Author: ElijiahT

Freethinking follower of Christ | host of The Fetal Position podcast | apologetics writer at TheologyMix | libertarian | cell culture lab tech | ENTJ | Prov12:1

Moving to ElijiahT.WordPress.com!

Hey everyone!
Thanks for subscribing to Think, Learn, Live! I appreciate it 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 7.44.15 PMHowever! I am moving all of my writing over to my new blog: ElijiahT.Wordpress.com

I won’t be publishing anything on this blog anymore and I’d love it if you subscribed to me over at the new blog. You can expect the same type of content, plus a bit on political philosophy. I should be done transferring my current writing to the new ElijiahT.wordpress.com in the next couple days.

I am also going to be launching a podcast in the next few weeks as well! If you’re interested in the intersection of Christ and Culture in podcast form, check it out! It is called Live Christianly, and you can find us here or on twitter, here.

Thanks!

Advertisements

Victim Blaming & the Problem of ‘Social Justice Warriors’

Who needs an introduction?! I’m just going to dive in to the main point of this post:
Suggesting that a potential victim change his/her behavior is not victim blaming.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.53.32 PMSaying “you shouldn’t walk down dark alleys, drunk, behind shady bars by yourself at 2am” is not, in any way, saying that you deserved or should be blamed for the rape.
Saying “you should lock your doors when you leave your car overnight at an airport” is not, in any way, saying that you deserve or should be blamed for someone stealing your radio.
Saying “you shouldn’t put your credit card information on twitter is not, in any way, saying that you deserve to have your credit card information stolen.

If you thought “well, yea… duh”, then congratulations. You have not run into the more inane side of those who call themselves “social justice warriors” #SJW! Many of them are under the impression that by giving potential victims advice about how not to become a victim, you are actually blaming them for being victimized.

I’ve had/read several discussions with many self-proclaimed SJWs who seem to have absolutely no idea how to listen during a conversation. To them, even the mere suggestion that someone might be able to modify their behavior in order to not become the victim of a crime is morally reprehensible.

This idealism promoted by these social justice warriors is unrealistic, irresponsible and potentially harmful.

Would I like to live in a world where I can leave my car unlocked with a laptop on the seat and not have to worry about it being stolen? Of course I would. But the fact of reality is that we do not live in that kind of world. So, because I don’t want my laptop to be stolen, I bring it with me and I don’t leave it in my car.
Most of the time, SJWs suggest that the real solution to problems like this is education of the potential criminal. And I agree, education would likely solve some of the problems, especially when it comes to men who don’t understand consent. For this reason, I am in favor of this approach.

However, this limited approach is potentially very harmful. As we all know, people do things they know to be wrong.
Knowing that murder is wrong doesn’t stop people from murdering.
Knowing that rape is wrong doesn’t stop people from raping.
Knowing that theft is wrong doesn’t stop people from stealing.

Merely suggesting that we educate people will not alleviate society of rapists, thieves and murderers. So what can we do? We, as potential victims of these crimes, can modify our behavior in an attempt to not become a victim of someone who does something wrong, knowing that it is wrong.

We may not be able to change the behavior of those who know that X is wrong and choose to do it anyway, but we CAN change the environment in a way that makes X impossible.

So… should we educate potential criminals or warn potential victims?
There is no reason we cannot do both.

Dear social justice warriors,
I implore you to have a more accurate view of reality. Your idealistic approach to issues like these are harmful. We have to live in the real world; a world where people knowingly do morally reprehensible things. If you really want to prevent criminal activity, we must do more than merely educate potential criminals.
I would also greatly appreciate it if you didn’t assume everyone was blaming the victim when they suggest a modification of behavior on behalf of potential victims. While some victim blaming certainly does exist, the average person who says “aww, i’m sorry your GPS was stolen, you should have locked your car” is not blaming the victim. They are offering a genuine suggestion to help prevent this behavior from happening in the future. If their suggestion isn’t based off of ‘statistical data’ (like when they suggest women dress modestly to avoid being raped), they may be ignorant/misinformed, but they are still not blaming the victim. Feel free to correct them, but do so in a way that doesn’t involve throwing knives, name-calling and breathing fire.

Thanks for reading!
Leave a thought in the comments!

@ElijiahT

ps. I do not think it is ok to retroactively blame the victim for not taking the proper precautions.
pps. I do not think it is reasonable for a judge to let a rapist go free because the victim was drunk.
ppps. If you think I am ok with any victim blaming at all, you’re wrong. I don’t hate women. I am not a misogynist. There’s no way I can predict how people will misrepresent me, so I guess I’ll just have to hope that people will treat me like a reasonable person, even if they disagree.

Do Vaccines Cause Autism? It Doesn’t Matter. Vaccinate Anyway.

Vaccines have been on the news a lot lately, primarily because people don’t want to be giving their children shots that would result in a neurological disorder (like autism) or something else. Now, while I regard this position as ultimately unsound and not informed on the scientific issue of vaccines as a whole, I believe that even if we grant this fundamental premise of the anti-vax crowd, there is still a very good reason to be pro-vaccine.

Put simply, even if vaccines did cause autism, it would still be irresponsible for parents to not vaccinate their children.

vacine_poison123Vaccines are great at doing what they were intended to do. Namely, prevent certain diseases. It is virtually impossible to deny that the vaccines do their job. Unless, of course, you think that the scientific community is some kind of conspiracy organization, then you can deny it all you want. But you’d be wrong about vaccines and vaccines would still work.

Throw a conspiracy theory at something and you can deny or embrace anything, including decades of research.
And the moon landing.
Tell you what. If you’re a fan of conspiracy theories, I suggest you take a little time out of your day to study epistemology. Start here, on my blog! ❤ (more…)

Darwin’s Postulates & Firemouth Cichlids

Why cichlids?

Cichlid fish are one of the most biologically diverse groups of vertebrates on the planet. This diversity (as well as population size, reproduction rate, etc) allows scientists to study the cichlid evolution, and the role of natural selection, more closely than other populations. Many aspects of cichlid characteristics have undergone (and are currently undergoing) selective pressures. Cichlid evolution can be found at multiple levels, including behavioral changes, molecular adaptations, size and coloration variation.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 10.42.50 AMThorichthys meeki is a species of cichlid commonly known as the “firemouth”, because of its bright red-orange coloration on the jaw. This specific coloration is unique to the firemouth, and is used in mating, competition and defense, and is therefore strongly affected by selective  pressures. In general, male firemouth cichlids have prominent  jawline coloration (10). The female Firemouth cichlids have specific molecular adaptations that that allow them to see the male coloration very clearly (6).

In the case of the firemouth cichlids, jawline coloration in males (and the subsequent female response) plays an important role in the evolution of the species due to the pressures of sexual selection. Sexual selection has been shown to be a mechanism of significant biological change for firemouth cichlids, even if the environment stays very stable (9), and research confirms that male coloration corresponds to sexual selection by the females (8). The females tend to mate with the more dominant males, so any characteristic that improves one’s chance of winning in a male-male competition scenario will be selected for. In any cichlid population, males who display the same color will compete more intensely. In firemouth cichlid populations, all of the males have a distinguishing red color, so male-male competition is very strong (4).

firemouthIt has been shown that smaller, less dominant males have physiological and behavioral changes during any social interaction with a more dominant cichlid. (3).  Many times, cichlids will engage in “pre-fight behaviors” (7) and  whichever male is smaller and duller will back down (5).    The coloration allows the more dominant males to emerge victorious from a fight with other males, without even having to engage in actual physical contact. The firemouth cichlids open their mouths and expose more of the red jawline. This behavior enlarges the head considerably when seen from the front and the side. In the event that there is no definitive pre-fight winner, they will engage in the more dangerous physical form of fighting. (1) In many cases, coloration is directly correlated to body size, which also plays a role in determining the winner of the conflict. (2) (more…)

Brains in Vats & All That – An Analysis of Epistemological Skepticism

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 8.14.35 AMDuring the course of our life, we (as humans) take for granted that we know some things about the external world. In fact, we often assume that we know a lot about the external world. We know some things about what happened yesterday, and we certainly know that the yesterday existed. We know that other minds, other than our own exist; we know that tables and chairs exist. We often assume that most knowledge is something that the regular, everyday person can know; it is not specialized for philosophers, historians or scientists. However, there are some things that we simply cannot know. Some future events, for example, are not knowable to us. And if someone claims to know these things, we are justifiably skeptical of that claim.

“While almost all of us are skeptical about some knowledge claims, skeptical arguments in philosophy typically purport to show that we do not know or are not justified in believing many of the things we originality assume we know or reasonably believe.” (quote from Lemos, 2007) Many arguments for skepticism conclude that we are unable to know anything about the external world, or that we are not justified in believing anything about the external world.

There are a variety of skeptical arguments. One of the more common versions is known as human, external world, knowledge skepticism. This kind of skepticism denies that people are able to have certain types of knowledge concerning the external world. However, knowledge skepticism does not automatically entail skepticism for justification. It is possible to hold the position that we are justified in believing certain things, but the evidence is not great enough to count as knowledge. Many of the arguments for external world knowledge skepticism come from various skeptical scenarios that epistemologists refer to as bad case scenarios. There are several arguments for human, external world knowledge skepticism, and three of them are (1) the certainty argument, (2) the infallibility argument and (3) the argument from ignorance.

matrix One of the most important aspects of a proper understanding of  external world knowledge skepticism is a proper understanding  of skeptical scenarios. While they come in a variety of different  forms, the popular movie, “The Matrix”, is a perfect example of a  classic skeptical scenario. In the movie, the characters are all in a  computer simulation run by machines, and that the humans are  actually connected to a complex network of computers that create what they see as the external world. The humans in the program are deceived into thinking that what they see is real, when in reality, it is nothing more than a computer program. When the main character, Neo, is “awakened” by another person, his real body wakes up out of the computer simulation and he sees the truth for the first time. While “The Matrix” is meant to be a fictional story inspired by a classical skeptical “brain in a vat” scenario, external world knowledge skeptics take these types of situations as not only possible, but actual. But, because of our limitations as human beings, we are unable to truly know anything about the external world. Philosophers refer to these skeptical scenarios as bad case scenarios, where pervasive error reigns. These bad case scenarios are not only philosophical possibilities, but they seem to be something that may, in fact, be reality. And because of this, our proper response should be to suspend judgment on what we actually know about the external world.

When we reflect on these examples, it seems clear that our sensory experience does not guarantee that our beliefs about the external world are necessarily true. And initially, that does not really seem to matter. Lots of things are possible, but the real question should be about what is reasonable. Sure, we might be a person in a vat, and our “external world” might be generated by computers. But just asserting the possibility doesn’t give us good reasons to think that we should embrace epistemological skepticism. And that is where philosophers have posited arguments for skepticism.

(more…)

Resource Recommendation: “Should America Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies?”

Hi! A lot of things have been changing in my life lately, which caused this blog to take ‘back-burner’ status, unfortunately. However, I am giving myself a more strict posting schedule so that I can post stuff more consistently.
We’ll see whether or not my goals for this blog pan out!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.49.55 PMAs some of you may know, I did an independent research project on genetic engineering and human children while attending Buff State. Before I started my research, I was under the impression that I would be arguing for a limited freedom perspective; where we should use genetic engineering for treatment and not for enhancement. However, as my research continued, I changed my mind to my ultimate conclusion: That we should have the moral (and likely legal) freedom to safely genetically engineer our children for both treatment and for enhancement. Not many people are comfortable with that conclusion due, at least in part, because genetic engineering (as a science) is relatively new. I can sympathize with that concern.
You can find that paper here: Genetic Engineering and Human Children

That being said, I strongly suggest anyone interested in the discussion of genetic engineering to check out this debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared Debates.

Should America Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies?

The debaters are:
For the motion (we should prohibit genetically engineered babies):
Sheldon Krimsky & Robert Winston
Against the motion (we should not prohibit genetically engineered babies):
Nita A. Farahany & Lee M. Silver

For more information on the debaters and the event, NPR has a really good overview of everything, here: Should We Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies? (debate audio included)

This discussion is really good, on both sides of the issue. If this is your first introduction to the topic, you may feel like you’re drinking from a firehose… but don’t worry. Its interesting enough for you to want to Google things afterwards (or likely during).

If this is the first time you’ve heard/seen Intelligence Squared Debates, you should definitely check out the other stuff they put out. It’s always incredibly interesting. You can find that here: Intelligence Squared Debates; Top Thinkers Debate Today’s Most Important Issues

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to leave a comment or question below 🙂

Cancer – What is it Anyway?

Scientia potentia est – knowledge is power

Many of you have likely encountered a kind of hype that is based almost entirely on the ignorance of the readers. People get a small glimpse into something they [rightfully] see as important, but because they don’t really understand it… they end up drawing erroneous conclusions.

Lets face it: many people don’t really understand cancer.
Its a difficult disease to understand, and people will often assume that there is some easy cure ‘out there’ and it is being concealed/ignored because cancer research facilities are just in it for the money (or… you know… something like that).

The first step in correcting this misconception is to understand what cancer is. With a proper understanding of the complexities of cancer, we can (hopefully) communicate this with people who do not understand it.

So while this post may not be as argumentative or provocative as some of my other posts, it is just as (if not more) important.
Scientia potentia est.

Without further ado:
Cancer – What is it Anyway?

cancer_cell_0604 Cancer is the name given to a large group of diseases  that behave in a variety of different ways, depending  on the type of cell from which they originate. Broadly  speaking, cancer is associated with at least two  primary symptoms: uncontrolled cell division and  metastasis. In normal cells, the cell cycle is a tightly  regulated system that is highly controlled and  managed by proteins, enzymes and the corresponding  genes on the DNA molecule. In some cells, however, the regulations of normal cell processes are interrupted/altered by mutations. These mutations cause many genes to be expressed inappropriately, and this can lead to cancer.

(more…)

Genetic Engineering and Human Children

regulate-designer-babies_1Most of us would do anything to help our children have the best future possible. We would make sure they had the best prenatal environment, the best diet and be sent to the best schools, all so that they could have the best possible future opportunities. But what would we do if we could, before they were born, alter our child’s genes in order to guarantee that advantage? The choice of genetically engineering our children is rapidly becoming a scientific reality, and we are faced with the question: If we are able to safely engineer a child at the genetic level… should we?

Genetic engineering is a topic that is greeted with a combination of curiosity, skepticism and apprehension. Those in favor of genetic engineering have been accused of “playing God”, whereas those opposed have been characterized as being against scientific progress. Many people view genetic engineering as something confined to the domain of science fiction; something so far in the future that it needn’t be worried about. However, with the advance of modern technology, this attitude towards genetic engineering is not only misguided, but can be dangerous.

Nearly every advance in technology comes with unanswered questions, and genetic engineering is no different. What should we do? What will happen if we make certain decisions? How will our decisions affect society? If we have the ability to do it safely, is it ethically permissible to genetically engineer our children? Is there an ethical difference between genetic enhancement and genetic  therapy? As people living in the time where genetic engineering is a real possibility, it is vital that we address the bioethical issues surrounding this controversial topic. If we procrastinate in this area and do not address these issues before they  come up, we will inevitably make poor decisions that could have been avoided. Like  many advancements in science and technology, genetics provides us with an  opportunity to be good stewards with what we have. But it also offers us a unique  opportunity as well; “… we can begin to determine not simply who will live and who will die, but what all those who live in the future will be like” (Harris & Burley, 2004)

p016q9gp This article is designed as a form of philosophical preventative maintenance,  with very real ramifications for the near future. Because it is meant to address  issues of genetic engineering specifically, other issues will be avoided. I will  assume that genetic engineering will not destroy human embryos and will not  result in any unintended changes. These issues need to be addressed by  scientists, doctors and ethicists today, but will likely be circumvented with the  advance of technology. The purpose of this paper is to ask, “What philosophical  issues arise from genetic engineering itself?”

Many moral philosophers and ethicists, when approaching complex ethical issues, have attempted to lay out a principle of moral reasoning that is designed to answer the question, “what ought I to do?” It seems reasonable, therefore, to follow a basic principle of moral reasoning, and philosopher Kurt Baier explores a fairly simple one in his book, “The Moral Point of View”. According to Baier, “The best course of action is… the course of action which is supported by the best reasons. And the best reasons may require us to abandon the aim we actually have set our heart on.” Baier’s two-step approach involves looking at the relevant facts surrounding an issue and determining the relative weight of those considerations “to decide which course of action has the full weight of reason behind it”. (Baier, 1969) Following this approach, it is our job to critically examine the arguments for and against genetic engineering and to support the most reasonable conclusion, given the strongest available arguments on both sides. (more…)

The Classical View of Reason


Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 8.45.34 PMHuman beings have several different ways of coming to believe what we believe. While the idea that our senses and even our own introspection may be fallible is surprising to many, it is a relatively common topic considered for philosophical musing that many have considered. Stranger yet is the idea of reason itself, the very rules of common sense that govern our assessment of this data, may too be flawed. But what is really involved in the process of reasoning? Can we trust reason? Can we really know anything by using our ability to reason? Are there some things that can be known without resorting to reason? Philosophers who advocate the classical view of reason have given answers to these questions, and careful examination of the truths of reason reveals that much of what we take for granted in our everyday reasoning may not be as simple as we so often suppose.

Some propositions, upon reflection, seem true simply by definition. Take, for example, the sentence, “All bachelors are unmarried”. Once we understand the terms being discussed, can anyone reasonably doubt the truth of this proposition? It is simply a tautology, substantiated. This sort of proposition is a self-evident proposition. Self-evident truths have two distinct properties. First, they can be known independently of sensory experience. For example, you can conclude all dogs have hair or fur if you adequately understand that all dogs are mammals and that all mammals have either hair or fur. Secondly, self-evident truths are necessary. This is to say that it is not possible for the proposition to be false; it is true on pain of contradiction. For example, to say that you know a married bachelor is contradictory, and shows a lack of adequate understanding of the term bachelor.

thinking_chimps_02

The reason we can know these self-evident truths apart from any deeper  analysis, according to the classicist, is because we can analyze the conceptual  containment relationships within the terms. For the statement, all bachelors  are unmarried, when one refers to a “bachelor”, they are using a term that  (when properly understood) automatically entails unmarried as necessarily  contained within the term. Thus, one can be justified in believing that all  bachelors are unmarried by mere reflection of the containment relationships between concepts. If one adequately understands it, then he knows it and cannot deny it. Analytic truths are immediate and intuitive, and do not require any additional logical inferences to be accepted. As Immanuel Kant established, truths known by an adequate understanding of the containment relationships of concepts are known as analytic truths. (more…)

Virtue Ethics and The “Man of Steel”

Imagine a man who is powerful enough to enslave an entire planet of human beings and use them to satisfy his own desires, whatever those desires may be. Usually someone like this would need a military force behind him, but this man does not. The ‘Man of Steel’ (who everyone knows as Superman) is endowed with the strength of thousands of men, the ability to fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes, and breathe in space. Needless to say, Superman doesn’t need an army in order to become the slave-ruler of the entire Earth. But he doesn’t; in fact, Superman does the exact opposite. He decides that he will protect planet earth and its inhabitants. Why would Superman do this? The answer seems to fall squarely in the explanatory power of Virtue Ethics.

Man-of-Steel-Kal-El

Right off the bat, it seems as though the directors wanted to make it  obvious that Superman’s home planet, Krypton, was an outworking of  Plato’s city analogy. Granted, Plato’s dialogue about the city was not  meant to be a political philosophy, but an analogy to the human psyche,  but Plato’s influence on Superman doesn’t stop there. In fact, some have  observed that the young Clark Kent was gaining some wisdom from  Plato in the movie. Additionally, Plato’s ‘Ring of Gyges’ story seems to  play a pretty significant role in the formation of Superman’s character. His actions are dictated by something other than the consequences of being caught behaving in a certain way.
(more…)