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Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Facebook, Likes and Big Data

I suppose you could call it ironic. There was a story from a ‘friend’ on my Facebook news feed today called “Quitting the Like” all about escaping Facebook’s data collection processes by simply not “liking” items or comments you see. Right below this ostensibly anti-Facebook story were three related links produced by one of the […]

Politics and its Discontents: I Rather Like This, Don’t You?

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Politics and its Discontents: Recognizing Harper For what He Is

Last evening I watched a PBS special on the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Archival footage spanning over 50 years of the group and their times reminded me of the passionate and committed century I grew up in, a time that saw people marching en masse to protest the Vietnam War, to advocate for civil rights, etc. Outside of the Occupy Movement, rarely has this century seen such activism.

I often think that the forces of corporatism, aided and abetted by their government enablers, have been very successful in largely muting, if not totally silencing, the spirit of protest. (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hate Crimes Against Non-believers Growing

We all know about the hate crimes religious believers commit against one another, against people of a different faith. It’s headlines news, almost daily. Protestants against Catholics. Sunnis against Shiites. Muslims against Christians. Hindus against Muslims. Buddhists against Muslims. Christians against pagans. Christians against Jews. Muslims against Jews. Cults against anyone and everyone against cults. […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Evolutionary Dead-Ends

Some people seem genetically inclined – perhaps I should write doomed? – to believe in nonsense: believe in conspiracy theories, in myths, legends, superstitions and supernatural, in magic, in pseudoscience and pseudomedicine. Nothing – no amount of fact, truth, education, reason or contrary evidence will change their minds. The harder you try to correct them, the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Rights Without Responsibility

“Why do online spaces often feel so fractious?” asks Helen Lewis in a thought-provoking opinion piece in The Guardian last week. It’s something I’ve been pondering for many years. It’s not just the internet, or even social media, nor is it our increasingly uncivil and impolite society: it’s the technology that seems to be dividing […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Pinnacle of Homeopathic Stupidity

“Have Homeopaths Reached Peak Stupid?” asks the headline on Quackometer.net. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting dumber than a belief in homeopathy (aka The One Quackery to Rule Them All), but apparently there are higher levels within their madness that homeopaths continue to scale. This, however, looks like their Everest of stupidity. The story in question […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Comets, Aliens and Conspiracy Wingnuts

The European Space Agency has accomplished one of the greatest engineering and scientific achievements in human history this past week. Not only did it get a space vehicle into orbit around a comet travelling at more than 55,000 km/hr (34,000 mph), it landed a probe on the very rough surface of that comet. Outstanding, brilliant, superb… […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Camping’s madness carries on

Harold Camping has been dead for almost a year, but his legacy lives on. Not just in the broken dreams of his deluded followers, but in the many lives he destroyed through his madness. You would have thought that, having predicted the end of the world several times, and been wrong each one, because of the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Debunking Homeopathy. Again.

Homeopathy. It’s absolute bunk. But you already know that. All those forms of ‘magic medicine‘* are bunk, of course, but homeopathy has a special place reserved for it in the kingdom of codswallop. Codswallop is dangerous to the mind, and often to your wallet, but homeopathy compounds that by being dangerous to your health, too, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Social Media, Public Opinion, and Jian Ghomeshi

I doubt anyone in North America is unaware of the furor surrounding CBC’s recent firing of radio show Q’s host, Jian Ghomeshi last week. In case you were on the moon when it happened, you can read some of the many stories on the Star and other news sites (just Google it…). It’s a complex story; about […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Crito: Doing What’s Right

In his dialogue, Crito, Plato has Socrates gently admonish his friend, Crito, for his concern over what the uneducated public might think, or might spread by rumour and gossip, and encourages him instead to focus his attention on those ‘reasonable people’ who know the facts and in doing what is right: “Why, my dear Crito, should we pay […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Logical Fallacies

Last night at council I referred to seeing what I believed was a post hoc fallacy in a report, or more properly a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Yeah, I probably annoyed some folks in the audience because I used Latin words and that confused them. But hey, they already think I’m a jerk because […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Skepticism Too Easily Slides Into Cynicism

Years spent in the media, plus decades of independent practice as a writer and social critic honed my native skepticism into a protective psychological barrier against a wide range of social ailments and inappropriate, often dangerous beliefs. It has made me question motives, statements, logic and conclusions, and search for the underlying truths. It motivated me to explore, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Ebola Panic

Ebola has gripped the imagination of North American media and been spun into a terrifying spectre looming like a horseman of the apocalypse over us. So widespread has it become that Jenny McCarthy, one of the top wingnuts of quackery and pseudomedicine, and poster girl for the pro-measles-pro-mumps parents, felt compelled to pipe up with her […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The mote and the beam

“Hide witch hide, the good folks come to burn thee; Their keen enjoyment hid behind a Gothic mask of duty.” Jefferson Starship: Mau Mau (Blows Against the Empire, 1970) I was thinking about those lines recently. They seemed appropriate given the events in town since last spring. I was also thinking about what Gord Hume […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: “A” Personalities: A Theory

When someone tells me he is an “A-type” personality, I cannot help but think of the title of Aaron James’ bestselling book: Assholes *A Theory (Anchor Books, New York, 2014). After all, what else would the “A” stand for when someone boasts to the audience he is an alpha male as if the rest of […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Myth of Block Voting

I was amused by a recent comment I had voted “95%” the same as others on council. This was followed by the inevitable accusation of “block voting.” The complainer apparently wants everyone to vote in some helter-skelter manner. God forbid we should all agree on anything. It’s a tired old campaign tactic: to accuse your opponents of being […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Their Shoddy Potemkin Villages

In 1787, the Empress Catherine II took a long trip to the Crimea along the Dnieper River. She wanted to see how her subjects lived. Not wanting her to see the actual poverty and hardships of the peasants, her lover – and the region’s governor – Grigory Potemkin, had pretty, fake villages of canvas and […]

Politics and its Discontents: About That War Thing

I am dismayed over the general collective amnesia that has once more taken hold of political leaders and the public over the latest so-called world threat. In the solution being embraced, few seem to remember the abject failure of past incursions in the Middle East, incursions that only gravely exacerbated existing problems. It is as if hysteria has replaced critical thinking.

But my dismay is ameliorated, however slightly, by evidence that at least some have retained their faculties sufficiently to call into question the current prevailing ‘wisdom’ that says ISIS is a clear and present danger to all of us, (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Plato’s Apology

Plato records the trial and death of Socrates in four dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo. I’ve been reading The Apology this week and finding in it references that reflect well in today’s world, particularly in politics.* In The Apology – which meant defence in Greek, not saying sorry as it does today – Socrates defends […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Reflexology: another daft New Age idea

As medicine, reflexology is bunk. Just like iridology and phrenology. Of course, you knew that. But not everyone does. Reflexology popped up recently in a shared post on Facebook (a popular venue for moving codswallop and cat photos from one user to another at the speed of light…). Coincidentally it appeared right after a post promoting a […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Utility Animal

In the July/August edition of Pets Magazine (the Cat Care issue) there are two articles that caused me concern. One is “The Loyalty and Bravery of a Cat” (p.28), the other is “Quick-Thinking Cat Saves the Day.” (p.26). The latter is a pet profile from the Purina Hall of Fame that honours pets for “extraordinary […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Trolley Problem

I had read about the “trolley problem” in the past, but not given it much thought until recently when I saw Thomas Cathcart’s little book of that name in the philosophy section of an Indigo bookstore. It’s subtitled, “Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the bridge? A Philosophical Conundrum.” I, of course, was so […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: No Data Are Better Than Bad Data

The full name of an article I read today is, “The Fallacy of Online Surveys: No Data Are Better Than Bad Data.” It’s from 2010 and very good. You can find it on the Responsive Management website. It makes some key points about the invalidity of online surveys: For a study to be unbiased, every member […]