Make of this what you will…

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:25 am

Neuroscience finds differences between the brains of ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8228192/Political-views-hard-wired-into-your-brain.html

I’m not sure of the journalistic spin that our political leanings are hard-wired from birth: our brains are plastic, and what we focus on can physically change our brains. I’m sure it’s much more dynamic than the article suggests.


Guest Post on Faerie Findings

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:12 am

Cassie has started a cool new blog for her thoughts, called ‘Faerie Findings’: http://cassiegeelan.wordpress.com

I wrote this guest post there: http://cassiegeelan.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/on-beauty-breeding-and-the-fake/

You should definitely check out the rest of her posts too.

Riding Motorcycles Improves Mental & Physical Health

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:42 am



Something on which I can kinda agree with Dawkins

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:20 pm

I don’t necessarily follow him all the way, but I do definitely agree that we should ‘accept no substitute’ (no, that one’s not Biblical) for the poetic language of the KJV: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/563745-forgive-me-spirit-of-science


Everything in Moderation

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:44 pm

I had to do a reinstall of WordPress a while ago due to an attack, and have just been getting my old settings back. One of those is that I don’t do ‘active moderation’ – holding your comment in a queue until I get a chance to look at it. That setting had defaulted to ‘on’, so that a few of your posts had to wait. I’ve now turned it off so you should be able to comment immediately. I have enough filtering in place to catch most of the spam, and would rather let some stand until I can deal with it manually than put barriers in the way of the discussion here.

We Report, You Decide

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:05 am

E.T. does not need to phone home anymore – someone, or something, is on its way to earth.

SETI Astrophysicist Craig Kasnov ( not to be confused with Craig Kasnoff ) has announced the approach to the Earth of 3 very large, very fast moving objects. The length of the “flying saucers” is in the range of tens of kilometers. Landing, according to calculations of scientists, should be in mid-December 2012. Date coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar.

Don’t take his word for it you can check it out for yourself. He recommends to go to the site http://www.sky-map.org/ and enter the coordinates of the giant UFO:

19 25 12 -89 46 03 – the first large object
16 19 35 -88 43 10 – a cylindrical object
02 26 39 -89 43 13 – the object as a circle

The project participants are assured that the facilities are absolutely real, and the American space agency NASA is trying to conceal important information.

None of these objects can be seen from the northern hemisphere. The second set of numbers in each line tells us that the “object” or “objects” is/are coming in from very deep in the southern hemisphere sky.

In any case, the only thing we can do now – wait for it – says Kasnov. Soon celestial objects will be visible in a good telescope.

Keep your eyes on the skies… the truth is out there.



A Novel Approach To Deterring Immigration of Extremists

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:31 am



Malcolm Fraser speaks some truth on China and the US Alliance

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:49 am

Malcolm Fraser is a former Liberal prime minister of Australia and a great man. His humanitarian work in retirement has been excellent, and although he is from the Right politically he has been a consistent voice for sense and compassion on asylum seekers, foreign aid and a wide number of other issues.

This article on Australia’s relationship to America and China, posted after some of the Wikileaks revelations of communications between Australia and the US, is very smart.



The Hair Thing

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:56 pm


Hacked! …and back

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:49 am

If you check in regularly you’ll have noticed that the blog has been down for a day or so. Some piece of gosa hacked it and put malicious code in all the files, causing my hosting provider to lock it down to protect their server. Half a day I could ill afford to rebuild, but here we are as strong as ever.

As part of a security tighten-up I’m disabling user registration, but since you aren’t required to register to comment anyway that shouldn’t impact anyone.

Thanks for all the recent comments and conversation, both here and on Facebook (only pity is that the Facebook link sometimes splits the discussion). Probably better to comment here than there, at least in terms of posterity. 😉


Beer, heartbeats, the Big Bang and arguments from ignorance

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:37 pm

A friend (who is teetotal) posted something on Facebook about beer, and his friends (who are mostly likewise) lined up to say how gross beer is. I don’t share their opinion, but there ya go. Then one person came out with the extraordinary statement that ‘No-one really likes the taste of beer, they just drink it out of peer pressure’. Riiight… so the people who drink alone are drinking it why? And, at least as a sample size of 1, I can tell you that I like the taste of beer very much.

It’s an example of ‘argument from personal ignorance’, or possibly ‘argument from lack of empathic imagination’.

The latter is based on the inability to imagine that others might be different and have different tastes than oneself. It’s often invoked in terms like “I can’t imagine how gay people can like kissing someone of the same sex”. The key concept in the sentence, though, is in the first 3 words: “I can’t imagine…” It’s not a comment about gay people and kissing at all. It’s a comment about that person’s own failure to be able to empathically place him/herself in another’s shoes. Our beerless correspondent cannot imagine that anyone else in the world can really like something he doesn’t like…

A recent example of the former – argument from personal ignorance – was the person who said “Can you explain how your heart keeps beating, even when you’re sleeping or not thinking about it? No? That’s evidence that God does it.” Well, no. The mechanisms of the autonomic nervous system that keep our hearts pumping, kidneys filtering, pancreas secreting and intestines peristalsing without our conscious attention are very well understood, and have been for many years. A morning of reading would dispel the ignorance… and that God would vanish in a puff of knowledge. It’s a week argument, and if there are real and convincing evidences for the existence of God, these kinds of weak arguments from personal ignorance diminish those evidences.

A final example is a recent discussion with someone who claimed that the Big Bang could not have occurred because gravity would have held the singularity together. When I clarified that gravity itself emerged as a physical property some distance into the Big Bang, I was accused of ‘murdering gravity’. His concept of the Big Bang was profoundly flawed and ignorant, and on the basis of that concept he was arguing that the Big Bang was impossible. No argument could convince him, which meant he had the even more powerful ‘argument from incorrigible personal ignorance’ on his side. It’s basically impregnable.

“I don’t know about that” is not an argument: it’s a deficit in need of remediation. If you want to make an argument, make it from a position of knowledge. An argument that is based solely in what you know is terribly vulnerable: sometimes people learn stuff even when they actively try not to!

One Fundamental Flaw

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:25 pm


…that they seem not to have thought of is that sooner or later these will fall into enemy hands, either because they’re captured or because their backers buy some and give them to them. Then it’s back to a level playing field. I guess they have a short-term advantage…


Sense and Sentimentality

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:57 pm

Sue played this to me in the car last night, and I managed, through significant gritting of teeth, to avoid telling her that it made me grit my teeth…

Not sure what it is, but it seems like sentimentality and emotional manipulation and lack of subtlety. It leaves no space for me to make my own decision, but tells me what to feel and what to think:

On the other hand, I was listening to this on the way home this evening, and it did actually have me in tears. It’s a simple song, and is subtle and poetic enough to be open to a huge range of possible interpretations… and something about it just got me where I live.

Rich Mullins – Jacob and 2 Women

Here are the lyrics to read while listening (no video). Knowing the story from the Bible helps, of course: Jacob was in love with Rachel but was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying her older sister Leah and then waiting another 7 years before marrying Rachel. But the song is obviously not just about that:

Jacob, he loved Rachel and Rachel, she loved him
And Leah was just there for dramatic effect
Well it’s right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin
But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick
And her sky is just a petal pressed in a book of a memory
Of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed
And her friends say, “Ah, he’s a devil”
But she says, “No, he is a dream”
This is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Jacob got two women and a whole house full of kids
And he schemed his way back to the promised land
And he finds it’s one thing to win ’em
And it’s another to keep ’em content
When he knows that he is only just one man
And his sky’s an empty bottle and when he’s drunk the ocean dry
Well he sails off three sheets to some reckless wind
And his friends say, “Ain’t it awful”
And he says, “No, I think it’s fine”
And this is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Rachel’s weeping for the children
That she thought she could not bear
And she bears a sorrow that she cannot hide
And she wishes she was with them
But she looks and they’re not there
Seems that love comes for just a moment
And then it passes on by

And her sky is just a bandit
Swinging at the end of a hangman’s noose
‘Cause he stole the moon and must be made to pay for it
And her friends say, “My, that’s tragic”
She says, “Especially for the moon”
And this is the world as best as I can remember it
And this is the world as best as I can remember it

I don’t think it’s an elitist argument, it’s a taste argument. Some will be very moved by the former and find the latter confusing or annoying because it’s ambiguous.

I was just thinking a bit about why I like what I like, and decided to share.

A Madeleine

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:55 am

Proust famously wrote of an episode where the taste of a madeleine (a kind of small biscuit) transported him back in time and memory to rich recall of past events and emotions.

I’m no Proust, but I had an experience a bit like that this morning. I finished watching Season 2 of the (enjoyable in execution but implausible in premise) UK TV series ‘Life on Mars’ last night. They used the David Bowie song of the same title as the closing theme music, so that’s what was in my head when I woke up this morning.

Or rather, by the usual alchemy of memory, it was actually Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ I was singing to myself. The link is that I learned both songs from an LP I bought on a 1976 trip to New Zealand, called something like ‘A Space Oddity’ and pulling together a number of loosely space-themed songs. Those two were certainly the most memorable.

And that brought back a rush of shame. Weird, huh? Well, the trip was with the Pathfinders, an organisation a bit like the Scouts but under the auspices of the SDA church. I was 12 and it was my first real trip away from home. I’d fundraised assiduously for about a year to fund the trip and a little spending money – about $100, which was a heck of a lot more in 1976 than it is now. I’d had huge help from my parents and grandmother in the process, and I realise now that they’d sacrificed to send me.

When I got to New Zealand the money was changed into New Zealand dollars, and with the favourable exchange rate at the time I think I ended up with about NZ$170 or so. The notes were odd, and didn’t seem quite real.

So, being 12, first real money, all that, I did things like buy LPs of space music. And junk food. And so on. Blew the lot, had a good time, lots of stories. The Pathfinders camped near a pine forest on the side of a hill and I still have great memories of running around playing Capture the Flag on the slippery pine needles.

Arrived home where my parents met me at the plane, greeted me, and enquired what gifts I’d got for my 3 siblings. And of course, I hadn’t got any. Just never crossed my mind. And no-one gave me a hint…

So, instead of the glorious recounting of many great new adventures for a kid, the 2 hour drive home from the airport was spent in a brooding silence as all reflected on what a selfish little git I was.

And in a way I guess it was fair. I shouldn’t have needed a hint. I should have been smart enough and generous enough within myself to think of others while I was enjoying myself.

But I also think redemption has to be part of any life, and none seemed to be offered. I was chagrined and sorry, but I couldn’t pop back on the plane to NZ and buy gifts now. So there needed to be a way back, a way to apologise, be forgiven and restored to the good graces of the family. And there didn’t seem to be.

And I can still feel it, all these years later. It adds an odd resonance to the Bowie song for me. And it’s also meant that I’ve never again forgotten to bring back the gifts. But, perhaps more importantly, it’s meant I’ve always tried to offer the possibility of redemption to everyone around me.


A Little Philosophy Around God, morality and the Bible

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:33 am

I have little time for ‘debunkings’ of flawed Christian arguments, although the arguments themselves annoy me: I just feel the effort is usually wasted, because everyone involved is already convinced in one direction or another, so nothing changes.

More than that, many such efforts seem to me to be unsophisticated, and to fall into many of the same fallacies and oversimplifications that they are railing against. I’d rather put time and energy into life.

Sometimes, though, someone does some careful work on the topic that I find interesting and enjoyable. I think (as a postmodernist) that all such efforts can be deconstructed in terms of their own internal logic, in the same way as the things they’re deconstructing, but it’s still interesting to talk/think about.

Here’s a short discussion by ‘Fedora’. Although it’s the end of the sequence, it’s probably a good place to start: http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/trouble-in-paradise-on-biblical-morals/

Here are a couple of the earlier pieces mentioned in that piece: http://urbanphilosophy.net/religion/objective-morality-and-the-bible/, http://urbanphilosophy.net/religion/response-to-fedora-on-objective-morality-and-the-bible/, http://urbanphilosophy.net/religion/a-response-to-payton/.

Have fun, kids!


Glenn Greenwald on Wikileaks and the Parlous State of the Media

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:33 am

It’s longish, but essential reading: http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2010/11/30/wikileaks

It’s kind of sad when the notion that the role of the press is to hold governments to account seems quaint…