Butchers and Vets

So, the other day I was looking up some stuff on pistol/rifle ammunition.  Basically, I’d like to spend less money on ammunition and switch to only having to buy one for both guns.

The .22LR is the cheapest ammunition and there are plenty of good rifle/pistol combinations out there that will use the same ammo.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about (but wheee! guns! I learned to shoot on a .22 rifle in Boy Scouts)

What I wanted to talk about were people’s comments on using a .22 rifle for hunting.  For small game, they said, it worked great.  Rabbits, mice, uh, squirrels, and such–perfect.

But when it came to larger game, i.e. deer (not bears), the argument against using the .22 rifle wasn’t that it was inaccurate, hard to use, or inefficient.

It was that it was inhumane to try to kill a deer with a .22.

(.22 indicates the caliber of the ammunition the gun uses–.22 is .22 of an inch, .45 is .45 of an inch, etc.  Bigger calibers mean bigger bullets, which mean more damage, usually).

Here were people talking about hunting, commenting on the humaneness of how an animal was killed. Using a .22 is an almost guarantee that the animal will die slowly and be in a lot of suffering.

[*to me, this is one of the best reasons that .22’s make good home defense firearms.  They are enough to scare away a burglar (who, I imagine, is not thinking to himself “hmm, he might shoot me, but the caliber is small, so maybe I can take him anyway” and is instead thinking “Eeek! a gun!”).  At the same time, if I did shoot someone, the chances of a .22 round killing them would be less than with a more powerful gun–and I, like a lot of people, am not looking to go around killing people, just stopping them.  You don’t have to agree with this; but I kind of think that we should be trying to use the minimum level of force to keep ourselves safe, and not necessarily the maximum allowed by law].

Which I think says something important about the hunting community, which is that hunters care about animals, which isn’t all that surprising.  Farmers love their farm animals, all the way to the dinner table.

Knowing that something is going to be your dinner doesn’t stop you from wanting it treated well before that.  Hunters are hunters, but their also conservationists and nature-lovers.  Hunters love the animals they kill.

I think this is a good contrast to vets.  Vets also love animals, but their goal is not to kill them.  Sometimes they do, but not with the intention of eating them.  In fact, vets spend years studying how to make sick animals healthy.

On the other side of the planet, though, are butchers.  Butchers might know a lot about the anatomy of a cow or pig, but nobody should mistake what they do as love.  Killing and cutting up an animal are a job.

You might even be able to confuse a conversation with a butcher about a cow with a conversation with a vet about a cow.  Both can identify where all the organs are, what physical problems an animal might have, and so forth.

The difference, of course, is in why they know that stuff.  Vets know stuff to heal, butchers know stuff to kill.

All of this got me thinking about euthanasia and abortion.

The first rule of medicine, of course is “First do no harm.”  The Hippocratic Oath explicitly prohibits abortion and euthanasia (and probably lethal injection).

So, like 2 millennia ago, at a time when Western Civilization enthusiastically embraced slavery, pederasty, war for conquest, and all manner of inhumane things, its doctors were still like “Nah, we don’t kill people.”

But not our doctors.  The moral vector of the vanguard of our medical community seems to be much more akin to butchers (we kill these babies so we can sell the parts).

Of course, vets euthanize pets all the time.  But then, to complete the analogy, if doctor and a vet are euthanizing patients for the same reason, then we’re saying that the same medical protections that apply to old dogs apply to old people (or young people).

But, like, it’s not like there hasn’t been a side history of evil-doctoring.  Just in the last century, and without invoking Godwin’s law, we have the Tuskegee experiments, the Guatemala experiments, the Milgram experiments (which were both unethical and good at showing why people do unethical things), and a host of others.

[Maybe those of who are a little skeptical of “science” wouldn’t be so skeptical of it if it wasn’t so easy to point out horrors inflicted in its name.  Like, you know how atheists are always like “more people have died from religion blah blah blah”?  Go look up and see what scientific socialism has done recently…]

So, I guess, in a sense, my big complaint is our looseness in what we call “medicine” and “physicians.”

I think historically, these things have been healers, and the idea that killing people or babies is somehow a form of healing just strikes me as fundamentally wrong.

I’ve argued this before, but the goal of medicine should be to make the human body work as it’s supposed to.  (This is why Viagra is medicine but contraception is not–the one restores the body to a state of wholeness, the other degrades it to a state of illness).  I just can’t see any squaring of the killing of humans and calling such practices “medicine”.

But, then again, Orwell was fighting against doublespeak back in the 1940’s.

But then again, maybe today, the medical community would embrace Boxer’s trip to the glue-maker as “health care” and require taxpayer funding for it.




Sympathy for the Devil

I don’t like Donald Trump.

I don’t like his politics, I don’t like his personality, I don’t like what he’s done to the Republican Party.

But, like, I can sympathize with parts of his movement.

Look, there are a lot of white nationalists, KKK-ers, and Alt-Righters who are deplorable human beings that have a natural home in Trumpville.  Screw those guys.

But there’re plenty of other people who are just sick of being told what bad people they are, when they aren’t.

Let’s define Gaslighting, first, though.

There was an old movie, called, I think, “Gaslight,” where a guy convinces his wife/girlfriend that she is going crazy by moving pictures, creating noises in a sealed attic, and adjusting the gaslights without her knowing he’s doing it.  When she tells him about these things, he tells her it’s her imagination, and she assumes she’s going crazy.

A similar fraud has been perpetrated against America over the last several decades.

Essentially, the Left has tried (and largely succeeded) to convince America that the reality that it sees is not the reality that exists.

Do you believe that people are equal and should be treated so?  Surprise! You’re a racist!

Wait, you don’t commit any acts of racism?  Surprise! You’re still racist because you engage in micro-aggressions!

You think that people who are genetically male or female are male or female?  Your ideas aren’t based in science or reality!  You’re a transphobe!  That human with a penis in the girl’s shower?  That’s a woman because ze zays zo!

What’s that you say?  You don’t care what they call themselves, as long as your teenage daughter doesn’t have to shower with girls with penises?  You’re still a transphobe because people should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to, as long as Bruce Springsteen says so!

You notice that women don’t have as much muscle mass as men and so maybe we shouldn’t put them in hand to hand combat? Sexist!  You notice that old people get sick and maybe we shouldn’t ?  Sexist!  You noticed that women take more sick days than men do and that maybe they get promoted less because of it? Sexist!

Remember how you donated money to breast cancer research?  Remember how you wore red in support of women’s heart health?  Remember how women you knew got sick and died from diseases like that and you felt bad and tried to support their families?

Fuck you.  Don’t you know that the only time Republicans care about women’s health is when they’re talking about Hillary?  None of your support of those things counts because you want to not pay for Planned Parenthood to kill babies.  You hate women, reality be damned.

Reality be damned all around.  You’re actions and beliefs don’t define who you are.  The Left does.  And if the Left says that, in contrast to all your actual actions and beliefs, you are sexist, racist, anti-LGBT, then you must be.

Oh, also, the lady who says she wants to be in charge of the largest army the world has ever known and doesn’t want you to own any protection and whose husband was a rapist and she helped cover it up says that you’re “deplorable.”

So, yeah, I get the appeal of a guy who says “I don’t think you’re racist and sexist and anti-LGBT.”

Still not voting for Trump.


Scientia Contra Scientitatem (vel Fides et Sceientia, Manus in Manu)

Here’s an article titled Math is Racist, which is a misleading name.

Essentially  profiles a professional mathematician (sounds like a data analyst to me) who trucks with the Occupy Wallstreet crowd.  She claims that mathematics is being used to hurt poor people on loan applications, criminal sentencing, and so on.

A few thoughts:

1) It’s crazy easy to hurt poor people.  Want to not live by minorities?  Move somewhere with high property taxes.  Want to enmesh them in the criminal justice system and feel good about yourself at the same time?  Enact usurious vice taxes on things like cigarettes and alcohol and outlaw cheap vices like marijuana.  It’s not like you need to be a statistician to think of ways to hurt poor people.

2) One of the things they make you learn when you become a statistician is something called discriminant analysis, which is a fancy way for coming up with mathematical rules for separating things into groups.  The classic example is that you have a bunch of different flowers that look alike but are different flowers.  You create a mathematical model based on the size of the petals and sepals and it classifies them.

You don’t always get perfect rules to tell them apart, but you can do a lot better than random chance.  So, for example, if you had four types of flowers in a hat, picked one out and then randomly said it was one of the four types of flowers, you’d have a 25% chance of being correct.  Using discriminant analysis, you might be able to move that up to a much higher rate of accuracy (maybe 75 or 85%).

When talking heads talk about computer algorithms to predict our behavior, what they’re really talking about is discriminant analysis.  When you buy some stuff on Amazon, it uses discriminant analysis to figure out what “type” of person you are and then selects other stuff that your “type” might want to buy.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But it’s not supposed to be perfect.  Amazon has an almost infinite number of products–if it randomly picked something to suggest, it would have a negligible chance of picking something you’d want.  But if it can improve that chance to even a few percentage points, it’s a success.

When you get turned down for a loan or face harsher penalties for crimes based on your zip code, credit score, and other things, that’s discriminant analysis.

3) My problem with the title of the article is that the profilee is clearly not anti-science.  She’s anti-a-particular-application-of-science, which is a very different thing.  She doesn’t not believe that discriminant analysis is a real mathematical tool, she believes that employing it in  loan applications or criminal sentencing is wrong.

A better way of looking at this is that she’s anti-scientism, which I’d define as the belief that “Science” and the scientific method is the only reliable guide for human understanding.

In a sense, anti-scientism is the entire underpinning of books like Frankenstein or Jurassic Park, which are essentially reframings of the question “Science tells us we can do this, but should we?”

4) We have a big problem politically (on both sides–but not with enlightened people like me who are moderates), wherein each claims that the other is “anti-science.”  (Liberal friends, you may not know that that conservatives think that you are the anti-science ones, but, like, it’s a thing. You need to read more NRO).

Sometimes the problem is legitimate dogmatic anti-scientism (opposition to an earth age in the billions of years or a belief that nuclear power is unsafe).  But that’s not really what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about whether or not certain scientific methods or tools should be employed, which is a discussion of ethics.
Ultimately, ethics is something I have a hard time letting scientists police themselves on.  Scientifically, neuroscience can eventually tell us (maybe now?) which parts of the brain we could manipulate in order to create hordes of willing slaves, but nothing in the scientific method is gong to tell us whether or not we should.
I mean, heck, science tells us that H-bomb and mustard gas are super good ways of killing people, it tells us that forced chemical castration is possible, and that poor children are more likely to grow up to be societal drains.
But nothing in science or scientism can tell us not to gas the Southside of Chicago or chemically castrate the entire barrio population in Sao Paulo.
Instead, the woman from the article makes to me a very appropriate faith-based argument against using a scientific method to the detriment of people.
5) Faith is a funny thing, since it can be either deistic or non-deistic.  Lots of people believe in the golden rule because they think that a supernatural power wants them to.  Lots of others who are atheists believe in the golden rule because that’s the “right thing to do.”
But there’s nothing scientific about it.  It can’t be tested or created in a lab.  Sure, there can be studies on reciprocity in the natural world or game theory on outcome optimization and whatever, but nothing in the inductive scientific method could produce it.
Which means that believing that humans should obey the golden rule becomes a tautological “People should do this because people should do this.”  At this point, I’d argue, we’re talking about a belief that cannot be only rooted in logic or reason, which is another way of saying faith.
The great strength of science is answering the question “how?” and the great strength of faith is answering the question “should?”.
6) This implies, I think, that in order to utilize science to it’s best, we need faith to inform us (just as faith is best when it’s underpinned by rational and logical criticism).  Neither can exist in a vacuum.  Both are necessary for the survival of the other.