Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Review, Post-Production

Well, King of Ferrets, Inquisitive Raven, and I watched it and we can’t un-watch it. We paused at various spots to comment while I recorded the audio. I’ll eventually get around to editing, including taking out our silences, whether awkward or thoughtful.

One point I raised in the conversation was the stealing of cars, since there were many in the movie with “don’t take” written on them. Given that gas went up to $40 per gallon in the movie, it left me wondering: Who would benefit from auto theft? Where would the black market demand come from? On the other hand, I could understand selling them for scrap metal. Then my brother, who is a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, enlightened me to another theft motive and the flaw in my thinking.

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Power Outage and The Greatest Show on Earth

Pole in my neighborhood fell down. Curse you, outdated infrastructure!

Anyway, after finishing off Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth, I suddenly remembered I had a WordPress app on my iPod and a full battery. So, here I am. You’ll probably see a post about a dream troll right after this one. Decided I needed to get that one written down, since dreams tend to be forgettable, even if they start out vivid.

The last bit of Greatest Show had a lot on how much waste, cross-purpose, and suffering there is in the world. It helped me become aware of the vast scale of it all once again. Evolution had its part in it, but not in the way fundies harp on: Evolution is driven by competition and scarcity. There’s no grand designer concerned for our wellbeing. In some ways, it’s like unregulated capitalism. You can make money by hurting others, and without a conscious effort to curb exploitation for selfish gain, it’s accepted as business as usual. There’s no god out there regulating the biosphere, telling parasites not to be too horrible, diseases to tone down their symptoms, or telling invasive species not to reproduce into giant swarms.

There’s not even a metaphorical Gaia seeking a balance that supposedly happens the moment humans stop meddling. Sometimes that balance ends in mass extinctions and wasteland, human involvement or not. Nature often is red in tooth and claw. Balance seems more a happy accident and consequence of having adaptable organisms, rather than any top-down governing force. There’s always the possibility that a change is simply too drastic for life to find a new balance we’d like. Of course, human intervention is responsible for a lot of changes like that, not just natural disasters.

Back to the point on evolution and Creationism, this world simply doesn’t look like anything I’d expect from typical human-like deities. Especially not benevolent ones. This isn’t some Disney fantasy backdrop.

Settling for Second Worst

That phrase popped into my head just now to describe an argument that’s popular with religious fundamentalists, misogynists, and other assorted trolls.

One example that’s been in my blogosphere is Amanda Todd, and how a guy calling himself The Amazing Atheist demonstrates that you don’t have to be religious to be an asshole. Amanda was driven to suicide by an online stalker, but apparently we shouldn’t feel sorrow because she had it better than women in radical Islamic countries.

A similar attitude from the opposite direction is an argument from Gary Bauer that feminists should pipe down because they’re better off than Malala, who was shot by the Taliban for advocating women’s education. In another example, a number of bloggers were criticizing an unconstitutional heavily Christian school district, and a troll came in to ask if we’d prefer the school to be heavily Islamic, as if there were only two choices.

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Troll Roast Nostalgia, and How Evolution Undermines Racism

I took a break this weekend to enjoy being back on my laptop, but I’m about two-thirds through The Greatest Show on Earth. It’s been a great ride so far, and Dawkins does a good job of covering different aspects of evolution, examples, and, of course, the nature of the evidence behind those aspects.

Readers from my old blog might remember Gabriel the racist troll (and many probably wish otherwise). He once tried to argue that Dawkins was describing Lamarckian evolution in the book with respect to the evolution of dogs, and unsurprisingly, I can’t find anything remotely like that, unless Gabriel thought Dawkins was talking about literally chiseling their bone and flesh, despite explicitly saying he was talking metaphorically, and what was really being subtracted was their gene pool by excluding dogs with less desirable traits from breeding, or, in other words, artificial selection. The only arguably “acquired characteristics” talked about were genetic mutations, which don’t fit the Lamarckian model because you’re not changing the parents’ features to cause such mutations.

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Since it’s the thing making waves in the atheist community and I put the logo on my sidebar, I thought I’d post some quick thoughts.

1. This isn’t redefining atheism. We’re a subset of atheists who have long been interested in social justice making our existing subgroup more explicit with a label. We aren’t defining other atheists out of atheism. We’re defining who we are, not who you are.

2. You aren’t required to join. If you’re complaining about our devotion to social justice, equity, and so forth, we probably aren’t interested in signing you up, and we have no ability to force you to do so.

3. If you’re complaining about someone unfriending you from Facebook or something because they didn’t like your anti-plus speech, welcome to the internet and social interaction with other sapient beings. Just like we can’t force you to join atheism+, you can’t force other people to associate with you.

4. “Divisive“: From my point of view, the various forms of bigotry and apathy towards social justice were an existing point of division. The act of making an explicit label for which side we took in that division isn’t going to change anything except possibly bring more direct attention to the issue. What’s the problem?

5. There’s no ultimate leader. We seem to be getting some people who are accusing us of being authoritarian while simultaneously claiming to be baffled that we haven’t deified an infallible authoritarian leader. We don’t need an absolute authority, nor do we want one. This is an internet culture that’s gotten along fine without explicit leaders. We just have popular figures who act as a nexus for quickly bringing widespread attention to issues, and that’s enough for me. We’re a culture, not a hierarchical organization with a bureaucracy. We don’t have marching orders, we have suggestions.

6. There’s no “silencing” going on. Just criticism. Know the difference. We don’t have to give you a platform if we don’t want to associate with you. If an Atheism+ network doesn’t want you on their list of writers and speakers, you’ll just have to go to the many other forms of media to express yourself. It’s not like we hold a monopoly on blogging.

7. There is no dogma. There is no sacred text. There is no revelation from divine forces. I consider bigotry bad because I’ve seen some of its effects, know how its mechanisms work, and how those forces build on each other to cause inequity. I also paid decent attention in history class. I fail to see how any of that entails a leap of faith.