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Seeing is not always believing

At one time eye-witness testimony was the gold standard in criminal trials. Certainly I can remember that being the case. Over time, however, we began to get an appreciation of just how BAD we are at seeing, remembering and recalling. If you think squares A and B are different colours then your eyes are not so reliable either :-)

Nowadays the situation is almost reversed. Eye witness testimony is regarded with great suspicion, to the extent that it is now unlikely that a trial would even go ahead if there was only eye-witness testimony with no other collaborating evidence.

When I speak to theists the issue of 'witness' is never far from the surface. If we are debating religion - as I am inclined to do - then it is almost a certainty that, at some point, the theist will resort to an argument along the lines of 'well what I saw/experienced/felt was enough to convince me that God exists'.

I am not limiting this to religion, however. Religious-type beliefs usually rely on a similar 'conviction' on the part of the believer. This applies to conspiracy theorists, alien abductees, spiritualists, and a host of other belief systems for which there is little or no empirical evidence.

If we experience something then we are reluctant to even consider the possibility that it didn't really happen as we remember. Our only link with external reality is via our senses. If we can't rely on our senses then what CAN we rely on?

Nevertheless, the evidence is conclusive and the matter is beyond doubt - our senses are constantly creating perceptions, and memories, of things which did not happen, or did not happen as we recall them. This is not a matter for debate - the evidence is clear and conclusive.

In this essay I will show just a few examples of how your senses can deceive you.

{tab Eyes_Wide_Shut}

Eyes Wide Shut

The problem starts with perception. Consider the eyes - sight is our most important sense, if we measure by the amount of processing resource each sense occupies in the brain. There is still much work being done, and much more to do, with regard to the processing of sense perceptions, but we know that a significant amount of our total capacity is used in processing visual information. Nor should this surprise us if you consider that the eye delivers an upside-down image (like a pinhole camera), which is shaky and, worse, has a thumping great hole in it (where the optic nerve enters/exits the eye). The brain has to do significant amounts of processing simply to present us with an image that doesn't have an obvious hole and which is the 'right' way up.

In fact there isn't enough raw processing power in the brain to do this methodically in real time (consider, more than 12 images per second, each image consisting of about 150 million signals from the rods and cones in the eye - all this has to be combined, inverted, treated and delivered to our consciousness as an uninterrupted stream of vision). The brain simply doesn't have the raw processing power to do this.

In order to see, our brain and nervous system use a number of 'non algorithmic' approaches - in simple terms we use short-cuts. Much of the time this causes no problem - evolution demanded that our vision should allow us to spot potential predators and potential food as a priority, and for most of the time our vision is adequate to these tasks. Sometimes, however, the short-cuts mean that we see isn't what is actually there. This is true even when we KNOW that to be the case. One way of illustrating this is the use of 'optical illusions'.

One of the most startling visual illusions is shown below. This illusion is so convincing that I have had pupils almost in tears with frustration, refusing to accept that their eyes were deceiving them.

This is an effect generally known as the checker shadow illusion.



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Dealing with vicious misandry

JennyJonesVerbal abuse of men, as a gender, continues.  In the Lords we had Baroness Jenny Jones call for a 6pm curfew for men - without much comment from our complicit media.

As in all such cases, it is informative to switch the genders and evaluate, honestly, whether the result would be the same. Obviously any male politician even joking about a curfew for women would be sacked and disgraced before the end of that same day. Instead , this misandrist bitch has the cheek to whine at the very limited blowback she got from twitter,  whilst continuing her pathetic attention-grabbing bigotry.

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MGTOWI read very few newspapers nowadays, and it’s fairly rare that I actually watch terrestrial TV, including the news.

I have however noticed a spate of articles from women recently on a similar theme - the lack of availability of good men, particularly those available to women in their thirties and forties.

I have also for the last several years been technically single and ‘available’ on the dating market.  In this post I wish to look at the same issues and bring them together.

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Silence the teacher

My thoughts and my support this week go out to Will Knowland - an English teacher at Eton, who has been sacked for questioning the feminist notion of a patriarchy in a thoughtful and well argued resource on his YouTube channel.

As someone who shares many of the views Will expressed (though they may not be entirely his own opinions), this oppressive and illiberal action saddens but does not surprise me.  Even as a supply teacher I have got into trouble for one of my own videos in which a parent - without actually watching it - found grounds for official complaint to the school. The video challenged some feminist thinking when looking at the responsibility and duties of pastoral teachers. It was an academic argument, citing supporting materials and summarising positions which are academically well understood, intellectually and morally respectable, and which simply summarised a position, based on published, peer-reviewed and largely mainstream studies and findings.

I am glad to see that Will appears unrepentant and unbowed by the action - I just watched an interview on Youtube which explored the issues.



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Scottish Suppression of Speech

The Scots are about to pass legislation which will make it illegal to speak in a manner considered to be 'inciting bigotry' - even in one's own home.  I have always opposed the very idea of hate speech, since I regard it as part of free speech to be able to say hateful things. Such matters should be dealt with via social and peer pressure, not the state.  This latest bill goes way beyond that and into the territory of state oppression.  The notion that a citizen could be arrested and charged as a result of a conversation in the privacy of their home is abhorrent.  I will be looking carefully for any attempt to pass similar legislation in England. I trust and hope that many others find this as outrageous as I do and will, like me, oppose any such proposal vehemently, for as long as it takes to kill it.

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A view on Caster Semenya

CasterSemenyaThe Swiss courts recently released their judgement on the appeal brought by Semenya against the ruling that she cannot compete in women's athletics unless she takes medication to lower her testosterone levels.  Having looked into this case I find that there is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding on the matter - hence this posting.

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Understanding Wolfram

WolframThere is what I would once have called a Teefal man (for those too young, the reference is to an old TV advert which featured large-headed boffins) currently stirring things up in Physics and Maths.  His name is Stephen Wolfram, and he will be immediately familiar to many, via his commercial computational products, like Mathematica and Alpha, or for his work in mathematics.

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Covid19Several people have asked me for my opinion of where we are with regard to the coronavirus pandemic, and what the future might hold. Obviously I'm not an expert in epidemiology or, in fact, any relevant science. I do, however, have a good basic grounding in science generally, and I have a circle of friends and contacts who are experts in a variety of scientific and medical fields.

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The BBC and other media

BBCOver the years - particularly the last 3 or 4 - I've become disenchanted with most of the mainstream media. Wokeness infests the media almost as much as it does my own profession, but facts are now coming back to bite...hard.

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About Capitalism

CapitalismFrequently in debate an opponent will raise the issue of capitalism - usually to do with perceived inequity/unfairness/brutality.  When I was young I thought in similar ways. It seems obvious that any system which relies on greed to motivate must be morally dubious, whereas a system designed at more equitable distribution of resources must be morally superior.

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New arrival

fjr1300At last.   For someone with an internet name of Bikerman, I've been without a bike for far too long. For personal and work reasons I had to sell my beloved Yamaha several years ago. Now, being finally in a position to get a new bike, I've bought myself another Yamaha. 

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Matthew Goodwin on Labour

goodwinMatthew Goodwin gave an interview on YouTube in which he gives his analysis of the failures of Labour and the left in general. To me he seems to talk with sincerity and sense. His shares many of my own conclusions about the issues - although there are a few points of difference between us. On the main political and socio-economic analysis, however, I think he has it just about spot on.

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Greta Thunberg

GretaThunbergThere has been much buzz about a young girl from Sweden who has become the darling of climate activists.  Greta admits to having several mental issues and deciding to abandon school to concentrate on climate activism.  Supporters have lionised the young girl whilst critics have attacked her as a damaged young girl who knows next to nothing about the issue.

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Tech Tyranny

GoogleI have written in the past about my concerns over the concentration of power within the tech sector. Google, for example, has tremendous power with no real accountability. Most people know that the ubiquitous search engine deals with user searches in a 'less than straightforward' manner. It is fairly common knowledge that companies willing to pay can have their listings advanced up the list of search results.  This, however, is the tip of the iceberg.

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The BBC 'Gender Paygap'

The media is currently full of this 'story' - ie that the top earners at the BBC are men. The narrative is that this is a clear example of the gender pay gap and shows that women are being discriminated against - being paid less money for the same work. This narrative has not, to my knowledge, been challenged or even questioned in I will have to do it myself.
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Examining Feminist Claims

Research In this posting I will look at some of the claims and assertions coming from feminists and see how much such claims can be trusted.

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Examining the claims about a gender paygap

paygapSome time ago I promised to post something on this issue - the claimed gap in pay between women and men. So, here is the promised article.The image heading the article is typical of the general claim made. Obviously most of the fuss is coming from the US - hence the currency - but a similar story of woe is articulated by UK feminists. Is it correct?

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Cultural Appropriation Nonsense

cult appropAt this time of year the issue of cultural appropriation rears it's asinine head, as children select fancy dress costumes for Halloween and Guy-Fawkes night.
It is wrong, we are told, to dress in the manner of a minority group, since this appropriates their culture for a trivial and demeaning purpose.  Dressing as a Mexican, African, Polynesian, or pretty much any other non-European/US national is frowned upon by the social justice mob, and the usual shaming tactics are applied to the max. 
Magdalen College, Oxford has just introduced a mandatory course for all undergraduates, on which students will be taught that it was wrong and shameful to hold a Ball (last year) themed around the 1920s, since that era was extremely racist, and colonial attitudes prevailed.
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Me too? No thanks

MetooWe are currently in the middle of a moral panic based on historic wrongdoing (or perceived wrong doing) of some famous men.  Events began with allegations against a famous Hollywood mogul - Harvey Weinstein dating back a couple of decades or so. There is little question that Weinstein is a wretched character. Whether he broke any laws is still open to question and will not be answered until we see a proper trial. There is little doubt, however, that his behaviour was unacceptable - then as now - and few people,  me included, would take issue with that.  Pretty soon, however, scores of women came forward (to the press in most cases) with their stories of historic sexual abuse, and a campaign to encourage others, called Me Too, was started.  Here is where the problems began.
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More on the 'Gender Paygap'

FriedmanThis issue simply refuses to die, and the amount of misinformation, distortion and plain lying seems to increase over time.  Rather than return to the issue every time feminists need a boost and raise it up the agenda again (seems to happen every 2 years or so) I am going to post a fairly comprehensive look at the issue which I can refer to as needed.
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Channel 4 News Meltdown

newmanProfessor Jordan Peterson is something of a bête noire to the regressive left. He is the most public intellectual opponent to the entire philosophical underpinning of the regressive left. He is also an extremely compelling speaker who is able to support his arguments.  He was recently in the UK and was interviewed by Cathy Newman on C4 News. To call Newman's performance unprofessional would be kind. She was appalling. 

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UK Universities - What you should know

No Free SpeechIf you are contemplating spending a great deal of money on a University course for yourself, or for your child(ren), then I think you should check whether the University of choice is one which supports and encourages free speech.  If not it is probably following the trend first seen on US campuses, but now spreading through UK universities - namely, the idea that it is the role of the University to train activists in social justice. 

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The Problem with the Left (1/2)

regressive birthIn the UK the Labour party is currently a shambles. In the US the democrats managed to loose an election to a reality-show host. Clearly there are some serious issues with left wing politics in general. In this article I try to explain what the problem is and how it arose.

Before I go on I will define what I mean here by 'left wing'. In broad terms there are two viewpoints regarding society and politics. One view is that we should strive to arrange society according to a historical blueprint or a past ideal. The other view is that society is better than it has ever been but needs to progress further by looking to the future, not the past.  We can call the first conservatism and the second progressivism.

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The Problem with the Left (2.2)

left problemRecap
In the first article, I looked at how the regressive left arose from the remnants of the revolutionary radical left, after most decided that they could no longer openly cling to classical Marxist theory.  I explained that having abandoned Marxism, with the promised utopian communist state that it predicted, the regressives no longer had a specific utopian end-point to talk about, but most still remain committed to the overthrow of the state in a Marxist-style revolution, even though they cannot say what, exactly, they would put in its place. Finally, we saw that the modified version of identity politics adopted by the regressives is toxic and actually undoes all the progress made by the liberal left in addressing equality of minorities and reducing both the importance and the awareness of identity differences such as gender, race and sexuality. I finished by explaining that it is for this reason in particular that many people, including me, label this destructive mutation of left-progressive politics the regressive left.

In this article, I want to explain the dangers that I think regressives pose to society, and offer some thoughts on how we might address these dangers.

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Open response to Emma Watson

watsonOriginal interview by Liz Connor

Emma Watson is the latest in a growing line of celebrities who suddenly feel qualified to lecture on the meaning and goals of feminism.

How she suddenly discovered this expertise is left to our imagination but presumably it involved some weird and wonderful arcane mysticism and waving a magic twig around. It certainly didn't involve reading the relevant studies and papers.

Emma has broken her instructions into a handy seven bullet points so that the audience can take the bit-sized message without getting hopelessly lost or confused. I'll take each point individually and respond. This is NOT a rant and I will not be seeking to fire off cutting put-downs or to 'destroy' her. It is a reasoned explanation of why I think she is misguided, misinformed and misdirected.

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Bikerman's Guide to Special Relativity

dilationThis is a guide to Einstein's theory of Special Relativity aimed at the non scientist. No prior knowledge is assumed, but I will need to assume that you are familiar with basic arithmetic, and that you know something, even if only a very little, about algebra.
{tab Introduction}Please do not be put off if maths frightens you - I hope to show you that maths is nothing to be feared and what have you got to lose? If you know that algebra uses letters to represent values then that should be enough to get us going. If you are more proficient then so much the better. If you know Pythagoras' theorem about right angled triangles then you already know the most difficult maths in the whole guide.
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