Friday, June 29, 2018

Mythical Jesus?

Hello, and thanks for tuning in.

Today I'm gonna respond to this article.

My lengthy posting in which I explained why the “mythical Jesus” claim has no traction among scholars (here) drew (predictably) an attempt to refute it from the “Vridar” blogsite. 
I have discussed a bit before why this sort of analysis fails, because it only exists as a second-hand report in every case, and every case draws from the same works that went on to become the bible.  There's no extra-biblical accounts of Jesus as we would expect.

If I wanted to find information on other people alive at the time, I can look in multiple places for it.  I don't have to confine myself to just one book to justify my reasoning. 

For example, if I wanted to find information on Pontius Pilate, I can look at the Pilate Stone.  I can find that he was mentioned by Tacitus and Philo, and I can even find mention of him in other apocryphal works not associated with the bible. 

We don't have anything like this for Jesus.  The only mentions of him we have are in copies of stories alleging to be from earlier.  Considering all of these stories claim he was an incredibly well-known fellow with a trial that had every single person in the crowd calling for his death, we would expect someone other than the authors of the gospels to have written about him at some point doing the things attributed to him.
I don’t think it succeeds, but readers will have to judge for themselves.
I certainly did. Again, there may well have been someone he was based on, who had similar philosophies and what not.  If I told you that Paul Bunyan was a real person just because he's probably based on Fabian Fournier, would you accept that as accurate?  No, I don't think so.

The fellow in the gospels named Jesus is not the same guy as he's based on.  There may indeed have been some fellow he was based on, but that's where the connection ends.
I’ll content myself with underscoring a few things that remain established from my posting.
Well, they would remain established, if you had other historical data to represent it. Currently your assertion is just that the Jesus of the gospels is based on someone who lived then, not that it's actually their life story.

That's like if I said that Fabian Fournier was literally Paul Bunyan and therefore everything attributed to Paul Bunyan actually happened in the real world.
I focused on three claims that Richard Carrier posits as corroborating his hypothesis that “Jesus” was originally a “celestial being” or “archangel,” not a historical figure, and that this archangel got transformed into a fictional human figure across several decades of the first century CE. 
I guess we can agree on that, I don't believe some guy ascended into heaven or and came back to earth or whatever.
I showed that the three claims are all false, which means that his hypothesis has no corroboration.
  1. There is no evidence of “a Jewish archangel Jesus”.  All known figures bearing the name are portrayed as human and historical figures.  Furthermore, contra Carrier, Paul never treats Jesus as an archangel, but instead emphasizes his mortal death and resurrection, and mentions his birth, Davidic descent, and Jewishness, cites teachings of Jesus, and refers to his personal acquaintance with Jesus’ siblings.
Again, I agree with you, but that's because Paul's entire narrative is that Jesus appeared to him after he died in a blaze of light.  I don't think this happened at all.  I don't think some ancient dude even appeared to him.  I think he hallucinated or lied or something, to give his story embellishment, so that he could explain his change of heart or whatever. 

Harry Potter is probably based on someone, but I bet you he never appeared to J K Rowling and used magic in real life for her.  Just because he's based on someone doesn't he was real.

Same with Paul.  Believing he's not some celestial being, but also believing he came back from the dead in a blaze of light and appealed to some old guy to change his ways also is equally unbelievable.

If you don't believe that part of Paul's story, what makes you believe the rest of it?
  1. There is no example among “all the savior cults” of the Roman period of a deity being transformed into a mortal being of a given time and place (such as he asserts happened in the case of Jesus).  Carrier claims a pattern, but there is none.
Sorry about the numbering, Blogger isn't preserving it for some reason. I do agree though, a lot of myth at the time involved gods taking human form, and many stories were made up about those gods.  Zeus allegedly became a swan once.  It's almost like people can make stuff up and share stories and things.
  1. From earliest extant Christian texts (Paul) to the NT Gospels, “Jesus” is a genuine human figure.  To be sure, Paul and other early Jesus-followers believed also that Jesus had been raised from death and exalted to heavenly glory.  They also then ascribed to him a back-story or “pre-existence” (e.g., drawing on Jewish apocalyptic and Wisdom traditions).  But for Paul “Jesus” wasn’t simply a “celestial being”.  And for the Gospel writers, he wasn’t simply a bloke.
So which one is it?  You claim the Gospel writers and Paul were both talking about the same guy, even though you admit here they clearly seem to be talking about two different people.
My posting was intended simply to illustrate, especially for “general” readers outside the relevant fields, why the “mythical Jesus” view is regarded as bizarre among scholars in the relevant fields, scholars of all persuasions on religious matters, and over some 250 years of critical study. 
Again, I'm not saying there wasn't some guy it's based on.   Kinda like Uncle Sam, lots of people believed for a long time, and perhaps still do, that he was based on a real person. We are fairly certain he wasn't, even though lots of people alive at the time wrote to the contrary. 

If it's this difficult to determine the origins of some myth that we literally have good documentation for in modern times, what makes you think people two thousand years ago acted much different?
It is a sad and desperate move for “Vridar” to dismiss this fact by impugning this huge body of scholarship as either gullible or prejudiced, when the only “crime” is a refusal to endorse the “mythicist” notion. 
I think the main takeaway is that, at least in my case, I have some agreement.  I think Jesus was a mythical figure because being based on someone doesn't make a character real.  Jesus is a character just like any other.

Just like when Joseph Smith claims the angel Moroni visited him, it doesn't mean he did.  We have exactly the same kind of story for Moroni visiting Joseph Smith as we have for Jesus visiting Paul.

I can use your argument to explain that Moroni is real also, since Joseph Smith claims it, therefore it must be true.  People wrote about Joseph Smith in his own lifetime, after all. There were at least 15 other people we can confirm who also have accounts of interacting directly with and observing Moroni. 

According to you, the simple fact that some texts exist confirming his existence means that he was, in fact, real.  In fact, this means we actually have more 'evidence' for the existence of Moroni than we do for Jesus, and it's exactly the same kind of evidence.

Are you going to tell me that Moroni was based on someone, and completely dismiss the mythicist notion, I wonder?
The scholarship that I point to has been shaped by the critical impulses from the Renaissance and “Enlightenment,” all texts, whether biblical or Christian or whatever, subjected to the same critical tests and procedures.  In what other subject would a solid body of scholarly judgement be treated to such foolish disdain?
Steady state universe, flat earth, geocentrism, anti-vaccination, homeopathy, the historicity of prometheus actually getting fire from the gods, and so on.
So, ignoring the various red-herrings and distortions of the “mythicist” advocates, the claims proffered as “corroborating”  their view have been shown to be erroneous. 
Not really, though.
And this is why the view has no traction among scholars. 
Scholars also claim he was a mythical figure because he is only loosely based on someone who probably lived.  Most people, yourself included, seem to accept that whoever Jesus is based on didn't do miraculous things, or anything even out of the ordinary. The fellow in the works of literature appear to be someone completely different to the person he's based upon.  The fellow he's based upon doesn't appear to have done most of the things attributed to him in the gospels, like cursing a fig tree, or turning water into wine, or raising himself and others from the dead, or healing blindness and disease, or being tranfigured, or feeding the multitude, or walking on water, or causing the oceans to still, or so on.

I mean, people did believe that famous people, gods in human form, demigods, and others could perform these actions, though.  We do have accounts of that also, like people seeing Pythagoras calming the seas, for example.  That doesn't mean he did it, though.  It just means people wrote about him doing it.
There’s no conspiracy.  It’s not because scholars are gullible or lazy.  The view just doesn’t stand up to critical scrutiny.
Yeah, that's why there's no mythicists at all in the academic community...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

God works in mysterious ways

Hello, and thanks for tuning in.

Today I'm going to respond to this blog post from the venereal... I mean, venerable Joel Osteen

The Scripture says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psalm 37:23).
The scripture says a lot of things, but I'm glad to know that you think anything done in your god's name is good.
God is strategic.
Well, he's got to be.  It's not like he knows everything and can do anything, right?
Before you were formed in your mother's womb, He laid out a specific plan for you.
I've heard this one before.
Nothing happens randomly—not just the good breaks, the promotion, the times you see favor, but even the closed doors, the disappointments, and the betrayals are a part of God's plan.
So all the good and bad in life is, in fact, at the behest of god?  Most people won't admit that, but Joel will.
It may not make sense; it wasn't fair, but God wouldn't have allowed it if it wasn't going to work for your good.
You just told me that people whose cars blow up and kill them is part of god's plan.  Childhood cancer that kills children before they're old enough to speak. Gout.  Morgellons disease. Cystic fibrosis.

You're telling me these things work for our good?  I bet you're not gonna justify that, are you?
If you don't understand that, you'll be frustrated when things don't go your way, upset because somebody did you wrong, bitter because the door closed.
I'm sorry, little Johnny, but you have to understand.  God gave you this cancer that's gonna kill you soon, but don't be frustrated.  It's for your own good, Johnny.
In reality, these were ordained by God as setups to move you into your destiny.
That's right, little Johnny, god ordained you with the holy cancer, to move you through an incredibly painful existence, because that's your destiny.  Praise god, abuser of children, maker of wretches, deliverer of pestilence and strategic evil monger.
We can't comprehend the wisdom of God.
You hear that, lads?  
We just can't comprehend god's wisdom when he allows this stuff to happen.

If we can't comprehend his wisdom, then why's he gotta be strategically causing children to suffer abuse, or old men to be shot, for their own good, for their own destiny.You are not a pleasant person, Joel.
He can plan out generations and take mistakes, betrayals, and closed doors and somehow weave them all together to work for our good.
How exactly did a bullet to the head work for the old man's good?  How does abuse work for the good of those children?
When God told Abraham that he and Sarah were going to have a baby in their old age, Abraham tried to help God out by sleeping with Sarah's maid and having a son named Ishmael.
God can do anything, and that's why he makes you cheat on your wife I guess.
But God said, "He is not the promised child."
I mean, god could've also just made the servant barren, or made Sarah to be fertile, but I guess that wouldn't work for some reason.

What part of being a slave worked toward the good of the maid, again?
Ishmael was in one sense considered a mistake and caused problems in the home.
Mysterious ways...
Surely that was not in God's plan. And yet amazingly, it was descendants of Ishmael who came along at the right moment and kept Joseph, Abraham's great grandson, from dying in the pit when his brothers betrayed him (see Genesis 37).
What door did god open for Holofernes?
It's a shame god didn't have the power to, you know, close up the pit, or destroy the slavers like he destroyed Sodom and Gomorroah and Jericho and the Midianites and... well, let's stay on topic I guess.
The mistake of Abraham became the setup for the saving of Joseph, who helped save the rest of their family. That's how amazing God is.
God is so amazing that he couldn't just, you know, tell us who his chosen person was before some jerks tried to put him in shackles.
A while back Victoria lost a ring that had been in her family for several generations.
Ain't that a shame?  I hate losing things too.
For months we looked everywhere.
Did you really, though?  Did you look at the bottom of the Marianas trench?  I think you're engaging in hyperbole here, Joel.
Late one night, three years later, we were driving home on a rural freeway.
Dang, Joel is just like us.  He doesn't even have 54 million dollars for another private jet.  He has to drive, like some commoner.Maybe god will do some good in his life and get him another jet soon.
I was going about seventy in a sixty-five speed zone.
Don't worry, I'm sure god will protect you.
Victoria kept telling me, "Joel, slow down or you'll get a ticket," and sure enough, I got pulled over.
Rend unto Caesar!
When Victoria searched the glove compartment, she couldn't find the insurance card, so she ended up pulling everything out.
Dude, you gotta keep that stuff with your owner's manual.  That makes it very easy to find!

How much stuff does Joel keep in his glove box, anyway?
Reaching way to the back, she felt something way down in a crack, and finally pulled it out.
I didn't know this was one of those kinds of sermons.  This might get racy.
It was the long lost ring!
And she ended up finding the insurance card right on top of the pile. It was like God caused her to overlook it.
It's a shame he didn't just make you go the speed limit and, I dunno, not cause your wife to lose the ring in the first place.
Sometimes what we think is a setback is really a setup for God to do something great. God even knows how to turn our mistakes around for our good.
You do realize there's no mistakes if god does everything, right?  You do realize he caused your wife to lose her ring just so you could get a speeding ticket, right?  You've got your causality backward.  He didn't cause you to speed so you'd find the ring. 

More to the point, though, you probably didn't even get a ticket for only going 5mph over.  Was this also god's doing?  Again, if he works to make these things happen, then nothing is an accident, and every thing that happens is because god strategically makes it happen.

Thanks for tuning in!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Perfumes and you, a primer

 Hello, and thanks for tuning in.

I've started working on a schedule for posting that I hope to keep.  This should keep my video and blog content coming to you more regularly now.

Now onto the article.

It’s 2018, and you might be wondering:
Is it alright for men to smell like rosemary and heather growing amongst dry wood in the sunny, Garrigues region of France?
Yes, it is.
What about a blend of freshly cut iris, pink peppercorn, and a stone heating in the sun?
Totally fine.
OK, how about a bright orange blossom that just weathered a hard rain and cedar felled from the shores of Corsica?
In fact, yes — but why not add a touch of bergamot?
If recent growth in the men’s fragrance industry is any indication, it is increasingly the norm for men to smell pleasant.

 I agree, it's fine for men to smell how they like, but the point is, people don't smell like those things.  They're all things that are, in fact, not men.  Personally, perfumes tend to be too strong for me, and I really don't care for them, and that's why I wear unscented deodorant and buy soaps with little to no scent if possible. 

Still, if our natural scent were sub-par, then we wouldn't have stayed alive as a species this long.  We smell funky because it works for natural selection.  I agree that it's not a particularly pleasant smell generally, but it works, and that's kinda the point.
Expected to reach $18.7 billion by 2020, this industry is climbing from $14.8 billion in 2015, according to a study by London-based industry researcher Euromonitor. This reflects the broader rise of the men’s grooming industry, which includes shaving products, fragrances, and toiletries. Men are now more invested in personal upkeep than ever, which is good news for all, but especially for the fragrance business. 

That's a lot of money.  I like how the implication is that men smelling better benefits everyone, because we all know that men's stench kills thousands every single day. We have to feed the narrative that people smell bad and things smell good so that we can make that number even higher, obviously.

Again, I don't really care for perfumes because they typically annoy my lungs and sinuses, but I can appreciate why some people enjoy them.  I just don't think it's nearly such a dramatic problem.  Know what's even better news for all?  Ending world hunger.
The week before Christmas each year sees a dramatic spike in Google searches for “men’s cologne,” but it’s quickly becoming a year-round fascination year-over-year.
News, folks.  This is it.  People searching for gifts around the holiday is now news.

The growth of the men’s fragrance industry is partially indicative of changing gender norms, where men are granted more aesthetic freedom and fluidity. 
I bet you didn't see that coming, did you?  Generally speaking, men and women want to mate with one another, and generally speaking people will be attracted or repulsed by whichever smells they like or don't like, respectively.  You can change gender norms all you like, but at the end of the day, men are typically going to be attracted to sweeter smells, and women are generally going to be attracted to muskier smells.  There's a reason that the males of the species are the ones that secrete musk, after all.  Pheromones are complicated.

“Men are more comfortable expressing themselves these days,” fragrance historian and master perfumer Roja Dove tells Inverse. “The way we smell is an extension of our sense of style, so as men have become more self-aware of how they present themselves, fragrance is another thing that has become more commonplace as a result.”
There was a time when we humans used perfumes almost all the time, especially in high-society, because we didn't have things like showers and soap to wash the excessive dirty smells off.  Generally, though, this isn't an issue today, and a bit of deodorant solves it.  Naturally, scent has been a part of fashion since it was first derived thousands of years ago.

The main difference today is that, for the past several decades, we've had artificial perfumes and smells that have made it very affordable for the average person to use them, so naturally they are more common place.  There's a reason everyone jokes about every high school boy wearing Axe deodorant, after all.  It's because they all wear it.
It’s not only that the men’s fragrance industry is growing, but the range of scents that are considered “masculine” or within the realm of men’s fragrance are also expanding. Men, by today’s standards, need not have a cloud of Axe trailing them at all hours, or feign disinterest in fragrance.
Called it.

The point remains, however, that the scents traditionally considered masculine actually came from male animals, as well as plants that had the same smells or pheromones, or close enough analogues.  You can't exactly go complain to the musk deer that their females should start secreting these scents, after all.

We can decide that it's okay for men to wear whatever scents we want, but that doesn't change which chemicals are going to attract the partner you're looking for more than others. 

“As men have become more comfortable with the concept of scent, it has allowed the male perfume market to evolve into something more diverse. Perfumers are more open to delivering compositions that are more unique, such as a bigger embrace of the use of flowers in masculine compositions,” Dove tells Inverse.
Men are just as comfortable with scents as they've ever been.  Have you ever gone to church, or a retirement home, or even the grocery store when there's older people there?  Men's colognes can be stronger than the women's perfumes.

I mean, sure, there's arguably better marketing today, but the bottle of Old Spice on my shelf came from an older male relative.  Again, I don't often wear the stuff, so it just kinda sits there, but you get the point.

Just a couple decades ago, men were not allowed to stray too far from smelling like the ocean, lest they pose a peril to their masculinity.
Depending on the man, though, and which decade or generation you're talking about, that smell wasn't that common.  Again, old spice and other similar perfumes or colognes smell like something different.  Then again, the average working man probably doesn't care about his scent too much, because he's going to go work in the factory, construction yard, or whatever, and the smell isn't going to last anyway.

Dirt, dust, and all the other stuff in industrial environments easily trumps all the other smells you're gonna put on in the morning.  For a lot of men, it has nothing to do with imperiling their masculinity, it is instead just another that takes time and effort which they could put into something else.  Like making coffee, or going to work, or sleeping, or chopping down trees, or hitting things with hammers.

Men have predominantly worked around other men, and women around other women, for a fair part of history.  It isn't like we need to smell good for our machines, or other men.  We're gonna smell like oil, or burning stuff, or dust, or dirt, or whatever.  It's only more recently we've come to see scent as a thing everyone should have rather than a thing that should be used when you go out for a fun weekend to the bar, movies, or whatever.

Listen to the tone of those words.  Men were oppressed and we are taking their oppression away...

Wait a minute, Inverse is closer to SJW than MRA I thought.  Then again, they're focusing on this issue that they claim is better for everyone, rather than an issue like men's custody or something, which only benefits men, so maybe it is still an SJW issue?  Men's odor is so oppressive that fixing it helps alleviate the oppression of women via scent warfare, I see.  This is fascinating.  That's subtle, like a good perfume.
As Dove discusses in his article, “Why All Men Smell The Same, According to Master Perfumer Roja Dove,” beginning in the ‘90s, men’s fragrance tended to be dominated by an oceanic smell that is “actually calone — an aqueous-smelling material with a pronounced watermelon aspect. It’s a man-made, synthetic molecule that gives the olfactory impression of the fresh seashore through its marine/ozone nuances.”
 Spray the watermelon waters of the deep blue on your face!

“As men have become more comfortable with the concept of scent, it has allowed the male perfume market to evolve into something more diverse. Perfumers are more open to delivering compositions that are more unique, such as a bigger embrace of the use of flowers in masculine compositions,” Dove tells Inverse.
I personally kinda like lavender and jasmine, but I don't really wear them.  This sounds like some marketer looking for a new niche to fill. 

"Oh, that old stuff you're wearing is so out of date and overdone.  Come here, we've got your solution, so you're not like the regular plebs.  Come be our pleb, give us your money."

I'm not really against commercialism, I just think it should be more transparent and honest.

While decoupling fragrance and gender may seem like a modern idea, art historian Jessica Murphy points out that it is really an old idea.

For the majority of it history, fragrance has known no gender. She sees the industrial revolution and resulting commercialization of fragrance as the period when it came to be partitioned into two genders. Before this time, fragrance was lawless — the scent of a rose or a strong musk was open to all.
I mean, that's fair.  Scents were basically just whatever you wanted to wear. Then we created two market segments and now they're trying to create a third with this gender-less stuff.  The best way to make a new market is to complain about the old one and try to replace it with your own, after all.

Even cologne, as it was originally conceived, was intended for and worn by all genders. As the story goes, in 1708, when Giovanni Maria Farina concocted the refreshing, quickly evaporating scent, he wrote to his brother: “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain.” He named the fragrance Eau de Cologne, after the German city where he was working.
So he found the a smell that he enjoyed.  Excellent!

It was only later that what began as mountain daffodils and orange blossoms lost its more floral origins and came to signify masculinity. Murphy notes that the fragrance was then widely copied and for a long time Eau de Cologne meant a citrus herbal splash with a lighter concentration of oils. For reasons that she does not believe have been well-established, it then evolved to stand in for men’s fragrance.
I mean fair enough, a man was the first one to wear it, and he shared it with his brother, and presumably women liked it so men wore it more often, and more women were attracted by it, and so on.  Something as simple as that can explain the trend.

You know, the reason a lot of guys act macho and a lot of girls act exactly the opposite is because those kinds of people are attracted to one another.  Now, if their peers see that they are using specific fragrances to attract the other, why on earth would they want to use stuff that doesn't seem to be as effective to this end?  Again, scent is tied pretty directly into our brain and wired for our attraction or repulsion.  It's one of the major ways we determine pheromones and stuff, too, even though you can't smell some of them.

Now the western fragrance industry is in many ways returning to an earlier time in history. This shift is largely owed to niche perfumers, outside of the mainstream industry, who have been on the frontline of shaping this move away from strictly gendered fragrances. “[Niche perfumers] were not creating for men or women, but just creating beautiful fragrances,” Sandy Blandin, founder of the fragrance studio Nose Who Knows, tells Inverse
I mean fair enough, there's gonna be a market for it.

I wonder though, if we put together a list of who buys which perfumes, do you reckon we're going to see a major rejection of the currently established trend?  This is the kind of information we need.  It's all well and good that the person making them doesn't care about the gender stuff, but if you're going to have a paradigm shift, you need to see if you're actually selling it as such.

If you happen to be making your scents unisex but one sex overwhelmingly buys one and the other a different one, that might tell you that your filling a ghost niche, one that only exists in your marketing literature.

I'm not saying don't do it.  I'm just saying, perhaps check your sales demographics before you start making such assertions.  Even if you don't gender your fragrances, there's a good chance that your consumers will.
The niche perfume industry has heralded the growth of a new, shamelessly rose and heather-scented man. “The men who are wearing fragrances today I think they are different from the men who were wearing fragrances years ago. […] They want to stand out. They’re a bit more assertive, in terms of what they like and what they don’t like,” says Blandin.
 That's true.  It's also true that teenage boys and girls also make up a large portion of this market, and they're just going to buy whatever is cheap.  It's also true that the working class individuals are a significant portion of this market, and like myself, don't really care what the smell is, so they're gonna buy the one that says it's for their gender.  I am a simple man, you see, and I like fewer choices.  I go to the store and buy the cheapest unscented deodorant I can find, or the least scented one if there's not one.  I don't particularly care if it smells like roses, or a campfire in Mordor.

I buy the one that says mens because it tends to work best and smell the least.
Niche perfumers were among the first to embrace unisex fragrances, which are now a quickly growing trend as well. Some of these independent perfumers have been creating fragrances that are intentionally deconstructed, a smell removed from any gendered connotations.
I thought you told me that people a century or two ago were the first to do that?

Dang hipsters.
For example, Christopher Brosius, one of the most revered iconoclasts of smell, does not use any gendered language with his fragrances. He instead opts for scents are deeply conceptual, capturing something more psychological than material, like “Where We Are There Is No Here,” “November,” and the E. M. Forster-inspired, “A Room With A View.”
Yeah, but you see, I'm not going to buy something that smells like nowhere because that just sounds like an empty bottle.  What does November smell like, I wonder?  Does it smell like a snow storm and road salt?  I wonder if a room with a view smells like a jail cell that has a small window.

I hate this kind of superfluous marketing bullshit, I guess. 

Dang hipsters.
Zoe Tambling, who is soon to launch her own perfume line, Agnes Fragrances, in Los Angeles, spent five months developing the scent of a Hurricane — of lightning, of rain on concrete. At one point, it hit her that rain on concrete smells like bell peppers, which she then tinctured and added to the fragrance.
I feel like they're just making stuff up now.
Her earlier creation, Stainless Steel, which she colored blue to resemble Windex, is not only outside of gender, but outside of anything remotely human.
Lemme tell you what, when I go out for a night on the town, what I want to smell like is steel wool.  Knives.  Power cables.  Arc welders.
“I wanted to make something that was totally cold and unfeeling,” she tells Inverse.
Well, to be fair, that does sound an awful lot like some corporations.  Maybe you could sell some to congress.

Blandin hopes that in the future, the men’s and women’s fragrance are eclipsed by unisex fragrances, so that nothing has a gender.
Why though?  Why does it matter if smells are gendered?  Are you losing sleep over the fact that some men are wearing perfumes or colognes based on what the market tells them to?  Are you so offended by the smell of Bod that you want to make sure no one ever wears it again?

Also, I just noticed, this article hasn't once recommended that women should be wearing scents that are traditionally mens, as a sign of equality, as a sign that the scents are truly without gender as they claim.

Funny thing, that.
“For me, what I would love to see is that we don’t have any more men and women’s fragrances. Let the people choose what they would like. Let the people whether they want a vanilla, a raspberry, a citrus, and don’t segment the market into men and women.”
Arguably the people are choosing what they like.  Arguably, the people want a segmented market, in general.  That's good for you, too, because it means you can create a third market segment to compete with them.

If everything becomes unisex then your niche goes away, after all.

Also, notice again, how they're talking about a very few scents here, and not ones typically worn by men, even though this shouldn't be a gendered thing I guess.
If current trends keep up, Blandin might just get her wish, and rose and musk will be, once again, in the domain of all genders.
Again, why does she care what other people wear?  How, exactly, will you know it is in the domain of both if people still preferentially choose other things and it just happens to continue being used primarily by women, or people stop using it altogether?

What is the actual resolution here, I wonder?  It sounds like the resolution is to make men wear scents that women typically wear without making women wear the scents that men typically wear.  What if men genuinely don't want to smell like those things and largely don't buy them, even if they're labelled in a unisex fashion.  Will this still be sexist somehow?  I'm sure they'll find a way to say so.  How will we know when this unisex movement succeeds, I guess, is what I'm asking.

I mean, I agree with article, effectively.  Wear whatever you want, and don't worry about stereotypes and stuff.  Still, what if everyone is already kinda doing that, and we've already hit peak unisex?  Do I actually have to go out of my way to buy something typically designed for women just to demonstrate my loyalty to this cause, or can I just say I agree and continue buying my unscented stuff?

The world may never know.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Thanks for tuning in!  Today we're gonna discuss the fine tuning argument as presented here.

The fine tuning argument is basically the idea that some prime mover/god/deity/whatever caused the conditions of the universe to exist exactly as they appear.  Currently, as far as we can tell, the laws of physics came about as time and space stratified as they expanded in the inflationary period at the 'beginning' of time.  It's in quotes because time isn't linear.
It used to be believed that whatever the conditions of the early Universe, that given enough time and a little bit of luck, intelligent life would inevitably occur somewhere.
It also used to be believed that gods were required to create rain or lightning, or to cause crops to grow, or all sorts of other things people at the time didn't understand. It used to be believed that the universe was comprised of aether, and that it was in a steady state.  What I'm saying is, it doesn't really matter what we believe, it matters what the evidence shows.
 This belief is even professed today by the news media; whenever water is discovered on some astronomical object such as Mars or Europa – one of the major moons of Jupiter, report speculate that where there is water, life is sure to eventually erupt like spring flowers after a rainfall.
 The news media are not scientists, and they don't publish peer-reviewed journals.  Also, the claim is generally that these would be good places to start looking for life outside of our planet within our solar system.  I'm not familiar with anyone claiming that life is definitely going to happen. Too bad they don't actually have any citations in their article, I could have fun responding to them as well.

This table appears in the original article.  Twice.
With no citation.  Let's see where it's from.

 The table appears to be from this source perhaps?  Maybe an older version or one of the related articles?  Either way, the table doesn't seem to be supporting the claims of fine tuning, only that the measurements exist, so let's sally forth.
 As a result of discoveries over the past fifty years or so, we now understand that such optimism was not well placed; in fact, the opposite is true.
No, the opposite isn't true either.  We can't claim for certain that life will or will not exist in those places.  They do resemble places on our own planet where life currently exists though, as well as places on our planet where life probably first start existing, like the vents at the bottom of the ocean.  They would surely kill us, what with all the heat and pressure and so on, but we aren't the only form of life.  Neither are flowers, as the article alluded to earlier.
Physicists have been stunned to discover how many samples of delicate balance initial conditions have to be for the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos.
First off, we don't actually know how much the laws could be different and support life.  Second, life is life, we don't need to qualify it with 'intelligent' or any other thing.  It's hard enough to define as it is, after all.  It's entirely possible that the laws of physics could have simply changed at the time the singularity inflated, and that there was plenty of life in the universe before it, with completely different rules.

Saying it's fine-tuned is a bit like looking at two halves of a broken rock.  Go out, find a rock, and break it.  Let's see if I can do that now. 
So I found a rock and tapped it with a hammer.

Look at those pretty layers
Clearly, I must have laid out the cleavage/fissure lines perfectly for it to break in exactly a way that it fits perfectly back together.  This couldn't just happen by chance, right guys?  The rock must have been tuned to break in such a way that the pieces could fit back together, right?

Might be some old dead thing was once trapped in that bit
Can you make out the few layers of rock there?  Surely they must've been formed by someone to perfectly layer up like that, right?

Of course not.  You can clearly understand, I think, how this line of reasoning fails.  The bits of rock fit together because they happen to have broken there.  In fact, it would be weirder if they didn't fit back together nicely.  Even as complex as those fractures are, you can understand why they fit together perfectly even though no one caused it to be that way.
 The delicate balance of initial conditions has come to be known as “fine-tuning” of the universe for life.  
The term 'fine tuning' only seems to exist in philosophy, really.  We know that as the universe expanded in time, the various forces came out of it, almost exactly like how the rock cracked when I tapped it. It happened relatively quick, just like tapping the rock, and the forces fit together as though they broke off in the way they did from the beginning.  You can even understand how the hammer isn't necessary in this example, sometimes rocks just crack.  Sometimes a universe just inflates, maybe.  Maybe something did, in fact, tap ours, but we would never know.  It also wouldn't mean that it tuned anything by doing so, because the apparent constants can just form spontaneously and ours just happens to support life. 
We have, over these fifty years, come to understand that the Universe is adjusted for the existence of intelligent life with such a complexity and delicacy that defy human comprehension.  
 If it defies human comprehension, then how are you certain that it is definitely tuned?  You mean that humans can't comprehend it and that's how you comprehend it?  Are you not human, by chance?

Although, I think most humans can comprehend the analogy I gave up there.  I even gave you pictures.
Several of these factors are adjusted with far more precision – trillions of trillions of trillions more precision – than anything that is remotely possible by humans today.
 See that rock I just broke?  See how precise the crack is, to land exactly between the pieces that formed?  Do you understand how I don't actually have to put the crack there for it to end up existing there?  It's at least as precise as this article claims.  I was so good I only put the crack exactly where the crack formed, and not anywhere else.
But why is this so?  
How did it come to be that the Universe is so finely adjusted for the emergence of intelligent life – and indeed, is so finely adjusted for the existence of matter as to be nearly miraculous.
It isn't.  We just happen to exist in this one because we can.

Why this is Important

It appears to be important because it suits your narrative, nothing more.
When physicists say the Universe is finely adjusted for the emergence of life, they mean without these adjustments there could be no life.  
Sometimes they just use it as a turn-of-phrase, though.  Yes, there are physicists who think the variables had to be tuned. They are generally in the minority though, and don't generally give compelling arguments or evidence. Kinda like this article, in a way.  Most of the fine-tuning people won't even go so far as to say that ours is the only possible one, especially the scientist ones, because they understand that we don't have another universe to compare it to, for example. We simply can't assert whether or not ours is the only kind of universe in which life can arise.  I wish he'd quit saying 'intelligent.' Life is life, get over it.

Let's presume that our constants are the absolutely only ones that could produce life, though.  It still doesn't mean ours was tuned. It just means we happen to exist in a universe that has these constants.

Without the precise adjustments which are in place today, there would be no possibility of life for there would be no possibility of matter; there could be no stars, no galaxies, no planets – and no matter.
Do you have another universe with just one constant slightly modified to prove this?  Neither do I.  therefore I can't say, and neither can you, that one tiny change would result in an inability for life to form.  It may be that slightly different rules just produce slightly different criteria for life, and wildly different rules produce life the likes of which we wouldn't understand.
 For example, the Universe might have come into existence through the Big Bang explosion – and then almost immediately just collapsed back upon itself; or the Universe might have flung apart before any matter could coalesce into solid objects such as stars or planets.
This might have happened any number of times, actually.  The way the early universe formed in the inflation, we can't actually see the CMB and stuff beyond a certain point.  We know mathematically how the laws separated out in some cases, but beyond the earliest point we can view, we can't see any more.  It's entirely possible that it was actually a massive time/space flux before that, that acted exactly as was just described or something. 
To be clear, it is not that some other form of life-form might have arisen without the precise fine-tuning in existence today such as in a fanciful Star Trek episode; there would have been no matter from which life might have arisen.
Except that most of the life forms are biological and could exist within the constraints of this set of laws of physics in the star trek universe.  I don't think you quite understand this point.
 It turns out that the production of matter, the “elements” with which we are all so familiar such as carbon, oxygen, iron and uranium, requires accurate adjustment of multiple constants of nature, and it also turns out that these constants of nature do not have to be their current value.
Fair enough, it is what it is because that's how it is and it doesn't necessarily have to be this way. We can't say for sure that it can be any other way, but it's true it doesn't have to be as it is.  That rock up there, it could've broken along different lines, or fewer lines, or whatever.  It doesn't mean the rock can't break unless it forms exactly on those cracks, though. It doesn't mean that if it cracked on other lines, it would suddenly become a rhinoceros, either.

Two Kinds of Fine Tuning

Or none.
There are two kinds of fine-tuning,
Or there's not...
Forces of nature.  The first type of fine-tuning involves the constant of nature such as those holding the nucleus of an atom together, the gravitational constant, or the speed of light.  A “constant” is a law of nature that appears in mathematical equations that stand for unchanging quantities.  
 These are based upon observations, mind you.  The speed of light is C, for example. Traveling faster than the speed of light is potentially the same as moving backward in time, for example, and photons do this all the time.

See this thing right here?
Feynman Diagram.
But yes, it's true, we observe lots of forces acting consistently, in exactly the same way we observe cracks happening where rocks split.  Again, it doesn't mean that someone created the cracks exactly where they were just because they happen to be there, and just because they happen to be between pieces of rock, rather than somewhere else.
The laws of nature do not determine the values of these constants.  
Well, you're wrong. The constants describe the laws, more or less. Even if they change, or if they are different in other universes, those are still their laws, with their constants, one being related to the other.  Exactly like if the rock cracked differently, the crack (let's pretend it's a constant) still describes the bounds of the pieces of the rock (let's pretend it's the laws).  They do actually determine one another because that's how constants and laws work, even if they're different from ours.
There potentially could be other universes governed by the same laws of nature even though these constants have very different values.  
Correct.  Or they could be completely different laws with the same constants.  Either way, one will determine the other.  The dark matter that affects how things work in our universe might well be the exact opposite laws (anti-gravity where we have gravity) yet have the same constants, for example.
Depending upon these constants, universes governed by the same laws of nature would look very different
  Correct.  Although, you wouldn't be able to look at it, because light probably wouldn't work the same, etc.  It's very hard to think how different universes might act because we probably will be fundamentally unable to ever observe one in any meaningful way, even with advanced technology etc.
Arbitrary quantities.  In addition to physical constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are present initial conditions of the Universe upon which the laws of nature operate.  Because these quantities are arbitrary, they are also not determined by the laws of nature.
 I can't make sense of this statement.  Let's see if it gets any clearer.
An example of an “arbitrary quantity” would be the amount of thermodynamic disorder (or “entropy”) in the early universe.  It is just given in the initial big bang as an initial condition and then the laws of nature take over and determine how the universe would then develop.  If these initial conditions had been different, then the laws again the Universe would look very different.  If there had been less order or more order in the initial big bang conditions, then our Universe would not be able to have intelligent life – or even any life at all.
 So it's basically the first argument turned inside-out?  If the rock was larger or smaller, then it couldn't possibly be a rock?  A bigger rock with different cracks couldn't possibly form?

Also, ignoring how this doesn't make any sense, unless they've got another universe to reference, they can't say whether or not any given configuration of laws/constants can lead to life, and then to intelligent life.  It's like Douglas Adams described here...

It's a bit like saying that only one puddle can ever exist because other puddles are different, and therefore this specific puddle is the only one that could ever have slime or whatever grow in it.  It's very silly.
Another example of an “arbitrary quantity” might be the rate of expansion (“inflation”) of the early Universe.  Too much inflation and the Universe would fly apart; too little and the Universe would eventually collapse back into a hugely dense mass of plasma; either way, no life could exist.
"Might be..." See, that's the problem.  You can't say 'it has to be exactly the way I think it is because this or that might have happened if it wasn't.'  Aliens might have probed my brain, you see, so it's a good thing aliens don't exist, otherwise it means that my brain would be probed, therefore aliens might not exist, especially if there's only ten aliens.  If there were twenty aliens, that would just be too many for some reason, so there can only be ten aliens because there were none...

You can see how this reasoning falls apart, I hope.  Cracks under pressure, as it were...
Several examples of fine tuning, an estimation of their precision, and their importance are provided here.
No, they aren't. That table up there is just showing us the values of several constants, as well as our certainty to how correct they are in this universe.

Anyway, that's where I'm gonna leave it.  Time to start on my next video!  Thanks for tuning in!!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cool Creators #13: Camille and Kennerly (The Harp Twins)

 This is a post in a series about creators I enjoy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to the harp twins, Camille and Kennerly.  They are known primarily for their harp covers of popular songs, which feature each generally playing her own harp.  Generally, their videos are shot in high quality in a rustic-looking location as they perform the piece.  They have a range of harp sizes to accommodate all styles of music, and generally make quite enjoyable content.

I'm also a fan of Iron Maiden so...
 This is a good example of what you can expect from them.  If you enjoy unusual instruments and good music, this is the channel for you.   Here's an older video to give you some idea of how they've adapted over time.  Also another catchy tune.

If you enjoyed that, be sure to follow them on Youtube to see when they create new content!  You can also follow them on Twitter and see when they're touring near you, for example.

Thanks again for tuning in, and stay tuned next time for another creator I enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Cool Creators #12: ViHart

This is a post in a series about creators I enjoy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to ViHart.  There's a good chance you're already familiar with her.  ViHart is a youtube creator, among other things.  Her iconic style and voice are instantly recognizable, and most of her videos involve math of some sort.  Take a look at this video, for example, probably the most famous video she's put out to date.

This is a classic example of the way in which she explains complex topics in simple ways, so that nearly anyone can understand to some degree.  My favorite videos tend to be the ones about music though, and this is one of my personal favorites.

She is also an accomplished mathematician, and you can find her website here.  Be sure to follow her on Twitter, too!

Thanks for tuning in!

Stay tuned next time, when I introduce you to another creator I enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Youtube tomfoolery

Apparently youtube thinks I would like to watch kids shows, nursery rhymes, and so on, from channels I'm not even subscribed to.

I'm watching PhillyD.  I'm subscribed to people like Mundane Matt, PewDiePie, Bearing, and other channels that are definitely more closely related to him than any of these suggestions.

Is youtube just blatantly spamming people now?  I pay for Red so I don't have to have advertisements.  If I let autoplay go, I'd end up watching whatever stuff this is.

Youtube appears to be losing its sanity as of late.  So weird.