Here’s a wonderful TED talk by Carl Schoonover, full of fascinating information about the how we see inside the brain, the history of cell staining, and different cutting edge research tools. But it has a problem. I tried to embed this, but WordPress won’t accept it for some reason. So please just click on the link below.
This guy really knows what he’s talking about. He’s a scientist. He knows the state of the art. I’m fairly sure he isn’t a creationist. I’m sure he isn’t arguing for Intelligent Design. But he ends his talk, speaking of antibody staining and green fluorescent protein, with: “These are functions that we could use in our own research tool pallet. And instead of applying feeble human minds to designing these tools from scratch, there were these ready made tools right out there in nature developed and refined steadily for millions of years by the greatest engineer of all.”
No doubt he is speaking of evolution and nature as “the greatest engineer of all”. But what a dangerous way to put it. Personifying evolution and nature gives the I.D. people the impression that there was intelligence behind these developments. These tools were not developed by “the greatest engineer of all”. They came about as a result of evolution and natural biology. Let’s not confuse the fundies any more than necessary.
I’ve watched that video clip of the American Apache helicopter murdering civilians, two of whom were a journalist and her driver, in Baghdad a couple of times recently. Each time I watch it, it gets worse. There is something that is is such a contrast between the disciplined request “Permission to engage?” and the callous disregard for human life displayed by what I presume to be a very young soldier. No, calling him a soldier insults all soldiers. Soldiers face the enemy, and risk getting killed. This guy is just a technician. He’s sitting back about a quarter of a mile away, with technology doing all his work for him. All he has to do is push the button. I’m not going to call him a soldier. He’s like those drone operators in America, thousands of miles away from any danger, who kill people half way around the world. Somehow America has found a way to filter out humanity and create killers with no conscience who can be trained to hold back until unleashed, but who actively itch to be unleashed and allowed to kill.
The language use is also instructive. “Come on. Light ‘em all up.” Not “Kill them in cold blood.” but something that sounds more like setting off a Fourth of July fireworks display.
“We’ve just engaged with all eight individuals.” Is this kind of one sided slaughter really engagement?
And what is his comment when he learns that he’s murdered children? “Serves them right for bringing kids to a battle.” A battle? This was a battle? No, this was not a battle. This was a cold blooded massacre. Does this kid think he’s a glorious fighter for democracy?
So many questions flood my mind when I watch this clip: What kinds of filters does the military put on its training to get rid of people with any sense of humanity or compassion? How do they test their recruits, and find the ones who have no heart, the real killers, the sociopaths?
I imagine this murderer, this heartless, compassion free, monster going back to America. He finds a girlfriend. He gets married. He goes into business. He’s a hero, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He gets respect. He’ll probably be very successful. How many people will recognize him as the monster that he is?
Since this clip has been released, and gone viral, will he be able to hide from his past, from what he’s revealed himself to be? Will he laugh it off. Will he strut and wear that T-shirt about loving to kill, loving to hear the wailing of the widows and children? Will he turn to alcohol and drugs? Or will he go to church every Sunday, and make sure the kids go too?
Well, who cares about him? My question is, how do we protect society from rapacious killers when we have an institution that filters them out of the population, trains them, rewards them, and then sends them home to blend in among the good people we see all around us.
If anybody thinks we don’t need Wikileaks, they should watch that video clip a few times. Then think about what we know, what we don’t know, and what we will never discover without organizations like Wikileaks shedding light on behavior that should sicken us all.
You may have noticed a reduction in my output lately. It’s all the fault of the Freethought Bloggers. They scoop all the good material, and they get the hundreds of comments. I’m left with just personal stuff, of varying quality. Self indulgent pablum for the most part, like my last post on manliness. This is all okay. I’m happy to have the good people at Freethought Blogs take all the thunder, and the glory. Unless I have something of value to contribute, I don’t see the point of making noise.
Which brings me to Convergence. My partner and I are going. And now I understand that PZ and the Skepchicks will also be there, including my partner’s new favourite, Natalie Reed. These people are giants in the blogosphere, legends in their own time. I’m so very happy I’ll be in the same city as them, let along the same convention venue. Who knows, I might even get to meet them. How cool is that?
And now that I’ve got your attention, once again let me direct you to the Lutheran Church of Australia website. I’ve been having a chat in the comments under their latest posting, which is also an entertaining read. These are very unusual Christians. They actually seem to be open minded. Who’da thunk it.
Today I was thinking about Custer’s line in “Little Big Man”. “I never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.” Now I know he was supposed to be a fucked up dysfunctional character in that movie, but I wonder how many men have been taught this definition of masculinity, and how many believe it? I have at least one former friend who believes it, and it totally messes up his relationships. I see two things wrong with it. The first is: What the hell is the problem with showing weakness? Or admitting to weakness? And what exactly is weakness? Is weakness a lack of guts, a lack of courage, a lack of resolve? Or is weakness something else? Some kind of moral failing? Some kind of pansie ass inability to “man up”?
"I never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."
Hand in hand with this idea that men shouldn’t show weakness is the idea that men shouldn’t ever cry. Where does this come from in the definition of manliness? If a man has a good reason to cry, why should he maintain an iron grip on his tear ducts and refrain? For the sake of image? For the sake of “manliness”? I just don’t get it. Why should men not show their emotions?
For me, the definition of courage is not that one doesn’t feel fear, and even show that fear. Courage means feeling the fear and acting correctly anyway. When I say acting correctly, I mean acting in accordance with my true values, in accordance with what I believe to be the correct and necessary course of action. If a man feels no fear, where is the courage when he does something dangerous or faces something threatening?
Women are subjected to a huge amount of gender stereotyping in our culture. They often find it insulting and restricting. And I think people often forget that men also have a lot of stereotyping to chafe under.
I see no problem with crying when the occasion calls for it. When my grandmother died, when my uncle died, when my father died, when my mother died, all of these occasions called for tears. Why in hell should those tears be denied?
I’m personally quick to apologize if I think I’ve done something wrong. It seems like the only correct thing to do. It seems cowardly not to apologize, if an apology is called for. And a quick apology can do wonders to defuse an ugly situation. I remember once when I had inadvertently damaged another man’s property, and he was hopping mad about it. He wanted to fight. I said, “Hold on a minute. Let me say something. You are one hundred percent right, and I am one hundred percent wrong. Now what can I do to fix this? Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.” It was interesting to see the man’s anger subside, and I do not think he took my words as a sign of weakness.