Friday, August 30, 2013

And we think we know what rape looks like

And we think we know what rape looks like.

Another stupid meaningless equation that Simon Moore probably wishes he’d written

If this site was named for anything in particular, it was stuff like this.

Look. At the state. Of that.

Simon Moore: making shit up isn’t science

The Daily Mail reports that

Finally, scientist discovers recipe for the perfect 99! Flake should sit at 45 degree angle and ice cream should be -15°C

I don’t know what we scientists have been wasting our time with doing things like curing cancer and trying to protect everyone’s privacy.

The ‘scientist’ in question is Professor Simon Moore, a psychologist at London Met.  He doesn’t seem to be actually a professor, but that’s OK because he’s a shit.

Simon Moore is one of those ‘scientists’ who is available to comment authoritatively on absolutely everything regardless of whether he has any expertise in that area. He’s a journalist’s wet dream. He’s bound to be on countless speed dials.  Every time anyone has money burning a hole in their pocket and wants a vaguely sciency-sounding piece of made-up crap, not-Professor Simon Moore steps up.

Here are a few things he claims to have professional expertise in:

  • The perfect 99
  • Pheromones
  • Hot or not: the rules of attraction, love and sex
  • Violence in movies
  • The secret lives of cars
  • The safest music to play when driving (Coldplay, in case you’re wondering, which I sincerely hope you are not)
  • The best volume for driving music
  • Hot drinks promote warm feelings
  • How to make your house a home (he’s suddenly an ‘environmental psychologist’ in this article, whatever one of those is)
  • Weird psychological tricks to make customers happy
  • Proof that astrology is nonsense (duh!)
  • Why crying is good for you
  • Flirting
  • Proof that men really do prefer blondes
  • Why people like horror

And on and on and on and fucking on.

You might be thinking that this man isn’t motivated more by money than learning. Perhaps he really is a towering intellect and a true renaissance man. You might think that, but you’d be wrong.  I picked this quote from him entirely at random. It was the first quote from him outside the ice cream article that I found. Ask yourself: is this something a proper scientist would say?

A psychology lecturer has defended the low age restrictions of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight. Simon Moore, who researches violence in films at London Metropolitan University, said few children would be adversely affected by Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in the 12A-certified film. Dr Moore said: "You can't say the stimulus of a film is going to have an effect on all children. If that was the case, why aren't there any reported stabbings in cinemas?"

I blame the media more than I blame Moore. He’s quite clearly a money-grabbing egotistical wanker, but it’s the media and companies driving truckloads of money into his house who are the real villains.  They want a sciency-sounding reason that their Stupid Shit of the Day is true and they have no intention of doing anything more strenuous than using the first button on their speed-dial.

It’s Wakefield on vaccines all over again, no lessons have been learned. People died, but journalists didn’t think they might change their behaviour.

There’s another guy who does this, isn’t there? He has the perfect formula for everything anyone asks him about, regardless of how little sense they make. I seem to remember he invented a formula for the perfect arse, or something, having been told by his patron that whatever his exhaustive research uncovered it would be Beyonce who had the perfect arse.  Or maybe it was the perfect legs or the perfect walk or something. I doubt it would have made the slightest difference to the result.

Personally, I couldn’t give the slightest fuck what angle the flake is stuck into my 99. I care when they cut the flake in half and stick it in like it's a full one, though. Bastards.

Edit: I was wrong. It was Jessica Alba: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/sep/01/1

Whoever she is.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pervasive?

I’ve been reading some Neil Gaiman books recently and started thinking about gods as depicted in fiction. 

When the god in question is one of the monos, he seems to be almost always the one true god, even if the author is an atheist.  There aren’t any other gods flitting around.

When there is a pantheon of gods involved, there usually seems to be other panthea as well.  If you find a Norse god in a novel, it seems to be the rule that you’ll find Greek gods as well.  And Hindu ones.  And maybe gods from no particular tradition that exist because people believe in them like Pratchett’s Anoia: the Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers.

In fact, neatly, there are examples from both Pratchett and Gaiman, since they have both written books with many panthea of gods and they co-wrote a book about a monotheistic god.

I’m sure there are loads of counter-examples.  Perhaps irreligious authors from a Hindu tradition write books featuring just the Hindu gods, I’ve no idea.  But I’d quite like to find out.

It just struck me as quite interesting.  Is this something to do with the pervasiveness of religion?  Do we cultural monotheists, even if we’re atheists, still on some level see pantheistic gods as somehow less real than the already unreal monos?  Or am I just reading too much into it?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Changes

In 1987, Volkswagen ran an advertisement in the UK, which turned out to be hugely controversial.  Here it is:
Volkswagen Golf advert ~1987
EVERYONE WENT STARK STARING INSANE.
That’s because the song (Changes by Alan Price, which was used in the 1973 film O Lucky Man!) used the tune from a Hymn (What a friend we have in Jesus).

This was seen by many in Britain as unforgivably blasphemous and there were endless far-too-serious news reports and letters to editors and comments on current affairs shows.  “How dare they?”, people said, “how DARE they use an old song that happened to use an even older tune from a yet older poem to sell cars?”  Even my very Christian parents seemed uncomfortable about the fuss. On the one hand, it was just a tune.  On the other, everyone else was calling it blasphemous, so maybe they should too?  I think in the end they took one side each as a sort of no-guilt compromise and refused to speak of it ever again.

It’s not as though religious music hadn’t been used in adverts before.  I can’t help but speculate that the advert’s featuring a powerful woman taking matters into her own hands and making her own decisions might have had something to do with the ire.

But I think it shows (anecdotally) how the Church of England’s grip on the UK has loosened over those few years. It seems inconceivable that there’d be such an outcry now.  The grip is still there, but I sometimes feel optimistic that it’s hanging on by the fingertips.  The CoE still has far too much impact on this country. Too many people jump when they pop up and shout boo.  The media swivel their eyes and ears to clergy when something bad happens. There are too many clergy in the House of Lords.  Also, we have a House of Lords.

But the vast majority of people, even, I think, the vast majority of Christians, just don’t care about stuff like this any more, which has to be a good thing.

My father in law reminded me yesterday of another example. Until 1994(!) it was illegal – with some exceptions – for shops to open on Sundays.  The reasons were almost entirely religious, of course. It was often justified by the claim that Sunday trading would pressure employees into work and away from their families but nobody was particularly fooled.  And when that changed in 1994, the country didn’t collapse.  Shops just hired feckless teenagers to work on Sundays and the worst that happened was that everyone had to put up with sullen, disinterested service. Considering this is Britain anyway, it was hard to tell the difference.

And now, of course, the most devout of Christians happily shop on Sundays. They already did, in fact, in those areas that were oddly exempt prior to 1994, which happened to be those things that would be particularly inconvenient if they weren’t allowed.

Anyway, changes indeed.  Changes for the better.  I see worrying trends in the UK.  We have creationism in schools.  We have schools refusing to ‘promote’ (i.e recognise as not bad) homosexual relationships.  We have interfering bishops and media terrified of upsetting the religious.  We have Sharia courts and religious schools.  I’m not convinced these are blips and there are countless more inequalities to tackle.

But we also seem to be moving closer to secularism both continuously and apace.  When I look back over 25 years or so, I can’t help but feel the warmth of optimism in my blackened, shrivelled heart.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It’s the same evidence, we just analyse it differently

 

The Conservapedia entry on Elevatorgate (the incident, not the troll) is hilarious.  I won’t give too much away because I don’t want to spoil the joy of reading it, but a couple of things stand out right from the start:

1. At no point does the entry actually describe what happened during the incident or what Rebecca said about it in her video.  It calls it “an incident which occurred in an elevator” and that’s all it says.

2. The whole thing was about Richard Dawkins, didn’t you know?  It’s about how Richard Dawkins is a bad man because he’s an atheists and atheists are bad people.

Most of the article is about the negative impact Dawkins has had on his beloved atheism because of Elevatorgate.  Oh, and the global decline of atheism compared to the explosive rise of Christianity occurring as a result, naturally.

Enjoy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lividity

I’ll keep this short.

If you have a good reason to believe someone is a rapist, your duty is to warn potential victims. It’s very bad when people are falsely accused of rape but incalculably worse when people are actually raped. There is simply no contest.

So be as sure of your facts as you possibly can but don’t be scared of naming names because of what might happen to you. 

Another thing: accusations are real things. Repeating them isn’t breaking some kind of code of fucking silence. It has to be OK to repeat allegations. Let’s be aware of the consequences of doing so, yes. But let’s also be aware of the consequences of not doing it.