All posts for the topic: Science and Skepticism

What will we be hated for?

Est Reading Time: 5 min[CN: Everything.] There’s a great scene in Mad Men S2E07 (The Gold Violin). The family is having a picnic in the park and when they finish Betty Draper shakes the rubbish from the blanket onto the grass. There’s a lot of other subtext but it’s supposed to leave a modern audience shocked. Here’s the clip: [Video link] And it did: lots of people have been discussing this online: the degree to which such blatant littering was common in the 1960s USA, the other symbolism around it etc. I thought it was a bit heavy-handed in making us repulsed by the […]

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The stay against Trump’s travel ban upheld – a closer look at the ruling

Est Reading Time: 6 min[CN: Trump] It’s been a few days since the ninth circuit court of appeals unanimously rejected the Trump administration’s request to reinstate #MuslimBan. There’s been obviously a lot of commentary about where to from here but I wanted to look at the court’s actual ruling to see what arguments were used and whether they shed any interesting light on resistance to fascism in the USA and here in Australia. You can check out the 29 page PDF of the ruling here. In the meantime here’s a quick summary of each section. I. A. N. A. L. Background: A summary of […]

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Tut-tutting about filter bubbles & echochambers misses the point

Est Reading Time: 5 min[CN:Trump] One of the narratives that’s emerged from Trump’s victory is that “we” anti-Trumpers have been living in a “filter bubble” or “echochamber”. In the standard white liberal pundit narrative (which I shat on in the previous post), social media means we only see things we agree with which has led to where we are now. While this narrative has a grain of truth, the way it’s been discussed has been misleading and simplistic. Yes humans are tribal creatures — all of us, regardless of our politics. We’re subject to biases that distort our picture about the world. We will […]

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Can we let Syrians speak for themselves?

Est Reading Time: 1 minA year ago, the refugee issue took on an extra emotional charge because of the iconic image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a boy whose drowned body washed up on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. I won’t reproduce that photo but this year’s comparable image is of six-year-old Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance after surviving a Russian airstrike on Aleppo (his brother Ali Daqneesh died from his injuries): You might have also seen a letter that a 6 year old boy wrote to President Obama about how he wants to help Omran (which Obama read at the UN):

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Dalai Lama defines religious violence out of existence

Est Reading Time: 4 minThis week, the Dalai Lama engaged in more mealy-mouthed bullshit that went viral because it’s telling many people what they want to hear. In condemning religious violence (yay DL?) he said that anyone partaking in violent activities is not a genuine practitioner of their religion. Here’s a quick quote from This Independent article: Buddhist terrorist. Muslim terrorist. That wording is wrong, Any person who wants to indulge in violence is no longer a genuine Buddhist or genuine Muslim, because it is a Muslim teaching that once you are involved in bloodshed, actually you are no longer a genuine practitioner of […]

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Rape of sex workers and “theft of services”

Est Reading Time: 3 minSo I’m a bit late to the party but in 2015, the Chicago Sun Times published what is officially the douchiest editorial ever. By Mary Mitchell, it took exception to the rape of a sex worker being characterised as such and prosecuted because it’s “making a mockery of rape victims”. Here are some choice excerpts so you don’t have to read the original charmingly entitled Rape Case Sends Mixed Messages on Prostitution. I don’t have one iota of sympathy for Akins’ [the alleged perp’s] plight. But I’m grateful he isn’t being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street. […]

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Segregated seating on planes: is a non-bigoted compromise possible?

Est Reading Time: 6 minThe behaviour of Chareidi (more commonly known as “Ultra-Orthodox”) flight passengers has hit international news a few times, mostly around them not wanting to sit next to women who have at times been asked to switch seats, something El Al is being sued over. There have been some other stories too, eg. Chareidi men who have smashed a flight screen showing an “immodest” movie or flying in plastic bags (such as the ones pictured) which protect their Kohanic selves from the ritual impurity of flying over a cemetery (more info here). The issue of El Al and segregated seating is […]

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We must acknowledge the social cost of NSW’s greyhound racing ban

Est Reading Time: 3 minLast week there was a rare bit of good news in Australian politics. After a review of the greyhound racing industry, the current (right wing) NSW government unexpectedly banned greyhound racing. Of course the industry will fight this big-time, but within my bubble-of-a-circle-of-friends the reaction was unanimously positive. To me the decision is clearly correct since the industry’s an ethical clusterfuck. But it’s important not to make policy questions too one-sided. I can’t endorse this entire post from Less Wrong (or the website as a whole) but it has an important bit: A policy may legitimately have lopsided costs or […]

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Matilda, “Miss” Trunchbull and gender presentation

Est Reading Time: 3 min[CN: child abuse, Matilda spoilers] I recently saw Matilda the Musical. I’m deprived, it was my first musical and it was really well produced and everyone in it super-talented. But the characterisation of Miss Trunchbull spoiled it. Miss Trunchbull is the antagonist in the story of Matilda (and apparently the movie and musical follow the book reasonably closely). She is the headmistress of Matilda’s school who openly hates children and revels in inflicting horrible punishments and abuse on the students. This sets up a nice foil for the audience to root against, especially since she’s not merely “mean”. Roald Dahl […]

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How not to be an asshole about Valentine’s day

Est Reading Time: 5 minSome people celebrate Valentine’s day and some do not. Both categories of people though tend to talk about Their OpinionTM of the day. Every year, you will probably be able to find statements from both sides of this “debate” that are assholish, whether in meatspace or social media. Here are two lists of things to remember in order not to be an asshole about it. The first list is for people who celebrate Valentine’s day, post about it and so on: Not everyone has a romantic partner: You wouldn’t know this from many of the posts about it but if […]

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