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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Monogamy: It's Bad for Love

Monogamous marriage models largely stem from agriculturalization and the need to have sons to inherit land and dowry to obtain wives as a transaction of property to give the man more sons.

Because traditionally, land could only be passed down to male heirs, women were viewed as chattel -- basically objects to be bought and sold like property -- which is why in ancient religions like Judaism and Islam, women were essentially married off to men either in arranged marriages or through dowries.

China also has a long practice of dowries and equating women to property or at least tying up her worth in the ability to be an incubator to produce male heirs to inherit the land of their fathers. Daughters were traditionally sold off to other families.

It's also why, I think you'll find, many world religions emphasize that it should be a man and a woman, or a man and multiple women, who should be allowed to marry and not, for example, homosexuals. Homosexuality doesn't produce offspring to inherit land or sell off and so goes against the oft cited religious commandment to "be fruitful and multiply."

However, in a modern world that is overpopulated, the religious commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" can be seen as dangerous and, at the same time, it places unnecessary financial and economic strain on the families and communities that continue to practice it.

Personally, I think this origin of monogamous marriage being tied up in land and property after the agricultural movement actually leaves lingering side effects. Once example is that many monogamous relationships stemming from this model of marriage view "love" as a possession. "He's mine and I'm his" or "she's my girl" and etc. are all demands set upon love to be an object of ownership.

It usually leads to the objectification of the romantic partner and, with traditional monogamous expectations in place, helps to promote jealous emotions when you expect your property/love to belong to you and only you.

But love doesn't work like that and people are individuals, not property. So, when a person falls out of love or the relationship fails, for whatever reason, feelings of jealousy grow exponentially and often times "cheating" occurs. Because, of course, in a monogamous model anything beyond the initial pairing of partners is forbidden.

But that's approaching love in the wrong way. Because the truth is, people can love more than just one person and have the right to be loved by more than just one person.

To restrict love to a possessive form of jealous ownership is a bad relationship model, in my opinion. It's why divorce rates are so high.

After the relationship starts to break down, people begin to search for love elsewhere. And that's a natural human desire -- the desire to be loved and have a fulfilling relationship with a life partner that truly understands you.

Sometimes a monogamous relationship can trap people who have fallen out of love, so to speak. Because of all the cultural and social expectations placed on them to be faithful to one another.
It's an unrealistic ideal. And it ignores other relationship models such as polyamory which actually resolve many of the possessive attitudes that can hinder healthy marriages by creating a sense of ownership over the other person and replacing acceptance of one's needs and feelings with outright jealousy.

Having said all this, I am married. I am not monogamous myself, but my wife is. Simply put, there are many different ways to approach marriages and relationships -- but the key is being open with your partner and expressing your desires. If they can't accept you for who you are and constantly deny you the right to exist as the person you know you are, then they are not a good partner and that relationship is doomed from the start.

But if they communicate and work with you and give you the acceptance and understanding you need to thrive as an individual, then they may be a keeper.

That's just my two cents.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

An Open Letter to JK Rowling

Dear Jo,

You don't know me, but I'm an author. I write science fiction and, as such, must research science on occasion to get all my facts straight.

Recently, you doubled down and wrote a freakishly long defense of your transphobia. Needless to say, I was terribly disappointed in you. I can sense you're already terribly devastated over this sudden revelation, so I'll be nice and take it easy on you.

As a speculative fiction author, daring to speculate on the potential of human beings is something I take great pride and joy in. One day, I hope we can move beyond things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and, yes, transphobia.

But, at the same time, in my stories, I'm doing my best to represent the best of humanity because I want people to open their minds to a better world and give up the closed-minded labels of a worldview corrupted by fear and hate.

I think you can probably relate, as you wrote a little known series about good vs. evil yourself. Okay, maybe it's a little bit better known than I care to admit--but, please, can't you see why that makes what you say all the more damaging? There are young boys and girls and people of various sexes and gender identities all looking up to you.

They don't know who I am. I'm not a mega-billionaire with a podium or a bajillion Twitter followers. If I said toy-poodles aren't real poodles, nobody will care. If you say it, millions will care. Please, Jo, I implore you, choose your words wisely.

You say that you've done the research and know for sure there are two biological sexes. Really Jo?

Because, to me, it doesn't sound like you understand that chromosomal karyotypes are what determine the "sex" of a biological organism and that these karyotypes often have very different structures.

As you may know, in humans, there are 46 chromosomes, present as 23 pairs. Twenty-two pairs are found in both sexes (autosomes) and one pair (sex chromosomes) is present as either XY (in males) or XX (in females).

Normally, all cells in the body that have a nucleus will contain a complete set of the same 46 chromosomes, except for the reproductive cells (eggs and sperm), which contain a half set of 23. This half set is the genetic contribution that will be passed on to a child. At conception, half sets from each parent combine to form a new set of 46 chromosomes in the developing fetus.

Also, as you may know, if there are more or less than the 46 chromosomes there can be physical and genetic mutations that cause certain genetic problems. But there are also different combinations of stable chromosomal karyotypes that extend the sex chromosomes in humans (yes, they are technically genetic mutations but happen frequently enough as not to be shocking to anyone who deals with genetics every day).

This means, the necessary genetic information for biological sex is there but can often be structured in a different way than just XY or XX.

So far, there are approximately 6 stable karyotypes that we know of (but possibly more we haven't come across yet).

The six biological karyotype sexes that do not result in death to the fetus are:

X – Roughly 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 5,000 people (Turner’s )
XX – Most common form of female
XXY – Roughly 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 people (Klinefelter)
XY – Most common form of male
XYY – Roughly 1 out of 1,000 people
XXXY – Roughly 1 in 18,000 to 1 in 50,000 births

So, if you're going to get technical, each karyotype variation isn't the "same" sex reorganized, it's a completely new structure and therefore a completely new sex.

This means there are, genetically speaking, 6 distinguishable biological sexes in humans as identified by karyotype testing of the chromosomes themselves.

Like gender, biological sex sits on a spectrum of chromosomal types, some more stable than others. Albeit the spectrum is limited, it still contains identifiable ranges of chromosome types.

But what does all of this mean?

Well, it means there are people who fit the male/female binary type and there are people who don't. For example, there are people who look completely female with full breasts and nubile bodies and, yes--even have vaginas--but are actually completely male, genetically speaking (see androgen insensitivity syndrome).

Would you call that a woman or a man? Male or female? You see breasts and vaginas and think--there is a woman! But you'd be wrong.

The thing to realize is that they are all VALID sexes according to genetics and, more importantly, according to science. They just don't fit neatly into the two most common sexes that you know of.

So, no Jo. It doesn't appear you've done one iota of research. You seem to have just demonstrated the Dunning Kruger Effect in all of its glory. And I for one expected more from a woman of your intellect.

And I'm sorry people are calling you a TERF and what not, but you need to understand, Jo, even though I realize you're not a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, the things you are saying about trans-folks sound indistinguishable from their harshest, meanest, and most hateful detractors. You know, all the people who are genuine transphobes

And if it walks and talks like a duck...well, then I hope you can see the problem here.
You claim you're an educator but I too am an educator and can clearly see you haven't done the research you claim to have done.

Please, understand, biological sex isn't a simple binary proposition. You believing (incorrectly) that there are only two biological sexes at the chromosomal level doesn't change the factual science on the matter that there are actually more--a factual science that, if you actually consulted it, would set the record straight.

Now, how do all these chromosomal variations affect the human mind? Well, we're still learning that. But one thing to keep in mind is that there is often a disassociation involving how a person might feel inside with how they appear on the outside, especially if these two things are very different.

This is especially true of intersexual people who have both working gonads and ovaries (yes, Jo, they exist). Asking them to choose to be one thing is like asking a homosexual to be straight. That goes against their coding. Why try to shove them into your limited worldview? Why not, as an educator, try expanding your mind a little bit too?

The mistake is to try to classify these people as either-or. They are both. They are something that doesn't fit into your little box of labels. So stop trying to force them into it against their will. They will find their own boxes, and if those boxes don't exist, they will make new ones.

Oh, I know, Jo. It's hard being completely understanding of things that make little sense to us. But, it doesn't mean we can't be compassionate or accepting. So, please, bear with me.

Learning the science can be eye-opening in ways you couldn't possibly imagine--or, you being you, maybe you could imagine it. Which is why it baffles me so much as to how closed-minded you are willfully choosing to be here when the science is staring you right in the face.

And, Jo, it's true, we haven't even gotten into the complexities of talking about gender identity yet.

As you can imagine, this conversation gets really complicated rather fast and I (a white, cis heterosexual male) really am not the person to be discussing it with. YOu know who you should be consulting though? That's right, trans folks. Queer folks. The LGBTQ folks. They know far better than I do, and most assuredly better than you do, what it means to live a life in their skin.

The bottom line is, if you did take it upon yourself to carry out the terribly laborious task of opening your Google browser and maybe taking a couple hours to brush up on the science of the subject you're failing so miserably to speak on, you might be in a better position to rethink your hurtful words and you wouldn't look and sound so much like a TERF (a label you disagree with yet, ironically, while slamming others with labels they disagree with).

Transwomen are women too. And transmen are men.

And for those, like JK Rowling, who still don't think so, I'm going to share what I say to all those racists I encounter right before I block them.

"If you cannot be decent or compassionate enough to see the inherent dangers of an ideology predicated on hate, it's not just our belief systems that are in conflict. It's also our morality."

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist