Thought of the day

Neighborhoods are for people, not cars.

Subway killing

If you make an argument that the guy who was choked on the subway in New York did or didn’t deserve what happened based on his absolutely irrelevant history, you’re a complete and utter idiot. Or you know you’re making an irrelevant argument and you’re simply willing to argue like an idiot. Which is the sort of thing an idiot would do. So, either way.

Reddit layoffs

Reddit has to be the most vile mainstream website in existence. Run by bad faith trolls, filled with degenerate content, and completely infiltrated by shills and astroturfers, it has zero value to society. It’s a website for teenage trolls to be tricked into thinking Bernie Sanders and Vladimir Putin are good people, all while men pretending to be women exact complete control over every space in an effort to undermine the most basic of family values (and not merely the faux family values espoused by conservatives for decades). But now that its Chinese investments are running thin – and since they have never been able to complete the grift by going public since its CEO and employees are universally incompetent – it is being hit by layoffs:

Reddit has begun letting go of employees in various departments across the company as part of its ongoing review of individual staffer performance, according to four current and former employees who spoke with Insider and a Reddit spokesperson.

Among those impacted in January were employees who worked in data science, software engineering, community management, and creator relationships. Current employees at the company also received an email on January 24 informing them that more layoffs could be coming as the company reviews employee performance, and that it intends to backfill most of those roles. Insider was unable to determine the total number of Reddit employees who were let go during the month. But several of the sources said low performers weren’t the only ones let go.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” one laid-off staffer said. “I was told that I had done a good job.” The former employee spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid damaging their relationship with the company.

https://www.businessinsider.com/reddit-layoffs-various-roles-evaluates-employee-performance-2023-1

Maybe you shouldn’t run a website like a complete piece of shit.

Thought of the day

Stop getting your science from people who think the Universe is 6,000 years old.

Mele Kalikimaka

The merriest of Kalikimakas.

Chauvin and Rittenhouse

Derek Chauvin was guilty as hell* and Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. If you can’t fit those two facts into your worldview despite ample video evidence, then your worldview is pathetically weak.

The reality is that Chauvin stayed on Floyd’s back and neck far longer than was necessary to subdue him. The crowd was getting angry and wanted him to stop torturing Floyd. Out of spite and as a petty power play, he remained in place. These mere civilians aren’t going to tell ME what to do. Rittenhouse, on the other hand, was chased, attacked, had multiple people try to take his gun, and had another guy point a gun at him. He only shot the people who threatened his life. One of these defendants was wrong and the other was right – and it’s all clear as day.

And that brings me to another point. The media blows even more than usual. They didn’t particularly get Chauvin’s case wrong, but that’s because it happened to agree with the narrative they wanted. With Rittenhouse, millions of people are only now finding out the most basic details of his case. This stuff was available before he even surrendered. And even still, while the clown prosecutor has been putting on the defense’s case for the past week+, we’ve only been seeing headlines that cherry-pick testimony that makes Rittenhouse look bad. No, scratch that. It’s not cherry-picking. It’s quote-mining. The media has been handling this case the way a young Earth creationist handles Charles Darwin. The narrative they want isn’t there, so they’re lying and intentionally removing context. Hell, CBS went even further, tweeting (and deleting) that Rittenhouse admitted to murder. He actually just talked about shooting and killing 2 of his attackers. Which wasn’t news.

And yet as bad as the media has been, I think social media has been even worse. I care about these cases insofar as they’re big news, but I wouldn’t normally commit a huge amount of my time to them. For Chauvin, I did more than usual. I found myself especially annoyed with people talking about Floyd’s past in order to justify what happened to him. That’s some super shit argumentation. It doesn’t matter if he robbed someone or pointed a gun at a pregnant woman. That doesn’t make Chauvin his god. And with Rittenhouse I’ve given his case a lot of time because, once again, there are so many super shit arguments surrounding it. In particular, people keep bringing up how he “crossed state lines”. Oh no! How’d he ever get by the guard towers?! Get out of here with that trash. Or the illegal gun possession. In and of itself, that’s worth discussing regarding his misdemeanor charge. But misdemeanors are inherently insignificant, so who cares. What matters is that, that possible crime (depending on how Wisconsin law is interpreted) does not forfeit his right to self-defense.

A robust worldview ought to be based on the facts. The facts here make it clear that Derek Chauvin committed manslaughter and Kyle Rittenhouse shot 3 people who would have murdered him if he didn’t. If you must interpret these or any other national events in a way that agrees with your broader worldview, then you aren’t someone who cares about facts. That ought to embarrass you.

*Minnesota’s laws have misleading – indeed, wrong – names. Chauvin didn’t commit murder, but local law defines some of its various murder statutes as excluding intent. The problem with that, of course, is that murder is not possible without intent. Even if a government declares otherwise (as many do). It’s philosophically nonsensical. That said, per the actual descriptions of the charges, Chauvin’s convictions were 100% correct.

A special cosmic status for humans and evolution still can’t be married – even if you think atheism is totes cringe

It seemed like there was a brief window where it was okay to get into debates about religion, God, and gods. Those who didn’t care just didn’t care, and those who did care were likely participants in the debates. Maybe this is just a reflection of the fact that I was a frequent participant during this window – perhaps 2003 to 2014 – and so I lacked an outsider’s perspective. Whatever the case, the anti-atheist memes have established a firm foothold in society: Those who argue God doesn’t exist are intellectual circle-jerkers with fedoras, and they should just let the religious live in peace; whatever clashes religious belief has with society at-large should be resolved without attacking the religious beliefs themselves. I suspect it really is the nature of memes that have led to this general view, but I also wonder if part of the reason has to do with the logical extension of common atheist arguments from that window. Specifically, we used to see a push for young Earth creationism in schools and textbooks, often hidden behind the disingenuous argument for ‘intelligent design’. Plenty of people, atheists and theists alike, could get on board with attacking those pushes, and even if the atheistic arguments took swings at all forms of creationism, such arguments weren’t really the focus. It’s easy to support ‘Keep religion out of public schools’ regardless of one’s more cosmic beliefs, but when was the last time that was a pressing issue? Bills occasionally pop up, but they’re usually defeated quickly. There’s no point in allying any longer.

I don’t know. That’s probably a stretch. Maybe we can point to the deep rifts in those on the left. One faction wants to get Woke with everything while the other side has stayed focused on the philosophy. (Which, as we all know, makes that other side a bunch of Nazis.) Unfortunately for the Woke, it isn’t honest to be an anti-theist when it comes to Christianity but not Islam or other religions. On the plus side for this group, however, is their utter control over Big Tech. Attacks on Christianity as an institution appear to still be allowed, but the fedora memes folder pops open once the underlying issue of faith is mentioned. We must be careful not to ensnare any (locally) non-dominant group in our criticisms.

Or perhaps it comes down to the fact that people have lost interest in organized religion while organized religions have, non-coincidentally, lost influence, all while people still profess a belief in a higher power. An attack on young Earth creationism may still be seen in a positive light because, well, dinosaurs and humans didn’t exist side-by-side, but an attack on the very idea of an almighty creator isn’t going to fly amongst those who hold such a belief.

Whatever the case, one should not be fooled into thinking arguments against a higher power that cares for humanity have faltered. What was true 10 years ago is true today, even if someone tweets out a totes fire ‘m’lady atheist’ meme. Creationism – whether young or old, whether specific or (intentionally) vague – cannot be married to evolution without a bunch of hand-waving and shoulder-shrugging.

Fundamentally, evolution has no intention, no goals, no predetermined outcomes. It may have statistically likely, frequent, common, and not-so-unusual outcomes (such as the eye or the stability given by 4 legs), but any re-run of the tape of life will yield different results. We’ve seen this in specific experiments (see Richard Lenski), but it is also plainly obvious. The exact genetic makeup of an offspring could be changed for thousands of reasons in any hypothetical re-run. From environmental factors to a chance mutation to two sexually-viable individuals having sex earlier or later to spontaneous abortion, a re-run of evolution will always produce extremely different results over time. Just imagine the asteroid that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs missed Earth or burned up or perhaps fully hit water. If dinosaurs never die off, mammals likely never rise. And if they do, it happens in a wildly different world that will put different pressures on natural selection. In short, no species is inevitable. Any belief that says otherwise is in conflict with evolutionary theory.

Now examine any form of creationism. They *all* declare that humans have some special cosmic status; they *all* say there is a creator who has seen fit to bring humans into existence. Yet the random chance of mutations make that impossible. The stochastic nature of natural selection tells us it can’t be true. It simply isn’t possible to believe in an intention-based view like creationism while also accepting a scientific theory that specifically lacks intention.

But we needn’t stop there. Let’s ask the creationist *exactly* when it was that the special status of humans began. That is, who was the first individual to be born with a soul?

(Apologies for the divided paragraph, but this is a necessary caveat: Of course, my question isn’t meant to be literal. Moreover, the word ‘soul’ is meant to encompass however one wishes to define ‘special status’. I say both of these things because 1) I’m interested in the very *idea* of what gives a special status to someone but not their parents and 2) the second words like ‘soul’ get introduced, the believer in an intentional higher power will start to play semantics.)

If humans have some special status in the Universe while other living things don’t, then there must have been a point where a mother gave birth to one or more offspring that were special in the eyes of a creator. This is important because evolution is continuum. A mother of one species doesn’t give birth to offspring of another species. With the grace of hundreds of thousands of years, we can say ‘This fossil belongs to this species, but this one belongs to a different species’, but that isn’t how it works on a generational scale. So the creationist is forced to reckon with how it is that a mother failed to achieve special human status while her offspring was give such an honor. Moving the line back and saying that, perhaps, all Great Apes have this special status briefly answers the matter, but, ultimately, our evolutionary tree is going to meet up with a common ancestor with other species. And then others. And others. And, eventually, the creationist will have to say that all living things hold some special status with a creator – a status we conventionally refer to as ‘having a soul’. But why stop there. What of the first primordial replicators? Or is DNA the specific factor needed for cosmic importance?

Now pause. Reflect on how *utterly ridiculous* those mental gymnastics are. Any effort to marry creationism and evolution requires such an exertion, yet we have a perfectly valid path which avoids all of that: Don’t be a creationist. Simply accept evolution for what it is. Accept that humans were never destined to exist. Accept that it isn’t possible to say, ‘Humanity began with this birth’. Accept that the idea of human importance – something which is fundamental to any form of creationism – cannot be married to evolutionary theory.

Mele Kalikimaka

I didn’t do my regular Christmas post last year because I forgot to do it the year before, but I still like last year’s Hawaii theme, hence the title. That said, here’s an updated version of my usual Christmas picture. I’m not sure who the photographer is.

Thought of the day

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Wuhan virus and one last ‘A-Unicornist’ note

As the Wuhan virus spreads, there are a handful of legitimate sources to which people should turn for information. The most notable among all of these is the CDC. Information that comes from there will be heavily vetted and as updated as possible. It also won’t come with the litany of biases that most other sources have. For example, I am referring to this as the “Wuhan virus” because I believe China holds a tremendous amount of blame for this outbreak and I want to do everything I can to ensure that this virus is closely connected to the communist regime. My motivations are simple: Communism is an evil and it should be exposed as such and we should trust numbers coming from China as much as we should have trusted the USSR in the days following the Chernobyl meltdown that nearly ended the world as we know it. In other words, I’m not a legitimate source of information for this virus. The best I can do is reflect what governments and scientists around the free world are saying: stay away from people, wash your hands, and don’t hoard. Beyond that, it would be irresponsible of me to act as a source of information, even if I do having training in biology and experience in commercial labs. Which brings me to ‘The A-Unicornist‘, the focus of my last couple of posts. This is from his personal Facebook page:

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This virus is far more serious than the flu, and anyone who was even vaguely paying attention knew this even back in January. Mortality rates don’t care about sheer numbers from previous years; to downplay this fact is the height of irresponsibility and a person who does such a thing implicitly highlights why those who have only ever achieved high school graduation, much less any actual training in any science, should never be a source of information for anything of this nature.