Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boss of the Day, With Bonus Quote

I was recently made aware of this brilliant 3-part series by John Oliver, as many of the Daily Show's segments are. John Oliver, boss of the day, for making the point so spectacularly in short clips of awesome-sauce.

It's great, even more so for giving us this excellent example of American Exceptionalism:

John Oliver: What if, hypothetically speaking, what if gun control could work? Which obviously it can't, so, we know that it wont, so that's not a problem, but what if it could, due to that time that it did?

Philip Van Cleave: Okay, when was that?

John Oliver: Australia

Philip Van Cleave: I guess if we're going to go to planet X, and say it's not the United States, it's some, some other planet with different people different everything, I don't know, yea, I don't know, it, it, but in the real world, with real human beings it's not going to work and we, gun control is not going to work.

Emphasis mine

Are you fucking serious? Please, please tell me they took that quote out of context. And yet, it doesn't surprise me either. America is the world. Australia? That's planet X, with aliens, not real human beings. 

Extra Extra Bonus: Australian comedian also making the comparison between US and Aussie gun control, where I actually heard about this first, and also very funny

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When a Negative Statement Becomes A Claim

The other day I got into a bit of a strange discussion with my colleagues, which involved me being alone on my side of the debate defending the existence of male bisexuality.

It all started with the observation that our culture is far more accepting of a fluid sexuality for women, as it is less acceptable for a man to admit to having had the occasional male partner but still claiming to prefer women. While initially the people I was speaking to decried this double standard as unfair, at the end they still claimed that they also thought that any man who has had male partners, or wanted to have male partners is probably actually gay, and that the Kinsey Scale is probably only applicable to women. I disagreed. There are plenty of men, some of whom I know personally who claim to be bisexual, on what basis can they claim that in reality male bisexuality doesn't exist? Personal experience is not science! I was told. That is not evidence! Who am I to say that it does exists? I have just as much justification to claim it does as they do to claim that it doesn't. 

The details of our discussion are not that important to what I want to talk about here. The point is that this whole thing got me thinking about positive versus negative claims, and how sometimes making a negative claim is actually the one requiring a larger burden of proof.

The burden of proof lies on those who make the claim. This is a very common statement used to explain atheism, and why the absence of evidence leads one to assume the negative. There is no evidence that fairies exist, therefore I do not believe they exist. Same goes for unicorns, or dragons. I cannot prove that they don't exist, it is impossible to prove a negative, but I am not going to believe in them until I have good reason to do so. What is more, personal accounts of having seen a fairy or unicorn or dragon (or, for that matter, God) does not count as evidence in the slightest. Given this logic, I am the one with the burden of proof, no? I am the one claiming that male bisexuality exists. They are claiming it does not. Shouldn't I be the one who has the burden of proof in this case?

Their claim that male bisexuality does not exist struck me as a much bolder statement than my claim that it does, and then I realized why.

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to something as personal as sexual attraction, personal statements do count as evidence. With something as complex as human behavior, there is very little in the way of objective evidence that one can collect, akin to something like finding an actual fairy. That doesn't mean that one cannot attempt to design experiments which attempt to collect more objective evidence in order to verify these claims, but in this case the claims themselves do hold significant weight.

Imagine for a moment the more extreme version of this argument. There is no such thing as gay people! People who engage in gay sex are just abusers! Or people who have been abused! Or people who just want to engage in extreme sex! That seems like a very bold statement, no? It seems as though someone who believes that would have to do far more legwork than someone who believes that gay people exist in order to prove their point, even though they're stating the negative.

In this scenario, it's not that any of these people would need to prove that male bisexuality, or homosexuality doesn't exist. This encounters the same problems as trying to prove that fairies don't exist. However, what they would have to do is start by finding a plausible, evidence-backed alternative to explain all of those people who do identify as gay, or bisexual, or whatever. They need to do a lot more legwork to bring the conversation back to an even 50:50, maybe it exists and maybe it doesn't, equal evidence on both sides. Without finding evidence that there is an alternative explanation for all of those people, it is actually far more reasonable to assume that male bisexuality does in fact exist, in lieu of further evidence.

Do you see where I'm coming from? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

That's Not Real.... Is That Real?!

I came across this video on Pharyngula as I was eating lunch at my desk. According to PZ, this is a real, genuine political ad for Rand Paul, but I cannot bring myself to believe it.

I almost choked on my sandwich. I have no words to describe my reaction, the closest I can come is 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Back to Sporadic Updates...

Hey All,

Aren't I just a horrible flake? It looks like I'm back to sporadic updating of this thing. Just when I thought there was a bit of a lull in my workload, I got a whole other pile of crap to do dumped on me. Back to 14 hour work days for the foreseeable future! Woop!

At this point, this song is playing non-stop in my head