Why Are Bad Words Bad?

This is actually quite interesting:

Aspergers, Signs and What ‘Things Actually Mean’

It is a source of deep frustration for me that so often, signs are interpreted wrongly by the neurotypicals – who read meanings into them that simply are not there!  And, they get indignant when others, with better knowledge of either grammar or logic (or both), act in accordance with what the sign actually says instead of what they erroneously infer it says.

Let me give you an example:  outside of one of the parking lots at my son’s high school, there is a sign:

STAFF ONLY

PLEASE

In one way, this sign is pretty clear:  it is a request that only staff members enter the area.

It is not a statement of a rule, nor an order, because it includes the word ‘PLEASE’ – this clearly indicates that this is a request, something that is being asked of me…and therefore within my power to either grant or reject.

Right?!?!?

Yet, when I drove into the parking lot not with the intent to park there, but simply to drop my son off at the door closest to his locker, two different school employees told him off for my perceived transgression.

Outrageous!!!

The sign never stated that non-staff members are forbidden from even entering, not just parking in the area.

Of course, I am presuming that there ought to be a comma after ‘only’ and before ‘please’.  As is, the sign is a sentence fragment which indicates that the staff is in the process of pleasing some exclusive element, but does not define whom the staff are in the process of pleasing, why, or how one can get on the list of those to be pleased by the staff….much less imply any rules about the area in question!

Now, if one were to interpret the sign as meaning ‘only staff members are allowed in the area’, why are students permitted to walk there?  And, for that matter, if only staff are permitted there, why would the staff members presume that their vehicles are allowed there as well?  It certainly does not state that vehicles owned by staff members are permitted to be driven/parked there.

Really, think about it:  it says ‘staff’ – not ‘staff and their vehicles and students who are walking but not getting out of vehicles”.

I am not being silly here – this is something of a serious issue for us, Aspies.

We take a sign – or an instruction – at its literal meaning.

We do not see any ‘implied’ other meaning – yet, we are the ones who get yelled at or laughed at if we truly follow what the sign actually says.  That only ads insult to injury…

Let me give you another example, from a math test:

“Write the 3 forms of a quadratic relation that you have learned in this course this far…”

It seems obvious that if you have learned any or all of these 3 forms of quadratic relations before you started this class, they are not eligible to be put down for the answer here.   In other words, if you are good at math and already knew them, the only accurate and correct answer is to leave this blank or say ‘none’!

The corollary is that if you are still ignorant of these forms because you are bad at Math and have learned nothing in this class, your answer of leaving this blank or saying ‘nothing’ is also 100% correct:  the question does not ask what was taught, or what material was covered, but what you had actually learned.  If you had learned nothing, then your answer of ‘nothing’ would indeed be factually correct and deserving of full marks!

Yet, if you, as a student, try to point this out to a teacher, you will not be commended for your accurate interpretation of the question.  You will be singled out, put down and even perhaps punished for some trumped up ‘disrespect’ charge…

To an Aspie, this is very, very confusing.

I know – I’ve been there…

A few hours of lectures by Stephen Coughlin on our ineptitude on ‘the war on terror’

Yes, this lecture series is a little long – but very, very informative.

If you have read the Koran and the Hadith, and if you are familiar with Shariah, you  will be impressed by the depth of Stephen Coughlin’s background knowledge – but there is still a lot of new material there for you because he draws the connections between the beliefs rooted (rightly or wrongly, but demonstrably held by the majority of pro-Sharia Muslims worldwide) in these and the decision-making and behaviour of Islamic political entities.

For example, he is one of the few people to have predicted the ‘Arab Spring’ months before it happened and accurately described it as a Muslim Brotherhood-driven action.  He also accurately predicted other events many had considered ‘unpredictible’ – and in this lecture series, he walks us through the steps that made the events predictable.

If you are unfamiliar with the underlying doctrine, Stephen Coughlin provides an accurate grounding in their belief system and demonstrates its doctrinal roots.  He also explains the very  different concepts meant by Islamic political bodies when they use terms we consider familiar:  words like ‘human rights’ (Sharia), ‘terrorism’ (killing of a Muslim without Sharia approval), and ‘freedom’ (freedom from ‘the laws of man’ in favour of the laws from Allah alone), ‘religion’ (Islam and Islam alone as Muhammad’s revelations abrogated all other religions) and more.

What is quite appalling, however, is his description of the depth of willful ignorance of all this by the politically correct decisionmakers who are directing the ‘war on terror’…  His frustration is plainly visible and his Cassandra complex and the accompanying frustration are, at times, palpable.

Yet, it is precisely this willful ignorance among our decisionmakers and intellectual elites poses a clear and present danger to protecting our culture, our society and our very basic human rights.

Stephen Coughlin, Part 1: Lectures on National Security & Counterterror Analysis (Introduction)

Stephen Coughlin, Part 2: Understanding the War on Terror Through Islamic Law

Stephen Coughlin, Part 3: Abrogation & the ‘Milestones’ Process

Stephen Coughlin, Part 4: Muslim Brotherhood, Arab Spring & the ‘Milestones’ Process

Stephen Coughlin, Part 5: The Role of the OIC in Enforcing Islamic Law

A gratuitously personal post

I am the first person to admit that my brain is not ‘wired’ in the neuro-typical way.

The more  l learn about other people, the more I realize just how atypical my thinking processes are.

Which is a bit of a self-conscious segway into my post…which is all abouot the excitement of finding a ‘lost’ song…

When I was ‘an itty-bitty-baby’, my parents used to listen to ‘their’ music:  and, being political dissidents from the ‘other’ side of the ‘iron curtain’, this naturally included a few records they had managed to get in English.

(And, yes – growing up, I saw many performers who would do ‘yodling’ and ‘stepdancing’ together in one musical piece because they both typified ‘Western culture’ and were thus part of ‘the same culture’…ok, let me re-focus…)

In other words, the ‘classification norms’ I grew up with were ‘slightly’ different from the ‘North-American-perspective’!

But, that is not my point – at least, not now:  now, my point is that my parents had acquired a few records in English, back when I was an itty-bitty-baby who did not speak a word of English – and they used to listen to them.

Before I had learned to speak any English whatsoever, that is.

And, I, too, would listen.

Over and over and over…

As a matter of fact, there were a few songs that I picked out that I liked and I would play them – even though I was forbidden to use the record-player by myself -1 song at a time, over and over and over…when my parents weren’t home!

I had no clue what the words said, but I memorized the sound of them and tried to reproduce it…and, I’m afraid, it was as dismal a lingustic failure as I was a musical one (as I am almot completely tonedeaf).

But, I did not give up!

I kept the memory of the sound of those songs deep in my brain…including the sond that the ‘foreign’ singing would encompass.

Fast forward a few decades:  I now live in an English-speaking country and can, most of the time, pass for an Anglophone who might speak a littlepeculiarly…but an anglophone nonetheless.

The point is – I remembered the song and re-played it enough times from my memory – once I had learned English – to make ‘some’  sense of the sounds!

OK – except for a tiny little bit – I had made complete sense of these sounds!!!

And, being a new parent, I reverted to my parent’s patterns and tried to sing to my babies the lulabyes I had recalled from my own early childhood – including the ones that were in English!

I had separated the sounds into words, understood their meaning (in time), and filled-in-the-blanks as I needed to…and then sang them as a lullaby to both my ‘surviving’ sons…

A few weeks ago, I actually thought of searching for that song on YouTube…

OK, I should have thought of it before…it seems so obvious now – but I did not really trust my recollections…

…still, I found it!!!!

‘when those cotton balls

get rotten, you can’t pick

very much cotton….’

I freely admit I remembered the song lyrics as:

‘when them cotton fields

get ripened, you can see

very much cotton…’

But – that is the only divergence from the lyrics!!!

I mean – we are talking decades and re-playing the sounds in a language I did not know until years later!

That is pretty cool – is it not?

Q&A on Aspergers and ‘hearing dyslexia’

Recently, I got a question on my post ‘Aspergers and ‘hearing dyslexia’.

When my highly imperfect answer topped a thousand words, I thought it worth a post of its own, because I think that while some Aspies might find it useful, others might  have helpful suggestions – much better than mine, which, if they are willing to share, could benefit us all.

Question:

My son is 16. We didn’t notice this “hearing dyslexia” for many years [perhaps we were too distracted by the other symptoms] but now it is overwhelming. Unless someone speaks very slowly and distinctly to him, my son will answer, “What did you say?” almost inevitably.
My question is: Am I understanding correctly that there’s really nothing to be done about this? My son can read great, can speak [though he tends to speak way too fast and mumbled; doesn’t seem like he used to as a child], but he definitely has the problem listed on this site.
Nice to know what it is, but beyond that, no suggestions?

Answer:

This is a difficult question.

Something can be done, but…

There are therapies which have been used on young children – 3-6 years of age – which are showing definite improvement. This therapy is in the form of computer programs where they do simple tasks (say, help frog catch a fly) based on the length of a tone…which later builds up into series of 2,3+ tones done in the proper rhythm.

The theory behind this is neuroplasticity: the brain is being trained, slowly but surely, to use a different bit of the brain to do the job of integrating time with sound. Because the different bit of brain uses a slightly different ‘strategy’, even to accomplish the same task, the underlying problem will not interfere with that task.

Of course, trying to get a 16-year-old interested in a video game designed for 3-year-olds is not likely to have positive outcome.

But, there are other ways.

They are less effective, but they can work. And, for a 16-year-old, they are more practical.

It really depends on the Aspie: what will motivate them and what will work for each one individually.

One thing that helped both my sons was music.

With a metronome. (One on their computer was more ‘fun’ than a real one – plus it’s much cheaper.)

The sounds are written down in the music score – not just the tones, but their lengths and pauses.

He creates the sound on his instrument (from a cheap recorder or little keyboard to a sexy instrument he’d be willing to play, this bit is way less important) based on what is written down and the metronome helps him integrate the time element into the sound which is generated based on the visual input from the music score. Listening to himself play is the feedback…

I think the visual component is important – ‘playing by ear’ lack the rigor of integrating visual stimulus with the tone and metered time elements necessary to help re-route the ‘time-sound-synchronization’ bit into another area of the brain. Then, as he learns the piece (motor nerve integration into the time/sound system), the metronome can eventually be eliminated and he will still be able to ‘keep pace.

This is not a quick and easy solution, but one that might make an improvement in a teen. We definitely saw an improvement in ours once they took up an instrument – but only an improvement…certainly not an elimination of the problem.

Of course, the ‘shortcut’ would be the videogames where the computer plays the music and displays the colour-coded notes which have to be pressed for a specific period of time, which information is conveyed visually. (Games like RockBand and so on.)

Now that I come to think about it, these are the ‘teenager’ versions of the young-kid games used in the therapy which has been demonstrated to be effective in clinical trials for 3-6 year-olds!

Music could not ‘work’ for me – not only am I not interested in it, I find music actively annoying. Yes, I am sure that my hearing dyslexia is at least partly to blame – imagine listening to music, but with some of the notes jumbled up…you, too, might find it gives you headaches. (This is one of the reasons I avoid shopping malls and other places that force music at me.)

And even though I took piano lessons, within 2 years, 3 teachers kicked me out as ‘un-teachable’…so, no, for me, music absolutely did not work. (For example, I still have difficulty telling apart the movie themes from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ – the same pathetic bombast, the same notes, just slightly re-ordered. Unless I hear them together, I have to think very, very hard to tell which one it is…)

However, what did work for me (a bit) was learning to speak foreign languages. Practicing making the sounds in front of a mirror, getting audio feedback to make sure I eliminated mispronunciation, and so on. (If you want to get really fun, you can use an oscilloscope to display the proper sound wave pattern, then try to match yours to it – hours of fun!)

Learning a language (even without the oscilloscope), I could use the audio, visual and work in the timing with the motor nerves of speech.

And the hook that kept me interested in learning languages was the pattern-making intricacies of grammars. Yes, grammars: because each language has a different approach to this and exploring this logic puzzle set my endorphins hopping! (I get happy just thinking about it!) It’s kind of like algebra, but with words.

(OK – the different alphabets were fun, too – but grammars are like logic puzzles on steroids! Especially when you compared the grammatical ‘philosophy’ to the culture it was used in and the religious memes it best supported – what could be more fascinating!!! But, I’m off on a tangent…)

Again, I am nowhere near ‘cured’, but it certainly helped me become more functional.

I still have extreme difficulty understanding spoken words when there is background noise – like, hum of other conversations, but, especially, music. That is why I loath movies – their background music is not just icky to listen to and calculated to be emotionally manipulative (a deep insult to the audience – in my never-humble-opinion), but it makes it difficult to follow the dialogue in the movie. I usually have to wait to see movies till I can buy them and watch them with subtitles. If the soundtrack is particularly emotionally manipulative, I’ve been known to turn the subtitles on and watch the movie on mute – a much more satisfying experience!

In social situations, I often rely on partial lip-reading: it helps me make more sense of the sounds. (And, yes – that is one reason why I hate the cultural normalization of niqabs and burkas.)

Well, that is my best advice for how to improve your son’s comprehension. As to speaking fast and mumbling…

If I knew how to stop my sons (13 and 18 now) from speaking very fast and mumbling, I’d try it – because they both do.

I’ve tried to get them to recite poetry in order to get them to improve the cadence of their speech – but they are about as interested in reciting poetry as I am in learning to sing movie scores… (Many of us Aspies have a deep-rooted hate for pretentiousness – and let’s face it, much poetry is very, very pretentious.)

In grade 9, my older son took drama in school – that did help him learn to speak slowly and understandably. Now, when he remembers to do so, he uses that skill.

Another thing which has helped them was talking to their grandmothers: one has a hearing problem and does not tolerate hearing aids well, the other struggles with English. So when they speak to either one of them, they have to consider not just what they want to convey, but also how best to convey it. They have to tailor their words differently for each grandmother – which forces them to pay attention to their diction.

It is surprising how helping other people overcome their difficulties can be an excellent tool for Aspies to help themselves overcome their own ‘little things’!!!    ;0)

I wish I could be of more help…

If anyone ‘out there’ has better suggestions, please, comment and let us all know.

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational

I’ve been saying this for years!!!

Or, at least, a version of this…because I have noticed this in myself.

This ‘Wired’ article is about a recent study which found that people’s risk assessment appears to be less affected by linguistic positioning when they are functioning in a language they are just studying:

“It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases,” wrote Keysar’s team.

It is an interesting article, well worth the read.

NOTE:  The sign in the picture which accompanies the article  says different things in English and in Czech.

The Czech wording, if simply translated, would say ‘Prohibition on Interpreting’. Though, for ease of use (and, perhaps symmetry), this would be interpreted as ‘Interpreting Forbidden’.

The Czech word for ‘translating’ (accents omitted) is ‘prekladani’ ‘Tlumoceni’ means ‘interpreting’.

There is a difference!

OK – details aside….

Thinking using any symbolic language is slow and cumbersome.  It is much faster, clearer and accurate to think without the use of symbols.  The difficulty comes in trying to express the process and/or results of this process in any kind on manner in order to communicate them:  so much gets lost in any translation!

It often takes me a long time to find a way to communicate the results of my thinking to anyone, in any language.  Sometimes, it takes me years – many years.  (This is why I sometimes respond with:  I know what I want to say, but it will take me a while to figure out how to say it…regardless of the language in question.)

However, often, I will reason things through in a language.  And, because it may be a complex thing that will take me a while to reason through at this slow pace, I will sort of set it into the background of my mind.  I find it impossible to do this in the language in which I happen to be functioning at that time:  there is so much interference that my ‘background’ chain of thinking gets derailed.  (Perhaps it’s my ADD…)

To make it easier, when I do the ‘background thinking’, I will set it in a different language than the one I happen to be functioning in at that time.

When I was doing business internationally, I often altered the ‘background’ processing language between the ones I was sufficiently ‘natural’ in to do this with (these differed over time).  Or, if I had a conversation with a business associate in one language, then went on to talk to somebody else in another one, I would continue to analyze our conversation (and the proposed deal) in the language I had conducted it in (even if I were not ‘natural’ in it, because the details were in that language).  This was very useful, as it allowed me to analyze several situations at the same time.

When, later, I would analyze the results of my thoughts and build a cohesive, cross-referenced picture in my mind (abandoning symbolic language), I noticed that my analysis would often differ, based solely on the language I had done it in.

So, I thought about it – quite obsessively – for a while.  OK, years.

It soon became clear to me that my analysis was affected by the ‘colouring’ of words in the various languages.  The less ‘natural’ I was in that specific language, the less ‘coloured’ the reasoning would be – but it would also be much less nuanced.

I have often wondered if this is ‘normal’ to all humans, if this is ‘natural’ to Aspies’, or if my brain is simply wired funny.  And, I would greatly appreciate any feedback on this from other people who have even remotely similar experiences.

In conclusion:  for years, I have been saying that the ‘colouring’ of words affects our reasoning on a profound level and that we ought to pay more attention to this phenomenon.

Pat Condell: “The Taste of Multiculturalism”

 

 

 

‘Consensus-building’ and ‘leadership’

From our schools to our media to our bureaucracies, every aspect of our society is so infested with Cultural Marxism that ‘Newspeak’ has seriously corrupted not just our language, but our very ability to think clearly.  We no longer even recognize it when we hear it.

One such example is the currently popular claim that ‘leadership’ requires one to be skilled at ‘consensus building’.

First, let’s look at the meaning of ‘leadership’ and what constitutes ‘a leader’:

‘Leadership’ is the ‘ability to lead’, fulfilling the role or function of a ‘leader’.

‘To lead’ means to ‘show way by going in advance’, ‘to guide’, ‘to direct’, ‘to inspire’.

So, whom do we, as a society, regard as the greatest leaders of all times?  I did a little bit of googling on this – please, do the same.  While the leaders ‘closest’ to us necessarily dominate our cultural memory, there were some names that consistently keep being mentioned, by educational sites, journalistic/populist opinion sites and discussion boards alike.

In no particular order, these are just some of these names that keep cropping up over and over when people discuss ‘great leaders’:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Elisabeth I of England
  • Gengis Khan
  • Epicurus
  • Alexander the Great
  • Ghandi
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Golda Meir
  • George Washington
  • Cyrus the Great
  • Winston Churchill
  • Muhammad
  • Constantine
  • Samudragupta
  • Wu Ti
  • Ivan III
  • Napoleon
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • C. D. Howe
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Bismarck

So, how many of these were known as ‘consensus builders’?

If I may quote from ‘What is ‘Cultural Marxism’?’, a guest-post on this blog by CodeSlinger:

Another example is the concept of intersubjective rationality, developed by Habermas, which replaces the individual process of reaching a conclusion based on the objective criterion that it follows from valid reasoning and known facts, on the one hand, with the social process of establishing a consensus supported by the subjective criterion that the group feels good about it, on the other hand. In today’s schools, those who do the former are maligned for being judgmental and demanding, while those who do the latter are praised for being good team players.

‘Consensus’ literally means ‘coming together’ (con) ‘of feelings’ (senses, sentiments).  Dictionaries typically define ‘consensus’ as an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole.

In other words, ‘consensus building’ is a form of governance a group of people will resort to when it lacks ‘leadership’.

How does this translate into the political world?  We are constantly bombarded with the message that great political leaders ought to be skilled at ‘consensus building’…

Our ‘Western’ societies have built-in safeguard mechanisms to ensure that ‘governments’ remain accountable to the citizens who elect them.  Perhaps the most important single element in this mechanism is that our elected bodies are based on the adversarial principle.

It is precisely because the political adversaries of those who propose a particular policy or course of action bring public scrutiny to it by publicly pointing out the flaws or shortcomings of this proposal that the issue is brought to public attention and thoroughly examined.  It is certainly not a pleasant process (nor is it meant to be pleasant), but it is one through which at least some light is shed onto what is being proposed – in as much detail as possible – and which engages the electorate in the debate (at least a little bit).

This is the method through which, in our system, we the citizens keep our elected politician accountable to us.  It is therefore important that we do nothing which would minimize this process!

What would happen if, before proposing a new law or introducing a new project, the head of the group that is proposing it went to all the elected representatives and put just enough of an ‘incentive’ into the proposal for each an every one of the representatives to not want to loose that ‘carrot’?

Certainly, any such project would be significantly costlier, because in addition to the core cost, it would now have to also bear the cost of a ‘carrot’ for each of the elected representatives – the bit that got them to ‘go along’ with it.

Of course, any such law or rule would be significantly more convoluted because it would now have to accommodate/fulfill/have exemptions for/’bundle in’ all the ‘carrots’  for each of the elected representatives – the ‘incentives’ that would be built in to it to ‘facilitate the building of the consensus’.

Every ‘quid’ would have a ‘quo’.

All policy would be shaped by back-room deals, where ‘consensus builders’ would be busy building ‘accommodations’ and ‘incentives’ into everything that would placate or mollify any potential dissent….among the elected representatives.

Once this process was done, the product would be presented to the public as a ‘done deal’.  I imagine the ‘dialog’ with the electorate would go something like this:

We have worked it all out, the proposal is so awesome that we all agree on it!

What?  You want to see the details?

Why?

We, your elected representatives all agree on this so this must the best course of action.  We have examined it in detailed and built a consensus – you needn’t worry your pretty little heads about it!

What?  You don’t like it?  You want to vote us out?

And replace us with whom?  EVERYONE agrees with this!

In other words, if there is a consensus among our elected representatives on a proposed course of action, if each and every one of them considers it in his or her best interest to proceed with it as is, it is very unlikely that the voters, the citizens, will have any opportunity to learn much about it before it is implemented.  There is another word for this type of ‘consensus’:  collusion!

In an environment like this, an environment of back-room-deals and political collusion, where there is little controversy which leads to public debate or scrutiny of proposed policies, corruption can be very easily hidden.

In my never-humble-opinion, ‘consensus-building’ among elected representatives is not just anathema to responsible government and an abdication of leadership, it is an active attempt to corrupt our governance structures and eliminate accountability of elected officials to the citizenry.

I would even go further than that:  politicians who tout governing through ‘consensus-building’ are openly admitting they intend to rule through corruption!

‘Atheist’: a definition

Before I get started on defining ‘atheism’ or ‘what  makes someone an atheist’, it is important to say some things about what ‘atheism’ is not.

‘Atheism’ is not a formal or codified doctrine, like, say, Christianity, or even Humanism, is.

There is no set of ‘beliefs’ or ‘values’ which ‘atheists’ share or subscribe to.

That is because in order to have a shared ‘doctrine’ or ‘dogma’,  a label must describe some types of ‘held’ beliefs or convictions of the people being thus labeled.  ‘Atheism’ does not describe a set of ‘held’ beliefs – or even just one belief.

Instead, it describes ‘absence of belief’:  a very specific absence of one specific belief – the belief in the existence of deities.

Atheist:

An atheist is a person who does not ‘hold the belief’ that God(s) and/or Goddess(es) exist.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Some people refer to monotheism (not believing in the existence Gods or Goddesses – except one) as ‘selective atheism’:  people who believe in just one deity necessarily disbelieve in the existence of all deities but one.

Atheists may still belong to a religion:  not every religion has deities in it!  From ‘the big 5’, Buddhism is a religion which does not address the question of deities.  And, no, Buddha is not a God – not in any way, shape or form – and never was.  And – Buddhism is not the only atheistic religion.

Communism, for example, is another example of a religion which does not have any deities:  it requires the ‘belief in’/’submission to’/’acceptance of’ certain principles (of collectivism, in this case) instead.  And, there are countless more!

Describing something as ‘atheistic’ means that it does not address the question of the existence of God or Gods or Goddesses.  Therefore, any and every thing, conversation, organization and so on, which does not specifically proclaim the ‘belief in the existence of deities’ is, by definition, atheistic.

To lump all ‘atheists’ together as if they all subscribed to a common doctrine or school of thought would be even less accurate than lumping all ‘theists’ together:  while all ‘theists’ actually have a positive belief in the existence of one or more deities, defining someone as an ‘atheist’ does not define any actual belief.  It just says what these people do not believe.  It’s like identifying a group of people by saying ‘people who do not die their hair’…this can include anyone from people that have no hair to die, to people who like their ‘natural’ haircolour…all the way to people who would change their hair colour, if only they could (or, if it were easier).

OK – this is getting muddled. Let me try another approach.

Though there are ‘shades in-between’, these are several distinct ‘types’ or ‘major classes’ of atheists.  In order to describe them, please, indulge me and play a little thought experiment with me:

Let’s say that I tell you I have a neighbour. Let’s say that I now show you a picture of a woman with blond hair and say this is my neighbour..  Do you believe my neighbour is a natural blond?

***

Having never thought about my neighbour – much less a blond one – before now, it it not likely that you

  • believe my neighbour is a natural blond
  • believe my neighbour is not a natural blond

Therefore, you are ‘apart from belief’ whether my neighbour is a ‘natural blonde’.

This roughly approximates what I think of as the ‘what are gods and why should I believe in them’ atheists.  Not only do they not hold a belief either way, they don’t see the point of even thinking about it.  They simply do not care – and most of them don’t want to care.

***

Having looked at the picture, you may find there simply isn’t enough information there to make you

  • believe my neighbour is a natural blond
  • believe my neighbour is not a natural blond

Therefore, even though you have taken the time to investigate (you looked at the picture) and to think about it, yet, you don’t ‘believe’ one way or the  other.  You may think it is likely – say, 80% likely – that she might be a natural blonde.  Or not.  Who could tell?

This roughly approximates what I think of as ‘considered atheists’.  They have considered the question of the existence of deities, looked at the religions ‘out there’, thought about it, and did not become convinced enough to hold a belief one way or the other.  They may still be searching for ‘belief’, hoping to find it.  Or, they may not be.

***

Or, having looked at the picture, you may have noticed that the woman in the picture has blond hair with black roots… Therefore, you

  • believe my neighbour is not a natural blond

This is actually REALLY substantially different from the above two types of ‘apart from belief’ groups:  you actually believe in the truthfulness of one of the choices!  You just happen to believe in the ‘not’ option…

While you still ‘do not believe’ that my neighbour is a natural blond, but, in addition to ‘disbelieving’ that her blond-ness is natural, you actively believe that it is not.  Therefore, you have ‘an absence of belief’ in  the first proposition, and active/positive ‘belief’ in the second one.

Many people today refer to this group as ‘strong atheists’.  Frankly, that is not just wrong, it is silly.

The ‘atheist’ label refers to ‘absence of belief’ – and associating it with a belief (the belief in the ‘non-existence’) is inaccurate and misleading.  Unfortunately, the term ‘atheist’ became used in this very sense from very shortly after it was created, because many people find it difficult to understand that ‘absence of belief in Gods’ does not imply ‘belief of absence of Gods’…

…which does not mean that continuing to misuse the term is a good idea.

Plus, it seems to me that holding ANY ‘belief’ is a weakness – NOT a strength.

Therefore, referring to a ‘purist’ non-beliver as a ‘weak atheist’ and to a person who actually holds ANY form of a belief as a ‘strong atheist’ seems, to me, stupid at best. (OK – I’m not being particularly eloquent:  but I am being honest!)

***

Of course, there are many people whose reactions – given this thought experiment – would be quite different.  Like…

  • I believe the woman in this picture is a ‘natural blonde’ – but I don’t believe she is your neighbour!
  • What woman?  You are showing me a picture of a car!
  • Whatever her hair colour is, how natural it is – that is irrelevant.  She should cover her hair!
  • Hey!  This is a crayon drawing!  You drew this yourself!  You are trying to trick me!

….plus about a hundred other possible responses.  But, this post is NOT about THEM.  It is about showing that ‘disbelief’ is different that ‘belief’ – even different from ‘belief in  not’….

Of course, there are people – even self-identified as ‘atheists’ – who just don’t get this.

They did not do their homework.

They are  confusing any and all discussions on this issue.

And, that is too bad…

How to write an essay: part 3

Essays are ‘formula-writing’ at its best!  Still, many people go through school without ever learning the ‘formula’…

This series of posts is hoping to explain the ‘formula’ of essay-writing, and break it up into specific, easily comprehended pieces.

Part 1 attempted to explain how to ‘organize’ one’s points prior to starting the process of writing an essay.

Part 2 attempted to explain the ‘skeleton’ of the essay itself and how to get down the ideas/points for each of the main parts.

However, I got a little hung up on the fact that I could not figure out how to import tables into this blog… because I have made all the ‘templates’ in the form of tables… This has slowed me down a little – my apologies.

Since the inability to include ‘tables’ has sidetracked me (to say the least), I have not been as clear as I ought-to have been in explaining the ‘skeleton’ of the essay.  Please, allow me to remedy this by re-stating what the ‘basic structure’ of an essay is and the mechanics of what each ‘bit’ is supposed to accomplish:

Once the main point (title) and point of view have been chosen (or assigned), the rest of the essay needs to be crafted into the essay’s framework:

‘Opening’ paragraph

Role:

  • introduce the topic and explain what point the essay will make.

Mechanics:

  • Introduce the topic.
  • Make the ‘main point’ (of the essay) about it (the topic).
  • Explain how you will prove your point (by mentioning the points in each of the ‘middle paragraphs’=’body of the essay’)
  • Sum up the paragraph/re-state the main point.

‘Body’ of the essay

Role:

  • to provide the ‘proof’ of the opening paragraph.

Mechanics:

  • Typically, the body of the essay will contain 3 paragraphs (this refers .
  • Each paragraph will contain 1 ‘proof’/’support’ of the ‘main point’.
  • The structure of each of these ‘middle’/’body of the essay’ paragraphs will mirror the structure of the essay:  except inside the paragraph, it will be ‘opening sentence’ which introduces the ‘point’ to be made, ‘middle/body of the paragraph sentences’ which presents it and ‘makes the point’, and the ‘closing sentence’ which ties the ‘point’ of the  paragraph to the ‘point of the essay’ and sums up/closes the paragraph.

‘Concluding’ paragraph

Role:

  • Re-state the ‘main point’.
  • Explain how each of the ‘body’ paragraphs proved the ‘main point’. (That is, re-phrase the concluding sentences of the ‘middle’/’body of the essay’ paragraphs and tie them together to the ‘main point’ of the essay.)
  • State that (perhaps alluding to how) the ‘main point’ has ‘been proven’: this‘closes’ the essay.

Now that the ‘greater structure’ of the essay has been re-stated, it is time to address the structure of the individual paragraphs.

These break down into 2 main groups:

  • the ‘opening/closing’ paragraphs
    • their ‘common’ parts consist of:
      • stating the ‘main point’ of the essay – and the ‘point of view’ which the essay will present about the ‘main point’
      • using the ‘proof’/’supporting points’ from the ‘middle’/’supporting point’ paragraphs to illustrate the ‘point of view’ (one’s ‘take’ or ‘twist’ on the ‘main point’)
    • their ‘differences’ consist of:
      • the ‘opening paragraph’ introduces the topic, states the ‘main point’ – with the specific ‘point of view’ – and ‘touches on’ the ways in which this ‘proof’ will be made
      • the ‘closing paragraph’ re-states the ‘main topic’, ties the ‘proof’ from each of the paragraphs in the ‘body of the essay’ to the ‘main point’ (short version of the explanation of how they ‘prove’ the ‘main point’) and state that the point had thus been proven
    • thus, these two paragraphs are ‘mirror images’ of each other:  they both state the same information.  One says ‘it will be demonstrated’ – the other ‘it has been demonstrated’ and the words selected to make this statement need to be different form each other – but complementary to each other….still, the core of both paragraphs remains the same.
  • the paragraphs which form the ‘main body’ of the essay
    • usually, there are 3 paragraphs which form the ‘main body’ of the essay
    • each of these paragraphs focuses on 1 major idea which ‘proves’ or ‘supports’ the ‘point of view’ of the ‘main idea’ which is the focus (point) of the essay
    • each paragraph must be formatted so as to be able to stand on its own, even outside the essay.
    • the first and last sentences of each of these paragraphs must explain how the ‘focus’ of this paragraph and how it relates (supports) the focus of the essay.

In addition, it is important to address the language which is to be used in an essay.

Essays are written in complex sentences with use ‘formal’ language.  This means that no ‘I’ or ‘you’ statements are permitted.

Essays are a presentation of opinions and arguments.  Therefore, all statements such as ‘I think that’ or ‘I feel’ – and similar phrases which define ‘opinion’ are redundant and not permitted in essay-writing.

When utilizing the formal language expected in an essay, it is best to avoid contractions (i.e. write ‘was not’ rather than ‘wasn’t), all forms of slang ans well as colloquialisms.  In most cases, past tense is used.  Of course, this does not apply to any direct quotations which are used as support for the points in the essay.

Hopefully, this will clarify part 1 and 2, while explaining them more clearly.

Note:  this post has been edited to remove some typo’s….thanks to Mrs. Lu for spotting them!
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