Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When the only tool you have is a hammer…

I have two things on my mind today. They’re both about work but watch while I presto-changeo cleverly make them sort of about free-thinky stuff too. You can’t get that kind of extra value just anywhere, you know.

The first thing is about criticism. Criticism is usually very personal, whether the critic meant it that way or not. Most criticisees can’t help but take it personally and it’s hard for critics to be dispassionate, especially if they know what they are talking about.  I don’t mean to do it, but when I’m peer-reviewing papers, the more I know about a subject, the higher the standard (I suspect) to which I hold the authors. And don’t forget that these are my fellow experts: people who agree with me on most things and disagree on detail.  The most passionate battles are quibbles about little things. About things that are marginally in dispute.

Most importantly, the things we argue about, the things we criticise each other about and the things we sometimes get personal about are THE THINGS THAT REQUIRE THE MOST SCRUTINY.

Compare that to…..oh, let’s say religion. The things that require the most scrutiny are almost by definition the things ‘experts’ don’t argue about. That’s exactly why the trope of the unsophisticated atheist was invented.

And the other thing is this. UK police forces are apparently demanding DNA samples from people who were convicted under a previous law (since repealed) which held that homosexual sex was ‘gross indecency’ and therefore somehow a crime. People who were convicted of this ‘crime’ and have any other conviction are apparently being forced to give DNA samples. So people who were convicted for a now repealed law and who…oh, I don’t know, stole some bubble gum…are required to give DNA samples to the police.

There are at least two ways we can interpret this:

1. Homophobia plain and clear. The police are trying to root out homosexuals and trump up charges against them.

2. Police are trying to get everyone’s DNA samples so they can abuse them in the future

I’m inclined to go for interpretation 2, although I’m not ruling out 1. It hardly matters because homosexuals are being discriminated against either way. Sinister practice is being carried out either to abuse homosexuals in particular or to potentially abuse everyone from now on.

From my perspective as a privacy researcher, I’m outraged by the casual slippery-sloping of using a dubious pretence to obtain data that will certainly be used in the future for reasons we don’t currently expect. But I’m on the case. From my perspective as a freethinker, I will continue to complain about this sort of thing.

Help me.

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