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Chris
Outsider philosopher, game designer and author
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An Update on Face Mask Research It has been over a year since mask mandates were enacted in the UK... SAGE, the 'expert panel' assembled to advise the British government over the course of the SARS-CoV-2 situation has in this time commissioned zero research on the efficacy of face masks in the UK, and neither have they (as far as I can tell) reviewed any of the new evidence that has come in over the last year. This is a definitive case of the state of pseudoscience discussed above - the disruption or denial of the scientific cybernetic network's power to solve problems through the slow and careful accumulation and interpretation of evidence. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has declared that the government's credo is "follow the science". But this position is ludicrous and risible. The Johnson government - aided by our utterly ineffectual opposition party - have, in fact, collaborated to all but destroy scientific discourse in the UK. I would like to update the state of the evidence on face masks, and not-so-briefly discuss the implications of that research, since at this point I contend that there is only one interpretation of the evidence base that can plausibly explain all the research results acquired so far. Every alternative interpretation now has problems explaining one or more aspects of the evidence base, and should logically be rejected, always assuming logic is something we still value. Before I start, I would like to state what my position on the topic was during Summer 2020, when I first tried to discuss this topic on social media. At this point, there were already two folk science camps, which I will call the Pro-Maskers, whose rhetorical battle cry was "Masks save lives!", a claim that is somewhat true but rather misleading, and the Anti-Maskers, whose rhetorical war cry is "Masks don't work!", a claim that is rather misleading but also somewhat true. I call these positions 'folk science', because whatever the rhetoric asserted, neither camp could truly offer a scientific conclusion at that time. All scientific claims are ambiguous until resolved through the application of both research and the discourse (and thus disagreement) that goes with it; in the absence of this, there is only 'folk science', which are not unscientific positions (although they can trigger the state of pseudoscience when wielded politically) but merely weak scientific positions embedded in a popular community of discourse. It is arguably the purpose of scientific practice to strive to distinguish between competing folk science explanations by acquiring and interpreting research evidence, and as such folk science is an important part of the work of the sciences. What it should never become, however, is a surrogate for scientific practice itself. Knowing that folk science is only the starting point for research problems, I rejected the positions of both camps in the Summer of 2020 as far too hasty. The evidence base then was exceptionally weak, and only two major studies had been commissioned at the time, the DANMASK-19 study (completed in November 2020), and the Guinea-Bissau mask study (due in August this year). Indeed, the evidence base during Summer 2020 was such that the only position a scientifically minded person could reasonably take is the one that every respiratory virus face mask study up to the end of 2019 had taken: further research is needed. So I took up a position as follows: - We needed to do research on the efficacy of face masks, and the conditions on the ground were ideally suited for this research, since face masks are widely deployed but there was no clear evidence of their efficacy and therefore it could not be claimed to be unethical to run A-B trials (unlike requiring everyone to wear face masks and not gathering evidence, which would under any pre-2020 ethics framework be seriously unethical, and arguably illegal). - I did not deny that certain face masks, properly used, could have a prophylactic (protective) effect; however, it was not clear under which circumstances they would be protective, nor whether they could provide any benefit with SARS-CoV-2 in a community context, rather than in a clinical setting (e.g. a hospital). - The 'source control hypothesis' supported by the folk science of the Pro-Maskers depended either on producing direct evidence of its plausibility, or upon theoretical support that could only come by demonstrating that the micro-droplet route of transmission for SARS-COV-2 was more significant in terms of infections than the aerosol route, since the kinds of masks being suggested for deployment (especially in the context of cloth masks) could be effective against micro-droplet transmission but not against aerosol transmission. I believe in taking up these positions I was being a responsible scientist, or at least a good friend to the sciences. I cannot honestly see how anyone could argue against this claim, at the very least. How did the Pro-Masker camp reach its conclusion that face masks were effective against SARS-COV-2 transmission? It was not on zero evidence, but as the piece above traced it was on weak evidence, of which there were three elements: - Lab studies on micro-droplet transmission showing a reduction in SARS-COV-2 markers when a surgical face mask or cloth mask was inserted into a contaminated air stream. - Computer models showing that if the face masks were effective in reducing the risk of infection (which the lab studies didn't demonstrate, but which indicated a possibility requiring further investigation) then face masks would save lives (this appears to be the source of the Pro-Masker war cry). - Infection rate studies on the introduction of mask mandates. These did demonstrate an effect of some kind - the clearest by far being the Canadian studies, because mask mandates were brought in at a separate time to other interventions. The quoted effect size was 40 (which is very large). Critics of the mask mandate evidence, including Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, pointed out that there are very poor controls in studies of these kind, making it difficult to prove a causal connection. Medical research usually solves these disputes by resort to random-controlled trials (RCTs), but only two (mentioned above) were commissioned anywhere in the world - already a sign of how widespread the state of pseudoscience had become. It was my view that the failure of any mask mandate study to control for footfall (by far the most parsimonious explanation available) was a serious flaw in every one of these studies. So I called for more research. That, in fact, is what any responsible scientist should have done in that situation. The DANMASK-19 study set as its hypothesis the same effect size suggested by the mask mandate studies. It was the largest RCT trial of face masks ever conducted. When the research was completed in Autumn 2020, it was rejected by three journals each of which, in terms of scientific practice, acted improperly in so doing. Since this study was scrupulously constructed by experienced researchers, I very much doubt there were methodological reasons for these rejections. It seems far more likely that these journals had adopted political positions based upon the Pro-Masker folk science and did not want to publish any study that went against their commitments. The study was eventually published, although a line was added to its text saying that this research did not test the source control hypothesis. The authors mentioned regarding this point that they could not even imagine an experiment that could test this hypothesis - which is something of a warning flag in itself. The study results, having tested solely surgical masks in a community setting, showed no statistically significant effect. Community masking was not effective. At this point, what should have happened was a re-evaluation of the evidence. This did not happen, alas, largely because of the sheer political power of the Pro-Masker camp at this time. In fact, at this point we could arguably eliminate the 'source control hypothesis' based on the evidence available at that time, with a fair degree of confidence. This is because we had strong evidence that the effect size was not what the mask mandate studies suggested, and furthermore we knew from the computer modelling that if the effect size of community masking was statistically significant, the infection rates in countries or states which had adopted this intervention would have deviated measurably from those that did not. The evidence did not in fact show this. Although the infection rate data was weak evidence (like the mask mandates) because they were prone to confounding factors, examination of the rates of infection could not demonstrate any significant effect and still has not. Did the DANMASK-19 study end the 'source control hypothesis' as a legitimate scientific option? No, not at all. But it set a limit on the effect size that could be associated with it, and arguably this revelation should have constituted a scientific reason to end mask mandates at that point until such evidence could be gathered to justify its continuation, since at that point, there was no such evidence and (crucially) none coming, since the Pro-Maskers had commissioned nothing, and in many cases had actively argued that calling for more research was unscientific (a very odd position, only explicable in terms of the state of pseudoscience having become entrenched). Were it not for the political imbalance between the Pro-Maskers (who enjoyed the unalloyed support of major tech companies - Google, Facebook, Twitter etc.) - not to mention the Trusted News Initiative formed to combat Donald Trump's "fake news" (i.e. BBC, Reuters... and of course Google, Facebook etc.) - this development would have required either immediate further investigative studies (which really should already have been done) or the discontinuation of the mask mandates. Of course, what actually happened was neither. But the scientific research community, despite being driven nearly underground by political pressures, did not stop investigating. And naturally, since the Pro-Maskers commissioned nothing, nothing came to strengthen their position. A key piece of research landed in early 2021. Julian Tang, Linsey Marr, Yuguo Li, and Stephanie Dancer investigated the question of micro-droplets versus aerosol transmission and took a deep dive into the literature on this topic to uncover how this split was originally defined, and what the implications of that decision were on contemporary research. You can read a neat summary of their findings in this British Medical Journal editorial from April 2021: ...but to save you time, here are the key points: A second crucial implication of airborne spread is that the quality of the mask matters for effective protection against inhaled aerosols. Masks usually impede large droplets from landing on covered areas of the face, and most are at least partially effective against inhalation of aerosols. However, both high filtration efficiency and a good fit are needed to enhance protection against aerosols because tiny airborne particles can find their way around any gaps between mask and face. If the virus is transmitted only through larger particles (droplets) that fall to the ground within a metre or so after exhalation, then mask fit would be less of a concern. As it is, healthcare workers wearing surgical masks have become infected without being involved in aerosol generating procedures. As airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 is fully recognised, our understanding of activities that generate aerosols will require further definition. Aerosol scientists have shown that even talking and breathing are aerosol generating procedures. In other words, the only viable masks that can provide adequate protection against SARS-COV-2 are properly fitted masks, such as FFP3 masks, which come with a filter. (This filter will be important in a moment.) Does the evidence support this? Yes, it does. As Jacqui Wise reported on key research for the BMJ "the introduction of FFP3 respirators provided 100% protection (confidence interval 31.3%, 100%) protection against direct, ward based covid [sic] infection." Now this is actually a point in favour of the "Masks save lives" claim - the correct kind of mask, used correctly (a non-trivial point) can save lives. But it is now completely ludicrous to suggest that any kind of mask can save lives. The studies mentioned above demonstrate that neither surgical masks nor cloth face masks are effective for personal protection, and also that the 'source control hypothesis' is highly likely to be irrelevant if the only masks that can be deployed as effective personal protection are those with filters, since the wearer of such a mask could not possibly protect others around them as their outgoing breath is not being filtered. This should have been more than enough to end the mask mandates, all things being equal, but alas, I greatly fear that nothing and no-one is equal any more. It is worth mentioning here that the Pro-Masker camp committed a significant error in judgement by suggesting that community masking had no side effects, and therefore had no associated risks. The greatest risk in fact was arguably the one that I wrote about in the above piece - that fighting over face masks (the least important of the non-pharmaceutical interventions) would prevent adequate discussion of long-term lockdowns (by far the most damaging of the non-pharmaceutical interventions, based on the evidence accumulating since January 2021). In this regard, the WHO reported that 1.2 million people died 'as a secondary consequence' of COVID-19 in 2020 i.e. as a result of the disruptions caused by the various interventions deployed against SARS-COV-2. What a shameful and depressing disaster this has been! Despite the presumption of a lack of harms associated with face masks, the literature on the negative side effects of community masking has become substantial. Kai Kisielinski, Paul Giboni, Andreas Prescher, Bernd Klosterhalfen, David Graessel, Stefan Funken, Oliver Kempski, and Oliver Hirsch report that: The described mask-related changes in respiratory physiology can have an adverse effect on the wearer’s blood gases sub-clinically and in some cases also clinically manifest and, therefore, have a negative effect on the basis of all aerobic life, external and internal respiration, with an influence on a wide variety of organ systems and metabolic processes with physical, psychological and social consequences for the individual human being. There has also been an RCT on face masks deployed for use by children conducted by Harald Walach, Ronald Weikl, Juliane Prentice; et al, that reports: This leads in turn to impairments attributable to hypercapnia. A recent review concluded that there was ample evidence for adverse effects of wearing such masks. We suggest that decision-makers weigh the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurements accordingly, which suggest that children should not be forced to wear face masks. So it turns out that "Masks don't work!" is misleading since in fact "Masks save lives" if you are deploying suitable fitted masks to health care workers in a clinical setting. But face masks can cause significant health harm in other contexts, especially when used with children, and in these wider contexts "Masks save lives" is completely unsupported by any evidence at all. On the whole, I'd say neither of those two folk science positions has been very helpful in dealing with the problems and complexities of the community masking problem, but in not commissioning any new research at all the Pro-Maskers gave up any came to scientific legitimacy - let alone "following the science". At this point, the Anti-Maskers might try to claim victory and declare they had "the science". But nobody has "the science"... "the science" is just another name for Magical Science, which is far more a mythos of faith in technology than any aspect of scientific practice (it is almost precisely what I called 'cyberfetish' in Chaos Ethics). Despite how it sometimes feels, it simply does not matter whose assertions align with the conclusions reached after analysing the research if our interest is who had the scientific high ground: you are not 'right' because you reached your conclusion prematurely, you are only 'right' in terms of scientific practice if you asked for more research. That was the only correct position anyone could take up on face masks last year: conduct more research. If you did not ask for this - regardless of the specifics of the position you took up - you were to some degree 'anti-scientific'; you supported the state of pseudoscience instead of scientific practice. In this regard, my heart sank when the British Medical Association suggested to the British government the need to extend masking after so-called "Freedom Day" on 19th July 2021. Not because they were wrong, although I think it quite clear at this point that their position is not well supported by the evidence, but because of what it says about the nation of Isaac Newton, Mary Anning, Charles Darwin, and Ada Lovelace, about how far we have fallen from the ideals of scientific practice. We no longer believe in research as a method of securing the truth. We have abandoned the core principles of scientific practice. I have spent a year investigating face masks. There is only one study left to arrive at this point, the Guinea-Bissau study on cloth masks. But even without this study, there is sufficient evidence at this time to conclude that mandatory community face masks should be discontinued. We ought to remove any legal requirement to wear a face mask outside of a clinical context, and leave it as a matter of individual conscience whether to wear a mask or not. But whatever position you take up on face masks, I will fight to the death to defend your freedom of belief in respect of this or any other issue. Yet if you propose to enforce your beliefs upon others against their will, I must oppose you, and anyone else who turns against equality and democracy in this way. I will not stop you wearing a face mask, if that is what you wish, although if you wish to do this to protect yourself from SARS-COV-2 you should make sure you have a properly fitted FFP3 mask, since nothing else has been demonstrated to be effective. Whatever you decide to do, please do not ask me to betray my scientific commitments by expecting me to wear one for your benefit. The evidence at this time overwhelmingly suggests that my wearing a mask is not measurably to your benefit at all, it is solely to my detriment. Please afford to me the freedom to choose which medical interventions can be applied to me, a freedom that only a few scant years ago we all held dear, back in the dim and distant year of 2019, before the Enlightenment came to its crashing and dismal end, and scientific discourse was driven underground. With my thanks to every scientist who pursued research on these topics at a time when to conduct such research was to put your own career in jeopardy. You are all scientific heroes in my eyes.
Toggle Commented Jul 17, 2021 on A Case Study in Pseudoscience at Only a Game
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Dear Chris, I cannot, of course, disagree with what you say here... but as I look at the behaviour of the BBC News service over the last year, I note that it is not motivated by this commercial appeal of fear - or at least, not solely motivated by it. Rather, Auntie Beeb seems to have taken up the birch and thrown itself into supporting the government as if it were obligated to do so. And yet, of course, its actual obligation as a source of news is precisely the opposite. How have they forgotten this...? I think because the rhetoric of "saving lives" has distorted so many people's understanding of life and indeed "saving lives", and the BBC - like every left-leaning news source in the UK - has gone along with it having felt entirely obligated to do so. Yet in fact what we have done is kill to save lives, which is the madness that inflicts every empire that believes it is civilising the world for their benefit of the conquered... At root of all this is the place where this leg of the Magical Science campaign ended - forgetting that every cause of death matters. For when you focus upon a single cause of death, you can say "we must reduce the number dying of this cause!" and then forget that to do so is to permit more to die of other causes. So what looks abhorrent - "how can you say these people at risk of this one cause of death don't deserve to live!?" becomes instead, through a horrifying but inevitable distortion of perspective, into a grotesquely negligent myopia. How else could we end up in this situation where we take every and all steps to delay the deaths of those who are in their waning years of life, and be willing to sacrifice the sanity and health of our children and all but murder those middle aged people who have died and will die of cancer and heart disease as we go on "killing to save lives" - not to mention all those children in Africa dying of malaria and AIDS because we pulled up the ladder of aid in order to "save lives". There is a vast problem with doom profiteering in the news media, as this piece attests, but there is also another problem, a failure in moral philosophy that is embodied by the Trolley Problems introduced to challenge Consequentialism and increasingly deployed in its service. When you reduce a situation to two numbers in order to say that we must choose the lower number, we always abstract away the context that should always have been the most important aspect of the situation. When those who flatter themselves that their reporting is "doing good" come to believe that the doom profiteering itself is necessary, their obligation to provide context fades into the background, and journalism as an ideal dies a death of a thousand cuts. It is said that all it requires for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. But of course, this is only half the story. Evil can also triumph because good people forget that there are times when nothing is the right thing to do. That becomes harder and harder to appreciate once an evil has been named and battle is joined. I hope and pray that we are headed towards truth and reconciliation... it is, I fear, the only thing that can save us now. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Jul 3, 2021 on Doom Propheteering at Only a Game
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Dear Chris, The warning you make here is an important one - that a life dedicated solely to 'No!' is a disaster. But I think that none of the Four Oxford Moral Philosophers fell prey to this, and if this piece suggests otherwise then I have done them a disservice. But of course, this comment is you applying your excellent Buddhism once more, and as a Buddhist myself (among other things...) I appreciate this - and I also appreciate this in the Moorcockian sense of you being an agent of Balance. It is the nature of the Christian to fight for Order and thus betray their ideals (hence my arguing for the Christian duty for Chaos in Chaos Ethics), but I think also there is a corresponding risk for Buddhists to try to support the Balance by refusing to fight. But this refusal - while often noble - always risks abandoning the commitment to compassion that lies at the heart of all the great religions... which is why conversations like this one we are having are important. Balance is something that we must work together to achieve. I particularly love in your comment your evoking of the "maybe" - truly a power all too often lost, and also sometimes abused. The exercise of power usurps the "maybe" as the carrot of, as Mary Midgley liked to evoke, "jam tomorrow". Here in the UK, we are constantly promised jam tomorrow, as we are forced to eat venom and then praised for our stoicism. My nation has gone truly mad... rereading Moorcock's novels, as I begin to introduce my eldest son to them, reminds me that this very British madness has deep roots and is not in any way something new. It is merely that for much of my early life it was in, shall we say, in remission, or rather appeared to be. The Retreat from Liberty Moorcock observed in 1983 is now complete. So I praise your reminder that "no" by itself is not enough... and surely what has possessed and tortured me this past year has been that there has been nowhere near enough "no"... therefore to push for Balance at this time one must take up the power of "no", while continuing to cling tenaciously to every "yes" the human spirit has to offer while holding in our hearts the openness to uncertainty of the eternal "maybe". All this reminds me of Maxim 44 in Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols: "The formula of my happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal." It has been said this is not a helpful formula... I begin to think it is far more helpful than it first appears. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Jul 3, 2021 on The Power of No at Only a Game
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Dear Michael, It is wonderful to hear from you... I think of you from time to time, often to darkly ponder that we might never in fact speak again, which always saddens me. It is strange to say 'I miss you' to someone who I only see maybe once a year - perhaps less than that! - but I suppose what I really mean is that I miss many people, and you are one of the people that shares in that loss and absence. I have often maintained a tenuous but sincere friendship or acquaintanceship with people that I see rarely... it seems to be a part of the weft of the fabric of my life. I apologise for taking a fortnight to reply... I am, in fact, absurdly busy over this last month, and much has taken a back seat to what I am currently striving for, namely the founding of a studio for a dozen of my former students, for whom my sense of obligation did not evaporate upon graduation (i.e. when the payments stopped), but which rather will bind me as long as their trust in me lasts - the warp to the aforementioned weft, perhaps... This endeavour approaches (I hope) fruition in the next couple of months. We shall see. I am extremely grateful for your comment, and I hope that you are doing more than just surviving in these times of ruinous madness. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Jul 3, 2021 on Hiding in Shadows at Only a Game
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International Hobo is proud to announce the addition of a new member of their game design, narrative design, and dialogue scripting "family". Veteran writer Graham Goring, who recieved critical acclaim for his comedic writing on LEGO City Undercover and worked... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2021 at ihobo
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Dear friends, After worrying about what comments would be waiting for me I have eventually returned to find... no comments. I suppose that is not the worst outcome. However, at this time I have no plans to return to Twitter... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2021 at Only a Game
Hi Chris/Doc_surge, Thanks for your comment here - I agree with what you're saying; these kinds of attention to detail really did set Mike Singleton's work apart from his peers. There was a real attention to detail in the logic of the world, and none of the lazy 'its a game so we can do anything' logic that was prevalent in the 1980s and which persists in some corners today. To be sure, I have no problem with embracing that logic - it is rather that to make that extra effort to go further is, as you say, a mark of superior narrative design. With a little effort - coupled with a commitment to think through the issues - games can mount their stories in ways that concord with the gameplay. That, for me, is the hallmark of excellence in narrative design. All the very best, Chris.
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This piece continues from last week's Which Deaths Matter?, and contains discussion of death statistics some people may find distressing. The principle that every cause of death matters is not, and cannot be, a scientific concept. Indeed, the idea that... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2021 at Only a Game
Hi Psuke, "People are clearly responding to their own emotional issues and not to each other." A more salient diagnosis of the communication crisis I have not seen! Thank you for this. So sorry to hear that you have suffered abuse in the warzone that is current social media... the frequency with which this appalling behaviour happens now does not excuse it or make me any less saddened by it. We have lost the ability to talk to one another at a time when we desperately need to exercise this difficult but vital ability. I have steered clear of the fault line around vaccination for the most part because I didn't feel it wise to engage there - but now I feel that I ought to have moved on this problem sooner. I think the anxiety I suffered engaging on abortion many years back (another major fault line) made me wary of taking on another issue of this magnitude. If I had known what might grow out of that problem I would definitely have acted sooner. However, I have invited Babette Babich to come back later this year for a dialogue with me about vaccination... it's a topic where discussion is currently impossible, so I hope to try and have a productive and illuminating debate about it. We are each closer to the opposite pole than the other, but both of us are well-informed and will be happy to actually share perspectives and debate issues - so it should be something quite unusual and hopefully helpful. Many thanks for leaving this comment. At this time, when I feel gaslighted by people who have also somehow gaslighted themselves, it is more important than ever for us to feel free to speak our minds and to respectfully disagree with one another. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 29, 2021 on A Magisterium for Science at Only a Game
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Contains both death statistics and ideas that some people may find distressing. Please do not read it if you are of a sensitive disposition. Which deaths matter? This is an odd question, because most of us have a sense that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2021 at Only a Game
Dear Erlend, Although I would not put it in quite the starkly negative terms you have chosen, I do share a great deal of the concerns you are gesturing at here, although perhaps without so fatalistic a tone! You have always played your hand with an almost Goethean panache. For me, the question is whether the sciences can be rescued from the conditions that disrupt their ability to enquire. And I have to believe that they can, because the alternative is too dreadful to contemplate - namely that we will sharpen our fervour for 'science' at the expense of the authentic work of the sciences as a power to investigate. We are so desperate for those foundations to truth we have lost faith in that we are apparently willing to abandon the conditions of enquiry in favour of almost any certainty, no matter how ethically destitute its circumstances. This for me is so eerily reminiscent of the criticisms levelled against 'religion' that this piece fell from my hands and mind without hesitation or difficulty. It is not, as I mention in the text, even a new topic for me... it has just never been quite so urgent. On big S 'Science', I do not permit myself to use this shorthand in my writing these days. The rhetorical effect is either lost on people or feels overblown and somehow underhanded. But I take very great care to distinguish 'science' from 'the sciences'. It is the sciences I am committed to. I don't really believe in 'science', except in its original meaning of 'knowledge'. And yes, I still believe in knowledge... I'm just acutely aware of its problems these days. Many thanks for dropping by and commenting - I appreciate this a great deal! Chris.
Toggle Commented Apr 22, 2021 on A Magisterium for Science at Only a Game
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Contains discussion of death statistics that some people may find distressing. Suddenly, the scientist bursts into the room and announces to the shocked townsfolk that a meteor, or an alien monster, or a terrible disaster is about to strike and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2021 at Only a Game
To whom it may concern, On Twitter, somebody asked what I was saying about self-ID in this piece... I chose not to reply there, because the resistance to reply on social media is so low that the odds are too greatly stacked against discourse. In brief, however, this piece has no direct bearing on self-ID as such - rather, it draws attention to the way that the conflict between trans-activists and lesbian feminists is metaphysical in nature, and that there are risks in attempting to enforce any given vision of gender on everyone else. Anyone caught up in that particular conflict will be living first-hand with some of those risks... I am certainly not dismissing metaphysics as irrelevant because they are non-testable. On the contrary, precisely because they are non-testable, metaphysics are vital. What's more, as this piece attests, if we do not separate our metaphysics from our scientific claims, we destroy the work of the sciences completely - more risks for failing to grasp the importance of metaphysics, and those particular risks are literally life and death. I do not know why the commentator thought I was taking a position against the trans side of this non-debate; perhaps because I wasn't coming out directly in support of trans activism...? But I simply cannot support either side of that non-debate as it is currently mounted; all I can do is futilely beg for an armistice so that we can actually resolve these problems instead of pointlessly hurting each other with our blind hate. This theme was explored in an earlier piece as well, Fun with Facism. Metaphysics matters. All I am saying in this piece is that we should not attempt to enforce our metaphysical commitments on other people, and any attempt to do so is brutally anti-democratic, and in the context of the sciences, 'anti-science' as well. This should not be a problematic claim. That it has become so is a sign of how deep the social catastrophe has now become. With unlimited love to everyone who reads this comment - whether trans, or lesbian feminist, or anything else whatsoever.
Toggle Commented Apr 20, 2021 on A Magisterium for Science at Only a Game
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Apropos of Cyberpope Google, this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal from April 13th reporting that YouTube took down a public debate between scientists on masking for children “because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/masks-for-children-muzzles-for-covid-19-news-11618329981?st=slhpyxdh59bttb1&reflink=article_email_share There are no legitimate sciences without debate.
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2021 on A Magisterium for Science at Only a Game
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"I believe in free speech," goes an archetypical conversation I sometimes have in the pub with people largely outside of any religious tradition, "but people shouldn't reject vaccination/evolution/science etc." Oh dear, I think to myself... how do I unpick this... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2021 at Only a Game
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Perhaps more than any other twentieth century philosopher, the late Mary Midgley understood that there were great conceptual misunderstandings emerging out of the deep commitments to the power of scientific thinking that began in the nineteenth century. She remarked that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2021 at Only a Game
Hi Riley, My first thought was that this comment came from a spambot, but there's no link so that can't be right... did you post this in the right post? Or are you a spambot that failed to post a link...? On the subject of 'a bug in its indexing', though, whatever Google's spiders are doing automatically, it is clear that Google itself is also guiding search results through manual adjustments. The boundary between a search engine and a propaganda machine is very narrow indeed. If you are a human, best wishes. And if you are a robot, sorry, 'we don't serve your kind here'. Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2021 on Financial Games: The Ethics of Money at Only a Game
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Hi Nathan, While I certainly appreciate continuing our discussion, the suggestion that we ought to silence Australian Aboriginals because their claims are "not factual" is, I contend, an extremely disturbing idea, one that is based upon the concept of a singular view of fact that is either not credible or tacitly oppressive. The concept of 'first find the facts, then enforce them' is the imperialist's credo par excellence, and has always suffered from the problem that in such an arrangement the imperialist's metaphysics are unchallengeable, and therefore colours everything claimed as 'fact' such that great harm can then be caused in the name of truth. I speak as a British citizen who has never forgiven his nation for its abuses of power. I am very glad to hear you say that "censorship too high a price to pay for tamping down pseudoscientific discourse in the largest social media forums" It is even more problematic when legitimate scientific work is censored by social media giants because they have decided they don't want to listen to disagreements. How are we to get to scientific truth at all when discourse is being suppressed...? To my mind, this is an epistemic crisis the likes of which has never been encountered before. But then, this is precisely the problem in a nutshell: the desire for a singular account of truth, and then (inevitably) for its enforcement. This was a disaster when the Catholic church administered a magisterium for knowledge, amazingly it is even worse the way we wish to enforce it today. To place Google in the equivalent role of arbiter of truth is much more dangerous, and in part because Google can exercise this power behind the scenes, which the Catholic popes have never had the option of doing. In this regard, please see the piece I will be running on the 13th April for further discussion. On masks, I have literally no problem with you or anyone else choosing to wear a mask. Yet this is not an option in my country, where fervour in your nation for community masking has led to my being required by law to undertake an intervention against my will here in mine. This would be bad enough from a civil rights perspective if it was not also the epicentre of a scientific disaster of epic proportions. Full story here: https://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2021/02/a-case-study-in-pseudoscience.html "But even then, I agree that all such disagreement would ideally be done respectfully; lack of respect benefits almost no one in the long run." This is by far the most important point in this piece, and perhaps in my political philosophy in general. Thank you for assenting to this point - it means a lot to me! I welcome your intermittent interlocutions, and hope that you are well, and will continue to engage in respectful discourse wherever you may visit. With unlimited love, Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2021 on Citizens at Only a Game
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Hi Nathan, This is a wonderful counterpoint... I think it true that libraries are terrible sources of information next to the internet (and share your disdain at the video as a horrifically inefficient conduit for information). For knowledge, however, books are infinitely superior to the internet in my view. I am so glad I am not dependent upon on the internet for my knowledge, since to be so - as so many are today! - is to allow oneself to be (if you'll forgive the euphemism) 'programmed by Google'. This is an ever-growing cause of concern for me. I would be the first to admit that I have been able to write complex philosophy books in the fraction of the time it would have taken me if I had not had access to the internet. But that ease has come at a price. I did not build my own knowledge half as effectively as when I was working with a library to write philosophy books. Caveat emptor. "All that said, your claim that libraries promote civility more than the internet is, I think, pretty much beyond dispute, and I make no claims that my anecdotal experience generalizes." I appreciate this endorsement! For me, it is an aspect of libraries that is too often overlooked, because we have learned to view everything - including knowledge - as merely a resource, and therefore the more efficient conduits of those resources seem superior. This narrowing of values is the disaster the 20th century bequeathed us. Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2021 on Libraries at Only a Game
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Hi Nathan, Many thanks for your continued engagement with #100Cyborgs! I hope it's clear I'm not advocating for human servants! But I am sceptical of your claim that they are "much more environmentally costly than our collection of robots". I wonder if you are only counting the environmental cost of providing power to them robots in our houses... there are also the environmental costs of constructing the robots (long-lasting batteries in particular cause tremendous harm to the environment) and the environmental costs of the backend computers the robots use (the "cloud"). Indeed, the question of the environmental costs of the cloud is a live research topic given that those who operate their data centres won't allow their practices to be examined, and we are forced to take on trust the idea that they are as environmentally wondrous as has been claimed. I am also uncertain of your basis for lessening global economic inequality... I assume you mean the difference in wealth between nations. Economic inequality has only intensified in the last century if you ignore nations; wealth is concentrated in an ever-smaller circle of people, and the proportion of wealth they hold increases. It is true the wealth of nations is rapidly dwarfed by the holdings of the wealthy elite. I am not sure what comfort we are supposed to take from that... Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2021 on The Digital Downstairs at Only a Game
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A week from today, Act II of the Philosophy of Science 'campaign' will resume... I've realised at this point that the name of this particular adventure is The Magical Science Campaign, since its theme is precisely the disparity between people's... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2021 at Only a Game
Many thanks for the comments, Anwen, Rob, and Chris, and apologies for taking nearly a week to reply... things have been hectic! Anwen: It is always great to hear from you, and yes of course you are correct in understanding my need to identify with five religions as a manifestation of the Law of Fives. :) I very seriously considered Druid/Pagan as one of my religions, having spent a great deal of time with the pagans of Tennessee and Georgia - but this crowd is really a grab-bag of different traditions that share in common only that they practice religion outside of the orthodox boxes of where they live. I realised that, as a Discordian, I already had an identity that could express solidarity with the pagans. I also realised that many of them were still practising Christianity but as pagans. I learned a great deal from my time with them, and even more from the sweat lodge a Lakota led us on one Samhain. But that's another story! :) Rob: I too was a "hyper-bowl" for many years, but on this I have alas conformed. "Muh-lee" is the last bastion of my childhood pronunciations I have not given up - and I notice that, by playing D&D with them in the lockdown, I have passed it onto my children. I think perhaps this was the reason that I decided to 'come out' about it... and to take the opportunity to reflect on coming out as a phenomena, as it is a strange yet important one. As for pronouns - I think it a fine thing to show support for others, by any means. It only becomes problematic when pressure begins to be placed to force people to do so, as happens all too often in the US... For me, being asked to choose pronouns is being asked to express who I am in terms of gender; that's just not right for who I am. You, and everyone else, should do what is right for you. Chris: I think I was already at peace, but thank you! :) In this case, the desire to come out was as much as anything the acknowledgement that I had resolved all these fragmentary identity issues in my own head, and that the process of doing so felt like a reflection I ought to share with others, if only because I had not seen anyone talk about coming out like this, and I hoped that someone, somewhere, might see another path in the ones I had or had not taken. "I’d encourage you to cultivate the emotional aspect of this new recognition by just being with it. Don’t over-analyze this." You are often cautioning me not to over-analyse things... but over-analysing is what I do! What's more, I am very well paid for doing it. (I just finished a doozy for work, but I can't discuss it, alas.) I do not personally think this is disconnected from my emotional side; it is for the tranquillity of my heart that I organise the furniture of my mind so meticulously! :) As for 'Yos-a-mite', my late father had a number of purposefully mispronounced words he delighted in saying, and I have carried on several of his traditions. My personal favourite by far is 'yatch-it'... I do so love to be on the coastline watching the white sales of the yatch-its sailing by... Many thanks to you all for engaging! It is greatly appreciated.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2021 on Coming Out at Only a Game
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Dear Psuke, I get nervous when I write a personal reflection like this, but this has been burning a hole in the back of my psyche for a while and I really needed to let it out to breathe. English is full of such wild pronunciations! I actually kind of love it for it - and I greatly appreciate your tale of 'echinacia', which is about as resistant to logical pronunciation as they come. Although slightly worse in my head is the UK pronunciation of 'lieutenant' as 'left-tenant', which still sets a new unbeatable target for having no connection to the letters as written at all! :) Many thanks for your supportive comment! Chris.
Toggle Commented Mar 17, 2021 on Coming Out at Only a Game
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Contains confessions that some people might find confusing, insulting, or misconstrue as a joke, as well as the implication of a strong swear word. "I want to break free" exclaimed Freddie Mercury in 1984, as his band mates nervously play... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2021 at Only a Game
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Are you old enough to remember when movies stopped after the first few reels and a person came down the aisles to sell ice cream...? I think this was all over by the end of the 1980s. The last movie... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2021 at Only a Game