Sunday, November 15, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Bowler A: I started a new diet a couple days ago. No carbs. Now look at me. I'm throwing rocks tonight.

Bowler B: Yeah I don't think that's gonna improve your performance much. Maybe a little, I don't know, but it would take a while. Could be a placebo effect or...

A: Bowling isn't a sport you dummy.

B: *painstakingly explains that whether bowling is a sport or not isn't the issue, that it involves muscle memory, motor control, sensorimotor feedback loops, etc. and anyway, bowling performance enhancement was the starting point provided by A*

A: Nah. Bowling isn't a sport. And anyway, like I said, I'm throwing rocks tonight! Are you saying this has nothing to do with my new diet? I mean this food is in my body right now! Boom!

B: Well, you're right that diet has something to do with performance. You're getting energy from your new diet and using it to bowl, but "something to do with" is near meaningless. The question is how your new diet compares to your old one with regard to bowling performance. You need an apples to apples...

A: So my new diet does have something to do with my awesome bowling.

B: No! I mean yes but I just explained this, weren't you...*realizing*... Oh, you must be a new atheist.

A: Yeah, how did you know?

B: Educated guess.

A: Those anti-science religious nuts, man. Skygod-worshipping fools. Christians, Jews, oh, and the worst, obviously -- Muslims. They have this book that says all this crazy stuff and, you know, basic cause and effect, voila, they're always blowing stuff up. You get it? Crazy beliefs over here *dramatic hand gesture*, crazy violent actions over here.  I mean you don't have to be a neuroscientist...

B: Have you thought about other belief diets, if you will?

A: Huh?

B: Let me ask you a question. What do you think about the Middle East?

A: Well I used to think hey just let those crazies blow each other up, let God sort...uh...well now I think we need to kill the worst ones.

B: With drones?

A: Sure.

B: Did you know nearly 90% of people killed in drone strikes were not the target?

A: Well, we're trying.

B: They're not trying?

A: They're trying to hit civilians. They do it on purpose.

B: Have you heard of agent orange, white phosphorous, napalm, that deliberate attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz...

A: It's not the same though. They...

B: Where were you radicalized?...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NFL week 9 daily picks

I don't give the NFL any of my money. It's a terrible organization any way you look at it. Even liberals agree. But predicting sports results is fun and I'm good at it so here are my daily picks for week 9, using Yahoo prices. Asterisk means I really like. If you're playing in a big group where you need to finish 1st out of 50 or more, it makes sense to take risks. Pair your QB with a receiver, make a low floor/high ceiling play.

J. Winston $30 -- NYG got torched by Brees last week. JW has been good not great.
*D. Carr $34 -- My favorite QB play this week. No one would be surprised by a 5 TD game at this point.
B. Roethlisberger $42-- Always a threat to go off. As good a chance at a huge game as anyone.
E. Manning $41-- NYG defense is terrible so will need to throw; TB defense also terrible; perfect setup.
D. Brees $40 -- 7 TDs last week, pretty safe as well; terrible NO defense keeps him throwing.

*J. Langford $14 -- Most obvious call this week; low-end RB1 at RB3/4 price.
CJ Anderson $18 -- If R. Hillman sits, this is a bargain. Denver will be running here.
D. McFadden $20 -- RB1 for RB2 price. Very good bet to get 20+ touches.
L. DeBlount $23 -- Risk/reward play; game sets up as NE blowout which should mean DeBlount getting volume; multiple TDs wouldn't be surprising but Belichick is unpredictable.
T. Gurley $38 -- Obvious play if you can afford it.

D. Inman $10 -- 5th option for SD but WRs ahead aren't target hogs and SD projects to put up points and yards; worth it for this super cheap price
M. Floyd $17 -- A costlier Rivers target
M. Evans $27 -- Risk/reward play; V. Jackson out, will get volume
M. Bryant $27 -- If Roethlisberger goes off, will likely be involved
*A. Jeffery $29 -- Top 5 WR for very good price

*AS Jenkins $15 -- Health is sketchy, check to make sure he's in lineup, but big upside -- 110 yards, 2 TDs in week 1; if he plays, should get targets: if a scratch, take Tamme (below), also a 4 o'clock game
J. Tamme $14 -- Recent production worth this price, should see extra targets with Hankerson out
R. Gronkowski $33 -- Safe, obvious play if you can afford it

DEN $17 -- Best D in NFL faces struggling IND
ATL $15 -- Up against historically bad B. Gabbert in his 1st game with SF, replacement level RBs, generally dysfunctional team

Sunday, November 1, 2015

not objective but descriptive, not subjective but normative

I haven't read any philosophy classics in well over a decade so I'm a bit rusty but I want to buzzsaw through modern philosophy in order to explain the rise of the normative/descriptive distinction and the fall of the subject/object distinction (which isn't quite dead, I just think it should be).

Start with Descartes, who drew a thick line between subject and object. The subject aligned roughly with what we'd call conscious experience while the object was dead mechanism. The subject was immaterial, the object material. He suggested they met in the pineal gland and somehow, whatever...there was a lot of straw-grasping.

Meanwhile the term subjective came to mean arbitrary and referred to matters of taste and private experience while objective came to mean, roughly, naive realistic straightforward quantifiable things in the world that are what they are, existing apart from the subjects who know about them.

The most obvious problem with Cartesian subjects is they're immaterial and operate outside natural law. Hit a human in the head with a sharp enough object and you'll find they're susceptible to natural law. No pineal gland theory can save you here, Descartes. You said immaterial. Further, it appears at this point in history nothing other than noocentric conceit to think humans operate outside natural law, or are immaterial, at all.

The most obvious problem with naive realistic objectivity is neglect (or in Kant's terms finitude). Cognition systematically neglects information. Abstractions become more powerful when they leave information out. Human vision picks up only a sliver of the light spectrum. Human brains don't have access to what they cognize in the way suggested by the term objective. There is no object in the simple sense intended by Descartes.


Hume famously pointed out that you can't, logically, get from an "is" statement to an "ought" statement. What is and what ought to be is the descriptive/normative distinction. Nietzsche later wrote a brilliant, even by his standards, piece called "Beyond Good and Evil" in which he made the case that there is no "good and evil," only "good and bad." Every time humans claim something is evil, what they really mean is "I don't like it." Hume's ought/is distinction is really a distinction between statements with a built-in good/bad (for the cognizer) element and statements without one.


The terms descriptive and normative are compatible with a materialist approach to the human. Both are simply ways the material brain cognizes. Both are susceptible to bias, presumably the normative more so. Both are subject to natural laws. Both occur in the world. Both neglect information.

Descriptive means "whatever you or I think about its goodness/badnesss, X is the most accurate (leaving aside whether accuracy is good or bad) model of Y. Descriptive is the new objective. The term normative, on the other hand, refers to whether one likes the results of the descriptive process.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

elliot rodger, rape, MGTOWs

The line between male and female is thick and unmistakeable, drawn clearly not by individual consciousnesses but by society-wide repetition. Lines cognized and acted out nonconsciously. They function without being made explicit. We learn language first by using it. If you're lucky/unlucky, you can learn different things by analyzing it later. But children understand grammar, specifically, how to use it, while lacking the ability to analyze and explain it. The gender distinction is learned by using it.

Undiluted (thankfully it's often diluted) the distinction is this: boys need to kill everything and replace it with themselves...or die. Dominance or emasculation, penis or no penis, boy or girl, life or death.

The boy, having become this message, needs to reconcile it with his asymmetrical relationships with women. It's humiliating for a hyper-gendered boy to be dominated by a woman. So he comes up with narrative fixes, outs, explanations where he's not actually being dominated. He believes these, tenuously. They're pretty obviously bullshit and reality is always knocking.

He hits puberty, "knows" he needs to fuck a woman in order to be a man. This is a huge change, and a huge challenge. To request this fucking is to risk rejection. Rejection is emasculation and death. A simple binary, the line around it in the worst cases impermeable. Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger went to great lengths to put himself in a position to be accepted without risking final rejection. He never, apparently, made any kind of advance on a woman. Instead, he spent great amounts of time and money on his own appearance, went to places he expected to find good-looking (blonde) women and hoped they noticed him. He never "put himself out there." He left himself an out. Maybe next time. No one actually said no. Or, as Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber to his love interest's assessment of his odds of getting with her as one in a million..."so you're saying there's a chance."

This is really amazing. A single woman saying "I'm not interested" or "go away, creep" or laughing was far and away the most powerful force in his life. No, the possibility of that.

The MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) phenomenon is an obvious out. "Hey, women-we-want-to-fuck: we don't want you anyway. You are not rejecting us." It's understandable, I mean, given the above. They're trying to go pre-puberty. Back to a time when they could less implausibly claim to be not-dominated (where non-hyper-dominance means being dominated -- again, it's a pretty strict binary). Before the need-to-fuck-to-be-a-man challenge. They'd been talking about how they could easily dive off the 10 meter platform but now they're up there. Do it! *Tries to find a way out, can't, shoots a bunch of people instead.* That's Elliot Rodger.

Rapists take away the chance for rejection. This is the point. Rape is the most extreme form of masculinity. (I worry a broken rapist somewhere is thinking "yay I make sense! yay, masculinity!" but it should be clear this is a condemnation of masculinity.) OK, outside the parentheses, still worried this could be taken the wrong way, given certain positive associations with masculinity, but really just want to end this post. OK.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

control which guns?

"Gun control" is a term that refers to non-state guns only. Everyone just gets what you mean when you say it. Somewhat amazingly, no one feels the need to indicate that they're not referring to state guns, which are the biggest and deadliest guns. F-16 guns, cops with guns and tasers, etc., are not considered guns, just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered violence. What the ingroup does is the very definition of good. And just about everyone's in it for the state, completely unaware they're referring to guns as not-guns.

atheism exists, naturally

To understand what "God (or Thor) exists" and "God (or Thor) doesn't exist" mean, you need a brain and an act of cognition. Each takes place in a brain and involves natural systems embedded in natural systems (that, conveniently for Harris, are mostly opaque at this point in human history). To take a position on the existence of God is an event, not the absence of an event or a non-event. 

If you're a rock, baby, or monkey, nothing happens involving the term God. There's an absence of things happening related to the term God. That's a non-event.

Harris rejects the assertion "God exists." He doesn't admit as much, but he does reject it. 

What atheists do lack is the cognitive act of agreeing to the proposition that God exists. If you think that's what atheism is, maybe you're as misguided as Sam Harris. Again, atheists reject God belief. They answer negatively to the "does God exist?" question. They've dedicated considerable brain resources to the question of God. Absence of an affirmative is part of a complex process, and, unlike monkeys' thoughts on God, it exists. And unlike beliefs about Thor, it matters.

So why do New Atheists denaturalize and deobjectify atheism? I'd suggest it's so that it can't be studied and measured against theism. This is, ironically, an intellectual move theists are known for -- remove God from the material world and declare him off limits to scientific investigation.

Now it's really quite simple to naturalize non-God-belief (NGB). I just did, in fact. You simply situate it in the brain, identify it as the brain event it is. It's also very easy to make apples to apples comparisons between atheists and theists. This is as good a time as any to admit my bias -- I believe that atheists exist. The only reason the ontological status of atheists' belief that God doesn't exist is relevant is that so many atheists insist on using it to immunize themselves from scrutiny. Apples to apples, theists to atheists. 

Theism versus atheism, on the other hand, is a philosophical question. It deals with unmeasurable abstractions. If it turns out that no harm comes from theism, no 21st century intellectual should have a problem with it. There'd be no good argument for antitheism. But Harris claims that harm comes from theism. Theism versus atheism, the philosophical debate about God's existence, has nothing to say about harm. To answer that question, you study atheists versus theists. 

Harris implies that God-belief (GB) causes bad things whereas NGB doesn't cause anything. If he wanted a decent hypothesis, doing away with the absurd "absence of belief" angle and comparing apples to apples, he could suggest that GB causes more of these or those specific bad things than NGB, then compare, for example, atheist and theist levels of violence, and speculate about what causes the difference in violence levels, whether it's really GB or something else and if GB, what about GB it might be. In order to compare violence levels, you'd need to factor out rationalizations for violence (because they near-universally accompany it), which means, contrary to Harris's line of argumentation, that F-16s, napalm, white phosphorous, nuclear weapons, etc. all get filed under "violence" when used, regardless of who uses them, at which point Harris would be (further) exposed as the western secular violence apologist he is.