Uncommon Sense

April 29, 2022

Elon Musk’s Twitter Buy Puts Free Speech on Sale

Filed under: Business,Culture,Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
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I just saw a piece on a local e-newspaper with the above title and my immediate response was WTF?

People, let’s get this straight! “Freedom of speech” is a promise made in the first amendment of the federal constitution. Other amendments extend it to all of the state governments in the union. What is says is that the “government” can pass no law restricting the freedom of speech. The purpose of this law was to protect political speech in our democratic process, not to make sacred the utterings and opinions of every moron in the country.

Twitter is a private corporation and it is not subject to restrictions placed upon the government. There are laws, here and in other countries, that Twitter does need to conform with but “freedom of speech” isn’t one of them.

And for those over eight years old, remember when we talked to one another, in person? That is still an option. If you want to spread your message wide, you can rent a hall and announce your presentation as being a free event! You are sure to draw a large crowd, so be sure to get a public address system.

You can also go on numerous TV channels, podcasts, YouTube, etc. to “share” your wisdom.

If Twitter were to go away tomorrow it wouldn’t make a ripple in the stream of our free speech. In fact, since the medium demands shallow communication, that is the best thing Elon Musk could do.

April 28, 2022

Sometimes a Title is Enough

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Race — Steve Ruis @ 8:12 am

In this case it is a subtitle (to an Eric Sentell post on Medium.com).

Republicans display systemic racism by banning

teaching about systemic racism

April 27, 2022

The Hard Problem of Consciousness . . . Not

I have every reason to believe that our family dog is conscious.

I am pretty sure that human beings are conscious; after all we defined the term.

So, the question I am reading right now is: how could consciousness be created out of non-thinking materials, the materialists must be wrong?

This is a common error in thinking. Go back 100 years and ask what the consensus is among doctors as to why people get fat. That consensus, in doctors mind you, would be that people have too much fat in their diet. They have too much fat in their bodies, so it must have come from their diets. This common error in thinking comes from limited experience. If you would have asked farmers, who tended to be whip thin because they ate little and worked very, very hard, they would look at their livestock and say “if you want to fatten them up, feed them a lot of grain, and restrict their exercise.” No fat involved, I guess. Guess which one was closer to the mark?

The whole “problem of consciousness” suffers from limited experience/lack of data. Thinking that conscious entities couldn’t come from unconscious parts is an argument that goes back to “how could living things come from unliving components.” The prior question has been answered, just not in perfect detail. The human body can be taken apart and all you get is a pile of really dumb atoms, not a living organism in sight. Not only that, but all of the atoms making human beings, yes—you and me and everyone else—get replaced quite regularly. (I am reminded of the joke in which an old Virginia famer claimed to have the axe that George Washington cut down the cherry tree with. He used it every day, it was a good axe and the handle had been replaced only three times and the head, twice. Note—There is a well known philosophical debate over identity using this as an example, and another being a ship.) There are almost no atoms left in you that were in you when you were ten years old, for example. Actual the “me” of now weighs 200 pounds more than the “me” at age ten. So, how did all of those extra atoms not change me into another person?

The answer is obvious. If it is not the component atoms (all living things, yes both you and carrots, are made from the same list of atoms, in about the same proportions), then it has to be their arrangement. That the atoms in the Steve Ruis arrangement can be replaced in great number and I am still Steve Ruis, supports this “arrangement, not composition” argument.

So, consciousness . . . remember?

I start with a story about the family dog. My partner took me in for a doctor’s appointment and because the dog doesn’t like being left alone, he was brought along “for the ride.” While I saw my doctor, she took him for an extended walk in the neighborhood. About half way though the walk, his lead snapped taut and the dog dragged her to the curb, to a black Scion of the same model as our car, but it wasn’t our car. So, Jack, said dog, must have a memory of what our car looks like (looks, and maybe smells, but I don’t think that other car had a chance of smelling like ours). This same dog actually bullies her to go for a walk and when we get our walking togs on, he gets really excited. So, Jack has imagination, memory, and an ability to shape his own future. When we placed a mirror down where he could look at it his own image, he looked, sniffed, and turned away. Had that been another dog he would have barked his ass off. So he either recognized his own image, or sleuthed out that it wasn’t a real dog in “that doorway,” or whatever. Jack seems to possess at least a modicum of consciousness, maybe not a full deck of self-awareness, but. . . .

And consciousness seems to be an emergent property of brains of social animals that possess some level of independence. Emergent properties, if you didn’t know, constitute a break in causal chains, which is why you do not need to eat fat to get fat, or atoms have to be alive to make alive things, etc. So, consciousness is not a determined consequence of the properties of the particles leading up to it.

And, if a dog can do it, how hard could it be?

There is no “hard” problem of consciousness, there is just an explanation for which we do not yet have the details, so speculations that there must be some mystical, spiritual, etc. basis for it are overwrought for sure. And if you want to come up with a novel explanation, maybe suggest things that need less explanation that thing being explained. Otherwise you come across like the Christian apologists that insist the universe cannot have exist forever, so it must have been created (by their god of course). When asked whether their god existed before the universe they will reply with no irony whatsoever, “Oh, He has existed for all time.” Apparently it is a god trick the universe never learned.

WTF? Judaism Should Be Separated from Nationalism?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:50 am
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This article almost sounds like a call for a separation of church and state for Israel—in the form of a post on Religion Dispatches “Chicago Synagogue Excoriated For Shift From ‘Non’ To ‘Anti’ Zionism”

Progressive synagogue Tzedek Chicago, founded in 2015 and led by Rabbi Brant Rosen, recently made an announcement that elicited strong reactions in much of the Jewish press and beyond. Opting to change their identity from “non-Zionist” to “anti-Zionist,” they released the following statement:

“While we appreciate the important role of the land of Israel in Jewish tradition, liturgy and identity, we do not celebrate the fusing of Judaism with political nationalism … We are anti-Zionist, openly acknowledging that the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation-state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against the Palestinian people – an injustice that continues to this day.”

Are these not the people whose scripture says that they petitioned a prophet to allow them to select a king? Aren’t these the people who only accepted kings who were anointed by their god? Kind of sounds like a theocracy to me. And the separation of church and state in a theocracy is an oxymoron.

Maybe they are critiquing the policies of the nation-state of Israel and not its foundations. Is puzzling otherwise.

Do You Participate on Social Media?

Filed under: Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:47 am
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According to my dictionary social media consists of “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking,” which seems overly broad, for example Microsoft Word “enables users to create and share content” but I can’t think of anyone which would claim it is a social media application. According to this very broad definition, this blog (and yours) are part of “social media.” Although Merriam Webster (my go to dictionary) defines it slightly differently as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” This seems more on the mark and the reference to “microblogging,” e.g. Twitter, kind of leaves full scale blogs out. So, maybe this is not a part of social media.

Other than that I think most people do not think much about blogs. If asked whether they participate on social media, they think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and what not. Here is my participation tally on whether or not I participate on such sites:
Facebook?  No
Twitter? No
Instagram? No
Youtube?  Yes , as a watcher only
WhatsApp? No
WeChat? No
TikTok? No
SnapChat? No
Pinterest? No
Reddit? No
Quora? Yes
Skype?  Yes (to chat with grandkids)
LinkedIn?  Used To

So, of these 13, I got 3 yes’s, ten no’s.

To get a list of such sites I first searched for “social media sites” and, yikes! There are millions of the damned things. So, I jumped to the Top Twenty Social Media Sites for 2022. (I left off the Chinese language ones.) And, of the remaining 13, I got 3 yes’s, ten no’s. I also participate on Medium.com which is a mix of social media and journalism (also called a “social publishing platform”).

I tend to lump Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram as GWOTs (Giant Wastes of Time), but it looks likely that my blogging could be also described by that.

How about you?

Why the Animosity to Dr. Fauci

Why all the animosity to Dr. Fauci and, really, doctors in general? I do not think there is a simple answer to this question but part of it has to do with doctor’s attitudes. In the case of Dr. Fauci and the CDC, they were just doing the best they could under circumstances in which they didn’t really know much. This is actually the standard situation for all doctors. Doctors actually know very little, being basically medical technicians, but for societal (ego?) reasons, doctors put on airs as it they know a great deal more than they do.

Take for an example, aspirin. Aspirin was made in 1906, from natural starting materials that had a reputation for relieving pain, but also irritating the heck out of one’s stomach. Aspirin, which irritated stomachs way less and relieved pain way more became the most heavily used pain killer around the world and still is. And, we studied aspirin. It has been studied more than any other pharmaceutical by far. So, why did it take almost 100 years to figure out how aspirin worked? Doctors were prescribing aspirin for 100 years or so without the faintest idea how it worked. And if they didn’t know how aspirin worked, what about all of the other drugs in our Pharmacopeia? Knowing what works but not why is what technicians are for. But doctors hold themselves as being way above technicians in status.

Too many doctors have lofty opinions of their own competence, when most often they end up treating symptoms, as that has proven to be the wisest course in treating diseases, when you don’t really know what is going on. Again, this is what technicians do.

So, a new disease comes along, the Coronavirus of 2019, and it is similar to other viral diseases but different also. We seem to have a global economy, but not global health authorities, because different countries did different things. Sweden decided to ignore most of the prudent practices and as a consequence elderly Swedes died in droves. (In the U.S., almost 75% of all deaths were to those aged 65 and older. Note—the elderly are disproportionately harvested by every serious disease, don’t you know.) But we didn’t know how the disease affected various subgroups: “races,” age groups, ethnicities, etc., so we were blundering around in the dark, longing for data that exists now but did not exist then.

So, did the CDC authorities show any humility and claim that they were doing the best they could in the absence of more information, that their recommendations were based upon what seemed to work on similar diseases? They don’t seem to be allergic to H’s, as they certainly are well acquainted with hubris, but humility . . . not so much.

If there is any class of Americans despised most, it is the intellectual classes that claim to know what they are doing . . . but clearly do not, e.g. economists. Mix such a group with politicians, a thoroughly despised subgroup, and what did you expect?

Let the Laughing Begin

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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When are we going to start laughing at grown men whose work clothes are dresses, but they despise cross dressers and homosexuals?

And to top it off these old, typically white, men wear funny hats.

How can we not laugh at these presumptions?

To dress as others did hundreds of years ago; who else does that? Tradition prescribes that blacksmiths wear leather aprons, but there are pragmatic reasons for doing so. Baseball players wear funny uniforms, but again there are pragmatic reasons for it (plus they are in the entertainment business.)

Does clerical garb allow prelates to better run away from ravening gangs of atheists? I think not, in fact it may inhibit such behavior. Does clerical garb contain Kevlar to stop shots fired by separatists, or Islamists, etc.? No, no evidence of that.

Maybe the church likes cross dressers and recruits them through these outfits?

Is great puzzlement. Bring on the laughter.

Note The laughter recommended is mocking laughter. The religious claim they have too much dignity to be mocked. Now, that’s a laugh.

Respect is Earned, No?

In the ongoing drama between liberals and conservatives, we seem to be imposing our own definitions on each no matter what they have been historically. This can all be resolved by a quite straightforward expedient.

First, I invite you to read this.

I find Benjamin Cain a quite profound thinker and I think he is spot on in this article. We are in a situation politically in which a number of foxes have glued a few feathers on themselves and have gotten quite a few of the chickens to claim: “No, they are really chickens, silly!”

But liberals are operating from a humanist perspective and, as Mr. Cain suggests conservatives are arguing from an animalist perspective. Now, I am sure some people will think it insulting to call conservatives “animals” but that is not what is being said. It is saying that theu have a perspective of animals. They believe that the strong prey upon the weak (often eaten them before they have died) and that if you are at the top of the social pyramid, it is because you are a top predator, er, top competitor. They believe in charter schools because they think that their children are naturally superior and they need a structure in which to compete and show how superior they and their schools are. The limp-wristed liberals think that every child is entitled to a quality education. Conservatives think that their children are entitled to an education superior to that of the hoi polloi, and if, through a voucher system, they can get the whole population to help them pay for that all the better.

Conservatives use terms like “it is a dog-eat-dog world” showing that they are Social Darwinists (the survival of the fittest in society). Yet, we live in a country established along liberal lines, giving equal rights to people when the conservatives are more likely to claim you have all of the rights you can earn.

As Mr. Cain summed it up in that article:

Nevertheless, by tolerating conservatism as an outlook that’s supposed to make sense as a viable option within modernity, as opposed to regarding conservatism as a radical, reactionary repudiation of modernity itself, liberals are inviting foxes into the henhouse.

How should liberals handle this massive confusion or fraud which is “conservatism”? They might begin by dropping the face-saving formulations, cutting through the conservative’s sanctimonious and obscurantist salesmanship, and speaking more bluntly about the political and economic options and stakes.

To wit, it’s only humanists versus animalists. Period.

Surprise . . . Maybe Not!

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am

(Note: It is Spring, so a baseball post is appropriate, one of the two I tend to allow myself. S)

Last year, everyone picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, with the Giants coming in a distant third or fourth. At the end of the season, the Dodgers had 106 wins . . . and the Giants 107.

This year, everyone picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, with the Giants coming in a distant third or fourth. Currently, the Dodgers are 12 and 5 (Ws and Ls) and the Giants are 13 and 5, the best W-L record of all of the teams in MLB.

Are the Giants the Rodney Dangerfield of MLB, in that they “don’t get no respect?” Just askin’.

April 26, 2022

Speculating on UFOs

I just skimmed a blog post with the title “What If UFOs Are From Here?” The answer is obvious. It seems that the majority of UFOs are from here. You see, there is a progression. When something is first declared to be an unidentified flying object (UFO), if anyone bothers to make a substantial attempt to identify it, and in that effort, actually does identify it, the UFO becomes an IFO (identified flying object). And, apparently, thousands of UFOs have become IFOs, so the question “what if UFOs are from here?” is moot at best.

The real question needing to be addressed is “are all UFOs from here?” The observations of a great many military pilots seem to suggest that some UFOs possess abilities far beyond that of current aircraft. And, yes, some of those UFO’s were “caught” on film and radar, etc. (Note—Optical effects, sun dogs, mirages, etc. do not show up on radar.)

It is really hard to find an answer to a question that is ill-formed in the first place.

Gort “Klaatu barada nikto”

Even so, people do tend to go off of the rails. Their speculations seem to be focused on “What if UFOs aren’t from here?” and immediately go to the existence of aliens. Actually, if there are UFO’s not from here, the most interesting conclusion is not that aliens exist (that is a high probability speculation) but that faster-than-light speed (FTL) propulsion drives are possible and we should invent one (or more).

Here is my argument. There are ridiculous numbers of stars and planets. Leaving out other galaxies, because they are far, far too far away even for FTL driven ships, there are about 100 billion stars in just our Milky Way galaxy, and even greater number of planets, so the odds on life having evolved on some of those planets is essentially 1 (100%). So, assuming that this alien species evolved to make a FTL driven space ship and did so about the same time as our existence (not in our far past or will do so in our far future) and exists on a planet relatively close to us, we can make a few speculations. It has to be “relatively close” because the galaxy is 100,000 light years wide, which means it takes light 100,000 years to traverse it. If their FTL drive could make a speed of 10c (ten times the speed of light, c) it would take 10,000 years to traverse the galaxy. If 100c, then 1000 years. If 1000c then it would take only 100 years to traverse the galaxy, a reasonable time for the lifespan of living organisms. (So, the drive must be not just “faster” than the speed of light but many, many times faster than the speed of light.) Plus the stars they might want to explore aren’t necessarily at the outer edges of the galaxy, nor are they.

Now, let’s say all of the pieces are in place, the next question is why would they want to come here and study our sorry asses (. . . scalpel, forceps, probe . . .)? What would motivate such a species to seek out other species? Seeking out more advanced civilizations might be quite dangerous. In human history, every time a more advanced (technologically) civilization encountered one less advanced, it ended up with the less advanced civilization being brutally exploited. Seeking out primitive species would offer few rewards. Speculations have been that the “aliens” need: gold, water, air, uranium or other fissionables, etc. If that were the case, I think mining asteroids or unoccupied planets would be easier. An occupied planet may take umbrage at being exploited and the inhabitants may have weapons that were not considered to exist.

A civilization a little more advanced may have sharable technology (they want some of ours and we want some of theirs), but that is a fine line to tread.

Some alien enthusiasts claim that earth is literally littered with crashed alien space ships, to which I responded “So, they can navigate between the stars but not the obstacles on a planet’s surface, and we must conclude they are lousy drivers?”

Your thoughts?

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