Mailvox: the double whammy

This may be well be my favorite critical email ever received, as KW manages to not only highlight several of my assertions about the more militant atheists, but to underline, italicize, and bold them as well:

I have been reading assorted texts on the internet and I came across a post that you made a long while back entitled “The socially autistic atheist”. I was particularly interested in your articles because I happen to be both an atheist and an aspie.

It seems to me that the purpose of these articles is to use an ad hominem attack against atheists by calling them “socially autistic” or saying that they have “autistic psychopathy”. You never refute or even address the arguments that these “socially autistic atheists” have in regard to religion or god. In essence, I believe that you are just being a giant asshat troll.

In a previous article you wrote this: Here’s an object lesson that perhaps might be capable of penetrating the skulls of even the most autistically psychopathic. (1) Do you dislike being described as a socially autistic asshole? (2) Would you like it any more if that description was scientifically proven to describe you accurately? (3) Would you consider it polite and/or socially acceptable for me to insist on always describing you to others as an autistic psychopath were this proven to be an accurate description of you?

I assume that this was a reaction to certain aspie atheists spreading the idea that belief in god is a delusion, or that people who believe in god are deluded. well to answer your questions:
1. No of course not. I think that an important distinction to make is that it is an attack on WHO I AM rather than an attack on WHAT I BELIEVE.
2. You are asking a question about a hypothetical scientific description where that hypothetical scientific description would not be scientific. It would however be a logical fallacy (an appeal to authority in this case).I’ll go ahead and say no.
3. No, and I would likely react violently to such discrimination.

Whenever an atheist says that god is a delusion, that is not an attack on any person. It is an attack on an idea. Unlike when you call me a “autistic psychopath”, which is very clearly an attack on who I am as a person. There is no moral equivalence for these statements. TL;DR you are a despicable person who resorts to fighting your intellectual opponents with ad hominem attacks.

I would have expected that you would have already been shamed into making an apology about statements such as this. You are not an expert on autism and you should shut your stupid fucking mouth in my opinion.

With disgust and contempt,

Naturally, I replied with all the kindness and moderation for which I am so justly known, considering that the poor lad has about the same chance of ever landing a girlfriend that I have of being named the premier of China. Let’s face it, I couldn’t not respond. I mean, how could I possibly resist the irony of being lectured on the niceties of correct social conventions by an atheist… an atheist with Asperger’s.

My dear boy,

I absolutely believe your claim to be both an atheist and an aspie. Only someone so intellectually handicapped would be so spectacularly stupid as to claim “You never refute or even address the arguments that these “socially autistic atheists” have in regard to religion or god.”

The fact that I have written and published an entire book on the subject that does precisely what you claim I have never done would appear to be sufficient to invalidate your assertion. You can even download a powerpoint slideshow that summarizes some of the more commonly heard arguments from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris should you be so inclined. So, congratulations. In ten years of writing controversial op/ed columns and being the recipient of the most vehement forms of criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations to godless Sciencebloggers, you have managed to write the single most ignorant email I have ever received. You do Asperger proud.

In respect of your handicap, I shall refrain from pointing out the additional errors you have committed in your response to my questions, although I do invite you to contemplate the moral basis for what you claim is a lack of moral equivalence between the various statements.

With no little amusement,

And now it’s time for the moral of the story. If you happen to suffer from atheism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or autism, the chances are exceedingly high that your ideas concerning what is and what is not socially acceptable behavior are not going to be in accordance with the societal norms of the neurotypical majority. Therefore, your offers to help others better understand proper social etiquette, however kindly intended they might be, are virtually guaranteed to go badly awry.

The danger of biting at ankles

You tend to get kicked in the teeth a lot:

Ok, so we go the whole day and no-one points out that free fall most certainly is acceleration. 9.8 m/s/s, to be exact.

The statement was not “freefall is not acceleration”, but that “acceleration is not freefall”. Does an orbital rocket blasting off accelerate? Does an automobile? And are either of these machines in freefall while they are accelerating as per their normal operation?

Some commenters appear to have an amount of trouble understanding the concept of sets and subsets. The subset is not, and cannot be, the set of which it is merely a part. (Cue Markku bringing up the null set.) I tend to doubt anyone would have felt the need to attempt offering a correction had I stated, for some inexplicable reason, “Numbers are not nine”. I desperately hope, anyhow, that even the most cluelessly contrarian anklebiter would have been able to resist the urge to reactively insist that “Nine is a number!”

Yes, it most certainly is. But three is a number and it is not nine. Ten is also not nine. There are, in fact, a vast collection of numbers that do not happen to be nine, just as there are many rates of change of velocity over time that do not involve the motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it. The two terms overlap, but they are not interchangeable.

So, a helpful word of advice to the pedantically inclined. If you make a habit of actively seeking to criticize others or just have a tendency to react to assertions in an instinctively contrarian manner, I suggest learning to first ask questions rather than immediately attempting to offer corrections even when you are reasonably sure that you have understood what the other person said. Always get confirmation first. Because when you are dealing with anyone who is reasonably intelligent or even just precise in their thinking, there is a very good chance that your posturing – and let’s face it, that’s what it is – is going to cause you to make an ass of yourself by trying to correct something that is not, in fact, incorrect.

I understand that my towering intellectual arrogance is infuriating to some readers. Even those who often agree with me are sometimes sorely tempted to attempt to “bring me down” when they perceive an opportunity. But not every red flag waved in your face merits a blind and heedless charge. If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you should be aware that there are few things in which I find more personal amusement than publicly skewering a superficial and reactively contrarian would-be critic.

A conversation with Vox Day

Strike The Root ran an interview with me today:

What writers or philosophers have most influenced you? Has your political thought evolved over time, and if so, was there any particular author or event that pushed you in that direction?

The philosopher that has most influenced me is Marcus Aurelius. While I don’t always succeed in meeting the expected idiosyncrasies of humanity with perfect equanimity, I am very seldom surprised by them. The evil and foolishness of Man is without limit, so it makes no sense to expect much in the way of wisdom or even sense from the average individual. Readers of the Vox Popoli blog are familiar with the acronym MPAI, which means Most People Are Idiots. It’s not actually meant to be as contemptuous as it sounds, (although it certainly comes off that way), it’s merely a reminder that one’s expectations of others must always be mindful of their limitations.

When rape is comedy gold

The ability of the progressive white woman to stare objective reality in the face and insist it doesn’t exist never ceases to amuse:

Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti. The case, I believed, was being overstated by women’s organizations in need of additional resources. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face….

I went to Haiti after the earthquake to empower Haitians to self-sufficiency. I went to remind them of the many great contributions that Afro-descendants have made to this world, and of their amazing resilience and strength as a people. Not once did I envision myself becoming a receptacle for a Black man’s rage at the white world, but that is what I became. While I take issue with my brother’s behavior, I’m grateful for the experience.

Yes, it’s always a tragedy when a sex tour goes awry…. Compounding the humor here is the way in which the grateful rapee believes it is the fault of “the [white] man” that violent, savage black men rape silly white women who believe in the myth of equality. We can only conclude from this that she believes black men and white women alike are non-sapient animals incapable of making their own decisions or controlling their own behavior. It’s probably just as well that this dimwitted woman happened to choose race relations over the environment as her cretinous crusade. She is clearly that special sort of environmental activist that ends up eaten by bears.

But, even though she avoided a career in ursine digestion, I should nevertheless like to congratulate Ms Kijera on her award-winning entry into the Peace Bride Club, for excellence in female naivete.

So, how about that debate, PZ?

Directly contra his past excuse-making, PZ Myers has reversed himself and decided that he is willing to engage in public debates with Unworthy Opponents again. Debates sponsored by Christian radio stations, no less! So, how about that public radio debate on the evidence for gods that Northern Alliance Radio is willing to host, PZ? Or even one on the scientific evidence for evolution? Or, in light of the very public unmasking of the AGW/CC charade, we could debate your manifestly unscientific belief in “global warming” aka “climate change”.

After all, an internationally known skeptic who appears regularly on radio shows around the world thanks to a series of correct economic and financial forecasts can’t possibly be less of a Worthy Opponent than an erstwhile Jehovah’s Witness and Intelligent Design enthusiast, right?

As everyone who posseses either above-average intelligence or a functional understanding of human nature has realized at this point, PZ is afraid to debate me because he knows perfectly well that I’ll destroy him regardless of the subject. His fear is not misplaced; he has the advantage of educational quantity whereas I have the advantage of educational quality as well as an additional 25-35 IQ points. We both know it, even if he’s not about to admit it in public. But the real problem is not that PZ is a coward, it is that he is a liar. That is why why he says he won’t debate crackpots before going on to debate crackpots and why he refuses to make an appearance on the “hostile territory” of a secular radio station before appearing on an openly Christian one.

Unfortunately, I can’t offer him a debate on teaching intelligent design in science classes because I don’t believe it should be taught there either. Nor, for that matter should evolution by natural selection. In fact, I believe the very notion of science classes for the great majority of students is eminently absurd. We know the American schools cannot teach reading, writing, logic, and personal finance to the great majority of their students, so it is easy to demonstrate that there is neither reason nor evidence to support the notion that the schools are capable of effectively teaching science of any kind.

Speaking of predictions, I note with some amusement that yesterday mainstream economists were reported to be expecting the exciting 3.5% third quarter Advance report to be revised below three percent in the 2nd report. (Remember, more than half of that was reported to be the direct result of the government-incentivized Cash for Clunkers-related increase in C.) In addition to the two scheduled revisions, I think we can safely expect further post facto revisions to the third quarter of 2009 in 2010 and beyond.

A brief note to the ankle-biters

On this fine afternoon, I find myself contemplating just what, precisely, could possibly be the purpose for your collective existence, which to the observer appears to testify against intelligent design and natural selection alike. I don’t pretend to understand what sickness of the soul causes you to repeatedly bash your heads against the unforgiving wall of my logic, or what compulsive disorder drives you to put yourselves in a position to be humiliated over and over again by my superior knowledge and intellect, as no sooner are you shot down than you rise, with all the sublime, shambling grace of a mindless zombie, and stumble back into the fray.

Are my ankles so sweet that you cannot resist snapping at them? Do your psychological scars run so deep that you cannot control your masochistic longings for brutal correction?

For years, I have told myself that even if your tedious and petty objections can only sharpen my arguments in the manner that butter sharpens steel, at least your desire to catch me in error, no matter how small that error might be, could nevertheless serve a useful purpose. Even the most flawlessly honed body benefits from its intestinal bacteria, after all. Although, unlike your more intelligent counterparts whose criticisms are thoughtful, substantive, and most of all relevant, you are not capable of understanding anything I write well enough to critique it in a meaningful manner, I assumed you were not only inclined to identify simple errors of basic fact, but were also capable of doing so.

It appears, however, that you have collectively failed at even this humble task. And this naturally raises a question. Is it possible that you could be more completely useless?

A few nights ago, I was reading Calculated Risk and noticed a link to historical pre-FDIC bank failure data. I followed it, being curious to know how far the official information parted from 1941 source material I had used in writing RGD. As I suspected, there were a few minor discrepancies as well as the usual Legend of the 4,000*. (The actual number of failed banks in 1933 is closer to 2,666, but the government always enjoys a nice round number.)

However, to my surprise, the number of failed bank deposits 1931 was much larger than I recalled it being. I checked my trusty and oft-updated bank failure spreadsheet and confirmed that the two not only did not match, but were not even close. The site said 1,690,232 and the spreadsheet said 160,232. The disturbing similarity made me suspect that the latter was supposed to be the former, albeit with a missing digit, and a check of the 1941 document confirmed the error. I had dropped the nine in when first typing the number into the spreadsheet… which significantly altered the percentage of bank failures about which I’d repeatedly written on this blog, in my column, and worst of all, in the book that was going to be announced the next day!

I couldn’t remember which chart I had put in the book. Which chart, dammit? Was it the year-by-year one, in which case the error would look like an absolute howler since the percentage of failed bank deposits would not be 0.34% but 3.6%? Or was it the cumulative chart wherein the difference between $68 billion and $90 billion would be visually negligible in comparison to the $666.6 billion in the neighboring column? And then, of course, there was the small matter of whether this error might call some of my conclusions about the similarity of the historical and present economic contractions into question.

Fortunately, Figure 6.3. Failed Bank Deposits and Losses in 2009 Dollars turned out to be the cumulative chart rather than the year-by-year one, which did not make the book. It was incorrect, but not embarrassingly so. The listing in the appendix couldn’t be helped, since the 160,232 number was directly in the table, but who reads the third appendix anyhow? Also, in that context it’s quite obviously a typo. And fortuitously, correcting the error also took care of a synchronicity problem that had been bothering me from the start. Since my belief is that 2010 compares 1931, why didn’t the bank failure data line up properly? And why was I following Milton Friedman’s lead in tracking the deposits from 1930 when the whole thing began in 1929?

Interestingly enough, exchanging the 1929 data for the incorrect 1931 data only required changing a single digit besides the year: “The amount of failed bank deposits as a percentage of total bank deposits is averaging 2.3 percent per year over the last two years, which is more than twice as high as the 1.01.1 percent annual failure rate in 19301929 and 19311930.” And now the bank failure comparisons are properly aligned with the beginnings of the economic contractions, which is nice.

Still, the typo involved in transferring the information from the book to the spreadsheet notwithstanding, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed an order of magnitude difference in the amount of failed deposits, especially when this meant that losses were more than 200 percent of failed deposits. This is theoretically possible since not all bank assets are deposits and actual losses are always higher than FDIC-estimated deposits, but the highest estimated actual loss to deposits in 2009 is only 107 percent so that should have been sufficient to signify that something was wrong. Ergo, mia culpa. I have, of course, created an errata page for the book and would appreciate it if any further errors are brought to my attention so that I can update it.

But, to return to my original point, if those of you who have dedicated yourselves to identifying and drawing attention to even the pettiest of my errors cannot be relied upon to catch such a relatively large and potentially significant mistake, you leave me with little choice but to conclude that you are, in fact, entirely worthless.