Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The site that keeps on giving. PLEASE stop giving

More from http://www.godandscience.org/

More pure gold which, we are reminded, is STAR STUFF, thereby proving god.

If God is Omnipotent (All Powerful) Why Did He Need to Take Six Days to Create the Universe?

asked atheists, to be polite. What we really meant was “The claim that god created the universe in six days makes no sense for about a thousand reasons. Tell me how you justify it so we can laugh at you and point out your mistakes.”

Well, apparently there are really two questions, neither of which have anything to do with why it supposedly took six days:

    1. Astronomical data indicates that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago,1 but the earth was not formed until 4.5 billion years ago.2 Why would God wait 9.2 billion years after creating the universe to create the earth?
    2. And why would He wait another 4.5 billion years to create humans, if we are really God's ultimate reason for creating the universe?

Good questions. Providing you start from the ludicrous position that god invented the universe. But the question was about the universe being created in six days. What’s this billions of years shit all about?

Wait, there are three questions now:

Are the atheists correct in asserting that the whole thing was an unplanned accident? The Bible actually addresses many of these issues and provides answers that tell us why God created the universe the way He did.

Well as long as it answers “many” of those three questions, I’m happy to read on.

The main problem with the question is that it makes some assumptions about God that just aren't true. Many skeptics assume that instant creation demonstrates the power of God more decisively than creation over a period of time. One problem with this assumption is that the element of time is irrelevant to God. In fact, the Bible says that God created time along with the universe.3 Therefore, God is not bound by time, so that six days, six minutes, or six trillion years mean nothing to Him. It's not like He had to wait around for things to happen, since He is not subject to time.

I’m going to ignore the straw atheist assumption.  The question is why six days in particular not why six days instead of zero days. And exactly which atheists think the power of a non-existent god is better proven by a shorter time taken for creation? Confusing.  But if time is irrelevant to god, why did he go to all the trouble of taking exactly six days?  This is the sort of thing we atheists ask and exactly the question the author is somersaulting to avoid.  But to be fair, he’s about to make a stab at an answer:

Even though God is not bound by time, one could say that creating instantly would be preferable to creating over a period of time.

One could, but I can’t think of a reason one would, especially if we’ve already accepted that god is timeless.

However, any astronomer asked the question would prefer that the universe be created over time.

I don’t think the author asked any astronomers, do you?  I think astronomers would say that they write down shit they see and make predictions about what they might see next.  If preference came into it, I expect they’d prefer good telescopes to bad ones and generous funding to a pittance, but I’m not an astronomer.

Curiously, astronomers would be out-of-business if God had created the universe instantly.

You know this is going to be good:

This is because the universe is expanding at nearly the speed of light, so that we can see back in time nearly to the creation event itself. If God had created everything instantly (but kept the universe the same size), and placed all plant and animal life on earth a few thousand years ago, we would see nothing of the heavens, other than the solar system and a few stars.4

The site delivers as usual. The author creates an extraordinary vision of the universe, which he already admits no astronomer would subscribe to, and uses this to explain why astronomers would be out of a job if it were true, which it is demonstrably not. Therefore god. Brilliant. I’m going to go with the idea that astronomers have jobs not because an insanely convoluted straw caricature of their entire body of work is false but because the actual body of work is true. I’m thinking that’s the way Occam’s razor snits.

However, Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God,5 so it seems likely that God wanted us to see the entire universe. If He had created it instantly, this would not be possible.

Unless, since the premise is already that god is omnipotent, he did the whole photons-en-route-to-earth thing.  But far be it for the rest of us to feel that observable reality might trump Psalm 19.

The same logic can be used for the creation of the earth and life on it. Besides indicating that the heavens declare the Glory of God, Psalm 19 says that the firmament shows His handiwork. The biological history of the earth is preserved in the rocks so that we can see the creative handiwork of God in producing life's history. If the universe and earth were created instantly, there would be no history of life to examine, and God's glory would not be visible to us.

I have this weird compulsion to make Young Earth Creationist arguments against this extraordinary statement.  We’re already supposed to have accepted god’s omnipotence and yet we’re supposed not to believe that god planted fossils to fuck with us.  

But I’m being unfair. So far the author has been demolishing the arguments he pretends atheists have about… well, he seems to have entirely forgotten what the argument is about.  When are we going to get to the part where the claim in Genesis (and the claim of countless people) that that the universe was created in six days is scientifically plausible?

Let’s fast forward through the part, littered as it is with scientific inaccuracy, that says rocky planets like ours take a while to form. Once ours did, the author asks, did god take the best part of 4 billion additional years to create humans?  It turns out that it was yet again so we happened to exist at exactly the right time to appreciate god’s glory.  This seems somewhat fundamentally at odds with the prior claim that god is timeless and omnipotent. And it makes the breathtaking assumption that the entire universe is there simply to make us understand how great god is.

I’ve had enough of this, so I’ll finish with the author’s explanation of the purpose of creation, which is supposed to bring these deranged ramblings into a concise explanation of why god took 6 days to make the universe. I doubt you need the spoiler alert:

In order to determine why God created the way He did, we need to understand the purposes for which God created the universe. Atheists and certain religious sects assume God created the earth for mankind to give us a perfect place to live that is designed for our enjoyment. However, nowhere does the Bible indicate that God created the earth for our pleasure or enjoyment. In contrast, the Bible indicates that the earth was established to accomplish the purposes of God.7 What are the purposes of God regarding this creation? First and foremost, the creation is designed as a place where evil can be conquered.8 Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, provided a sacrifice to remove the evil we have committed and reconcile us to God and each other.9 Our role in this purpose is to choose between good and evil.10 By choosing good, we participate in God's purposes and bring glory to Him.11 According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."12 This creation is not the ultimate purpose of God, since it will be destroyed13 and replaced with a permanent, perfect creation,14 in which we can live with God forever. So, by necessity, this universe must be temporary and subject to the laws of thermodynamics.

Science, everyone.

Wednesday entertainment: unintentionally hilarious god and science site

This site tries to reconcile science with god, specifically the many Christian versions of that fictional character.  It is hilarious. Go ahead and pick a page at random, it’s comedy gold all the way down.

My favourite bit so far is the ‘explanation’ of how the Egyptian magicians turned their staffs into snakes to emulate Moses.  First we need to know the scientific explanation of how Moses pulled off the trick:

True magic (not just sleight-of-hand) is impossible for human beings to perform. However, spiritual beings who exist in extra dimensions can easily perform acts that are impossible for those confined to our four space-time dimensions. According to the Bible, the beings capable of such feats are God and the angels. In the Bible, the feats themselves are called "miracles" or "signs." Since God told Moses to throw the stick, we assume that He was the one who actually performed the miracle and not Moses.

Oooh, sciencey. I love the way they start with the ‘extra-dimensional beings’ and then ‘casually’ drop in Christianity as though it were simply an example.  Saying “He” instead of “he” was a bit of a giveaway, though.

So that fully explains – using science – how Moses did it, so how about those sneaky Egyptians?

Although it is clear that God performed the miracle for Moses, how were the Egyptians able to perform those same signs? It seems unlikely that God would cause the Egyptians to perform the same miracle. However, the Bible clearly indicates that angels (both good and bad) are able to perform miracles and signs.1 Presumably, the demons (fallen angels) or Satan himself (another fallen angel) performed the miracle for the Egyptians. So, it would seem likely that the miracles of the Egyptians were real, not performed by the power of God, but by the power of demons. The demons would not want the Israelites to leave Egypt, since this was one of God's continuing prophecies,2 which would eventually culminate in the coming of Messiah. By encouraging Pharaoh to oppose the Israelites, the demons thought they could possibly thwart God's plans. It would not be the last time the demons would attempt to block God's plans. Satan himself (the ruler of the demons) entered Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish leaders), eventually resulting in His crucifixion.

I like the presumablys and would-seem-likelys. No, it really doesn’t seem very likely at all, I’m afraid.  And I love the way the writer forgets the entire premise of the site and drops into full-on proselytising by the end of the paragraph.

The site also has much to say on “The hope of atheism and humanism: the ultimate fate of life, the universe and everything”.  Well, I admire ambition.

Contrary to the explanation offered in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is not "42." Christianity claims that the universe is a temporary abode for spiritual creatures who are destined to live with or without God for eternity. Until recently, science had no answers about the ultimate fate of the universe. However, humanism (the philosophical arm of atheism), through its manifestos and declarations, claims to offer hope for humanity. Are these declarations consistent with the reason and science that they are supposedly based upon?

At least that introduction makes it clear that the author certainly isn’t going to use dishonest tactics to discredit a philosophical position he disagrees with.  I especially like the comparison between a thoughtful and varied approach to thinking about our place in the universe to a comedy science fiction story, great though that story is.

The author cites an affirmation published by the Council for Secular Humanism:

We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.2

Seems reasonable. Let’s see if the author thinks so:

Presumably, this affirmation is a comparison between religious and humanistic philosophy. Accordingly, religion would be expected to lead to pessimism, despair, dogma, ignorance, guilt or sin, fear, hatred, selfishness, ugliness, and blind faith or irrationality. With such a list, it is a wonder why anybody would ever want to be religious, much less choose religion3 over humanism. So, just what kind of good things can we expect based upon what we know from science?

Your paranoia is showing.  The affirmation is really just saying which, of that list of opposites, is the preferred choice for Humanism.  That religion does tend to support the other in each case is not entirely coincidence but that’s not what the affirmation is saying.  But wait…. you don’t suppose the author is going to show how science shows there’s no hope, therefore the Humanist position is wrong and – it just so happens – the Christian one is right?

Yes, of course he fucking is:

So, although humanism may pretend to offer optimism, in reality, science tells us that all sentient life is doomed to eternal destruction.

But at least there’s some irrelevant and misunderstood stuff about dark matter and dark energy to keep up with the ‘science’ remit.

Then there’s a good bit about why the universe is so big if the whole thing is about one planet.  Apparently god was showing off.  Creating just a sun and a planet from nothing isn’t very impressive so to show how truly great he is, god created an entire universe.  And – apparently misunderstanding the anthropic principle entirely – put us at the exact place and time where we could infer the existence of dark matter and therefore witness his true glory.  Nevermind that that place is almost anywhere and the timespan we’re talking about is billions or trillions of years.  The author makes Earth seem like the ultimate Goldilocks zone. God, he says, even went to the trouble of making sure we didn’t end up in a cloud of dust, which would have blocked our view.

The ability to see the expansion of the universe is crucial to confirm the predictions of the Bible, since it first claimed this truth11 thousands of years before verification by science. So, the Bible's claim that the heavens declare the glory of God is confirmed by our position in the universe and the timing with which we were created, since we are at the ideal location at the ideal time to see the glory and design of the universe's creation.

I must have missed the parts of the bible that predict dark matter and the expanding universe, but this is a science site, fortunately, so there are references!

    • Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
    • Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
    • It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
    • Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
    • Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
    • "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
    • "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
    • That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
    • The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)

Well, that makes it pretty clear.  Not quite as clear as if the bible said, for instance:

And lo! the Lord GOD said “oh, and by the way, the universe is expanding. In the past it was all kind of squashed up and then it sort of exploded and now it’s flying apart and getting bigger. And it will look to your descendants like the expansion is accelerating because of all this stuff they can’t see.  Yeah, it sounds a bit weird but in a few thousand years you’ll realise this proves I exist.”

But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Christianity claims that the universe is not eternal, but was created by God as a temporary abode to house God's spiritual creatures.12 After God's purposes are accomplished, He will destroy the entire universe in a cataclysmic apocalypse,13 and create a new universe14 with entirely different laws of physics.

You know, there are an awful lot of Christians around, scribbling, typing and talking, talking, talking but I’ve never noticed a single one of them saying that. But references!

    • "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
    • But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
    • And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)

and

    • The new earth will have no sea
    • There will be no Sun or moon, no heat
    • Gravity will be absent or greatly reduced
    • No more death, suffering, pain
    • Believers will receive a new body

At least the items in the first list are actual citations, stupidly irrelevant though they are. But the author seems to have forgotten what references are with the second list.  It’s just more stuff he himself has written.

So all this shows us that Humanism is wrong and Christianity is right.  Right?

Conclusion: Cosmology shows us that the hope of atheism and humanism is ultimately bankrupt. Without God, the universe has no purpose, other than to just be, and its ultimate destiny is to become increasingly more hostile to life- until life, consciousness, and knowledge are eternally destroyed when the universe suffers permanent heat death. In contrast, Christianity says that the universe was designed by God to be a temporary place where spiritual creatures can determine where they want to spend eternity. The New Creation, God's perfect, eternal creation will replace this universe before it becomes inhospitable to human life, offering eternal life with God - the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom.

So science tells us there’s no eternal life unless you pretend there is.  I’m not sure how this is supposed to demonstrate compatibility between science and religion. 

Go ahead and pick a random page to guffaw at. If you find anything especially hilarious, tell me about it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

No True Atheist

Yesteday Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by one Craig Stephen Hicks, who later turned himself in.

Like me, Hicks is a vocal anti-religion atheist.  Unlike me, he murdered three people. Unlike me, the victims were good people. At least one worked for a charity dedicated to the dental care of people such care is not ordinarily available to.

So what are we to learn from this horror?

At least one Islamist group is saying the incident shows that terrorist attacks have nothing to do with religion, presumably even if the perps shout “Allahu Akbar” as they pull the trigger.  Several prominent atheists are saying that since (they say) it wasn’t Hicks’ atheism that led him to these murders, the fact that he’s atheist is irrelevant. 

I hope the first assertion doesn’t need debunking. It’s clear that one attack apparently not motivated by religion doesn’t absolve other attackers from religious intent. The second assertion seems equally wrong to me, but lots of people seem to disagree, so I’ll try to explain.

I’ll begin by saying that I don’t believe Hicks’ atheism was a motivation for his acts of murder.  That doesn’t make much sense.  He doesn’t seem to have murdered those people in the name of atheism nor to have used his atheism to justify his acts after the fact (as far as we know at this point).

But I can’t, in good conscience, distance myself from Hicks’ acts, as a fellow atheist. I can’t pretend that his atheism is not relevant to this discussion. Here’s why.

We atheists propose that you can be good without god.  We tend to say that religious dogma is neither necessary nor sufficient to provide a moral compass. We pride ourselves on fleeing or disregarding religious dogma and trusting our human values of what is right and wrong to guide us.  We all tend for the most part – naked and alone - to agree about the broad strokes of human values. Religion rather than atheism so often seems to go against those human values. 

I agree with all of this.

But I also disagree with Muslims who say that attacks obviously motivated by Islam are nothing to do with Islam.  I disagree with Christians who say that the murder of abortion providers has nothing to do with Christianity. The particular fallacy employed here is called “No True Scotsman”.  I don’t think Muslims can argue that those Islamists who do terrible things are not true Muslims. I don’t think that Christians can make the same excuse about their own. And I don’t think we atheists can do that either.

I think we have to admit that Movement Atheism has largely failed in how it has treated the story of these murders . We can’t dismiss Hicks as Not A True Atheist without negating our own criticisms of theological types in similar situations.  I think we have to admit that atheism fucking well should respond to the familiar ‘criticism’ of theists: 

From where, exactly, do we get our moral compass?

Because my moral compass is sure as absolute motherfucking shit nothing at all like Craig Stephen Hicks’.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Saudi historian says Western women drive because they don’t care if they’re raped

Sexual violence “is no big deal to them”, he says.

Saleh al-Saadoon claimed in a recent TV interview that women can be raped when a car breaks down, but unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia protects its women from that risk by not allowing them to drive in the first place, according to a translation posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

An attitude that is not unrevealing.

"They don't care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do," al-Saadoon said on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV.

So it’s men who get hurt when women are raped?  Sounds familiar.

“It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale,” al-Saadoon replied. “In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.”

“Morale” is a nasty, dismissive way of putting it, but then dismissal is what al-Saadoon is doing.  His social standing is more important than any mere pain, terror or social standing of his wife and daughters because – after all – they’re his property.  His daughter being raped would be like someone slashing his tyres.

al-Saadoon went on to call the show’s other guests, who appeared shocked, “out of touch”, sending the irony meter into orbit.

"They should listen to me and get used to what society thinks,”

Then he changed tack because this message didn’t seem to be going down very well.  Women in Saudi Arabia are treated like queens, he said, being driven around by male chauffeurs.  He was ask whether he was worried that the chauffeurs might rape their passengers.  His solution was to bring in foreign female chauffeurs.

I don’t think I have the strength to pull that one apart.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Kate Smurthwaite is good at upsetting fools, a great quality to have

Kate Smurthwaite is a brilliant stand-up comedian and advocate for feminism, secularism and all that is good.  I don’t agree with everything she says but I know why she’s saying it. I know where she’s coming from. I know that she has good reasons for saying what she says. Because she explains it in public at every opportunity and rightly so; Kate says things that need saying to people who ought to hear it. She’s clearly worked hard to become something of a go-to atheist on some UK goddy TV shows for which the normal criteria for entry are the mystifying authority of wearing a piece of white cardboard on your shirt or having an impressive beard or a magical hat.

I admire her a lot. Here are a couple of reasons why:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRcM_aS_kJ0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfidjYxrvn4

I don’t need to comment on those Internet-winning performances. There she is having fun upsetting people because they can’t defend their horrible views without anger, bluster or manufactured offense.

Kate recently planned a show at Goldsmiths College in London. It was cancelled at the last minute for reasons that aren’t clear but apparently relate in part to the suspicion that there’d be a picket line (what a quaint term, come to think of it) and the university couldn’t allow that on safety grounds.

What the whatnow? When I was a student, protests were practically compulsory. If they’ve somehow become dangerous now, that’s all the more reason to protest. Students should be protesting about the dangers of protests. They should be protesting that protests aren’t dangerous enough. They should be protesting about whatever the fuck they like. Or what they don’t like, it doesn’t matter, the protesting is the important bit. Universities shouldn’t be cancelling gigs because some people might not enjoy them. They should take care about what acts to book in the first place, but they probably shouldn’t cancel acts they’ve booked without a really, really good reason. We don’t need to mollycoddle students; they’re adults.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sodomite semen coffee pastor says other crazy things

Last year, New York Pastor James Manning claimed that Starbucks flavour their coffee with ‘sodomite semen’.

Starbucks is a place where these types [‘sodomites’] frequent and a lot of body fluids are exchanged there. The thing that I was not aware of is that … what Starbucks was doing, is they were taking specimens of male semen, and they were putting it in the blends of their lattes.

It’s the absolute truth. They’re using male semen, and putting it into the blends of coffees that they sell. Semen flavours up the coffee, and makes you thinks you’re having a good time.

His source and the reason he knows with certainty that his claims are absolute truth is the one you’d expect. God told him.  Gay rights activists were on form, handing out free Starbucks coffee outside his church.  He didn’t like that.

It turns out that Manning was in prison in the 70s for – among other things – burglary, robbery, larceny and criminal possession of a weapon.  He says of that time:

I saw a lot of that activity [homosexual sex] going on in prison. It was par for the course. I was tempted, but I didn’t yield to temptation, by the way.

I’m not sure why he said this.  Perhaps it was to suggest homosexuals are degenerate for acting on their desires; that homosexual desires are evil things that should and can be fought.  Whatever, that doesn’t put him very far from much mainstream religion.  I’m more interested in other things he’s said.

For example, he still thinks Starbucks sells semen-flavoured coffee and he knows why:

A number of people think that semen tastes good. A number of people think that drinking semen is a good idea.

Starbucks has deduced, in an ingenious way, that since so many people like semen, while they’re drinking it from one another, why not put it in our coffees?

This doesn’t explain why Starbucks uses only the finest sodomite semen though.  And it doesn’t explain why they don’t put it on the menu.

But he hasn’t finished yet. He’s also decided that Justin Beiber is transgender:

These young girls, if we don’t stand, can be led to cut off their breasts once they get into puberty. They can be led to have operations like Justin Bieber. They can think the best choice in life is to cut off their breasts.

By the time they reach the age of 20 years old, they look and say “I wish I had never cut off my breasts, I wish I had never mutilated my flesh, I wish I had never cut off my penis, I wish I had never done that, I was just young”.

He makes it difficult for us to avoid applying armchair psychology, doesn’t he?

I will not as a pastor allow that to be said by any child that’s under my leadership.

He won’t let them say it (whatever he means by “it”). The choice of words seems telling.

I will chase every sodomite, I will chase every lesbo, I will chase every political leader with the power of God, with the chariots of fire, that these children be not misled by people in congregations and people in business or politics like Obama.

He doesn’t like Obama. He thinks Obama is gay and – for some reason – that Putin will out him.

They’re influencing these children to throw their lives away the way Justin Bieber threw his life away, and then 20 years old, can’t grow their breasts back. We need to wake the hell up.

Compassion just drips from every word, doesn’t it?  I’ll end with one more quote, which speaks very much for itself:

God Almighty has given me the revelation threof that soon, after the court announces that they are to be protected by the Constitution to be sodomites, they’re gonna also start cannibalism. Every sodomite, every lesbo, every homo, every fag, every transvestite, every LBGT person by the year 2016 will have participated in some sort of cannibalism because they are demon-possessed. And they will do it with a smile on their faces. In fact, they will be scourging through and rummaging through the hospital medical waste looking for human waste.

People still go to his church.

Circular reasoning is circular

It turns out that there’s such a thing as the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education.  Ed Pawson is the Chairman of that thing and according to The Freethinker he thinks that the government must take urgent action to address the shortage of RE teachers. 

Why?  Because without good RE teachers, there won’t be enough kids who go on to…..qualify as RE teachers.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Don’t do thousands of wrong

There’s lots of technology that can track stuff and people. You can stick a dongle to something then find out where it is. You can stick the same dongle to a person and find out where they are and where they’ve been. Perhaps you’re worried about your children or your elders. This kind of technology could – in some sort of universe that isn’t a great deal like this one – help to protect those loved ones.

One thing that’s automatically wrong with attaching devices like this to people is that they aren’t the ones in control of what those devices report. Another thing that’s automatically wrong is that location and sensor data generated by these devices is going to be stored somewhere and can and will be abused by employees of that somewhere and hacked by people somewhere else.

Being responsible for someone doesn’t mean you ought to control them.  I think it means the exact opposite, in fact: if you don’t control someone but are responsible for their actions anyway, then you’re probably doing it right, even if it bites you on the arse now and then. Loved ones will make mistakes. Let them. It’s none of your fucking business.

Let me pick an example I know a little about (why not be novel?) A few years ago I worked for a project that monitored the activity of elderly people in order to alert appropriate others if something was deemed to be wrong. For example, an alert might be triggered if a person didn’t get out of bed one day or didn’t weigh herself or didn’t turn the kettle on or meet up with friends. You get the idea. The alert might go to the caretaker of sheltered accommodation. to a doctor, to relatives…

This sort of thing can be useful only if it isn’t imposed. We don’t get to decide whether the things our youngers or elders do are mistakes. Our part of the project tried to make sure that decisions about what was reported to whom and why was always in the hands of the people generating the data, but we were always fighting government departments who felt they were better able to make those decisions.

Fuck that noise. Let’s by all means build devices that can collect all kinds of data about us. And let’s build an ecosystem in which we can each share whatever data we like and change what we share from moment to moment. Let’s not impose the collection, storage and sharing of data on anyone. It ought to be their decision, not ours.

When I was a kid I took myself away across the fields for many hours at a time.  I found places I knew I could be absolutely alone.  I mostly read and slept; even then I didn’t sleep too well and lying in grass by a river was more conducive to sleep than lying in a bed. No doubt my parents thought I was up to all kinds of horribleness.They’d sure as shit have tracked me if they could.

Kids need to learn how not to be tracked, how not to be observed. They need to carry this through to old age, learning all the time. They need to know what data to give up and what it costs. Hardly any shit purporting to help supposedly vulnerable people does that. Is it news that young and old people aren’t actually all that vulnerable?