19 May, 2006

SCIENCE!

Hello, friends! My computer at unviersity exploded - a rather unfortunate circumstance and one which meant I ended up ignoring this poor, flailing blog even more than usual. I should really have prepared an entry for what is turning out to be a somewhat wet return; instead I figured I'd do some vaguely and annoyingly introspective post about my rehabilitation, in the hope that inspiration strikes without my having to write about badgers or penises.

When I was little I collected a huge volume of books about aliens, UFOs, ghosts, leylines, British folklore, Loch Ness, religious miracles and the like. I used to love the most outlandish explanations, particularly those which suggested alternative histories and that seemed to prove the profound limitations, even marked falsity, of science. It used to boggle my mind completely that scientists - a blank faced hegemony - refused to believe the reality so patent infront of their eyes, a reality ludicrously and obsessively avoided to protect some paltry belief about the world, which I was led to believe embodied the entirety of science.

Then I started reading the actual perspective afforded by scientific investigation - not the straw man version of conflicting power struggles and ideologies presented in credulous books of paranormal phenomena - and found it absolutely astonishing how reasonable and tentative, yet predicated about the evidence that their conclusions often were. The sheer volume of evidence for the supernatural nature of many phenomena seemed to melt away before the fires of reason; the omissions of subtance in so many of those books was extraordinary. While the evidence for any of the range of phenomena occasionally described as paranormal seemed broad, it was extremely shallow - that is to say there was a lot of it, but almost always it was dribble.

At the same time I was beginning to better understand the nature of science - as a self correcting tool to develop models of ever increasing accuracy of the phenomena about us; a science which
is limited, but which draws its strength from those very same limitations. Many phenomena which I think could be possible, although distinctly unlikely - such as alien visitation, psychic powers and ghosts - could be revealed through scientific investigation and therefore be perfectly natural, if indeed they exist at all.

When I first approach a subject I try to have an open mind about it. Science may well one day be replaced by a superior epistemology, but nature has yet to show it to be archaic and defunct - and thus I demand the rigorous standards of science for any unusual explanation, particularly those which seemingly contradict already existing models. While having an open mind, it is utterly pointless to ignore the vast bulk of evidence when considering a position held in the minority within a given academic field.

If I don't understand a subject or an explanation, or lack the time or interest to find out more, I tend to tentatively accept the mainstream scientific explanation. If this is the case I try not to engage in discussions or debates about it - economics and psychiatry, for example, are well beyond my understanding. Remembering my own experiences and regarding the limitations of my knowledge I can well understand the scoffing disdain many people feel towards certain scientific fields, if not science itself. I occasionally feel the same way about psychiatry and economics - because I do not often know what mainstream opinion is, how tentatively a given view is held within that field's community, and my view of them both are gifted purely through media diktat.

I've heard the same story from the scientists I know - a few physicists, bioloigsts and linguists, and it's an issue often raised by a number of science bloggers - Dr Myers of Pharyngula and Orac of Respectful Insolence stick in my mind particularly as having addressed this a number of times, and The Two Percent Company - one of my absolute favourite blogs - has commented on how comedians, even ones we like, often denigrate science. The impression of science held by many people is often muddled by media representations. Almost universally it is explained in terms of politics; as a battle of rhetoric and posturing. I know that to an extremely significant degree this is exactly where my own skepticism of psychiatry and economics comes from, exacerbated powerfully by my own ignorance.

In the media, the genuine significance of research is often hampered in a journalist's or editor's need to make some political point; the most polarised opinions of scientific (and indeed, often nonscientific) authorities are given voice grossly disproportionate to their actual importance in a field, and science is painted as just so many guesses tenaciously clung to and often contradicted laughably, even predictably by some startling discovery which common sense should have revealed decades ago. This in contrast to real science: yes, there are people like that, and that has actually happened, but generally it is a series of ever increasingly accurate yet generally tentatively held models, which are healthily discussed and kept significantly honest by the actions of other scientists with other opinions approaching and gathering the evidence - always so heartily incomplete - from other perspectives, vehemently trying to disprove both themselves and each other. Some questions have been settled, yet in the act of solving one problem far more questions are always opened to us, and our knowledge is ever increasing even as we better realise how little we know.

Skepticism is important and vital if we wish to develop understanding. Science is the very act of a scholar trying rigorously to dethrone their own ideas and conceptions - in other words, I feel strongly that science is the best tool of a skeptic today. A scientist is fallible; the scientific community is fallible - and science is the best way to limit that fallibility. As I say, it may one day be replaced - I do not know. But that day does not seem to be soon.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

20 April, 2006

Thank Heavens My God Hates You Too

I'm at home, and my critically slow internet connection combined with my passionate desire to be lazy means that I thought I'd pounce on a story which didn't require much research.

Hm! Quotations from this article unless otherwise noted.

Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.


To start with my favourite fallacy, the tu quoque. Obviously Ms Malhotra's own inconsistency doesn't matter one jot to the wider issues involved, but this defender of religious freedom distinguishes herself as an outspoken critic of religious freedom, supporting the Academic Bill of Rights - which is either so weak as to be redundant, or as
student Alex Suarez suggests in the nique.net article '[is] a good movement so long as it doesn’t devolve into a witch hunt for the professors on either end.' There is obviously little evidence that David Horowitz is on a political witch hunt for professors, which somewhat mitigates this concern. Ms Malhotra's citation of it, however, seems to fall in the latter category - seemingly to stifle a professor for holding views she disagreed with and arguing in favour of those views in class.

Ms Malhotra also seems to believe that while universities should be forced by law to allow all religiously inspired beliefs to be expressed...

"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.


...homosexuals should shut their damn dirty mouths and stop striving for - well, anything at all. Beleaguered demographics unjustly discriminated against for their exceptionally minor or irrelevent qualities sitting on their haunches expecting the magical, spontaneous proliferation of equality was certainly an effective tactic for ethnic minorities and women, but would it work for homosexuals? We may never know; homosexuals seem to have a perverse, almost determined need to be heard in the public square - imagine the cheek! Many of the buggers aren't even religious.


To the meat: I am exceptionally amused by the idea that a critical principle of many peoples' religious belief genuinely seems to be the crushing need to insult homosexuals and conduct lawsuits doomed to failure. That being said, I'm of two minds regarding this, though I'll try to force myself to come to an opinion. I would rather such ideas be discussed publicly: the best way to battle prejudice and arguments devoid of reason is to confront them openly and freely. Doing so allows their utter vacuity to be exposed - although this instance of Bad Idea is unfortunately religiously based, and religion often seems to remove the need to provide reasonable content for an argument. Allowing the debate to be conducted openly also removes the development of a martyr complex - stripping a critical strategic tool from the arsenal of antihomosexuals as well as being the right thing to do; free speech is meaningless if offensive or ridiculous ideas are forbidden. The university, as the gentle cusping hands of academia, would seem the perfect place for such beliefs to have their straps carefully unclipped; for the coverage of ignorance to be removed and the heaving bosom of religion to be expressed, analysed, and roughly slapped around by people who are less silly.

However, it's clearly wrong that individuals should feel harassed while attending a university, going to work, or otherwise trying to live their bloody lives. Corporations, universities, government employers, etc., may well feel the need to protect their wee charges from harassment by fellow students and colleagues - and to a significant extent, quite rightly too. Striking the balance between a comfortable and safe working environment and individual expression of belief is a tricky customer, and I think narrow attacks on fellow individuals and groups attending one's university - be it for their sexuality, religion, politics or ethnicity - are a different kettle of fish to criticising, in this instance, homosexuality itself. The article is somewhat unclear about the exact terms of the Georgia Institute of Technology's policies, and GIT's (teehee!) site is an absolute pain to try and navigate on a modem connection. The comment by GIT's spokesperson strongly suggests that there's little or nothing I disagree with concerning its policy:

A Georgia Tech spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit or on Malhotra's disciplinary record, but she said the university encouraged students to debate freely, "as long as they're not promoting violence or harassing anyone."


Regardless, Ms Malhotra's condemnation of the university's Pride group, and lambasting students coming out of the closet, easily crosses that line.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

10 March, 2006

I'm Pretty Certain I Owe Thanks To Someone For The Sullivan Article.

A quick gander at the Internet before I do some more detailed entries:

THE BBC prints, hot on the heels of the most ironic article ever, an article entitled Can Acupuncture beat Addiction? The BBC's conclusion: yes. Mystery solved!


It is 'nothing new', 'based on ancient Chinese medicine dating back thousands of years', helps with something very sciencey called 'detoxification' and two nonscientists say things. With this kind of evidence no counterargument
needs to be presented, which is fortunate because the Beeb doesn't try.

It would have been irresponsible, surely, to point out that most double blinded clinical studies have failed to show a significant effect greater than placebo – if any - or that its theoretical framework is very silly, as it would bias the choices of rational people against such a treatment; further it would demand a rigorous set of standards for acupuncture that no other alternative medicine lives up to.


ANDREW SULLIVAN quotes...well, probably himself:

What the Islamic world has succeeded in doing is forcing me to decide whether I'm going to side with a US policy which I think is often dirty but is nevertheless open to public scrutiny or an almost medieval, bloodthirsty and closed religious dogma whose intention - and partial achievement - is to undermine my way of life.


Jesus aside, I find little as spiritually fulfilling as a blatantly false dichotomy; the exception perhaps being clearly ludicrously false claims.

Of course Mr Diet et Mon Droit's policy – the one which isn't mediaeval - isn't 'open to public scrutiny' at all. The State Department only recently 'briefly' looked at the States' human rights abuses after intense criticism. The Pentagon has only recently released the names of 300 of its over 500 detainees at Guantanamo Bay after the Associated Press went swinging in with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit; a helpful reminder that the public don't know anything about hundreds of people the US has detained (though we know that some are citizens of allied countries, that many have been released after it was decided they weren't the 'worst of the worst' after all, and a few children who have reached adulthood in detention,) the reasons it has detained them, the state of the facilities in which it detains them, what crimes (if any) they have commited, their legal rights (just kidding! They're allowed one sorta right!) Then there's the secret CIA prisons and extraordinary rendition, which result in the unknown treatment and secret detention of an unknown number of prisoners. By no means last nor least, domestic wiretapping wasn't exactly public knowledge until it was leaked (a bit of transparency the Justice Department is trying, bless its heart, to rectify.)

The British media and Government are, yet again, behaving in the same appeasing way towards Muslim fundamentalism in our own country


Indeed; the gaoling of extremist cleric Abu Hamza is intended to throw us off the sheer and unmitigated tolerance for Muslim extremism this country embraces. As is the widespread condemnation of the London protests and calls for arrests, or the thousands strong demonstration in London which dwarfed the earlier, nasty one with the jolly placards, which condemned both the cartoons and the reactions of extremists.

THE HUFFINGTON POST is a bit rubbish, really.

WILLIAM DEMBSKI learns of selective breeding, and is amazed.

Ah, but I am being unkind; there is a legitimate controversy here! To present both sides: his commenters seem unable to decide whether he is making an unfunny nonjoke about the already-satirical use of the terms 'intelligent design' in an experiment which just happens to demonstrate the usefulness and predictive power of evolutionary theory, or whether he genuinely did not realise that scientists may have heard about artificial selection, esteemed scientist that he is.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

06 March, 2006

A Crash Course In Irony

Posted without comment.

Oh, alright: my biggest regret with this article is that I will not get to see Ben Goldacre's face when he reads it.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

21 February, 2006

And Now: A Touch of Class

In the interests of promoting a clean, high-brow primness to proceedings: a photodiary of peoples' first introduction to the phenomenon known as Goatse. Only mildly amusing, until you recognise one of the photographed:





-The Rev. Schmitt.

05 February, 2006

Say Cheese!

I was going to write about the Muhammed cartoons a few days ago. (Actual images here, explanations here.) Some of them genuinely are ridiculous, insulting, and seriously don't seem to have a purpose other than infuriating Muslims. A couple are immensely childish. As much as I can't stand religion I can respect and love the people who have it - I disgaree with everybody on some level. But hey, freedom of speech: rock on. Beliefs shouldn't be exempt from criticism or mockery just because they are religious, even if that criticism or mockery is moronic.
Some of the cartoons are poignant, prescient and witty, eg.,


I was going to write about how I thought the organised boycotts were over the top, but ultimately understandable. A bit bloody much to sanction an entire country over cartoons printed in a single newspaper which were apologised for on the 31st last month, but wars have been fought over weaker slights and it struck me as remarkably reserved for religious theocracies to respond with sanctions. A step forward, almost. Hell, religious zealots make stuff up to be angry about all the time, and boycotts often follow. So: dumb and provocative cartoons, boycotts, it's mostly good. Everyone involved with the cartoons and the boycotts were quite blatantly thick and/or nuts, but there was a modicum of restraint in presenting conflicting viewpoints - it hadn't turned violent, at least. Super.
I felt most of the people supporting the 'Buy Danish' campaign were simply and obviously reveling in the anti-Islam of it all; far too cowardly to admit it and trying to hide behind the free speech sentiments of an action which broke no law forbidding free speech. Hell, I can do that.
All religious people, including Muslims, are operating under faiths for which they have no evidence, and which often contradict many things we know about the world. Those who die and murder in the name of such beliefs do so for no objectively sensible reason and are amongst the most despicable and pathetic people on Earth. Theocracies - particularly and specifically the contemporary Islamic theocracies in the Middle East - breed and support terrorists, are horrific places to live, are mired in poverty; disgustingly oppressive and misogynistic, are prone to savagery, lynch mobs and murder, and are predicated on some of the most idiotic laws ever known to mankind.
Buy Danish, and I would like an X Box please.
Finish by insulting religion in general, condemn the handful of death threats I'd heard about, with some measure of respect analyse the MCB's 'guys, we're as idiotic about what religious freedom actually means as you guys, but don't lose your cool' tone, and the masturbation of a blog entry would have been born.
That was before the mass demonstrations about the cartoons – cartoons, for pity's sake - turned violent, many more threats were issued, and the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Libya and Denmark's consulate in Lebanon were burned down. Joy!





These images are from a demonstration in jolly old London. 'Massacre those who insult Islam', 'Slay those who insult Islam,' the catchy 'Behead the one who insults the prophet' and other witty ripostes made the show. They're almost doubtlessly a small minority in the British Muslim community – those same placards are the only ones I've seen in every news report and in pictures. The Metropolitan police have stated that they will be arresting those in the crowds they recognise as calling for murder or issuing threats after the demonstrations, which strikes me as appropriate.
Even acknowledging that the protestors are a small minority, the response from Muslim organisations well known for their moderation and peacefulness in condemning the nature of some of the protests which extend to clearly wrong behaviour has been somewhat tepid. The condemnations often come almost as an aside to raving about how nasty those horrible cartoons are. But Hell, they're there. Good. It's not the job of the Muslim Council of Britain to clean up after the mess people claiming to speak for British Muslims make - but they do it regularly and explicitly. They're needed sometimes, especially since the BBC seems to be the only news media which will listen to them and report on what they say. Prior to the MCB the Muslim community was completely fractured - Mosques tended to speak for themselves, not that many were listening. So - yay.

The most amazing thing about this to me is that it isn't the cartoon which could arguably be painting all Muslims as terrorists which ticked off so many people. It's that a guy hopefully portrayed historically innaccurately by the Qu'ran is made into an image or presented in an 'offensive' way:

The Muslim Council of Britain is deeply concerned by the continuing refusal of several European newspapers to understand and acknowledge the immense hurt they have caused to Muslims the world over by printing gratuitously offensive caricatures of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Yeah. Because you've shown nothing but tolerance for beleagured minorities? You've always acted in a conciliatory manner when criticising ideas and actions you disagree with? Oh blessed tu quoque, your kiss is rapture! Let me go! Let me go!

In a palace of stupidity the guys torching buildings aren't good.
al-Jazeera has some of the best coverage.
This entry's been rather short of content and opinion (not to mention critically lacking entertainment value.) I don't know nothin' about politics, man; have no idea where any of this is going. All I can bring you, dear reader, is the maturity, laziness and soft spokenness this blog is known for by all three of its readers. I present Happy Muhammed.

Also.

Update: Wherein I go looking for better opinions than mine.

Orac, profoundly reasonable, polite, and tackles the issues in turn.
The Two Percent Co quite rightly loses their temper at the violence and other ridiculous reactions. Their Muhammed drawing is superior in every way.
Parrot Line is a splash of cold water.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

01 February, 2006

Whoops!

Er, wow. My apologies about the long absence to my readers (both eternally precious and dear to my heart) - I had no idea it had been over two full weeks since my last post. University and my disgusting simulacrum of a social life had decided to impugn on my time wasting...time, with a test, large periods spent sitting around having nothing to do, and another test. Uni currently seems to be trying to drag me into reading an awful lot of books, a horrible waste of time preventing me from the true nitty gritty of an English course: making gentle love to Marx and Freud. I am also currently at home, on dial up, suddenly realising I have to be on a train scheduled to arrive in six hours, and therefore have plenty of time to get a full eight hours of sleep. Bumblepop and sodomy.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

31 January, 2006

DaveScot is Not a Laughing Matter

I pride myself on my intellectual honesty. Even when it would result in ridicule, embarrassment or humiliation I have aspired to confront and admit my mistakes.

I have done a great disservice to a scientist, a singular man in the evolution-Intelligent Design debate, whose unique and fresh look at the discussion deserves far more limelight from both sides.

I am talking about DaveScot. He is a man I cynically laughed at, denigrated and abused when I found he would be blogging at Uncommon Descent, the antievolution blog of Discovery Institute fellow William Dembski. As usual when reality counters my pessimism I am proud to announce that I was wrong and that I am truly sorry. I should have known better. The signs were there.

He is after all a free thinker: a man of science, reason and uncompromising skepticism. He is - or was - an engineer, working in a field where creative solutions to problems would always be strictly along the lines of parsimony; simplistic, elegant and functional. Clearly a man with credentials perfect for analysing biology. He displays an abhorrence of orthodoxy and dogma, proving himself a strict adherent to the empiricism and experimentation fundamental to science. Conciliatory, and without an emotional investment in ID, he is able to rise about the bickering childishness of the evolution-ID debate and offer a fresh appraisal of how it is conducted. He for instance cuts away the chaff and argues succinctly against the ad hominem fallacy which so permeates the thinking of evolutionists, overshadowing the research the Discovery Institute is no doubt conducting and publishing in respected peer reviewed journals somewhere. And such a warning is necessary - I personally was tempted to debase myself with a tu quoque, sinking so low as to point out the incredible hypocrisy of DaveScot in baselessly insulting a man who has contributed more to human knowledge than the entire fellowship of the Discovery Institute combined, and then whinging about character attacks. As you can tell from the link, other evolutionists have not been so careful.

As an agnostic DaveScot rejects the theism so common to his brothers-in-arms - he is living proof that supporters of Intelligent Design are not necessarily motivated by religion. He states his agnosticism thus: 'The game was rigged for life to win. Anyone who argues with that is either uninformed or in denial.' As an agnostic myself I can only admire the conviction he holds - so lacking in other agnostics - that the universe was crafted by some sort of intelligent entity with Godlike abilities. DaveScot is clearly not the man whose clear religiosity and lack of science training caused me to place Uncommon Descent in the 'religion' section of my blogroll.

Thankfully, all that may change - in the interests of curbing the open discussion that Uncommon Descent has long been famed for, DaveScot recently created a policy that would ban William Dembski from his own blog - by threatening to ban anyone who rejects common descent. Sad to say, DaveScot seems to have missed the posts of Paul Nelson - Discovery Institute fellow and young Earth creationist - otherwise he would presumably have already been banned, much like Dembski will be banned when DaveScot finds the time between conducting research programmes into Intelligent Design and publishing his findings.

My apologies, I am getting off track. My point is this: I am truly sorry for suggesting that it would be hilarious if DaveScot was made a blogger at Uncommon Descent. There is absolutely nothing funny going on over there, and DaveScot is a profoundly sciencey addition to the entire enterprise.

Update: the last link in this post no longer works, as it appears William Dembski deleted DaveScot's rant. Oh, DaveScot, had you only been faster with the ol' banning stick. Now religion will forever be a part of Uncommon Descent. This is a sad day for opponents to the Darwinian hegemony.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

17 January, 2006

Politics Is Fun!

This is the guy known as 'the robot'? What the Hell is wrong with you people!

I watched the Kerry-Bush presidential debates and thought both of them were tepid, ill informed and almost identical in policies (when either were coherent enough to have a stated policy.) I've never seen Al Gore speak and assumed his speech style was similar to the eyes down droning of Kerry (don't get me wrong, stylistically he slaughtered Bush in the debates - but look at the competition here.) Al Gore is accurate, clear, passionate - furious even, his eyes on the audience and his demands specific.

-The Rev. Schmitt.

16 January, 2006

There Is Nothing Happening In The World Today.

Shorter Matt (because God knows it's needed): my post was factually flawed because I was responding to a non sequitur. I was arguing that peoples' opinions about race had changed, so pointing out that this wasn't the case - anti-miscegenation laws were changed against public opinion by the judiciary - twisted my argument. 'Natural' has any meaning I'd like it to have because it can be be an antonym to 'supernatural' and 'artificial. They're gay and marriage is between a man and a woman. God is disgusted by the same people that disgust me.


Also of life changing importance:


A paucity of archaeological evidence suggests that cannibalism may not have been very prevalent amongst the Donner Party, or that it was done in such a way that it didn't leave much evidence. In my opinion this is a far less interesting reality and I suggest you ignore it.


Reports of al-Zawahiri's death in Pakistan were greatly exaggerated; the threat in New York was based on faulty intelligence, the WoMD were not there, and all but one of the miners had in fact died. The air strike - unauthorised by the Pakistan government - was intended to kill the al-Qaeda number two (one of apparently dozens,) but instead killed 17-25 civilians. Pakistan's tumultuous political climate temporarily stabilised as thousands came together to express their hatred of America, their disgusting liberalism trying to paint America as a treacherous ally. Yet such unheard of unity represents another partial foreign policy victory for the CIA, thankfully stripped of oversight so that they may more efficiently foil their own attempts at assassination while harming American interests abroad.


Michelle Malkin is morally opposed to education.


Taung child - a young Australopithecus africanus - may have been killed by an eagle or other large bird of prey. This, I submit, is hilarious.


Uncommon Descent - blog of Dr William Dembski, non scientist and one of Intelligent Design's brightest lights - has become something glorious, rising from the ashes of depressing ignorance, complaining and antiscience to amusing self parody. We hope, nay, pray that DaveScot's racist diatribes will no longer be confined, in the Little Green Footballs fashion, to the blog's comments section.


Dinosaur blogging coming soon!


-The Rev. Schmitt.

11 January, 2006

Gays and Blacks Together Again

We find, in our public service, a blog post. It is not a very good post, oh no. It lacks all justification and reference, it rambles, it makes things up. It is in short a creature of darkness. But it is comprehensive enough that I can use it to discuss things.

I’ll begin with a simple statement: gay marriage is not the same as the civil rights movement.

English is a frigid mistress, her calloused fingers pushing our groping hands forever from comprehensibility! An auspicious start. Onward!

To those of you who would boggle at my ignorance

Never, sir! Allow me to assert most passionately that I accord respect and dignity (as persons as persons,) to all my fellow travellers.

To say that the civil rights movement fundamentally altered our concept of marriage is probably only half true. It eliminated systematic prejudices against blacks. It beat home the realization that blacks and whites were (gasp) equal in all ways

Ah, the conclusion comes before the argument, forcing me to spoil a surprise 40 years in the making. No, anti-miscegenation laws were reversed because marriage was regarded as a fundamental human right that should not be denied anyone on as baseless and necessarily discriminatory a premise as ethnicity, an argument with no relevence to anything occuring today:


...the Court has merely asked whether there is any rational foundation for the discriminations, and has deferred to the wisdom of the state legislatures. In the case at bar, however, we deal with statutes containing racial classifications, and the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.

[...]

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

-Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (1967)


Pesky facts! And as dear Matt asserts, has the civil rights movement 'beat home the realization that blacks and whites were (gasp) equal in all ways'? To borrow a phrase from a conservative humour site, Sadly, No!


Alabama voters on Tuesday repealed the state's century-old ban against interracial marriage, an unenforceable but embarrassing throwback to the state's segregationist past.

The vote was running 59 percent to 41 percent, with 58 percent of the voted counted.

[...]

Alabama became the last state with such language in its organic law in 1998 when South Carolina voters approved a measure to remove similar wording from their state's constitution. In South Carolina, about 62 percent of voters favored lifting the ban.
-Sweet, sweet victory.

But I’m not sure that peoples’ basic perceptions of marriage were changed.

I'm absolutely positive that they didn't.

Only, instead, our perceptions of equality. I do not think there was a mental addendum to marriage in our minds that said “only people who are the same may marry.”

Indeed; could any such belief even genuinely exist? What sort of sordid, disgusting, primitivist philosophy could even serve to justify such a ridiculous and vacuous idea?

An Act To Preserve Racial Integrity
-Racial Integrity Act of 1924


Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

-Virginia's Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Trial judge Leon Bazile (1959)

I think there was an addendum in our minds that said, “since races are not equal, we should marry only inside our own.”

It may have occurred to one or two people.


Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict.

-Georgia's Democratic Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry (1911)

This is a hard argument to prove,

So why bother trying, right?

marriage, to me, is an institution which is both simplistic and purposeful. Its purpose is as a structural unit of society, a building block for the family, and for some a special tenant of their religion.

That can't be its full purpose, surely? Marriage can also be used as a political tool: for instance you can use it to deny rights and financial benefits to people whom your prejudices regard as subhuman.

Therefore, I think it is actually much harder to argue that people specifically defined marriage as “between the same race,” and that it was more likely they defined other races as “fundamentally different/separated/inferior,”

This absolutely floored me. He had spent the entire first half of the post arguing that anti-miscegenation laws were expressions of the belief that other races were inferior, and had nothing to do with asserting that marriage should only occur between people of the same race.

I do not think there was a mental addendum to marriage in our minds that said “only people who are the same may marry. [...] I think there was an addendum in our minds that said, “since races are not equal, we should marry only inside our own.

And now we learn that 'it was more likely they defined other races as “fundamentally different/separated/inferior”. So rather than anyone trying to keep the right of marriage purely for people who were the same, it was intended to keep everyone who was different out.

and in a conservative age, would have avoided and abhorred bi-racial marriages even more than I would avoid marrying, say, a biker chick named Wanda with a bull-ring in her nose.

English! My love! NO!

What I’m saying and what most conservatives would tell you is that marriage in its essence and as it should be never changed through the civil rights movement.

No, instead activist liberal judges argued that the government couldn't keep people with different ethnicities from marrying because marriage is a fundamental human right.

Black is white, white is black, we’re all the same underneath. However, this is not a change which can occur for the debate on gay marriages.

Agreed, women are inferior.

But marriage is and has always been defined* by man and wife.

Science and history disagree. Alas, mighty Belgium, Spain, Canada and the Netherlands have fallen for such despicable reality, and many countries have crafted civil partnerships with many or all of the rights of marriage. The end of marriage as we knew it ensued, and men all over the lands have fallen out of love with their wives. Even precious Britain – bulwark of tradition and throbbing Imperial pride, has allowed civil partnerships with most of the rights of marriage. Already I can feel the icy grip of homosexuality clawing at my masculinity, drowning out my affection for all things poontang.

So anyway, man and wife. Yeah. That’s, you know, one of those kind’ve important things about marriage.

Well argued!

Let me give you another one: between people.

Indeed, there is no difference between dolphins marrying people and homosexuals marrying. I hope to God that whatever it is keeping Senator Santorum from buying a dog keeps this man from ever owning a dolphin.

That’s the problem with this “natural/unnatural” debate

No, the problem with the 'natural/unnatural' debate is that everything we can observe and empirically test in the universe is natural, including polyester and air conditioning. The unnatural is beyond science and evidence; there is no way of showing that there is any evidence supporting its reality at all. Now, any guesses as to why predicating law on the latter might cause a few problems?

Out of sheer self control I will ignore his incompetent rendition of evolution as 'random chance' and the sycophantry he heaps upon John Paul II.

But obviously the sexual commandments of the Bible were not “lifted” in the same way, but strengthened in –their- fulfillment.
Indeed, and I for one am sick of the secular war on polygamy.

Behavior is (duh) complex.

The closest thing to a true and noncontradictory statement in the entire piece.

And now, a closing comment.


If marriage is regarded as an important institution and one we feel necessary to society as a whole then we should ask ourselves why this is so.

Many would point to the family unit and the way in which marriage forms a somewhat stable platform to raise children by placing social and financial entanglements on a couple, thereby enforcing something of a commitment and using that commitment as a context for childrens' upbringing. I think that this is important and I think it is
largely true.

If this were the only factor, however, the only justification for sterile couples to marry would be in the event that they wished to adopt - and yet such an idea blatantly isn't enforced, I sincerely doubt anyone would want it enforced, and it would legitimise same-sex marriages anyway. Clearly the further fundamental belief in the importance of marriage is in allowing a loving couple to support each other, to support their interdependency, particularly important as single people are particularly vulnerable to the whims of the market and the economy.

Again, I think this is important for social stability. Again, I fail to see how this would take homosexuals out of the picture, or even any other couple, regardless of whether there's any sexual element to the relationship. I sincerely doubt anyone would want sex to be forced upon married couples; I also see no reason for this to be so. Security and stability seem the only consistent reasons for marriage and are the only reasons I can see why the state should be involved at all in the first place - without a secular justification it deserves no special perks from the state.

The fact that homosexuals are fighting for the right of marriage indicates a desire for them to strengthen such stability by opting to take on the burdens of marriage aswell as the benefits for their relationship, standing in contrast to straight people who are ruining marriage with cheating, rising numbers of single parent families and ridiculously spiralling divorce rates, themselves perverting what marriage should stand for and of the family unit.

The idea that couples should be excluded because they share a gender, and that this is a massive focus of people claiming to protect marriage, seems a further degredation to the notion of the strong unions that marriage should provide and which it should represent; the secular arguments provided by traditionalists seem to make a mockery of marriage, turning it into some semantic issue deliberately intended to segregate rather than protect the importance of the institution or why it should be implemented. Secular reasons for why same gender couples should be excluded are never explained beyond 'they're gay and marriage is between a man and a woman'. Such an explanation is unsatisfactory and merely repeats the question, why should marriage only be between a man and a woman?

I also like The Two Percent Company's The Score take on marriage-as-a-contract, a somewhat different approach from mine and exceedingly reasonable and rational.


Update!
A response! Will our intrepid hero wade into battle against the NRO and Weekly Standard, fortresses of fact telling? Will he suddenly realise that demolishing someone repeatedly with a blog feels like duelling with a chest of drawers? Stay tuned to find out!

-The Rev. Schmitt.

04 January, 2006

I Swear To God I'll Never Do This Again, aka Best Post Ever.

I have hoped to keep this blog as a topical and professional filter into the things which interest me most. As one year segues into the next and coursework deadlines actualise into terrible and very real opponents to my continued happiness (or at least a happiness-flavoured substitute,) my priorities similarly become clear and obvious. So, sad to say, in the interests of self preservation, and not wishing to maintain this blog unless it represents the most high quality analysis of current events, I will now discuss The Matrix: Reloaded.

Or rather, I want to ask something about a specific scene from it. I first watched this movie in a cinema with a pair of friends, my closest at that point in time; both enjoyed it immensely. I submit, dear readers, that these friends are idiots. The fight scenes were drawn out, unconvincing and boring; the special effects somehow regressed from the first movie into surreal waxen figures, and the drawn out conversations caused philosophy majors the world over to develop nervous tics. Except English students and postmodernists of course; they loved it, they would do. Last but not least, Keanu Reeves is a God damn useless actor and I hate him.


Left: Carrie-Anne Moss is an attractive young lady indeed.
Right: Keanu Reeves portraying an emotion. Happiness, perhaps? Anger? Who cares!

Two scenes in particular stuck out for me as horrific stains upon the English language and all reason: the Merovingian, and Neo's meeting with the Architect. It is the latter which concerns me today, mainly because even in the cinema it was entirely obvious that the man was quite clearly being told to eloquently - and let me be clear, the light and precise way he caresses his utterances into existence is a thing of genuine beauty - state absolutely meaningless dribble. A sample of the nonsense (and from Neo, inanity,) from this blight on cinematic integrity - hallowed that it is:

Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also the most irrelevant.

[...]

There are only two possible explanations: either no one told me, or no one knows.

[...]

You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate ... I prefer counting from the emergence of one integral anomaly to the emergence of the next...the anomaly's systemic, creating fluctuations in even the most simplistic equations...thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly...Your five predecessors were by design based on a similar predication...
And so on. That the movie was terrible is old news, though. I saw something which - I didn't expect it, and it may well have been nothing, I need keen minds to clarify this mystery for me, preferably keen minds with a DVD of a certain rubbish movie. While diligently working on the two assignments due by the end of this week channel surfing I just happened to catch the Architect scene. And it gets to this line:

The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being, thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature.
Images flash across the television screens - Hitler, marching troops, an explosion? Self immolating Buddhist monks, starving Africans, Donald Rumsfeld -

It was just for a moment - and checking online someone saw a rather different figure flash up, and yet another states that daddy also appears (I may well have confused HW for Mr Rumsfeld.)

How well known is this? Is it genuine? Was I just really out of the loop? Are the Wachowzki brothers terrorists? Why do I care, actually? There've been more obvious and nasty attacks on contemporary presidents. Bloody blog.

Actually that's a good note to end on. To the grindstone!

-The Rev. Schmitt.