Thursday, June 17, 2021

Skeptatheism: Fossilized?

What follows is a reworking of a sort of "takedown" obiturary about the death of the so-called Amazing Randi, done on my main blog shortly after his death.

I posted that link in comments when a Hucksterman Village friend of a friend extolled a new YouTube channel talking about how many hits it had gotten, and from there, talking about essentially how valuable he still was.

The "capture" for the video at Susan Gerbic's post talks about "the magician who exposed fakes, frauds and charlatans."

Did that include himself? The (Not so) Amazing Randi, aka, The Amazing (Deceiver) Randi, as I called him.

From lesser to greater?

There's his libertarianism that enabled the likes of Penn and Teller to be denialist about secondhand smoke as a carcinogen, and to still be denialist about things like climate change. That's too common in movement skepticism; Michael Shermer is yet another prominent member, at least partially influenced by Randi, who has conflated some version of modern movement (it's NOT "scientific," per the above, so I don't call it that) skepticism with philosophical and political libertarianism.

Yes, it's true per the Hucksterman friend, that Randi repented of that one himself, and admitted (to some degree at least) that anthropogenic climate change is real.

But, that's the lesser.

Next, there's his condoning of #MeToo related problems in movement skepticism. (And, allegedly, Shermer was part of those problems, too.)

Finally, Randi almost certainly knew that his long-time lover, Devyi Peña, was an identity thief. Hiring him at JREF, the nepotism wouldn't look good even without the above. That, of course, makes it worse. Even if Randi didn't know that Peña had engaged in willful criminality, the hiring made it look like he did know and was trying to protect him. That's the greater, or greatest.

All the information two paragraphs up, plus Shermer's history, is documented here. More on Shermer here. That documentation notes that this goes back to the time of Paul Kurtz as founder of CFI. (Randi as founder of JREF, as much as Kurtz at CFI, also fell willing victim to founders syndrome.)

Related? Randi started sniffing his own press clippings too much later in life. The claims that Peña magically (I see what I did there) skeptically enlightened most of Australia have been put paid to by many people, for example.

But, many in the movement skeptic world still believe that Peña was magic. They also believe Randi knew nothing about Peña's background. Etc. In short? Enablers to some degree. Beyond Randi sniffing his own press clippings too much in later life, on #MeToo, and on Peña I think, and on founder's syndrome in general, he had too many enablers. He should have been nudged out of leading JREF at least half a decade before he actually was.

Now, to the "fossilized" and related matters.

I next shared this on MeWe, and tagged a friend who has, like me, long left both movement skepticism and organized atheism behind. Like me, he was never in the "hierarchy," but at one time was a much more interested follower, as was I.

He mentioned the word "fossilized."

That's like founder's syndrome on steroids? Or frozen founder's thought or something?

I do agree. 

I think that, per discussion on one social media site, "fossilized" is a good word to describe JREF, and other orgs, whether "movement skepticism" or Gnu Atheism like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, aka the folks who once tried to claim that Abraham Lincoln was an atheist. 

I don't know as much about their fundraising psychology as I do, say, major environmental organizations, but I suspect there's a certain amount of crisis-mongering, which mingles with a certain amount of tar-babying off the Religious Right.

In addition, founders syndrome is semi-cultic, something that any good skeptic should steer clear of, of course. And, yes, that "good" is deliberate.

But, if you're part of the movement? There's all the behavioral psychology issues at play, like "sunk costs" and "loss aversion." These and related issues don't just play out capitalistically.

Indeed, I think that prompted a back-and-forth with a non-friend to me of the Hucksterman friend of a friend, who I web-searched after that conversation played out.

And, in turn, that leads to the question of sunk costs versus the flip side of that coin: a rise in the hierarchy.

Phil Stilwell made, I believe, a comment on Gerbic's post that said, in essence, "don't make it about the person." Since she deleted the entire thread that started with my comment, as I had that page open, I couldn't see it when I got notified that he had commented. Clicking the notification bubble led to a non-existent thread. But, as he is a skeptic insider himself, and nowhere else in that 24-hour time span had I commented on someone else's post other than in a nature group that wasn't about people, that's what it had to be.

Editorial clarification from when I was still blogging on this, after my initial write-up but before I posted this. (I've noted both here and on my primary blog, even more, how I'll spend weeks writing serious, in-depth posts to let them percolate. It will be interlaced, in italics, with the original.

Well, I posted "thank god for screengrabs" then tagged him in my first comment to that. In a back and forth of comments, I may have been less than totally clear originally, but at some point, I believe he moved beyond mildly puzzled at my train of thought to trying to gaslight me.

It WASN'T Stilwell. In cleaning up my computer desktop, I actually looked at the screengrab. 

It was David Glück, a Facebook friend.

I did the right thing on Hucksterman Central. Apologized to Stilwell, with tagging him.

AND, at the same time, asked if he'd care to share what he DID say.

As for Glück? Since he agrees with me more than disagrees on Elizabeth Loftus, about whom I've blogged a bit here and a lot at my main blog, he should know if one is looking at a person's ethics, it can't be anything but personal in that sense. I don't know what follows the ellipsis points. But, the basic issue is, that when the whole idea is that another person's character needs, in one person's opinion, re-examining, then it's going to be re-examined!

That said, I did search up Stilwell on the Net. He wasn't gaslighting me, obviously, but whatever he did say, I'm sure it wasn't favorable. And with that, back to the original.

And, from his perspective, why not?

Seeing as how he got lucky enough to get played up by the likes of Jonathan M.S. Pearce, for whom I have less and less respectas a deconversion success story, and you've been a regular commenter on the major skeptatheism sites, I'm sure of what you said, even if it's now gone. His being an apparent Islamophobe doesn't help his cause.

 Re movement skepticism, I've long said that it could stand to learn some philosophical Skepticism. Re the Gnu Atheist orgs, since the "nones" are growing fast — but aren't really atheist, contra Gnus — there's definite tar-babyism as far as how American religious demographics are changing. On the secular humanist world, per said friend, it should be focusing on things like the dehumanization factors of the "always on" world, or the future of the precariat (the word I first heard from the late Leo Lincourt) and other socio-economic issues.

Lots of Gnus don't like to admit that the concept of antitheism is in any way true. That's even though Camus mentions it in "The Rebel" before getting to his true modern original sin — blind allegiance to communism.

But, to riff on Voltaire? If god didn't exist, antitheist-type atheists would have to invent the concept of him to have someone to rebel against.

Back to the "fossilization." And the fundraising. Even though Nones (not necessary atheist, or agnostic, or even non-theist, but at least not conventionally religious, either fundamentalist or non-fundmentalist) are growing faster in the US than members of any Western monotheism and certainly faster than any main division within Christianity, movement atheist groups aren't going to tell you that.

And, anything is a "hook" for this. Like Freedom from Religion Foundation, per my main blog, trying to claim eight years ago that Lincoln was really an atheist. I believe that was for the visibility level first, yes, but for the fundraising angle second.

On the secular humanist world, per said friend, it should be focusing on things like the dehumanization factors of the "always on" world, or the future of the precariat (the word I first heard from the late Leo Lincourt) and other socio-economic issues. (Said friend mentioned Paul Kurtz and the Council for Secular Humanism et al as also being among the fossilized.)

Movement skepticism groups haven't pivoted from things like evolution to climate change — not only denied by too many Republicans but minimized by too many Democrats. And, while they may look at things like antivaxxerism, they're likely to point first at New Agey type leftist woomeisters long before they point at libertarians. (Antivaxxerism in SoCal, for example, is just as much a problem among both libertarian and Religious Right types in Orange County as among woos in Hollywood.)
Also in regard to movement skepticism, I've long said that it could stand to learn some philosophical Skepticism. I've mentioned that to "movement" insiders, even mid-level majordomos. No real bites on that. And, there's been some, like Barbara Drescher, who have even been openly anti-philosophy.

Finally, to tie this back to Gerbic. Deleting comment that is NOT "hateful," but is real, albeit strongly put? Skeptics censoring dissent? I had already let my actual Hucksterman friend have the last word. Then Stilwell weighed in, and when I tried to respond to him, she had deleted the "hateful" comment and thread.

As for Glück? I did not unfriend him. I did remove him from my "skeptical friends" list ... and I did add him to my "acquaintances" list. That could be changed back in the future, but, for now, that's the way it is.

Next? Orac. Until I searched my main blog, I forgot about my history of past issues with him.

Having tangled with Orac twice now over issues related to St. Anthony of Fauci, and knowing that Movement Skeptics / Skeptics™ are their own set of tribalists, I've looked back further at his paean to Randi.

First, I'm sure that Orac is more than a micro-celebrity, and certainly more than a nano-celebrity, within Skeptics™. Such modesty!

Second, to get to some meat? Orac ignores Peña. Flat-out ignores him. Never discusses him. Not just the ID theft, but the allegations of shammery in Australia. If that's not intellectual dishonesty?

Third, he doesn't tackle the issue of founder's syndrome. Since Paul Kurtz had shown it several years prior, and to some degree, like Randi, on #MeToo issues, this wasn't good, either. I mean, Orac even commented, as I blogged about, a non-MeToo problem with Kurtz.

Fourth, he (and fellow travelers at NECSS) have evidenced tribalism and twosiderism before! I forgot about John Horgan calling him out, and them, five years ago, and that I blogged about that. What Orac in his insolence really hated was getting called out by someone at his pay and fame grade. (I also wonder how much both Orac and Steve Novella, per that link, disliked Horgan's comments not on skepticism, but on fee-for-service medicine. Orac strikes me as a mainstream neolib Democrat type who at a minimum isn't highly favorable to single-payer national health care.)

Fourth, part 2: Per Horgan, and contra Orac, the asshole wasn't Horgan. Besides Orac and Novella, it was first Jamy Ian Swiss. That said, for not having a single word of praise, Orac and Novella are assholes themselves. I might wind up writing something just about Orac at some point!

Fourth, part 3: The likes of Orac, though not a lot himself personally (rather, Shermer, Randi, philosophy-hating Barbara Drescher and philosophy-minimalizing mild Daniel Loxton) are part of why I don't call myself a skeptic any more, and haven't for five years, like Massimo — at least not without the word "philosophy" or "philosophical" attached. (I suspect that Orac's probably not big on philosophy, either.)

Fifth? Beyond "fossilized," per Horgan, tribalist and twosiderist are major problems.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Language origins and theory of mind

The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came FromThe Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From by Michael C. Corballis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book from the preface on.

Many people know the name of Noam Chomsky, but they may not know that, while he dethroned B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist approach to linguistics, his own theory, which broadly (note the qualifier, please) falls into humanist linguistics, has itself become largely passé.

Two major newer schools, with a fair amount of overlap but with distinct emphases, are in the lead today: functionalist and Darwinist schools of linguistics. Michael Corballis comes from the later, though he’s conversant with the former. In the same broad train of thought as a Michael Tomasello, he talks in this book about the likely route for development of human language.

Corballis says straight up that he knew he would butt heads with Chomsky, Gould and others. He rejects Chomsky’s massive modularity of the brain (as does most modern neuroscience) and rejects Gould for saltationist ideas about the origin of language.

Corballis says that he sees normal, incremental neo-Darwinian evolution at work.

Early in part 1, chapter 1, he calls out Chomsky for ignoring most of the vast variation between languages in his attempt to posit a universal grammar. He even QUOTES Chomsky to that effect.

“I have not hesitated to propose a general principle of linguistic structure on the basis of observation of a single language.”

This is basically like the old “spontaneous emergence” idea of maggots in rotten meat, Galen’s claiming the human liver has seven lobes because monkey livers do, or similar.

Now, after refuting Chomsky, what ideas does Corballis offer up?

First is that language probably in part evolved from gestural issues. He notes that human babies point to things just to note them as an object of attention, vs chimps who point because they want.

Next, he notes humans’ ability to mentally time travel. Tis true, he notes, that corvids may not immediately revisit seed caches if they think another of their species has been spying on them, but that’s about it as far as looking to the future among animals. Elephants and primates seem to retain some memory of deceased loved ones, but of itself, that doesn’t reflect mental time travel backward, really. Only humans seem to have that in great degree. This, in turn is part of larger “displacement” in language, moving ourselves spatially as well as temporally. Related to that is that, in English at least, many prepositions can have both spatial and temporal functions.

Beyond that, he postulates that humans (and possibly earlier members of the genus Homo) having third-order theory of mind, vs primates (and presumably, cetaceans) having only second-order TOM, and a restricted and species-specific one at that, is probably a big factor in language development. Language recursiveness and nesting would seem to underscore this.

In all of this, though, Corballis notes that primates have some gesture usage, and that even dogs can recognize specific human words.

Next, it’s off to grammar. After a basic look at parts of speech, Corballis notes how and why, in English and other language, some things like “helping verbs” evolved … and then, in some successor languages, devolved again. As part of this, and the idea that languages in general started as noun-verb only items similar to modern pidgins, Corballis notes the role of cultural evolution.

Corballis ends with his “Crossing the Rubicon” of how he thinks language began. This starts by summarizing some of his differences with Chomsky on things like internal vs. external language and their function in language development, language as a means of expressing thought rather than thought itself and more.

With that, he notes that to the degree there was a great leap forward, speech, not language, was it. Abstraction was not inherent to speech. Related to that, he says it’s an open question as to whether all current languages evolved from one Ur-language, or if instead, they started evolving after modern Homo sapiens started splitting.

Corballis does admit that, without more evidence, he too is telling a “just-so story,” and it’s nice for him to end on a note of epistemic humility.

Side note: many of his “peregrinations” during the book are interesting, but I think he spends too much time, with repeated returns, to the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, when it’s but marginally connected to his main theme.

View all my reviews

Once more on Hume and slavery: ancient vs modern and Humean lies

In his attempts to make light of, ignore, explain away, or whatever, race-based modern (in his time) slavery, David Hume, in The Populousness of Ancient Nations, also hints at an old trope:

"But classical slavery was WORSE!"

That's not a direct quote, but it is the old trope to a T.

I touched on this in my original main post on Hume and racism and his infamous Note, but this needs to be looked at further, because it t'aint necessarily true. In fact, a closer look at this essay of Hume's shows both that claim and one other are basically lies.

First, was slavery of classical antiquity sometimes more brutal than that of 1700s Virginia and the Carolinas, or even than on the Caribbean plantations like the one (maybe more we don't know about?) whose sale Hume brokered. 

Yes, indeed.

Were punishments worse?


Modern slaves weren't crucified after revolts, though they were usually put to death. 

But? Per Hobbes, life in general was nasty, brutish and short, moreso in 100 CE than in 1770. (On the other hand, the amount of crimes for which one could be executed in Humean Britain was no day at the beach. And, in the U.S., post-slavery Jim Crow lynchings were arguably as barbaric as crucifixion.

The greater amount of slave revolts might be support for Greco-Roman slavery being more brutal. Or, it might be support for the fact that ancient plantations having at least as many slaves as the Caribbean and more than the mainland British colonies, but like them on a mainland, not small Caribbean islands, made escape somewhat more tempting. Or, it might be support for the idea that guns let modern slaveowners have even greater control over their charges.

The reality is that, in many ways, ancient slavery was not as bad.

First, Rome, especially, made manumission fairly easy. Oppose that to the U.S. colonies and states, where state laws from the late 1700s up to the Civil War continued to further and further restrict owners' right to manumit their slaves.

Second, social mobility for freedmen was MUCH greater in ancient Rome than the modern European colonial lands. There's a couple of reasons for that. One, slavery being even more common meant less stigma attached. Slavery not being race-based in antiquity meant there was even less stigma attached.

Third, many slaves being literate, and in general, there being no government laws against them being educated, meant that, not only were they not burdened by stigmas, they were more in control of their own destinies once freed. (Now, this was not the case for all slaves, of course, but for many, it was.)


I have little doubt that David Hume the professional historian as well as student of ancient philosophy knew these things himself, and was being disingenuous if I'm polite and a liar if I'm not.

That said, Hume is disingenuous from the start about Europe of his day "abolishing slavery." Scottish miners, colliers in specific, were subjected to the functional equivalent of slavery in Hume's day. (It wasn't a legally heritable slave status,  In addition, many upper-crust Scots owned a black house slave or two at his time.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

PTSD, journalism, accidents, existentialism

OK, last month, Pocket gave me this story from The Atlantic: "We Should All be More Afraid of Driving."

Summary? Joshua Sharpe works for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Reports on "police scanner news," to put it bluntly.

That includes car wrecks.

Of which he's had two himself.

The first? Hit a woman standing in the middle of I-75. Here's the intro: 
I thought I saw something in the road.
Meth addict, as it turns out.

Years later, he makes contact with her. The accident allegedly scared her straight, but it's unclear whether that lasted or not.

OK, for a while afterward, Sharpe peeled back on ambulance chasing. But eventually, picked it back up again.

Two years later, before contacting this woman, but leading to that decision? Second accident:
I thought I saw a car veering toward me. 
It was a bright morning in February 2018. I was driving to work on Clairmont Road when a car suddenly appeared to be merging into my lane from the right, bound to hit me. This time, I did swerve. I wrenched the wheel and turned into oncoming traffic.
Note the parallel in the opening?

That said, as he eventually did after the first accident, he contacts the others involved. The driver of the truck basically half hates him. The passenger fully hates him.

What's missing from the story?

No attempt to contact the swerving driver. No attempt to find out who it was, in fact.

So, I DM'ed Sharpe on Twitter after tagging him, then seeing his account was open to messages.

Here's what I asked:
One thing about your Atlantic piece on accidents I just DON'T GET! You said the 2nd accident was caused by a swerving driver, but ... you never talk(ed) to him. Did you never even try? Or was the "thought I saw" not actual, and itself an artifact from PTSD from the first accident? (I've been in one wreck bad enough to have a plate in my left forearm, so I get the background.)
No response yet.

To me, beyond the basic warning of the story, not having this information just leaves it limp to me.

Maybe Sharpe did "hallucinate" a swerving driver? Maybe he's afraid to say that, even though that could be part of his message? Or per highway traffic engineers, there's the lack of mention just how big today's pickups are. Whether the accident was his fault due to a PTSD episode, or an actual swerving driver's fault, it might have been less severe had he not swerved into a monster F-250.

Philosophically speaking, it seems to be a version of Job's "it rains on the just and the unjust." But, Sharpe never really comes close to saying that. Instead, I'm implying that he's inferring that. Here's the denouement:
After five years, I still think that I see Anne on the road. And I still wonder if she was traumatized by the wreck. Is she haunted by what happened to her, like I am? 
Anne’s brother suggested I contact their dad, because he was the relative who spoke most with Anne. I texted him to ask if he thought she would be up for talking with me. He said she was still too unwell. 
Then he stunned me. He apologized on behalf of his daughter for what she did to me. “Please forgive yourself,” he said. I wasn’t to blame, and neither was Anne. 
On the road, neither of us was in control. Her dad sent a picture of Anne from a recent holiday. In it, she sits next to her teenage son, a beaming boy with his beaming mom. Her hair’s fixed nicely, and she wears a white blouse and a cross on a thin gold chain. 
I started to cry, unsure why until I realized this: She looked normal, fine. As if none of this had ever happened.
And, that part of the issue is why I've cross-posted the piece here. It is existential that "Anne," the person he hit in his first accident, was barely hurt — less than him in the first accident, even though she was a pedestrian on a freeway, and far less than him in the second accident, as he has a shattered femur that doesn't want to heal, even with a rod in it.

I mean, if you read that whole denouement, other issues, like free will or the lack thereof, also come up. That said, I reject his "on the road, neither of us was in control." Even if her control was diminished by meth addiction, she had still, even with diminished choice, made a decision to be there. Sharpe was in control of his vehicle; it's not that he was out of control, but that, control has its limits. We can only control ourselves, not other people nor external intangibles. So, wrong lesson.

If her brother was correct in Sharpe perceiving a need to forgive himself, rather than lack of control needing to be addressed, that's a further PTSD issue that needs to be addressed.

And, with that, I jump way back up to this:
J. Gayle Beck, a psychology professor at the University of Memphis, is one of a handful of researchers who studies PTSD linked to car wrecks. Being in a serious accident, she told me, “violates our beliefs about how life should be and who we are.” We think we’re in control of what happens on the road. If we’re in control, then we must be responsible.
And, that, deliberately taken later, leaves the denouement more puzzling in one sense.

Beck is giving him a half-wrong answer. The correct answer is not denial of control; it's a recognition of its limits. The old "Serenity Prayer" knows that. Sharpe and Beck apparently do not. 

Saturday, June 05, 2021

More Jesus stupidity from Xn evangelicals

 More and more, I think of Medium as the place where bad blogging hot takes filled with clickbait stupidity go for a new life. Medium's multiple business model fails reflect this.

Now, for the unfamiliar, although some atheist types use the mash-up word "fundagelical," not all evangelicals are literalists or even full-on biblical conservatives. That said, I reject the idea of truly liberal evangelicalism, as I take it a a sine qua non of evangelicalism that not only is salvation through Jesus universal, so is the need for it.

OK, back to the current round of stupidity I ran into on my email algorithmic feed yesterday. And, given that I take time not only to read, but to argue with, these nutters means its my fault for Medium shoving more of this at me.


On the first piece, a Medium "brand" having the name Koinonia kind of gives the game up right there.

Second, no, Kyle Chastain, contra your claim, Jesus wasn't "dangerous" in the way you claim, though that's a common evangelical trope, along with the claim that Jesus says "you don't need to change anything, just everything."

Reality is that Chastain ignores the broad variety of Judaism and instead has Jesus rebelling against some sort of "system." I think he's stereotyping temple Judaism as being all Judaism, or maybe also using the stereotyped caricature of Pharisaic Judaism as a "system," but he's not clear. 

He IS, though, wrong. As I said, Judaism was indeed broad, and there was no "system" against which Jesus revolted.

AND, to the degree he challenged certain types of Judaism, he was far from alone. John the Baptizer was an even more ferocious challenger. Rome executed yet other Jews, or their client kings did.

Chaistain has other modern evangelical errors, like claiming that in ancient Palestine, church and state were one, when in Roman, or Maccabean, ears, such framing was simply nonsensical.

The biggest error is the logical conflict in trying to claim Jesus was such a system-breaker while at the same time trying to proof-text the Tanakh for "all about Jesus."

The second-biggest error, once one throws out circular arguments from claims of Jesus' divinity, is not asking if he's really got the BEST answer for "living outside systems." 

Finally, since modern critical scholarship claims that many things allegedly said (or done) by Jesus actually weren't, what system he was rebelling against, and what system he was NOT rebelling againts, are still up in the air.


Second is Jonathan Poletti, whose nuttery I've run into before. He claims there are 10 things Christians don't know about Jesus. First, it sounds like we're in strawmanning territory right away. Second, he must not have originally been inspired, because the URL says "7 things."

Some are things that a fair amount of Xns surely DO know, but that's not where I'm headed. 

Rather, Point 9 is surely wrong and Point 10 almost surely so

On the first, Jesus was very likely NOT LGBQTIA, "tia"? bah "firendly." The claim that the Roman centurian was gaybagging the slave he had Jesus heal is as laughable as the claims Abe Lincoln was gay because during his frontier court hustings he occasionally shared a bed with a man while on the road. Poletti, in responding to a comment there, didn't understand the analogy or parallelism, so I spelled it out in more detail, and said it was an argument from silence.

In addition, Jesus as a good observant Jew come to "fulfill the Torah" would have almost certainly looked askance at gay sex. Paul did, and don't @ me that he didn't, atheists. I've covered this in EXTREME detail, with updates, and looking at that, am now reminded that Poletti is not the first to make this stupid claim that the centurion and the servant were gay lovers, and I clearly refudiated it before.

Also, Jesus not being omniscient, even if there WERE a gay relationship, as only the centurion visited him, and surely didn't say, "I love him, Jesus, as in I LOVE him," Jesus wouldn't have known they were gay lovers.

Fourth, beyond the Torah, as a backwoods Jewish peasant, he likely would have been repulsed by such things.

On the second, no, Jesus almost certainly was NOT raped as part of crucifixion humiliation. There's reasons that critical scholarship has largely killed with silence David Tombs' 1999 paper, and that's because Tombs himself is arguing from silence almost totally, about crucifixions in general. (Update: Poletti claimed it wasn't an argument from silence. In my reply, I said "yes it was," told him he wasn't the first to make this idiotic claim, and pasted the link above.) The tombs paper isn't "famous," at least not outside evangelical circles. And, when I did a search on "were Roman crucifixion victims raped," one gets fundagelicals plus Mel Gibson Catholics. 

Poletti himself is more clickbaiter than fundagelical, with pieces such as the one claiming Codex Bezae is a different New Testament, for example. (Update: In reply, I then told him I actually knew more about the bible than he did and that he WAS a clickbaiter IMO.)

And, wrong elsewhere.

First, Christians did NOT come up with the vocalization of Yahweh. He ignores his own piece stating that the Tetragrammaton wasn't included in post-150 CE Septuagints, and also ignores the Masoretic Text, its development of Hebrew vowel pointing and related matters.

Yes, contra Poletti, the bible IS anti-gay. See my link above.

No, an earlier bible was NOT discovered in 1883. (I've actually read a book about this.)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

What Searle, Turing, AI thought experiments etc get wrong, part two

Two months ago, I talked about John Searle's famous Chinese room thought experiment, and said what Searle's critics, and to a degree, Searle himself, got wrong, was in not thinking of consciousness as embodied cognition.

I added that embodied cognition needed to include embodied affect.

Well, I'm going to look at this more now.

Imagine that Searle's translation book has a glitch or something. Or a lack of linguistic nuance, better yet. (Save some of this for a part three.)

For example, say that a literal phrase in Chinese is an insult in English or vice versa. (I don't know Mandarin, but I DO know Spanish enough to offer up the word "pendejo" as an example.)

Searle's machine, or human inside the black box, might produce a perfect literal translation, but, by the fact it offered no affect to having translated something into an insult, might give itself away.

(Per a comment at MeWe, I've always understood the Chinese room, especially with person and book substituted for a computer, to be pretty much straight-up translation. While the book might allow idiom in a narrow sense, Searle's idea seems to be, though being unexpressed, to be against idiom in a broader sense. To put it another way, it seems to be about purely and only denotative translation, not connotative.)

Turing himself hinted at something somewhat like this, at least on the matter of affect, when laying out the test:

Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’, would not ‘a spring day’ do as well or better? Witness: It wouldn’t scan. Interrogator: How about ‘a winter’s day’? That would scan all right. Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.

But he doesn't seem to fully follow up. This is just the tip of the affective iceberg.

But, as with cognition, it's embodied.

What will it feel like, to move from Searle to Nagel's bat-world, for a robot (since a computer without locomotion is, if animalian not plant-like, a sponge at best) to "hug" steel? Wood? Human flesh? And, feel not just in the tactile sense, but primarily in the affective sense? What will it feel like for a robot to "hug" another robot? What will it say? 

"I love you"?

"God, I thought I was over you"?

Or, to tie linguistic nuance to affect?

Many psychologists have argued that fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. Setting aside the dubiousness of an emotion as complex as love in its types as well as its affect having a single opposite, I'd argue that the opposite of love is often frustration. Now ... a computer or robot that wanted to have a shot at passing the Turing test would be able to cogently participate in an argument such as this.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

The trifecta: Private Platonic noble lies from Fauci

I blogged almost a year ago about Dr. Anthony Fauci's Platonic Noble Lie about mask-wearing.

I then followed that up, tackling Platonic Noble Lie No. 2 about herd immunity.

Turns out those were just the tip of an iceberg.

Fauci's now been busted, under emails obtained by BuzzFeed in an FOIA request, of having spread his original Noble Lie about masks privately already in late February of 2020.

Sadly, BuzzFeed engaged in its own tribalism by which emails it chose to focus on for its story, promoting Fauci hagiography rather than his lies about masks — or his hints that, just maybe, the virus DID come from a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And, maybe it did, if we can get past that being given a "gain in research" (I see what I did) by Trump Trainers who are engaging in their own twosiderism.

But, the goods are there:

If Fauci had any integrity, as well as political responsibility, he'd at least resign as Biden's special medical advisor at a minimum. At a maximum, he'd also step down from NIAID as well. And, BuzzFeed, if it had any sense of journalistic ethics, would do a second story. Somehow, I don't think either one would happen.

Fauci is long past his best-by date, and contra BuzzFeed, does appear to have partially relished his role of the last year.

If "BlueAnon" had integrity and moved beyond twosiderism, it would admit that Fauci has screwed the pooch before. Sadly, it won't. As noted above, with masks, it's not that he had different statements in public and in private, it's that he was WRONG, and demonstrably wrong at the time he spoke, in both public and in private. 

In other words, he was telling the Platonic Noble Lie behind the scenes, too. And, unless his friends are awfully tribalist, or believers that they're the Platonic philosopher-scientists (which some of them, like Fauci, may have self-anointed themselves as being), they should be pissed.

And, looking again, I see Jason Leopold was the primary reporter on this. He knows better.