Irony in the Title

Satire, Sarcasm, and Irony- Why can’t the Conservative Right do it intentionally?

Posted on July 12, 2012. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Humour, Irony in the Title, Personal, Politics, Religion, Social Justice |

Or….

Meta-Irony and my Infinite Gladness

So this graphic popped up on my Facebook feed today:

I commented on the irony of it all, which prompted one of my conservative friends to ask me if I couldn’t recognize satire.  Oh, I recognize satire alright.  Only, this isn’t it.

See, satire is supposed to be ridiculing an opposing position.  It is supposed to make the plain reading of the text absurd.  I don’t get that here.  I get that it is supposed to be sarcastic (clue:  a reference to “gay ideology”)- I also think it misses the mark.  There is nothing particularly absurd about telling Christian kids that their bible based views are not sacrosanct.

In this case the author of this graphic attempted to use sarcasm as a tool to ridicule people who refuse to give special privilege to ideas because they stem from fundamental Christianity. They attempted to use satire by mocking the It Gets Better campaign launched by Dan Savage.  It may seem to be sarcastic (and satire) to a fundamentalist Christian, but it strikes me as a form of meta-irony, where the sarcasm actually paints a relatively positive spin on the very issue (s)he was trying to skewer.  So if it is satire, it is horribly ineffective.  Even as sarcasm it misses the mark to a non-myopic audience.

It is ironic because the author meant to use sarcasm and instead ended up coming up with a pretty good idea.  It is probably in the interests of everyone to educate young Christians that once they exit the bubble of a public school system that walks on egg shells and a social circle their parents have some control over- they will be mocked, vilified, marginalized and ridiculed.  It would be positive for all of us if they went into the world understanding that religion is no excuse for sloppy logic, gross generalizations, and Bronze-Age morality.

But I only said ‘God doesn’t suffer a woman to teach’!- I’m just following the bible“- is not going to cut it in the real world.  “Any man who lies with a man as he does with a woman is an abomination and should be put to death” – is totes fine if you happen to be with your fellow Christian brothers, but it won’t win you brownie points in the office staff room.  The real world is waiting.  The rational world is waiting…..

Maybe we ought to think about telling them that “It Gets Worse”

 

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Daily Horoscope: Polaris Software- A Critical Analysis.

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Irony in the Title, Random, Science |

Note From George: Many of you already know that for the last several days I have been wading into the astrology debate over at Jason’s blog, Lousy Canuck.

During the original debate, we were invited by Jamie Funk to join in on the discussion at his astrology blog where I first encountered James Alexander and his brief explanation of Polaris; a computer software developed for “rectification”.  James has now joined the debate on Jason’s blog, and has once again brought up Polaris as evidence of astrology’s ability to make falsifiable predictions.  During this debate, I have offered James the opportunity to test Polaris as a proof of astrology and he seems genuinely interested in putting it to task.  In the interests of giving a fair shake to James, I would like to give him the opportunity to guest post his own interpretation of Polaris, which I will not edit save a disclaimer that the views are his, and post it on my site.  I welcome his comments about my interpretation, which I am offering here.  I would forewarn readers that this is a 4000 word post with no jokes and little pointed language, and will likely be a tl;dr for anyone not interested by astrology or with vested interest in our ongoing discussion.  Feel free to read my Summary  just above the fold to get a brief overview of this post.  Unless you are James.  Then you should read it and explain in some detail what parts are factually wrong, as well as proofread it for spelling and grammar.  (that’s my only joke folks, you have been warned)  All quotes or information attributed to James is available at the Polaris link or in comments on my blog and Lousy Canuck.  I will be happy to clarify the source upon request.

Jason has offered to post on his blog the parameters and eventual results of this test of Polaris on his site, once James and I have agreed on terms and begun the test.

Overview

  • Rectification can cause “warm readings” as opposed to “cold readings”, the potential for non-astrologically gained information and/or the discounting of information should be considered as fostering confirmation bias.
  • It is feasible to create a PRNG (Pseudo-Random Number Generator) that would perform better than chance without the aid of astrology.
  • The odds quoted by James are fundamentally flawed
  • Many of his corollary statements are misdirecting, flawed or incorrect
  • By widening the scope of what would pass for a “hit” for Polaris, the odds of the “uncanny” become far better.
  • Polaris is deserving of a test in spite of my basic criticisms (more…)
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Daily Horoscope:Mars May Be Conjunct Jupiter, But Your Head Is In Uranus.

Posted on August 17, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Irony in the Title, Science |

Edit:I changed the grammar of the title in response to James’ criticism.

Note From George: There is a more lengthy criticism of Polaris in my follow up post Daily Horoscope: Polaris Software- A Critical Analysis.

After a month long hiatus, Jamie Funk is back for round 2 over at Lousy Canuck.  Well, sort of.  He has re-joined the fray now that Robert Currey has come in to defend astrology with something resembling a real argument.  I do not by any means agree that Robert’s argument is anything short of trying to obfuscate the debate, but he at least came to the fight with a weapon; even if it is just pepper spray at a gun fight.  I can summarize the new flavor of the debate like so:

1. Astrology doesn’t need a mechanism.  It also apparently doesn’t need to have a quantifiable effect.  In fact, it doesn’t seem to need anything other than a 3000 year pedigree and some nifty anecdotes.

2. Astrologers are not responsible to give any evidence to prove that astrology works.  Science needs to prove a negative so that astrologers can critique these studies as faulty.  Scientific method be damned.

3.  Skeptics continually disregard “hits” out of hand.  Even if those hits are based on ambiguous guesswork that could be viewed as a “hit” no matter which way the winds blow.

4.  Astrologers like to insist that we divulge our personal information rather than subject their “field of study” to any semblance of a scientific assessment.

Why I Am Not Convinced.

Not suprisingly, Uranus is a Gas Giant- What effect that has on me, I don't really know...

Astrologers, in my mind, need to show that their “field of study” has some measurable effect in the world we live.  Before we can postulate a mechanism, we first need to see the need for a mechanism.  There has to be some phenomenon that can best be explained by astrology, and this would make a mechanism necessary.  Astrologers do not seem to agree with this.  They think we should prove that astrology has no effect, at which point they can decide if our proof is sufficient to discount astrology or not.

Then, out of the blue, James Alexander comes into the discussion.  Those of you who have read my Daily Horoscope series would be familiar with James, both as the poster I referenced from Jamie’s blog and the author of the Polaris link I gave in DH: You’re in a Circle Jerk With The Confirmation Bias Fairy.  You might also remember the open offer I gave him in DH: There Will Be A Test.

Polaris: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

To reiterate what I said before:

Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, but likely not the brightest computer program...

A poster named James mentioned Polaris, a computer program that he described as being indisputably predictive in calculating birth times.   I should have caught on when the process was referred to as “rectification”, but the temptation of a program that was testable and falsifiable blinded me to its obvious flaw.

The process is called “rectification”, I know now, because it uses your built in confirmation bias to re-jig your birthtime based on past events in your life.  The idea is this:

Subject A either has no registered or confirmable birth time or feels that his/her birth time was miscalculated by timepieces at the time of their birth.

With the foreknowledge that astrology is more accurate at calculating birth times then, say, a clock or watch which was invented solely for the purpose of time keeping; Subject A gives a list of significant events from their lives and a list of probable birth times and Polaris extracts the most likely one based on a points system.

How eminently scientific!  I can still see how this program could be used to disprove itself though.

Let’s say someone bought the program, gathered birth time information on several individuals using clocks that are accurate to the millisecond, witnessing and documenting firsthand the indisputable birth times.  Wait say, 20 years and input events from those individuals lives and a wide range of birth times and voila, the indisputable birth time must surely emerge!

Not Fair?

I’d like to know why, without any confirmation bias “that was the time they were supposed to be born” bullshit that I can hear already spewing from the credulous assholes mouth.

I’ve already proposed how to use this program in a less scientific way to at least lend weight to it’s credibility.  I’m still open to takers:

From James’ comment at Funk Astrology.

Hypothesis: That the time of a persons birth can be calculated with better than average accuracy using the dates of a series of unrelated events in their lives.

Experiment:  Provided with a list of ten (10) unknown subjects information including date of birth, place of birth, and several important events in their lives, the astrologer will be able to calculate their known birthtime within an insignificant margin of error.  These calculations are to be statistically more accurate than the guesses of 5 non-astrologers.

James didn’t want to address my concerns with Polaris a month ago, and certainly has not seemed to keen to address them now.  He claims that the odds of Polaris working are 1 in 1440 yet when I look at his example on the Polaris link I find this information:

She sent me over 40 events from her life, mostly with exact dates. I took 38 of these events (the ones where the dates were most accurately known) and entered each of them into Polaris. I gave the software a search range of an hour on either side of the supposed birthtime. This entering of events goes quite quickly. In about a minute (time dependent on computer speed), Polaris examined every 8 seconds in birthtime throughout the range and gave the following table:

Don't know you're "real" birth time? That's why we invent astrology software!

With an hour on either side,and examining every eight seconds, you’re chances look like 1 in 900. But if we consider the fact that many people don’t have birthtime to the second, we must consider what range of “hits” would be considered uncanny to the person who has a rough birth time. Let’s suppose its just ten minutes either side of their birth time. By my math that equates to 1 in 6.
So I question the method, not the significance of it’s results.

I am left with the impression that his statistical skills are a bit lacking.  He has succumbed to his own confirmation bias.

I still leave my original offer open though.  I would gladly offer him the chance to set up a rigorous blind test of Polaris’ efficiency at calculating birth times.  I’ll even allow him to help shape the parameters so that his program can get a fair shake.  I doubt he will take the offer though, I just thought I would give him the chance he says every other skeptic won’t.

What Will I Do If You’re Right?

This sphere exerts more gravitational pull on her than Jupiter- It also is just as likely to give her useful information about her life...

James, if you win, if Polaris can be seen to fair better than chance at calculating birth times, I will gladly take up your cause.  I will stand behind you 100% on Jason’s site, and I will admit to everyone that astrology is plausible.  I will give Jason and Glendon and Stephanie all the data we gathered together, and defend it as more than mere coincidence, proof that there is SOMETHING to astrology.

I will also post a retraction on my site saying that I was wrong to criticize astrology, outlining all the evidence I collected from our study, and you could link to this post with reckless abandon every time a skeptic questions astrology.

So let’s have a go then.  Let’s put your program to the test.

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Daily Horoscope: You’re In A Circle Jerk With The Confirmation Bias Fairy

Posted on July 20, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Atheism, Irony in the Title, Personal, Religion, Science |

This will likely be my final post in the impromptu series Daily Horoscope based on our conversations with Jamie Funk and his astrology minions.  It might be resurrected for future discussions about astrology, but after calling the subject a wash over at Funk Astrology, I feel it is time to move on.

I must admit that I am a little underwhelmed by the whole thing.

The closest I came to gleaning anything new was in the  Dealing with Skeptics and Associated Trolls page at Funk Astrology.  There I got some insight into the lack of admitted predictive power in Astrology from Parin, where she corrected my misguided assumption that astrology believes the movement of celestial bodies directly correlates to seemingly unrelated events here on earth.

See, I Had No Idea

I honestly thought this was a good, albeit simplified definition of astrology:

Astrology:  The belief that the movement of celestial bodies has a quantifiable effect on people and/or seemingly unrelated events in people’s lives.

I am forced to walk away with a definition more like:

Astrology:  The belief that you can take any person or event and decipher possibly corollary traits or information in the movement of celestial bodies.  Any information deciphered may or may not be meaningful, impactful, or predictive.

That really leaves me believing that Astrology is no more useful or predictive than a “cold reading” by an astute observer.  Kind of like watching the Mentalist on T.V. where he uses astute observation to figure people out.  That, to me, seems a glorified parlour game, a fun round of friends “predicting” things about each other based on known or observable behavior.   Except these people stick a “Supernatural” label on it and charge money for their insight.

By these peoples own definitions, astrology is just guesswork and subjective extrapolation from known quantities.  It is not special.  It is not magic.  It is fun and games, and expensive at that.

A Glimmer of Hope Becomes A Ridiculous Joke

I also had a moment over at Jamie’s blog where I thought we were on to something.  A poster named James mentioned Polaris, a computer program that he described as being indisputably predictive in calculating birth times.   I should have caught on when the process was referred to as “rectification”, but the temptation of a program that was testable and falsifiable blinded me to its obvious flaw.

The process is called “rectification”, I know now, because it uses your built in confirmation bias to re-jig your birthtime based on past events in your life.  The idea is this:

Subject A either has no registered or confirmable birth time or feels that his/her birth time was miscalculated by timepieces at the time of their birth.

With the foreknowledge that astrology is more accurate at calculating birth times then, say, a clock or watch which was invented solely for the purpose of time keeping; Subject A gives a list of significant events from their lives and a list of probable birth times and Polaris extracts the most likely one based on a points system.

How eminently scientific!  I can still see how this program could be used to disprove itself though.

Let’s say someone bought the program, gathered birth time information on several individuals using clocks that are accurate to the millisecond, witnessing and documenting firsthand the indisputable birth times.  Wait say, 20 years and input events from those individuals lives and a wide range of birth times and voila, the indisputable birth time must surely emerge!

Not Fair?

I’d like to know why, without any confirmation bias “that was the time they were supposed to be born” bullshit that I can hear already spewing from the credulous assholes mouth.

I’ve already proposed how to use this program in a less scientific way to at least lend weight to it’s credibility.  I’m still open to takers.

Hi-jacking Science For Stupid’s Sake

The final comment in Jamie’s post at the time of this post was also cross posted at Lousy Canuck by “Chris”.  It is a tempting idea for astrologers, and one that is inevitability quite wrong.

I approach Astrology as an art in that I use it to “paint” a picture of a person, place or time. Some say that Astrology mirrors rather than predicts. Astrological forecasting is somewhat like meteorological forecasting- they look at jet streams and air currents and put it all together to give you their interpretation of the most likely outcome. Sometimes they’re wrong. They are as much of an artist as we are. As astrologers, we look at planets, stars, moons, (and a lot of astrologers use the transneptunian objects as well) etc. and notice unfolding patterns, and then give our interpretation. I think that eventually, with the study of fractals and chaos theory, scientists will be able to conclude that Astrology can be explained through the paradigms of those scientific standards. We don’t move around in space, we’re part of it. Everything has its own energy, and makes more of a difference than you think it does.

How do I know this is wrong?

Apart from the first paragraph which basically underlines my first point about astrology being nothing more than “guessology”, Chris goes on to co-opt some of the most counterintuitive and confounding subjects in physics and mathematics to lend magic where none exists.  To a layperson, conjuring chaos theory and fractals is just like conjuring magic, a surefire way to obfuscate a bunch of superstitious hooey under the cover of science.

If you believe that science will save Astrology,I can tell you it won’t happen.

  • Did science confirm the theory of a creator?  Well, no.
  • Did science confirm a flat earth?
  • A firmament?
  • How about a global flood?

You see, every time an ancient civilization desperately searches for a causal explanation for something they have no answer for…….. a myth is born.

To believe that this one time, ancient civilizations were on to something when every other causal agent they conjured of curiosity and imagination has been so squarely proven false; that is confirmation bias…that is credulity.

I still leave the offer open to anyone who wants to have a reasoned discussion, I just hold little hope of reason.

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Daily Horoscope: Pay Attention, There Will Be A Test.

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Internet Etiquette, Irony in the Title, Personal, Science, Trolls |

Author’s Note:This post is a continuation of my previous post Daily Horoscope which can be found here.

Over the past week I have been neglecting my readers (admittedly there are 5 of you or so) who have been waiting for my next post in the Apologetics and Apostasy series.  I apologize for being such an ungrateful host.

I have, for the past several days, been sidetracked by an ongoing debate with astrologers over at my friend Jason’s blog.  The previous post does a good job of explaining the basics for those readers who are new to this debate.

To this point, the astrologers have predictably stayed within the realm of the  “bob and weave”, effortlessly floating like a butterfly knowing that they have nothing to sting with.

Their core argument:

  1. You don’t know me.  Why you hatin’?  You don’t know me.
  2. You’re just hatin’ cuz you’re a sad, empty skeptic.
  3. You don’t know jack about astrology, bro. You can’t hate on what you don’t understand.
  4. I gots yo “evidence” right here, right behind this here zipper.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m not overly impressed with the quality of the debate thus far.

I’ll put this out there:

I am a skeptic, yes.  I do not believe the onus is on me to go brush up on astrology.  I admittedly know close to diddly friggin’ squat about boomerang yods, conjuncts, trines and quincunxes and what effect, if any, astrology assigns to these things.  I know this reads to the astrologer as “George can’t be bothered to learn about the subject” and to a degree, that is a valid criticism.

Every skeptic I have ever met believes in one core idea: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • That stellar bodies several light years away from earth have a noticeable effect on the lives of humans is a pretty extraordinary claim, if only because it flies in the face of everything we can observe scientifically here on earth.
  • That the time I was born has a measurable effect on my personality or future events in my life is an extraordinary claim, not least because it has only been discussed anecdotal with a hefty peppering of confirmation bias.
  • That astrology is a repeatable phenomenon, that it can be used predicatively to gain insight into future occurrences, as opposed to anecdotally after the fact to “predict” that things happened just as they should; this too is extraordinary.

To Any Astrologer Reading This:

If you have evidence of any of these claims I am more than open to consider them.

Expect skepticism, expect questions, don’t just expect credulity.

I am open to new ideas.  I won’t discount real evidence on it’s face.  I will discount bald assertions and anecdotes.  I will rightly question beliefs that fly in the face of logic and common sense.  If you don’t have evidence, what you have is credulity, blind faith in something that you care not to question.

That’s not me.

That’s not how my brain works.

Explain it to me, please. Offer good evidence, useful falsifiable predictions, something more than “that’s just the way it is”.

If you expect me to invest hours upon hours of my time to prove/disprove a claim that is this fantastic, this counter-intuitive, this magical, then give me some hint that I’m not wasting my time chasing rainbows.  Offer me some hard evidence, then leave it to me to do the rest.

Here are a few ideas:

From James’ comment at Funk Astrology.

Hypothesis: That the time of a persons birth can be calculated with better than average accuracy using the dates of a series of unrelated events in their lives.

Experiment:  Provided with a list of ten (10) unknown subjects information including date of birth, place of birth, and several important events in their lives, the astrologer will be able to calculate their known birthtime within an insignificant margin of error.  These calculations are to be statistically more accurate than the guesses of 5 non-astrologers.

or

Hypothesis: That astrology can be used to predict some future events within a statistically insignificant margin of error.

Experiment:  That given time to pick fifteen(15) astrologically significant dates over the next two(2) years, the astrologer will be able to predict the location and nature of several seemingly random and unrelated events with a margin of error significantly less than that of the Null Hypothesis.

I’m offering you olive branches here guys, a chance to wow us with the veracity of your methods.

I know full well that there is no way to set up a completely scientific analysis of astrology in an internet forum.  I do believe, however, that in order for me to prove you “cheated” at any of these tests, I would at least be forced to make some pretty extraordinary assumptions.

That would count for me as “good evidence”, not irrefutable, but sufficient to require further study on my part.

You may also like to offer testable hypothesis of your own.  I am open to new evidence that I have been sorely mistaken about astrology for all these years.

You have the floor guys, make the most of it.

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Daily Horoscope: Saturn Is In Aquarius And Yet You’re Still A Giant Dick

Posted on July 16, 2010. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Internet Etiquette, Irony in the Title, Personal, Science, Trolls |

Jamie Funk has hijacked my favorite blog.

Jamie Funk is an astrologer, and by that virtue alone he is also a quack.  I’m sure he is a fantastic father, a loving partner to his spouse, maybe even a nice bloke to sit down with over a pint of suds.

None of these facts take away from the fact that he charges folks money to tell them what the heavens are doing in their lives, and the basis for all his advice is absolute crap.  It might be good advice, it might even be sage advice, but it is advice that is derived from drawing semi-random and completely irrelevant chords in a circle and then generating utterly vague predictions about their future.

Even better, he likes to make a habit of taking known events and explaining how his method predicts that they would happen.  It’s silly really, because:

  1. If he does have a teachable and consistent method, he can only choose those events that confirm his method and avoid those events that refute it.
  2. He can choose only those planets and movements that confirm the event and set aside those that are inconsistent with the event.
  3. If he has no consistent method, he can just make stuff up that sounds real astrologyish and show that his method explains any event.

My guess is that if someone asked him to pick a day in the near future, any day at all, that had lots of astrological significance happening, and make a real concrete, falsifiable prediction about what would happen that day he would dodge the offer or outright decline.

He should be able to make a prediction like:

On July 30, 2010 at 4:57PM PST an earthquake will strike the city of San Francisco, injuring thousands.

OR

The MaxMillions Draw for Friday, July 16th,2010  in Canada will be won by a Pisces, born on March 12th, 1979 at about 4:26 AM EST.

He won’t make any specific predictions, because he knows that they can be falsified, and as a result he would be proven false.  How about if he made 20 predictions over the next 9 months and he only had to get a hit on 25% of them?  I suspect he wouldn’t do that either.

Why?

Because Jamie knows that what he does is pure guesswork.  There is nothing more than entertainment value to the money he bilks from his poor shills.

I’m sure, if Jamie reads this, he will ignore it, or attack something other than my key points:

  1. You cannot make testable, falsifiable predictions using your method
  2. You can offer no peer-reviewed research backing up the claim that any method of astrology is accurate in making predictions
  3. You use your method to explain things we already know happened and therefor there is no way to independently verify the method.

So Jamie, if you’re reading this, understand that I am not attacking your methods, I’m not even attacking astrology, and I’m certainly not attacking you.  I’m calling astrology out for what it is-a giant load of bunk that is no more valid than just making up advice for people off the cuff.  I’m asking you to stop dodging the issue, “shit or get off the pot”, so to speak.   If you don’t want to answer these concerns, which are the exact same ones made by Jason in his post-then stop hijacking my favorite blog- go back to entertaining your audience.  Don’t be surprised though, if we call you out again for misrepresenting reality.

Jamie Funk’s Horoscope for Saturday, July 17th 2010-  There is a foreign body entering Uranus.  If you relax a bit more today, you might enjoy the experience.

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