Does happiness require a note from your doctor?

Screen shot of abstract of gay gene article on Pub Med
Is it so hard to just treat people decently who are trying to be happy?

For years we’ve heard arguments that since GLBT people are born the way they are, they deserve equal rights.  And that’s fine, because most straight people believe they were born straight*. But on another level, what difference should it make?

When Thomas Jefferson said that the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were “unalienable rights”, why would that not include consensual relationships?  Why would it not include personal image and identity? Take your time, I’ll wait.

It doesn’t matter if there’s a biological basis or not. I don’t care if gay people get up in the morning and take a special pill that makes them gay; they still deserve equal protection under the law. If a young person is miserable in their socially-assigned gender and happier in another gender or none at all, isn’t that the pursuit of happiness? You know, that “unalienable right”? We fought a war over the right of self-determination, and then another, even bigger war.

The concept applies here. If GLBT people make you queasy, that’s on you, not on them. Try to set your discomfort aside for a little while and just listen. Maybe try reading something written by them instead of stuff written about them by people trying to change them.

If your religion is telling you to make their lives worse, also read up on life in historic theocracies.

Isn’t common decency enough reason to just let other people be happy? Maybe even be happy for them? For that matter, why do we even need a reason to celebrate someone else’s joy? Who knows you might make some new friends, and find yourself in a better, happier world.

Notes:

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  • No special reason I’m writing this now except it’s something I’ve said for years, and I just wanted to get it down in writing.
  • I’m not against trying to find out if there’s a genetic basis for GLBT orientation. It is a legitimate scientific question. But even if it is found, I can imagine several scenarios where, instead of defusing prejudice, it becomes the basis of discrimination. A change is needed in our attitude toward people whose happiness is different from our own.
  • *Or, not so very different. Straight guys, in particular, are socialized to never even entertain the possibility that they might not be 100% straight. This is more important than religion or patriotism or even Ford vs Chevvy.
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New York Times goes to war against fake news

Carl Hulse chief Washington Correspondent for the NYT at Illinois State University
Carl Hulse, chief Washington Correspondent for the NYT, at Illinois State University

Today as part of the American Democracy Project at Illinois State University, I attended a talk by Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent of the New York Times. Among other topics he shared some things that the NYT is doing to ensure their reporting is as credible as possible, while combatting fake news.

The Times is providing links to source documents when practical. “You can argue with the story, but it’s a lot harder to argue with the source document. They have a Reader Center which allows readers to respond in a constructive way and even suggest new stories. They are revisiting stories later to examine if they turned out right or if not, what was right. They are making corrections more prominent and detailed. And they are taking part in the Media Trust Project, on media ethics.
Other tidbits from his talk included:
  • Trump refers to FOX as ‘my channel’
  • Mark Zuckerberg is taking a long look at what advertising Facebook sold during the 2016 campaign, and he is not happy
  • Seeing how WikiLeaks was manipulated, the NYT is taking a long look at the use of email leaks, and trying to develop better guidelines
  • Democrats need an economic message. They thought the Obama coalition was available to them, but it was only available to Obama. They are going to have to improve their connection.
  • The State Department is vital to maintaining world peace, and right now it is perilously understaffed.
  • 53% of white women voted for Trump.
  • Hulse is an Illinois State University alum. When he first started at the Times, he was “the mid Western guy”. He showed us a picture of his original Vidette press pass. “I’m not sure what that ever got me into,” he said. “But I loved going here.” He is in two Halls Of Fame on campus.

In Q&A, I asked if there was a popular movement to ferret out and tamp down fake news. He said he knew of some efforts, but no huge groundswell.

Just today, the NYT published a good article on How To Fight Fake News.

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Flat-out wrong

Photo credit: Second Nexus, click pic to read article “Flat Earth Society is not a joke; it’s real and it’s growing.”

Flat-Earth advocates say things like “we should be able to feel the Earth turning so fast”. But it isn’t turning fast; it’s turning at 0.00067 rotations per minute, which is barely perceptible. Watch the hour hand on a clock and realize the Earth is turning half that fast. The “speed” relates to the fact that the hour hand is nearly four thousand miles long and we’re sitting on the end of it. And all the physical objects in our frame of reference are in the same spot, riding along with us.

Suppose you’re a passenger in a car moving sixty miles an hour. You hold one hand 12 inches above the other and drop a coin. It falls for 250 milliseconds “straight” down into your other hand. But if you mapped the coin’s fall in reference to the _ground_, it would make a right triangle one foot high and 22 feet long. Instead of the 90-degree fall we perceived inside the car, the outside observer (who has x-ray vision and can see through the car door) perceives the coin falling at a long slope of just 2.6 degrees. This is seamless to us because it is the nature of reality.

The great advance of science has been to add analysis to multiple frames of reference – the microscopic, the relational, the cosmic, subatomic, deep time, bullet time and so on. Our senses evolved to keep us alive and for little else. We can get more out of reality by measuring it and thinking about it, performing experiments when possible to gauge the result. And then looking for falsification in other fields that impinge on the same phenomena.

Notes: