Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why You Should Be an Elitist Prick

There is an old Tamil film released back when I was only about a year old, titled Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu.  Literally, that translates to "Red is the Color of Poverty."  At the very end of the movie (after the story formally really resolves, so to speak), the main character -- played by fellow Desi atheist, Kamal Hassan -- is working in a barber shop and he receives a customer.  Well, that scene is also the film's cameo for legendary Tamil comedy actor, "Thengai" (yes, as in coconut) Srinivasan, so viewers know ahead of time that the film would be closed off with a comedy scene.  During the shave, there is idle chatter between the barber and the client, and our hero barber character reveals that he actually went to graduate school and earned a Master's Degree in philosophy.  The comedy that ensues is that the client runs in fear presuming that the fact that his barber is an educated man means he's out to murder him.  Because...  that's what educated people do?

Well, Bruce Lee also had a Master's Degree in philosophy, so maybe he was making some assumption about Kamal Hassan being a fearsome martial arts master.  Sure.  That makes perfect sense.

It's an odd sentiment, though...  that educated people...  the intelligentsia of the world... are somehow the problem individuals.  What exactly do they think will happen?  Last I recall, it's those who are uneducated who tend to be dangerous.  I've never heard of a scientist who killed church officials for spreading lies about science.  Sure, there was that one mathematician who engaged in a 17-year long bombing campaign, but you can't trust those darn mathematicians, anyway ;-).  But nonetheless, there's a common cultural sentiment here.  There's a common response I get from fundies whenever I write about knowledge, education, being scientifically literate, etc.  It is the admonishment that I'm some evil elitist.  By subscribing to this sort of meritocratic philosophy centered around knowledge and the advancement thereof, I and other literati like myself therefore profess a sort of cold-blooded elitism, and that makes them a threat to the "average" person.

Call me crazy...  but I would rather have the average of tomorrow be roughly equal to the borderline genius of today, and if that makes me a threat to the "average" person today, then that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't Just Read Labels; Read Books.

There's a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge that is labeled as having no preservatives.  This is profoundly amazing to me seeing as how the tomatoes are packed in oil.  I wonder what that does?  In the store the other day, I saw a bottle of vegetable oil that is marked as having no cholesterol...  hmm...  vegetable oil that has no cholesterol.  I wonder how that can be?  Well, I have fat-free ice cubes in my freezer, so I guess I've done some amazing stuff, too.

There's a certain thing about the stuff that's printed on the labels of the boxes and jars.  By law, no one is allowed to print something that isn't true, and this is fairly heavily regulated.  So in that sense, everything they say on the bottle is pretty trustworthy, right?  Ummm...  sure.  Of course, true doesn't necessarily mean that something is not misleading or somewhat incomplete.  I could tell you that I have ladies' clothing and undergarments in my home.  This is technically true, which may give people the impression that I apparently engage in cross-dressing.  But it only seems that way when I exclude the crucial detail that I happen to be married, and the aforementioned ladies' clothing is, without exception, worn by my wife.

Remember that when the law says that people are required to be truthful in their advertised claims on the labels, it's also the law that defines just what "truthful" really means.  It's not enough to read -- it's kind of important to have an idea what they're talking about and be careful when you read.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Order Now! Pseudoscientists Are Standing By!

Yesterday, I saw a rather interesting claim in a mattress commercial.  We've all seen the ads for things like memory foam pads and how it "relieves" pressure points that inner spring mattresses cause.  This one had a far more interesting claim.  This one happened to be some mattress that apparently had a gel top-layer, apparently to act a little bit like a waterbed without having to be as expensive or heavy.  So, like every exotic mattress material, though, you'd expect the advertisers claim that it adjusts to your body...  Not this one!  No.  It automatically bio-adjusts to your body!

It...  bio-adjusts?  Bio?  The mattress is alive?  Will it become self-aware?  And here I thought bedbugs might have been an issue, but the beds themselves could be coming to get us.

Oh, but that's just the least of it.  There was another ad I saw on the sidebar of another blog about a waterbed.  And that one distinguishes itself from normal beds by pointing out the value of waterbed mattresses.  The distinction?  "Nothing is more natural than water!"  Wait...  what?  What does that even mean?  We had varying degrees of "natural-ness"?  I guess that means that there's a lot of stuff out there we can't consider quite so natural like trees and air.  Maybe we should also consider things that aren't really substances.  Radiation, for instance...  how much more or less artificial is it than say, electricity?

Maybe instead of a waterbed, we should have a bed filled with all-natural homeopathic medicine...  Oh, wait...