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Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot)

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#1 william.scherk

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 09:56 PM

I started a discussion at a former sister-site, after having posted these my Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot):

  • wrong on emotion (emotions are not tools of cognition)
  • wrong on language acquisition (a buzzing, blooming confusion)
  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)

That venue  being barred, and me finding it ironic that Lindsay contemplates sub-contracting discussion (and readership) to OL, it is hard to continue discussion with the others who seemed willing.

 

I leave it to OL members alone to follow my responses that will not appear at the other place, to read my boring rejoinders, research and hooliganism at the blog Friends and Foes. If excerpts show up at the other place, more hilarity will no doubt ensue.

 

In the meantime, are there any other things that can be entertained (at least) as on-one-foot objections?  I don't mean as objections necessarity true, but also include objections found false.

 

I was tempted to write "wrong about empathy" or "out of date on language acquisition/cognitive development" but I noticed I had put a foot down while thinking, so wiped the board and started again.

 

I try to bear in mind that when I write Objectivism, it is as if I write Communism, or Conservativism or Liberalism, or Libertarianism or Kantianism. It seems unqualified. It is not. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

 

 

 


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#2 Brant Gaede

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:04 AM

It's not objections to Objectivism; it's objections to Objectivists.

 

--Brant


Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#3 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 12:10 AM

... Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot): ...

  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)

. . .

 

... Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

William,

 

Using that standard, anything written by any author who is dead is "incapable of correction."

 

Or do you believe in the afterlife with spirits who can come back to earth to correct stuff?

 

If not, your third objection, as you stated and qualified it with a definition, doesn't make any sense.

 

Michael


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#4 whYNOT

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 05:07 AM

It's not objections to Objectivism; it's objections to Objectivists.
 
--Brant

...which seems to take up a hunk of our energy. A fine, though glaring distinction, Brant.

That "property" wrangle. During her life time, it was right to directly honour Rand as the producer/proprietor of Objectivism; now, I think it's right to respect and appreciate her creation. Separated from any admiration for her, personally. It is now Everyman's philosophy.
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#5 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 02:08 PM

In the discussion of the ITOE Test in the "Culture of Reason Center" area, I mentioned some facts about the development of modern languages from Pre-IndoEuropean, Proto-IndoEuropean, an IndoEuropean.  Rand did not address facts that she must have known.  IN English we have singular and plural.  In Russian, they have singular-dual-plural.  1-2-Many. 

 

As for "father" and "man" a child learns "father" first, then integrates and abstracts from there until understanding the nuances in both words. 

 

So, yes, I agree that Rand's theor of language acquistion is weak.

 

Other than that, I followed the link and found the discussion on SOLO shallow and short, which is what I expected.


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#6 KacyRay

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 04:31 AM

... Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot): ...

  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)

. . .

 

... Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

William,

 

Using that standard, anything written by any author who is dead is "incapable of correction."

 

Or do you believe in the afterlife with spirits who can come back to earth to correct stuff?

 

If not, your third objection, as you stated and qualified it with a definition, doesn't make any sense.

 

Michael

 

MSK, I disagree.

 

Once again, I think Darwin is a good analogy here. To this day, evolution is referred to as “Darwinism”, despite the fact that he never lived to know a fraction of the discoveries that have been made regarding evolution that we know of today. We still credit him with being the father of this science, because it was he who laid the foundation for these discoveries. He told us where the right place to look was. He pointed us in the right direction.

 

Can you imagine how irrational it would’ve been for his to say “Hey, evolution is my discovery, and only that which is written under my name about it can be called ‘Darwinism’. Any discovery made after I’m gone, whatever you choose to call it, cannot be called ‘Darwinsim’”. No – instead he recognized that his contribution to science, while vitally important, was limited to what he was able to discover during his lifetime. Further discoveries, so long as they are consistent with the framework he provided, still qualify as "Darwinism".

 

How could Rand possibly imagine that there were no discoveries left to be made by anyone else, either while she was still here or after she was gone, that would not be perfectly consistent with her philosophy? And if she knew that such discoveries were possible, why, then, would she refuse to permit them to be entered into the record as new discoveries of Objectivism?

 

I can only imagine it had a lot to do with how many people kept trying to edit her work in Hollywood, or her novels. I can understand how she got to that point – it must have been supremely frustrating to have people bastardize her material. But to declare that nothing qualifies as Objectivism unless she herself declared it so… this was the very reason I ceased identifying as an Objectivist.

 

Consider how self-contradictory and self-defeating it is to claim adherence to a philosophy that extols the virtue of independent thought and then ostracizes all those who exercise it.

 

The choice at hand is to think, or not to think. And if one thinks, one will arrive at exactly the same conclusions as Ayn Rand did. If one does not, one has failed to think. And if you diverge in any way from Rand's concept of rugged individualism and absolute rejection of collectivism, then you can't be one of us!!

 

I think this criticism is legitimate.


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#7 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 09:51 AM

Kacy,

 

The notion of Objectivist I use for myself, when I do call myself an Objectivst, is not the same as someone from, say, ARI uses.

 

I use it in the same sense as some people who claim they are Kantians or Aristotelians, etc. Such a person doesn't mean he follows all the dictates of his respective philosopher to a T and rejects all others.

 

He merely means he knows a lot about the philosopher and his ideas, and generally agrees with some of them.

 

Several hardcore Objectivists intensely dislike my meaning and me identifying myself like that and have expressed it (usually by calling me "a piece of shit" and things like that :) ), but they don't own the English language.

 

And they are wrong, anyway.

 

William comes from the other end, but his narrow approach as to what constitutes Objectivism was the same in his comment. (It hasn't been elsewhere.)

 

So understand my criticism of his comment more as a quip, as banter, or maybe crossing swords on a single meaning level for fun since "single meaning" appears to be what he was doing and I don't take that too seriously. (This is a variation of the strawman argument.)

 

The truth is there are different ways of looking at what is Objectivism and, if you want to criticize the philosophy and be taken seriously, you have to be clear on which one you mean rather than try to paint a thick broad stroke with a really narrow brush.

 

I heard Will Thomas once give a speech where he talked about canonical Objectivism, traditional Objectivism, open Objectivism, and so on. I can't remember how many categories he used (I think it was 4), but each meant something different. Without necessarily adopting his categories, I agree with his approach.

 

Michael


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#8 KacyRay

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Posted 22 April 2013 - 06:58 PM

Michael,

 

I take your approach. I think if I was going to categorize objectivism in all of its manifestations, they would be:

 

- Canonical Objectivism (That which was written by Ayn Rand or writing specifically endorsed by her)

- Orthodox Objectivism (That which is being touted by Piekovian Randroids)

- objectivism (self-styled, individually tailored philosophy informed by and on the same foundation as Canonical Objectivism).

 

Bottom line - if you agree with the fundamentals that Rand stated while standing on one foot, and that is your starting point, then as far as I'm concerned, you are an objectivist. And that would be me.


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#9 william.scherk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 09:49 AM

... Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot): ...

  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)
. . .
 
... Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

 
William,
 
Using that standard, anything written by any author who is dead is "incapable of correction."

 

I invoke the principle of charity, and invite you and Mr Pettifog to reconsider your dismissal.

 

Or do you believe in the afterlife with spirits who can come back to earth to correct stuff?
 
If not, your third objection, as you stated and qualified it with a definition, doesn't make any sense.

 

If the third objection does not make sense to you ... the principle of charity suggests "considering its best, strongest possible interpretation."

 

I started a discussion at a former sister-site, after having posted these my Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot):

  • wrong on emotion (emotions are not tools of cognition)
  • wrong on language acquisition (a buzzing, blooming confusion)
  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)
I try to bear in mind that when I write Objectivism, it is as if I write Communism, or Conservativism or Liberalism, or Libertarianism or Kantianism. It seems unqualified. It is not. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

Your remarks, Michael, do point to probable misunderstandings of the third objection, as paradox or conundrum or nonsense-- in any case, it carried an illogical and contradictory implication. Thanks for the quip/jibe/insight.  Better to cut rather than add, I see.

 

I reposition myself and my hobby horse behind the starting gate and try to think this through:

 

If Objectivism as I see it is like Communism etcetera, then of course it is liable to correction by other than the folks (Marx and Engels) who penned the foundation documents (The Communist Manifesto and so on).

 

 

 

... Objections to Objectivism (standing on one foot): ...

  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)
. . .
 
... Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as stated by herself.

 

 
William,
 
 [Y]our third objection, as you stated and qualified it with a definition, doesn't make any sense.
 
 
MSK, I disagree.
 
Once again, I think Darwin is a good analogy here. To this day, evolution is referred to as “Darwinism”, despite the fact that he never lived to know a fraction of the discoveries that have been made regarding evolution that we know of today. We still credit him with being the father of this science, because it was he who laid the foundation for these discoveries. He told us where the right place to look was. He pointed us in the right direction.

 

The comparison to 'Darwinism' is cogent. The door opened by Darwin's milestone works on evolution has not closed. In the case of doctrinaire Objectivism (that body of work deemed canonical by the monks and nutters at ARI), each detail of the Randian system of thought is untouchable, inviolable, intrinsically true and without blemish. I had hoped in my One Foot objections to illustrate that a system of thought and behaviour limned by Rand is incomplete and in places wrong.

 

What to do, if one objects to portions or details or knock-on effects of the ARI dogma and dicta?

 


 
Several hardcore Objectivists intensely dislike my meaning and me identifying myself like that and have expressed it (usually by calling me "a piece of shit" and things like that :smile: ), but they don't own the English language.
 
And they are wrong, anyway.
 
William comes from the other end, but his narrow approach as to what constitutes Objectivism was the same in his comment. (It hasn't been elsewhere.)
 
So understand my criticism of his comment more as a quip, as banter, or maybe crossing swords on a single meaning level for fun since "single meaning" appears to be what he was doing and I don't take that too seriously. (This is a variation of the strawman argument.)

 

Cryptic phrases like 'the other end' and 'narrow approach' and 'hasn't been elsewhere' don't add up in my mind, yet. It would be interesting to read your standing-on-one-foot objections to Objectivism ... but that is not in the cards, is it?
 


 
- Canonical Objectivism (That which was written by Ayn Rand or writing specifically endorsed by her)
- Orthodox Objectivism (That which is being touted by Piekovian Randroids)
- objectivism (self-styled, individually tailored philosophy informed by and on the same foundation as Canonical Objectivism).
 
Bottom line - if you agree with the fundamentals that Rand stated while standing on one foot, and that is your starting point, then as far as I'm concerned, you are an objectivist. And that would be me.

 

Well, this leaves me at sea. The fundamentals are superficially agreeable, as Rand stated, at least on broad strokes. I do not agree that 'Capitalism' ought be viewed as 'politics' ... and I do not agree that any ethics based on 'selfishness' can be part of a useful system for living (I mean useful to me).

 

 

  1. Metaphysics Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology Reason
  3. Ethics Self-interest
  4. Politics Capitalism

 

Where I do appear to stand with objectivish/objectivist/Objectivist folks is with one and two; I do believe strongly that there stands a reality beyond me and the confines of my mind, a world untouched by spirits.  I do also agree that the suite of actions labelled Reason (and, within reason, science)**  is the best epistemological toolkit humans have devised can acquire. 

I think perhaps Brant, in his giddy one liner, is closest to the pith of my obections: that a birdbrain Objectivist is what I object to, that some self-styled big O Objectivists are dull to the bone, beyond the point of stupidity.

Without coining a phrase, and without naming and shaming, some Objectivists are hardly distinguishable from cult members. 

I appreciate the commentary -- thanks to KC for the further footwork on my objections.

 

 Where we three argumentators may agree: the label 'Objectivist' is sometimes best reserved for the   monks, canons and archdeacons of the ARI.  That sorry tribe still manages to tar the Randian 'movement' with crankery, if not kookdom; poor Peikoff declaiming weekly to no one but the devotees or 'enlightened.'

 

PS: looking at the related content suggested on this page, I recommend a two-footed dash through the short lively thread of discussion following "the Emotonomicon." Starring Carol as the canucki.

 

__________________________

 

** allusion to Susan Haack, my favourite philosopher of Reason and Logics, who penned the marvelously succinct and tough-minded "Defending Science - within Reason: Between Scientism And Cynicism," for perusal at Amazon ...

 

Haack styles herself as a Critical Common-sensist and I kinda do too, mostadatime.


Edited by william.scherk, 23 April 2013 - 12:27 PM.

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#10 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 10:11 AM

It would be interesting to read your standing-on-one-foot objections to Objectivism ... but that is not in the cards, is it?

 

 

William,

 

What an odd statement. I don't want to destroy a love affair with such an ingrained strawman (you two do look cute together :) ), but I've said it over and over and over in one post after another for several years. With explanations, examples, long-ass analyses, comparisons with the thinking of others, etc., etc., etc.,

 

And it is only one word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here it comes.

 

Watch it, now...

 

Watch it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(OK, I didn't stand on one foot. I hopped around a bit on it, but jeez, it was only one word. :) )

 

Michael


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#11 william.scherk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:33 PM

Scope is a lovely, encompassing term. That door (to discovery/discussion) is wide open and inviting.

 

I will think for a while on something like, "The issue of 'scope' in officialized Objectivism."  After doing a thorough googl on scope as it appears under your name. THX, as the kids say.

 

Michael, I kinda sorta almost hoped for a 1,2,3 bif bam boom on one foot discursion, but your extreme pith above killed that hope dead. Beyond laconic into 'engram' territory.  

 

I like it. 


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#12 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 12:49 PM

William,

 

Engram?

 

Be careful with the body thetans.

 

They will fuck you up.

 

:)

 

Michael


Know thyself...


#13 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 01:16 PM

William,

 

For the record, here for the umpteenth time is what I believe about Objectivism and scope.

 

Whenever I see myself disagreeing with Objectivism, there is a premise I check: scope.

 

In the majority of cases (not all), I have found that if the topic (emotions, tabula rasa, whatever) is treated as universal by Rand, Peikoff of some other Objectivist author, the universality is wrong. But if you delimit the scope of that topic to specific areas, if you place it under qualified conditions and make that conditional version universal (meaning always true whenever those conditions are present), instead of the original claim for all time everywhere, Rand's observations are not wrong. They are not only correct, they are insightful and often highly original.

 

It's one thing to be wrong because you are totally out to lunch on a topic. It's quite another to be profound and true, but overreach.

 

Therefore, I do not believe Objectivism is wrong, wrong, wrong, so woefully wrong it it pitiful. That means standing on one foot equations like the following from you are just as useless to me as my one word standing on one foot objection was to you.

 

  • wrong on emotion (emotions are not tools of cognition)

  • wrong on language acquisition (a buzzing, blooming confusion)
  • incapable of correction (absolutism of dicta)

 

It's not because I'm defending Rand according to the narrative that this is what us little Randians do, poor things. We defend her at all costs and get so very befuddled when we try. Ain't it so? Ain't it so? Ain't it so very so?

 

(Whew! :smile: Back to serious.) It's actually because I don't use your black-and-white oversimplification method--the one you used on one foot in the quote--for analyzing this stuff.

 

I'm not out to debunk, but, instead, understand.

 

Besides, why go whole foot when a toe will do? :smile:

 

In such cases, pithiness is your friend. And if you can do it in good humor, its win-win for everyone, except maybe the Mythological Narrative That Would Be Reality. That kinda gets shot out of the water.

 

(Oops. I forgot. I should not be so glib. People kill each other for real over their different Mythological Narratives That Would Be Reality. :smile: )

 

Michael


Know thyself...


#14 william.scherk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 05:55 PM

William,
 
Engram?
 
Be careful with the body thetans.
 
They will fuck you up.

 
So they say. They (the Wikipedia them)  also say this ...
 

The term engram was coined by the little-known but influential memory researcher Richard Semon.

Karl S. Lashley's search for the engram found that it could not exist in any specific part of the rat's brain, but that memory was widely distributed throughout the cortex. One possible explanation for Lashley's failure to locate the engram is that many types of memory (e.g. visual-spatial, smell, etc.) are used in the processing of complex tasks, such as rats running mazes. The consensus view in neuroscience is that the sorts of memory involved in complex tasks are likely to be distributed among a variety of neural systems, yet certain types of knowledge may be processed and contained in specific regions of the brainted, though their exact mechanism and location has been a focus of persistent research for many decades.


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#15 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 07:09 PM

William,
 
Gosh darn it. You mean by bopping around cult studies, I learned it wrong?
 
Engram (Dianetics)
 
From the article:

 

In Dianetics and Scientology, an engram is defined as "a mental image picture which is a recording of an experience containing pain, unconsciousness and a real or fancied threat to survival. It is a recording in the reactive mind of something which actually happened to an individual in the past and which contained pain and unconsciousness ... It must, by definition, have impact or injury as part of its content. These engrams are a complete recording, down to the last accurate detail, of every perception present in a moment of partial or full unconsciousness."

 

The term engram was coined in 1904 by the German scholar Richard Semon, who defined it as a "stimulus impression" which could be reactivated by the recurrence of "the energetic conditions which ruled at the generation of the engram."

 

Semon's concept was re-used by L. Ron Hubbard when he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950. He conceived of the engram as a form of "memory trace," an idea which had long existed in medicine. According to Dr. Joseph Winter, a physician who collaborated in the development of Dianetics, Hubbard had taken the term "engram" from the 1936 edition of Dorland's Medical Dictionary, where it was defined as "a lasting mark or trace .... In psychology it is the lasting trace left in the psyche by anything that has been experienced psychically; a latent memory picture." He had originally used the terms "Norn", "comanome" and "impediment" before alighting on "engram" following a suggestion from Winter.

 

Hubbard's concept of the engram evolved over time. In Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, he wrote that "The word engram, in dianetics is used in its severely accurate sense as a 'definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue'", which followed fairly closely the original definition in Dorland's. He later repudiated the idea that an engram was a physical cellular trace, redefining his concept as being "a mental image picture of a moment of pain and unconsciousness".

 

According to Hubbard whenever an engram is stimulated it increases in power.

 

Jeff Jacobsen has drawn an analogy between Dianetics auditing and abreaction therapy, equating engrams to the painful subconscious memories that abreaction therapy brings up to the conscious mind. He quotes Dr. Nathaniel Thornton, who compares abreaction therapy in turn to confession.

 

 

You sound like you don't know what a body thetan is.

 

Good.

 

It's better not to know...

 

They's some scary little suckers...

 

:)

 

Michael


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#16 william.scherk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 08:16 PM

You sound like you don't know what a body thetan is.
 
Good.
 
It's better not to know...
 
They's some scary little suckers...

 

Er, maybe no more scary than other spirit entities said to infest humans. I mean only that I can think of no slimier contemporary cult. But. And. Whether pixie, brownie, sprite, nymph or demonic succubus, it is all Tinkerbell meets Yahweh meets Thor meets Beelzebub to me. Bumf.


The alacrity of Elron is remarkable in terms of borrowing and regurgitating other people's interesting inventions, but not genius, and not particularly impressive in terms of knock-on, of 'testing' the zany doctrine ... the Elron style of megalomania had no 'experimental kitchen' in which his nitwit notions could be checked for bogosity and so on.

To my eyes, DianeticsScientologyChurchBusinessPrisonCamp botched just about everything it borrowed, and so did they botch the borrowing of engram. By reifying the notion, the church gets it wrong wrong wrong, bad science fiction wrong. And, as with the hairy little suckers of his illustrated tone scale, the internal logic is missing, yet the machinery still pumps. To my eyes, all is a bizarre fictional as-if set of regulations and signifiers, overburdened with the evidence of Elron's madnesses.

 

tonescale.png

But that's just me. How did we get to Scientology on One Foot, though?
 


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Book of the Year: A Tale of Two Metropolitan Statistical Areas


#17 william.scherk

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 09:19 PM

On the cousinly subject of Scary Hairy Things, I will defer to Carol herself, but we may have to wait. In the meantime, meet the Sarcastic Fringehead ... hat-tip to Pharyngula, natcherly.
 

Meet the sarcastic fringehead, an oddly named fish who looks like the Predator

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The sarcastic fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi) is a footlong fish that lives off the Pacific coast of North America. When unthreatened, the fringehead's visage is fairly unremarkable. But if a marine predator (or stray human hand) attempts to dislodge a fringehead from its crevasse, the fish will race into action, brandishing its frightening Predator-like mouth at the interloper.


And things get even stranger when two sarcastic fringeheads get embroiled in a turf war. How strange? Two words: "mouth wrestling." Are you brave enough to behold the angriest make-out party in the animal kingdom?


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As the University of Michigan explains of this temperamental fish's guest policy:
 

 
As suggested by their name, sarcastic fringeheads are extremely temperamental. They are fiercely territorial creatures that aggressively protect their homes from all intruders, regardless of size. The majority of the time, sarcastic fringeheads are at rest in their homes — only their heads protrude. However, upon the first sign of danger, they will employ their enormous mouths and needlelike teeth for defense. Initially, they emit only a warning accomplished by the flexing and snapping of their jaws. If the intruder ignores the warning, they will use their ferocious teeth to attack.

 

Yikes. Mouth wrestling. Kinda sounds like a twilight zone internet radio show starring Dr Mrs Dr Hsieh and the Arch-Fiend himself, Peikoff, both with remarkable sets of choppers.

 

***********************************************

Now, maestro, I await your skillful rearming of this thread, to nail that dang topic or at least the neighbourhood. Despite my effusions. In righteous rejection of my effusions even.

While waiting, I will hypmotize myself into subjection, by staring at this picture of Peikoff and fledglings, all on one foot, each. The all-seeing eye of ObjectivismARIstyle.

 

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Edited by william.scherk, 23 April 2013 - 09:43 PM.

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Book of the Year: A Tale of Two Metropolitan Statistical Areas


#18 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 12:18 AM

How did we get to Scientology on One Foot, though?

 
William,
 
Engram.
 
And body thetan quip.
 
btw - If you are interested, I just read Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. It just came out, is going bestseller, and I was lucky enough to grab a library copy, so I did and devoured the book. (You don't have much library time on new releases and you can't renew.)
 
I highly recommend it. Wright is one hell of a good writer. (Pulitzer Prize winner and all.)
 
Here are some quotes you might like from that book. I sure did and they partially explain why I am fascinated by the dear Commodore and his antics:
 

I have spent much of my career examining the effects of religious beliefs on people’s lives—historically, a far more profound influence on society and individuals than politics, which is the substance of so much journalism. I was drawn to write this book by the questions that many people have about Scientology: What is it that makes the religion alluring? What do its adherents get out of it? How can seemingly rational people subscribe to beliefs that others find incomprehensible? Why do popular personalities associate themselves with a faith that is likely to create a kind of public relations martyrdom? These questions are not unique to Scientology, but they certainly underscore the conversation.
 
. . .
 
The many discrepancies between Hubbard’s legend and his life have overshadowed the fact that he genuinely was a fascinating man: an explorer, a best-selling author, and the founder of a worldwide religious movement. The tug-of-war between Scientologists and anti-Scientologists over Hubbard’s biography has created two swollen archetypes: the most important person who ever lived and the world’s greatest con man. Hubbard himself seemed to revolve on this same axis, constantly inflating his actual accomplishments in a manner that was rather easy for his critics to puncture. But to label him a pure fraud is to ignore the complex, charming, delusional, and visionary features of his character that made him so compelling to the many thousands who followed him and the millions who read his work. One would also have to ignore his life’s labor in creating the intricately detailed epistemology that has pulled so many into its net—including, most prominently, Hubbard himself.
 
. . .
 
[During the years on ship:]
 
For all his wealth, Hubbard spent much of his time in his cabin alone, auditing himself on the E-Meter and developing his spiritual technology. He may have been grandiose and delusional, but the endless stream of policy letters and training routines that poured from his typewriter hour after hour, day after day, attests to his obsession with the notion of creating a step-by-step pathway to universal salvation. If it was all a con, why would he bother?
 
. . .
 
One might compare Scientology with the Church of Latter Day Saints, a new religion of the previous century. The founder of the movement, Joseph Smith, claimed to have received a pair of golden plates from the angel Moroni in upstate New York in 1827, along with a pair of magical “seeing stones,” which allowed him to read the contents. Three years later, he published The Book of Mormon, founding a movement that would provoke the worst outbreak of religious persecution in American history. Mormons were chased all across the country because of their practice of polygamy and their presumed heresy. Smith himself was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. His beleaguered followers sought to escape the United States and establish a religious theocracy in the territory of Utah, which they called Zion. Mormons were so despised that there was a bill in Congress to exterminate them. And yet Mormonism would evolve and go on to become one of the fastest-growing denominations in the twentieth, and now the twenty-first, centuries. Members of the faith now openly run for president of the United States. In much of the world, this religion, which was once tormented because of its perceived anti-American values, is now thought of as being the most American of religions; indeed, that’s how many Mormons think of it as well. It is a measure not only of the religion’s success but also of the ability of a faith to adapt and change.

And yet Joseph Smith was plainly a liar. In answer to the charge of polygamy, he claimed he had only one wife, when he had already accumulated a harem...
 
. . .
 
The evolution of Scientology into a religion also resembles the progression of Christian Science, the faith Tommy Davis was born into. Like Hubbard, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, experimented with alternative ways of healing. Like Hubbard, she claimed to have been an invalid who cured herself; she, too, wrote a book based on her experience, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which became the basis for the founding of the Church of Christ, Scientist, in 1879. Far more than is the case with Scientology, Christian Science stands against mainstream medical practices, even though both organizations lay claim to being more “scientific” than religious. Many religions, including Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, even Christianity—have known scorn and persecution. Some, like the Shakers and the Millerites, died out, but others, including Mormons and Pentecostals, have elbowed their way into the crowded religious landscape of American society.

 
I think Scientology is going to be around for a long, long time.

I was particularly struck by a comment Wright made, and this makes more sense to me than anything else about why people believe such weird stuff among the valuable stuff in their respective religions:

 

"Belief in the irrational is one definition of faith, but it is also true that clinging to absurd or disputed doctrines binds a community of faith together and defines a barrier to the outside world."

Knowing the weird part of the dogma down pat and holding it up to the world like a sign is a mark of an insider. It's more social than epistemological.
 
Michael


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#19 KacyRay

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 12:36 AM

Ah yes, Pharyngula... the 3rd rung of feminist hell.

 

PZ Meyers, King of the Girl-Men and overlord of the most chicken-shit bunch of bottom-feeding commenters on the net. </rant>

 

I'm surprised anyone associated with this blog has anything to do with that site.


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#20 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 01:26 AM

Kacy,

 

You mean this PZ Meyers?

 

PZ Myers :: GasBag Bigotry

The Salty Droid

October 4, 2011

 

(Go on... read it... Salty's a hoot...)

 

:)

 

Michael


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