Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Well, Virginia, that’s an excellent question

Newseum.org - Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Apparently it’s fairly well-entrenched in North American culture, but I was only recently made aware of this letter. Plenty of people seem to love it, but not me. The original Santa Claus lie pisses me off enough, but to tell an 8-year-old child who wants to know the truth that it’s wrong to be curious or skeptical, that without magic and ‘childlike faith’ there could be no good in the world…that sickens me to the core. It’s not just the reinforcement of the Santa lie; it’s the undermining of all the intellectual traits we should be fostering in children that makes this kind of patronisation despicable. This is without even mentioning the fact that it trivialises the work of the human beings that actually do spread joy at Christmas time.

So, with that in mind, I decided to write an alternate response. I think the link makes it all pretty clear, but make sure you read it first, because the structure and the turns of phrase I’ve used won’t make sense otherwise.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ethics and Religion

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. – Steven Weinberg

One of the biggest things you can say against cultural relativism is that, when you break it down far enough, pretty much every ethical system that human beings have ever created has been based on the same underlying principle. Every society has had as its moral goal the largest amount of happiness for all persons – we’ve just disagreed vastly on who counts as a person, and how to best achieve that happiness. This is why Utilitarianism was such an influential school of thought – it’s not so much that it was revolutionary or innovative; it’s that it finally codified and rationalised what we’ve been wordlessly striving for all along.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Flux and Flexibility (Part Two)

The Hip-Pocket Fallacy is closely related to another theme I’ve seen in arguments lately. To begin, I’d like to offer up two rules of capitalism: One - change is inevitable; or, to put it another way, we are always in a state of flux and change is constantly occurring. Two - for every negative that comes from a change, there will be a corresponding positive.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hip-Pocket Fallacy (Part One)

It’s an argument that comes up in a lot of debates - asylum seekers being one of the most prominent, both in Australia and abroad. And quite often it can be debunked in simple matters of fact - the consequences of a more humanitarian approach to refugees would not bankrupt the country, as is claimed. But even assuming it is based in fact - even if people might be put under financial strain by a political decision, this does not necessarily mean the decision is wrong.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An open letter to Julia Gillard

On September 26 2010, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young reintroduced her Marriage Equality Amendment Bill into the Senate, which would remove discrimination based on sexuality or gender from the Marriage Act, thus allowing gay marriage. She urged both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on this issue - that is, allow each MP to make up their own mind, based on their own convictions and/or that of their electorate - but Gillard very quickly returned that Labor MPs would be voting along party lines on this issue. This would mean the bill would have essentially zero chance of success.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Australia Votes 2010 - Post Mortem (Part 2)

So the ALP had decided axe Rudd, and Gillard had wisely called an election. But this is when it all started to go downhill.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Australia Votes 2010 - Post Mortem (Part 1)

Well, it took 17 days and one painfully long speech from Rob Oakeshott, but we finally have a verdict: a Labor government with 76 seats. It was undoubtedly one of the closest and most interesting elections in recent years, so let’s take a look at the campaign that was.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Australia Votes 2010 - Asylum-seekers

Okay. This is an issue that seems to rear its head every time an election is called, so I want to put it to rest once and for all: asylum-seekers and the issue of stopping the boats. It’s an issue surrounded by lies, misunderstandings and hyperbole, and does a very good job of distracting voters from the real issues they should be worrying about. So let’s sort out the facts before everyone goes to the polls on Saturday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In defense of leniency

Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry. To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery. – George Polya

Woman let off for drink-driving over lack of public transport

It’s a bit of a role-reversal that the comedians are being pedantic and the lawyer is being compassionate, but that’s what we have here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The God of the Agnostics

Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur

Some people who self-identify as non-religious still believe in the possibility of some kind of supernatural deity. This generally takes the form of either pantheism or agnosticism. I touched on this in The Strawman of the Faithful Atheist, but I want to explain further the agnostic’s flawed conception of God and their even more flawed notions of skepticism.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Strawman of the Faithful Atheist (Part 2)

The reasonable man bases his conclusions on the evidence currently available while acknowledging that tomorrow’s evidence may show something quite different. – RG Swinburne

Rosenbaum also claims that a significant portion of atheists hold “the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence.” This is not so much a lie as a misunderstanding of the truth.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Strawman of the Faithful Atheist (Part 1)

Ron Rosenbaum – The rise of the new agnostics

Ron Rosenbaum wants to distance agnosticism from atheism, claiming that atheists are just as faithful to their dogma as theists are to theirs. He does this in a number of ways, at various points either misrepresenting the truth or misunderstanding it, but these logical errors are very common so I want to address them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Neo-Feudalism and the American Dream

American pundits, politicians, and even – to a certain extent – voters, seem to have a great fear of communism. It goes in and out of favour – it was brazen in the McCarthy era, it is less so in the opposition to universal healthcare – but it is present as a major political force nonetheless. They want to live the mythical American Dream – which is essentially a rebranding of the capitalist dream – that anybody can start at the bottom of the ladder and rise to the top based solely on their merit, how hard they work, etc. This is a great system to have, and hardcore socialism would indeed threaten that dream. But that dream is already being threatened by the road we are heading down right now

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Fame Monster vs The Media Chameleon

Know how to be all things to all men. A discreet Proteus – a scholar among scholars, a saint among saints. That is the art of winning over everyone, for like attracts like. – Baltasar Gracian

Is Christina Aguilera the new Lady Gaga?

My favourite quote: “I miss the old Christina Aguilera.” Which one would that be?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reductio ad absurdum

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. – Seneca

While watching a recent piece on Scientology and all its alleged crimes, I was struck particularly by two things; firstly, how many parallels you can draw between what Scientology does and what other, older religions do, and secondly, the demeanour of Tommy Davis, who is the head of the Celebrity Centre in LA and is basically one of their major PR guys. The two are very closely related.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The percieved failure of New Feminism

Charlotte Raven - How the 'new feminism' went wrong

Raven makes a critical mistake here - one she seems to acknowledge late in the piece but then dismisses. She notes the narcissism of modern women, ignores the exact same narcissism in modern men, and bemoans the failure of New Feminism as a result.