What is a gene?

I remember one of the first biology-based debates I found myself in was in some random message board devoted to music. I can’t for the life of me remember what the board was, and I doubt it still exists today anyway, but I recall music being central to what brought me there. Of course, there were plenty of other subjects up for discussion at this place and in its various forums, and that led me into some useless debate with a racist metal head. (I’m sure his racism and affinity for metal were quite independent of each other.) He was making some claim about black people and intelligence, and he kept referencing some gene he seemed convinced proved his point. This was probably well over 15 years ago, so I don’t recall many of the specifics, but I do recall not really knowing what a gene was, so it was difficult to counter him effectively. I tried looking it up, but there really weren’t any easy-to-digest answers for someone who didn’t know what to look for in the first place. And, of course, this was a bit before the days of YouTube (and Wikipedia was in its infancy). Fortunately, for better or worse, the Internet is a far different place today. As such, I wanted to post a YouTube video I found in the hope that any person who finds himself in a similar situation to mine from years past would be able to gain a quick understanding of what a gene is. There’s a certain type of person who loves to use science to justify a belief he would hold no matter what, and relatively-educated racists are among them. Here’s the short video:

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Thought of the day

In any debate, there’s a good chance one or both sides will find something frustrating. It happens to me all the time. That’s the nature of debate. However, I think one of the more insidious ways frustration creeps in – especially in our 2018, you-either-100%-agree-with-me-or-you’re-literally-a-Nazi/commie/libtard/cuck culture – is when a person refuses to acknowledge that one particular point they’ve been using might be bad or in some way flawed. There seems to be this belief that if a single thing about an argument is wrong, then the entire conclusion and/or the broader point(s) being made have to be thrown out. Many of my more recent posts focus on this sort of thing. For example:

In this post, I talked about people who used bad correlation to claim Confederate statues were racist. The correlation sucked and it was bad science. But does any reasonable person think that means the case for Confederate statues being racist just got weaker?

In this post, Shaun King claimed 1) Thomas Jefferson never did anything as President to stop slavery and 2) Jefferson refused to free Sally Hemings while he was alive. The first claim is blatantly false and the second one is dubious; delving into the second claim reveals that Sally Hemings, while in the free country of France where she was paid a wage, actually negotiated a future for herself and her children. None of these facts mean King has to stop hating Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves with whom he fathered upwards of 6 children.

In this post, I talked about the nonsense claims that said Joe Arpaio was accepting guilt by accepting his pardon. The case law supports exactly the opposite conclusion, and, ultimately, the issue isn’t settled law. But does that mean Joe Arpaio isn’t a racist piece of shit who knowingly broke a host of laws? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean my point wasn’t met (elsewhere) with accusations of supporting Arpaio and his shitty policies.

I greatly dislike the level of polarization that permeates seemingly everything today. Person 1 should be able to draw conclusion X while using points A, B, C, D, and E, and Person 2 should be able to agree with conclusion X even though he may reject point C. Why Person 1 so often thinks this means he must be mortal enemies with Person 2 is both baffling and disheartening.

No, reddit, the Catholic Church has not accepted Darwinian evolution since 1950

The website reddit has recently been making notable shifts in its behavior. While it was once a place for open discussion and the relatively free exchange of ideas, the past several years have seen the owners change gears in an attempt to attract far more advertisers. We see this most blatantly when they suddenly shut down a forum, known within the site as a “sub” or “subreddit”, after a reporter (such as Anderson Cooper) sheds light on some questionable content being peddled on the site. Sometimes this is actually the right move by the reddit owners, but they almost never do it for the right reasons. Again, they’re interested in advertiser money. That’s it.

But merely shutting down bad content isn’t the only way the site has taken to putting on an ad-friendly face. When one of the owners went on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, he made it a point to push the ‘wholesome’ content of the website (despite a sizeable portion of its traffic coming from porn). Not long after, subreddits with the word “wholesome” in them began growing and growing. Some of this can likely be attributed to the national exposure they were given, but much of it is likely due to content manipulation where the reddit owners and employees push preferred content to the ‘front page’. This is surely why the site transitioned from being open source to close source – there’s no longer any way for users to confirm whether or not voted-on content has been altered to appear more popular than it is. And that vote manipulation (which has endless examples from just this past year, it seems) continues with this objectively incorrect post from the subreddit “Today I learned” (or TIL):

TIL the Catholic Church has accepted Darwinian evolution as compatible with Christianity since 1950.

Many of the top comments in the thread talk about how people who attended Catholic schools were taught evolution without issue, or how Catholics themselves have been responsible for many scientific theories and ideas. And, ‘naturally’, one prominent comment talks about how nice the thread is.

Of course, it’s all bullshit.

The reality is that the Catholic Church believes in the magic that is theistic evolution. This is not Darwinian in any sense of the word. This is an entirely made-up version of evolution that says humans were destined to exist. That is not what evolution says at all. Nothing in the theory dictates that humans or human-like beings will come into existence.

But let’s look at what Pope Pious XII actually had to say about evolution in 1950:

Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution.

He goes on to insult communists after this, so it isn’t easy to parse the politics of the writing from the commentary about biology, but it is clear that the Catholic Church did not believe that evolution had been proven. Saying something like that is equally as wrong as saying the theory of gravity has not been proven. Furthermore, the Church also didn’t believe that evolution was still occurring. This, of course, was and is wrong. Evolution does not stop so long as life continues. Humans are not its culmination – it has no culmination. It has replicators that replicate and change over time.

For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

Here is a great example of where the Church 1) does not understand evolution and 2) holds a position in contradiction to evolution. Notice where the Pope says the Church holds that souls are immediately created by God. That is, souls are immortal and eternal while bodies are mortal and temporal. The soul, per the Church, has always existed and will always exist. It is merely joined to an earthly human body for a brief period. But there was no first human body. Evolution occurs on a spectrum and we are only able to define what makes a species its own species because of time and separation. One generation of Species A does not give birth to a generation of Species B. So that forces the issue: does the Church believe there was a first human? If so, did its mother and father not have souls? And what about neanderthals? Or our other human-like cousins? Did they have souls?

The bottom line is that theistic evolution requires that 1) humans were inevitable, 2) humans are the culmination or peak of evolution, and 3) there was a distinct, definable first human. Darwinian evolution, on the other, correct hand, tells us that none of those things are true. Nothing in evolution, aside from change itself, is inevitable. Legs? Lungs? Brains? Fingers? Speech? Fins? Wings? None of that is inevitable. And nothing, including humans, can constitute the culmination or peak of evolution. And, again, species are fluid. Species A will always give birth to another generation of Species A.

But I’m sure the reddit powers-that-be are happy to know their advertisers are seeing positivity and a favorable view being given to religion, so none of these pesky facts really matter.

Fan bases

Remember, people hate the Boston-area sports fan base largely because of how many championships the region has seen in the 21st century. It really has very little to do with the sports base itself. If Houston saw championship after championship like this, people would hate Houston sports just the same because the fan base would react and behave largely the same.

But when it comes to hating New York City and Philadelphia fan bases? It really has nothing to do with winning. Sure, NYC itself has seen plenty of championships, but many of the individual teams haven’t. Just think about the last championship for teams not named the Yankees or the Giants. The Jets? 1968. The Mets? 1986. The Rangers? 1994. The Knicks? 1973. The Islanders? 1983. The Nets? 1976. So why the hate for NYC teams? It’s not jealous or envy or people just getting plan tired of hearing about them. It’s the fan base. The same goes for Philadelphia. The sports-fan culture in these cities is toxic garbage. From harassing fans of other teams to throwing batteries to booing Santa, NYC and Philly fan bases are what give those anti-sports mooks out there ammunition to talk shit about “sportsball” every February, June, and October.

Thought of the year

God still doesn’t exist, alt-medicine is still quackery that cures nothing (including the flu, colon cancer, and diabetes), and Tom Brady is still the greatest NFL player of all time.

Merry Christmas

Most people would give up on making the same joke for the better part of a decade, but here I am, posting a picture that I really should just update.

Merry Christmas

Advocating genocide is never incitement

There’s a disturbing trend these days to claim or imply that language is violence. That, of course, is nonsensical rubbish that should have no place in a serious discussion, but here we are. (My history of urging that Philosophy 101 be mandatory at the high school level is reaffirmed as a good idea every single day.) In particular, there has been a growing position that advocacy of genocide is such abhorrent violence that it, in fact, is not free speech. Again, nonsensical rubbish. Here is one example of someone saying as much:

The growing fascist movement in the United States often claims that it is marching for “free speech” and complains that Antifa and other opponents are violating their rights. Unfortunately, this cynical claim has won some credibility among liberals and even the ACLU. But the law does not protect the advocacy of violence any more than it protects child pornography. These well-established legal principles should be extended to prohibit the advocacy of genocide, the ultimate violence.

Arguing about the free speech rights of Nazis, fascists, and KKK members is a trap. The issue is not speech, it is violence. The fascists do not want to argue with us, they want to kill us.

I originally picked this article merely because it was a quick result on Google; my goal here was to generally address the issue of calling genocide-advocacy violence. However, the muddled understanding of free speech is too much to ignore. The article continues:

A brief review of U.S. law demonstrates that fascist advocacy of violence and genocide can and should be prohibited. In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that there is no free speech right to advocate violence when there is a likelihood that violence will actually occur. The Court traced the development of U.S. law from its earlier prohibition of even abstract teaching of the necessity of violence for accomplishing social change to protecting such speech “except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

As it so happens, I made this post because I wanted to specifically talk about Brandenburg. Nearly every person who claims speech is violence has never heard of the case. The fact that this article brings it up is both surprising and, for the author, embarrassing. Brandenburg is the precise reason advocacy for genocide is always protected speech:

The Court’s Per Curiam opinion held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg’s right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.” The criminal syndicalism act made illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.

This couldn’t possibly be more on point. Advocating for genocide is 1) advocacy for a necessarily lengthy process and 2) often an advocacy for a change in law. Both of these points immediately fail the first prong of the test. A lengthy process – that is, systematic killing of an entire group of people – cannot possibly incite imminent action, lawless or not. Genocide is, by definition, not imminent. And where its advocates want a change in the law that allows for genocide…well, I mean. C’mon. That’s not only a lengthy process that requires years of lobbying and voting, but just imagine if you weren’t allowed to campaign for a change in the law because it was unpopular.

The article continues:

We are not proposing that offensive speech, or even speech that many consider hateful because of its abusive treatment of people based upon their race, gender or ethnicity, be outlawed. A free society must tolerate speech that is hurtful or offensive. But no civilized society must or should tolerate behavior by individuals or groups of people that promotes violence and even the total destruction of people based upon their color, gender, religion, or origin.

Notice the subtle bait-and-switch I’ve highlighted. We’re supposedly talking about speech, but the author here changes the issue to behavior. It’s a tacit surrender of the issue. Speech which fails to incite – and advocacy of genocide fails to incite, through and through – must be tolerated. Despite the incorrect interpretation of the specific ruling that renders the entire article wrong, the author acknowledges as much.

Just imagine if advocating for something violent was itself considered violence. We would have to lock up all the people who support the death penalty. Every shitty YouTube commenter who says [enter politician] should be hanged for [enter crime, usually treason] would have to be charged with criminal wrongdoing. And what’s the next step? If advocating for general violence at some indeterminate point in the future is violence, then would it also be violence for someone to advocate for the right to advocate for general violence? If I think neo-Nazis and antifa people should be able to advocate for violence, am I engaging in violent speech?

Here’s the bottom line. Advocating for genocide is free speech. You can talk about your desire to emulate Nazi Germany, if you wish. You can talk about your desire to kill all Jews or Muslims or Christians or blacks or whites. Take your pick. You can even say we should round-up and murder all the people who say we should round-up and murder other people. You are free to do that. It is 100% free speech.