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To see the Fnords!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Have you ever encountered a new word only to realise it’s everywhere now, or – even weirder – that it was always there all along? It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. It’s happened to me a numerous times, for instance with the word ‘copacetic.’ To my knowledge the first time I ever was aware that anything could be copacetic, was while reading Worm by Wildbow. I’ve since discovered the word in numerous books, tv-shows, songs etc. where I could have sworn it didn’t exist before I read it in Worm.

Today, however, brought with it an even stranger example. I’m a big fan of Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games. Appropriately I have an account on their forum because of this. Every year on my birthday the forum automatically sends me this amazing little e-mail gem:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
The Illuminati are watching
Everything that you do

It’s an annual joy, to be honest. Today is the birthday of one of my dear friends, and – being the plagiarist that I am – I decided to steal the irreverent birthday greeting. Hold up. Fnord? Did it always say ‘fnord?’ For the last four years I’ve been reading it as ‘fhtagn!’ Sure enough. Looking through my inbox, it’s always been ‘fnord’ and not ‘fhtagn.’ I’ve been perceiving it wrong for over four years.

So what does ‘fnord’ even mean? Well, according to Wikipedia…oh. Oh, wow.

Apparently ‘fnord’ – the word I’ve been unable to see for so long – is an Illuminati conspiracy word, which is supposedly characterised by people’s inability to see it. ‘To see the fnords’ is idiomatic for the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

I have finally seen the fnords in regards to the fnords.

I credit my recent excessive playing of The Secret World.

Excessive Playing

It’s clearly made me more receptive to piercing the conspiratorial veil of secret societies.

I’m off to buy a tin-foil hat before I forget about the word ‘fnord’ again…

Or it could just be a coincidence.

Yes, keep telling yourself that, sheeple.


Thoughts on #Shirtstorm

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

matt_taylor_esa_shirtDr. Matt Taylor recently landed a spacecraft on a comet. He also happened to wear a shirt depicting scantily clad women to an interview. He subsequently issued a teary apology for his choice of apparel. My Facebook feed has since split in two. One half (mostly men but with exceptions) is outraged at Taylor’s treatment. The other half (mostly women but with exceptions) sees his shirt as symptomatic of the scientific community’s treatment of women.

I don’t think there’s actually (more…)

Neil deGrasse Tyson makes a bad philosopher

Friday, April 27th, 2012
Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple of days ago there was a minor kerfuffle between Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, and Neil daGrasse Tyson, the equally friendly astrophysicist, over the correct usage of the term ‘atheist.’ It wasn’t very interesting to me. Neil can call or refrain from calling himself whatever he wants. To me anyone who lacks a belief in gods is an atheist, but that’s how I choose to use the word. Some people use it differently. That’s fine. If they object to be called an atheist, I will respect their wishes even if I personally happen to think they are one. I share Neil’s disdain for arguing semantics. If both parties have (more…)

Plantinga’s Naturalism Defeater

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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Way back in the distant past of 2010 Justin Brierly over at his show ‘Unbelievable?‘ moderated a discussion between philosophers Stephen Law and Alvin Plantinga. The topic of debate was Plantinga’s infamous argument that the conjunction of naturalism and evolution renders cognitive reliability improbable. The conjunction is therefore supposedly a defeater against believing in the truth of beliefs produced by our cognition; including the belief in naturalism and evolution. Naturalism, says Plantinga, thereby undermines itself.

Image of Alvin Plantinga released by Plantinga...

Alvin Plantinga - Image via Wikipedia

The discussion is interesting and well worth a listen. Although I think both sides could have made a stronger case. The moderation was mostly fair. However, I couldn’t help my bemusement that Plantinga was consistently ‘Plantinga; one of the world’s greatest philosophers of religion etc. ad infinitum‘ while Stephen Law had to make do with being just plain old ‘Stephen Law.’ I mean, sure, what do I know? Perhaps Plantinga just has these Übermensch qualifications to rival even The Stig while poor Law is inexorably left behind in the dust of mediocrity. But it did become increasingly comical in iteration as the show progressed.

The first part of the show was naturally dedicated to (more…)

A Majority of Gawkers are Unable to Comprehend Percentages

Sunday, September 25th, 2011
Logo of website gawker.com, for use in article...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s this post over at Gawker with the shocking headline “A Majority of Icelanders Believe in the Existence of Elves.” What is the basis for this outrageous claim? Why, this study reported on Iceland Review, of course, which found that only 8% of Icelanders believe that elves definitely exist.

I must have skipped one too many math-classes in school and missed the one about 8% constituting a majority. Even if you add the amount of people, who believe in the likelihood of elves to the ones believing they definitely exist, that still only makes 25%

Gawker must have misread, right? The following, however, is part of their direct quote:

Only 13 percent of participants in the study said it is impossible that elves exist, 19 percent found it unlikely, 37 percent said elves possibly exist, 17 percent found their existence likely and eight percent definite. Five percent did not have an opinion on the existence of elves.

What the Hell, Gawker? Didn’t you even read what you were quoting? Okay, let’s be charitable. It’s true that a majority of Icelanders (62% > 50%, see how that works?) believe the existence of elves is at the very least possible. That’s fine. So what? So do I. Since elves aren’t, to my knowledge, logically self-contradictory there is a possible world at which elves exist. It might even be very close to ours.

I don’t really understand the questionnaire placing “possibility” between “unlikelihood” and “likelihood.” Unless the likelihood of something is either zero or one, it has no bearing whatsoever on the possibility of said something. Perhaps the researchers intended “possibility” in a more colloquial sense, but if so then they can hardly lament ambiguity in their results. In any case a majority believing in the possibility (no matter the sense) of something isn’t exactly sensational.

Intelligent Design’s Abject Failure

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

I shall argue that Behe’s Irreducible Complexity fails to invalidate a proper understanding of Darwinian evolution by natural selection by considering three ways in which evolution might adequately explain seemingly irreducible complexity. I shall then argue that even granting Behe the falsity of evolution is insufficient to establish an Intelligent Designer. Lastly, I shall couple Behe with Dembski’s argument for reliable empirical indication of intelligent causation, and show this strongest version of Intelligent Design to be a fallacious argument from ignorance at worst or most charitably understood as an ultimately unwarranted inference to best explanation.


It should be noted that (more…)

Spacetime Worms

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Except for the occasional sceptic, we all believe that things persist through time (Loux, Readings, p. 321).

Endurantism and perdurantism are the views that temporal persistence of a thing is respectively explained either by its existing wholly and completely at different times or by its having three-dimensional parts at different times, which constitute a four-dimensional whole – or ‘spacetime worm.’ Since these two views usually arise from two different temporal ontologies, namely that of presentism – only the present exists – and eternalism – time is a dimension on par with the spatial dimensions – I shall treat endurantism and perdurantism as interchangeable with their intuitively corresponding ontologies.

Since I am torn on this issue rather than trying to convince the reader I shall devote this essay on an analysis of why perdurantism, which is the view to which I lean the most, appeals to me but why I am still hesitant to embrace it fully.

Scientific Considerations

I should be a perdurantist because I believe that GPS is reliable and that the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old. The connection to persistence is not immediately obvious. However, both beliefs are reliant on Einstein’s theories of relativity. In his book, Parallel Worlds, Michio Kaku explains how crucial relativity is to the reliability of GPS.

Michio Kaku

…in order to guarantee such incredible accuracy, scientists must calculate slight corrections to Newton’s laws due to relativity, which states that radio waves will be slightly

shifted in frequency as satellites soar in outer space. In fact, if we foolishly discard the corrections due to relativity, then the GPS clocks will run faster each day by 40,000 billions of a second, and the entire system will become unreliable (p. 257).