toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Where does the hatred for gay people come from?

Every once in a while I like to ask people this question. To me it is a significant mystery. Rationally it would seem that heterosexual males should encourage as many males as possible to be gay. It can only help your odds with the ladies. And yet we live in a world where gay people are loathed (almost as much as atheists).

Invariably the first answer I get is that because the Bible condemns them. Now let's make a *huge* leap here and suppose just for sake of argument that, well, the Bible is completely fiction and the edicts of God are just normal people *pretending* that there is a God and that he said these things. (I know, a huge leap). So why was this such an important thing to codify?

The best I can come up with is that many/most non-gays have a bit of an ick response to gay activities. I do and I've heard the same from many people who intellectually support gay rights etc. I really liked 6 Feet Under, but it was hard to watch sometimes because of this.

As with many things in the Bible people just made God command something that they wanted to be forced on others. Stop being icky.

Of course even if this is correct there is still the question of why we have an ick response. (Well if you are heterosexual. Presumably gays don't have this. Or that would just be weird and sad).

So here's my crazy idea. If all dudes were gay all then the human race would disappear pretty fast. So there would be some evolutionary advantage to avoiding same sex interactions. Therefore the ick factor helps raise the threshold against the likelihood of someone not getting their genes into the next generation.

So ironically the edicts in the Bible against man on man action were put there by evolution. Hows that for a giant irony sandwich. :)

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

My Pet "Crazy" Idea

I suspect most people have a few crazy ideas that continue to hang around even after they have done their best cognitive maintenance and rebooting. Sure, you've banished belief in god or expelled parapsychology, but perhaps there is something lingering around that *seems* like it should have just gone by now. And what's more you only sort of think it's a crazy idea. Actually you think there is some sense to it and it is others who just haven't given it proper consideration.

So it's not so much that you really believe its a crazy idea, its just that others wouldn't easily understand.

So what is my crazy notion that surprises me with its tenacity and that others would think odd? That there is a non-negligible chance we are living in a simulation.

You might be surprised to learn that I didn't (directly) get this from watching "The Matrix". Even if I did consider it at that time it didn't stick with me. I believe the seed got planted by reading (not surprisingly) Are We Living In a Simulation?. This was a serious case made by a serious person. And I found it surprisingly convincing.

So how does this affect me? No much really. But I do take this idea off the shelf of my mind surprisingly often and dust it off and look it over. Sometimes daily (perhaps for just a few seconds). Probably never less than once a week.

Probably the most impact I get from this idea is that I often consider this question: What (if anything) would I do differently this moment if I really *was* living in a simulation? I don't usually have a shocking answer to this question. I mostly feel like I'd pretty much do what I'm doing. Being in a simulation wouldn't (presumably) change what my options are and what makse me happy. In fact in a simulation this real it's not clear what the difference between reality and simulation would be.

So what crazy idea do you have that even your "sane"/"rational" friends would think is weird?

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Friday, July 02, 2010

To the random redditor who recommended "A Brief History of Everything"

I hate you.

So, I keep a long list of books to add to my ipod commute "reading" list. Generally this works out pretty well and I've been exposed to things I normally wouldn't have thought twice about (e.g. Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" for instance). But sometimes something gets through the filter and I end up listening to the most unbelievably awful garbage.

The current winner of the books that have no right to exist award is "A Brief History of Everything". Ken Wilber has got to be the most crazed New Age science ignorant person outside of an Oprah studio.

He starts off by talking about evolution. So I figure this is going to be a science-y book. Then he right away starts down the "half a wing is useless so obviously Darwin isn't the whole picture route". Then he starts talking about "holons". And then I died a little inside.

In the interest of exposing myself to things I don't agree with already I'm going to continue to listen for a couple of chapters. But really it is awful.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Pascal's Wager and Probability Aptitude

It's hard not to get exposed to Pascal's wager at some point in your life. It's one of those things that's so offensive to clear thinking that it practically has noticeable stench to it. It's pretty much a given that any one in this day and age who presents it as a valid argument for belief is a serious crack pot and/or hasn't really thought about it for more than a few minutes.

But then, how did the great man Pascal come to make such an argument. I mean the guy has a triangle named after him and everything. He's got to have been a sharp cookie. But of course after a while you stop being surprised when otherwise smart people have these huge blind spots with respect to religion. That's just one of those weird failure modes of the mind.

But what if the explanation was simpler? What if Pascal just simply didn't understand probability theory? Surprisingly this actually seems to be the case.

Here is a video of Keith Devlin (who I normally find pretty objectionable as the NPR "Math Guy") giving a talk that among other things goes over the inception of probability theory. And who should be at attendance at the birth of this topic? Our friend Pascal. And who should be showing a complete confusion at the topic? I think you can guess.

Pascal, Fermat and Probability

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Friday, February 06, 2009

The Power of 11:11

I have a number of personal productivity blogs I check on occasion. Reading about being productive is the next best thing to being productive, doncha know! In any case it occurred to me recently that for some reason or another Steven Pavlina's feed had disappeared from my list. So I hopped over to his page to see what he was up to.

Apparently he is a pretty famous productivity guru. I had read a couple of his essays at one point and they were pretty inspiring. Dream big, work hard, etc. Over time he seemed to veer farther and farther off into the weeds. He would mention how he and his wife had an actual psychic link. He did a weird polyphasic sleep experiment (nap for a few minutes every few hours and don't sleep at night), and raw veganism among other things. I don't actually have anything against the last two, but I completely turn off when people start talking about their psychic abilities.

So I didn't know if I was going to get productivity advice or bizarreness or woo when I checked in. Well, the answer was woo. Woo in a big way.

The two things that compel me to write are: (1) it's always interesting to come across a new area of crazy that I'd never heard of before and (2) it's always oddly compelling to watch the train wreck of a life dedicated to crazy ideas.

I thought I was pretty educated in the ways of woo, but I had never heard of the "11:11" thing before. The funniest part is that it was apparently started by Uri Geller. I kind of find it amazing that people do anything but laugh at this guy. Apparently, I'm pretty out of touch with the New Age movement these days. Here is a pretty succinct response to the whole 11:11 school of thought. In any case, I now have another crazy belief system to add to my collection.

Even more interesting is the long essay that Steve writes on this subject. He clearly really believes it and really believes it's important. At one point he writes:

Form this intention with your thoughts, but feel it as well. You must really want it. You must desire to see the truth about reality as strongly as a drowning man desires his next breath. If you don’t really want to see the truth, nothing will change.

Here he summarizes my feelings about knowing the truth. And yet he does this in service of the idea that seeing a digital clock with the numbers 11:11 on it is a message from the universe. Something special is going on.

And so now I have to stand back a second and be kind of amazed that I'm even surprised by this sort of thing. I guess it just makes me mad that this sort of nonsense is so contagious. Who knows, I'm probably adding to it by mentioning it at all....

I sort of freaked myself out while writing this post, because I noticed that there were 11's all over my screen. Of course this is because I typed them all as I was writing this post and searching for links. But still, what are the chances....?

Of course, what if I'm wrong and being closed minded? Are you brave enough to challenge your preconceptions and experience the power of 11:11? Do you have the guts? No? Okay then... As for me, I'm taking the red pill. Actually 11 of them.

I'm ready to embrace the truth.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Christian Radio Watch: Why a cold, hostile and mostly empty universe proves that god exists and loves us

Listen to the interview here (starts at 1h30m). The book is called: "Why The Universe Is The Way It Is". See how many logical fallacies and out right lies you can count before your head explodes.

It turns out the entire universe really was created just to make this one planet work. You see, there really was no other way to do it. And, um, we had to be in a dark spot so, um, we could see the rest of it easily.



Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I've heard about placebos, obviously, but I had never heard that they often work even if you *know* they are a placebo? I recently heard this in this video and then again in an essay by Ramachandran. This paragraph really jumped out for me:

Her ability to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs seems bizarre to us but in fact we all do this from time to time. I have known many an eminent theoretical physicist who prays to a personal God; an old guy watching him from somewhere up there in the sky. I might mention that I have long known that prayer was a placebo; but upon learning recently of a study that showed that a drug works even when you know it is a placebo, I immediately started praying. There are two Ramachandrans—one an arch skeptic and the other a devout believer. Fortunately I enjoy this ambiguous state of mind, unlike Darwin who was tormented by it. It is not unlike my enjoyment of an Escher engraving.

If it's good enough for Ramachandran, then it's good enough for me. So I think I'll try an experiment and pray to Placebo Jesus for a month and see if it works or not. Here is a sample prayer:

Dear Placebo Jesus,

I know you don't exist and if you did it's not clear why you would be listening to my thoughts and care about my needs, but any hoo, please make me smart, give me good health, keep my family safe, send some extra cash my way, and generally make life awesome for me.

If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know.

Ramen (oops, I mean Amen, of course)

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