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Comments by OHooligan

Go to: Talking to people works!

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by OHooligan

Does anyone say if there were any arguments in particular that capped it for them?

Masturbation.

(I know, I know, it's not exactly an argument. Well, not a proper one anyway.)

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 00:16:29 UTC | #950910

Go to: A lawsuit too far?

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by OHooligan

Is the lawsuit objecting to the song containing these lyrics? If not, why not?

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 00:07:35 UTC | #950909

Go to: Manila floods an expression of God's wrath?

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by OHooligan

Yep, God's really pissed off at the lack of adequate drainage and flood protection in Manila. Among other things no doubt.

And when a landslide buries a village, it's because God's pissed off at the buggers who failed to protect the trees on the slopes above.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 04:20:00 UTC | #950853

Go to: Para-naturalistic theories cannot lead to practical engineering

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by OHooligan

Para-naturalistic theories cannot lead to practical engineering

Agreed, but it occurs to me that sometimes they can help with the funding.

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 23:47:45 UTC | #950324

Go to: Para-naturalistic theories cannot lead to practical engineering

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by OHooligan

Does anyone recall the tale of the 19th century scientist whose photographic plates were fogged while stored in a drawer near some lumps of ore?

He solved the problem by storing his plates somewhere else. I don't think he's the famous one.

(references please, if you know this story) .

Anyhow, science has emerged from a long history of Strange Things Happening, with the scientists we remember being the ones who followed their curiosity to a successful conclusion, rapidly followed by the Practical Folk who Make Useful Things.

So it's hardly a surprise that there's something of a hankering for The Good Old Days, when Unexplained Phenomena would lead to a Scientific Breakthrough that doesn't require a budget like CERN's.

I think that's why Cold Fusion caught the popular imagination the way it did: the prospect of unlimited energy whipped up with nothing more than you'd find in a high school lab or hotel kitchen.

Despite "Ghostbusters", we have as yet no practical applications of what's loosely termed "The Paranormal". Oh, wait a moment: Tibetan Prayer Wheels. Wikipedia shows there are even water-powered ones. Wonderful, time-saving devices.

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 04:01:57 UTC | #950302

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 42 by OHooligan

@Comment 41 by phil rimmer

Excellent summing-up. I'm sure the science will continue. I've run out of contributions, but I'm still reading.

Sat, 28 Jul 2012 22:17:14 UTC | #950253

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by OHooligan

@Comment 38 by Zeuglodon

if you and your interlocutor have a long enough chat about an idea, the odds are greater that your ideas will align with each other and be more faithful copies

This discussion appears to refute that. Opposing positions become entrenched, and points become increasingly missed, leading to talking past each other. Happens all the time.

I think we're done here.

Sat, 28 Jul 2012 11:19:42 UTC | #950213

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by OHooligan

@Comment 36 by phil rimmer

E.E.Milne. What a perfect illustration of your points.

Oops, busted. But you're absolutely right - I wish I'd done that on purpose. I'm grinning like an idiot right now. Thanks deeply.

... nice funtional definition

Thanks again, I wasn't sure - I did warn it seemed rather circular and self-serving, saying little more than "survival of the survivors".

Aphoristic knowledge is certainly what we aspire to. It is highly portable and robust.

Yes, hence the effort to distil ideas and concepts down into slogans, even if there's a good deal of groundwork or backstory to prepare the listener to be able to relate "properly" to the slogan. And I suppose why I've been trying to condense my thoughts into a smallish number of simple short statements.

Comment 34 by Schrodinger's Cat... I like this very much.

Me too.

"cultural machines" ... concerned with the precise packaging of information and its formal organising permitting amongst of things noisier channels.

Meme processors?

aesthetics could be key to memetic robustness.

Wish I'd said that :-)

( "You will, OHooligan", I hear the imagined voice of Oscar Wilde in my head). Or was it Wild. Anyway you know who I mean.

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 22:34:29 UTC | #950131

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by OHooligan

@Comment 31 by Zeuglodon

"imperfect" makes it sound as though the replication process could be as awful as I describe, but if the mutation rate is so high, it can barely be called replication from brain to brain

By "imperfect" I meant a non-zero mutation rate. If I'd meant "wildly inaccurate" - as you seem to assume - I'd have said so.

You assert that idea transfer from mind to mind is too error prone to serve as a replication mechanism in the evolutionary sense. I disagree. There's a lot of error-correction going on that maintains the core essentials of a viable meme. Just because an information channel is noisy, doesn't mean that it can't carry a signal. For an example right under your nose: the internet.

Chinese whispers show a counter-example: when there's no error-correction, what's transferred isn't a meme, it's just a Confused Noise (to borrow from E.E. Milne once again).

@Comment 32 by phil rimmer

... ritual, rhyme, rhythm and music and the like... mirror neuron copied with good accuracy, can become the cultural machine that transcribes more complex stuff.

Yes, but the copying doesn't need to be at all accurate in its internal details, just as long as it results in a recognizable copy at the macro level.

Imagine reverse-engineering a product to make an equivalent one, as opposed to getting hold of the original design and knocking out identical replicas. A bike is a bike, even if every one is a bit different, and it's bike-like ideas that make for viable memes. The design, plans, tools in my bike factory may be totally different from those in yours, but both factories make things that people recognize as bikes.

Error correction is thus a basic requirement for an idea to be a meme - in a circular, self-serving definition, memes are the ideas that have what it takes to survive in their environment.

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 21:55:59 UTC | #950076

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by OHooligan

@Comment 29 by phil rimmer

mode(s) of learning

Fascinating. Twin braids of instruction, culturally/traditionally segregated by gender, suggesting indeed distinct types of meme as per SC (Comment 28), with differing requirements for successful transmission.

The "intention" memes, SC's meme2, would be subject to greater variation, I suppose, while the "action" memes would need to be copied with greater fidelity, though still not always 100%, as mutations (mis-rememberings, or wilful tweaks) give rise to variations.

Or rather, the "intention" memes are not instructions on exactly-what-to-do, but instructions on how to go about figuring out what to do, which can then be useful in as-yet-unknown situations. Perhaps they copy just as faithfully as "action" memes, though they appear more able to pick up new material.

As for the earlier discussion on mental states and how "exact" must be the copy for memes to work, the answer seems to be: nowhere near exact.

Even a software application these days can identify a tune, despite differences in noise, pitch, rhythm, instrumentation/timbre, recording quality, sample rate, compression algorithms. So there is no need for brain-to-brain reproduction of exact neural or mental states, only for "enough" of an idea to be transferred to count as replication of a meme, as determined by observable behavior.

And that was just on the simple end of the scale, a tune. On the complex web of mutually supporting concepts and habits that comprise a religion, the mental states involved can differ wildly, all that matters for meme propagation is that "enough" of the essentials are passed along.

Indeed, the successful long lived "meme" contains mechanisms to counter the potentially high mutation rate. Long lived folk or ethnic music has strong internal structure that survives different interpretations in playing. It was only with the invention of written musical notation that entire complex arrangements could be composed that would outlive the composer and those he'd personally conducted.

Religions, seen as "memes", contain a variety of checks-and-balances to ensure that the meme propagates unchanged. The RCC ensures this by control of teaching and tradition. Reciting a creed helps remind the faithful what it is they're supposed to believe, and trained habit gets them to do this on a regular basis.

Book-based religions do it by holding central an immutable "database" of material, though even then sub-species (schisms) arise by point mutation - a single influential teacher can spawn a whole new sect.

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 00:46:49 UTC | #950011

Go to: Effect of the concept of hell on children

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by OHooligan

My RC upbringing taught me this Absolute Truth: ALL OTHER RELIGIONS ARE FALSE.

In fact, it isn't just the RC religion that teaches that. Every one I've heard of says so.

Therefore, it must be a Universal Truth.

Combining this into a single belief, and taking a majority opinion where there's contradiction, I come to the startling Revelation that the OTHER was an unnecessary limitation on an otherwise splendid statement:

ALL RELIGIONS ARE FALSE.

There, I've proved it. That was easy. (Though, really, it took me a while.)

Welcome.

Tue, 24 Jul 2012 03:08:13 UTC | #949963

Go to: Conspiracies taking over where religion left off

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by OHooligan

Established religions at least have specific creeds that one can cite as irrational nonsense.

At last, praise for religion!!! Who'd have thought it?

Tue, 24 Jul 2012 02:39:02 UTC | #949961

Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by OHooligan

@Comment 21 by Zeuglodon

an awful mistake

Yeah, I must admit I phrased it rather provocatively. On re-reading, it was a bit too vague. And half-baked, sure, but this isn't a paper for peer review (when we'd expect the baking to be done), it's a discussion.

I don't mind the belligerence, it's the haystack of strawmen, all the stuff about stars and bits of brains and stick insects with missing twigs.

Consider instead the only instance of an evolving system that we agree on, Life on Earth, and try to extract the essentials that make it evolve:

I nominate these as being necessary and sufficient properties

  • Information in discrete packages

  • A way to replicate these packages

  • replication is not always exact

  • replication requires some finite amount of a finite resource.

  • the content of a package affects its ability to acquire the resource.

  • repetition. Lots and lots of it.

  • I contend that evolution will take place in any system with these properties.

    The physical, molecular, chemical, electromagnetic, mechanical nature of the way the information is carried is secondary, as are the replication mechanism and the nature of the resource.

    The conjecture, in a single sentence:

    Evolution is inevitable in any system that supports repeated imperfect replication of packages of information with competition between packages for finite resources necessary for replication.

    The unit of persistence is the Information Package, not the temporary structures or organisms that participate in the competition for resources and the replication process.

    This means that other systems, not just our familiar "carbon based lifeforms", can also evolve. Granted, we know of no mechanism other than RNA for getting this started.

    But I regard your strict insistence on "self-replication" as artificial, once the process has started.

    You place "self-replication" center stage, and therefore exclude any system that doesn't have this property. You go into detail on the remarkable properties of RNA, essential for the bootstrapping of life as we know it. But once bootstrapped, evolution works on the information packages stored in the DNA "database" as you put it. No reason why we should expect life to stop there. The RNA is still needed, but the evolutionary action has moved on to DNA. Next step, in another layer of bootstrapping, DNA is still needed, but the action may move to another form of information encoding, the "database" may be stored elsewhere, and here is where we get to consider Memes.

    Without requiring genetic (DNA) mutations, memes can evolve much faster.

    Human technology has developed from next to nothing in an eyeblink on the genetic evolutionary timescale. The human brain today is hardly any different from the brains of the people who built the pyramids. The "database" for our technology lies beyond our DNA, and is updated much more frequently.

    In summary:

    With an arbitrary self-imposed constraint, you effectively disqualify "meme theory" from consideration as an evolutionary system on a par with genetic evolution.

    Without that constraint, I contend the opposite, that the evolution of memes can be studied within the same theoretical framework as the evolution of genes, and that both are instances of something more general.

    Perhaps you were also being deliberately provocative in starting a discussion entitled "meme theory..." and then going into great detail on something else.

    Thanks anyway for goading me into trying to sharpening up my thinking. I'm sure it's good for me, but I'm not sure I've succeeded.

    Tue, 24 Jul 2012 00:59:11 UTC | #949948

    Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by OHooligan

    Comment 17 by QuestioningKat

    Thanks QK, I just had an "Aha!" moment. Here it is again in slow motion:

    Ideas are not themselves material.

    Exactly. They're Information. But so are genes. They're long strands of digital data encoded in DNA molecules. It isn't the molecule that is passed on when DNA replicates. It's the Information.

    The atoms are different, but the gene remains the same. How many of the atoms in the original egg-and-sperm combination that started your good self are still within your body somewhere? Don't know? Nope, me neither. But does it matter? Not a bit, I'd say. And what are the odds of any of these atoms making it into one of your children? About as near as you can get to zero. But what are the odds of a particular gene getting through into one of your children? 50% isn't it?

    All genes are pretty much equal if all you do is count the number of atoms of each element, it's the arrangement, the Information, that matters.

    so, to paraphrase your insightful comment (and give you the credit)

    Genes are not themselves material.

    There.

    So, in easy bites:

    Genes are information.

    Memes are information.

    The same rules can apply to both these kinds of information.

    Both are kinds of information that can evolve, by replication, mutation, and selection by competition for limited resources.

    And finally, the "Aha!!!": I'll put it as an assertion:

    Evolution is an innate property of Information, independent of the specifics of the processes that encode, replicate, mutate and select it.

    Mon, 23 Jul 2012 04:46:32 UTC | #949879

    Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by OHooligan

    @Comment 8 by Zeuglodon

    I'm afraid these comments are in a rather arbitrary order. Hope you don't mind.

    I agree with QuestioningKat that you are "viewing ideas or memes with a microscope".

    By your own analogy (which was better than mine), it's like discussing atoms with a car mechanic. Much of your post goes into details of neural mechanisms, motor nerves, and so on. Interesting - and I'm constantly amazed by how much detail of this has been discovered in the last few decades - but beside the point. Zoom out, take in the Big Picture.

    Incidentally, I was surprised in The Selfish Gene to see the (almost) "self-serving" definition of a gene. Not, as I'd expected, a specific definable strand of DNA, but just whatever collection of subsequences that turn out to persist for many generations. The definition of "gene" looked to me to be tailored to support the theory, and at first I thought that was somehow "cheating".

    But then it sank in, and the theory stands, even if you cannot delve into the genome and find the particular combination of strands that "encode for" specific inherited behavioral traits, such as the way a bird builds its nest, or a spider its web.

    Similarly with the meme. You aren't going to get to the details of an individual's neural activity, but you can still study the behavior of people and populations. Like the rather slippery definition of genes, memes are persistent patterns, or rather, collections of patterns.

    The basic litmus test is ... does it, when given the needed materials, make copies of itself spontaneously? This is necessary for it to give rise to natural selection.

    Bingo. Well stated. This is a concise statement of our point of disagreement. It's a long time since most replicating DNA was able to do so by bathing in a simple soup of amino acids. These days lots of successful genes require a much more complex environment, virus genes being just one example.

    agency should be granted to the replication process and not to the passive thing that gets replicated.

    Too narrow a focus, once again. Try the broad-brush approach: replication, mutation, selection by competition for limited resources. Repeat. That's Evolution, isn't it?

    What persists are genes, or memes. Change the environment from DNA or RNA sequences in amino acid broth to algorithms in a computer simulation. If it supports these 3 operations, it's evolution, whether the selection is natural or artificial (meaning also natural, but with humans playing a part in the selection process). Change again to collections of ideas hosted by human minds and passed between them by any means available, I don't think this breaks the model.

    ...ideas will never take precedence over genes in the long run. When they do, it's because their interests and those of the individual organisms align.

    A key point, I think. Suspend disbelief in "memes" for a moment, and ponder the possibility of a collection of ideas that is not aligned with the interests of the individual, but has nevertheless the ability to spread, infecting new hosts at a greater rate than it destroys them. Or doesn't destroy them, merely stunts their growth by siphoning their energy and efforts away from preserving their own genes, and into preserving and spreading the collection of ideas.

    Thus, the assertion that "ideas will never take precedence over genes" is IMHO wishful thinking. I wish it too, but I don't share your optimism.

    But how bad is bad for the host?

    A Jonesville style self-destruction isn't good for the meme either. But a meme that induced willingness to sacrifice one's life for the cause, the faith, or the country could thrive despite killing off some of the infected before they are able to reproduce. When it's a race, you might argue that it benefits the genes specific to that race, but that can hardly apply to patriotism in a nation of immigrants, or to a religion that accepts converts

    Like a parasite that treats its host as expendable, of course it doesn't help the parasite if it drives the host to extinction, but it's ok to kill individual hosts as an essential part of propagating the parasite. There's a wasp grub that uses a spider this way.

    Even on its own, a virus is capable of making a copy of itself

    I dispute that, in two ways: Virus DNA is a replicator that is good at getting replicated in an environment where suitable host cells exist. It doesn't need to replicate in any other environment, so whether it can get lucky elsewhere is hardly the point, as it is not its main way of replicating.

    ... mistaking the puppet for the puppeteer

    Well, yes, but not in the way I think you mean. It may be helpful to view meme-infected humans as the puppets, driven to act for the benefit of an infectious mind-parasite, the meme serving as puppeteer in this case.

    Isn't that where the original article got its catch phrase: do we have ideas, or do ideas have us?

    It's actually bad science to run with a hypothesis without examining it more closely

    Yes of course. You need both, those who soar on the explanatory power of a new hypothesis, and those who try to pull them back to earth with "but what about...". After much to-and-fro, the hypothesis flies or it doesn't. All the stuff we now accept had to go through that kind of trial, and it's well-nigh impossible to predict which newly hatched hypotheses will survive long enough to become respectable adult theories. What we must not do, is just Take It On Faith. Either way.

    I still maintain that running with it is more interesting. Doesn't mean it's right, but it hasn't (yet) been proved wrong, or superceded by something simpler that gets more right answers.

    On the aliens and androids "thought experiment", that was more-or-less the gist of the UK TV drama from the 1960s "A for Andromeda", and to some extent Carl Sagan's "Contact": Aliens send data, earthlings decode the data and end up building something to the alien's specification.

    In fiction, to provide excitement, that could be an alien device to take over the earth, but imagine instead that the "something" turned out to be a transmitter that would re-transmit the original message. That would be a kind of replicator. And if the re-transmitted message was perhaps a little altered, you'd have the basis for a kind of evolution.

    Mmm, tasty food for thought. Thanks again for the opportunity.

    Mon, 23 Jul 2012 04:20:51 UTC | #949878

    Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by OHooligan

    Question: Are these examples of non-human memes? Or are they better described some other way?

    Learned behavior by a bird that uses a stick to obtain food.

    A bird's song.

    A whale's song.

    Fri, 20 Jul 2012 03:04:38 UTC | #949618

    Go to: Meme Theory, Zahavi's Handicap, and the Baldwin Effect

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by OHooligan

    Zeuglodon, I've followed your comment from the earlier Meme article (the one with the cowboy hats).

    I'm heartened to see several articles involving "meme" appearing here recently. I've recently re-read The Selfish Gene, especially the New Replicator chapter, and don't really have anything to add to it, I'm just rephrasing things my own way to get the concept comfortable in my own mind. I strongly recommend you (re) read that chapter too, if you haven't recently.

    First, I'm impressed by the effort you have put in to starting this discussion, and I thank you for that. It's a bit long to absorb all at once, so I will go back and re-read, but here are my initial observations:

    An attractive part for me is that "memes" explain things at a higher level. You don't need to keep returning to the genetic level, any more than molecular biology has to keep on reminding itself of the details of quarks and gluons.

    I think that emphasis on the mechanism of replication is misguided, and overly parochial.

    I think that comparison between "memes" and complex multi-cellular creatures such as mammals is also a mistake.

    I think that conflating "meme theory" with "group selection" is an attempt to discredit the former by association.

    I think that running the idea down is a lot less interesting than running with it.

    Comparing memes with viruses is IMHO much more useful. Neither can replicate by itself, but require a complex host to do the work. Viruses need cells, memes need brains. Not just any old cells either, the viruses that bother us need the cells residing in individuals of our own (or similar) species. It does not damage the analogy to note that all the candidate "memes" detected so far require human brains for their replication.

    For now, memes are only copied via the action of human brains, with our without photocopiers. That need not continue to be the case.

    In any case the analogy appears sound (I hesitate to call it a theory, but maybe it is one). Especially the part that explains how a meme (like a virus) can thrive despite being bad for the hosts that perform the replication.

    It also allows for the field of memetic engineering, in which artificial memes are deliberately constructed and deployed. Scientology might be an example.

    Taking the "memes-eye-view", analagous to the "genes-eye-view" promoted in The Selfish Gene, will (once again IMHO) provide compelling explanations of the way people behave, and provide a framework for developing defenses against the more pernicious "viruses-of-the-mind".

    But, being an analogy, I expect it will break down at some point. Finding that point is worthwhile, and I hope discussions like this help that goal.

    Once again, thanks for starting this discussion.

    Fri, 20 Jul 2012 00:52:34 UTC | #949617

    Go to: Your Brain on Fiction

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by OHooligan

    Reading vs Watching: Active vs Passive. In reading, the mind is busy actively constructing the scene, the characters, the actions, and, yes, the smells. I was fascinated to see that it actually engages the brain areas that normally deal with "the real thing" (smells, textures, movements).

    In watching - even the best of movies - the mind also constructs the experience, but with a lot less exercise, as so much less is "left to the imagination". I doubt the smells and textures parts of the brain are all that easily invoked by a movie. But perhaps non-verbal communication paths might be better exercised, such as well-acted emotions.

    More brain-scans required, I think. May the research continue into this fascinating topic.

    Thu, 12 Jul 2012 02:05:40 UTC | #948948

    Go to: Abortion needs to be taught in our medical schools

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 80 by OHooligan

    Getting irritated by the "sanctity of life" BS, and the hypocrites who proclaim it.

    Anyone else sick of the double standard here? It's ok to gun down and blow up people in distant lands, even by remote control, on the flimsiest of pretexts (reliable intelligence, executive order, sheer panic, boredom, or whatever), with barely a flicker of regret over the innocents slaughtered ("collateral damage") for being in what turns out to be the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Meanwhile, the supporters of this exported mayhem have a domestic legal system that makes such a protracted drama over execution of those convicted of the worst offenses, including the disgusting spectacle of trying to dress up execution as a medical procedure.

    But against all that, the poor innocent fertilized egg cell that may eventually grow to become a child, this must be preserved and protected at all costs.

    Gimme a break!

    Wed, 04 Jul 2012 22:43:02 UTC | #948584

    Go to: Abortion needs to be taught in our medical schools

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 78 by OHooligan

    @Comment 40 by starshine

    Same goes for pregnancies resulting from rape.

    I didn't understand your view on this, please clarify. Regardless of pro-this or pro-that, I'm convinced that the kind of legislation that tries to prevent convicted criminals from keeping their ill-gotten-gains should also apply to rapists who make their victims pregnant. That's a gain for the selfish genes they carry around in their selfish jeans, and should be denied. I don't mean making them pay child support. I mean removing their offspring from the gene pool, by sanctioned abortion, and the quicker the better, so there's less chance of claiming it's already a Person with rights of its own. Perhaps if the victim's family has strong opinions to the contrary, they could enter into some kind of reconciliation with the offender, but the default position should be instant abortion, paid for by the state and reclaimed if possible from the offender. Ask the parents of a raped girl if they want their grandchild to be the spawn of a rapist?

    While on these lines, wouldn't removal of a testicle be a reasonable penalty for the worst kind of repeat offenders? I'm conjecturing that denial of the right to propagate should form part of the sanctions against forcing pregnancy upon an unwilling victim. Some offenders won't care, but some might, and it makes sense from the genetic viewpoint: we can choose which genes to reward, and if there really is a "gene for rape" wouldn't a civilized society be well advised to discourage its propagation?

    I know, this is skirting dangerously near to "Eugenics", the engineering out of undesirable traits by selective breeding or abortion. Undesirable like dark-skinned, or red-haired, or left-handed, or brown-eyed.... No, don''t want to go there. But it doesn't mean you just let it all go and preserve every sperm that hits a bullseye.

    @Comment 45 by danconquer

    "Every sperm is sacred", from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life".

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085959/

    Wed, 04 Jul 2012 05:32:07 UTC | #948541

    Go to: I think we've been insulted by American book publishers

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 48 by OHooligan

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0267601/

    @Comment 44 by Vorlund

    My mother had a psychotic episode when I was about 10 years old...

    So sad, to have such tragedy in your childhood. Congratulations on your survival, may you remain strong.

    In former days those troubled by "Demons" would be Exorcised (or worse), and the people applying the treatment would (at least profess to) share the victim's belief in the Demons.

    Nowadays they are treated for Mental Illness, and the people applying the treatment don't share the victim's belief, but see the belief itself as a symptom of the illness.

    Which is I suppose an improvement.

    I find fiction can be a useful way to explore difficult topics, so would like to share the following:

    This is a low-budget drama that treads a well-worn Supernatural Horror path part of the way, but doesn't stick to it. I found it an interesting take on the subject of mental illness and supernatural beliefs, especially the ending.

    "The Irrefutable Truth About Demons"

    WARNING: It gets a bit gory.

    I don't know where you might find it, I doubt it got widely distributed.

    Wed, 04 Jul 2012 04:21:20 UTC | #948539

    Go to: The Dawkins Challenge

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 97 by OHooligan

    @Comment 95 by blitz442

    Excellent summary. And in only 9 points. Well done.

    Why are they wrong and the Church is right?

    All religions/cults have this clause. The "All the Others are False" clause.

    Wed, 27 Jun 2012 22:08:55 UTC | #948230

    Go to: The Dawkins Challenge

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 96 by OHooligan

    So the wafer is haunted?

    Exactly.

    Evidence, not conjecture.

    Faith is believing stuff without Evidence. Religions depend on Faith, unlike science. It's foolish to mistake one for the other.

    Wed, 27 Jun 2012 21:54:55 UTC | #948228

    Go to: A History of Violence

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 50 by OHooligan

    @Comment 49

    Thanks Red Dog for the response.

    Just because you see the world in terms of 2nd rate movies doesn't mean the people in power do.

    I see I gave you the wrong impression.

    I don't see the world in terms of 2nd rate movies, but I think those in power, and in the media, expect me to, along with the rest of the general public. I think they often act like they're the producers of 2nd rate movies, distractions for the popcorn munching masses.

    People like Obama and Cheney barely have time to go to these movies and they certainly don't base their strategic decisions on them.

    Power politics and 2nd rate movie scripts have been feeding off each other for so long that I think it's not going to be all that easy to untangle them. Those who have made it to the top of the political heap, at least in the Modern World, are well aware of the power of Spin, and hire professional consultants to manage how things are presented to the public.

    To the News media, everything is a "story". That's how they talk. Editors choose which "story" gets the headline, and it's sometimes a political decision. The distinction between "Fact" (News) and "Fiction" (Movies, TV dramas, novels) is deliberately reduced by the way they are presented. Advertising and Propaganda are on the fact/fiction spectrum somewhere too, something like "fiction dressed up as fact", or wolves wearing wool?

    So, what is presented as Fact has increasingly come to resemble badly written fiction, 2nd rate movies, as you said.

    For example: In the previous episode of the OBL story (working title could have been "The Empire Strikes Back"), when The Good Guys sweep into Afghanistan in a wave of patriotic fervor and heroic rhetoric, taking the fight to the enemy, the story climaxes with The Bad Guy (OBL) cornered in his Secret Lair (one worthy of a James Bond villain) at Tora Bora. But then, at the last moment (and there's a severe plot-hole here, but no matter), the Good Guys falter, and he somehow slips thru their grasp and vanishes. At the time, I thought "this looks like he's needed for a Sequel".

    The OBL story - for it IS a story - had only a few alternative endings. I outlined two. There is a third, the boring one, where he's never heard from again. That happens to stories that don't attract the funding to make a sequel.

    At one point GWB, the Decider in Chief himself, said that finding OBL didn't matter, so it would seem he wasn't in favor of the OBL sequel, having his own preferred sequel to make: Iraq War II

    But at last the OBL sequel was made, and it used the Hit Squad scenario rather than the Courtroom Drama scenario. I wonder if they had test screenings, like they do for real Hollywood movies, before deciding which ending to run with. Or was this scenario decided well in advance: silence him, lest he reveal some embarrassing truths.

    Thu, 21 Jun 2012 23:19:45 UTC | #947954

    Go to: Moral Clarity and Richard Dawkins

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 243 by OHooligan

    Turtles.

    It's turtles all the way down.

    Case dismissed.

    Next?

    Wed, 20 Jun 2012 23:48:36 UTC | #947929

    Go to: A History of Violence

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 48 by OHooligan

    Whacking Bin Laden looks more than anything like a scene from a typical mafia/gangster movie script.

    You know the one: The renegade former lieutenant of the gang goes into hiding, is eventually tracked down and "taken out" by a hit squad. For the gang leadership, of course, it's "just business", nothing personal, and there would be a compelling reason to do it: to silence him.

    Unlike the other movie script, the one where the guy is arrested by police and either brought to trial, or turned to testify against the gang leaders, and shipped off to a Witness Protection Program, like in "Goodfellas".

    Finally - to head off any resurgence of the lengthy two sided dispute above - I'm talking scripts here because it seems to me that World Events since the introduction of TV have been shaped by, and shaped for, the way they play out on screen. Life imitates Art imitates Life, it's not a one-way street, and Reality TV has brought more TV to reality than it has brought reality to TV. Nobody cares about plot-holes any more, just the snippets that look good in the promos.

    Think "Wag the Dog", and consider who decided which script should apply in the final installment of the OBL.saga.

    Wed, 20 Jun 2012 21:54:04 UTC | #947926

    Go to: The Lord’s Army Comes to America’s Public Schools

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by OHooligan

    The playground becomes the battleground:

    "You need to believe in JESUS"

    "Nya nya nya nya - your (185 millionth) grandpappy was A FISH!!!!!"

    So, where's the funding for an Even Better News Club, handing out copies of The God Delusion?

    I know, I shouldn't make light of it. Actually I find it deeply sickening, and extremely scary. I've armed my kids with The God Delusion, and permission to use it, but only in self-defense. The hardback edition would have a bigger impact, but there's only so much weight they can carry around every day.

    Then again, I live in a country much less troubled with this issue than the USA.

    Tue, 19 Jun 2012 23:11:37 UTC | #947885

    Go to: Do Atheists Understand and Appreciate Black Bodies?

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 93 by OHooligan

    In his 1956 essay "Punctuation Marks," Adorno asserts, just as boldly, that "lucidity, objectivity, and concise precision" are merely "ideologies" that have been "invented" by "editors and then writers" for "their own accommodation."

    ROFL. No, I didn't make that up. It's from the link mentioned (far) above, Is Bad Writing Necessary

    I conclude: this article is no worse than a lot of other pseudo-academic horseshit. I still haven't a clue what it's supposed to be about, or what point in particular the author was trying to make. Maybe it was an assignment, and the word-count was all that mattered?

    Or - I just had another thought - it may have been generated by one of those programs that decorate spam to get it past the mail service filters.

    ps. I'm clearly all for Orwell when it comes to questions of how-to-write.

    Mon, 18 Jun 2012 03:55:11 UTC | #947764

    Go to: Church Puts Legal Pressure on Abuse Victims’ Group

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by OHooligan

    Pope says: it remained a mystery how clergy could commit such sins

    Translation: "F*cked if I know".

    Still, the RCC is big on Mysteries. Perhaps now at least they'll believe in this one.

    Sun, 17 Jun 2012 23:58:43 UTC | #947761

    Go to: The Dawkins Challenge

    OHooligan's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by OHooligan

    All comments that question Transubstantiation are futile, if they're based on the lack of any physical change. RCC deftly sidesteps that, agrees wholeheartedly - there's no change that you skeptical scientists can detect no matter what fancy gadgets you use.

    RCC is firmly in the realm of distinct body and soul, so all the stuff they deal with is in The Spiritual Dimension, outside that which is accessible to scientific investigation.

    Not at all hard to accept, really - they're running a scam based on Knowledge that cannot be gained by the Scientific Method. At its height, just before the Reformation, the Church was raking it in by selling tickets to Heaven, or Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free cards. (Ever wonder how much kickback had to go to Satan for that deal?)

    So, RCC teaching has no real problem co-existing with the scientific method and whatever it may reveal about the physical universe. At least not since Galileo. RCC has learned some wisdom there, unlike the fundie creationists who have unfortunately tied their Faith to a world view that brings them into direct contradiction of scientific discovery, leading them to try to suppress the teaching of science.

    The RCC has a lot to answer for elsewhere, especially in its dreadful attitude to sexuality and reproduction, but sniping at its Illogical Rituals is IMHO misdirected effort.

    Sun, 17 Jun 2012 20:20:21 UTC | #947757