Learning from 2015

Ok, this is going to be a long one. In this post I’m going to go over a LOT of the different topics and ideas I had thought about over the course of 2015 and wanted to post about but could never find the time or motivation. A lot of them I feel very strongly about but the thought of having to reiterate arguments many other people are making (and have made and will continue to make) left me exasperated. This may be my only post this year, it may not, but I wanted to at last commit these ideas to digital paper, as it were, and ensure that they were put out there. I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days and the character limit there makes it very hard to sufficiently expand upon any one point during a given discussion. The platform seems to engender, in others, at least, the desire to fire out as many discrete points as possible as opposed to making one solid and defensible claim and arguing that point back and forth. Anyway.

  • Stop misgendering people. Just stop it. Don’t make excuses, don’t say anything else, just stop it.
  • Respect people’s preferred pronouns. If you are unsure what they are: ASK the person.
  • Nonbinary people are valid. They exist, they are real and their gender and identity is valid.
  • Bisexual people are bisexual. They’re not sometimes straight, sometimes gay, they are bisexual. Understand this. Accept this.
    • Sexual orientation is a spectrum and can be fluid but a bisexual person is bisexual even if they have only had relationships/relations with one gender.
  • Feminism is not about men’s rights. Feminism is about striving for women to be equal to men in all appropriate regards. Men’s issues or inequalities do not invalidate feminism.
  • Feminism will, however, positively affect men’s rights. In an ideal world, at least. When people can remove a person’s gender from an issue those inequalities should become less prevalent.
  • Genital mutilation of anyone of any gender who cannot consent where not medically necessary is a horrific abuse of bodily integrity. To be clear, this includes male circumcision of infants.
  • Male circumcision is proven to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates [Ref] but its use as a strategy to fight HIV/AIDS in epidemic regions doesn’t undo the abuse of bodily integrity.
  • If you want to fight for men’s rights and highlight inequalities faced by men, attacking people, slandering them, throwing slurs and doxxing is NOT an effective strategy.
  • If you are Pro-Life the most effective thing you can do to reduce the numbers of abortions being pursued by Irish women is to promote #BetterSexEd
    • In statistics from 1996, Netherlands and Belgium had the lowest abortion rates internationally [Ref pg.27] and this is in large part due to their comprehensive Sex Education ethos [Ref]
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it does not define at what point an embryo/fetus becomes a “child”
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child does NOT give an unborn child/fetus/embryo a right to life because it only states “the child…needs…appropriate legal protection before…birth
  • Fighting human trafficking and sex trafficking by criminalising Sex Workers and/or their customers and the rights of everyone involved is NOT a proven effective strategy.
    • Men who buy sex and thereby create the demand that fuels trafficking have stated that greater criminal penalties, having their name publicized and having a letter sent home stating that they were arrested for buying sex would deter them from buying sex.[Ref]
    • The argument here is that men create the demand for sex work which fuels trafficking. So, instead of tackling the trafficking, we are instead making something more illegal than it otherwise would be, in order to attack a different crime. I can see how anything that reduces trafficking levels could be seen as a good policy but the reality of the situation is no matter how harsh the criminal penalties are, the demand will be reduced yes, but not eliminated. The groups and individuals who make money from human trafficking and sex trafficking may make less money, but so long as there is profit to be made from whatever demand is available this human rights abuse will continue largely unabated. Without any statistics or models to show how much demand can and will be reduced by, determining how much profit is made by these groups, factoring in the costs to these people of trafficking people it is largely impossible, I believe, to determine whether this policy will actually result in reduced trafficking of people for sex or other purposes.
    • Furthermore, Sex Workers come in many different forms and not all of them are trafficked individuals. While it’s unclear what actual effects this kind of policy will have on trafficking, it is very clear just how detrimental an effect it will have on people who are Sex Workers either by choice, by economic circumstance or other reason. It will rob them of access to proper resources for health, safety, finances, shelter and, ultimately, their life and livelihood. Because the demand will not completely disappear and because these people will still need to pay their bills, feed themselves and any dependants they may have they will be forced to operate in extremely unsafe conditions where they are in fact putting themselves at risk of being trafficked for sex.
    • Please also bear in mind that the Nordic Model uses Sweden as a litmus test for the effects on trafficking however the Swedish Ministry of Justice itself, in reviewing what effect their policies had, if any, “[acknowledged] the limitations in determining the prevalence of illegal activities[Ref]. They still said they were confident that their policies made a difference but were limited in actually determining what levels of these activities were going on. That is hugely problematic and should not be ignored.
  • Toxic masculinity genuinely affects men in an adverse manner and contributes to the abuses and inequalities they suffer.
  • Rape culture exists in a society where a claim of rape or sexual assault is met with comments of “he/she deserved it”, “just trying to ruin his/her life”, “that wasn’t rape”…
  • Rape culture affects both men and women. Your denial of rape culture hurts both men and women.
  • One feminist saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of feminism complicit and culpable in that persons abuses. Likewise one MRA saying horrible, indefensible shit does not make all of Men’s Rights complicit and culpable in that persons abuses.
  • No matter who or what you disagree with, no matter how fiercely you hold your position, your strongest, most effective weapons are 1) Rational Discourse 2) Evidence 3) Arguing the point, not the person and resisting any and all urges to Argumentum Ad Hominem.
  • If someone is slinging shit at you in a discussion you do not win by slinging shit back. You win by successfully articulating and defending your position. Anything else is probably a waste of your time.
    • Some people with a probable MRA connection have told me that they throw shit at feminists online because some people with a probable feminism connection threw shit at them. What, are you 4 years old? If you want to further your cause in an effective manner, wasting your time trading Ad Hominems back and forth is a waste of everyone’s time and it only serves to fuel any potential backlash from others who are more than happy to waste their time throwing shit instead of furthering their own cause. It doesn’t matter who started it, be mature enough to cut it out anyway.
  • No matter what anyone else writes or says or does, make up your own mind. Articulate and defend your position. Question and reinforce your position.
  • DO NOT provide sources/data in support of a particular claim/position you are making if the sources/data do not conclusively support your claim/position.
    • For example, if you provide a graph that shows that the number of male suicides in a given date range increases while government spending in prostate cancer research goes down over the same date range while government spending on breast cancer research goes up over the same date range you CANNOT use this to prove a claim like “feminism is killing men”. The reason for this is because you are not actually doing proper science or statistical analysis. Your data could be used to support ANY number of claims because there are too many other factors involved. “Feminism” is far too vague as a factor. The graph does not provide statistics on government spending on mental health, which could be a far greater factor than “feminism”, it does not include statistics on private funding for the different research areas, it does not show statistics on female suicide rates which could show instead “feminism” is killing both men and women however this still too vague as a factor. I could go on but I won’t. This is bad science, bad statistical analysis and bad logic. Don’t do it. Correlation does not equal causation.
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Abortion on Demand

Life is precious.

This is an important phrase. Anti-abortion campaigners use this phrase to try and force us to see a foetus not only as an example of “life” but also as something “precious”. I’m not going to rebut these implications, many others have done so and probably in much better fashion than I could. I find, however, that this phrase is one of the most compelling arguments in favour of abortion. Life is indeed precious. Precious things require a lot of dedication, a lot of resources, a lot of time and often a lot of love to protect them and nurture them. Love, time, dedication and resources are not simply things that can be plucked from the air on a whim, however. These things come from other people, and at a higher level of abstraction, they come from society. Life is precious, yes, but life is also a burden, one most often borne by other people.

So why, then, do we insist upon forcing more and more burdens upon not only other people, whose lives we should have very little say over, but society as a whole? This oh so wonderful country we live in likes to utter the phrase “Abortion on Demand” with such bile and vitriol that one would be forgiven for assuming this act they were speaking of was akin to raping a child while forcing it to watch it’s parents bleed and die. I’m not being reactionary or sensationalistic, one need only listen to the many debates that have been had over the years in the Irish media to hear the implied horror and disgust infused into the phrase.

It’s interesting to deconstruct the thinking behind these utterances. The common criticism of widespread provision of abortion as a family planning option is that if there were Abortion on Demand, Irish women would be having abortions every other week and it would promote promiscuous and unhealthy behaviour. The reality, however, is that Irish education standards where sex and sexuality is concerned are shockingly lacking and it all boils down to the pervasive attitude in Irish society that sex is dirty and wrong and anything to do with sex that is not a beautiful bouncing baby (or a half dozen) is immoral. The reality is that an estimated 10 Irish women (and their partners, in some circumstances) every day travel to England for the express purpose of having an abortion. I was on a plane to Manchester with some of these women in 2011. They were quiet, they looked anxious and they seemed deeply saddened by their situation. The reality is some of those potential babies were deeply wanted.

The reality is pregnancy and delivery and nursing and diaper changing and teething and potty training and childcare and medical bills and all the hundreds of other complications that bringing a child into the world thrusts upon a parent, these are not things that everyone can survive and more importantly these are not things that everyone wants to go through. The reality is many women end up unwillingly sacrificing their dreams, their careers, their education, their financial stability and their happiness in order to go through a pregnancy they do not want or cannot handle. Because other people give them no other choice. Because any other choice would make them cast out and ostracized. Because they can’t afford to travel outside the country. Because society tells them what they want is not the important. Because society tells women “once you get pregnant, there is no way out.”

The reality is Abortion on Demand does not end lives, it saves lives. It saves the lives of women from situations they do not want or cannot cope with. The reality is if Abortion on Demand is what the women of Ireland deserve after so many decades of religious and patriarchal domination at the hands of men who think they can tell women what to do with their own bodies. The reality is, Abortion on Demand is the future of Ireland.

Peace,
dj357

In Focus: The Bible

A lot of the time Christians will point to the Bible and say, “look, Jesus said if we believe in Him, and accept the rest of the stuff regarding how we live our lives etc… we’ll be rewarded with eternal life at His side.”

If I took you aside and said, “Look, I have this magic door, okay? Now, imagine the most utopian situation you can. Naked, buxom women everywhere, money, fame, whatever you like. Right, now if you just believe in me, when you walk through that door, it will all be waiting for you there.”  You get that look on your face like it’s all far too good to be true, but your reticence is tempered by your imagination and desire. You hum and haw and you spend a few minutes trying to peek behind, around and even through the magic door but all to no avail and so then you cunningly ask me what the catch is. To which I smilingly respond, “Well, if you don’t believe in me and you walk through that door, you’ll find eternal pain, torment, damnation and suffering with no hope of any form of reprieve. Ever.”

This is Christianity’s offer. Would you seriously consider it? Seriously…? Or would you realise that it is not quite the “offer you can’t refuse” it appears to be and simply tell me to go fuck myself?

Peace,
dj357

Objectivity means caring about Truth

This, however, has clearly flown right over the head of Fr. Vincent Twomey, a retired Professor of Moral Theology. He prepared a series of course work for Hibernia College, a teacher training college in Dublin, and his course notes in the religious education module dealing with non-religion made claims such as “What bothers very few of its latter-day exponents is the fact that atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…” and “Atheism has had, historically speaking, a negative effect on society.”

Listening to this clip of Mr. Twomey speaking with Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, one may notice that Mr. Twomey makes a large effort to try and claim that both his course work and Catholicism in general are, indeed, objective. As the title of this blog post says, however, being objective means caring about truth and claiming that “atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…” means throwing truth out the window, thereby discounting any form of objectivity.

As mentioned by Michael in the audio clip Nazism, Fascism and Marxism are all unique ideologies entirely distinct from both atheism (itself not an ideology) and humanism. Furthermore, humanism is an ideology that is exquisitely focused upon preventing large-scale suffering, which is completely at odds with the results of Nazism and Fascism. I won’t delve into the issue of atheism in Nazi and Fascist parties and states as Michael covered enough relevant examples in the audio clip and in many of his recent debates, but I will reiterate that neither Stalin nor Hitler committed their crimes against humanity on the back of a lack of belief in God/god(s)(aka atheism).

To be objective one must favour truth and fact above all else, and Mr. Twomey’s thinking is cleared clouded by his Catholic education. It would be hard, I’d imagine, to be a Catholic Priest and a Professor of Moral Theology and be wholly objective and critical when discussing religion.

Peace,
dj357

World Atheist Convention: Day 2 (Super, Super Late Edition)

As I haven’t been blogging for months, I completely missed the fact that I never actually posted this piece. While it’s remarkably out of date (back in June for cripes’ sake!) it’s still got enough content in it that I can’t leave it sitting in my drafts. Enjoy!

[08/06/2011]
Unfortunately due to a lack of internet access and other things during the weekend I wasn’t able to keep hugely up to date with blog posts on the conference and I also missed the early sessions on Sunday morning, which is a shame as I missed the awesome Maryam Namazie who I hear was on form as ever, but I’m here to add my voice to the many others reporting from the event.
Continue reading

Why Do We Believe?

It’s been a long, long time since I blogged, so I think it’s time I got back into the swing of things. Let’s start with a deep question, why do we believe?

Why do we believe that a 2000 year old jew lives on in some sort supernatural plane of existence and interacts with us on a daily basis? Why do we believe that there will come a day in the near future when the entire world faces judgement at the hands of the Abrahamic God and only the worthy will be ‘saved’ while the rest will suffer eternally? Why do we believe that there is a life after death?

Often times it’s said that it comes down to where one is born and raised and the pre-existing beliefs of one’s friends and family that defines what we believe. While this certainly tends to shape the flavour of our beliefs, I think the belief itself pertains far more to an internal requirement than any external factors. A lot of people tend to proclaim “well, you have to believe in something, right? Otherwise, what is there to believe in?” This seems to speak to an internal requirement that there be something greater than ourselves to believe in. In my travels and discussions and internal ramblings it seems to me that this is far more indicative of having a belief in something supernatural than merely place of birth and upbringing.

This has only recently become a coherent thought in my head, and it needs time to develop so I may revisit this in the future but I felt it was necessary to get it out there and potentially get feedback from others on it. So, what are your thoughts?

Peace,
dj357

Beliefs vs. Fact

This has long been a debate of various sorts and forms in the non-believing community but I think I’ve finally figured out how I want to phrase my argument in relation to it.

We have these things called beliefs, that quite often are not based on evidence, yet are still robust, rational and logical. For example “I believe that peanut butter and jam make a good sandwich filling” is a rational belief as I’m basing it upon my own experience and the experience of others. The problem with beliefs though is that they can quite often be wrong and can also disagree with both established consensus and even reality itself. For example “I believe that I can see Angels who guide me through life and watch over me.” On the one hand, a lot of people don’t share this belief, and on the other there’s no actual evidence for it outside of one person’s subjective experience.

We also have things called facts. These puppies are a hell of a lot more useful. For example “so long as the Earth maintains it orbit around the sun, the sun will always rise the next day” this is an established fact. We can link the rising of the sun to the structure of our solar system and based upon that establish logically and rationally that the above example is indeed a fact. The important thing to note here is the details may differ or change with new scientific understandings or discoveries, for example it could potentially happen that the times we now attribute to sunrise and sunset across the globe could migrate slowly forcing us to alter our current timezone system (it’s not likely, but certainly not impossible) but still the rising of the sun would remain a fact. So too can we say that while the individual mechanics underlying the Theory of Evolution* may change, or more rather our understanding of those underlying mechanics, the theory as a whole is an undeniable fact.

That word “undeniable” is a key one though. With beliefs one simply believes or disbelieves. With facts, however one can accept it or deny it. While accepting it requires no active belief (we don’t believe in gravity, we accept it as a fact of nature) denying facts requires some active belief. To deny a fact such as gravity, one needs to actively believe either that people are wrong and it is not a fact or believe that universe does not in fact function the way the so-called fact would imply.

This important distinction between disbelief and denial is rather profound and it’s effect can be seen in modern parlance. People who doubt that Hitler and his Nazi government put millions of Jews to death during WWII are not called Holocaust-disbelievers. The Holocaust is not a belief to be debated upon such as Deism or Theism etc… it is an established fact of history. To doubt the Holocaust happened is to deny a fact of the world. As I mentioned above, some details may change over time, we may yet uncover secret documents that detail that someone other than we thought was actually signing the orders in Auschwitz for the murders (unlikely) but the overall fact will remain a fact.

With all this in mind I think it’s time we stop asking/responding to questions in the form of “Do you believe in [insert established scientific fact here]” and start demanding that the question become “Do you accept [insert established scientific fact here]”

I do not believe in a God or gods. I do not “deny” God or gods as they are not Fact. I do not “believe” in Evolution, I accept Evolution. These are important phrases and important kinds of phraseology that I think would serve not only the non-believing community well, but mankind in general also.

* – It’s NOT just a theory. It’s a Theory.