A Long Overdue Stirring of the Proverbial Pot

Good morning, folks, it’s good to be back. I have a few minutes to spare, and plenty of anger to share. Let’s go West to East today, just for a change…

Item 1: 79-Year-Old Man Attacked by Panhandler in Vancouver Church 

Ok folks, you know the drill: half of the people who read this story (not here, I expect – we do have a certain tone and type of morality shared with our readers) will say “Execute him!”, and the other will say, “That’s terrible, but society is to blame for that man being on the streets”. Curiously, I’m feeling a little of both right now.

As some of you may remember, I volunteer extensively in my community, and therefore feel justified in not giving money to panhandlers – donating time to solve the problem seems better to me than throwing money at it to salve a guilty conscience. That said, even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t give money anyway. Many of the purported ‘homeless’ that I see daily are reasonably well-fed and able-bodied. Some, contrary to my own form of logic, take it upon themselves to gain additional mouths to feed by getting a dog. Many are obviously on the streets voluntarily (most of these are young people), and are commonly tattooed and pierced beyond reason to emphasize their ‘rebel’ status. There are those homeless that have legitimate mental health issues, and I do genuinely feel sorry for them, but there are programs in place to help, although they often prove woefully inadequate. It is not the mentally ill or those legitimately suffering from poverty that I am singling out however, it is those who have adopted this ‘lifestyle’ by choice.

And that’s the key word in this instance: choice. I’m not sure why they think that just because you have decided that society doesn’t work for you that I have to assume some sort of responsibility to support you and respect your choice. In this case, it’s not an ‘opting in/out’ proposition – you don’t get to decide what the values are – those are decided collectively and over time. The Protestant work ethic, or whatever modern version of it prevails today, is the dominant one. I may not like it, you may not like it, but that doesn’t give us the right to refuse to play. The paper is filled with jobs, even here in the Maritimes, and despite your obvious proclivity for tattooing snakes on your skull, if you’re able-bodied, you can work. I am not responsible for the voluntary choices made by others. I volunteer in order to help those who are at a disadvantage through no fault of their own, and that is the best way, in my view, to effect change – legitimately and through positive action, not through withdrawal and the expectation that society’s teat will be there for you. You decided not to play, remember? You are not, therefore, entitled to the benefits of team membership.

I know I’m going to get some negative feedback on this, but I’m here to share my opinion, so share I shall.

Item 2: Parapsychology Conference Claims Scientific Legitimacy

This is a gem. The gent in question asserts that the approach taken by the participants in the conference are conducting a “regular scientific and scholarly conference“, but with a difference. This conference is distinguished by the application of metaphysics (phenomena outside the realm of scientific explanation), and that “Science is good at studying a lot of things, but not everything.”

No, not if you want what you study to be completely invalid, at any rate. As in the item above, you can’t have it both ways. Either something is scientific, or it is pretending to be, which is commonly referred to as pseudoscientific. When you discuss the paranormal in terms that look and sound scientific but are ultimately meaningless because they make extrapolations based on faith, you are using nothing more than scientistic discourse – the words without the substance. To be scientific, or admissible to the realm of science, as the great philosopher Karl Popper asserted, a phenomenon must be falsifiable, which is to say that there has to be a way to prove the theory or explanation wrong. If you can’t conceive of a way to disprove something, it isn’t an idea that science can address. The existence of god is therefore not a scientific question – there’s no way you can conclusively prove she doesn’t exist. Similarly, paranormal phenomena – ghosts, telepathy and such – are not matters for serious scientific inquiry for those who wish to admit that supernatural explanations for phenomena are possible. Your non-detection of the ghost of your grandfather does not, in this instance, disprove his existence, it just proves that ‘science can’t explain it’, and you will continue to believe that Grandpa Topper haunts your liquor cabinet.  If a scientific explanation is not possible, or will not be the ultimate proof of the falsehood of a theory, then science is entitled to take its ball and go home.

By the way, “Ghostbusters” is one of my favourite movies. Is that wrong?

Also by the way, Duke University has disassociated itself from the Rhine Institute. Go Duke!

Item 3: Health Concerns Arise over Wireless Internet in Schools 

A woman claims that due to her family’s particular sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, leading to ‘negative heath effects’, she is trying to make sure teachers shut off their cell phones in her child’s class, and furthermore, is campaigning against the introduction of wireless Internet in schools.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

Ok, I’ll let you in on a little secret, Ma’am. I know the reason for your sensitivity.

You’re a loon. And you’re apparently making your child into a little loonlet as well.

There has been no, I repeat, no evidence that even remotely suggests negative health effects from electromagnetic radiation. Wait, let me revise that, some electromagnetic radiation is harmful, mostly that in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. There is no conceivable effect on a person that would originate from another person’s cellphone in a desk drawer 20 feet away. The desk has a more significant gravitational effect on the people in the room, in fact. Besides which, even if the phone is turned off, there aren’t very many places on Earth free from the flow of electromagnetic waves of one sort or another, not to mention non-manmade stuff like cosmic rays from outer space (ban outer space!) and particles that shoot through us and the planet itself like poo through a goose.

I’m not even so upset at this poor, misguided woman – I’m more disturbed by the fact that the media is even paying attention to this crackpot. Slow news day or not, this is the type of story that calls into question the credibility of the media and leads people down the path to scientific illiteracy.

So, all is right with the world. Or at least it’s business as usual. *sigh*

It’s good to be back. Be seeing you.


6 thoughts on “A Long Overdue Stirring of the Proverbial Pot

  1. Flash,

    You’ll get no disagreement from me, even on number 1. I agree completely. You want to “drop out”? Go for it. Support yourself however you see fit, so long as it does not harm anyone or their property. But begging me for change is hardly “dropping out” is it?

    The other two are, as Jane Jacobs observed in “The Dark Age Ahead”, the result of us backing away from science and embracing mythic nonsense.




  2. Excellent points, Mike, thanks.

    Dropped by your site – the manifesto was absolutely brilliant. I urge everyone to check it out.


  3. “There has been no, I repeat, no evidence that even remotely suggests negative health effects from electromagnetic radiation.”

    There’s PLENTY of evidence. Stop misleading people. Even if you can’t feel anything in the moment, doesn’t mean it’s harmless. You don’t feel tobacco killing you for the first 20 years or so; but we were so misled about that one too; doctors even appeared in advertising for cigarettes 70 years ago.

    You must work for the telecomm industry.


  4. Yeah. isn’t it? I got it from one of the Libertarian bloggers I read. It lays it out simple and straightforward. I saw it back when I was a disgruntled with our current situation and it, among other things, was the reason I decided to become a left libertarian anarchist.


  5. concerning electromagnetic radiation

    I sometimes work aboard ships & boats, and I don’t recommend you to wander too near the RADAR when it’s operational.

    And going to extremes, can you say electrocution? Electromagnetic radiation can kill. Cellphones might be harmless, but this experiment hasn’t been going on long enough for us to know for sure what the long term effects are.


  6. Stan:
    No, I don’t work for the telecomm industry, but neither am I an easily-influenced hypochondriac. Show me the evidence and I will evaluate it fairly, and adjust my opinion if it is appropriate. Comparing the negative affects of tobacco with those of EM radiation proves nothing, it is a spurious association which attempts to link a known harm with an unproven one. Sugar is derived from natural sources, as is cyanide – that doesn’t make sugar fatal (at least in sensible amounts – and no, don’t wave a diabetic at me).

    MRx: I don’t doubt that standing in front of a functioning RADAR apparatus would be undesirable, as would sticking your head in a functioning microwave oven.
    Can you be electrocuted over a distance by EM radiation? I doubt it. If we are going to address this on a specific level, I was referring to radio signals only. I freely admit the potential for harm from some of the different forms of EM radiation across the very wide spectrum, just not specifically from the presence of wireless internet. As for long-term effects, commercial radio signals have been flying across the planet for over a century, with no proof that illness of any sort has been caused by them.


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