Aug. 7th, 2010

Alien Thought

I'm currently reading C J Cherryh's The Foreigner. In a nutshell, it's about a human colony ship that gets marooned somewhere far from Earth and where they are supposed to be. With their constructed space station failing, they are forced to land on a planet with an Industrial Age civilization -- which goes fine, until some years in, they nearly get wiped out because the aliens don't think like humans. The meat of the book is about the human ambassador to the aliens and both the internal politics that are looking to get him killed, and his own tendency to anthropomorphize alien thought processes*.

Cherryh and Octavia Butler, and probably others are authors I enjoy for playing with alien psychology. I mean, if you want a little alienness, a lot of people just go for the Planet of the Hats approach and have the Logical Ones, the Honorable Ones**, the Sneaky Bastards, etc. while some SF authors question a lot of universals of human psychology -- what if we weren't a hierarchical species, or if we were more of a hierarchical species? -- which gets a lot of weird aliens.

I mention this because something today made me realize that we don't always have to go into SF literature to find alien thought patterns.  )

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* Doesn't help that he's the only human living off the island humans settled. Personally, I'd think that's a horrible setup and rife for trouble, but the aliens might not have agreed to multiple humans, and they probably wouldn't have gotten why humans would need a group.

** Actually read an interesting Star Trek: The Next Generation spinoff novel. One of the side plots advanced the idea that the Klingons were one of the few naturally-solitary species*** that achieved starflight without killing themselves, and the whole TNG-era strict honor code was essentially a cultural adaption to allow people who evolved from violent predators to get along without killing one another (too much). Not sure if I buy it, but it's at least an attempt to think about Klingon psychology other than Honorable Warrior Race or Those Guys that Shoot at Us.

*** Read: if humans are lions, Klingons would be tigers. Lions raise their young in groups, and even low-ranked males without a pride will sometimes form small groups. Tigers on the other hand, are rarely found in groups, outside of a mother and her cubs.

**** Okay, poorer and living in the United States, where poor means uninsured or underinsured.

Jan. 7th, 2010

Lazy Martyrdom

Today on the news, there was a report of a shooting in Egypt outside of a Coptic Church getting out of Christmas Mass (traditionally celebrated on the 7th, not the 25th as Catholics and Protestants do). Six people died, and more were injured when a riot started when the bodies were picked up from the hospital. In November, there were riots, and the destruction of Christian-owned property. The motive was that a 12-year-old Muslim girl was raped, and the suspect was Christian. The Copts are a minority sect of Christians in Egypt that date back to the early Christian Church, and there have been complaints about discrimination in mostly-Muslim Egypt.

Just now I read a summary of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission's summary of the Top Ten Anti-Christian Attacks of 2009. You mentally can insert 'Fundamentalist' before 'Christian' in both cases -- they make it abundantly clear that they don't speak for all Christians. I won't bore you with the list, where a dissection can be found here, but allow me to summarize:

1. All events took place in America, a country where at least three quarters of the population, including the politicians, identify as some sort of Christian, and one party seemed to think 'secret Muslim' was enough to persuade folks to not vote for the current president.
2. There is constant conflation of 'Christianity' with 'anti-abortion' and 'anti-homosexuality'. The most egregious example was the listing of Episcopalian Bishop Eugene Robinson's role in Obama's Inauguration Ceremony. For those of you playing at home, the Episcopalians are a Christian denomination that came from the Anglicans. Bishop Robinson happens to be the first (edit: non-celibate) gay bishop ordained by the Episcopalians. So, one of the Top Ten Anti-Christian attacks of 2009... was letting a Christian participate in the inauguration of a Christian President.
3. There are several cases in which something happened but there is no proof (or significant counter-arguments) that the victim's religion played a role. A pastor is shot by a mentally ill man. One victim of a murderer who killed three people was protesting abortion. A woman's child is put into public school after her home-schooling attempts were revealed to be 'sit the kid down in front of a computer in Mom's room' and the child's father was getting upset about this.
4. There's also the standard scare-mongering about protests, like lionizing a man who broke the law keeping all protesters a set distance from health clinics, or complaining about hate-crime legislation.

It just makes me think... Look. We live in a world where six people died coming out of religious services, that they are being harassed because one single person of their religious group committed a crime, and you complain because you can't intimidate women getting abortions and that the president invites gay people to the Inauguration?

I know that there is this idea of being like Jesus -- about caring so much for an idea or a group of people that you are willing to martyr yourself. But bitching about how you have to share your pie with the heathens is not martyrdom, it's whining.

Also, cut it out with the no true Christian crap.

Feb. 24th, 2009

Remember: It's Not Okay, Even if They Are On Your Side

I'm surviving without my glasses okay, though I'm getting little actual work done. Boo -- especially since I'm giving a lunch seminar next Monday and have an abstract for a conference due in about a month. Some of that is because the data isn't making sense though. I'll bounce some ideas off of our group on Thursday. Tomorrow, I'll chip away at Hyperion's spin state.

Anyway, something cool. So, I read Dr. PZ Myer's blog, Pharyngula. I don't always agree with it -- I think Dr. Myers does an excellent job blogging about evolutionary biology, and he posts pretty squid and octopus pictures every Friday, but I think he's a little too eager to link all the evils of the world to religion* and somewhat sensationalist. I did see something I liked this weekend in his open post/comments on the Oscars.

Context is Good, right? )