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The last place we need to worry about fake news is on the Internet

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Gaffes. Alternative facts. They are the reason Donald Trump is the President, and why his opponents have all failed to stop him.

All the hand-wringing against the avalanche of fake news on the Internet ignore the most important and scary aspects of the phenomenon. First, the guy in the White House, and his backers, actively employ the tactic to advance their political agendas. (So other Internet fake news are of secondary concern.) Second, fake news have been around for thousands of years.

The problem goes to the heart of Donald Trump’s successful campaign. It is the culmination of decades, nay, centuries of religious renewals, and of capitalist expansion. There are two areas where facts don’t matter: religion and business. More people have come to accept that facts don’t matter as much as the heart, the opposite of Enlightenment. And more people now accept that the primary and even sole aim of any enterprises is profits.

Barack Obama was elected at the nadir of free-market economics in the United States, when a house of cards (and fake mortgages) almost brought down the world. But he didn’t go after any of the people guilty of fleecing the rest of us. Eight years went by and not a single Wall Street CEO went to jail for destroying trillions of dollars. Consequently, he and his party became the source of evil in the eyes of many Americans, and free market crony economics staged an improbable comeback, culminating in the election of a businessman to take over the U.S. government.

The other battle in American society has been religion’s role in people’s lives, in schools, in governments. There, too, facts matter not. We are told that faith is what gives our lives meanings, that spiritual beliefs are more important that facts on the ground. Taken to its logical extreme, we can ignore everything from global warming to charter schools to discrimination. Life is so much simpler when all that matters is what you believe.

Democrats have failed to stop a single nominee of the Trump presidency, despite historically unprecedented disapproval ratings for a new president. They are losing the war because they don’t realize who they’re fighting against: white supremacists for whom money is everything. Many are too idealistic and still believe money can’t buy everything. But when everything, even schools, are for sale, it can and will.

Written by Gnostradamus

Sun, 2/12/17 at 2232

What if homosexuality is a brain chemical, not a choice?

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Biologists have shown for the first time that serotonin, a chemical known to regulate sexual behaviors in both mice and men, determines whether male mice prefer to mount males or females. The study was ingenious and worth reading in its own right, but even more consequential is the moral dilemma it poses for anti-gay and equality rights activists.

Of course, all of this discussion assumes serotonin has the same effect in men as it does in mice, a reasonable hypothesis that nevertheless requires experimental proof.

In the United States, most people are Christians, and most anti-gay activists are Christians. Many of them base their beliefs on their bible (the end of this article discusses some of those beliefs).

But if too much or too little serotonin leads to homosexuality, then reasonable people could question why a deity so against the practice would allow males of so many species to be born with a condition that renders them all but certain to adoptĀ  that practice. And why has that god not told these God-loving people that it is a chemical, not a choice?

Why have they been so wrong?

Equality rights supporters are not off the hook either. For one thing, some religious regimes will almost certainly start “treating” gay men, if not women, with serotonin, just like the way researchers turned gay mice into heterosexuals. Although less common, support may also exist in this country among some of the more virulently anti-gay groups.

Should discriminatory sentiments not decrease significantly or quickly enough, some gays who have not come out of the closet may try to change themselves through “voluntary” self-injections of the chemical.

Urgent actions need to be taken immediately in this area of bioethics.

Christian Justification

Christians who hate gays often cite the following passage:

“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

The problem is that three verses before that passage is one that calls for execution of people who curse their parents.

“For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.” (Leviticus 20:9)

Another passage is often used to justify discrimination.

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

The same book, though, called eating shellfish (such as shrimps), an abomination, not once, not twice, but three separate times.

“But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:10)

“They (shellfish) shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.” (Leviticus 11:11)

“Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales; that shall be an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:12)

You can read more about it on fallwell.com.

Written by Gnostradamus

Sun, 3/27/11 at 2124

Nuclear saviors: Fukushima 50 doing what god would not

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Nuclear Death

Photo used under Creative Commons license

Explosions, fires, exposed fuel rods. We are almost impotent watching crisis after crisis unfold at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The picture coming out is one of a loosening grip on the disaster. At the time of this writing, there are reports that spent fuel rods at the No. 4 reactor may reach “criticality” again and restart a chain reaction. The consequences would be far deadlier than at the other reactors, because these rods are stored outside containment structures, after being taken offline before the earthquake hit.

All that stopping the plant from going nuclear is 50-70 workers who have stayed, as TEPCO, the power company with a shady past and present, pulled out the other 750 workers. They have been dubbed the “Fukushima 50”, and they accept the probability of death: without protective equipment, one may not last more than ten minutes outside these reactors. The situation is so dangerous than anyone within 20 miles has been told to leave.

As CBS News described in that report, a Japanese official said his friend, one of the Fukushima 50, has told him that he was ready to die, that it was his job.

Numerous well-meaning folks have urged people to pray for these self-sacrificing heroes. Well, why won’t a god who can create a whole universe not lift a finger in these critical times?

We know, hopefully, what we would do with the ability to stop the nuclear reactions. And those 50 heroes are trying their human best. The question has been mangled by centuries of theologians, but comes down to this: would you? Ultimately, the justification is that there is some grand plan we do not understand.

Scrap the plan. Don’t try to justify preventable deaths, or you can justify anything. Only religions can make someone do that. We are better than that. The Fukushima 50 have shown we can be better than god. Remember what they are doing as you go about the rest of your life, because they may not have a chance to go about theirs.

Update: The danger of fatality may have been proved, as Japan abandons stricken nuke plant over radiation, but not before two workers went missing in a blast.

Written by Gnostradamus

Tue, 3/15/11 at 2230