Month: March 2017

Two things which do not correspond to objective facts

Recently, I wrote about postmodernism – sort of a super quick summary of a couple of its main points. As stated before, if you want a better introduction (albeit somewhat longer), you should look at the article by Helen Pluckrose, available at https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/.

The gist of postmodernism is the denial of the existence of objective facts, or at least the denial that it is ever possible for humans to even hazard a guess at what those facts are, and the claim that everything is merely a matter of opinion (and that all opinions are equally valid). Now, I disagree with this very strongly. Statements like ‘I am wearing a shirt with a wolf on it,’ are statements which correspond to an objective reality (at least, once we agree on the definitions of the terms involved. Statements like ‘this stick is longer than that one,’ likewise correspond to objective reality. And statements like ‘I am happy,’ or ‘she is happy,’ correspond to objective realities about some person’s emotional state. Of course, we can never be certain that our opinions about these facts are correct, but we can have a high degree of certainty by studying the evidence. In the case of the sticks, for example, we could compare the sticks to one another. We could have multiple people compare them. The essence of the scientific method is intended to find ways to determine which opinions are probably correct, and which are probably false.

However, there are two areas where many humans believe there are objective facts, where in fact there are none, and which are indeed . These are areas which are entirely matters of opinion. And I think that perhaps postmodernism in part appeals to people when they realize that humans, even very smart humans like Socrates and Plato, were wrong about the objective reality of these things, that they end up overcompensating and denying objective reality altogether. This is helped by existentialism (although I like a lot of existentialist thought) – more on this later.

The first area in which there is no objective reality is the area of intrinsic values, including morality. Now, to clarify, there are two different types of values: intrinsic and instrumental. Something is valuable instrumentally for a particular goal if it is helpful in achieving that goal. For example, eating lots of protein is instrumentally valuable for building muscle. Giving a garden the proper amount of water is instrumentally valuable for growing plants in the garden. Whether something is valuable (or harmful) for a particular goal is an objective fact (although sometimes it is not obvious how helpful or harmful something will be, if the goal in mind is complex).

Something is intrinsically valuable if it is valued for its own sake, or to put it another way, if it is simply valued. For example, people generally value being happy just to be happy, not because they think happiness will help them achieve some other goal.

Now, my point is that there are no objective intrinsic values. A thing can only be intrinsically valuable relative to some value system, or relative to a valuator. This applies to all intrinsic values, including moral ones. Nor would it help to appeal to a deity, whether that deity were personal (like the Abrahamic god) or impersonal (like karma); these are still valuators who then reward or punish others based on their (the deity’s) values, not in any sense objective facts. It is no different to say that morality is dictated by the deity because the deity will reward and punish than to say morality is dictated by the government because the government will reward and punish. As Sartre observed, the individual must still decide whether or not to accept the values which the deity holds, and there is no intrinsic value in accepting or rejecting them (though there can be instrumental value, if the person decides they intrinsically want to avoid punishment).

Of course, people interject at this point and say that by this argument, islamist values are no better or worse than my own western values. Which, I would agree, there is no sense in which one is objectively better or worse than the other on the intrinsic level. If we agree to certain pragmatic goals, however, then western values come out far ahead – especially if one of our goals is more exact knowledge of the world, which includes getting rid of false deities. But even if it were not for the pragmatic, instrumental problems with islamic values, I would still oppose them. The lack of an objective standard of a better or worse value system does not stop me from trying to stamp out value systems I do not like, nor does it stop me from trying to stop others from oppressing women, etc. The questions of morality are: what will you do, what will you not do, what will you discourage others from doing/encourage them to do (e.g. I will argue against religion, but I will not actively punish people for it), what will you actively reward or punish others for?

The second area which has often been considered objective, but which does not correspond to anything in reality (at least not exactly), is social power. To be the queen of England is to be treated as the queen of England. To be the owner of a house is to be treated as the owner of the house (this was discussed at length in a previous blog about ownership). Neither of these things are objective properties of the person or objects involved – yet many people think of them as objective facts. This is in stark contrast to male and female, which are biological properties. However, the way that males and females are treated is not a biological property. It is also in contrast to, say, ‘being a goth.’ A person is a goth by wearing certain clothing, etc., not simply by being identified as one.

This social power is an odd thing. There are types of power, like physical strength, which are objective properties. For instance, the statement ‘This person is strong enough to move a 90 kg rock,’ is objectively true or false. But with social power, whether a person has it depends upon how many other people think that they have it. Does the king have the power to kill anyone he wants in the kingdom? It depends upon whether his soldiers are willing to do it for him, and whether others are unwilling to prevent them. When studying guerilla bands, this is especially clear: the leader could stop being the leader at any moment, if several of the members refuse to acknowledge his or her leadership.

On the other hand, it is frequently the case that a power structure in society comes about because it is helpful in some manner to society. That does not always mean it is a good thing, or a pleasant thing, but it is generally true that natural selection applies to social issues and structures. In other words, when we look at, say, gender roles in a given society, these did not spring up arbitrarily; they developed because they were somehow effective in preserving that society. This is an important component of social analysis that many social ‘scientists’ ignore.

The other caveat is that social power is not itself even a thing, beyond being a statistical aggregate of many individual opinions on power. Thus, being the queen of England only requires that a large number of people be of the opinion that you are the queen of England and treat you accordingly; it does not require that everyone do so. In most cases, disagreements about social power are fairly quickly straightened out, so that the vast majority of people will be in agreement, but when this does not happen, it can lead to things such as war. But the fact that social structures are aggregates of individual structures is a complicated subject, which I wish to discuss at a future time (as well as to discuss the way in which all social concepts are aggregates of individual concepts, and why we must be very careful in applying social concepts to individual situations).

The oddity here is that human thought rarely takes into account the difference between assertions about objective facts (i.e. objective properties of objects) vs. matters of opinion. This is probably evolutionarily advantageous, because if people began to differentiate these things, it might create more disagreement. Just because a belief is wrong does not always mean it is not helpful to the preservation of a species or society.

To summarize, then, intrinsic values and social attributions of power are two things which, although frequently thought of even by quite smart individuals as objective properties of things, are in fact merely matters of opinion, and do not reflect any objective properties of reality. To this extent, the postmodernists do have a point. And influenced by the existentialist belief that no object can exist ‘for us’ except as some kind of a ‘thing-with-value’ or some such nonsense (when I say I like a lot of existentialist ideas, I am primarily referring to Nietzsche, not to Heidegger or Sartre or Kierkegaard, though I do like Sartre’s ‘existence precedes essence’ formula – although I think it is a questionable one), perhaps this explains why they made the leap to claiming that everything is merely a matter of opinion.

The trans dilemma

As a preliminary, it is true that there are some things which are social constructs. ‘Being the queen of England,’ for example, essentially consists of getting enough people to treat you as if you are the queen of England. Of course, this is not enough to really be the queen of England. In the United States, we have had people who resemble presidents go around pretending to be the president, and while they are pretending, they are treated as the president – but they are not the president (of course, they do not take the pretension to the level of trying to give executive orders or sign laws; generally, they are working as decoys).

Gender, of course, has an objective biological meaning. However, some argue that it is entirely a social construct (and we should say that while the type of gamete you produce and the chromosomes which a person has are objective, the social consequences of this are, in part, social constructs). Whether race has a biological meaning or not, is a question which I am not going to try to answer. Generally, it seems biologists claim that there is no biological meaning to the concept of ‘race,’ and this is probably true for broad ‘race’ categories like ‘white,’ ‘black,’ ‘hispanic,’ and so on. The argument seems to be that within these categories, there is so much variation, that it dwarfs the variation between the categories. Which is probably correct if we are trying to broadly define ‘white’ as ‘European/slavic,’ vs. ‘black’ as ‘any African plus maybe Australian aboriginal peoples, but maybe not.’ Those are indeed huge arbitrary categories with little biological significance. On the other hand, we know that we can use DNA to identify a person’s ‘tribal’ ancestry, e.g. determining that a person has a Scandinavian ancestor, or a Polish ancestor, or a Maori ancestor, and so on. So there are clearly ‘tribal’ genetic differences which can serve as identifying markers. And these differences can have real consequences for things like whether two people are compatible to act as marrow donors. So while broad racial categories do not seem to be biologically significant, narrow tribal categories do seem to be biologically significant on some level.

So: gender definitely has a biological significance; race may or may not have a biological significance, depending upon how ‘race’ is defined.

However, I don’t want to try to say whether ‘race’ has any biological significance here, or to think about the biological significance of gender. Instead, I want to consider the consequences of the notion that race and gender are both social constructs only.

So, suppose that race and gender are social constructs only. How, then, do we determine which race and which gender a given individual has? There are two ways in which a person’s social identity can be determined.

  1. A person’s social identity is determined by how others treat them.
  2. A person gets to choose their social identity.

In fact many social identities must be determined by how others treat a person, such as the example of ‘being the queen of England.’

So, what is ‘transgender?’ In line with this social construct theory, there are three basic ways a person could be considered transgender.

  1. They are defined to be transgender if they claim to be transgender.
  2. They are defined to be transgender if they make themselves appear and act in such a manner that the rest of society treats them as the other gender.
  3. Some combination of these two.

Now if the social construct theorist goes with option 1, then a person can also be trans-racial, since they can simply claim to identify as the other race. Unless, of course, the SC theorist makes an arbitrary distinction between these two – but it is arbitrary, since a person’s treatment by society as male vs. female is only going to be affected by their external appearance and behavior, not their internal feelings, and the same applies to their treatment by society regarding race.

On the other hand, considering option 2, well, a person can dress and act in such a manner that society treats them as the opposite gender (although most SC theorists would probably say this could just make them a transvestite, rather than transgender, and say that a transgender person is someone who identifies as transgender and appears/acts in such a manner that they are treated as the opposite gender). However, a person can also alter their appearance and behavior to resemble a different race, and thus be treated as that race (whether through makeup or through plastic surgery; consider, e.g., Michael Jackson and his bleached skin, although as far as I know he did not claim to be transwhite).

Therefore, whether the SC theorist goes with option 1, 2, or 3, regarding transgender persons, they must also acknowledge the possibility of people being transracial. Thus, contrapositively, if they deny the possibility of transracial persons, they must deny the possibility of transgender persons. Nor can they claim that the difference comes from biological reality, since gender is definitely biologically real (and in humans, immutable, although in some other species it is changeable), while race may or may not have biological significance.

Postmodernism: the quickest introduction ever

Recently, soon-to-be-Dr. apparently working-on-her-masters at the moment Helen Pluckrose wrote an excellent article (https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/) on how postmodernism is ruining the world, as well as describing in detail what postmodernism is. I don’t know nearly as much about postmodern philosophy as Pluckrose, and I strongly recommend reading her article on it (and following her on Twitter, @HPluckrose). However, it is a pretty long article. So I thought perhaps I would write a super quick introduction to the two things which I consider the most prominent aspects of postmodernism.

First, Postmodernist thought holds that any two hypotheses that are held by people are equally valid. Neither is preferable, or more correct, than the other. By extension, it holds that evidence does not demonstrate the correctness or incorrectness of an hypothesis.

Now, it is true that most philosophers agree that we can never have absolute certainty about most hypotheses. However, classical philosophers would hold that we can have practical certainty, especially on a pragmatic level (the entire point of the scientific method is to develop ways of finding evidence which leads to practical certainty about pragmatically useful hypotheses). Newtonian physics, for instance, is not exactly correct, but we can have practical certainty that it provides a pragmatically useful model for most everyday occurrences. Thus, most philosophers, while admitting the theoretical impossibility of absolute certainty, would maintain that it is possible to rank different hypotheses by how likely they are, how well-evidenced they are, and so on. The postmodernist, on the other hand, literally holds that Newtonian physics is neither more nor less true than Aristotelian physics, and that the statement ‘2+2=5’ is as valid as the statement ‘2+2=4.’ (In which case, there is no gender wage gap, since 73 cents = 100 cents!*).

For a more bizarre example, the hypothesis ‘humans have to have water in order to survive,’ is given the same level of validity as ‘humans do not need to drink in order to survive,’ by the postmodernist. Which leads one to ask why they bother eating and drinking…

In practice, one of the ways which this manifests is the idea that ‘lived experiences’ matter more than empirically acquired data. If a person has an experience and interprets it in a certain manner, this is considered to be just as valid as a claim based on empirical, objective evidence (the very notion of empirical, objective evidence is denied by postmodernism). In an ironic twist, the lived experiences of a person are sometimes denied by identity politics practitioners when they are ‘inconvenient.’ For example, the experiences of ex-muslims is largely ignored by SJWs (as well as the well-documented evidence – but ignoring well-documented evidence is a core principle of postmodernism).

Second, connected to this first point, a major tenet of certain strains of postmodern thought is identity politics, which are comprised of two claims. The first claim is that an individual’s entire identity is defined by their cultural demographics. Groups are reduced to homogeneous masses of interchangeable individuals. The second is the claim that, because lived experiences are all that matter, and because a person is reducible to their cultural demographics, that two people from different demographics can never understand one another (I’m probably presenting this using far more logic than the postmodernists themselves – after all, logic is no more valid than illogic in their opinion). This leads to the bizarre idea that male politicians cannot make choices that are good for women, that white politicians cannot make choices that are good for blacks, and so on.

Of course, many people are merely influenced by postmodern ideas, and do not take them to such an extreme. For example, some postmodernists might not say all hypotheses are equal, but rather suggest that any sincerely held hypotheses are equal, regardless of the evidence for or against them, especially if these hypotheses have a cultural connection (e.g. some Australians maintain that the aboriginal myths about the origins of the Aboriginal people are just as valid as scientific theories about how humans arrived in Australia, since the aboriginal culture has sincerely believed these myths). This is the Tinkerbell version of postmodernism: if some person really thinks something, then it is true (insofar as anything can be ‘true’).

*I am well aware that after accounting for other variables, gender contributes only about a 6 cent gap, not the 73 cents to the dollar statement made here. However, since that is the one that is bandied about, it is the one I have used here.

What is an assault rifle?

… And why are ‘liberal’ attempts to ban them so peculiar?

There is a lot of confusion, among people who are not very familiar with guns, about what an assault rifle is. Even among legislators, there is a lot of confusion about this. For example, some states define any rifle with a pistol grip as being an assault rifle – but many sniper rifles have pistol grips, and are clearly not assault rifles (e.g. the Cheytac Intervention, Dragunov SVU, PSG 1, WA2000, and even many which do not have ‘pistol grips,’ but which effectively allow a pistol grip). Others claim that assault rifles are particularly powerful rifles – which is, as we will see, completely untrue. For example, ‘liberal’ politicians love to argue that ‘assault rifles’ are ‘too powerful’ for citizens (even though the Second Amendment clearly protects military-grade small arms). But, even if you don’t think the second amendment protects military-grade small arms – well, assault rifles are not powerful! In fact, regular rifles are more powerful than assault rifles, and sniper rifles have the same ergonomics as assault rifles, in many cases (and sniper rifles are basically used as hunting rifles).

So, I want to briefly say what an assault rifle is, from a combat perspective. By ‘combat,’ I mean both a military and a self-defence perspective.

To understand what an assault rifle is, we should really talk for a moment about the development of small arms, historically. During Napoleonic times, muzzle-loaders were the norm for military use. Most of these were smooth-bore, but some had rifled bores, which increased the accuracy of their projectiles, but made muzzle-loading much harder. However, a few decades later, breech loaders were introduced, along with the widespread use of ‘cartridges’ (combinations of propellant and bullet which could be loaded in a single step, rather than being loaded separately). This meant that first, rifling no longer made it harder to load a gun, and second, it was possible to load much more quickly. Therefore, the need to worry about the bayonet as a defence against cavalry was alleviated, since now, soldiers could basically mow down cavalry before they could close distance, with their higher rate of fire.

It also meant that infantry combat would be changed forever. However, the basic goal which militaries chose to pursue was to have guns for their front-line infantry which had longer ranges. Thus, rifle cartridges used large bullets with huge propellant charges. As an example, the German K98k, used up through WWII, had sights which were able to reach out to 2000m (roughly 1.25 miles!).

Of course, these rifles were not accurate out to these ranges, if the shooter were trying to hit a human-sized target, but during musket warfare, hitting a single target was not the goal, because soldiers fought in large formations. If trying to hit a large mass of soldiers, as had been common during the musket-era of warfare, then it could make sense to try to hit a mass of targets out at 2000 meters. Having a line of soldiers try to hit another line of soldiers (where ‘line of soldiers’ is understood as the formation used in the Napoleonic times) at 2 km could, potentially, make a lot of sense.

At the same time, another type of weapon was developed. There was a need for a small weapon that could be easily stowed in a tiny holster, for people who were unlikely to need to shoot it, but who needed close-range self-defence. This became the pistol. But in order to use a tiny, hand-held weapon, it was necessary to use a lighter bullet, and less weight, because in a hand-held weapon, it was not possible to brace the weapon effectively while firing a large projectile with a lot of force. So, there was a parallel development: rifle bullets in rifle cartridges, which were heavy bullets with lots of propellant, which had a lot of kick when fired, and pistol bullets in pistol cartridges, which had smaller bullets with a lot less propellant. Now, the pistol bullets could be wider in caliber than rifle bullets, but they were generally lighter, and certainly they had a lot less propellant. So, for example, the Colt 1911 fired a .45 caliber bullet, while the M1 Garand rifle fired a .30 caliber bullet, but the caliber of a bullet is just a measure of the width. The pistol cartridges had only a small amount of powder, because they were designed for use in pistols. And in a pistol, the weapon was very light, and the shooter had no good way to brace the gun, so if the shooter was to have any level of accuracy at all, it was necessary to use a small amount of propellant, to minimize the kick.

Meanwhile, the idea of automatic weapons was developed. Machine guns fired the same cartridges as rifles (or, in some cases later on, they fired even larger cartridges; in WWII, light and medium machine guns fired rifle cartridges, but heavy MGs fired larger cartridges), but were far too powerful to be controlled when firing from the shoulder (the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the Bren gun, were intended to be fired from the shoulder as well as from a braced position, but in practice, this was found to be not useful). The power of the cartridge would make the weapon bounce around in a way that they could not be controlled without setting them down on a bipod, or even stabilizing them on a tripod.

WWI showed that there was a need for automatic weapons that could be fired from the shoulder or hip. The immediate solution was the submachine gun (which has, in modern times, been replaced by the ‘Personal Defence Weapon,’ PDW). This was an automatic gun, generally with a short barrel, which would fire pistol cartridges. However, in order to have any kind of ability to deal aimed fire, even at short distances, these guns needed a brace against the shoulder – even if their barrel was the same as a regular pistol. Thus, sub-machineguns, and ‘machine pistols,’ were developed, which fired pistol rounds, from guns that had shoulder braces. This was fine as far as it went, when dealing with short-range combat, but it meant that the projectiles were fairly weak. They were only really useful out to 50-100 meters, and they had limited ‘stopping power.’ For this reason, most soldiers continued to be equipped with rifles without automatic capabilities (either bolt-action or semi-automatic). But rifles had a problem: each time you fired them, they would bounce around so much that it was very hard to take a second shot without taking the time to acquire your aim again. This meant giving them an automatic feature was not very useful, because even if firing in automatic, your shots would be so inaccurate, they would be nearly useless. So, going into WWII, militaries gave one soldier in each eight-to-ten person squad a light machine gun, and everyone else a rifle, which was either bolt-action or semi-automatic.

Now, one thing which people who studied battles noticed, especially when studying WWII (in WWI, there was long range trench-to-trench fighting, and then trench warfare in the trench, which was very close range), and the effects of combined arms warfare on infantry warfare, was that once you got rid of the Napoleonic formations, as well as doing away with the static trench warfare of WWI, was that trying to shoot at people at very long ranges was nearly useless. In fact, most shots were taken at under 300 meters, whether the shots were taken by rifles or machine guns. So the ability to shoot up to 2 km was rather useless, in practice – once soldiers stop standing in formations, and begin using cover and fighting prone, these long-range shots are just not useful. On the other hand, they also noticed that the weakness of submachine guns could be a real downside when fighting in open terrain – they were just not accurate or powerful enough, unless you were fighting in close quarters, being effective only out to 50 or at most 100 m. On the other hand, if you were fighting in close quarters, the automatic ability of submachine guns was a big advantage over the bolt action or semi-automatic rifles. So there was a problem. Rifles were better than SMGs at mid-range, SMGs were better a close-range, while long-range never really happened, in practice (except for rare occasions, which required sniper-level marksmanship). Clearly what was needed was a weapon which had the advantages of an SMG at close range, the advantages of a rifle at mid-range, and which could disregard long-range, since it was basically not a thing.

The solution was developed by the Germans, with a weapon that had several designations, but ended up with the designation Sturmgewehr Vierundvierzig, or Stg 44. What the Germans did was to take their rifle bullet and combine it with a cartridge that had less propellant. Now, the immediate conclusion might be that this makes no sense: why make a weaker projectile? But if you have considered what we have said so far, the conclusion is easy: the idea was to make a gun which could do three things:

  1. Be effective out to 300 meters, where most battles were held, or maybe 600 meters, which submachinguns were not.
  2. Be accurate when using automatic fire, like an SMG, at close range.
  3. Be accurate when firing several shots in semi-automatic, without needing to regain your aim, even out to mid-range.

So, a cartridge which was part-way between a rifle cartridge (which was so powerful it could be effective out to 2 km, but which at mid- and close-range, would throw the gun so much, it was impossible to take a second shot without taken a moment to get your aim back) and a pistol cartridge (which could be used in a SMG, but which was not powerful enough to be accurate out to midrange, and which lacked stopping power), was ideal for satisfying these conditions. As such, the Stg 44 had the following advantages:

  1. At close range, it was more effective than an SMG, because it had more kinetic energy, and more stopping power. And although it had more kick, it retained enough accuracy to deliver accurate follow-up shots, with its smaller cartridge.
  2. At mid range, it was nearly as effective as a light machine gun, but better because it could be fired from the shoulder with about as much accuracy as a regular rifle, both with rapid semi-automatic shots, and even with automatic bursts.

On the other hand, the Stg 44 had this disadvantage:

  1. At long range, the Stg 44 was not terribly effective…

but nobody fought at such ranges in practice anyway!

Now, the Germans found that the Stg 44 was incredibly effective in practice, and after the war, both the Western nations and the Communist nations decided this idea made a lot of sense. And that is the birth of the modern assault rifle.

So: what is an assault rifle? It is a gun that is able to fire at short to medium ranges with effectiveness, which can provide repeated shots with rapidity at short to medium ranges, but which cannot handle long ranges. As such, it is not as powerful as a real rifle. It is basically between a pistol and a rifle – and at close ranges, it is less destructive than a pistol cartridge firing gun, or a shotgun (or a very simple IED). Yet politicians vilify them!

Example of leftist doublethink

 

Recently, an ISIS jihadi attacked and murdered people in London, while a white supremacist killed a black man in New York City. While regressives quickly re-entered their ‘Islam is not responsible when people decide to take the jihad commands and Mo’s historical example seriously,’ routine, one of them also decided to make the following bizarre claim:

This is not the first time leftists have accused conservative politicians of bearing responsibility for the violent actions of another. After some guy, whose name I could look up but am too lazy to actually do so, attacked a Planned Parenthood, liberals placed a lot of the blame upon right-wing politicians and their anti-abortion rhetoric, including calling abortion ‘murder.’

Now, first, I don’t think that critics of something should be held responsible if someone else does something violent towards people involved in that thing. People who criticize Islam, like Dave Rubin or Bill Maher (or even like myself), are not responsible for any violence against muslims that occurs (despite the fact that leftists like to make this claim, and to say that we are obligated to stop criticizing Islam until all ‘anti-muslim bigotry’ disappears). And as I have argued repeatedly, the quran, haddiths, and Mo’s historical example, all appear, to a rational, outside, observer, to call for jihad against unbelievers, ‘the worst creatures in Allah’s eyes.’ So, the quran should be held responsible for motivating terror.

However, even if a person rejects this idea that the writings of Islam can reasonably be held responsible for acts of terror committed in the name of Islam, what I really want to point out here is the inconsistency in Cimbrelo’s claims. Namely, claiming that conservative politicians are responsible for anti-black attacks, but simultaneously holding that anti-disbeliever rhetoric in Islam is innocent of inspiring anti-disbeliever attacks by muslims.

This is a classical example of doublethink: compartmentalizing your beliefs and analysis so that you can hold two inconsistent views of the world. I do not think everyone even realizes that they are doing this, which is itself indicative of the most powerful form of doublethink, where the compartmentalization is so complete that the person does not even realize they are holding inconsistent views.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Moderate’ theists can’t change their scriptures

With yet another islamic jihad terror attack in London today, there are of course numerous people, some of them being of the SJW variety, and others being quite sensible, who are pointing out that many muslims do not participate in terror jihads, and morally condemn the actions of those who do. There is an argument that we should not condemn an entire religion because some people do these things.

First of all, I’m not ‘anti-muslim.’ I’m anti-islam, as well as anti-religion in general. I’m also anti-meat eating, but I can be, and am, friends with people who eat meat. I can be utterly critical of an idea without thereby hating the people who hold that idea. It seems like people get confused by this, and I cannot quite figure out why – granted, it is a slightly nuanced position to take, but it isn’t even a complicated nuance!

Second, when it comes to islam, the problem is that violent jihad is called for in their scriptures and in the historical example of their founder. Now, it’s true that there are many muslims who hold to a liberal interpretation of islam. I’m happy about this, in the sense that it is better than holding to a conservative interpretation of islam, but that does not change what the quran says, or what the haddiths say, or what Mohammed historically did.

Let me give an example from christianity for comparison. The new testament makes it very clear that women cannot hold positions in the church hierarchy which would give them authority over men. On the other hand, the Anglicans now allow women to be ordained as priests, which clearly contradicts this misogynist demand. So, yay for the Anglicans for not being so misogynist – but the bible still says what it says. And yes, I am well aware that Anglicans will make theological arguments for why the bible does not mean what it plainly states. The problem is that you can concoct a theological argument to twist almost anything in scripture to mean something other than what it appears to mean.

Likewise, it’s great that there are muslims who realize that murdering non-muslims is still wrong, but that does not change what the quran says when it calls for violent jihad, nor does it change Mo’s example of committing violent jihad (I covered this, and the comparison to christian scripture and history, in a previous blog). Nor does the fact that there are muslims who believe in secular government change the fact that the quran calls for islamic totalitarian theocracy.

Perhaps, to make everyone happy (except the SJWs, who seem to make being unhappy into their favourite hobby), we should say we are criticizing the quran and the haddiths, rather than ‘islam.’

And now for something completely different: relationships!

I was inspired to write this because of someone whom I follow on Twitter. She posted a poll asking if people believe in soulmates, with this justification.

So, on this poll, I voted for the option that was, and I am paraphrasing it in my own words: ‘There are a small set of people with whom you can have wonderfully close, special, meaningful relationships, but no, we don’t have soulmates per se,’ as in, we don’t have one single person out there with whom we can form a special bond. Maybe the actual option was not exactly that, but you get the point.

Let me explain, and also address the stuff mentioned in the video that Sarah linked.

First, let me talk about my own personal situation. I have been married for almost twelve years. My wife and I have had ups and downs in our relationship, including dealing with me going through some fairly severe problems. We love each other and communicate with one another, and today, I think we are in our best place ever, and we are totally what some people would call ‘soulmates.’ But we do not think of ourselves that way, and there are a few reasons for this.

One reason is that in my opinion, relationships don’t just ‘happen,’ and they are not the result of some pre-existing chemistry. Relationships require a high degree of compatibility, sure. You won’t be able to form a relationship with just anyone. In fact, you won’t be able to have a close, special, romantic, relationship with most people. However, there are probably numerous people with whom you can have such a relationship, if you put in the work to have one. In fact, this is something that I think a lot of people in today’s culture do not understand: relationships require actual work. You will have times when a relationship feels like it is draining you. You will have times when a relationship feels like it is keeping you from something else you really want. The question is, do you want to make the relationship work enough, that you will work for it, or choose it above something else? The rewards which the relationship can give you will, if it is a good relationship, far outweigh that other thing. But how many people today are willing to accept that a relationship is amazing, if it requires any effort on their part? So many people just think that a relationship, to be really good, has to be, essentially, effortless, and require no sacrifice at all. Now, maybe, once in a while, such a relationship occurs. But that is hardly the only way good relationships happen! It’s definitely not even the way most good relationships happen! Even relationships that are like the ones described in the above video that Sarah linked are likely to involve a lot of work from the people involved.

Second, I do not believe (and neither does my wife) that there is ‘just one person out there for you.’ I’m not religious, or superstitious, and I believe that there is no guiding force to give meaning to our lives. My wife is religious (a MacDonald style christian, though a little leaning toward agnosticism), but does not believe in that level of control over our lives. If you believe we all have just one person with whom we can form such a special relationship… what if that person does not live near us? What if we don’t meet them? What if we do meet them, but brush them aside because we are too busy? What if that person lived at a different time period from us?

But on top of that, just think about it for a moment: to be capable of having this kind of ‘soulmate’ relationship, two people need only share certain views, or certain emotional characteristics, as well as caring about one another in a certain way. Or, in fact, not share the views and characteristics, but have complementary characteristics. And the number of people who share your views and characteristics, or have complementary views and characteristics, is surely variable from person to person, as is the number who care in a certain manner. Maybe, occasionally, for a given person, the number of people with compatible/complementary views/characteristics is exactly one, but that is surely not true in general!

I believe that the truth is, you get this kind of relationship by finding someone whom you can love and respect, and who can love and respect you, and by committing yourselves to always sticking by one another, no matter what comes up. You communicate your feelings with one another, you accept each other, and you work through any problems that come up by going through them together.

To put it another way, I believe that soulmates are not born, but made, when two people, who share much in common, choose to work together, to achieve something together. I will end with a quotation, possibly slightly paraphrased from memory.

‘Love is not an emotion, love is a choice.’ – the Doctor (of course, love is both, but the choice to continue love is a choice, not simply an emotion).