Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spirals and spirals

Imagine a spiral a few radials wide; just barely large enough so that it would be easily recognizable as a spiral.  The direction that it originates from isn't particularly relevant.  Now, picture an identical spiral alongside it, and draw the radials out a few more grades, and repeat that once more.  You'll have in your mind a set of three spirals, each of varying size and complexity, and we'll be using these images as something to pull from.

The largest and most complicated spiral is a human being.  The length, depth, and curvature of the spiral are representational of the complexity underlying man; conscious thought, rationality, opposable thumbs, hair, those hairs in your throat that propel food down into your gut.  The next spiral, the one of middling size and complexity, is representative of the animal.  Although for the sake of the coming argument I'll be using this to symbolize mammals primarily, it also represents middle-hierarchy creatures, like lizards and amphibians.  The smallest of the three spirals is the spiral of the single-celled organism; bacteria, (sort of)viruses, paramecium, amoebae and so on - stuff that is, in all likelihood, covering your fleshy body as you read this, but things that most people don't give a great deal of thought.

The graphic of a spiral itself is used to indicate that the three levels of complexity are all essentially the same sort of thing; DNA coding.  At which level of complexity does the necessity for protection/conservation develop?  Most people would assume that humans are within this category, and as a human, I would be inclined to agree, as if I was getting beat up I'd want somebody to say, "Hey! Don't beat him up!" and maybe punch the asshole or something and kick his teeth in, but I'm getting sidetracked.  Aside from the anecdotal datas that are my life experience, I've done little research into the next sentence, but I'm pretty sure that it applies to everybody.  Animals should be protected, too.  We have conservatories dedicated to creatures of the wild, laws preventing us not only from scourging them from the planet but even from beating them unnecessarily.  I'm not sure how you define "Beating an animal of necessity," but it certainly sounds pretty legalese to me, so we'll go with that.  So what about bacteria?  Viruses? Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)?

I was watching one of the few acceptable programs on the History Channel earlier in the week, and the episode dealt with how bread was made.  Something that struck me was the literal manufacture of yeast; essentially, a big vat of sugary water is left to brew, and the yeast bacteria develops rather quickly on the surface.  The water is later drained, and the yeast is harvested in a variety of forms.  Some companies dry, freeze, and then box the yeast, forcing it to go dormant until it is awakened by the heat of an oven.

Operating under the assumption that most second-spiral creatures aren't any more conscious than first-spiral organisms, why are so many more rights and privileges awarded to them?  I recently asked a friend this question, and he told me that it might be because it's easier to sympathize with something like a dog.  I see a lot of sense in that; most pet owners personify the pets that they have, giving them characteristics that they certainly don't have, but seem to.  I'm sure my dog is of average intelligence for a dog, but since I try and hold everything around me to the same lofty standards as I hold myself, I think he's pretty stupid.  When he's pushed out of my room when I become busy with something, the sorrow and misery in his eyes at the ejection is choking.  I find this to be irritating, as I know he isn't sad.  It irritates me because I imagine he is sad, and this taints my actions towards him.

So are animal rights activists unable to understand that an animal's behavior is a systematic, near-mechanical, and instinctual thing?  Pretty similar - exactly the same, really - as bacteria, viruses, and yeast cells.  So why doesn't anybody fight for the yeast?  They're arguably treated worse than chickens in de-chickening houses and cows in butchery pens.  At least those creatures get to die; yeast gets packaged up and shipped off, maybe to be made into beer or an undercooked loaf of bread in your neighbor's house.

I am left with two potential conclusions.  First, that all animals should be viewed as being more simple organisms - eliminating the need for three spirals altogether, and making things pretty much "human" and "something other than human".  Imaging the world as anything but that at this point is really kind of naive.  The second conclusion is that, as animals are now completely indistinguishable in purpose from their more simplistic cousins, they should be farmed as viciously and uncaringly as the bacteria that makes our yogurt, beer, bread, medicine and anything else you care to think of.  If Man cannot effectively control the breeding and population of a beast, then it ought to be culled like the HIV virus.  Raccoons?  Awesome hats!  Dogs and cats? Permitted due to the psychological advantage given to their tyrants.  Whales?  Oil for lamps!  Frogs? Burn them all.  Lizards, flies and most rodents?  Ship them directly into the sun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Utility of pr0ns

This is a message I sent to a self-proclaimed "radical feminist," whom had the passage " You don't use porn. I'm serious that I really do not want to get close to people who embrace how the sex industry exploits and harms women." in her profile.  I felt the need to query. 


First: I'm going to assume that the questions that I'll be forced to answer in order to send you this message pertain to either my valuation of trust, love, or some other aspect of dating and how it would effect us should be pursue such a course. However, I have no real intention of ever communicating with you again outside of this query (nothing personal, but hey, who knows?), so I imagine that forcing me to communicate very specific concepts with you is kind of silly. I read it as: the only way that I'm going to speak with you is if I know exactly how you feel about something, and if you're not willing to answer those questions, then you're not worth my time. I guess that's your decision, though. Your questions may have absolutely nothing to do with what I mentioned above, but you'd definitely be the first person I've seen on this site that didn't. 

Anyway. I was wondering; is it possible for pornographic materials to be used as a constructive tool instead of the vile and base thing that they are perceived as? I tried to phrase that in a neutral fashion but may have failed.

I ask for a couple of reasons, but first and foremost because I was wondering if you, a self-proclaimed radical feminist, could enlighten me. I do not mean that in a condescending fashion. One of the ways that I view pornography is as, so to speak, a means to an end. As I haven't slept in a long time, I'm having trouble coming up with a solid metaphor, so I'll be blunt; its drastically easier to view women outside, above and beyond any sexual bounds if certain criteria are met. I consider myself to have a rather low sex-drive; however, it is difficult to ignore various urges and impulses that I take as biological. However, after sex or a session with pornography. this impulses are reduced dramatically to the point where they don't really enter my awareness for a long period of time. 

I recognize the damage that the pornography industry inflicts upon women (and, really, I imagine the men as much if in a different direction), although it partially helps to release myself from various aspects of my psyche that I'd imagine do without. I view it as a means to an end, so to speak, and I guess my question to you (after three unnecessarily long paragraphs) is this: is using the digital incarnation of naked women as exploitive as it would be imagining similar things during a conversation that is steered in a sexual direction? ie, viewing women in real life as objects.

A final thought to consider. It isn't one that I necessarily agree with, but it was a concept injected into a conversation a friend and I were having. The issue is that our school newspaper was running an ad on the back cover, full-size, for a local strip club. I took issue with this for the same reasons that I imagine that you would, but my friend asked an interesting question: isn't anyone on stage, film or print being exploited in some way? Nobody gives a shit about the actual human that's delivering stand-up comedy, only his jokes. The same goes for characters in movies, sitcoms, or television shows. They're being objectified as equally as women in a strip club in a way. I wondered if you'd care to comment on that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fate is for Faggots

The following is a message I sent to somebody over OkCupid today while I was bored. The user in question had the line, "I don't believe in fate" in the first few lines of their profile, while in their Religion section of their quick-facts was listed, "Christianity and somewhat serious about it." I decided to send them a message inquiring about this and, hopefully, I've made clear the why of it.

The person's response is in italics.


Title: So if there's no fate ...

Body: How does God know what his plan for you is?

I’m sure you have heard the fraise before “It will happen if it was meant to be.” Well I disagree, and that is why I highly discourage the whole idea of fate. Maybe I don’t like it for the simple reason that I lack control. Or the idea that I can’t prevent bad things from happening by the choices I make. I want to live my life the way I choose, not have it predestined for me. I believe people have to MAKE things happen if they want them too. They can’t just go on living saying it will happen if it was meant to be. If everyone said that where would we be today!? People need to take responsibility over your life and do what needs to be done. We can't wait for fait to chime in, if we do we’ll always be one step behind.

Yes, I do believe God can see into your future, but I also believe that you can change that future by the choices you make along the way. God gave us free will, if he made our destiny 100% then we'd have no free will.

In, say, six years, you will likely be in a substantially different place, both emotionally and physically, and perhaps spiritually as well. You might have children, a husband, a career that has nothing to do with your degree, and so on. These various things will happen to you because of either internal or external forces; that is to say, you will enact them intentionally, or items beyond your control will enact them for you. You may not wish to have children, for example, but you might end up being raped and be forced into an unwanted pregnancy. Bear with me, this is going somewhere.

In another six years, that unwanted child may require a journey to the clinic for one of various irrelevant reasons. However, maybe the week before you got into a car accident and, due to a series of unavailable loved ones, you may need to walk to the clinic with your child. On the way there, you might stub your toe, and it would hurt greatly. By virtue of any major Christian concept of God, He will know about this toe-stubbing, and will have known that it would occur before you were born - he would have known about it before Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden.

This is the omniscient bit of Judaeo-Christian godhood.

In order for God to have known about this toe-stubbery this long ago, he would require knowledge of several things, which by definition he would have:

First, he would need to have an intimiate understanding of the many, many generations it would take to produce you and, ultimately, your child.

Next, he would require a detailed understanding of your life, including the events the produced your child and eventually forced your walk to the clinic that caused a toe-stubbing.

He would also need to know that there would be a rock, or stony outcropping, or raised sidewalk ledge, or any number of toe-stub-inflicting items in a very specific location; exactly where your toe would be on the day of the trip to the clinic.

In order for God to "see into [your] future," God would need absolute awareness of all of these things. To say that God can tell that you'll get married to boy X and have child Y, but not be able to see that you'll get a nasty toe-bruise on day Z is silly; to a supreme deity that has witnessed the birth and death of tens of billions of people, how is one event much different from another? You might say, "I decided to take my child to the clinic this day," and that would be true. You did decide that. However, if God knew you would be going to stub your toe in the exact moment you did, given the knowledge required to know that, can you really say that you were not predestined to do so?

Choose carefully here; to say that God doesn't know that you'll be stubbing your toe says also that God doesn't know everything, and if God doesn't know everything, then he isn't perfect. And an imperfect God, according to any number of major Christian theologians, is .. not God. To say that God is aware that you’ll be stubbing your toe on that day, as I’ve made the case for above, indicates a detailed knowledge about your life that is, essentially, the same thing as fate.