Friday, December 30, 2011

Love and autism

This article in The New York Times discusses issues arising when people with Asperger's syndrome and other autistic-spectrum disorcers enter into romantic relationships:
Only since the mid-1990s have a group of socially impaired young people with otherwise normal intelligence and language development been recognized as the neurological cousins of nonverbal autistic children. Because they have a hard time grasping what another is feeling — a trait sometimes described as “mindblindness” — many assumed that those with such autism spectrum disorders were incapable of, or indifferent to, intimate relationships. Parents and teachers have focused instead on helping them with school, friendship and, more recently, the workplace.

Yet as they reach adulthood, the overarching quest of many in this first generation to be identified with Asperger syndrome is the same as many of their nonautistic peers: to find someone to love who will love them back.
I believe that the mainstream LGBT community's emphasis on hyperemotionalism compounds the difficulty for queer Aspies. As one gay Aspie puts it:
In general normal gay men scare me. They're all feeling and illogical behavior and that just doesn't sit well with me.

But you told us that this sort of thing never happened.

In an article in The New York Times on African-American films, we read:

EARLY in Dee Rees’s film “Pariah” it journeys into a Brooklyn strip club where scantily clad young black women gyrate to a sexy, foul-mouthed rap song. Lascivious customers leer, toss money and revel in their own unbridled lust. It is a scene that could have been in any of “the hood movies” that once proliferated or even a Tyler Perry melodrama in which Christian values would be affirmed after this bit of titillation.

But in “Pariah” the gaze of desire doesn’t emanate from predatory males but A.G.’s, that is aggressive lesbians, who, in a safe space where they enjoy the fellowship of peers, can be true to themselves.
But I thought that lesbians' (supposed) lack of interest in such things was part of the evidence for lesbians' (supposed) moral superiority to us mere mortals, especially gay men. What gives?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The straw atheist and the straw Christian

We all love to debate about religion, but where's the fun if we have to debate what other people actually believe instead of some ridiculous straw-man version? I therefore present to you the straw atheist and the straw Christian, based on screamingly inaccurate assertions that "everyone knows" to be true.

The straw atheist

Atheism is an intellectual monolith. All atheists believe in the aspects that you find most objectionable of the writings of Richard Dawkins, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Ayn Rand (or, rather, what you think those people wrote). In particular, all atheists, without exception, are nihilists and moral relativists who worship science as their god and who think that there's nothing particularly wrong with adultery. It is therefore perfectly appropriate to put any atheist on the spot to defend any of those things.

Politically, all of atheism is the (circle whichever applies: Democratic, Communist, Libertarian) Party at non-prayer. Atheists claim to want to be left alone, but they're actually plotting to take over the United States Government and repeal the free-exercise clause. Atheists are particularly plotting to outlaw all Christian symbols, even on private property, and all public mention of Christmas.

Atheists are angry with God (and how that works is something that you will have to figure out for yourself) for not letting them fornicate and do drugs. They probably had something bad happen to them that made them even angrier with God.

Atheists are mostly either angsty teenagers or social-skills-challenged losers. The latter use atheism as cover for their inability to get laid.

Atheists are atheists because they have never been told about Jesus. Once they hear your superior arguments, they will immediately convert to Christianity.

The straw Christian

Christianity is a theological monolith. All Christians believe in the aspects that you find most objectionable of Catholicism, evangelical Protestantism, Pentecostalism, and Mormonism (or, rather, what you think those branches of Christianity teach). You needn't worry about Eastern Orthodoxy, since it doesn't exist. In particular, all Christians, without exception, take all of the following as necessary for salvation: young-earth creationism, transubstantiation, priestly celibacy, the use of priestly vestments, a rejection of everything not found in the King James Bible, and teetotalism. It is therefore perfectly appropriate to put any Christian on the spot to defend any of those things.

Politically, all of Christianity is the conservative wing of the Republican Party at prayer. Christians want to remove themselves from everything worldly, except when they're plotting to take over the United States Government and repeal the establishment clause. Christians all want certain passages of Leviticus written into secular law.

All Christians who are still Christians in adulthood are unintelligent, either because they have always been that way or because they did too many drugs before converting. Christians who somehow make it to good universities deconvert while there. They may pretend to remain in the faith to give themselves cover for their inability to get laid.

Christians hate not only gays and Democrats, but also people of different races, poor people, and the handicapped. Christians are superficially incredibly nice, but once they discover that you are not exactly like them, the knives come out.

Christians are Christians because they have never been told of any other options. Once they hear your superior arguments, they will immediately convert to your religion (or deconvert altogether if you are an atheist).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quote of the week

"[Y]ou cannot give politicians the power to impose good choices alone. When you give politicians the power to impose good choices, you necessarily give them the power to impose bad ones as well." — A. Barton Hinkle,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kim Jong Il was no true Scotsman

... although he supposedly enjoyed his Scotch.

Kim Jong Il's death has put North Korea into the headlines, and the true believers are trying to argue away the failure of their world view by saying that countries like North Korea are not truly communist or socialist. This is, of course, an example of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. If this argument is taken to its logical conclusion, then true communism, like a true Klein bottle, cannot exist in our world.

Quote of the week

“We are fighting the caste system with capitalism.” — Milind Kamble, a Dalit contractor, in The New York Times

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today's vocabulary word: omniscience

omniscience, n. the state of knowing everything; a special privilege belonging to gods, undergraduates, talking heads, and no one else. Omniscience, while one of the most awesome divine attributes, is also one of the most fragile; it dissipates like the dew as soon as one has to do or say something that matters in the real world.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Quote of the week

"Sometimes we do find the words to express an idea, and only then realize what a stupid idea it is. This experience would suggest that our thoughts are not as clean and beautiful as we would like to believe. Instead of blaming language for failing to capture our thoughts, maybe we should thank it for giving some shape to the muddle in our heads." — Arika Okrent, In the Land of Invented Languages

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Your denial of X is evidence of X.

One of the favored thought-terminating clichés of the politically correct crowd is to assert that by denying something or failing to recognize it, you are thereby demonstrating it or even demonstrating that you suffer from it. I've previously commented on the application to privilege here. This blogger has also used it recently in another context:
The whole tranz thing boils down to old-fashion misogyny and homophobia. If you can’t see it, then I suspect you are a misogynist and a homophobe.
One could use the same non-argument to "prove" the most ludicrous claims, e.g., that Baphomet has spiritually blinded the world and that if you don't see this, Baphomet has spiritually blinded you, too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today's vocabulary word: fair

fair, adj. favorable to me; in accordance with what I want

Friday, December 9, 2011

Quote of the week

"In science, you insist most loudly on a fact based on how much it has withstood independent peer review. In politics, it's closer to the opposite—the more debatable a point is, the more it becomes necessary to insist (often in the face of contrary evidence) that the conclusion is backed by scientific consensus." — Matt Welch, Reason, January 2012

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some gay men are from Venus; others are from Vulcan.

In discussing heterosexual relationships, people often say that men in general prefer report talk ("Just the facts, ma'am"), while women in general prefer rapport talk (conversation as a form of bonding). Gay men can fall into either camp; the difficulty arises when people assume that just because we are all gay men, we all communicate in the same way.

A good summary of the distinction between report talk and rapport talk can be found here:
When men talk to each other, they report. They talk about scores, highlights, events of the weekend, new car performance – the list is endless. In their report talk men condense their stories and edit out the details to get to the point quickly. Women, however, are wired for rapport talk. Details are important to women. We don’t want the abridged version; we want the whole nine yards. As we talk, we discover who we are and why we think the way we do. We process as we discuss. We resolve issues as we converse. We talk it through. Somehow our hearing, speech, and thoughts are all interrelated, and we need to have all three working at once to express ourselves fully.
I tend to fall into the report-talk camp. People have called me the strong, silent type; I say what I think needs to be said, and that's that. I have known gay men — all of them working in a scientific or technological field — who are the same way. Other gay men tend to be rapport talkers who process as they chatter endlessly about anything or nothing.

The problem arises when someone assumes that other gay men use the same communication method that he does or, worse, that they owe it to him to do so. He may feel emotionally walled off from his partner, or he may feel inundated by a tidal wave of irrelevant babble. He may even wander into "Never try to teach a pig to sing" territory and insist that his partner change to suit him. To bridge the gap, we should remember that different gay men think in different ways and that there's nothing wrong with that.