Mar 29, 2007
You really cannot get classy enemies these days....
Mar 22, 2007
I know Baron Von Hoopla beat me to it on this, but its worth a repost for those of you who haven't made your way over to his blog yet (and shame on you for not doing so). My disagreements with RAW (actually, more his fan club) are well documented elsewhere, but that doesn't mean I can't pay respect to a man who did do a lot in advancing Discordianism and Discordian like ideas.
Basically, this is about the 10 Commandments given by Solon the Athenian, one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece, the founder of Athenian democracy (and thus western democratic tradition) and a poet of some note.
I originally studied him as a poet, which is why I plead ignorance over this topic until the above two bought it to my attention. Personally, when I did Greek history I found political reform and constitutions as dull as hell. Give me a good myth, or battle, or verse over that any day (I'm very Greek in that respect, I suppose).
Anyway, his ten Ethical Dicta were as important as hell in guiding the American founding fathers in their creation of a universal democracy and thus the spread of democratic ideals in Europe and around the world, probably much more so than even mystical Judaism, (one of the few theological theories that values individuality). Unlike the claims of certain Bible thumpers, Solon has far more to do with the establishment of modern society than that near mythical figure called Moses.
The Ten Commandments of Solon ( as recorded in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 1.60), runs as follows:
1. Trust good character more than promises.
2. Do not speak falsely.
3. Do good things.
4. Do not be hasty in making friends, but do not abandon them once made.
5. Learn to obey before you command.
6. When giving advice, do not recommend what is most pleasing, but what is most useful.
7. Make reason your supreme commander.
8. Do not associate with people who do bad things.
9. Honor the gods.
10. Have regard for your parents.
Obviously, nine is a bit...iffy, but if you put that aside for a moment (I will come back to it) you can see how much more these ideas have advanced civilization than the ideals of Moses and his 10 Commandments.
The problems with nine can be dealt with, if you are prepared to think of "gods" as all the gods of the people in society. The exact word used by Solon, as noted by Mr Carrier, is timaô, which means "to honor, to revere, to pay due regard". Mr Carrier correctly points out
Solon asks us to give the plethora of gods the regard that they are due, and we can say that some gods are not due much--such as the racist gods and gods of hellfire. In the end, it is good to be respectful of the gods of others, which we can do even if we are criticizing them, even if we disbelieve in them.Solon's commands are far more fitting for that of a modern society than practically anything in the Bible. I hate to say it, but not only do the Greeks have far better literature and politics, they now also have superior moral grounds to those of ancient Israel. Is it not about time we started to recognize that our societies have more than one influence and to stop this foolish Judeo-Christian reductionism once and for all?
Richard Carrier has a far superior article where he goes into greater depth on this topic, and it can be read here.
Mar 21, 2007
Well, yesterday I was Stumbling around the internet out of sheer boredom, when I found a gem of a site dealing all the absolute bullshit you have to put up with if you decided to go with HD-TV and the new Blu-ray systems, supposedly so you will forced back to the cinema to enjoy your high definition entertainment.
Anyway, I posted the link at the PD forums and at one point I compared it to MacDonalds and the Ministry of Trade trying to tell you how and where you can eat your hamburger. And thus, due to the wit and creative abilities of another member, the Big Mac End-User License Agreement was created. Be sure to drop some off at your nearest fast food joints, with whatever changes are needed for the location.
Check out the rest of the series here
Mar 17, 2007
One of the more interesting UFO cases, in my opinion.
A number of things make this odd, not least
1. The amount of people who reported them
2. The physical attacks made on people by the UFOs
3. That researchers managed to get access to the government files concerning the sightings.
A brief overview of the events can be found here, but I suggest watching the video. It is quite long, at 45 minutes, but a good watch. It was produced by the History Channel too, if you were wondering.
Of course, this just validates the Subgenius position on UFOs and other strangeness, which I find to be such good advice I will reprint it below:
"Whether they are appear as Aryan Venusians from the "Confederacy of Planets" spreading racist/Utopian bullshit or as disembodied "Ascended Masters of the Spirit Plane" with names like "Clarion" and "Ankor" and "Ariel" in order to tell little old "mediums" about the coming New Age, they are LYING THEIR ASSES OFF.
They make you think you're "Chosen" so they can sap the energy of your belief in them specifically. They are inert without without the energy of human beliefs and shapeless without human expectations. Messing with them in any way is like handing a signed blank cheque to your psychic energy bank....
Mess with the Elder Gods only if you have to - if you are called. In general, the best way to handle a "Close Encounter" of any kind is to run like hell. All of the phenomena are dangerous unless "Bob" says otherwise."
But since these ones were actually hurting people, I'm sure you don't need to be told that.
Mar 16, 2007
Police investigating the alleged terrorist plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier in Birmingham have accused the UK government of exploiting their operation to divert the press away from the current investigation into the “cash for honours” scandal that has seen British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, interviewed twice by police.
Police sources in the West Midlands said yesterday they suspected the anonymous briefings may have been intended to deflect attention from the prisons crisis and the cash for honours inquiry, while counter-terrorism officials in London told the media that there was concern that the speculation generated is interfering with the investigation by the newly formed Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit.
One counter-terrorism official warned yesterday that "an awful lot of inaccuracies" had begun to appear in the media, to the alarm of West Midlands police. "As a result of some of the speculation, police feel they have been hampered in their evidence gathering," he said.
Paul Snape, vice chair of West Midlands Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: "The police force is asking the question, where did it all come from? There may be political reasons for it, such as what was going on at the Home Office and at Downing Street."
Tayab Ali, a solicitor representing one of the nine suspects, said the Home Office would be guilty of "the clearest hypocrisy and double standards" if it was behind the briefings.
"People in government are quick to complain that those involved in the cash for honours inquiry may not receive a fair trial, but there appears to be no such regard for ordinary criminal suspects or suspected terrorists."
Mar 15, 2007
Mar 13, 2007
These so-called ill-treatments and torturing in concentration camps, stories of which were spread everywhere amongst the people, and particularly by detainees who were liberated by the occupying armies, were not, as assumed, inflicted methodically, but by individual leaders, sub-leaders , and men who laid violent hands on them.The despicable Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz until 1943
MANAMA/HOUSTON - U.S. oil services firm Halliburton Co. is moving its headquarters and chief executive to Dubai in a move that immediately sparked criticism from some U.S. politicians.
Texas-based Halliburton, which was led by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000, did not specify what, if any, tax implications the move might entail. It plans to list on a stock exchange in the Middle East once it moves to Dubai — a booming commercial center in the Gulf. The company said it was making the moves to position itself better to gain contracts in the oil-rich Middle East.
This is the same Dubai, it should be pointed out, that was refused a deal with the USA to take over several ports because it presented a security risk. At least, according to The New York Times, Michael Savage, Lindsey Graham, The New Republic, The John Birch Society, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Laura Ingraham; Bill Frist, Hillary Clinton, Bob Menendez, John Gibson, Jon Corzine, and Peter King.
So, I presume we can expect a statement from these parties condemning the security risk of using Halliburton to not only supply the Pentagon, but also the use of its subsidiaries in Iraqi construction and peacekeeping?
Not bloody likely.
Mar 12, 2007
Several people were injured as up to 20,000 people clashed with 1,000 police in Hunan province on Friday, a local official told Reuters news agency.
The Boxun Chinese news website said the clash was sparked by rising public transport costs. A witness told the BBC sporadic incidents continued on Monday.
Rural regions of China have seen mounting unrest in recent years.
Thousands of protests were held last year amid growing discontent over the widening gap between rich and poor and corruption among officials at local level and above.
The latest reported unrest came as the Chinese legislature, the National People's Congress, held its annual session in Beijing.
At least nine police cars were burnt during the clashes, the Boxun report said.
Zhan Zilin, an eyewitness and a local activist, told the BBC Chinese Service that "the authorities sent over about 1,000 armed police, special police and local police and attempted to cordon off the roads in front of the local police station and government buildings".
He said the police were confronted by protesters and "large-scale conflicts broke out".
The Reuters news agency reported that police were armed with guns and electric cattle prods.
A number of police and protesters were injured - with some taken to hospital - but none were thought to be in a serious condition.
The official, from the Hunan city of Yongzhou, told Reuters that the protesters "were not satisfied with some government behaviour".
"They were also unhappy about official corruption," the official added.
The overseas-based Boxun, which is blocked inside China by the Beijing government, reported that protesters had been dissatisfied with the rising cost of bus prices.
Mr Zhan said that sporadic incidents were still going on on Monday.
"This afternoon, several dozens of people were injured, including some passers-by; four police vehicles were burned," he said.
The Chinese government has introduced a series of measures to try to address the sources of discontent in rural communities.
They include pumping billions of dollars into the rural economy in the form of farm subsidies, as well as reining in the seizures of farmland for development and tackling government corruption.
The more the Chinese people give grief to the bastards running the show, for whatever reasons, the happier I feel. We can only hope they are too stupid to pull a Hungary and engage in genuine reform, right up until the moment the regime topples.
Mar 11, 2007
Here we are in 2007 (or YOLD 3173), forty-eight, or forty-nine years after Mal2 and Omar's Discordian revelations at the hands of the Goddess Eris. Synaptyclypse Generator is proud to present this special edition of the legendary counter-culture classic, the bible of Discordianism. We have spared no cabbage-power in preparing this wonderful hardback edition for your enjoyment and enlightenment. Illuminet disappeared, Loompanics have closed their doors and Ronin have released a mashed up paperback edition. We at Synaptyclypse Generator decided that this wasn't good enough. We wanted our Principia. The real Principia. And what's more, we wanted something special, we wanted it in hardback! Principia Discordia has been republished a number of times over the years, but not since 1976 has it been available to the general public in hardback format. So we took it upon ourselves to produce this edition. We have done the best we could have hoped to ensure a quality and cherishable version of Principia Discordia and hope you fall in love with the Principia Discordia all over again, just as we have.
For this edition, we have included Kerry W. Thornley's introduction to the 1991 Illuminet Press edition and Robert Anton Wilson's Loompanics Unlimited introduction. We include all the material from the last Loompanics printing and any odd bits left over from the Illuminet version. We have closing 'Outroductions' by none other than the Rev.Dr Jon Swabey of Apocrypha Discordia fame and 'crackpot historian,' Adam Gorightly, author of The Prankster and the Conspiracy, The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture. It also features the most sumptuously gorgeous cover that any edition has ever had.
Buy your Principia Discordia by clicking on one of the links below, or you can order it at your local book store by giving them the ISBN:
Hardback ISBN-13: 9781846856044
Hardback ISBN-10: 1846856044
Barnes and Noble
Mar 10, 2007
This is sort of a follow up to Hersh's story about the USA finally deciding to back the Sunni minority in Iraq and bankroll several dozen Jihad factions operating out of the country, but on a more regional level.
It turns out that a certain Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters drew up a plan to make the Middle East peaceful by...well, breaking it up into nice ethnically united regions, like what happened in the Balkans. Apparently, the Vice President's Office (AKA Neo-Con bolt hole No. 1) is quite keen on the plan and, while I cannot find any official documentation to support this, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have all mentioned US plans for partition in diplomatic circles over the past month or so.
The War Nerd does an excellent job as always in pointing out the fatal flaws of the argument. Apart from stabbing a few major allies in the back, Iran is the problem with this already incredibly stupid plan.
Iran is a stable, powerful state with one overwhelmingly dominant ethnic group. They might not like it if you tried to detach their oil fields, and they could send in hundreds of thousands of troops to register their disapproval. And we'd counter with what?
Trying to redraw the region at large is going to create an incredible mess and I can only hope that someone in State or Defence points that out some time soon, before Cheney's mad friends get too carried away with themselves.
Mar 9, 2007
Ah, my old buddy Bakunin, terrorist philosopher supreme. Russian revolutionary and early founding father of Anarchism. Again, the anarchy distinction here, but this time someone in favour of it. Anything to do with the allegiances of the character? We shall see.
Mar 7, 2007
Miroslav Milosevic (no relation) claimed he and his fellow vampire hunters acted to stop the former dictator returning from the dead to haunt the country.
The vampire hunters told police the three-foot-long wooden steak had been driven into the ground and through the late president's heart.
Full story at Ananova (no surprises there, eh?).
Mar 6, 2007
But hey, at least we didn't take our eye off the ball by invading Iraq or something stupid like that. I mean, we can simply flood the place with extra troops and intelligence officers until we can start being more accurate and decisive in the war against the resurgent Taliban. Right?
Another Day in the Empire (with whom I do disagree on many issues, but have total common ground on when it comes to Neo-Cons) explains, giving a good run down of the basics of the Neo-Con philosophy for those who don't know much about that side of it.
Here is some of the more interesting stuff:
“It is not hyperbole to say that Cohen is as extremist a neoconservative and warmonger as it gets,” writes Glenn Greenwald for Salon. “Unlike the more political neoconservatives, who are very careful about what they say and go to great lengths to conceal their ultimate goals, Cohen has been an academic and thus more explicit about the theoretical underpinnings of his worldview. “We are in the middle of World War IV,” Greenwald summarizes Cohen’s “philosophy,” more accurately a dangerous psychopathic obsession. “We have numerous countries against whom we must wage war. The highest strategic priority is to change the government of Iran, with whom we can never negotiate. And the ultimate goal is to rule the world with our military force as the Supreme Imperial Power.”
But it gets better.
Other neocons, namely Abram Shulsky and Paul Wolfowitz, were taught directly by Strauss (Shulsky currently heads the Iranian Directorate, tasked with “cherry picking, manipulating, and even planting intelligence abroad that would support a case against Iran in the minds of the public,” according to sources cited by Larisa Alexandrovna).
And we're mad for thinking that the Iran war may be a fix-up job (hi Mel!). Yeah, right.
Mansfield is radically opposed to liberalism—not the soft and squishy modern version of liberalism, mind you, but classical liberalism going back to the Magna Carta. “The hallmark of Strauss’ approach to philosophy was his hatred of the modern world, his belief in a totalitarian system, run by ‘philosophers,’ who rejected all universal principles of natural law, but saw their mission as absolute rulers, who lied and deceived a foolish ‘populist’ mass, and used both religion and politics as a means of disseminating myths that kept the general population in clueless servitude,” explains Jeffrey Steinberg.
I can vouch for that myself, having spent a fair bit of time at the library, poring over their texts.
Mansfield defends the monarchical executive through philosophical abstractions,” arguments hauntingly like those espoused by Carl Schmitt, the “Crown Jurist of the Third Reich.” Strauss and Schmitt “were once close professionally,” notes Alan Wolfe, “Schmitt supported Strauss’s application for a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to Paris in 1932, the same year in which Strauss published a review of Schmitt’s most important book, The Concept of the Political.”
Schmitt himself was not a Nazi, merely an anti-democratic, backwards, autocratic son of a bitch. A small thing, but its worth noting. Schmitt was also important in helping Strauss think about the exoteric and esoteric implications of political philosophy texts, something which is somewhat of an obsession for Neo-Cons (mainly because it justifies their lying).
For Schmitt, the concept of “friend and enemy” makes the world go around. In other words, for the sake of social and political cohesion, a perennial enemy must exist, and it is essential such an enemy present a serious threat, even a mortal danger, and thus the Schmittian “power of the exception” must fall to the executive.
Absolutely. I had to read The Concept of the Political for my second year course on Realism and power politics. Its a fascinating and somewhat disturbing text, not very long at all and very worth reading. Thats also the reason for Neo-Con hatred of liberalism in any form, because it seeks to destroy the "friend-enemy" distinction through compromise and debate. Schmitt argued this was most evident in the Weimar Republic, when the Nazis and Communists (who both wanted to destroy the Republic) were given a hand in running it.
Thats just a few highlights and my own thoughts though. Read the article yourself - better yet, get your hands on some books by Schmitt and Strauss and give them a read. Its well worth your time. Everything the media has told you about the second Bush term having less Neo-Cons and moving to a more traditional stance is a lie. Whats more, you have the liberal hawks like Hillary Clinton who are no better, because Neo-Con ideas are starting to take hold in the Democratic party too.
They're going to be around for a long time yet, so you will be doing yourself a favour to learn as much as possible.
Mar 5, 2007
Question: what are they trying to hint at with the character names? Locke. Hume. Rousseau. Three very important philosophers.
Locke was an empiricist who emphasized the social contract as an alternative to Hobbes "state of nature". One of the driving forces in the thought behind the founding of America.
Rousseau was another Enlightenment thinker, though many consider him among the founders of Romanticism too. His theories fuelled both nationalism and socialism as political ideals. Again, he emphasized the social contract.
Finally, Hume. Principle mover behind the Scottish Enlightenment, probably the single most coherent expression of skepticism in philosophy can be found in his works. His political ideas have often been seen to be conservative, but he was said to have been a motivating force behind James Madison's writings. He also held the belief that through trade and economic development one could move from a state of barbarism to a civilized and progressive society.
So what does this mean? Not a clue. But there is a very important theme of social contract against the "law of the jungle" that runs through all 3, as well as links to the American and French revolutions, who were both very similar in aims, if not their ends. A clue as to the later plot of the program? Who knows?
Mar 4, 2007
- The Five Commandments (the Pentabarf), page 00004, the Principia Discordia
A Field Guide to Critical Thinking
by James Lett
There are many reasons for the popularity of paranormal beliefs in the United States today, including:
* the irresponsibility of the mass media, who exploit the public taste for nonsense,
* the irrationality of the American world-view, which supports such unsupportable claims as life after death and the efficacy of the polygraph, and
* the ineffectiveness of public education, which generally fails to teach students the essential skills of critical thinking.
As a college professor, I am especially concerned with this third problem. Most of the freshman and sophomore students in my classes simply do not know how to draw reasonable conclusions from the evidence. At most, they've been taught in high school what to think; few of them know how to think.
In an attempt to remedy this problem at my college, I've developed an elective course called "Anthropology and the Paranormal." The course examines the complete range of paranormal beliefs in contemporary American culture, from precognition and psychokinesis to channeling and cryptozoology and everything between and beyond, including astrology, UFOs, and creationism. I teach the students very little about anthropological theories and even less about anthropological terminology. Instead, I try to communicate the essence of the anthropological perspective, by teaching them, indirectly, what the scientific method is all about. I do so by teaching them how to evaluate evidence. I give them six simple rules to follow when considering any claim, and then show them how to apply those six rules to the examination of any paranormal claim.
The six rules of evidential reasoning are my own distillation and simplification of the scientific method. To make it easier for students to remember these half-dozen guidelines, I've coined an acronym for them: Ignoring the vowels, the letters in the word "FiLCHeRS" stand for the rules of Falsifiability, Logic, Comprehensiveness, Honesty, Replicability, and Sufficiency. Apply these six rules to the evidence offered for any claim, I tell my students, and no one will ever be able to sneak up on you and steal your belief. You'll be filch-proof.
It must be possible to conceive of evidence that would prove the claim false. It may sound paradoxical, but in order for any claim to be true, it must be falsifiable. The rule of falsifiability is a guarantee that if the claim is false, the evidence will prove it false; and if the claim is true, the evidence will not disprove it (in which case the claim can be tentatively accepted as true until such time as evidence is brought forth that does disprove it). The rule of falsifiability, in short, says that the evidence must matter, and as such it is the first and most important and most fundamental rule of evidential reasoning.
The rule of falsifiability is essential for this reason: If nothing conceivable could ever disprove the claim, then the evidence that does exist would not matter; it would be pointless to even examine the evidence, because the conclusion is already known -- the claim is invulnerable to any possible evidence. This would not mean, however, that the claim is true; instead it would mean that the claim is meaningless. This is so because it is impossible -- logically impossible -- for any claim to be true no matter what. For every true claim, you can always conceive of evidence that would make the claim untrue -- in other words, again, every true claim is falsifiable.
For example, the true claim that the life span of human beings is less than 200 years is falsifiable; it would be falsified if a single human being were to live to be 200 years old. Similarly, the true claim that water freezes at 32° F is falsifiable; it would be falsified if water were to freeze at, say, 34° F. Each of these claims is firmly established as scientific "fact," and we do not expect either claim ever to be falsified; however, the point is that either could be. Any claim that could not be falsified would be devoid of any propositional content; that is, it would not be making a factual assertion -- it would instead be making an emotive statement, a declaration of the way the claimant feels about the world. Nonfalsifiable claims do communicate information, but what they describe is the claimant's value orientation. They communicate nothing whatsoever of a factual nature, and hence are neither true nor false. Nonfalsifiable statements are propositionally vacuous.
There are two principal ways in which the rule of falsifiability can be violated -- two ways, in other words, of making nonfalsifiable claims. The first variety of nonfalsifiable statements is the undeclared claim: a statement that is so broad or vague that it lacks any propositional content. The undeclared claim is basically unintelligible and consequently meaningless. Consider, for example, the claim that crystal therapists can use pieces of quartz to restore balance and harmony to a person's spiritual energy. What does it mean to have unbalanced spiritual energy? How is the condition recognized and diagnosed? What evidence would prove that someone's unbalanced spiritual energy had been -- or had not been -- balanced by the application of crystal therapy? Most New Age wonders, in fact, consist of similarly undeclared claims that dissolve completely when exposed to the solvent of rationality.
The undeclared claim has the advantage that virtually any evidence that could be adduced could be interpreted as congruent with the claim, and for that reason it is especially popular among paranormalists who claim precognitive powers. Jeane Dixon, for example, predicted that 1987 would be a year "filled with changes" for Caroline Kennedy. Dixon also predicted that Jack Kemp would "face major disagreements with the rest of his party" in 1987 and that "world-wide drug terror" would be "unleashed by narcotics czars" in the same year. She further revealed that Dan Rather "may [or may not] be hospitalized" in 1988, and that Whitney Houston's "greatest problem" in 1986 would be "balancing her personal life against her career." The undeclared claim boils down to a statement that can be translated as "Whatever will be, will be."
The second variety of nonfalsifiable statements, which is even more popular among paranormalists, involves the use of the multiple out, that is, an inexhaustible series of excuses intended to explain away the evidence that would seem to falsify the claim. Creationists, for example, claim that the universe is no more than 10,000 years old. They do so despite the fact that we can observe stars that are billions of light-years from the earth, which means that the light must have left those stars billions of years ago, and which proves that the universe must be billions of years old. How then do the creationists respond to this falsification of their claim? By suggesting that God must have created the light already on the way from those distant star at the moment of creation 10,000 years ago. No conceivable piece of evidence, of course, could disprove that claim.
Additional examples of multiple outs abound in the realm of the paranormal. UFO proponents, faced with a lack of reliable physical or photographic evidence to buttress the claims, point to a secret "government conspiracy" that is allegedly preventing the release of evidence that would support their case. Psychic healers say they can heal you if you have enough faith in their psychic powers. Psychokinetics say they can bend spoons with their minds if they are not exposed to negative vibrations from skeptic observers. Tarot readers can predict your fate if you're sincere in your desire for knowledge. The multiple out means, in effect, "Heads I win, tails you lose."
Any argument offered as evidence in support of any claim must be sound. An argument is said to be "valid" if its conclusion follows unavoidably from its premises; it is "sound" if it is valid and if all the premises are true. The rule of logic thus governs the validity of inference. Although philosophers have codified and named the various forms of valid arguments, it is not necessary to master a course in form logic in order to apply the rules of inference consistently and correctly. An invalid argument can be recognize by the simple method of counterexample: If you can conceive of a single imaginable instance whereby the conclusion would not necessarily follow from the premises even if the premises were true, then the argument is invalid. Consider the following syllogism for example: All dogs have fleas; Xavier has fleas; therefore Xavier is a dog. That argument is invalid because a single flea-ridden feline named Xavier would provide an effective counterexample. If an argument is invalid, then it is, by definition, unsound. Not all valid arguments are sound, however. Consider this example: All dogs have fleas; Xavier is a dog; therefore Xavier has fleas. That argument is unsound, even though it is valid, because the first premise is false: All dogs do not have fleas.
To determine whether a valid argument is sound is frequently problematic; knowing whether a given premise is true or false often demands additional knowledge about the claim that may require empirical investigation. If the argument passes these two tests, however -- if it is both valid and sound -- then the conclusion can be embraced with certainty.
The rule of logic is frequently violated by pseudoscientists. Erich von Däniken, who singlehandedly popularized the ancient-astronaut mythology in the 1970s, wrote many books in which he offered invalid and unsound arguments with benumbing regularity (see Omohundro 1976). In Chariots of the Gods? he was not above making arguments that were both logically invalid and factually inaccurate -- in other words, arguments that were doubly unsound. For example, von Däniken argues that the map of the world made by the sixteenth-century Turkish admiral Piri Re'is is so "astoundingly accurate" that it could only have been made from satellite photographs. Not only is the argument invalid (any number of imaginable techniques other than satellite photography could result in an "astoundingly accurate" map), but the premise is simply wrong -- the Piri Re'is map, in fact, contains many gross inaccuracies (see Story 1981).
The evidence offered in support of any claim must be exhaustive -- that is all of the available evidence must be considered.
For obvious reasons, it is never reasonable to consider only the evidence that supports a theory and to discard the evidence that contradicts it. This rule is straightforward and self-apparent, and it requires little explication or justification. Nevertheless, it is a rule that is frequently broken by proponents of paranormal claims and by those who adhere to paranormal beliefs.
For example, the proponents of biorhythm theory are fond of pointing to airplane crashes that occurred on days when the pilot, copilot, anchor navigator were experiencing critically low points in their intellectual, emotional, and/or physical cycles. The evidence considered by the biorhythm apologists, however, does not include the even larger number of airplane crashes that occurred when the crews were experiencing high or neutral points in their biorhythm cycles (Hines 1988:160). Similarly, when people believe that Jeane Dixon has precognitive ability because she predicted the 1988 election of George Bush (which she did, two months before the election, when every social scientist, media maven, and private citizen in the country was making the same prognostication), they typically ignore the thousands of forecasts that Dixon has made that have failed to come true (such as her predictions that John F. Kennedy would not win the presidency in 1960, that World War III would begin in 1958, and that Fidel Castro would die in 1969). If you are willing to be selective in the evidence you consider, you could reasonably conclude that the earth is flat.
The evidence offered in support of any claim must be evaluated without self-deception.
The rule of honesty is a corollary to the rule of comprehensiveness. When you have examined all of the evidence, it is essential that you be honest with yourself about the results of that examination. If the weight of the evidence contradicts the claim, then you are required to abandon belief in that claim. The obverse, of course, would hold as well.
The rule of honesty, like the rule of comprehensiveness, is frequently violated by both proponents and adherents of paranormal beliefs. Parapsychologists violate this rule when they conclude, after numerous subsequent experiments have failed to replicate initially positive psi results, that psi must be an elusive phenomenon. (Applying Occam's Razor, the more honest conclusion would be that the original positive result must have been a coincidence.) Believers in the paranormal violate this rule when they conclude, after observing a "psychic" surreptitiously bend a spoon with his hands, that he only cheats sometimes.
In practice, the rule of honesty usually boils down to an injunction against breaking the rule of falsifiability by taking a multiple out. There is more to it than that, however: The rule of honesty means that you must accept the obligation to come to a rational conclusion once you have examined all the evidence. If the overwhelming weight of all the evidence falsifies your belief, then you must conclude that the belief is false, and you must face the implications of that conclusion forthrightly. In the face of overwhelmingly negative evidence, neutrality and agnosticism are no better than credulity and faith. Denial, avoidance, rationalization, and all the other familiar mechanisms of self-deception would constitute violations of the rule of honesty.
In my view, this rule alone would all but invalidate the entire discipline of parapsychology. After more than a century of systematic, scholarly research, the psi hypothesis remains wholly unsubstantiated and unsupportable; parapsychologists have failed, as Ray Hyman (1985:7) observes, to produce "any consistent evidence for paranormality that can withstand acceptable scientific scrutiny." From all indications, the number of parapsychologists who observe the rule of honesty pales in comparison with the number who delude themselves. Veteran psychic investigator Eric Dingwall (1985:162) summed up his extensive experience in parapsychological research with this observation: "After sixty years' experience and personal acquaintance with most of the leading parapsychologists of that period I do not think I could name a half dozen whom I could call objective students who honestly wished to discover the truth."
If the evidence for any claim is based upon an experimental result, or if the evidence offered in support of any claim could logically be explained as coincidental, then it is necessary for the evidence to be repeated in subsequent experiments or trials.
The rule of replicability provides a safeguard against the possibility of error, fraud, or coincidence. A single experimental result is never adequate in and of itself, whether the experiment concerns the production of nuclear fusion or the existence of telepathic ability. Any experiment, no matter how carefully designed and executed, is always subject to the possibility of implicit bias or undetected error. The rule of replicability, which requires independent observers to follow the same procedures and to achieve the same results, is an effective way of correcting bias or error, even if the bias or error remains permanently unrecognized. If the experimental results are the product of deliberate fraud, the rule of replicability will ensure that the experiment will eventually be performed by honest researchers.
If the phenomenon in question could conceivably be the product of coincidence, then the phenomenon must be replicated before the hypothesis of coincidence can be rejected. If coincidence is in fact the explanation for the phenomenon, then the phenomenon will not be duplicated in subsequent trials, and the hypothesis of coincidence will be confirmed; but if coincidence is not the explanation, then the phenomenon may be duplicated, and an explanation other than coincidence will have to be sought. If I correctly predict the next roll of the dice, you should demand that I duplicate the feat before granting that my prediction was anything but a coincidence.
The rule of replicability is regularly violated by parapsychologists, who are especially fond of misinterpreting coincidences. The famous "psychic sleuth" Gerard Croiset, for example, allegedly solved numerous baffling crimes and located hundreds of missing persons in a career that spanned five decades, from the 1940s until his death in 1980. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Croiset's predictions were either vague and nonfalsifiable or simply wrong. Given the fact that Croiset made thousands of predictions during his lifetime, it is hardly surprising that he enjoyed one or two chance "hits." The late Dutch parapsychologist Wilhelm Tenhaeff, however, seized upon those "very few prize cases" to argue that Croiset possessed demonstrated psi powers (Hoebens 1986a:130). That was a clear violation of the rule of replicability, and could not have been taken as evidence of Croiset's psi abilities even if the "few prize cases" had been true. (In fact, however, much of Tenhaeff's data was fraudulent -- see Hoebens 1986b. )
The evidence offered in support of any claim must be adequate to establish the truth of that claim, with these stipulations:
* the burden of proof for any claim rests on the claimant,
* extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and
* evidence based upon authority and/or testimony is always inadequate for any paranormal claim
The burden of proof always rests with the claimant for the simple reason that the absence of disconfirming evidence is not the same as the presence of confirming evidence. This rule is frequently violated by proponents of paranormal claims, who argue that, because their claims have not been disproved, they have therefore been proved. (UFO buffs, for example, argue that because skeptics have not explained every UFO sighting, some UFO sightings must be extraterrestrial spacecraft.) Consider the implications of that kind of reasoning: If I claim that Adolf Hitler is alive and well and living in Argentina, how could you disprove my claim? Since the claim is logically possible, the best you could do (in the absence of unambiguous forensic evidence) is to show that the claim is highly improbable -- but that would not disprove it. The fact that you cannot prove that Hitler is not living in Argentina, however, does not mean that I have proved that he is. It only means that I have proved that he could be -- but that would mean very little; logical possibility is not the same as established reality. If the absence of disconfirming evidence were sufficient proof of a claim, then we could "prove" anything that we could imagine. Belief must be based not simply on the absence of disconfirming evidence but on the presence of confirming evidence. It is the claimant's obligation to furnish that confirming evidence.
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence for the obvious reason of balance. If I claim that it rained for ten minutes on my way to work last Tuesday, you would be justified in accepting that claim as true on the basis of my report. But if I claim that I was abducted by extraterrestrial aliens who whisked me to the far side of the moon and performed bizarre medical experiments on me, you would be justified in demanding more substantial evidence. The ordinary evidence of my testimony, while sufficient for ordinary claims, is not sufficient for extraordinary ones.
In fact, testimony is always inadequate for any paranormal claim, whether it is offered by an authority or a layperson, for the simple reason that a human being can lie or make a mistake. No amount of expertise in any field is a guarantee against human fallibility, and expertise does not preclude the motivation to lie; therefore a person's credentials, knowledge and experience cannot, in themselves be taken as sufficient evidence to establish the truth of a claim. Moreover, a person's sincerity lends nothing to the credibility of his or her testimony. Even if people are telling what they sincerely believe to be the truth, it is always possible that they could be mistaken. Perception is a selective act, dependent upon belief context, expectation, emotional and biochemical states, and a host of other variables. Memory is notoriously problematic, prone to a range of distortions, deletions, substitutions and amplifications. Therefore the testimony that people offer of what they remember seeing or hearing should always be regarded as only provisionally and approximately accurate; when people are speaking about the paranormal, their testimony should never be regarded as reliable evidence in and of itself. The possibility and even the likelihood of error are far too extensive (see Connor 1986).
The first three rules of FiLCHeRS -- falsifiability, logic, and comprehensiveness -- are all logically necessary rules of evidential reasoning. If we are to have confidence in the veracity of any claim whether normal or paranormal, the claim must be prepositionally meaningful, and the evidence offered in support of the claim must be rational and exhaustive.
The last three rules of FiLCHeRS -- honesty, replicability, and sufficiency -- are all pragmatically necessary rules of evidential reasoning. Because human beings are often motivated to rationalize and to lie to themselves, because they are sometimes motivated to lie to others, because they can make mistakes, and because perception and memory are problematic, we must demand that the evidence for any factual claim be evaluated without self-deception, that it be carefully screened for error, fraud, and appropriateness, and that it be substantial and unequivocal.
What I tell my students, then, is that you can and should use FiLCHeRS to evaluate the evidence offered for any claim. If the claim fails any one of these six tests, then it should be rejected; but if it passes all six tests, then you are justified in placing considerable confidence in it.
Passing all six tests, of course, does not guarantee that the claim is true (just because you have examined all the evidence available today is no guarantee that there will not be new and disconfirming evidence available tomorrow), but it does guarantee that you have good reasons for believing the claim. It guarantees that you have sold your belief for a fair price, and that it has not been filched from you.
Being a responsible adult means accepting the fact that almost all knowledge is tentative, and accepting it cheerfully. You may be required to change your belief tomorrow, if the evidence warrants, and you should be willing and able to do so. That, in essence, is what skepticism means: to believe if and only if the evidence warrants.
Test early and often. Try new forms of 'attacks' against different types of targets early and often. Don’t wait for a perfect plan.
Given a large enough pool of members, any difficult problem will be seen as obvious by someone, and solved. Eventually some participant of the Open Souce bazaar will find a way to disrupt a particularly difficult target. All you need to do is copy the process they used (though not necessarily the content).
Your co-developers (beta-testers) are your most valuable resource. The other Discordian and allied networks in the bazaar are your most valuable allies. They will innovate on your plans, swarm on weaknesses you identify, and protect you by creating system noise (where there is too much activity to be able to tell what is significant to target or not).
Recognize good ideas from your co-developers. Simple 'attacks' that have immediate and far-reaching impact should be adopted.
Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away (simplicity). The easier the 'attack' is, the more easily it will be adopted. Complexity prevents swarming that both amplifies and protects.
Tools are often used in unexpected ways. An attack method can often find reuse in unexpected ways.
Swarms vs. single group activity. The bazaar offers the potential of many smaller attacks that can in aggregate have an impact equal to several large attacks. Many hands make light work. Combined with system leverage, this reduce the most complex of systems to chaos in short order.
Rapid innovation. The bazaar's demonstrated ability to provide rapid innovation makes defense much extremely difficult. Rather than a single 'grand attack', we may see small attacks (less planning and training, fewer people, less support) against a plethora of targets. With a sufficient number of Discordian networks unearthing vulnerabilities (particularly ones with system's leverage), other forces will likely be outmatched.
These are the tools of the next wave of military and programming thinking. We can adapt, take these tools and put them to use. But it will require the Open Source Chaos bazaar to work. There will need to be more sticking together than apart.
We can work together as small co-operating groups, without turning into some organized official mess. Swapping ideas, running tests, making up mindfucks on the fly and applying them to different situations. Acting in concert and cooperation in order to do what we want more effectively. That is the aim. Or otherwise why do mindfucks at all, other than for your own amusement? You might as well go back to your TV sets and tabloid magazines.
Mar 3, 2007
Anyway, once a week, I'll try and give my take on a well known (or not so well known) conspiracy theory that is doing the rounds on the web (or not). They can be historical or current, topical or picked totally at random and I'll give a quick overview of the theories, what I think about them and some helpful links for those interested to follow up on.
Today, however, I'll just talk about Conspiracy Theorism in general, as quite a few people seem to not understand my take on this.
Alot of people interested in the counter-culture in general and particularly the three ring circus of Discordianism, the CotSG and affiliated Subcordian asshats, take a deep interest in conspiracy theories and the workings of secret cabals which are hostile to our very existence. I don't necessarily need to describe such groups as I'm sure you know what I mean. The Illuminati, various arms of The Conspiracy....Them, in short.
Obviously, many ordinary people do not believe in any sort of Them at all and so these groups have perhaps jeopardized their "credibility" (as if what Pinks and Greys think actually matters) in certain circles. However, a lot of people are wasting their time in this general area of inquiry. Thats not to say there are not conspiracies, because there are and they are very real, but most people have been hoodwinked into looking in totally the wrong direction for them. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I am in a position where I can quite legitimately research the linkage in the corridors of power and am able to tell you what I know.
I wont name names however....not real names. Rule 1: everyone is a disinformation agent. Its all too easy for false information to be fed to you or me, so I'll just sketch out the general 'shape' of whats going on, letting you fill in the blanks yourself. I'll also tell you what is likely not true and why I think thats the case. Firstly, the liars.
Many Conspiracy Theorists come from the Christian Patriot Movement, a collection of pig-ignorant degenerates and criminals who couldn't find their backsides with both hands, let alone highly intelligent conspirators working in the shadows. Invariably these idiots will make racist claims of "International Jewish Bankers" and...well, I barely need to go on. The sort of shit you can read in The Turner Diaries and other pieces of infantile fantasizing interspersed with horrific racist violence and disgusting characterization. If you believe anything that comes from these circles, chances are you're a brainwashed idiot duped by some charismatic leader with a Messianic complex.
Building on from example one, there is the general "Jewish Conspiracy" which is popular among the far-right (just ask Nick Griffin), the far left and various religious groups. This is quite frankly utter horsecrap....going by history, we should probably have a White Christian Male conspiracy, as these are usually the people involved in such things. Its basically scapegoating and stems from a religious need to place the blame for the death of Jesus on anyone but the Romans, who actually did him in. Anyone with any real knowledge of history would dismiss the idea of any single ethno-religious group being behind all conspiracies, or even just a large one as utter crap.
The UN is another one also taken from the far-right. Apparently they are a godless and evil organization preparing to take over the USA and occupy it with foreign troops....whereas the depressing truth is in fact the UN is nothing more than a device for the USA to legitimize its actions abroad. It doesn't always work of course, but given the powers the US gave to itself as a charter member....well, its a testament to the power of propaganda that people can think its anything but a slightly unruly tool of the USA.
Intelligence services are often a favourite one, for obvious reasons. Cloaked in secrecy, given wide powers to act pretty much outside the law, the similarities with secret police of bygone times, yeah here we are onto something more plausible. However, it should be remembered that almost always these are merely foot soldiers for higher powers and if they are doing something, its because they have been directed to do so. Running drugs, assassinations and so on, while invariably blamed on a rogue faction, do serve a greater political or security purpose.
The Satanic cult is another favourite, particularly among David Icke sorts, who can combine it with the relatively more interesting alien abduction theories. Satanic Ritual Abuse is probably one of the greatest scare stories of the 80s, one for which there is very little to no real evidence. Most Satanists are....well, jerks basically. Smart people, very quick mentally, but real assholes. The CoS is basically a money making device and the Temple of Set...well, its occult so its not my cup of tea, but its no worse than what Wiccans get up to. What is often referred to as organized Satanic abuse in fact is usually widely disorganized and carried out by...mentally ill Christians. Who, coincidentally, are the sort of people most likely to promote this theory.
Alien abduction is interesting....in the few cases where there is genuine reason to believe that is in fact what happened. However, in most cases they are part of a carefully crafted government disinformation project. Not only does it explain experimental aircraft tests quite nicely, it also keeps a whole bunch of people on a wild goose chase, either keeping them distracted and ruining their credibility, or causing the believers to fall under the sway of irrational terror and hopelessness. I'll explain more on this another time, but there is evidence to suggest that intelligence agencies have in fact staged many of these events, either as part of a general disinfo project or as covers for other activities.
International Banking is actually one of the few areas where the theorists may have a point. If you throw in the various multinational companies involved with them, as well as a few NGOs. The World Bank and IMF are essentially tools of the European and US governments, used to "crack open" foreign markets, totally undermine the economy, then buy up previously state owned companies at bargain basement prices and bleed the plebs. Its the modern day version of colonialism, only it actually makes a profit.
Secret societies are of course the number one favourite for conspiracy theorists. Been around a long time, naturally secretive....the problem is most of them are basically talking shops. Anyone can join the Freemasons and while there are a few specific lodges that have been involved in some nasty shit, the majority are quite dull. The Illuminati have never been proven to exist beyond their downfall in 1785 and the Priory of Sion were always a sham. Most of these are generally beneficial organizations anyway, the Freemasons in particular being closely aligned to Enlightenment ideals expressed by writers like Voltaire and Diderot.
So what do I believe?
I think there are certain...factions at the very top of the political-economic structure, whose membership is hard to ascertain but who can be judged by their actions. At least one is highly antagonistic, ultra-nationalist and allied with certain sectors of big business. These are closely allied with certain Theocratic nuts, with whom there is overall agreement, though each dislike the other for certain reasons relating to their own beliefs. There is one whose view could most accurately be described as Neo-Liberal, who are largely benevolent and are closely linked to a benevolent movement for world governance. And there is another who wants the same world governance, but for entirely less high-minded reasons.
And of course, within each group there are sub-groups, factions and dissent.
One final tip before I end this - don't look to fancy sounding names and titles, because thats entirely the wrong way. Look towards bland sounding committees and think tanks, with boring names like the Committee for a Free Britain or The American Enterprise Institute....also watch out, as certain groups (such as the Project for a New American Century) are likely to shed their skin and change when exposed to too much light (as when they changed into the AEI).
Apart from those, for me Conspiracy Theorism is rather like Alternate History discussion, its an interesting look into how the world could be, as well as fuel for the imagination.
There are many reasons for this, not least that the decentralized nature of groups that states seem to fight (the Iraqi insurgency, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Niger Delta rebels et al) are in effect trans or sub national states, with their own criminal economy, operating in areas where there is no established government control. Organized crime, terrorism and guerrilla wars overlap and threaten to challenge the state as an institution for supremacy. This is the flipside of globalization - powers well beyond state control have been unleashed and there is very little chance of closing Pandora's box.
I've commented on the philosophical similarities between the current free-market apostles and Communists before, so I won't repeat that here. But, as you may recall, the Berlin Wall was often taken as a sign of the inherent contradictions of Communism? What does it mean then if walls are being built by India, the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Pakistan, Kuwait and numerous "failed" and autonomous regions of the world?
Mar 1, 2007
Seymour Hersh not only expands on this rather eloquently, he also throws a totally new spin on it with some rather major Iran-Contra players. I had wondered if something was in the air with the placing of Gates in charge of the military, a man who could keep his mouth shut in order to advance his career, no matter how illegal the operation. Looks like I was right to be suspicious.
I have become fascinated by the bizarre career of young Kenneth Eng, self-declared "Asian Supremacist," "God of the Universe," and author of the startlingly-titled Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate and The 0th Dimension. The 22-year-old has been stirring up controversy for his columns in San Francisco's AsianWeek magazine, where he's written a column called "Why I Hate Blacks," as well as another called, "Proof That Whites Inherently Hate Us." Here's a great quote from the latter:
Most Asians know that everywhere we go, white/black/Hispanic people hurl racist remarks at us. I have already received about 10 racist remarks in the past three months and I have only been out of my home a handful of times.
As Hyphen points out, it's hard to know which is scarier: that Eng published this poop, or that he's only been out of his home a handful of times in the past three months. The best part of all this is that now you can read some of Kenneth Eng's insane ramblings on his Amazon blog, where he describes himself as "striving against the mass of conformity that is the flesh all around me," and which recently included this gem:
I don't know about you, but I masturbate all the time. It's not going to affect me in any way, aside from making me need to take baths more often.
So true. You can also read his blog to find out more about Eng's life as a super-genius "God" who writes fantasy novels containing meaningless epithets like "lexicon triumvirate" in their titles. What does that even mean, anyway? A three-headed creature with a big vocabulary? A government run by three people with a passion for writing down every word they know? And what the hell does it have to do with dragons? Plus, why does the dragon on the cover of his book have a gun? I'm gloriously confused.
Full article available here.
But please also look at his blog for some true comedic gems.
However, many people try to avoid this freedom, precisely because they dread responsibility. I don't have to tell you about most of these, the conservatives who put faith in tradition, the Christians who put faith in being part of God's plan and every other person who constructs a worldview that puts them at the mercy of higher powers and the world in general. Victim mentalities, often where no victimization exists.
In short, we choose social roles and institutions and norms in order to escape our freedom, to give it away and abdicate responsibility. One of the most insidious of these is Discordianism, precisely because it proclaims freedom so openly and positively.
Many Discordians feel they should or actively do play the role of someone who is a bit “zany”, slightly unpredictable (though tiresomely predictable within a certain range) and given to bad faux-surrealism and Dada. I should point out not everyone is like this and there are some people who have always been like that. This is not directed at those people. Instead, it is directed at people who play that role because they feel this is how a Discordian should be and/or want to fit into the Discordian community more.
This is simply not true. You have an idea taken from an incomplete impression of the Principia Discordia, with an all too Cabbage-like need for acceptance from your chosen set of peers. In short, you laughed at all the wrong parts and took seriously the ones you were meant to find funny.
First off, you're falling into the “conformity of the radical” fallacy. That every radical group or gathering etc should have a narrowly defined set of behaviour and interests and those acting outside of it are “poseurs” or fakes of some description. Remember that bit in the Principia about people belonging to the Orders of Discordia just as likely carrying a flag of the counter-establishment as the establishment? Good.
Secondly, your actions and behaviour are suggesting to the rest of the world that you are playing the role of a Discordian, that you are an automaton whose only purpose is to act out the essence of being a Discordian. This is basically a paradox, you are using your freedom to actively deny it. “I'm a Discordian, I'm supposed to act crazy!” etc. A very interesting position.
Of course, Discordianism is no stranger to paradoxes. But normally they are used to illustrate a point in a humorous manner, or draw attention to some inconsistency in a viewpoint. Also, Discordians do have a commitment of sorts to freedom, as previously stated. Obviously everyone does, but to be fair its not often as explicitly stated.
The thing is, you can't escape freedom. By making a choice to act like your idea of a Discordian, you may be denying it, but you are responsible for your choice at the same time. So what you should really ask yourself is “is this really the best way to exercise my freedom? Or should I, as a free person, act as I see fit, instead of how I think others will approve of me?”
I know where I stand on the issue.