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:

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.

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

Thought of the day

The social justice use of the word “privilege” is almost always wrong. What people cite as examples of privilege are more often examples of baseline treatment. And if you’re getting baseline treatment, that isn’t privilege. For instance, if I walk into a department store and no one starts watching me or following me with cameras, that isn’t privilege. If they have no particular reason to target me and they therefore don’t, in fact, target me, that’s baseline treatment. It’s what anyone ought to expect. However, if a black man walks into the same store and finds himself immediately watched for no reason other than that he’s black, he isn’t getting that same baseline treatment. That’s obvious discrimination. But racially-based discrimination does not somehow magically make baseline treatment a privilege in comparison.

Thought of the day

Free speech has no legal restrictions in the United States. Not a single one.

  • Laws against incitement are not restrictions on free speech.
  • Laws against threats are not restrictions on free speech.
  • Laws against fighting words are not restrictions on free speech.

All of these things are outside the definition of free speech in the first place; free speech is any expression which does not violate the rights of others. To say that the illegality of something which violates a right is also a restriction on said right is nonsensical. No one argues that the illegality of murder is a restriction on one’s right to liberty for that very reason. Murder isn’t part of the definition of liberty in the first place. It can’t be. No rights violation can ever be part of the definition of the right(s) it violates.

Thought of the day

I’m still waiting to read the first news article ever to discuss the disciplinary record of a cop who is also a victim of a crime. Because the media seems to have no problem when the victim is a black man – even one who complied with everything and did absolutely nothing wrong.

Thought of the day

I’m thankful every day that I don’t have some terrible condition like diabetes or heart disease or even colon cancer.

Merry Christmas

I think 2017 is the year that I update this picture.

Merry Christmas

Trump’s victory is bad in the short-term, but potentially great in the long-term

Without a doubt, the worst part of Trump’s victory is the fact that he will get to appoint at least one justice to the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia’s death was likely the greatest political news of the century, so it’s doubtful that Trump will be able to find someone as bad as he was. Unfortunately, if he gets to replace Ginsburg, it won’t matter who he picks to replace Scalia or her. He’s going to get to add a conservative justice, swinging the court further to the right.

However, despite the problems of the Supreme Court, a Trump victory is not significantly worse than had Romney won in 2012 (or any other Republican for this election). No progress would be made on global warming under either scenario. The NSA would continue to fundamentally (and with fucking glee) violate the rights of literally every single American. Brown people overseas would keep getting droned. None of that would be different just because Trump happens to also be a bad person. Indeed, with the exception of Democrat lip service towards global warming, all of those things would be the same had Clinton won. We are not in a significantly different position in most areas.

So how is this better in the long-term? Consider the real difference between Clinton and Trump. It isn’t on spying or hawkish foreign policy or spending. It’s almost entirely in their rhetoric. Clinton, while ethically questionable through-and-through, isn’t crass. She has some basic decency in how she expresses herself. Trump, on the other hand, is a raging moron who mocks disabled reporters and grabs women by the pussy. His outsider nature was able to override people’s disgust with him as a person, but that novelty will fade. And as it does, we’re going to see a continued split amongst Republican voters. Combine that with the minor defections we’re going to see from Democrats who weren’t happy with the DNC primary rigging, and we have the perfect storm for the rise of a third party.

I’m not sure which third party we might see in 2020, but whichever one it is, it will have to to be the middle of the road. The Libertarians fit that bill, but the problem with them is that people conflate libertarianism as a political movement with libertarianism as a philosophy. Any political theory must take reality into account whereas the same isn’t true of philosophy. The Libertarian party isn’t rigid in its views, and neither was its candidate, but that didn’t matter to people because they know the philosophy is much more straight-forward. I can’t remember how many times someone told me Gary Johnson believed x when, in fact, he didn’t. People would assume he believed x because it would be consistent with libertarian philosophy to do so, but they never bothered to actually look up what he said. (For instance, did you know Johnson wanted to eliminate the EPA? Crazy, right? Except he didn’t. In fact, he cited the EPA as a well-run government agency that he supported.)

If people on one side or the other try to rise up with a third party, however, it will fail. We saw that with the Tea Party, and we see it every time the Green party gets a little momentum. These ultra-right and ultra-left groups are inherently on the fringes. They can’t succeed because they can never draw nearly enough of the people from the center. Just consider the 3 main third party candidates. Gary Johnson was the closest to the middle, so he did the best. Jill Stein? She’s far-left, so she did poorly. Evan McMullin? Even when we recognize his limited ballot access, he still had no chance of pulling anyone from the Clinton camp.

This is my great hope from the election. We desperately need a viable third party, and disgust with Trump can fuel that. For whatever negative consequences he may bring, his presidency may prove to be the end of the two party duopoly.