Thursday, December 2, 2021

On Dave Chappelle and "Gender Realism"



The Economist published a piece on Dave Chappelle's "gender realism." The article is behind a paywall, so, of course, I couldn't read it. But the term "gender realism" stoked my ire.

Look, if you think biological sex is purely binary -- man and woman, male and female, you're simply uninformed and, most likely, scientifically illiterate. That's on you. Not me. Not anybody else.

Look, I get it. You were raised not questioning how the world works and you never cared to learn. That's fine. But, when it comes to biological issues -- don't get up on a pedestal and pontificate ignorance. Nobody wants that. Go out--read the up-to-date research--then get back to me.

Gender is, for the most part, a social construct. There are tons of anthropology studies done on it as well as gender identity and gender representation in different cultures/countries across various time periods. Not hard to find. Lots of peer-reviewed papers are published all the time on this subject.
 
The biological sex of the species, specifically, has to do with basic genetic science, in which case we look to the number of stable chromosomal karyotypes in the genome.
 
Geneticists acknowledge that there are currently 6 cataloged biological sexes in the human species that are stable, but there could possibly be more. The number of permutations that a karyotype can have is quite vast, so not every possible combination has occurred in nature. There could be more than six -- one's we simply haven't discovered yet.

And it's not an A or B proposition. Sex isn't binary. That's not how the science works. That's not how genetics works.

It's more like molecules. You change a chemical component, add two oxygens to a hydrogen, and you have a new molecule altogether. Walla, presto...water is made!

Biological sex is like this. You're not adding more male or more female traits... you're essentially getting chromosomal variants of entirely new biological sexes.
 
It's just that people don't know their science -- and genetics is fairly a new branch of science so a lot of the older generation never learned any of it in school. Not even an overview of the advances in the field.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Neopronouns: What are they good for? Welcome to my TED talk...

 1. What are your pronouns? (If you don't mind sharing them)


He is fine for me, personally.

But personally, I don't believe in pronoun usage for gender identification as it creates a binary system where it pits the Personal Identity of the individual against imagined Other Identity of the external world by creating external boundaries that make it more difficult to traverse in one's own journey of growth and personal enlightenment.

Logically, you can't say I prefer to be called an apple and not orange, thereby place yourself in opposition to another term, and still be considered non-binary. You've basically locked yourself into a binary box by adhering to an 'either this or that' naming system (a language game that would roil even Wittgenstein -- I say somewhat facetiously).

The semantic game being: If you're not one thing -- you're something else. An 'either or' proposition which I think is setting up a false proposition -- in terms of the semantics being used (of course, the semiotics of alternate pronoun construction or neopronouns, e.g. xim, xey, xer, xiers, etc. is a bit complicated and would require a masters thesis in and of itself to understand fully form the linguistic standpoint).

I think people are more complex than this. Granted, that's not everyone's sentiment, which is why I understand the instinct to want to name and classify people as something rather than nother (or anything).

I feel, though, that in terms of identity, we're all Schrodinger's cat. We're this, that, and the other thing. We are nothing and everything all at once. So, we can be anything we wish (at least with respect to the semantic game of naming things).

We're never just one thing. And trying to affix one all-encompassing term to ourselves to help express our truer inner-natures actually has the opposite effect by limiting expression and confining it on a binary naming system of either-or terms.

If you adhere to such naming structures, you limit your options of expression (a semantic consequence of such a naming system), whether you're "non-binary" or "basic-binary". The problem being that one's Personal Identity and expression become dependent on the language of the Other in order to be processed and codified into society as a whole.

That is a side-effect of the semantic game of naming things, I'm afraid. It doesn't speak to any gender bias or phobia per se but that people may not have other ways of expressing the non-binary identities of people without, in turn, comparing and contrasting it to the binary lexicon as traditionally understood.

As such, a consequence of which is that people are defining themselves according to what they want to be called in opposition to what society wants to call them. This conflict also is a binary construct of an 'either-or" mentality. It's shaking your fist and saying "I'm not what society has defined me as -- I'm something else," all the while playing by the same outmoded rules of the semantic game.

And although I understand the urge to want to express oneself as the way they see themselves -- that's part of identity, after all -- but to do it in this way, by staking out a pronoun and affixing it to your identity, also seems to fall back into the trap of being able to define only themselves in terms of opposition to what they're trying to break away from or distinguish themselves from.

I don't think allowing others to define you or the language you use should be codified into your own identity. I don't think that's healthy. Especially if the goal is acceptance. I think acceptance can only be had by not generating expectations. If we don't expect you to be anything, in particular, you could potentially be anything. Schrodinger's cat analogy is apt for this reason (the cat is both dead and alive simultaneously but only takes its true form once you accept that form as it appears to you with no prior judgments -- because you simply don't know until it manifests itself -- I think Person Identity is likewise).

This then gets into the theory of language, semantics, linguistics, etc. and that's perhaps a discussion for another time.

I understand, though, that in terms of expression it is important for LGBTQ folks it's important for their coming out or transition periods -- to be able to restructure their identities and have something to define them by -- so I won't begrudge anyone preferring pronouns and will respectfully call people whatever they want to be called -- but, personally, I think it's at its core an antithetical practice that hurts people more than it helps.

The problem is, people haven't read their Wittgenstein and so will debate endlessly the need to properly "identify" and "classify" and "name" things. It's all just semantic games. The problem is when these semantic games are used in harmful ways or to tear people down. I understand the urge to want to expand pronoun usage to give people more options so that future laws written won't be so limiting because of their binary favoritism in the language they use -- thereby providing more avenues and spaces for trans and LGBTQ folk to exist in. I understand why people would want to promote pronoun usage for these reasons. Society, as a whole, seems to only take the time to understand something when it fits within their preferred lexicon. Learning a foreign language is too taxing.

I think both sides are wrong for this reason. We have to learn the foreign language if we're ever going to overcome the semantic problem at all.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

P.S.
I should note that these issues become doubly complex when you're talking about the written form of language vs. the spoken.

It seems that the grammar of our language relies heavily on the nominative nature of pronouns. That's something that would need to be addressed in terms of the language game since the naming of things is tied directly to our very construction of the definitions of things. Linguistic consequences ensue when you change the very nature of pronoun usage.

I was speaking more generally, however, in terms of how we use pronouns in everyday life and with respect to how we view, process, and construct our identities.

Again, this is just my opinion. It's not written in stone that I'll be right on this issue. But I think I'm righter than most because I understand how words work on a level most people never think about. Even reading all this will put some people off -- as they will say "I'm overthinking things" and they'll go back to living simple and happy, yet perhaps unthoughtful lives.

My thoughts are pretty busy so these issues bounce around my mind all the time until I properly have time to analyze and process them.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

WAS JESUS CHRIST GAY? AND ON BLASPHEMY



I don't talk about religion much these days. Every once in a while, though, I'll get in the mood to look something up. After decades of religious research, I still hold a fascination for the subject matter. It just became too difficult to talk about with people of faith because -- at a certain point -- it's not about discovering new truths anymore but maintain old predispositions.

Even so, I recently had a bit of a curfuffle over on a friend's post because a Christian apologist seemed to take offense regarding a quote that cited God as a She -- yes, as female.

Although the quote was about a general theistic deity and not the Christian God, per se, he still went on a rant about using the proper pronouns when discussing God.

I found this oddly amusing. Why would someone get so bent out of shape regarding the possibility of God being a She -- or possibly Alanis Morissette?

As such, I mentioned Jesus may have used "She" when talking about himself as modern homosexual men sometimes refer to the more diva-like gays as "She" or "Girl."

I meant it as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the real scholarly research on the subject, but I sometimes forget not everyone is as well read on the arcane subject matter of Christian history as I am and the Christian became offended mistaking my comments as, I can only assume, blasphemous slanders against his faith.

Although, I'm not a Christian, so crimes of blasphemy have no meaning to me as you need to first ascribe to the belief of the sacred in order to believe that the sacred has been defamed -- is largely a made-up crime created by believers for believers.

It's also why I think that any country that has anti-blasphemy laws are barbaric and immoral.

Holding a secular person (or a person of differing faith) accountable for the made up crime of blasphemy -- intended to police the language and thought of believers -- burdens the secular mind with the preconceived notion that the believer's worldview is the only correct worldview and that their secular views are wrong and dangerous enough to penalize. In so many cases, a person lacking a belief is then jailed or punished, in some countries caned or killed, simply for not allowing tyrannical dictators to dictate what they say or believe.

Anti-blasphemy laws are utterly senseless made up laws with no rational validity. They are by and large laughable, illogical, and unnecessarily cruel. If you couldn't tell, I really...really hate anti-blasphemy laws -- but that's why I compiled and edited this collection regarding the topic:

https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Against-Blasphemy-Robert-Ingersoll-ebook/dp/B00BY6LCBK

I was recently called out as "trolling" a Christian apologist when I mentioned Jesus and the disciples may have been homosexuals.

It's not my theory, but there is a scholarly opinion that Jesus and the 12 disciples were, perhaps, gay.

Some might find it laughable, others might feel angered by such an assumption. But, it's not as wild of an assumption as you initially might think.

Granted, it's not a mainstream Christian view, as Christian scholarship has been a dead field for over a decade now and new theories to account for anomalies in the data don't often come up anymore except where secular scholarship is concerned.

R. Joseph Hoffmann, a religious scholar at Harvard Divinity, wrote a fascinating essay on the inference of homosexuality within Jesus' inner circle of male followers.

The inference is a simple deduction via omission.

It's not dissimilar from making the assumption that an island of Amazonian warrior women was a real historical place, and that this all-exclusive female island must have had sexual relationships, and by the nature of being exclusively female we can make the inference that these Amazonian women -- in all probability -- had lesbian relationships. Hence the name of the island Lesbos from which the term *lesbian is derived.

One of the interesting observations that struck me was that if you were a first-century rabbi -- you were likely to be married -- and one of the rabbi's jobs was to talk about how the husband must treat the wife as well as the wife's duties to the husband -- even with respect to their personal relationships.

You find such teachings in other rabbinical writings, but not so much with Jesus (or what little we have of him actually talking about the subject of personal relationships).

Jesus, for the more part, didn't talk about sex at all. One hypothesis proffered is that if you live in a time when talking about your sexual preferences could very likely get you killed, you just never spoke about them.

This would then open up the possibility that the disciples were indeed homosexual, or, at least, they may have practiced male companionship in the same way the women on the island of Lesbos may have practice female companionship.

It's an interesting theory to ponder.

And, if the thought of Jesus or any of his disciples being gay offends you, apologies. This isn't meant to inflame people's emotions but merely offer an interesting assumption based on a simple inference given the historical data we have.

We know, for example, that male companionship was a common practice in the 1st-century Roman empire, especially within the ranks of the Roman army. In fact, it was such a common practice that sodomy even gets mentioned in the bible -- and only in the context that sodomy is to be frowned upon (usually because it involved sodomy of a non-consensual child).

But the bible itself says nothing as to continuing to have mature same-sex relationships or whether or not these are taboo in the eyes of the Christian God. That is an assumption apologists like to make based on a single anti-sodomy passage.

Of course, Leviticus 18 was in reference to Israelites only and not gentiles, Canaanites, or Egyptians. So, it's unclear whether this is a universal law since, in context, it only refers to sodomy being wrong for Israelites specifically.

Other verses like Romans 1:26-27 have been interpreted to mean so many different things, including regular intercourse between a man and woman in a brothel, that it's usually just generally cited as Paul's opinion on the subject -- not actually a religious law.

If you look in a biblical concordance, the word *homosexuality used in passages like 1 Timothy 1:8-11 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are translations from the Greek word *Arsenokotai, which means bed + man with a sexual connotation, meaning male-bed.

But because the context of *arsenokotai is unclear, since only Paul uses it, whether it means for men to sleep with men, or to enter a den of prostitution that caters to men, is entirely unclear.

This is the problem with biblical scholarship, we often times simply don't know. As such, the passage is often rendered as "sodomites" rather than homosexuals, because it's not clear as to whether it's referring to men+men or men+anybody (although some bibles disingenuously render it as *homosexuals -- even though that's unclear and the definition is entirely different than sodomite in any given context from the 1st century).

Of course, Hoffmann's paper examines key scripture that supports the idea of Jesus and his apostles of practicing male companionship to an extent, but as with most historical reconstruction where the evidence is limited -- assumptions are all that can be made.

Here's the weird part though, we have the same amount of evidence that Jesus was straight as we do that he was gay.

I mean, one can find the inference disagreeable, but you can't deny it as a real possibility because it is at least as well supported as any assumption of heterosexual norms. That just goes to show that the genuine historical evidence we can glean of Jesus's time on Earth is quite lacking.

As the scholar Richard Carrier once put it, all we actually have are stories about Jesus by Christians who came decades after him.

Stories about Christianity by Christians for Christians.

If you want a more accurate history, you have to go beyond mere Christian stories. You have to examine the passages in their historical context and make inferences based on what we know from other sources about a similar subject matter. That's the only way plausible recreations of history can be made. In the end, though, they're still mainly just assumptions--albeit assumptions backed up by better sources than mere stories.

Examinations like this fascinate me, however, because it shows really how much of religious faith, in this case: Christianity, is a collection of unproven assumptions.

Usually, the kind that requires a Kirkgardian leap of faith -- meaning that there is no direct evidence to prove it either way but you go with your preconceived feelings and accept them as the de facto truth regardless of what the evidence might suggest (or, often times, the lack thereof).

This highlights one of the reasons I left Christianity.

I just came to realize it was a system of cobbled together beliefs that couldn't demonstrate themselves in any meaningful way with respect to an unadulterated truth.

As with most historical reconstructions, the historical aspects of Christianity rely so heavily on assumption-making that if you were to get rid of every biblical-based assumption that wasn't directly supported by a plethora of historical evidence you'd practically be left with nothing. That is to say, almost nothing is supported in the way of evidence. All you have is an unbuttressed kind of faith that assumes its history fits with its preconceived theological ideas.

That's an empty sort of faith, if you ask me. I like degrees of certainty and the confidence to say one way or another, but that's just me. Then again, if one requires evidence to believe then it wouldn't be called Faith, now, would it?

But this is often the way religions operate. They don't go by critical analysis, evidential support, or logical inference -- they go by tradition, emotion, and unquestioning faith predicated on predispositions to accept unverified truths as metaphysical certainties.

And although certain theological presumptions regarding such metaphysical considerations may be logically sound, so too is the mathematics behind M-theory or Super String Theory. But having a logically sound premise is different than proving a theory a fact of reality, whether it's String Theory or religious faith.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Why Are Conservatives Trying to Co-Opt the Hashtags #NotMyPresident and #Resist?



The moment the AP called it and Trump lost to Biden, my conservative friends erupted into a cacophony of conspiracy theories and senseless bellyaching. If you criticized them, they're quick to point out how it's no different than how Dems acted four years ago when Hillary lost to Trump.

But, no. No, it's not. Not even a little bit.

So, when a conservative post popped up on my feed asking:

"So does this mean I can use the #notmypresident hashtag now?
Oh! And the -#resist one too

Just curious."


Well, I felt I could answer the question sincerely.


It's a fair question. But the short answer is no.

The answer is no because those hashtags don't make sense in this context. Hillary won the popular vote by approximately 3 million votes, so there were a lot of pissed off people because the clear winner -- by the numbers -- and in their estimation -- was stripped of what many saw as a momentous victory due to how the electoral college works. Hence #notmypresident because, based on a technicality alone, he wasn't the person who won the presidential votes from the populace.

The hashtag literally means *not the guy who won, hence not my president.

The electoral college is working just fine, however, and Trump neither has the popular votes or the electoral votes to win a second term. I know a lot of conservatives are saddened by this, but when both the populace and the electoral votes favor a single incumbent, there is less confusion about who the victor is.

Therefore the hashtag #NotMyPresident simply doesn't track. So using those hashtags (for the Biden / Trump election) would be out of place and out of context, regardless of whether you're disappointed or not that Trump lost. It would be illogical to use them in this fashion.

The #resist hashtag has more to do with resisting the moral character flaws of a man who is, by legal standards, appears to be as corrupt as they come (check out Legal Eagle's commentary on Trump's taxes and business practices to get a lawyers perspective on this).

Trump's criminal behavior aside, he certainly is contemptible by any ethical metric you wish to make reference to. Basically, Trump lacks the Kantian values that modern society incorporates in its defacto social contracts (although it's by no means the only system of ethics that buttress Western morality, but this is a discussion for another time) and so he lacks a certain modicum of decency because he doesn't respect others and so cannot fulfill the categorical imperative, or respecting the humanity in others and abiding by the shared social rules we set as a society.

He doesn't believe the rules apply to him in the same way, which is a common trait among textbook narcissist--of which I believe he is one (we could debate this, but I'm not going to--the evidence is a thousand plus Tweets long).

And while his staunch supporters may see this as being hardline and telling it as it is--others were appalled by the lack of forethought, empathy, and brutish mentality of the man. A larger majority of voters (since remember, Trump technically lost the popular vote the first time around) saw this as something they needed to push back against. You know, #resist.

In context, the origin of these hashtags makes perfect sense. Even if you disagree with the reasoning behind them, they still track. That is to say, there's a tracible method to their construction and meaning. Using them out of context, as one would presume, doesn't make sense.

Even if the emotional sentiment is the same, it lacks the same reasons for why those particular words were used and not others. #Resist could have been #Regret. And #notmypresident could have been #NotwhoIVotedfor. But the semantic relationships aren't quite the same. There is a clear etymological relationship between the hashtags themselves and the context they were born out of.

Trump and the Dangers of Bad Rhetoric




Look, I bit my tongue during the entire election. I avoided all political talk, but I feel there's something that needs to be said about some of the dangerous rhetoric that's been floating around the Interwebs for the past 48 hours.

So, the thing is, making a cogent point is something, you might say, that I know how to do really, really well.

In fact, I did it for over a decade on my religion of philosophy blog. Indeed, I managed to keep an active dialectic going on my religion of philosophy blog The Advocatus Atheist for over a decade (totaling over 20 million words of philosophical content). 

Not only this, but my humble blog racked up over one million-page reads, received numerous accolades, and was voted one of the top 30 atheist blogs on the Internet (even if I do pat myself on the back here for a moment).

Don't get me wrong though -- I'm not trying to gloat or brag here. That's not what this post is about.

I'm merely laying down these credentials as a matter of courtesy to those who might want to argue with me after they hear what I have to say. But we'll get to that in a minute.

First, I want to point out that I'm more than willing to accept different points of view, change my mind, or shift my views because over the years of arguing both professionally and as a hobby, I've had my mind changed on more than one occasion. 

In other words, I'm no stranger to eating crow and having a few slices of humble pie.

Emotional pleas and knee-jerk reactions, things like ad hominem (i.e., mud-slinging), trolling, or gish-galloping pseudo-cerebral exercises, however, will get you a ban from my page.

Because this isn't formal argumentation. There's no genuine thought behind it. It's just white noise and rudeness presented in the form of an opposing point of view that is not likely defensible, otherwise, they wouldn't be resorting to cheap tactics to try and win their arguments.

These types of people are easy to identify. A lot of the time they amount to little more than trolls -- because they pop out of the woodwork only to rock the boat and get everyone riled up. 

Do they actually care about the validity of their points, their views, their beliefs? Probably not. They might take them for granted, feeling they're entitled to those beliefs and worldviews for the sole reason they believe them to be true and credible. Not because, it's worth observing, because they've been demonstrated as true and credible.

The good rhetorician doesn't lie, because he/she doesn't have to. The good rhetorician admits that his/her argument could possibly be wrong. 

Such is the nature of a subjective, third person, analysis of the world around us. But, in the hopes of moving toward a more objective understanding of that world -- good reasons need to be given for holding the sorts of beliefs we hold. And we can debate the merit of these reasons, or likewise their contra-arguments, as we move closer to finding a common ground.

And this brings us my main point -- the thing that I want to warn you all about. The dangers of bad rhetoric.

It was an observation I made about four years ago and an observation that I continue to make in lieu of this recent presidential election. And no, I'm not simply talking about Trump's inane Twitter ramblings and the level of demonstrable misinformation he spews daily (although this is a big problem).

There are a lot -- and I mean a lot -- of conservatives, whether they be republican or right-leaning libertarians, or conservative centrist, etc. that are spreading the mail-in ballot rumors that there has been major tampering by Democrats in the recent vote counting.

A lot of bad information has been debunked. My job here isn't to debunk what's already been debunked. I don't do other people's homework for them. But I do see a lot of conspiracy theories floating around that the election was somehow rigged to favor the Dems and the liberal agenda.

Of my conservative friends who are sharing such theories, their feeds quickly become an echo-chamber of other conservatives sharing the same *debunked details. 

A lot of them resort to dangerous rhetoric that is either thinly veiled threats or, in many cases, claims about going to war with "libtards" who -- they feel -- are making lists and working together as a secret cabal to round up all the conservatives in the future and do away with them.

Endless posts and exchanges about how voter fraud is rampant and how they want to drag out the recounts as long as possible to ensure that the election was fair.

Now, I'm not saying voter-fraud has never happened. I mean, hell, Russia literally interfered with the previous presidential election and probably did their damndest to tamper with this one. But this has been proved -- by the CIA and FBI -- and has a mountain of evidence supporting these claims. It's not a conspiracy theory.

The idea, somehow, that this election was stolen, however, is more akin to conspiracy than anything. And even if there was voter-fraud, reports I've read said it would be less than 1% of the votes.

By all means, if something looks fishy, then let's look into it. But let's rely on the advice of real political scientists, expert analysts, and data crunchers who have been following the election every step of the way. Don't spread unfounded accusations because a friend Tweeted it or because President Trump (a demonstrably proven habitual liar) shared some misinformation.

Do your fact-checking. Stop living in the echo chamber.

The easiest way to root out poor arguments and bad rhetoric is to notice when they all say the same thing without ever addressing the various points that would go to proving their claims.

I'm hearing a lot of conspiracy theories, misinformation, a lot of bellyaching and a lot of people stirring the pot instead of doing what they should be doing -- researching the alleged corruption they say is rampant and finding the evidence that would prove their claims true.

Like I said, though, recounts are common with close elections. It's always wise to double-check your tallied results and cross-check them. But I don't easily buy into conspiracy theories and bad hyperbole is just that... bad hyperbole.

If there is a smoking gun, it will be revealed in due time. But trying to blame an entire political party and claiming they rigged an entire election just because your guy didn't win is petty and, quite frankly, a bit undemocratic. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

And, yes, by all means, let my virtue-signaling challenge you to do better than just sling hollow words and empty platitudes. Do your homework. Root out the facts. Unearth the truth and then come to me with your theories of how this could have possibly happened. That's where we'll start to address the problems together and begin to heal the country.

Sharing twice regurgitated rhetoric, however, does nothing but increase our collective blood pressure and stress levels. 

That's all I wanted to say because I keep seeing these wedge-styled tactics being employed all over the media and online by what appears to me to be sore losers. If there is widespread fraud, then let the call be to get to the bottom of it and find those responsible and hold them accountable in a court of law. 

However, let's not simply accuse the opposite side of being guilty before the evidence is even in and create wild conspiracy theories about how the next four years will go. Knock that shit off.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist