richard: (Default)
2027-01-02 03:21 am

Associates only (mostly)

Leave a comment in order to be considered. Alternatively, simply add me to your reading list, and I'll receive an email notification. I am very likely to add you, especially if I know you from elsewhere. If I do not, I would appreciate it if you told me where you found me. Most of my posts are underneath a lock (and many are underneath filters), but there are some that are public; do feel free to peruse them.

There isn't much of a policy here, although I prefer for people to remain intelligent and civil when commenting here, regardless of their opinions of my writing. I have a liberal policy towards dissent. If you disagree with me, then you are free to state one's disagreement, as long as you're civil.
richard: (Solemn.)
2009-10-11 06:39 pm
Entry tags:

Barack Obama, Nobel Laureate

I imagine that everyone on this reading list has heard about Obama and his being granted the Nobel Peace Prize. Like others, I think that this award was granted prematurely. He has simply not been president long enough to merit such recognition, nor has he fulfilled what he said he would. (This is not an indictment on Obama; he must try to strike compromises with the Republicans in Congress, which is an arduous task for any Democrat.) The United States is still at war with Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes a Peace Prize quite inappropriate. He has pledged to remove troops, but he has not removed them yet. Why award him a prize for something that has not yet been accomplished, and may never be accomplished, considering how the Republican Congress has behaved towards him since his election? 

I have heard that the Nobel committee may have granted him the prize to 'encourage' him, but this still makes little sense to me. The Nobel Prize doesn't exist to merely 'encourage' people; it exists to recognize pre-existing achievements. Would a scientist be awarded a Nobel Prize for an experiment whose results have not yet been confirmed? I doubt it. Why, then, does Obama merit this award? Yes, he is a better President for foreign affairs than Bush was, but in 2008, most presidential nominees would have been better than Bush, McCain included. (A notable exception is Mike Huckabee, who struck me as a Christian Right war-mongering fool.) If McCain, Clinton, Edwards, or any of the other nominees were elected, would they receive this prize? Probably not, at least in my opinion.

I must make it clear that I am not saying that Obama is a poor president; Bush and his ilk were far, far worse at managing America's affairs. (And I know John McCain would be horrible, and Sarah Palin a travesty.) I am just saying that it is far too early in his term for him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, especially since he has not done anything to MERIT it.

richard: (Default)
2009-02-28 04:00 pm
Entry tags:

The Conservatism of Internet ‘Bastard Culture’

For a subculture concentrated in a medium associated with social liberalism, the Internet ‘snark’ or ‘bastard’ culture (that is, the culture exemplified in Internet communities like Something Awful, Portal of Evil, Stupid_Free at Livejournal and Encyclopaedia Dramatica), is surprisingly conservative. Members of offline social minorities continue to find themselves on the wrong end of criticism, even though the anonymity of the Internet is often interpreted as a liberating medium for those who do not conform to social sexual, political, perceptual or philosophical norms. The idea that being heterosexual, stereotypically American, white, cisgender and neurotypical is inculcated just as fiercely. There is often little difference between what the 'snarkers' say and what offline pundits and humourists like Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity say. (I am using American pundits as an example because the snark culture is primarily American, and seems to draw much of its inspiration from American entertainers.)

Examples of what I'm talking about. )
richard: (escher)
2009-01-12 09:08 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I've done a few 'repairs' on my reading list--I removed those who were no longer reading me, who were having conflicts with either me or my system, or with whom I had fallen out of touch for an extended period of time. I have also added a few accounts that I never got round to earlier.
richard: (The owl keeper.)
2008-02-17 03:55 am
Entry tags:

Various.

I'll write something a bit more substantial in a little while.

So, I did a tiny friends-list trim. Most of you are still there -- I simply removed one deleted account, two people who hadn't added me back in ages, and someone who removed my account without telling me. (I wish people would let me know when they're doing that. I'm not particularly upset by it, but it's a courtesy that I prefer.)
richard: (Default)
2007-12-12 10:24 am

Formality is not hostility.

I know that this topic has been discussed earlier by others, but I feel that it is especially prudent to discuss it right now. I am leaving it public, and am crossposting it to other journals, because I consider it sufficiently important. It is based on personal experience. This is not directed at anyone on the Friends List. If you have any opinions on it, do tell me.

Formal language and presentations do not automatically mean that the party using them is deceptive, inscrutable, emotionless or hostile. Formality is a framework for expressing opinions, but formality in itself does not preclude honesty, comprehension, emotion or friendliness. We have dealt with such assumptions about us, before, especially I, since my presentation is supposedly formal. Rather, such linguistic preferences usually come from upbringing, education, personal disposition or preference. I believe that a lot of the hostility towards formal language and presentation is related to the 'bastard' and 'snark' cultures that seem to be ubiquitous now.

We must do away with the idea that formality indicates deception. Anglophone culture has supported the idea of 'plain speaking' for the past fifty years, approximately, and popular culture supports that notion. I believe that much of this is related to the concomitant anti-intellectualism that 'snark' and 'bastard culture' seem to promote, as well. One depicts heroes as being plain-spoken, 'good ol' honest Everymen', and villains as being eloquent, well-spoken and formal. (One might also notice all the 'Doctors' and 'Professors' amongst the villains, but that is another, tangentially related, subject.) It stands to reason that people will interpret formal speech and wriitng as deceptive, since that is the idea that this culture has inculcated into them. Intellectuals are not to be trusted, because their ideas are hard to digest; therefore, we must not trust anyone who sounds intellectual. One must learn that formality does not necessarily mean obfuscation, and that a formal interaction can be just as open and honest as an informal one.

Secondly, formal language and behaviour do not necessarily show that one is being inscrutable, emotionless or hostile. I have been told, by more than one person, that it is difficult to ascertain what I am thinking because I express myself in a particular way. We have also been told that we sound unfriendly. It is as though feelings are not 'real' unless they are expressed in the form of profanity, 'plain speech' and inelegant language. I believe that this is tied to the idea that formality is linked to deception. If I feel adamant about something, I am going to be frank about it. I usually do not hide my distaste or moral outrage when it is appropriate to show such feelings. I am not emotionless because I choose not to use colloquial language. In fact, I consider myself a very passionate person, and there are times at which I hold very strong opinions. I am not unfriendly because I use formal language. (In fact, I try to be as friendly and gracious as possible!) It is simply that I feel no need to couch such feelings in colloquial language when that is atypical of me in the first place. It is unreasonable to expect that of me, or of other people who prefer to use more formal language.

It is pernicious, dangerous and truly upsetting to hear that people have these interpretations of formal language and conduct. I think that I should do something about it, honestly.


richard: (Default)
2007-09-30 02:52 pm
Entry tags:

Of dissociation and assumptions

I've been planning to write this for a few days, and I finally finished it last night, with [livejournal.com profile] sporkins (Kerry) and Nick of Astraea looking over it. [livejournal.com profile] sporkins served as editor, as well. It will be published on the system's plural site, and elsewhere, later.

As most readers of this site will know, the medical model for multiplicity (defined here as the state of having more than one conscious entity within a body) states that it is a form of dissociation adopted by people who have experienced severe abuse. In essence, it is viewed as a mixture of a coping-strategy, which normally involves ‘alters’ splitting from the ‘host personality’ during trauma, and a delusion that the ‘host’ personality has constructed for himself in order to survive the trauma. (1) This model does not see members of a multiple system as full individuals in their own right; rather, it views them as fragments, ego-states or alters to be integrated into a single personality.

Whilst this model may suit dissociative systems for whom the classical DID model is appropriate, it does not apply to the different mental states that exist on the multiple spectrum. Non-dissociative multiple systems should not have their experience referred using that model because it presupposes some things that may or may not be true. It posits that there must always only be one mind within a body; everything else is a pathology or a disorder and must be corrected. Secondly, it assumes that all multiplicity is a reaction to trauma, whether the multiple systems in question have experienced severe trauma or not. Thirdly, it constructs a corporeal notion of being, which may not be applicable for members of certain sorts of multiple systems.

Why the dissociation model may not always fit )
richard: (Me)
2007-09-21 02:33 am
Entry tags:

Evolution.

I'm afraid that I'm about to go on a bit of a pedantic tear, but a rather interesting post by [livejournal.com profile] naamaire inspired me to do it. It has come to my attention that many people, particularly those who subscribe to Creationist models, seem to misunderstand completely how the theory of evolution works. Those more knowledgeable than I about evolutionary biology may add information in the comments if they wish; I think that such a thing would be most useful.

I apologize for any incoherency, as well as typographical, orthographical and grammatical errors. It is late, and I am tired.

Many people misinterpret the theory of evolution; they seem to think that it has something vaguely to do with monkeys, or that it involves elephants' giving birth to hippopotami (or any other combination of a species giving birth to another). Those are gross oversimplifications; that is not the way in which evolution works at all. The theory of evolution describes gradual changes (and when I speak of gradual changes, I am speaking of changes that very well may take millions of years) in organisms that allow them to adapt to their environment. A dramatic change, like the elephants' giving birth to hippopotami that I gave in my example, would actually be antithetical to what evolution posits.

Organisms evolve through mutation and natural selection. Genes do not always copy themselves perfectly from parent to child; sometimes they mutate for no apparent reason. If the mutation happens to be adaptive, then the organism that harbours the gene will pass it on to its children, and if it is maladaptive, then the mutation will generally make sure that the organism does not live long enough to reproduce; therefore, such genes would not be passed on to the children. This would go on for quite a long time, making it very possible for new species to come about.

I should give an illustration so that my readers can understand better what I am talking about. I am sure that most of my readers are well aware of insects that evolve to be resistant to insecticides. When farmers apply such insecticides to their plants, those insects who happen to have (for whatever reason) a greater resistance to the pesticides will be more likely to survive and reproduce with each other, giving rise to more insecticide-resistant insects. Those who are not resistant will die. I know that many creationists will stop me there, and will try to call such evolution 'micro-evolution', which they admit exists, but will call larger-scale evolution (which is simply more 'micro-evolution' over a longer period of time) 'macro-evolution', which they dismiss. This is a fallacy; species tend not to come about during the course of human lifetimes. In fact, humans have been on Earth for rather a short time and have not had enough time to observe evolution directly, especially for large and complicated organisms like ourselves. Large-scale evolution does not happen in an instant. That we can see the sort of evolution observed in these insects is remarkable as it is.

The idea of organisms' suddenly giving rise to a newly evolved form and the argument about transitional forms' not being found are both utterly preposterous. Scientists do not believe this, and I am sure that they do not expect laymen to believe this, either. Of course a species only gives birth to its kind! It would be foolhardy to assume otherwise. Evolution's gradual nature, discussed earlier, makes that extremely improbable. Regarding the question of extant transitional forms, Richard Dawkins discusses transitional forms in an essay entitled 'Gaps in the Mind' in his book A Devil's Chaplain. He gives an example of transitional species in the form of the Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull ring.


The best-known case is the Herring Gull/Lesser Black-backed Gull ring. In Britain, these are clearly distinct species, quite different in colour. But if you follow the population of Herring Gulls westward round the North Pole to North America, then via Alaska across Siberia and back to Europe again, you notice a curious fact. The 'Herring Gulls' gradually become less and less like Herring Gulls and more and more like Lesser Black-backed Gulls until it turns out that our European Lesser Black-backed Gulls are actually the other end of a ring that started out as Herring Gulls. At every stage around the ring, the birds are sufficiently similar to their neighbours to interbreed with them. Until, that is, the ends of the continuum are reached, in Europe. At this point, the Herring Gull and the Lesser Black-backed Gull never interbreed, although they are linked by a continuous series of interbreeding colleagues all the way round the world. The only thing that is special about ring species like these gulls is that the intermediates are still alive. All (Dawkins' emphasis) pairs of related species are potentially ring species. The intermediates must have lived once. It is just that in most cases, they are now dead.
Richard Dawkins, 'Gaps in the Mind' from A Devil's Chaplain, p 22
Dawkins' example says it rather clearly. Transitional forms do exist.


I hope that this little write-up serves well in explaining how evolution works. If anyone has questions, do ask, and I shall either answer them myself, or point you to something that would answer the question for you.

Further reading
Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale
Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker
Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea
TalkOrigins.org

richard: (escher)
2007-04-07 06:26 pm

Pseudo-wit and snark on the Internet; a bit of a rant

I have spent a great deal of time on the Internet, and when one is on the Internet for a significant amount of time, one who is the reflective sort tends to notice certain social phenomena in such a medium.

My anecdotal observations seem to show me that many people enjoy a sort of sophomoric 'wit' that passes for intelligence and originality, and it is the sort of attitude that allows them to gain dominance over others in this medium. In general, their behaviour shows a flippant attitude towards Internet communication of any sort, unless it is towards someone such as a work superior. Commonly called 'snark', it pervades the Internet with its childishness. Most fora, chat rooms or any other areas that allow for human interaction are rife with this rubbish. Every topic is fair game, and even the nastiest, most despicable things, such as the Holocaust, slavery, misogyny, hatred of homosexuals, Adolf Hitler, rape and paedophilia, are made light of in this arena. (To see an example of such nasty behaviour, I would recommend visiting a highly populated web forum; you will most probably see some reference to these things.)

Depersonalization of others is also a common feature of this culture, especially once the perpetuator of snark is confronted with his behaviour. When someone of a less 'snarky' disposition tells the snarker off, their response is to depersonalize the other party with phrases like 'You are only on the Internet, so you do not know me' (or variants), 'This is not "real life"', 'You should not take the Internet so seriously' or 'It is just text on the screen, so this means nothing.' It is as if many of these people are trying to forget that the Internet is populated with people as real as they, and that they are trying to find catharsis through a medium that will allow them to do so at the expense of others. It is as though distance allows others to forget that there are actual people typing responses to them, with feelings and concerns that may or may not mirror their own. I believe that a sort of transference of 'person' to 'computer' occurs. People intellectually know that other flesh-and-blood people are communicating to them (at least for now; no Internet bot sounds human yet); however, since all that they can view is the computer, they sub-consciously perform an act of transference, and they treat the other person's behaviour as a computer print-out for the most part, especially when the conversants agree on a subject. When the conversants disagree, they are reminded that someone else is typing the words, and they start depersonalizing the other party in different ways, by emphasizing their physical distance and the erroneous idea that one cannot actually properly know someone on the Internet, or that all Internet communication is imaginary or contrived. (Aside: I also think that this attitude may also come from those who play games using telecommunications; they may have a sub-conscious association with games when the Internet is concerned.)

I think that these attitudes are going to become increasingly detrimental to Internet communications in future; as more people use the Internet as a means for social interaction, people are going to tolerate this school-bully behaviour as normal. It will be acceptable for people to invalidate others' relationships and communications because of distance, and I think that this will adversely affect any attempt for organizations to use the Internet as a tool for social change. However, I do not think the solution is despair or acquiescence; it is action. I think that people concerned with keeping the Internet safe for true activism, change and communication should make a conscious effort to treat other people online as they would treat people any other medium, rather than using the tactics listed above. I shall do my part and lead by example.

(This post intentionally left public.)
richard: (animated icon)
2007-01-17 06:34 am

An elaboration to my complaint.

Someone completely misinterpreted what I had written on the group's post (my opinion on the position of the British in the American War for Independence) and lambasted me for it (actually Lucianus, because this was the group's journal, and it was directed towards everyone on his list, not simply those who know of our plural group). Now Lucianus feels guilty for what I have written, and has issued an apology to those who are aware of my existence. I do not apologise, however, for my opinion. I apologise if I have caused suffering, but I do not apologise for what I think. And no, I do not advocate for colonialism or slavery, which are both incredibly disgusting human acts.* I am a bloody utilitarian, and would never advocate such horrific nonsense as slavery or colonialism, and there was no romanticising of Britain! People, I dare say, are ridiculous. These days I wonder if I should keep my publicly expressed opinions to science, or air them in a group that is far less interested in woolly, relativistic ways of thinking.

*and not in the same way two men having sexual relations is; as much as I am disgusted by male homosexuality, I recognise gay men's right to practise whatever they wish. It is no-one's business but their own. No suffering is caused by it, and it is pleasurable to them.

edit: I repaired my spelling of 'disgusted'. I think I am still unused to this keyboard.


Yours sincerely

A very frustrated

Richard