The Biblical Language Center’s unwarranted assumptions

Amused by this bit on their “why it works” page.

Do you remember learning your mother tongue?  Probably not, it just kind of happened, as if without effort.   Wouldn’t it be great to learn other languages that easily and yet so effectively?  In fact, research has shown that the way a child learns its mother tongue is the best and most efficient way for everyone, at any age, to learn additional languages.  The trick, then, is to imitate how young children learn languages as closely as possible.

So how do they do it?  Well, they spend hours listening to the language before they start trying to produce or read it.  They immerse themselves (they call it “play”) in the world around them, interacting with objects, actions and ideas long before they know the proper words and expressions, knowing that with repetition meaning will become self-evident.  And when they do start talking, they make hundreds of mistakes, and they don’t care that they do (nor do their parents).

Um.

  1. Just because you don’t remember the effort of learning your language doesn’t mean you didn’t expend any.  Do you remember the effort of learning to walk?  Of potty-training?  Your parents will probably be quick to assure you that much work went into all of these things.
  2. The parents of small children do in fact care about the mistakes, and correct them.  (“Daddy, can I have the other one spoon?”  “Other spoon.”  “Other one spoon.”  “Say it with me:  Other spoon.”  “Other spoon.  Now can I have the other one spoon?”)

Which is not to say the BLC is wrong about which techniques are most effective.  Just that it’s silly to fancy it should be effortless on the basis of not remembering life as a two-year-old.

My motto should be “Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Bitches.”

Ever had one of those days when you thought of a scathing retort to something someone said to you… a month later?

The scathing retort is a device used in scripture by God and his servants many times.  You can find a fruitful exposition in text here, and a slightly less informative YouTube cartoon here, but the gist seems to be this:  there are two kinds of people with which you can interact:  those who are interested in genuine discussion (which I shall call seekers), and opponents (mockers, wolves in sheep-suits, and representatives of opposition views).  In private, you are to be gentle with seekers and you are to avoid opponents.  In public, you are to be gentle with seekers and ruthlessly verbally destroy and humiliate opponents.

This, Biblically, was not limited to enemies of the church.  God felt it perfectly acceptable to use the scathing retort on his people, and Jesus and Paul on their own followers, when the people or followers in question set themselves up as opponents rather than seekers.

Now, a month or three ago, on some popular blog, I made a comment to the effect of:

To those Christians who believe that the right thing to do is to turn yourself in or turn the offender in, be advised that the Bible actually models repentance as turning around and living in an opposite manner — thieves doing honest work in order to give to others, for example — instead.  It also advises to handle things without appealing to the authorities wherever possible (in Proverbs), and expressly castigates Christians for subjecting each other to earthly courts (in Corinthians).

To which statement some bright spark said:

Nice strawman.

While I do not have the exact link of the discussion, I remember his retort, as it was so pithy.  I also now know what I should have said, though it is too late to go back and say it, as the response would be buried under the pile of subsequent comments.

After careful consideration, the appropriate response would have been:

Perhaps you believe I omitted a comma.  That instead of “To those Christians who believe…” I meant to write “To those Christians, who believe…”.  In that case, if no Christians believed turning oneself in is the right thing to do, my argument would indeed be a Strawman, as it would characterize Christians as believing something they do not.

Since I did not include that fateful comma, the meaning of that phrase is essentially “I address the following to the subset of Christians who subscribe to this belief.”

Even if the subset is empty — if no Christians believe this — the result is not a Strawman.  It is simply addressing an argument to no-one.

A waste of words almost as severe as trying to teach logic to someone who instinctively calls arguments strawmen without thinking about it.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, bitches.

Mind you, this is only an appropriate scathing retort because whats-his-name appealed to logic by using the term ‘strawman’.  Also because he was being sarcastic.

Had he said “That’s a strawman,” instead of “nice strawman,” the last two sentences would be left off.  No need to be sharp with someone who believes he is engaging the argument in good faith.  Show kindness to seekers.

Had he gone the other route, and kept the snark but did not appeal to logic, by saying “That’s wrong,” or “That’s dumb,” the appropriate response, in kind, would be “You must hear those words a lot, since you’ve learned to say them.”  In other words, point out the intellectual vacuity of the statement while responding in kind.  The pithier the better (this response suffers because it is a response to something shorter and snappier. )

Had the response been an email, or other private message, the appropriate response would be to delete the message and move on.  Avoid the opposition in private.

Annul this.

Jesus said “What God has joined, let no man separate.”  So far, in theory, the only church I’ve heard of which has taken a hard line on this teaching is the Roman Catholic Church.  Except they have a little weasel clause:  Annulment.  The Church does not separate what God has joined… it only declares that it never was joined in the first place.

Fair enough.  I will recognize the church’s authority here when it has proven it by annulling some other act of God.  An earthquake, perhaps, or a hurricane.

Female Stereotypes and the double-standard in Videogames.

Gamasutra, the internet branch of Game Developer Magazine, has been wringing its hands about how sexist video games are, constantly conforming to all sorts of stereotypes, though the stereotypes in question range from cyborg bounty hunters in full armor to helpless princesses in large dresses to big-breasted clones of Indiana Jones, to…

Give me a break.  Sure, the ladies in the world of games (and the world of any fiction genre) are exaggerated.

So are the men.

A good, memorable story usually exaggerates.  That’s what makes it memorable.  The only exception is that sometimes the central character is made overly generic, to help the player/reader/watcher project (Crono in Chrono Trigger, Bella in Twilight).

Nariko in Heavenly Sword wears next to nothing and has an unrealistically huge chest, and that is sexist because she is a girl.  Meanwhile, Kratos in God of War also wears next to nothing and has an unrealistically huge chest, but this is not sexist because he is a guy.  And before you complain “but she’s being reduced to a sex object,” I refer you to every character played by Richard Gere, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Orlando Bloom.

I am not personally an advocate or fan of pornography whether it is meant for men or women.  But I propose a deal:  I will ask the men of this world to get rid of all our big-breasted game babes the moment the women of the world prove their egalitarianism by collectively burning every Harlequin romance novel.

 

[crickets]

Yeah, I thought so.

Bill Nye

Bill Nye made this video talking about how horrible it is that people teach their kids to deny evolution.  CMI responded with this video, which I am about to watch, but I couldn’t help noticing the first bit in Bill Nye’s went like this:

1) America is the leader in scientific discovery and technology and always has been (though Japan is catching up).

2) There’s this huge segment of this country’s population that denies evolution.

3) Denying evolution holds back scientific and technological progress.

Ergo:  America’s progress is held back.

Which is a bit like saying the first-place winner in a marathon would be even firster placier if he trained in the same manner as the runner in last place.  It isn’t logically impossible, but it is a little ridiculous.

Edit:  The CMI video responds by being more factually crunchy than Nye’s appeal to emotion.  Still light stuff, but you can’t actually get into the heavy-hitting stuff in three minutes.

I like how the dudes in the comments, instead of, say, picking a point from the video to critique simply say “You just don’t understand evolution.”

News flash:  Most of the writers at CMI hold a masters or doctorate in one science or another from some secular university (since they are Australia based, Sidney is a common one).

As far as I know, you cannot even get a bachelors in science from a secular university without convincing a professor or three that you really do understand evolution.

Ithering Blidiots

The political debate over homosexuality can be summarized thus:

Pro: Gay people are born that way (i.e. it’s genetic).  Therefore, homosexuality is good and should be legally supported.

Con:  Gay people are not born that way, but choose to be that way.  Therefore it should be outlawed.

Both arguments have hidden premises that can be show to be false.  In order for them to work:

Pro: Gay people are born that way.  All qualities that exist from birth are good.  Therefore, homosexuality is good and should be legally supported.

Refutation:  Not all qualities that exist from birth are good.  Blindness, auto-immune disorders, and schizophrenia can all be genetic or congenital.  These things are not good.

To their credit, a handful of opponents have pointed this out, but most political opposition is found under the other argument.

Con: Con:  Gay people are not born that way, but choose to be that way.  Whatever someone chooses to do, and is against our moral standard should be outlawed.  Homosexuality is against our moral standard.  Therefore it should be outlawed.

Refutation:  What moral standard?  If you are choosing to go with the Biblical standard, than why support the existence of no-fault divorce?  I don’t recall any conservative arguing against that, let alone the legality of extra-marital sex (though they will often argue against ‘premarital sex’, which is a code word for ‘teenager sex’.)  Hell, no-fault divorce was signed into law by Reagan.

The reality is that conservatives do not hold to a Biblical standard, but to ‘traditional morality’ which, if you examine it, simply means the morality of the WWII-era liberals, with a couple of modern twists.  Their morality is based on popular consensus from a bygone era.  “Because a bunch of people say so” is a much more ridiculous moral authority than genetics.  At least genetics provide a qualitative, absolute standard.

So both sides are blowing out gas.  The one side is arguing that homosexuality is good based on a foundation that does not prove something good even by their own standard.  The other side is arguing that it is evil based on a morality that has no moral authority.  The debate is empty.