AI not working as intended

ft_19.07.11_socialmediacompanies_younger-republican-men-less-likely-see-need-remove-offensive-content_2
source

As we have previously covered, there has been a push in recent times for social media companies to censor posts containing offensive remarks, Fake News, Russian bots, or slowed down videos of Nancy Pelosi. Social media companies have been dumb enough to along with this demand (mostly because the people who run them are also the kinds of people who think social media companies should censor more,) but as a practical matter, they are of course incapable of reading and evaluating every post that comes their way.

So these companies need algorithms to trawl their millions of posts for offensive content.

Unfortunately (for someone) any AI trained on things that people actually find offensive will censor things the Woke don’t want censored:

On LGBTQ pride month, we share some of the main findings of our research looking at the impacts of Artificial Intelligence on LGBTQ speech. Our goal is to shed some light on the gaps and biases that may be present in AI technologies that are currently being developed to moderate content on internet platforms and demonstrate how they might have significant implications for LGBTQ rights.

The results of this study are unintentionally hilarious:

By training their algorithm to learn what pieces of content are more likely to be considered as “toxic”, Perspective may be a useful tool to make automated decisions about what should stay and what should be taken down from the internet platforms. …

We used Perspective’s API to measure the perceived levels of toxicity of prominent drag queens in the United States and compared them with the perceived levels of toxicity of other prominent Twitter users in the US, especially far-right figures. …

After getting access to Twitter’s API, we collected tweets of all former participants of RuPaul’s Drag Race (seasons 1 to 10) who have verified accounts on Twitter and who post in English, amounting to 80 drag queen Twitter profiles.

We used Perspective’s production version 6 dealing with “toxicity”. We only used content posted in English, so tweets in other languages were excluded. We also collected tweets of prominent non-LGBTQ people (Michelle Obama, Donald Trump, David DukeRichard SpencerStefan Molyneux and Faith Goldy). These Twitter accounts were chosen as control examples for less controversial or “healthy” speech (Michele Obama) and for extremely controversial or “very toxic” speech (Donald Trump, David DukeRichard SpencerStefan Molyneux and Faith Goldy). In total, we collected 116,988 tweets and analysed 114,204 (after exclusions).

grafico_com_drags
“drag queens are in blue; white supremacists in red; Michelle Obama in green and Donald Trump, in orange.”

It turns out that drag queens are really rude and Richard Spencer is pretty polite. Even Donald Trump, who is kind of rude sometimes, is more polite than the majority of drag queens.

Of course, anyone who has actually read their tweets would have known this already. As the study notes, drag queens are likely to pepper their tweets with phrases like “I love you bitch” and “I’m a faggot,” while white supremecists are likely to say things like “Italy has a lovely history and culture and we should preserve it.” Drag queens also know their speech is protected (back in the early days of systems like AOL Online, you weren’t allowed to use words like “bitch” and “fuck,” but today they are allowed,) while WNs know that they are being watched and that if they step out of line, there’s a good chance their accounts will be deleted.

Any algorithm trained on actual rudeness as perceived by normal humans will of course tag drag queens’ typical tweets as offensive; it will take intervention by actual humans to train the algorithms to pick up on the words creators actually want to censor, like “Donald Trump” or “Chinese detention camps”.

 Speaking of which:

Van de Weghe has continued to study Chinese AI—how it tracks people with ever-improving facial recognition software. He describes the new “social credit” programs that use AI to combine data from numerous sources, assign scores to people’s behavior and allocate privileges accordingly. In 2013, when Liu Hu, a Chinese journalist, exposed a government official’s corruption, he lost his social credit and could no longer buy plane tickets or property, take out loans, or travel on certain train lines. …

Jennifer Pan, an assistant professor of communication, explains why Chinese citizens accept social credit programs. “People think others spit in the street or don’t take care of shared, public facilities. They imagine that social credit could lead to a better, more modern China. This is an appealing idea. Political dissent is already so highly suppressed and marginalized that the addition of AI is unlikely to have anything more than an incremental effect.”

The result for journalists is that actual prisons (where many are currently held) are replaced by virtual prisons—less visible and therefore more difficult to report on. In the face of this, Van de Weghe says, many journalists he knows have quit or self-censored. And while reporters outside China can critique the general practice of censorship, thousands of individual cases go unnoticed. Government computers scan the internet for all types of dissidence, from unauthorized journalism to pro-democracy writing to photos of Winnie-the-Pooh posted by citizens to critique President Xi Jinping, who is thought to bear a resemblance. AI news anchors—simulations that resemble humans on-screen—deliver news 24/7. The government calls this media control “harmonization.” The Communist Party’s goal for sustaining its rule, according to Pan, “is to indoctrinate people to agree. Authoritarian regimes don’t want fear.”

There is a lot of amazing technological progress coming out of China these days, for good or bad:

If you think mass AI-censorship and surveillance sounds scary in China but totally good and awesome in the US, you haven’t thought this through.

Cathedral Round-Up #18: Audre Lorde (Come and Vote!)

93010-004-6d415c60In honor of the decision by students at the University of Pennsylvania to replace Shakespeare’s portrait (too stale, pale, and male for our newest crop of intellectuals,) with Audre Lorde’s, (“African American writer, civil rights activist and self-described, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.'”) I decided to read a batch of Lorde’s poetry to see how it stacks up against the bard’s.

Audre Lorde: POC
Audre Lorde

But to make this more fun, I’ve decided to pair each Lorde poem (chosen from those available on PoemHunter.com) with a poem on a similar theme from Shakespeare and let you vote for the ones you think are genuinely the best. (I wanted to make two columns so you can read the poems side-by-side, but I’m not sure how to code that, so I just photoshopped the poems together. Let me know if they aren’t readable.)

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EvX: I decided to cut #4, because it was quite long. We still have 5/7 listed on PoemHunter.
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(Lest you question my technique in choosing these poems, my methodology was relatively simple: first I headed to the local library, in search of this famous poet’s marvelous books. Alas, even though Lorde published a grand total of 17 books of poems and essays, [including a posthumous collection of writings not previously deemed worth publishing,] coming admirably close to Shakespeare’s 38 plays and 154 sonnets, the local library is mysteriously bereft of her work; I could find only one poem and a couple of essays in large anthologies.

william-shakespeare_visualisationSo I turned to the internet, as mentioned. PoemHunter.com, which lists about 400 entries for Skakespeare, also lists 7 poems for Lorde. I assume these particular poems are on the site because Lorde’s fans believe them to be particularly excellent examples of her work, and so decided to use them for my comparison. After excluding one for obscenity and one for length, I was left with a reasonable 5, which I then tried to match against poems of similar theme from William Shakespeare.)

Now at this point, you may be asking yourself, “Who is this grand Shakespearess? Whence hailed this ebony poet of warrior’s virtue?”

According to Wikipedia:

Lorde was born in New York City to Caribbean immigrants from Barbados and Carriacou, Frederick Byron Lorde (called Byron) and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde, who settled in Harlem. Lorde’s mother was of mixed ancestry but could pass for white, … Lorde’s father was darker than the Belmar family liked, and they only allowed the couple to marry because of Byron Lorde’s charm, ambition, and persistence.[3] [Audre] learned to talk while she learned to read, at the age of four, and her mother taught her to write at around the same time. She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade.

Now, this brought me to a dead stop, because most children begin talking around the age of one, not four. By the age of two, the average child can form two-word sentences; a two year old who is not talking needs to be seen by a medical professional to ascertain if they have some physical or mental disability (such as hearing loss or jaw difficulties.) And according to Early and Late Talkers: school-age language, literacy, and neurolinguistic differences:

In this study, 174 elementary school-age children whose parents reported that they started forming sentences ‘early’, ‘on-time’ or ‘late’ were evaluated with standardized measures of language, reading and spelling. All oral and written language measures revealed consistent patterns for ‘early’ talkers to have the highest level of performance and ‘late’ talkers to have the lowest level of performance…

In short, a kid who doesn’t start talking until the age of four is most likely severely retarded. The claim here that Audre Lorde began talking at the age of four, with no given explanation for why and no indication of mental impairment, is extremely suspect. (Though I note that people in Lorde’s day didn’t rush to get their kids autism diagnoses like we do today. Wikipedia’s claim that:

As a child, Lorde, who struggled with communication, came to appreciate the power of poetry as a form of expression.[8] She memorized a great deal of poetry, and would use it to communicate, to the extent that, “If asked how she was feeling, Audre would reply by reciting a poem.”[9]

is consistent with autism and other developmental disorders, so perhaps Lorde is indeed a high-IQ autist who simply began speaking late.)

Lorde’s relationship with her parents was difficult from a young age. She was able to spend very little time with her father and mother, who were busy maintaining their real estate business…

screenshot-2016-05-07-17-07-13So Audre Lorde is basically the half-white, half-black daughter of rich immigrants who lived in NYC. (Even when liberals are clearly trying their hardest, they still somehow can’t find a poet who is actually a member of America’s historical black community. Perhaps libs just aren’t good at distinguishing between different groups of non-whites, hence their habit of just lumping them all together in an undifferentiated mass of “POCs.”)

In New York, Lorde she was subject to such rampant discrimination that she was forced to attend Hunter College High School:

Hunter College High School is a secondary school for intellectually gifted students located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is administered by Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Hunter is publicly funded, and there is no tuition fee. According to the school, “students accepted to Hunter represent the top one-quarter of 1% of students in New York City, based on test scores.”[1]

Hunter has been ranked as the top public high school in the United States by both The Wall Street Journal and Worth.[2][3][4] The New York Times called Hunter “the prestigious Upper East Side school known for its Ivy League-bound students” and “the fast track to law, medicine and academia.”[5] Publicly available data indicate that Hunter has the highest average SAT score, the highest average ACT score and the highest percentage of National Merit Finalists of any high school in the United States, public or private.[6][7]

Evil Jim Crow laws and homophobia then so shut Lorde out of college and job opportunities that she was basically homeless and starving in the streets:

In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period she described as a time of affirmation and renewal, during which she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a lesbian and poet. On her return to New York, she attended Hunter College, graduating class of 1959. There, she worked as a librarian, continued writing and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. She furthered her education at Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in Library Science in 1961. She also worked during this time as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married attorney Edwin Rollins; they divorced in 1970 after having two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. In 1966, Lorde became head librarian at Town School Library in New York City, where she remained until 1968.[10]

In 1968 Lorde was writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi,[11]

In 1984 Audre Lorde started a visiting professorship in Berlin Germany at the Free University of Berlin. She was invited by Dagmar Schultz who met her at the UN “World Women’s Conference” in Copenhagen in 1980. While Lorde was in Germany she made a significant impact on the women there and was a big part of the start of the Afro-German movement.[13] The term Afro-German was created by Lorde and some Black German women as a nod to African-American. During her many trips to Germany, she touched many women’s lives including May Ayim, Ika Hügel-Marshall, and Hegal Emde. All of these women decided to start writing after they met Audre Lorde.[14] She encouraged the women of Germany to speak up and have a voice. … Her impact on Germany reached more than just Afro-German women. Many white women and men found Lorde’s work to be very beneficial to their own lives. They started to put their privilege and power into question and became more conscious.[14]

Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee syllabary
Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee syllabary

See, pre-Lorde Germans were basically brute savages, ignorant of ideas like “write things down” or “talk about stuff.” It is very lucky for them that this miracle working Sequoyah deigned to teach them her Dahomey magic art of “consciousness;” I certainly can’t think of anything that occurred prior to 1984 that might have ever made a German person think spontaneously and independently about things like “power” or how the state might oppress an ethnic minority. But getting back to Wikipedia:

Because of her impact on the Afro-German movement, Dagmar Schultz put together a documentary to highlight the chapter of her life that was not known to many. Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years was accepted by the Berlinale in 2012 and from then was shown at many different film festivals around the world and received five awards. The film showed the lack of recognition that Lorde received for her contributions towards the theories of intersectionality.[13]

It's almost like privilege isn't a real thing and not all humans are identical
It’s almost like privilege isn’t a real thing and not all humans are identical

Gee, why don’t people understand that the idle rich have a unique insight into the lives of oppressed people? It’s just terrible when wealthy people don’t get the credit they deserve.

Oh, would you like to hear some of Lorde’s non-fiction? Here’s an excerpt from an essay she wrote in 1985:

… stock in Black human life in the U.S.A., never high, is plunging rapidly in the sight of white american complacencies. But as African-Americans we cannot afford to play that market’ it is our live and the live of our children that are at stake.

The political and social flavor of the African American position in the 1980s eel in particular aspects to be analogous to occurrences in the Black South African communities of the 1950s, the period of the postwar construction of the apartheid, reaction, and suppression…

The fact that African-Americans can till move about relatively freely, do not yet have to cary passbooks or battle an officially named policy of apartheid, should not delude us for a minute about the disturbing similarities of the Black situation in each one of these profit-oriented economies.

Not only does Lorde appear to be unaware that 324,000 white Americans died to free the slaves, (perhaps this is not her fault–after all, Lorde’s ancestors weren’t in the country back then and she attended such an inadequate, taxpayer-funded school that she might have never heard of this little dust-up between the states,) she also believed in 1985 that the US was moving toward a system of full apartheid.

Alexander Wienberger, Holodomor
Alexander Wienberger, Holodomor

I can forgive a bad prediction–we all make them–but why was this essay included in a book published in 2000, well after we discovered that the US was not actually moving toward apartheid? Here, let’s have an essay about phlogistan while we’re at it.

Also, Lorde is a communist and we all know exactly how well that turned out.

Another book with one of Lorde’s essays, “The Impossible will Take a While,” published in 2014, states in its introduction (not written by Lorde):

We live in a contradictory world. Dispiriting events coincide with progress for human dignity. … Only a short while ago, if you were gay, you were probably invisible and closeted, except for a handful of courageous activists who affirmed who they were despite major risks and costs.

csfayeyuiaacannLiberals live in this strange time warp where basically the entire world prior to the Obama administration was Dark Ages. In 1984, a good thirty years before this book was published, enough gay men were courageous and active enough to have unprotected sex with hundreds or thousands of partners, resulting in an AIDS epidemic that had already claimed 7,600 American lives. By the early 90s, AIDS was killing over 40,000 people a year, but its rampage was finally checked by condom use and the massively expensive development of retroviral drugs, so that by 2002, a mere 500,000 Americans had died.

That’s a really big “handful.”

Are people simply incapable of figuring out whether strings of words make sense or bear any relationship to reality?

According to HuffPo, Study Finds People Who Fall for Nonsense Inspirational Quotes are Less Intelligent:

When Ph.D. candidate Gordon Pennycook stumbled on [the “New Age Bullshit Generator,”] he found it profoundly entertaining — at first. But then he got a little disturbed:

“I thought, ‘I wonder if people would actually rate such blatant bullshit as profound,’” …

His study, “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit,” was published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making in November. Pennycook, along with a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, tested close to 800 participants on whether they could determine if a statement was bullshit. …

Defining “bullshit” … he cites the deceptively deep sentence “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty.”

The study explains: “Although this statement may seem to convey some sort of potentially profound meaning, it is merely a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence that retains syntactic structure.”

“Bullshit, in contrast to mere nonsense, is something that implies but does not contain adequate meaning or truth,” it continues. …

The researchers used randomly generated sayings from New Age Bullshit Generator and another site called “Wisdom of Chopra” — the last a sarcastic nod to the new age teachings of best-selling alternative medicine author Deepak Chopra — for the study.

They found that people who are receptive to this kind of “pseudo-intellectual bullshit” are less intelligent than those who aren’t.

well_there__s_your_problem_by_sness107-d4xl9liBut getting back to Audre Lorde:

She wrote The Cancer Journals, which won the American Library Association Gay Caucus Book of the Year Award in 1981.[16] She featured as the subject of a documentary called A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, which shows her as an author, poet, human rights activist, feminist, lesbian, a teacher, a survivor, and a crusader against bigotry.[17]

From 1991 until her death, she was the New York State Poet Laureate.[19] In 1992, she received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle. In 2001, Publishing Triangle instituted the Audre Lorde Award to honour works of lesbian poetry.[20]

State poet laureates are in fact real things; New York law dictates:

The governor shall biennially present the New York state Walt Whitman citation of merit to a distinguished New York poet upon the recommendation of the panel constituted in this section. The poet selected shall be considered the state poet and the citation shall carry an honorarium of ten thousand dollars. …

Nothing says “oppressed” like the state of New York voting to give you $10,000 a year to write poems about gay sex and black power. (I would take Lorde’s self-description as a “warrior” more seriously if she put her money where her mouth is and actually joined the army.)

In Ada Gay Griffin and Michelle Parkerson‘s documentary A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde, Lorde says, “Let me tell you first about what it was like being a Black woman poet in the ’60s, from jump. It meant being invisible. It meant being really invisible. It meant being doubly invisible as a Black feminist woman and it meant being triply invisible as a Black lesbian and feminist”.[35]

Honey, you’re not invisible because you’re a black lesbian feminist; you’re invisible because you chose a profession that most people don’t care about and then managed to suck at it.

1280px-procession_of_characters_from_shakespeares_plays_-_google_art_project

Cathedral Round-Up #16: Infiltration of the Church?

Disclaimer: I am an atheist, so I am in no position to tell Christians how to run their religion.

That said, it seems pretty obvious even to me that mainstream Christianity has launched itself off the deep end and bears little resemblance to “Christianity” as it has been practiced for most of its 2000 or so years.

The Pope is a really nice guy, from the Guardian
The Pope is a really nice guy, from the Guardian

The thing we have now is Niceianity. Let me emphasize that “nice.” Most of the folks involved are, as far as I can tell, very kind-hearted people. Take Karen Oliveto, the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church. Oliveto lead Glide Memorial, which I am familiar with because they serve nearly a million free meals to the homeless every year. (SF has a lot of homeless people.) That’s really nice.

Thing is, I’m not convinced that God is “nice.” The God of the Old Testament routinely acts in ways that the average modern person would probably describe as “not nice,” like killing the firstborn sons of the Egyptians or pretty much the entire Book of Job.

As a parent, I always have my kids’ best interests at heart, but I am often not “nice” from their perspective: I make them go to bed when they want to play; I make them do their homework when they want to play; I even make them go to the grocery store when they want to play, because I’m an evil person who wants to get food so I can cook dinner.

Parenting cannot be understood through a child’s understanding of “nice.”

And if there is such a thing as God, I don’t think it (he, whatever) can be understood via our particular current concept of “nice.” (Obviously I am not saying you should go out and be mean. Obey your notions of good behavior.)

One of the interesting things about Christianity is its history of schisms. For example, back in the late 1700s, the Shakers split off from the Quakers:

[Shakers] looked to women for leadership, believing that the second coming of Christ would be through a woman. In 1770, [Shaker leader] Ann Lee was revealed in “manifestation of Divine light” to be the second coming of Christ and was called Mother Ann.[6]

(More about the Shakers.)

Shakers, what with their communal lifestyle, female equality, female preachers, female incarnation of god, and near zero fertility obviously bear much in common with today’s feminists. The difference is that Shakers did not pretend to be Anglicans or Catholics or Methodists: they were just fine with being their own thing.

Let’s talk about infiltration.

Podesta email 6293, calling for a "Catholic Spring"
Podesta email 6293, calling for a “Catholic Spring”

According to Wikipedia:

Dr. Bella Visono Dodd (1904[1] – 29 April 1969[2]) was a member of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA) in the 1930s and 1940s who later became a vocal anti-communist. After her defection from the Communist Party in 1949, she testified that one of her jobs, as a Communist agent, was to encourage young radicals to enter Roman Catholic Seminaries.[3] …

Dodd testified before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). She said: “In the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within. The idea was for these men to be ordained, and then climb the ladder of influence and authority as Monsignors and Bishops”

Dodd told Alice von Hildebrand that:

“When she was an active party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican who were working for us, [i.e. the Communist Party]”(Christian Order magazine, “The Church in Crisis”, reprinted from The Latin Mass magazine).[7]

Dodd made a public affidavit which was witnessed by a number of people, including Paul and Johnine Leininger.

In her public affidavit, among other things, Dodd stated:
“In the late 1920’s and 1930’s, directives were sent from Moscow to all Communist Party organizations. In order to destroy the [Roman] Catholic Church from within, party members were to be planted in seminaries and within diocesan organizations… I, myself, put some 1,200 men in [Roman] Catholic seminaries”.

von Hildebrand confirmed that Dodd had publicly stated the same things to which she attested in her public affidavit.

(I don’t know anything about this lady. Maybe she was just a crazy person trying to get attention by crying “Communist ploooot!” But see also Operation Spectrum, Singapore.)

"The Bishop of Stockholm has proposed a church in her diocese remove all signs of the cross and put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers." (Swedes.)
“The Bishop of Stockholm has proposed a church in her diocese remove all signs of the cross and put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers.” (Swedes.)

About a year and a half ago, I posted excerpts from an article about Stanford University’s new Dean of Religious life, Jane Shaw, who is notable for being both the first woman and the first gay person to hold the position:

“Q. At Grace Cathedral and at Oxford, you led programs far afield from what might be considered religious: Hosting forums with politicians, activists and authors; bringing in atheists and believers; and commissioning artists-in-residence to create plays and installations. What’s your guiding light?

A. I don’t think I am a very churchy person, if that makes sense. I have always been interested in how you engage people in discussing questions of ultimate meaning, really—values, ethics, spirituality, all that stuff. …

Q. What new directions will you bring to Stanford?

A. …It is certainly my desire to make sure that Memorial Church is a place for extremely lively intellectual engagement, a place where possibly difficult issues can be discussed, a place where ethical and spiritual issues can be discussed. I am hoping we’ll have different sorts of people preaching here as guest preachers, not just clergy.”

That same issue of Stanford Magazine had another article focused on insulting people who believe in Hell. As I concluded back then:

According to Stanford, a gay woman who isn’t very “churchy” but likes discussing ethics is one of the country’s best religious leaders, and the 60% of Americans who believe in Hell are literally insane and make trouble for everyone else. …

Now, let’s try to imagine a contemporary article from any sort of respectable college or university… that conveys the inverse: respect for people who believe in hell; disrespect for gays, women, and people whose faith isn’t based on Biblical inerrancy.

Can you? Maybe Harvard? Yale? Oberlin? CalTech? Reed? Fine, how about BYU? No, probably not even them.

I can’t imagine it. A hundred years ago, maybe. Today, no. Such notions are completely incompatible with the beliefs of modern, upper-class people.

I know many perfectly decent folks who believe in hell, and think they should be respected, but “be decent to people who hold denigrated religious beliefs” is not actually my point. My point is that the American upper class, academia, and the people with a great deal of power and influence over the beliefs of others clearly agrees with Pastor Shaw’s religious beliefs (when it is not outright atheist). Upper-class liberals in America are their own ethnic group with their own religion, culture, morality, and endogamous breeding habits. Conservatives are the out-group, their religious views openly mocked by the upper class and banned from the halls of academic thought.

Wikipedia has an article on R. Guy Erwin:

R. Guy Erwin is a U.S. Lutheran clergyman. … He is also the first openly-gay bishop in the ELCA, and has lived in a committed same-sex relationship for 20 years. He and Rob Flynn were married in August, 2013.[2]

Bishop Erwin received the B.A.degree from Harvard College in 1980. He holds the M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University. From 1993–1999 he was Lecturer in Church History in the Yale Divinity School (YDS) where he taught History of Western Christianity as well as courses on Martin Luther, the Pietists and other specialities. During the 2006–2007 academic year he was Visiting Professor at YDS while on sabbatical from California Lutheran University where he has taught since 2000.[3]

And then there's this...
And then there’s this.

Note: I don’t actually think there is anything “wrong” with being gay–there might be, there might not be, I am agnostic on the issue. I favor letting gay people get married and am pissed that we’ve spent so many decades fighting over the issue when we could be dealing with real problems, like the heroin epidemic.

But I also respect the rights of religious people to think homosexuality is a sin to believe what they believe without me interfering or telling them not to.

500 Clergy support gay United Methodist Clergy who Came Out:

A letter from 500 openly LGBTQ clergy, future pastors and faith leader in a number of different denominations offered “much love and light” to the 111 United Methodist clergy and candidates who came out as gay on May 9.

“Though we come from different traditions, you are our family in Christ and our siblings in the common struggle to live fully and authentically into our God-given identities and callings,” states the letter posted on the website Believe Out Loud, an online community that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) equality. …

“We are here because God has called us to serve in this denomination, and our souls are fed by the theology in which we’ve been raised,” the 111 United Methodists write in what they call “A Love Letter to Our Church.” The signers come from across the United States, and one signer is from the Philippines. They identify themselves as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex” in the letter. …

[Matt Berryman] is the executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial United Methodist group that advocates for the church to be more inclusive. The network has coordinated publicity of this and other challenges to church law as part of the group’s “It’s Time” campaign.

“Since 2012, we’ve decided we would be the church no matter what,” Berryman told United Methodist News Service. The majority of delegates at the 2012 General Conference voted against a proposal to say United Methodists disagree whether homosexuality is against God’s will.

“Jesus came preaching a way that is narrow, and the way we live out that narrow way is to disrupt systemic injustice.”

Basically, official Methodist doctrine teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Disagree? Join a church that doesn’t tech that. For goodness’s sake, there are about 2,000 different Christian denominations. Surely you can find one that agrees with you. Or start your own church, and invite all of the gay people to come and worship with you.

But don’t go infiltrating a church whose doctrines you explicitly disagree with.

As Justin Martyr wrote in his First Apology: “No one is allowed to partake (of the Eucharist) but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”

Meanwhile the United Church of Canada is actually struggling to remove a pastor who has outright declared herself an atheist:

One Sunday in 2001, she stood up in front of her congregation, as usual. But instead of a normal sermon, she declared that she no longer believed in God. …

Much to her surprise, neither the congregation nor the church board were bothered by this. Many even confessed that they, too, had their doubts. And so they carried on, without God.

But now, the church’s top brass say they’ve received too many complaints about Vosper and have launched an unprecedented investigation to determine whether she’s fit to keep her job. …

“I won’t bow out. Because if I leave, that ruling stands and my colleagues are at risk. It’s like I’d be running to safety, and everyone else gets blown up,” she said.

Vosper’s saga couldn’t have come at a worse time for the United Church, which is already hemorrhaging devotees. Its membership has shrunk more than 60 percent since 1965, when it included more than one million. 

Maybe there’s some kind of connection here between your church being run by atheists and hemorrhaging members?

Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’

I wanted a graph that went back further in time, but this is what I found.
Courtesy of Pew Research Center, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape

More liberal Christian groups are hemorrhaging faster than the more conservative groups. Mainline Protestants, like Methodists, have lost half their members from the Silent Generation to Millenials.

Why exactly so many people are becoming atheists remains a mystery to me–I tend to blame it on electricity, but maybe I’m reaching. At any rate, I think that if you’re going to be religious, there has to be something that you actually believe. A doctrine. A theology. Just saying something like, “I believe in my heart in believiness and love and unicorns,” doesn’t seem to work.

In my personal experience, a lot of churches over the past few decades have been trying to take the Kumbaya approach, by which I mean stripping out all of the unpleasant-seeming parts of religion in order to attract new members. Latin mass? Gone! Fasting? Not necessary! Penitence? Hey, let’s sing about Jesus instead!

Ironically, I loved Sunday School as a kid, but was pretty meh on Youth Group. Sunday School was appropriately geared to a 5 yr old kid who found “Jesus Loves Me” comforting. Youth Group was an intellectual, moral, and religious wasteland. I wanted to read the Bible and discuss theology. Instead, we listened to “Christian rock” and ate pizza. There’s nothing wrong with pizza or Christian rock, but they alone don’t lead to god.

Had I received something resembling an intellectual religious guidance, I might have kept believing.

Anyway, back to schisming vs. combining, according to Wikipedia, the following groups of churches have arrangements for:

  • mutual recognition of members
  • joint celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion/Eucharist (these churches practice open communion)
  • mutual recognition of ordained ministers
  • mutual recognition of sacraments
  • a common commitment to mission.
  1. The Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India, and the Philippine Independent Church.[23]
  2. The Churches of the Porvoo Communion.[25]
  3. The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada[23]
  4. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and each of the following: the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America,[23] the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church[26] and the Moravian Church in America.
  5. The Leuenberg Agreement, concluded in 1973 and adopted by 105 European Protestant churches, since renamed the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe.[27]
  6. The Moravian Church and each of the following: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church USA.[23]
  7. The United Methodist Church with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church.
  8. The United Church of Christ and each of the following: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Reformed Church in America.
  9. The United Episcopal Church of North America and each of the following: the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of Christ the King, and the Diocese of the Great Lakes.
  10. The Anglican Province of America has intercommunion with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Church of Nigeria.
  11. The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland have established full communion and are working toward interchangeability of ministry.[28]

Meanwhile most American Christians are, by their own admission, heretics:

Seven out of ten respondents in LifeWay’s survey affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity—that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God, and six in ten agreed that Jesus is both human and divine. Their orthodoxy—and consistency—ended there. More than half went on to indicate that Jesus is “the first and greatest being created by God,” a heresy known as Arianism, which the Council of Nicaea condemned in 325 A.D. …

Rather, bizarre contradictions like this illustrate how many Americans don’t understand or even care what the Trinity means (although they say they believe in it, likely out of habits learned growing up in church).

The responses to other questions were no less heterodox or headache-inducing. Seventy percent of participants—who ranged across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds—agreed there’s only one true God. Yet sixty-four percent also thought this God accepts the worship of all religions, including those that believe in many gods. …

Over half said it’s fair for God to exercise his wrath against sin, but seemed to waffle about which sins deserved wrath (not theirs!). Seventy-four percent said the “smallest sins” don’t warrant eternal damnation, in contrast to Jesus’ brother, who when writing at the Holy Spirit’s inspiration taught that even one infraction of God’s law is enough to sink someone. But really, what did he know?

A full 60 percent agreed that “everyone eventually goes to heaven,” but half of those surveyed also checked the box saying that “only those who believe in Jesus will be saved.” So either these folks are saying everyone will eventually believe in Jesus, or they hired a monkey to take the survey for them.

13 Religious Women to watch in 2012 –most of these women are notable only for their secular endeavors (some of which are significant,) not for their theological, religious, or otherwise doctrinal work.

In many ways, I think Niceanity has been a central part of Christianity from the beginning. It is a reasonable interpretation of Christian theology (I am not really in a position to declare any Christian a heretic–that’s God’s job.) But I can’t escape the sense that mainstream Christianity is trying to shed entirely the notion of a Biblical God, of any kind of doctrine or belief beyond a vague belief that belief is good. And even if they’re right, I just don’t think religion works that way.

 

The first rule of liberal club: Don’t insult the outgroup.

The rules of Liberal Club:

  1. Don’t say negative things about the outgroups
  2. Don’t say positive things about the ingroup that make the outgroups look bad by comparison
  3. “Conservatives”–mostly white males–are the “ingroup”

(I am aware that “outgroup” and “ingroup” are not necessarily the best words here, because liberals use a funny definition of “ingroup” that is more “ingroup to America” than “ingroup to themselves.” We could also phrase this as “dominant majority” vs. “less-powerful minority,” or just “cis-het WASP males,” but there are issues with this phrasing, as well.)

I’m not sure what the rules of Conservative Club are, as it is much harder to inspire an angry conservative Twitter mob than a liberal one. Likewise, liberals (or at least Democrats) are the folk who’ve been violently attacking people at political rallies, not conservatives:

So the best I’ve come up with so far is that outgroups don’t get to criticize the ingroup, as exemplified in the re-branding of “french fries” as “freedom fries” following French criticism of the US plan to bomb Iraq. In general, conservatives believe that it is acceptable to say negative things about others so long as they are true, and it often doesn’t occur to them that others might think elsewise. (This leads to the perception that conservatives are rude.)

(Hrm. I think in general, conservatives respond more strongly to [perceived] physical threats, eg, Bush launching the War on Terror following the 9-11 attack vs. Bill Clinton not bombing anything after the first Al Qaeda bombing of the WTC, or the recent hoopla over Target letting trans people use the bathroom they self-identify with.)

The liberal demand that you never, ever say anything bad about the outgroups explains some otherwise inexplicable results, like Scott Alexander–an LGBT friendly, polyamorous, asexual, atheist Jew who basically agrees with basic SJW theses that blacks and women are oppressed in various ways–getting called “right wing” just because he is willing to say that sometimes SJWs are really mean to people who probably don’t deserve it and critically examine the data on black crime rates. Since “SJW mobs are sometimes mean” and “blacks commit disproportionate quantities of crime” are both statements that reflect negatively on these groups, they are forbidden under #1.

See also the liberals’ response that Donald Trump is “racist” for saying negative things about illegal aliens, like that they have broken the law. To say anything negative about outgroups is “victim blaming.”

This argument does not work with liberals.
This argument does not work with liberals.

This also explains why attempting to be a “moderate” doesn’t work with liberals–if you say something like, “I think both sides have their good and bad points,” then you have again violated rule #1. Conservatives, however, tend to be okay with such statements.

Conservatives tend to disagree with the liberal belief that there exists an “outgroup”–they believe that whites and blacks, men and women, etc., are basically treated equally in modern America. Some of them think that liberals are unfair to conservatives, eg, people who sue bakers for declining to bake gay marriage cakes.

Scotts argument against SJWs is simply that they are not nice to other marginalized groups, like autistic shut-ins or lower-class whites. (Actually, I don’t remember if Scott has specifically argued that SJWs are against low-class whites, but the argument has been made rather abundantly in various places.) This argument works if one is truly committed to helping all outgroups, but fails if the outgroup is specifically defined as “not whites/men” (see rule #3.)

Rule #2 is a more recent innovation, but follows obviously from #1. It explains, for example, why liberals have become reluctant to say anything positive about whites, especially historical ones, unless they can simultaneously also say something positive about women and/or minorities.

For example, any book of notable scientists/inventors/innovators must now include Ada Lovelace, who single-handedly built the first iMac; Jane Goodall, who discovered gorillas; and Amelia Earheart, airplane-crashing pioneer; but you are unlikely to find the names of Niels Bohr, the nobel prize winning father of quantum physics who helped 7,000 people escape from the Nazis and helped build the first atomic bombs; Ignaz Semmelweis, who saved the lives of millions of women by discovering that doctors were infecting by examining them with dirty hands after dissecting corpses; or even Jonas Salk, the guy who cured polio.

On a recent family trip, discovered that slavery, rather than historical contributions, has become the dominant tour-guide narrative at landmarks like Monticello, Montpelier, and Colonial Williamsburg:

While waiting outside of the Peyton Randolph House, we were informed that the tour would cover the home itself, its rooms, architecture, and a brief description of the family who lived there. After that, the tour would concentrate on the many slaves who served the Randolph family, what life was like for them, and the hardships they were forced to endure.

When I inquired if the tour guide would inform us of the philosophical and numerous political contributions the Randolph family made in Colonial Virginia and in the founding of the American republic, the guide shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, indicating he would not. One of the other guides, a man portraying a slave, admonished me, “We’re not gonna sugarcoat anything.”

Peyton Randolph … presided over the first Continental Congress, was a leading figure opposing the Stamp Act and was the first American to be called “Father of his Country.” …

Edmund Randolph … became the aide-de-camp for General Washington, served in the Continental Congress, and was the Governor of Virginia during the Philadelphia Convention. He was one of the drafters of the Virginia Plan, served as attorney general under President Washington, and was secretary of state after Jefferson resigned. I find it incredible that this family was not worthy of discussion.

Similarly, last fall, the Freshman class at Yale was greeted by Dean Holloway and President Salovey, with tales of the sinfulness of Elihu Yale, without whose money Yale might not exist, and John C. Calhoun:

In all of the paintings Elihu Yale is wearing and surrounded by sumptuous fabrics. … In the second and third paintings we see an unidentified attendant. Much like the wearing of exquisite clothes suggested, placing a servant in a portrait was an articulation of standing and wealth. But when we look more carefully at these two paintings we notice that in addition to the fine clothes the servant and page are wearing they also happen to have metal collars and clasps around their necks. What we are seeing in each painting, then, isn’t a servant or a page, but a slave.

We are fairly certain that Elihu Yale did not own any slaves himself, but there’s no doubting the fact that he participated in the slave trade, profiting from the sale of humans just as he profited from the sale of so many actual objects that were part of the East India trade empire. … In fact, when we look at the paintings it is safe to assume that Elihu Yale was a willing participant in that economy. Since he could have selected anything to represent him in these paintings we can conclude that he chose to be depicted with enslaved people because he believed this narrative would best signify his wealth, power, and worldliness. …

Good morning and welcome, Class of 2019, family members, and colleagues sharing the stage with me.

About one in twelve of you has been assigned to Calhoun College, named, when the college system was instituted in the 1930s, for John C. Calhoun—a graduate of the Yale College Class of 1804 who achieved extremely high prominence in the early nineteenth century as a notable political theorist, a vice president to two different US presidents, a secretary of war and of state, and a congressman and senator representing South Carolina. …

Calhoun mounted the most powerful and influential defense of his day for slavery.

From Pew Research Center, Muslim Views on Morality
From Pew Research Center, Muslim Views on Morality

Yale has no heroes to be proud of or to inspire its students to emulate, only bad people whose portraits must be hidden away and whose names must be publicly excoriated.

The demand that you never say anything bad about the outgoup leads to some odd responses, especially when two outgroups are in conflict. “Muslims” and “gay people” are both outgroups, and Muslims tend not to approve of gay marriage (by a tremendous margin,) but to say so is considered saying something negative about Muslims (even though Muslims themselves probably don’t think so.)

In response to the recent murder of 49 gay people by a Muslim, a liberal friend brought up Christians who kill people or commit terrorism (eg, the IRA,) and stated that we can’t judge an entire religion based on the actions of a few. The idea that, as a practical matter, these two groups might not get along very well simply isn’t considered.

The push to not say negative things about the outgroup probably increases in direct response to outgroup members doing something worth condemning, which may explain why both ends of the American political spectrum reported more favorable views toward Muslims after 9-11 than before it:

From Pew Research Center, "Ratings of Muslims rise in France..."
From Pew Research Center, “Ratings of Muslims rise in France…”

Since we happen to live in a democracy, if your first priority is gay rights, then you should logically be opposed to the immigration of future voters who are strongly opposed to gay rights. (Fred Phelps, on the other hand, ought to be thrilled.) But the LGBT coalition has hardly cast its lot in with Trump’s, eg, Donald Trump’s post-Olando appeal to LGBT voters roundly rejected:

Donald Trump’s appeal for support from LBGT voters after the Orlando terrorist attack fell flat with gay rights activists, who said his vows to protect them from homophobic Islamic terrorists were just more of the divisive and bigoted rhetoric they have come to expect from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. …

Mr. Brown and other gay rights activists said all minority groups have to stick together in opposition to Mr. Trump.

Michael Farmer, deputy development director of the LBGT advocacy group Equality Florida, said gay voters can’t trust Mr. Trump.

“If you’re somebody who holds bigoted views about one minority, who’s to say that you won’t hold them about another minority?” he said. “Folks who deal with these issues, people in minority communities, have got to stand together. Muslims, gay people, African-Americans have got to stand against the disgusting views that Donald Trump holds.”

As a practical matter, Trump might think gays are AIDS-infected perverts, but I highly doubt he plans on rounding them up ISIS-style and executing them. At most, he might allow bakeries to turn down gay cake orders, a pretty minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

Things from the internet

Things from around the internet, without much commentary:

Picture 13

Picture 4 Picture 10

(I found these for sale at Toys R Us. Why is Toys R Us trying to market football-themed snuggies to grown women? No, none of their ads show snuggies being worn/used by men. Do you know what women do not like? Football. Don’t fuck with that, Toys R Us. It’s one of the few things I’ve got in common with most other women.)

Picture 8

(EvolutionistX supports no particular political candidates at this point, but does find the ways other people go about displaying and discussing their political preferences interesting.)

Picture 9  Picture 6 Picture 7 Picture 3 Picture 2