Archives for posts with tag: facebook

Here’s a heartwarming story from celebrity psychic Joe Power:

An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned
to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike
up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total
stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God,
or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask
you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same
stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns
out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence,
thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which
the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss
God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book.

Heartwarming, wonderful, except it’s complete bollocks, and falls into the trap of what some people would like to believe atheists think, as opposed to what is actually the case. At the time of writing, it has 357,000 likes and 239,000 shares on Facebook.

So, leaving out the smarminess of the putative girl in the story, the creepiness of any adult stranger trying to chat up a girl on a flight, and the fact that this conversation never took place and is a metaphor for the Atheism / Theism debate, this story still bugs me.

Atheists *don’t* claim to have special knowledge about God’s non-existence.

The implication in this piece is that most atheists somehow assume to know for certain that he doesn’t exist, enabling critics to accuse us of smugness, arrogance and a gross error of logic, in that we are trying to prove a negative. The child can then disabuse us of this arrogance by asking a simple question. Atheists can’t know for certain whether God exists, but if he does exist, we can legitimately ask what he actually does. Does he control the planets, the moon and the weather? Our current knowledge of astronomy implies something completely different, and altogether more compelling. Did he create the Universe? Then why did he make it so awesomely big, if our species has some role in his plan? Does he heal the sick? Then what about all the people he doesn’t heal, despite all their earnest pleas? Does he bring peace to the world? 2,000 years of brutal post-Jesus violence and genocide would suggest not. Does he comfort people in their suffering? Then why are Hindus comforted by their gods in the same way Christians find comfort in God? So what does God do, if he is said by so many people to exist? That’s really all atheists are asking. If he doesn’t do all that much (and there are often better explanations) then why invest so much effort and self-sacrifice in believing in him?

The girl’s question is a non-sequitor.

The response the girl gives is completely immaterial to the subject under discussion, and could be used for any situation, and even the other way around. Her intent is to imply that since you don’t know some things, then you can’t presume to know other things. Had the atheist decided to talk about paint, she could have used the same approach. Had her fellow passenger been a Christian, she could have asked the same question with precisely the same response. And, since atheists don’t presume to know in the first place, it’s a completely bogus argument.

Who is more likely to strike up a conversation about God with a total stranger?

Somehow, I don’t think many atheists are really that into foisting their views on others. The obligation to proselytise is more a Christian thing. We atheists don’t really care what you believe, so long as your intent is not to foist your views on others, or to re-organise society based solely on a presumed set of diktats from your god.

So who is the arrogant one?

By setting up this straw man argument, Power is implying that the God question should be out of bounds. To me, this is extraordinarily arrogant. How dare we ask questions. It appears that some things, no matter how illogical, unrealistic or wrong-headed, are supposedly immune from honest inquiry.

One thing I agree: atheists don’t know shit. In this respect we’re pretty much like everyone else, Christians included. We know some things well and other things not well at all. The difference seems to be, however, that we desire to know things, even if that means upsetting a few sacred cows on the way. How good it would be if this thirst for knowledge was appreciated by the very many people who liked Joe Power’s snide and dismissive Facebook post.

 

News from the wires this morning tells us that many users of Twitter and Facebook* have been injured in domestic accidents after deciding not to take anything seriously today.

“Some guy on Twitter mentioned that it was sunny today, so I wore my heavy duty snow coat”, says AlanX, a 3 year user of Twitter. “The zip caught, however, and I nearly boiled to death inside the bloody thing”. Alan is recovering in hospital.

“I was informed on Twitter that it was the first of the month and didn’t believe it”, said Sunny_Daze, from Germany. “I went to work and accidentally tripped all the burglar alarms”. Sunny works for the Gold Reserve unit of the Bundesbank. She is expected to make a full recovery in 2014 after Army Special Operations were called.

“I knew what Twitter was going to be like, so I decided to stay on Facebook instead”, said Andrew_P from Limerick. “I nearly died of boredom”. Andrew’s brain was discovered trying to escape through his nostrils. A team of specialist neurologists have been on hand to coax it back into place all morning.

All over the world, reports are coming in of people who failed to leave burning buildings, who kept walking on train tracks and who remained swimming in alligator infested waters when there was a clear and present danger. The answer given is always the same: “Ha! Good one.”

Twitter users can be identified this morning by their reaction when you say something innocent to them and they immediately react with suspicion. “Hello” will get a slap in the face. “Would you like a coffee” will send them shrieking under the bed-covers. Please be sensitive to these sensitive souls on this day. If you want them to do something for you, say the opposite and hope they are not second guessing that request too.

* PS. I was only joking about Facebook users. They are too busy sharing inane posters of birds and “liking” their best friends acne counts to be interested in this stuff.

Apologies to regular readers. If you are not interested in local politics click the back button now. Quick! Hurry! I’ll give three whistles when it’s safe to look here again.

For a while now I have restrained myself from talking about politics on this blog, but since the 2011 General Election is drawing near and I feel very strongly about exercising my right to vote, I have decided to get my thoughts together on our prospective candidates, and what I can find out about them via their online presence.

I work away from home between the hours of 8am to 7pm each weekday so I am unlikely to be canvassed at all during this election. I read a lot of blogs however and I’m a Twitter addict, so I just wanted to see how these candidates have done in reaching out to the likes of me. What I have found is rather uninspiring.

Using TheJournal.ie’s excellent roundup of the candidates, here are some of my impressions.

  • Fianna Fáil (Michael Ahern and Kevin O’Keeffe) don’t have much of a social media policy at all. No Twitter, no videos, no blogs, just static web-pages and a Facebook account for O’Keeffe. Their candidate web-pages are devoid of anything that might persuade me to change my mind.
  • Fine Gael is more interesting. All of the candidates have a live video. (Pa O’Driscoll had one but for some reason it has been taken down). David Stanton’s video does not inspire a huge amount of confidence. It could have been a lot better in my opinion. I felt as if I was reading his CV and I didn’t get any feeling for what drives him and his passion for change. This is a potential government minister, so I would have expected a bit more drive. Tom Barry’s video is better, hitting the point on the main points of his candidacy. All three candidates have Twitter streams with Pa O’Driscoll leading by miles in terms of engagement and David Stanton saying aloof from any interaction with the great unwashed. Tom Barry shouldn’t have bothered with Twitter, given tweets such as the following: “Thanks to the canvass crews out over the weekend! Ye are pure marters for the cause out in that rain!” David StantonPa O’Driscoll and Tom Barry all have passable blogs.
  • Now we get to Labour. Sean Sherlock is engaging with people on Twitter but he has no video that I could find. His website is also, how do I put it, parochial. Here is a guy who could possibly find himself in the cabinet and yet he is campaigning on the subject of local roads and rezoning. Honestly, I’d prefer if these guys started thinking about Ireland and less about the parish pump. John Mulvihill has another parochial website, a Twitter stream (not engaging), and no video to give us an impression of what he is like. I am leaning towards Labour in this election but neither of the candidates inspire me with much confidence.

From here on in we are dealing with smaller parties and independent candidates. None of them have ever served as a TD and they have fairly low profiles. So you would expect them to be using every media outlet, including social media, to sell their message. Right?

  • Sandra McLellan, Sinn Féin’s candidate has no website or video or Twitter account, so apart from their policies which I think are woefully ignorant of basic economics and belong to the 19th Century, I know very little else about her.
  • Malchy Harty of the Green Party is a photographer, but he fails to put up a video of himself to tell us why we should vote for him. No blog (just a static web-page) and no Twitter. I will grant that he has a somewhat less parochial vision, but that’s about it. Very little to go on here.
  • Paul O’Neill has a website and a video. You actually get to see what this guy is thinking and what he is interested in doing. No Twitter though, no blogging and nothing in his Facebook page that I can see.
  • Paul Burke also has a static website and a video (I had to do a bit of rummaging to find it) which is quite good except for the fact that “Independent” is spelt incorrectly in the title. I find the policies here a bit wishy washy. He wants change but I don’t get a strong sense of vision around it.
  • Claire Cullinane has a static website and audio stream to help her outline her policies and a Facebook page where we find that she has been educated in the University of Life (hmm). No Twitter and no blogging – just a static web-page. Again, the policies seem quite vague. I’m not sure what I would be voting for.
  • Patrick Bullman has just a static web-page where he outlines his political philosophy. Not much else to go on.

So, what do I know? Fine Gael have definitely tried the hardest to engage with social media, Fianna Fail are a write-off, Labour are somewhat disappointing, and only a handful of independents or smaller party candidates have done very much at all to raise their profiles. While this is not the only information I will take into account when making my vote, it is interesting nonetheless.

Update: In an earlier version of this posting I wrote that Tom Barry didn’t have a blog and that based on his Twitter comments he shouldn’t have bothered to write one either. I subsequently found his blog and I need to, how do you say – eat my words. You live and learn I guess.

So Nessa Childers doesn’t like Facebook. She’s mad as hell and she want’s someone to do something about it.

Let’s say we make a small change to what she said. Let’s get rid of the words “social networks” or “Facebook” and make some small alterations instead.

Labour MEP Nessa Childers has said the EU can and should bring in new laws to protect people from the dangers of addiction to popular social networking activities such as reading, emailing, club membership and talking.

Ms. Childers, who is a psychotherapist by profession said, “There has been an explosion in recent years in the use of social networking, in particular talking, a facility I frequently use to keep in touch with constituents. I believe the disturbing levels of addiction to talking, which has over 400,000 users in Ireland is sufficiently high as to warrant intervention and regulation by the EU.

“With the passing into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU now has increased powers to legislate when there is a threat to public health in Europe. I am today calling on the European Commission to submit proposals to the European Parliament to tackle this clear and present threat to the mental health of millions of European citizens.

“Using telephones from time to time in order to interact with friends and family is all very well. However no guidelines or codes of conduct have been produced by the telephone company to help prevent users becoming addicted. This is where transnational institutions must step in and subject such sites to the scrutiny of EU public health law.

“Using email frequently causes what psychologists refer to as ‘intermittent reinforcement’. Notifications, messages and invites reward you with an unpredictable high, much like gambling. That anticipation can get dangerously addictive.

“Joining a bridge club rewards you with virtual connections and friends. These connections then expand to fill an increasingly empty internal world creating a vicious circle.

“We can read novels that present an unreal and flawless version of ourselves. Many people read books once or twice a week however for others it has turned into a compulsion – and it is a compulsion to dissociate oneself from the real world in exchange for the apparently non-threatening parallel world of the romantic novel.

“Reading is especially seductive when real life isn’t going so well. In real life, people have bad breath and smelly feet and we argue about who’s going to change the baby’s nappy. But no such banalities exist in literature. Working as a professional psychotherapist, I saw an exponential increase in addiction to pornography, a disturbing phenomenon which has wrecked relationships and lives. Action is needed at international level from the EU to properly take on the disturbing trend of addiction to libraries and bookshops which are responsible for all sorts of problematic behaviour”, she concluded.

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