January 2008

A Special Birthday

A silver service! What I've always wanted!
... to cover in a cupboard, in the dark
where fluff and tarnish never need be flaunted
or subject to her eyebrow's question mark.
See, "service" isn't what the silver does
for you, think more of what you do for it:
you rub its genie, bear it proudly thus,
as postured polished plumage to transmit
your worth to birds two generations older
so she can hold her head high with her peers.
I wonder how she'd cope if I had told her
that using it would age me fifty years.
My bitten tongue reminds me I'll be haunted
by archived gifts: the things she always wanted.

The Unreality of Plantinga

This ramble was inspired by a discussion in an OEDILF limerick workshop. Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism was raised by Pilgrim4Truth and roughly summarized as follows:

a) Evolution theory suggests our faculty of ratiocination is honed only for survial purposes, it need not be perfect
b) Naturalism assumes that all phenomena have natural causes
c) Ratiocination assumes we are able to resolve all logical problems rationally

These axioms have a self-contradiction, one has to be modified.

There's more discussion over here, and more of Plantinga's own words here.

(As I meander on this topic, I'll also refer to Platonic forms which were also raised in passing in the workshop.)

I consider Plantinga's EAAN blinkered and completely disconnected from reality. I think his primary error is to think in terms of changes in genetics being the only factors that can change our beliefs, our ways of gaining reliable knowledge or our faculty of ratiocination. Just from a genetic storage assessment, you can tell that there is not enough information in our genome to pass beliefs or systematic rules of logic (or any situation-specific behaviors, for that matter). Evolution honed our instincts, our ability to hold memories and beliefs, our ability to communicate and to make predictions based on beliefs, but the beliefs themselves and most of our ways of thinking (correct and incorrect) are cultural, not genetic. Beliefs are formed and refined by communication within our communities and by constant comparison with reality. Evolution can only claim responsibility for giving us a survival advantage in the form of communication, memories, and general intelligence, all fallible but good enough to allow culture to take the wheel.

Sonnet for a TSA SPOT Officer

There was a news article about techniques for detecting terrorists by their body language:

Sonnet for a TSA SPOT Officer

Avram Grumer on Making Light sees the sinister Orwellian side of the new TSA program:

TSA officials will not reveal specific behaviors identified by the program -- called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique) -- that are considered indicators of possible terrorist intent.

But a central task is to recognize microfacial expressions -- a flash of feelings that in a fraction of a second reflects emotions such as fear, anger, surprise or contempt...

And I agree that there will always be false positives.

You've seen my flush, my irises dilating,
But did your training leave you unprepared
For passengers like me, heart palpitating,
Locked to your eyes, so tragically ensnared?
Unable to resist your polished mettle,
Your uniform, authority, oh yes!
And discipline, and... let my pulse rate settle;
I look away, but does that signal stress?

Encased in distant ice, no jokes allowed,
Your shoulders bear the fears of those who'd fly
In fragile tubes, souls cowed within a crowd.
Is there no human space where we could talk
And touch and share? No. Wait. Perhaps if I
Pretend to some discomfort as I walk...