Archives de Catégorie: Thinking

The feminist paradox

« For most of human history, women have been reduced to their uteruses, vaginas, and breasts. The natural childbirth theorists, as well as many lactivists and attachment parenting advocates, continue to reduce women to uteruses, vaginas, and breasts, insisting that how they use those body parts determines their worth as human beings. Ironically, parenting advocates often invoke the language of “choice” to promote natural childbirth, and lactivism, assuming that if a woman has the power of choice, it is automatically a feminist gesture. But natural parenting advocates in fact do not promote choice; they promote their specific choices and try to shame those women who choose differently. In other words, these movements are judgmental and anti-woman. »

Dr. Amy Tuteur, Push Back.


Confused cat is just confused enough.

Communiquons avec Wiio

Connaissez-vous les lois de Wiio ? Du nom de l’économiste finlandais Osmo A. Wiio, qui les a proposées en 1978 comme description (ironique) de la communication humaine…

L’original est en finnois, bien sûr, mais on peur trouver une traduction anglaise sur Wikipedia et sur le site universitaire mis en lien ci-dessus. Mais comme ce serait dommage d’en priver les francophones, en voici la teneur, traduit depuis l’anglais :

1. La communication échoue généralement, sauf par accident.

Corollaires :

1.1. Si la communication peut échouer, elle échouera.

1.2. Si la communication ne peut pas échouer, elle échouera malgré tout le plus souvent.

1.3. Si la communication semble réussir de la façon prévue, c’est qu’il y a une incompréhension.

1.4. Si vous êtes content du message, la communication a certainement échoué.

2. Si un message peut être interprété de plusieurs façons, il sera interprété de manière à maximizer les dégâts.

3. Il y a toujours quelqu’un qui sait mieux que vous ce que vous vouliez dire dans votre message.

4. Plus nous communiquons, pire est le résultat de la communication.

Corollaire :

4.1 Plus nous communiquons, plus vite les incompréhensions se propagent.

5. Dans la communication de masse, le plus important n’est pas comment sont les choses mais comment elles paraissent être.

6. L’importance d’un sujet d’actualité est inversement proportionnel au carré de la distance.

7. Plus la situation est importante, plus la probabilité augmente que vous oubliiez une chose essentielle dont vous venez de vous souvenir il y a une minute  

À classer dans les grandes annales du pessimisme lucide avec les lois dites de Murphy et de Sturgeon.

Beware the Eye of Mordor, er, sorry, of the NSA

This is cool: in a recent Slate-hosted blog post, two professors of English literature make the case that J.R.R. Tolkien, not Orwell, made the best literary depiction of the modern surveillance state. (Hat tip: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, of Making Light.)

« Tolkien’s most potent and intimidating image of centralized surveillance, the Eye of Sauron atop a tower, taking in the whole world, has resonated with those who are paranoid about government monitoring. But it’s Sauron’s vulnerability that has the most relevance for America today. »

And for any country in the world that cares about actual, effective safety for its citizens, not the appearance of such. Because we all know how the book ended: Sauron’s near-absolute surveillance was defeated in the end, by « a small group of dedicated subversives willing to sacrifice their lives », who

« slip in under the surveillance system of a great power, blend in with [its] population, and deliver a devastating blow […]. Far from being covert, much of this operation is conducted in plain sight, with the great power aware of its enemies’ existence, if not their intent. » (The Eye of Sauron is the modern surveillance state », by David Rosen and Aaron Santesso)

My emphasis. Because in our world as on Middle-earth, all seeing is not all knowing. In fact, the more information you amass, the harder it is to parse through it. Meta-data may contain enough information to pinpoint an individual in time and space, to reveal their politics and their sex life, but how do you know which set of data is relevant to national security in the first place? In the book, Frodo and Sam rely on their very insignificance, this state of « visible anonymity » of the needle in the haystack, to travel through Mordor, and even when they encounter a patrol of Orcs, they are seen but not discovered, because they look like just two more denizens of Sauron’s empire. As long as they don’t use the Ring, they are in effect invisible.

J.R.R. Tolkien's cover design for The Fellowship of the Ring, first part of The Lord of the Rings: the Eye of Sauron, within his Ring of Power

Tolkien’s cover design for his Fellowship of the Ring: the Eye of Sauron and the Rings of Power. (Source; Wikimedia)

By an interesting little coincidence, J.R.R. Tolkien effectively finished the redaction of The Lord of the Rings in 1949, the same year as George Orwell published his 1984. Both authors lived in an era marked by the rise of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich, and both had experience of war-time censorship within England itself. The same generation produced also such writers as Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and Arthur Koestler. Not to mention Russian author Yevgueny Zamyatin, whose science fiction novel We closely prefigures 1984.

But when it came out in 1954, Tolkien’s book looked at first glance like escapist fantasy, a book for adolescents and dreamers. Too bad: he used his « secondary creation » (a phrase he coined, by the way) as a means to explore the same phenomenon: the accumulation of power into the hands of a tyrant, on a scale never ever achieved before in the history of humanity, thanks to technology. And his depiction of Sauron’s evil empire captures both the terror of living under a totalitarian regime, and the inherent flaws of such a regime, where paranoia at the top breeds distrust and inefficiency all down the line. It’s a very human nightmare, for all the Orcs and trolls and evil wizards and giant spiders that inhabit it!

I shall call this the Argument From Cars!

Just a little bit of Twitter silliness about nonsensical questions:

Screen capture from Twitter (click to go to the original tweets)

Pure logic. I swear. (And if you don’t already follow @Rev_Xavier and @aratina, well, you should.)

And it even has a nice ring in latin: the Argumentum ad Autocinenetis! 😉

Why skeptics should care about gender and other « sensitive » issues

I think I’m in love with Crommunist! From his latest post, « The darkness before dawn »:

You’ve probably guessed at this point that I’m talking specifically about the latest round in a long-line of dust-ups over the treatment of female skeptics and the subsequent dismissal of their concerns. It seems like every time anyone mentions anything to do (even obliquely) with Rebecca Watson, a chorus of idiotic voices arise. To be sure, the worst offenders are those who decide to use the opportunity to showcase their ridiculous retrograde stupidity, but there is always a depressing number of people who decide instead to accuse both sides of needing to ‘take it down a notch’ or wonder why we can’t just be ‘on the same side’ or that they have ‘better things to do’.

First of all, this fight is fundamentally a fight about how we address sloppy and uninformed thought processes, not just about sex and gender, but about how we respond to pseudoscientific claims. The comments section of pretty much any open thread about feminism will be replete with phony ‘explanations’ for why women are just not cut out for scientific thinking, or how assault victims are just in it for the attention, or how ‘uppity cunt’ or ‘bitch’ are just value-neutral generic insults that have nothing to do with gender. These are the ‘why are there still monkeys’ retorts of an unthinking mind presented with a reality that does not conform to their worldview laden with stereotypes and mental shortcuts.

This movement is deeply interested in these lazy thought processes, because they are the exact same type of heuristics that give us pretty much everything that makes religion so appealing and dangerous. It is unbelievably foolish of us to pretend that we can use our skeptical toolbox to decry (often derisively) the intellect of those who would devote their lives to Christian apologetics, but then not fight over the exact same lazy approach that gives us “Men’s Rights Activists”, “Race Realists”, Randian Libertarians, and any other group that wishes to avail itself of the fruits of rational inquiry without subjecting their own ideas to its critical gaze.

So no, we don’t have something ‘better to do’ than fight about feminism – it’s the exact same fight we’re having against religion.

(Emphasis mine.)

Something to ponder carefully (and yes, I’m looking at you, @JMAbrassart – though you’re definitely not the only one; but I used to think of you as a friend, and I wish I’ll be able to do so again in the future).



For more details, see this timeline and the subsequent detailed discussion at Stephanie Zvan’s Almost Diamonds, another blog of note. Read also Ashley Miller’s original post and its follow-ups to have an idea why some of us think there’s a problem. Oh, and for those who summarily dismiss Rebecca Watson for being (according to them) « divisive » and « rude »: go read the actual statement she wrote on June 1st before presuming to judge.

En passant

From Ophelia Benson, at Butterflies & Wheels: « Michelle Goldberg points out that Anders Breivik’s hatred of women hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as his hatred of Islam (and Muslims in general) has. » Which is, sadly, true.

En passant

Dear Google+, if you want to make money off my ID (which is your core business, as we know), it’ll have to be off my pen name, not my legal name. ‘Cause I don’t use that one on the Internet. … Lire la suite