (e.g. teenage pregnancy, abortions, STDs, suicides) and popular religiosity. Suffice it to say that the USA was found to have quite a lot to deal with on these fronts.
Anyway, I'm not here today to rattle on about the resurgence of God-loving foolishness in the country with the most functional nuclear weapons on Earth. Something else about that study just occured to me. Here's a list of the 'prosperous democracies' that were scrutinized in the study:
- Great Britain
- United States
- New Zealand
Of course, there's another possibility, that whoever carried out the study didn't dare to offend the sensibilities of Muslim nations by pointing out their utter ineptitude and backwardness. But really, like the Danish cartoons and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's singularly fascinating life, that just speaks volumes about Islam's attitude toward freedom of thought.
There's something to be said for the power of free speech in hastening memetic evolution. And that's going to be said in this blog later, coz I'm hungry. Peace be upon y'all.
Friday, August 29, 2008
It's with the above general guidelines in mind that the following DVD cover I saw on Wikipedia struck me as a bit odd:
Judging from the spelling, this is quite likely a pirated copy. The title in Chinese? It translates as 'Beautiful New World'. Asterix & Obelix vs Caesar = Beautiful New World?! Wtf???
By the way, does anyone else who's actually read Asterix find the idea of Roberto Benigni playing Julius Caesar a bit odd?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
When I was young, I was quick to realise that science has given us every material thing we attribute to modern society. Digital watches? Science. Personal computers? Science, again. Mobile phones, polymers, toilets that flush? Science, science, science. The physical laws involved in the construction of these things was astounding. It seemed as though there wasn't any limit of things to learn. A huge and exciting universe, and so very much to explore!
Of course, I'd encountered religion early in life, but it seemed so... shallow! Even more so when I was first aware of the Evolution vs Creation "debate". On one side, the systematic formulation of hypotheses and collection of evidence, culminating in a theory explaining the history and diversity of life on Earth. And on the other, "God did it". Just like that. More and more evidence supporting evolution piled up, and creationists (the sane ones, anyway) gave more and more ground, offering nothing more compelling than to fill the gaps in the evolutionist's knowledge with "God did it".
More and more conflicts between science and religion caught my attention. Geologists unvieling the age of the Earth. Galileo and Copernicus with heliocentricity. Neuroscientists dispelling the ghost in the machine. More and more it seemed to me that organized religion was behaving like an arrogant schoolboy being shown, one question at a time, how every answer he gave in his exam was utterly wrong.
So here we are today, after thousands of years of religious oppression of thought, God is backed into a corner, like a mangy cur clinging to a scrap of leftovers, he defends himself in the furthest reaches of what has yet to be revealed by human intellect. Abiogenesis? God wills it. The universe before the Big Bang? God wills it. Of course. Just like Creation, geocentricity, a 6,000 year-old Earth, the immortal soul and a circle with a circumference thrice the diameter, eh?
To delve into the unknown with neither fear nor preconceptions. This is what Science does for Humanity. This is how we learn. What happened before the Big Bang*? How did the first replicators appear on Earth? I don't know. And neither do you. And given their track record, I don't fancy the scriptures can offer any meaningful answers.
It's a big universe and Science will not stop searching for answers. It's time for Religion to just get out of the way.
* I have to say, I loathe the term Big Bang. When you consider the scale of an explosion that births a universe containing millions of galaxies, each of which contains billions of stars, each of which is thousands of times the volume of Earth, the word 'Big' is something of an understatement and 'Bang' feels somewhat inadequate.
I've had a soft spot for Scottish culture for quite a while, probably since the time I'd sent hundreds of Highland Lemmings to their dooms to the tune of Scotland the Brave and the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond*. The charms of Scotland were further impressed upon me by my first, quite bewildering, viewing of Trainspotting (had to watch twice, coz I dinnae understand it the first time) and the discovery of haggis, which, I hear, is one of very, very few things on Earth which can match a Chinese sausage for sheer ming, though I understand that, like a Chinese sausage, it's quite tasty.
Oddly enough, though I'd known the tune of Scotland the Brave for many years now, I'd never even known it was called that until yesterday, when I was browsing Wiki on Terry Pratchett. Stumbled on the Feegles*, then the popular Feegle phrases, then "Feegles wha hae!", then "Scots wha hae!" and on to Scotland the Brave and its variants, notably the Corrie version:
I just lol'd at this verse:
Underneath there's nothin' worn,
How I wish the wind was warm, Scotland the Brave!
I must admit it's pretty gruesome,
Walkin' about wi' your frozen twosome,
It's we've got - we mustn't lose 'em, Scotland the Brave!
* Which I only just realised, after looking at the lyrics yesterday, is a really, really sad song! :'(
** If you haven't read any of the Feegle books, particularly the Wee Free Men, you must do so. Now. Be warned that you may find yourself temporarily afflicted with Scottish Tourrette's afterwards.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
"The words "scientific method" are being tossed around a little too frequently and improperly. There are 2 halves to a scientific method. The first is an experiment-based method. But people always forget the second kind: examination of evidence. In that case, I must protest that our debate has NOT been over faith-based arguments. For example, like it or not, the bible IS evidence. You can't arbitrarily define evidence to be whatever you want it to be. The bible is the most-verified document older than 1000 years, and contains not one but 4 eyewitness accounts. Saying that the bible's evidence is "unscientific" is a form of "posioning the well" a very flawed logical argument."
Speaking plainly, it appears the author is attempting to make 2 points. The first is to attempt to impose his view of what he thinks the scientific method is. The other is that he believes the Bible to be literally true, specifically the New Testament, as is apparent from his mention of 4 witnesses.
On the matter of the scientific method, the author is quite clearly talking out of his arse. The scientific method is the ultimate expression of empiricism, and has quite a few subtle permutations, but they all conform to the same general gyst, summarised in the following diagram, with the creationist "method" shown alongside, for contrast:
If you peeped at the Wiki link, or if you just read a bit of non-fiction, you'll know that the scientific method has existed in more or less this form for quite a long time, and as such, the above author's simplistic view of the scientific method can only be put down to either wilful ignorance or an egotistical drive to force the discussion to conform to his own narrow view of scientific method. As such, his first point is worthless.
The 2nd point, regarding the New Testament being a historically accurate document, needs a little more work. Take these two statements:
For example, like it or not, the bible IS evidence. You can't arbitrarily define evidence to be whatever you want it to be.
We leave these two sentences aside for now, because shortly, we'll be pointing out some New Testament silliness. When this is shown, we will find that he has, himself, arbitrarily defined evidence to be whatever he wanted it to be, and is, once again, talking out of his arse.
A quick search on Google quickly reveals that though there were indeed 4 witnesses, they appear to have tremendous difficulty getting their story straight. The list of contradictory statements is far longer than I'd anticipated, and so I include it in this happy link. Our good friend, Wikipe-tan, also has an adequate article summarising the intellectual bankruptcy of the Bible.
Another common argument put forward by theists in Net forums is this: You can't disprove God. This is hideously flawed in many ways, most commonly the ignorant theist's refusal to put forward a definition of God in the first place. Undefinable, therefore you can't disprove it. But by the exact same token, you can't prove it, either. This line of inquiry is outside of the realm of the empirically verifiable and hence, like proofs put forward by Liebniz and Thomas Aquinas, a lot of metaphysical rubbish.
But to make the same statement within the framework of empiricism, this suggests that, although no observation of God has yet been made, there is no reason to suppose that he won't show himself in the future. This is but a weak attempt to turn empiricism against itself and one can quickly point out that by the same argument, there's no reason to believe that there's no such thing as, say pixies, trolls and unicorns, either. It is presently in fashion among atheists to mock this argument by professing belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which exists on these same grounds. A question well worth considering for any theist when they think they have a proof for the existence of God is: Is there any reason the same proof cannot be applied if I replaced God with the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
I suppose I should mention that I didn't actually post this in the forum where the silliness above appeared. There are 2 reasons for this:
1) Having read the previous 20 or so posts by the author, it was very clear to me that whoever wrote those words was not in any way interested in honest inquiry into the basis of his theism. He responded to refutations of his arguments either with childish games of semantics or just ignoring them. Hence I choose to post here, away from the silliness of what is a lot of metaphysical dicking about.
2) This article is just me picking out the glaring inadequacies of one paragraph's worth of theistic rubbish. Forum theists have a LOT of rubbish to spout, in a truly prodigous display of logorrhea. For every one post they write, a diligent atheist can quite easily churn out 5 proving conclusively that the theistic position is rubbish. Few atheists have the energy for that. Comrade Calilasseia of RDF, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, is a shining example to us all.
In this post I have illustrated the absurdity of the theistic attitude towards the unknown, i.e. filling the gaps with God. Next, I'll have a little something to say about the atheist's attitude to the unknown.
May the blessings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster be with you, always.
A fundamental difference between atheist and theist is this: Our respective attitudes towards the unknown. It's quite natural to view the unknown with a touch of suspicion or, more commonly, fear.
The human intellect is quite unique in this world in its capacity to reach far beyond it's immediate environment. And, being social animals with both memory and language, we establish cultures fitting to our environment, memeplexes to supplement our genes. If Blackmore's Meme Machine is anything to go by, it was about 2 million years ago that a mutant monkey first showed signs of an ability to copy. Thus, the 2nd replicator, the meme, was born, and since then the gene never quite caught up with the sheer pace of memetic evolution.
The reason for this massive difference is very simple. A gene's evolution is decided by the life and death of the organism. A meme's evolution is decided by the life and death of ideas. From the gene's point of view, trial and error may well cost the organism life and limb. From the memes point of view, trial and error costs nothing but a few moments' thought. Fear of the unknown is a relic left over from our genetic evolution. There is a brutish, base animal in all of us, and it knows fear. It is afraid to die, afraid of pain, afraid of ill-health and when we brought it with us in our genes into the social structures built by our memes, it found new things to fear.
Our genes make us just another breed of ape, physically well-suited for not much other than stomping around upright, grabbing stuff and, oddly enough, having sex in more positions than any other animal on Earth. Our memes, on the other hand, make us princes, paupers, lovers, fighters, dreamers, believers and nigh everything that we are today. But the genes have been slow to catch up, and there is a fearful, base animal in all of us.
In its weakest manifestation, it urges caution in everything we do. When it dominates us, it gives rise to irrational fear, phobias, and when mixed diabolically with the wrong memes, hatred. It gazes out into the unknown, is afraid and seeks comfort in any way it can. But you can't physically run away from what your mind has seen, can you? Like being stuck in a small room with a faceless Lovecraftian horror with no escape, what can you do? Oh, a few responses come to mind...
Denial - Don't look.
Self-delusion - Put a frilly pink dress on it.
Submission - Get on your knees and grovel and hope you get in its good books.
Sound familiar? How about we rephrase it a bit:
Denial - Make no attempt to understand it.
Self-delusion - Pretend its an all-loving father/mother figure.
Submission - Worship it and hope you get in its good books.
Thus gods were born. And it wasn't long before some people realized that if they convinced everybody else they had the favour of the gods, they could exert control over others, gaining power and influence. And so fear, born of genetic survival strategies, dropped into the pool of memes, has grown, twisted and corrupted out of proportion building a mighty memeplex about itself that we now know today as organised religion. It has taken the unknown and filled it with fanciful myths, providing the comfort the animal inside us so dearly desires, but not enlightenment.
In this light, it is fascinating to read the history of the Catholic Church, in more or less the same way that it's fascinating to watch footage of a nuclear bomb test. First, rising from the memetic primordial soup of myths and legends, it coalesced into just the right mix of the catchiest memes to form the backbone of Christianity. Then, spreading like a plague across Europe, firmly establishing its dominance by a mixture of its memetic strength and its ferocious rejection of skeptical inquiry. There it sat, mouldering and rotting from within, until in a sudden paroxysm of common sense, it broke under the weight of its own corruption and hypocrisy, giving birth to Protestantism, though in the long run, that just turned out to be a different flavour of the same myths. With that sudden, drastic loss of the Catholic Church's power, its strangehold on the intellectual life of Western Europe loosened, just enough for the right kind of people to unleash the right kind of ideas, sparking the Enlightenment. And the rest is history.
But to this day we haven't escaped that fearful animal in us, and he's manifest in our little irrationalities, passions, quirks and foibles. And of course, the continued existence of that memetic monument to fear of the unknown, organised religion.
Alrighty, this post is way longer than I'd anticipated. Tune in next time for the second part of this post, where I haul out a sample of theistic thinking from a forum and contrast it with some honest empiricism.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if he was an isolated case, seeing as tony48219 is clearly delusional, obnoxious and a firm believer in the words of the great Youtube nutter and eminent psychopath, VenomfangX. As such, no normal human being capable of spelling their own name correctly, having viewed that video, would conceivably want to emulate this troglodyte, or indeed the belief system that led to his apparent mental regression to Tellytubby level. Well, I wish that were true.
tony48219 and VenomfangX are merely 2 in a long, long list of degenerates bent on riding the scriptures back to the Bronze Age. But they're just silly buggers on Youtube whose parents didn't pay them enough attention as kids! Look up names like Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, Kent Hovind, Ann Coulter, Tom Willis*, Julius Streicher*, Dinesh D'Souza, Deepak Chopra, Ben Stein, Ken Ham... One name after another in a parade of charlatans and delusionals, each preaching to audiences of thousands, happily rattling off what is, at best, inane nonsense and at worst, anti-intellectualist hatred of science and reason.
And, mind-bogglingly enough, people actually believe what these cretins have to say! So much so that the world's most powerful nation** somehow manages to also be home to the largest population of dangerously gullible idiots on Earth***. This isn't hand-wavey opinion based my observations of Youtube comments (as if that wasn't enough), but empirical fact. It is utterly obscene that now, over 80 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, biology teachers in the US still have to struggle against a Bronze Age myth that an invisible man wished existence into being.
In those 80 years, we've seen the invention of jet engines, silicon chips, the Internet, digital cameras, Wonderbra, communications satellites, fibre-optic cables, genome sequencing and oh, yes, my beautiful Logitech G9 mouse with the pretty blue lights. We have witnessed the rise of new vistas of human knowledge such as memetics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, cybernetics and quantum mechanics. Now, more than at any other time in human history, we have access to information such that the masses need no longer remain ignorant and subservient, but informed and active participants in the story of Humanity.
And what has religion achieved? To keep people as bigoted and ignorant as they were in the age of prophets and messiahs, living in a fantasy world of angels, demons, djinns, Heaven and Hell. To convince people that popular acceptance is a criterion of truth. To undermine the scientific method with scripture laden with errors, inconsistency and outright hypocrisy. To glorify death and murder in the name of empty promises of an afterlife. To cripple intellectual progress with blind dogmatism.
About 400 years ago, Galileo Galilei struck a blow against the Church's hubris with the heliocentric model of the Solar System. 150 years ago, Darwin showed us the interconnectedness of life on Earth. More recently, Finkelstein is showing us that most of the Old Testament is quite likely fictitious, Pinker and Blackmore, among others, are dispelling the myth of the soul, and a resurgence of skepticism is slowly picking away at the worlds of astrologers, mediums, feng shui experts and mystics.
It's high time theists showed a little backbone and took a good, honest look at the scriptures and recognised them for what they are: Myth. Allegory. Fables. Beautiful cultural artefacts in their own right, and excellent for giving a touch of poetry to an otherwise dry text, but no more a basis for knowledge, ethics and social policy than Bullfinch's Mythology, the Tale of Genji or the Cat in the Hat.
*sigh* Dammit, Cheng, what did I just say about reading happy things for a bit? Maybe I'd better just take a short holiday from the Net...
* The names of these two enemies of humanity came to my attention from RDF, in a post by the great sage and forum mod Calilasseia. Beware the wrath of the blue butterfly!
** Still the USA at the time of writing, I'm afraid...
*** This study also brought to my attention by Comrade Calilasseia. The blue butterfly is generous with wisdom.
That's more or less the kind of sentiment we get around here. National Day is coming up, and here's a question worth thinking about for a Malaysian:
Do you in any way feel indebted to society? Such that you feel compelled to protect and uphold the Malaysian way of life?
I suppose comrades living in foreign lands could do well to reflect upon this question, but drifting around on the Net, I get the sense that in most civilized nations, there is a clear sense of social contract between ruler and the ruled*.
Rather than directly publish the responses to the above questions on this blog, I'm going to attach below an e-mail that's been making the rounds that pretty much sums up the average urban M'sian's view of M'sia. The e-mail has not been edited, save to italicize it to differentiate it from the rest of the text on this blog. Comrades from beyond M'sia, please forgive the occasional crime against English:
a 1.3 Litre Japaness car was RM 7000
Today the equivalent let's say it is RM 60000............8.5 times
In 1973 a double storey house was about RM 45,000...or less
Today it is about RM 300,000............6.6 times
In 1973 an Engineer's pay was RM 1000
Today it is about RM 2000 +/-............2 times....
From 1973 to 2008........35 years......what is the Trend.?
In a stock market when the trend is bearish , what do we do?..Exit !!!
When a country's trend is bearish what do we do?.....?
This Bearish trend is more difficult to turn around as compared to the stock market.
I have used these 3 items House, Car & Salary as a measurement of the country' s
performance for the past 35 years....
There is a book I saw in MPH bookshop entitled :
Malaysia: The Failed Nation
some of you may be interested to read up.
I agreed with the writer.....
This morning I was having Coffee at McDonald ( now the coffee..100 % Arabica beans..is quite good
@ RM 2.90....free refill !!. I asked how much per hour is their pay?
RM 3.00 ! x 8 hours = RM 24 per day... x 25 days = RM 600 per month
My daughter works part-time during her University days...she worked at Gloria Jeans Coffee
..the pay Australian $ 14.00 ( @ 3.15 = RM 44 per hour.....x 8 = RM 352 per day !!! x 25 days = RM 8800
13.3 times more !!!!! ......Price of houses in Perth is about the same in KL
Price of cars are about 23 % cheaper...in Perth.( Australia )
I think more and more people are becoming aware of this Bearish trend.
Developed country by 2020?...means High income country
Let's look at some as of year 2005 ( Financial Times )
USA GNP per capita US$ 35400
UK GNP per capita US$ 25510
Australia GNP per capita US$ 19530
Singapore GNP per capita US $ 20690
These are developed countries by income measurement
Malaysia GNP per capita US$ 3540
Year 2020..developed country?
Really...a sad story.
Worrying Trends, isn't it??????
Ringgit sliding further and further under BN
Gan | Jul 8, 08 4:03pm
Recently, I interviewed some fresh graduates applying for jobs with my engineering company. I accepted two applicants on a starting salary of RM1600. It struck me as odd that 15 years ago, I myself started work as a fresh graduate engineer for the same pay.
Indeed, if you compare the salaries of graduates now and 15 or even 20 years ago, you'll find little difference but that their purchasing power is vastly different. It's the same story when you compare salaries of shop assistants, office staff, factory workers and others.
To compound the effect of inflation, the ringgit has depreciated greatly against all major currencies. The real income of most Malaysians has moved backwards.
This is why many Malaysians suffer under the petrol hike. The root of the problem is that our real incomes have shrunk in the face of inflation and depreciated currency.. Malaysians have not been spoiled by subsidy but are unable to move out of the time lock of stagnated and depreciated incomes.
If you compare the per capita incomes of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, they are a few multiples of ours although at independence all these countries were the on the same economic level as Malaysia.
What has gone wrong? We were the rising star of East Asia, a country rich in natural resources with the most promising potential.
The reason is massive corruption, plundering of resources, wastage of funds for huge non- economic projects, anti-public interest deals with politically-linked companies and passing-of-the -buck to the man in the street..
Four decades of NEP where education, economic and employment policies are defined by race ensured that meritocracy took a back seat.
Our university standard has declined and the today best and brightest of our youth emigrate to escape the racial inequility only to contribute to the economies of foreign lands.
The reputation of our judiciary which was held in high esteem worldwide has sunk so low that foreign investors now insist on arbitration in Singapore in case of any dispute.
We also have a slew of oppressive laws such as the ISA, OSA, Uuca and PPPA which stifle free speech and are designed to keep the ruling parties in power.
We have become less attractive to foreign investors and now lag behind our neighbours in Asean for foreign direct investment. Even some corporations who have established themselves here are moving out.
All the economic and social malaise cannot help but affect the value of our currency. The strength of a country's currency is after all, a reflection of its fundamentals.
Furthermore, Bank Negara has a policy of weak ringgit to help exporters, never mind the burden on the common folk. The government is pro-corporation, not pro-rakyat.
While the poor and middle-class are squeezed, an elite group gets breathtakingly rich. We have the distinction of having the worse income disparity in Asean. A re-distribution of wealth is under way from the poor and middle-class to a select group of politically-connected elite.
The end result of this re-distribution will be a small group of super-rich while the majority are pushed into poverty and the middle-class shrinks. This is what happens when the rich gets richer and the poor get poorer.
There is much that is wrong with Malaysia. The responsibility for pulling the country backwards can be laid squarely at the door of the ruling regime. It is BN's mis-governance, racial politics and culture of patronage which has seen the country regress economically and socially.
We seem to be sliding down a slippery slope, further down with each passing year of BN's rule. Another five years of BN rule and we'll be at Indonesia's standard under Suharto. Another 10 years and we'll be touching the African standard. What a way to greet 2020.
Is there any hope for Malaysia?
Faced with the reality that BN will never change, many Malaysians desperate for change turn their lonely eyes to Anwar Ibrahim.
Pakatan Raykat has promised to treat all races fairly, to plug wastage, fight corruption, reform the judiciary and make Malaysia more competitive.
But some have questioned whether we can trust Anwar and his loose coalition of disparate parties..
The question is not whether we can trust Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat but whether we can afford not to.
Can we afford another ten years of BN's misrule?
* With the notable exception of the US under the Little Bush administration, in which it appears that the rulers have lost the plot.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Chee Yu Quan and Cheah Beng Eng just got married. Chee expired as an infant 50 years ago. Cheah died of kidney failure, aged 16, about 31 years ago. A medium came along and told Cheah's mum, Ong Kim Luan, that the couple met 2 years ago in the afterlife and expressed a wish to get married. Ong agreed, and the ceremony was carried out with all the pomp and splendour of the traditional Chinese wedding, with bride and groom represented by paper effigies.
Note: Righteous anger, drifting into Rantland, follows.
Well done, oh very well done, indeed, Mdm Ong. You forked out how much, to get a pair of puppets married? Just HOW fucking stupid are you?
“She couldn’t pass over and reincarnate as it was her wish to be married. I hope she can be born into a good family and be a healthy and happy person in her next life,” she said.
She is DEAD. Get the fuck over it. Honestly, I haven't seen such a blatant case of denial since Michael Palin in the Dead Parrot Sketch.
But take a closer look. Ong isn't the only sucker here. The wedding was attended by friends and family, i.e. a sizable number of other retards who agreed to go along with said medium's bullshit, with nary a word of protest. Great. Wonderful. You people rank right up there with those other fools who spend their money on pieces of the One True Cross or those hypocrites who think putting a "Haji" in their names makes them any more virtuous or those JW kids who die after refusing a blood transfusion because it's "against God's Will". Suckers. Suckers to a man, and all because they didn't have the brains or the stones to question the goddamn medium. Because they've all got it into their credulous little skulls that there's such a thing as sacred.
Well, I suppose there are blasphemies in this world, like drinking ice-cold red wine, running Windows on a Mac, BLT sandwiches using turkey bacon, non-Japanese voice actors in anime and the entire Hong Kong soap opera industry*. Questioning a medium is not. Am I the only person in this damned country who reads Skeptical Inquirer?
She also said her daughter liked to look good and had requested for new undergarments, cheongsams, shoes, jewelleries and handbags.
“She asked for all these things through the medium and we did our best to give her everything,” she said.Go on and tell me that doesn't sound the least bit suspicious at all.
Oh, and if you didn't read the article, I should point out that, in a display of typical Malaysian journalism, the reporter didn't question said medium either. I really wonder if the editor's too damn stupid to realise his paper's tumbling down the path to Cheap Tabloidland...
Ong Kim Luan: You are a 24-carat Idiot. And that so-called medium deserves every penny he managed to scrounge off your gullible arse.
Seeing Reason give way to Superstition always pisses me off something fierce. I'm-a go read something happy now and try to stay the hell away from the Star for the next few days...
* I note with great disappointment after writing this that ALL these blasphemies are commonplace in Malaysia.
a) beat a woman over the head with a revolver in a fit of road rage; and
b) force a schoolgirl to give him a blowjob.
The first is self-explanatory. The short version of the 2nd is that schoolgirl and boyfriend got done coz he was riding a motorcycle sans license. They were arrested, locked up and that was that.
I don't know, I think I've been in this country too long. I mean, in relatively civilized nations, say Britain, France, Sweden, Singapore, etc, is it normal for the standard bribe to be common knowledge? Around here it's about MYR30*. MYR50 if you can't be bothered to haggle, FOC if you look like you know something about law, though sometimes you can go with insisting on the speeding ticket and there's perhaps a 50/50 chance that he'll let you off with a warning, coz he simply can't be bothered to give you the ticket. Is it really the status quo in a 1st World nation that only the naive or the desperate turn to the police for help?
This isn't to say that they don't have their moments. Every few months or so they manage a drug bust or some such, but come on! Those 2 articles and the one I pointed out earlier are the tip of the iceberg! I'd be tempted to start a separate blog chronicling the antics of M'sian police if it weren't so damn depressing...
* A little under USD10.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Anyway, I've been wondering about these things for a while. Bearskins, that is. You know, those whopping great big fuzzy hats worn by the Irish Guards?
Just what purpose do they serve exactly? I mean, do they provide greater protection? If so, how? It's fur! At best, it'll maybe save you from a solid whack over the head with a big stick! Maybe they're heavier than they look:
Maybe they're some kind of alien parasite infiltrating the British armed forces:
Whatever the case may be, I fail to see how bearskins can have any practical use. Less protection and more troublesome to maintain than a helmet. Mebbe there's just something about the aesthetic sense involved that I'm missing. I don't know...
Friday, August 22, 2008
I'm pretty sure there's another name for it.
On a vaguely related note, I heard somewhere that last year, only 30% of all the births in Singapore were by Singaporean couples. Most of the rest were either mixed couples or by immigrants, to which I say, rock on! I'm a total supporter of mixed marriages, and fervently hope for the Russell Peters future of there no longer being any ethnic groups, no black, no white, no yellow, no brown... just a whole planet where everybody is some kind of shade of beige...
And since we're on about Russell Peters, here's an interview he had with Al Jazeera, which I kinda liked. I really like the fact that his favourite comedian of all time is George Carlin :-)
So, although I'd quite happily tell you straight off the bat that, say, metaphysics is bullshit, if you asked me why, I'd have to scurry off and do my homework all over again. But do rest assured that when I say something is bullshit, there will definitely be a basis for such a claim.
Of course, I consider it a matter of intellectual duty to occasionally check if my conclusion is flawed or perhaps needs amending, but usually this will be the result of my analysis of someone else's musings on the subject rather than as a conclusion drawn from my own ponderings, i.e. If I think it's bullshit, I leave the real thinking to someone else who could be bothered to prove conclusively on all fronts that it's bullshit. I suppose you could say I just don't have the stomach to perform the intellectual equivalent of a perpetual enema.
It is with that in mind that I present here an extract from Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate*, which highlights most eloquently the inadequacies of a common pile of steaming bullshit that's often accepted by those who don't think too much about the matter: That we have an immortal soul.
The Catholic Church and certain other Christian denominations designate conception as the moment of ensoulment and the beginning of life (which, of course, makes abortion a form of murder). But just as a microscope reveals that a straight edge is really ragged, research on human reproduction shows that the "moment of conception" is not a moment at all. Sometimes several sperm penetrate the outer membrane of the egg, and it takes time for the egg to reject the extra chromosomes. What and where is the soul during this interval? Even when a single sperm enters, its genes remain separate from those of the egg for a day or more, and it takes yet another day or so for the newly merged genome to control the cell. So the "moment" of conception is in fact a span of 24 to 48 hours. Nor is the conceptus destined to become a baby. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of them never implant in the uterus and are spontaneously aborted, some because they are genetically defective, others for no discernible reason.
Still, one might say that at whatever point during this interlude the new genome is formed, the specification of a unique new person has come into existence. The soul, by this reasoning, may be identified with the genome. But during the next few days, as the embryo's cells begin to divide, they can split into several embryos, which develop into identical twins, triplets, and so on. Do identical twins share a soul? Did the Dionne quintuplets make do with one-fifth of a soul each? If not, where did the four extra souls come from? Indeed, every cell in the growing embryo is capable, with the right manipulations, of becoming a new embryo that can grow into a child. Does a multicell embryo consist of one soul per cell, and if so, where do the other souls go when the cells lose that ability? And not only can one embryo become two people, but two embryos can become one person. Occasionally two fertilized eggs, which ordinarily would go on to become fraternal twins, merge into a single embryo that develops into a person who is a genetic chimera: some of her cells have one genome, others have another genome. Does her body house two souls?
What I draw from Pinker's line of questioning is that, on closer scrutiny, the assumption of a soul raises far more questions than it answers. Suffice it to say, organized religion is incapable of offering any sort of adequate rebuttal for two main reasons:
1) a total inability thus far to provide empirical evidence justifying their beliefs; and
2) conflict of interest. Of course they'd tell you there's a soul. If knowledge that the soul is a myth gained widespread acceptance, all the priests, imams, rabbis and similar purveyors of religious bullshit in the world would have to go and find real jobs. As such, they are incapable of giving any sort of unbiased insight on the matter.
I suppose that now one could ask:
This post is already getting much longer than my usual posts, so I'm going to have to go with a short and sharp answer for now and maybe revisit this later. For the moment, my answer to the above question is thus:
* A damned good book that deserves a thorough reading. Twice.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I wonder if M'sia's going to see some badminton gold this year...
Update: Just got word that M'sia's best hope for a badminton gold was absolutely hammered by China's Lin Dan. I'd say good effort, but the score suggests otherwise.
2nd Update, 21 Aug: Bolt just did his thing and broke the 200m record. Kinda brings to mind this dude:
For those who can't be arsed to click the link, here's the long story short: Avril Lavigne's concert cancelled because it's "too sexy".
I can just about imagine what George Carlin would say. He'd say, "Holy fuckin' shitballs, there is NEVER such a thing as "too sexy"!!!" I'm inclined to agree.
And what did the paedophile worshippers have to say? From the Yahoo! News article:
Kamarulzaman Mohamed, a party youth official, told The Associated Press on Monday that Lavigne's show was "considered too sexy for us" and would promote the wrong values just before independence day*.
"We don't want our people, our teenagers, influenced by their performance. We want clean artists, artists that are good role models," he said.I don't frequent concerts myself, but I for one see it as unforgiveably lame that because of the "sensibilities" of religious conservatives (read: anal retentives), Malaysia has lost out on a performance by a top notch pop artist. And not just her, mind you. Beyonce and Christina Aguilerra skipped M'sia, too, no thanks to the Islamists. The Pussycat Dolls did a gig here and got hit with a MYR10,000 fine for being, you guessed it, "too sexy".
My God/Prophet/Messiah/charlatan of choice says I can't have any fun so I don't see why anyone else should have a good time.
And that's all it comes down to, isn't it?
I don't know about you, but I think it's a bit telling of the sexual discrimination inherent in Islam that no male artists ever had this trouble. Be that as it may, what is the message the Islamists are trying to tell us here about women? That it's a sin to be beautiful?
If Ayaan Hirsi Ali's testimony in Infidel is anything to go by, and believe me, her word carries a LOT of weight, it would appear that Islam dictates that women should be ugly, uneducated, subservient and wrapped up like burritos**, i.e. A lifetime of oppression for the questionable promise of a blessed afterlife.
You know, I, like many Malaysians I know, really want to sympathise with political parties opposed to the BN government. But PAS really doesn't make it easy. Don't be surprised to see more of these, like in Indonesia:
* Ms Lavigne's concert was meant to be on the 29th August. M'sia's Independence Day (which half of us only remember because it coincides with the untimely expiry of Princess Di) is on the 31st.
** REALLY not a good idea in M'sian weather.
I was looking through some old bookmarks and I remember I was playing this game a lot to take my mind of the pain when I was recovering from having a cyst removed from the roof of my mouth*. And you know what's the crazy part? That's not really my highscore. There's another digit (a '3', if I remember correctly) on the left hand side, but this highscore screen wouldn't allow that many digits.
I'd probably play this game more if Elmer Fudd was waiting at the bottom with a shotgun...
* I recall it left a hole big enough for me to scratch my nose by sticking my finger into my mouth, but I guess you didn't need to know that. Eheh.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
You know, this address is actually a couple of hours drive from my place and a cheeky little voice in my head is telling me to ring on his doorbell and give him a pamphlet. >:-D
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Thundercats is cool. Well, was cool, until I discovered the joys of Cowboy Bebop, Eureka 7, Hagaren and the generally vastly superior Japanese voice acting, animation, music, storylines and other elements that simply make an animated feature worth watching. But I digress.
In it's day, Thundercats rawked. It was one of those things a wee boy waited for every week to watch (and not just to ogle Cheetara), and everyone wanted a toy Sword of Omens, even though we knew the bastard wouldn't get any longer no matter how much you swung it, did the poses and shouted "Thunder! Thunder! Thundercats! HOOOO!' at the top of your lungs.
Looking back, I think a big part of the catchiness is the sound of the word "thunder". It has oomph. I'm no linguist, alas, but I know there's a word for the oomphiness of the word "thunder". I suppose you could say it has a certain onomatopeaic quality*? Well, you get the idea.
Anyway, I was hiking up Existentialist Hill** last weekend when a friend brought to my attention the existence of a Taiwanese translation of Thundercats:
For the benefit of barbarians who cannot read the above, the first two characters do in fact translate as "thunder" and the last one is most certainly "cat". But I think you'll agree with me that a lot was lost in the translation when you realize that the above three characters are pronounced pilimao.
Yep. That's right, in the Taiwanese version, Lion-O does his thing shouting "Pili! Pili! Pilimao! HOOOOOOO!!" Ugh... Suffice it to say that version didn't do so well. I don't even want to contemplate what a Hokkien version would sound like.
* This is where a clever linguist is supposed to read this and correct me.
** Go ahead. Ask me why it's called Existentialist Hill.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
In any case, I've quite a few agnostic friends and as such, this post is written for their benefit. Comrades, know well that an agnostic is simply an atheist who hasn't thought religion through properly.
I was browsing the tellingly titled Internet Infidels Discussion Board when this charming article came to my attention. This led to an odd little train of thought...
Take your pick of any diabolical mass murdering nutter. Hitler, if you like, he seems popular. Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Papa Doc, Suharto, Pinochet, Bush Jr, maybe Mother Teresa, whoever. The long and short of it is, these very few people were responsible for the death and suffering of vast numbers of other people, easily in the order of millions, mebbe hundreds of millions. Basically, if you stand in opposition to them, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, you will suffer and die.
Now take the Abrahamic God. If you stand in oppostion to Him, assuming, for the sake of argument, that He exists, together with all the other infantile psychobabble as per the Nicene Creed*, you will suffer an infinity of torments until the End of Time. And what with Him being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
At the time of writing, over 10 billion Homo sapiens have lived and died, presumably not all that many of them subscribing to belief in Yahweh. Given the Homo sapiens has been stomping around this happy little planet for the past 130,000-ish years, we can perhaps assume about 80% of that 10 billion expired never having known the glory of God, and as such, the poor buggers are all doomed to, at best, Purgatory or, at worst, Hell.
Simply put, God inflicts infinite suffering on a number of souls several orders of magnitude greater than that of all the world's worst despots in human history put together. So... God is supposed to be good?
Sorry, I've encountered far too many believers, moderate and fundie alike who happily perform the singularly obscene mental gymnastics necessary to reconcile God's utterly abhorrent behaviour with tripe about "all-loving". If THAT is what passes for "all-loving", then by the same logic, all those tyrants mentioned earlier are saints, having sent untold millions into an early afterlife. And the suffering inflicted? Testing faith, of course!
That having been said, I've been reading Russell's History of Western Philosophy and am quite frankly appalled by the intellectual (and sometimes literal) mass murder carried out by the Catholic Church over its long and diabolical history. Pope Innocent III. Now there's a misnomer and a half...
Anyhoo, that's it from me for now. I'm-a go teach me some Japanese verbs...
* I note that the Nicene Creed's definition of "truly human" does not include the fairly human attribute of staying dead.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I'm-a call bullshit on this one. But hey, it's fun bullshit.
Anyway, religion/silliness aside, here's something fun I managed to find on the Poxnora* forums:
Dunno about you, but I really wish I knew what he was saying. He seems terribly enthusiastic about it. If the dancing is anything to go by, it appears to be a song about nipple hair. Oh, and I don't do World of Warcraft, but I understand the dance has quite a following there.
Also came across this, which has been haunting my dreams for the past few days:
I have been led to understand that this is NOT gibberish, but that there is in fact a language in there somewhere. Would be much obliged if somebody could please enlighten me as to what is being said. All I've managed to find is this video, suggesting that the song is about mercilessly abusing dough.
* Inside far too many of us is a gormless little MtG or D&D geek who never grew up. You can't fight it, you just have to let it out to play every so often.
What, you thought this was about Olympics? Go away and check out IHT or Reuters or something! This post is about something I found on the end of my chopsticks, possibly at one of several dozen wedding dinners I've attended this year:
Yeah, I just stared at it for about half a minute, too. No, I didn't eat it. And no, I've no idea what it is, nor did the people sitting in the immediate vicinity. The waiters were mostly Malay and Burmese, so they had no idea what it was, either. And having been raised kinda* Chinese, I knew better than to ask my mother what it was.
Here's a big tip to all you sons and daughters of the dragon/Yellow Emperor out there: Never ask your mother what's on your plate. Even if she does in fact know what it is, she will lie to you. And then she will tell you that it's good for you. Odds are she'll tell you it's good for you even if she doesn't know what it is.
But, gazing at that little lump of yuk as it quivered invitingly at the tips of my chopsticks, I couldn't help but feel I'd seen it somewhere before... Ah, now I remember. Ugh...
Truth be told, Chinese culinary arts are something of a mystery to me. Yes, we do eat pretty much anything. "Everything with legs except furniture. Everything that flies except kites." That's more or less how the old saying went. Needs a little updating these days, but you get the picture. In the glorious People's Republic, cats and dogs are most certainly on the menu if you know where to look**. Quan Ju De, the most famous restaurant chain for Beijing Roast Duck has a great big restaurant in Wang Fu Jing, I think, and as I recall, they had a ridiculously exotic menu involving all the bits and pieces of animals you'd never think of. Well, I remembered there being bear, ostrich and camel. Just looking at it, I suspected they've got some sort of deal going with the Beijing Zoo.
I think this business of eating damn near anything you can get in your mouth has its origins in Chinese medical theory. Don't get me wrong, I've every reason to believe that some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is in fact quite efficacious. But somehow, I've yet to see compelling evidence for the benefits of consuming, say, cockroaches, locusts***, deer genitals, rhino horn and tiger testicles. I don't know, it just seems to me that there is a LOT of completely useless bullshit caught up in TCM, no doubt introduced by some scruffy snake oil salesmen looking to make a quick buck. As such, TCM is in dire need of some spring cleaning to cut out the bullshit and pick out the useful bits that actually help people without having to cut bits off some hapless animals.
I suppose I'm being a little inconsistent here regarding animal cruelty. It's not something I've thought about much, being speciesist as I am, that is, I don't actually care about animals (except cats) unless their welfare is closely linked to that of humans. But that having been said, I'm very much against causing unnecessary suffering. And yet... I have this terrible urge to get me a cat, so I may stroke it and laugh diabolically whilst sat behind a reasonably large desk. Ahem.
* Chinese culture minus the language. More common than you'd think, in Malaysia. Go figure. I blame the Ministry of "Education".
** I had dog once in a Korean restaurant in Beijing. It tasted GOOD.
*** Not kidding. Powdered and used to make a broth, together with about a dozen other assorted herbs and athropods. Smelt vile. Tasted worse.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A tire shop called Kum Ho Tires.
A hawker centre called Bee Fatt.
And just for fun, here's an extract from the Devil's Dictionary:
Gold, n. A yellow metal greatly prized for its convenience in the various kinds of robbery known as trade. The word was formerly spelt 'God' - the l was inserted to distinguish it from the name of another and inferior deity.
Edit: Since we're on the subject of gold, kindly take a good look at this article before your next investment in a shiny trinket.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Bill Maher has been an outspoken critic of organised religion for quite a few years now, but I doubt very much he'd have made such a bold move as Religulous before the release of Dawkins' God Delusion. Dawkins always had a flair for the dramatic*, as was apparent in his Christmas Lecture and his writings, and the God Delusion marked a turning point of sorts in the conflict between faith and reason. In it, we find an eminent scientist speaking out against religion with a ferocity unparalled in the history of science, backed up with strong, consistent arguments leading up to the conclusion of pretty much all atheists, i.e. There is no Abrahamic God, and even if there were any sort of God, Supreme Being or Prime Mover of any sort, quite likely he doesn't actually give a shit about us little humans or our problems.
I've been following the conflict between faith and reason for quite a while now, and it's heartening to see more and more people openly declare themselves atheist and stand against the dogmas of scripture. For literally thousands of years, organised religion has hobbled the intellectual advancement of civilization, fueling corruption, racism and ignorance. I must say, though, the Abrahamic religions have performed the most incredible feat of marketing, somehow managing to shift the focus on the afterlife and use that as a selling point. In marketing terms, I'd say that's the equivalent of making a fortune selling dehydrated water (just add water!).
Do as I tell you, because I am your one and only path to Heaven. Become one of us, because if you don't, you're going to Hell. Give me your money, and I will pray for you and make sure you spend less time in Purgatory. Fight and die for me, because you will surely be rewarded for all Eternity after you expire. More recently I've heard of preachers denying global warming and encouraging their followers not to bother with environmentalism and sustainability, because the Rapture is coming.
The entirety of organised religion hinges on promises of the afterlife, for which there is, as yet, no empirical evidence whatsoever. To pad out the rest of theology, they nick the catchy bits off some older religions and introduce the concept of "sacred" to silence dissent. "Good" is whatever they tell you it is. "Evil" is everything else and, in many cases, everybody else. Suffice it to say, this also includes atheists and their devil-worshipping evolutionist ways.
The RDF forums bear witness to many ferocious (but civil!) arguments between theist and atheist. Being what it is, the debates are often highly intellectual, but one will soon find that the theist argument always comes back to faith in that which is not empirically verifiable. What I personally observe in those still arguing the cause for organised religions is:
a) Using the Bible to back your arguments is worthless. The Bible is so full of contradictions, historical fallacies, mathematical errors and outdated values that it in fact makes for a very, very weak argument for the existence of God. And going by the Old Testament, even if he did exist, he's really not worth respecting.
b) It is possible to be highly intelligent and a theist at the same time. Many moderate theistic regulars of RDF are very skilled debaters and make excellent use of metaphysics in their rhetoric. Personally, given Ayer's, Russell's and my own views on metaphysics, I think most of said rhetoric is a lot of intellectual masturbation.
c) Reason alone is not quite enough. While the moderate is still in possession of his faculties of reason, the fundie is quite happy to refute the most eloquent and compelling arguments with "LalalaIcan'thearyoulalala". Which brings me back to Religulous and the whole business of having a good laugh at the expense of religion.
While the Four Horsemen** continue to wage the culture war on the intellectual front, we find there is a growing trend in pop culture to ridicule religion. The concept of "sacred" is slowly falling apart. And I think this is fantastic! Atheists have long been aware of the sheer absurdity of religion and the mind-numbing stupidity it causes. As such, I like the idea that people are feeling less and less intimidated by the "sacred" card and looking honestly and unflichingly at the glaring inadequacies of organized religion.
So rock on, Bill Maher. I can't say I agree with him on everything, especially not his membership on the board of PETA***, but I definitely stand with him against religion.
Oh, I suppose I should explain the title of this post. Pronounced "Wagahai wa mushuukyou de aru." More or less translates as "I am an Atheist" in very pompous and formal Japanese. It's a reference to Natsume Souseki's famous novel, I am a Cat. You can find the full Japanese text of it among the links to the right. I read the English translation of it and decided that I had to learn Japanese to enjoy this novel in all it's glory. I swear, if a cat could speak, it would not be in lolspeak, but in Japanese. Nya.
* As mild-mannered scientists go, anyway.
** Daniel Denett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, if you don't already know.
*** What can I say, I'm speciesist!