Category: Uncategorized

hypocrites vs. even bigger hypocrites

Image

Arkonaplatz, Berlin

There’s a little row going on.

German conservatives are saying the symbols of the GDR should be banned in Germany because they are offensive to the victims of the totalitarian regime, and others are saying NO! because the GDR wasn’t as bad as the NS years.
Both arguments are badly flawed.
The idea that things should be banned because some people find them hurtful and offensive does not fit with a liberal democracy. Tolerance doesn’t mean anything unless you tolerate what you really don’t like.
You’re offended (as I would be) by idiots who go stomping around Treptow Soviet War Memorial on “Victory Day“, dressed up like wannabe Stalins with the flags and the badges and the hats? Well, don’t go to Treptow Soviet War Memorial on the 9th of May!

Is it fair to compare the German Democratic Republic with the Third Reich? Probably not, but is that what they’re doing? No, so that’s a straw man. The argument appears to be that the GDR was repressive, and there’s quite a lot of evidence to support that, but whether or not it can be compared to 30s Germany is irrelevant. All governments get compared to the nazis at some point by some people.

No, the question is, is the memory of the repressive nature of the old East Germany so offensive that its victims should be shielded from reminders? Should freedoms be taken away from the fools who still dream of a socialist paradise that never existed?

If not then how do we justify taking away the same freedoms from the idiots who dream of a fascist past? And so here we are again, comparing the two regimes, measuring them up for offensiveness; an ideological pissing contest.

The odd thing is that both sides agree; nobody in Germany should have the freedom to express their liking for fascism. We’ve all decided as a society that public denial of the holocaust, for example, should be punished, because it’s an obviously offensive and factually incorrect position. Selling a badge off of an old SS uniform on a sunday market? Illegal. Greeting someone in the street with a stiff, right-armed, Roman salute? Punishable!

I believe these are all judgment calls that cannot easily be legislated for, and therefore not only should we leave the stalinist idiots to their sad little nostalgic fantasies, but we should also allow far more offensive behaviour.

Freedom comes at a cost, and until Germany accepts that freedom must include tolerating the truly offensive, those states that have no regard for freedom will always brush away European criticism by pointing at our hypocrisy. Hitler laughed at American complaints about the treatment of the Jews, pointing out the Jim Crow laws that lasted until 1965. American moral authority was undermined by American racism, just as now, in the UN when european countries complain of political repression in Iran, Syria, Turkey, wherever, we hand them a get-out.

So the argument is, should Germany remain a hypocritical nation that cannot look oppressors in the eye, along with pretty much all of Europe, or become even more hypocritical, all in the name of not offending anyone?

Well, on this one, I’m sorry, but fuck the lot of you.

The buzz about neonicotinoids: Hive minding your own business.

ImageI noticed a request to sign a petition on facebook with the heading

BAN THE PESTICIDES THAT ARE KILLING BEES

I was also alerted to the same issue on facebook via a butterfly conservation page that said

Today the March of the Beekeepers, organised by Buglife and others, will advance on Parliament Square, Westminster to support a temporary ban of neonicotinoid pesticides. Could these pesticides affect butterflies and moths as well as bees?

and linked to details of a protest against neonicotinoid insecticides called March of the Beekeepers.

So, the claim is that neonicotinoid insecticides, having proven to be killing bees, may also be the cause of butterfly decline. Facebook messages followed in support of the march.

This seems like a good thing, right? The huge german company Bayer are manufacturing these pesticides, and there’s a ton of evidence to prove the connection between this stuff and the bees dying. Surely.

So, I decided to take a look at some of the evidence on offer, linked from the campaign. Here’s their science (a very short pdf). Now, straight away, I have little problem. They say

…independent studies showed serious sub-lethal impacts on non-target invertebrates.

which suggests to me that nobody is talking about the killing of bees, oh, except for the

BAN THE PESTICIDES THAT ARE KILLING BEES

people.

Secondly, I have a problem with the way they casually broaden out the category to include any environmental impact, including earthworms and mammals, however interesting that is, when the issue at hand is bees. To me this looks like cherry picking, although it’s very hard to be certain because the most relevant sounding studies listed are seemingly unavailable (google-wise).

For a little balance, I came across the Scientific Beekeeping site which appears to present quite a different story.

Yes, bees can be effected by this pesticide when dosed enough. It appears to be general scientific consensus, seen here in the Relatively objective reviews section, however, that it is very unlikely to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

My concern is that people are allowing their political judgement (perhaps a suspicion of companies like Bayer, and a dislike of “unnatural” pesticides) to cloud their scientific judgment. In my view, this situation could become another mass moral panic, resulting in a blanket ban. My fear is that the campaigners will move on to some other issue and the bees will keep dying.

The science is not simple here, and the slogans of the marchers (who I suspect may not be exclusively beekeepers) do not reflect the scientific complexity, resulting in an emotion-driven movement that is unlikely to be productive.

Bottom-up morality

livelysceptic

Many christians still argue that we can’t be good without god, even though there is a variety of secular moral frameworks. Primatologist De Waal turns this debate on its head by saying we invented god to help us live the way we already felt we had to.

When humans developed greater powers of abstraction they felt a need for systems of justification, monitoring and punishment. De Waal argues that a need for religion only came in at this very late stage. Our morality is inbuilt by evolution.

morality and evolution

Has our morality developed during evolution? Darwin thought any animal would eventually acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its intellectual powers had become well developed. However, according to Darwin the animal would have become human at that stage.

After 30 years of studying non-human primates, Frans de Waal says:

“I have argued that many of what…

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PIK

PIK

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

I went here today. There are actually a whole group of beautiful old buildings around here, including the famous Einsteinturm, but I posted this photo because this is the building that supplies a great deal of info to the IPCC and other groups, and they’re just generally a good bunch of scientists doing what they can. So often so much good work is done behind nondescript buildings, but in this case they’re pretty!