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  1. #2701
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    An abstraction as wild as God can be filled with just about anything and lead to any motivation; you say this makes it more dangerous, but I don't see how that could possibly be true.
    The more an abstraction is detached from reality the more it hampers critical thinking. When we do something for freedom, equality, happiness etc. it's possible to observe results and see if they are in accordance with our values. (Of course it's not so simple but we can try at least.) If we do something to please God the feedback is far more arbitrary or even completely absent in the case "you have to die to see how you've done".

  2. #2702
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    I'm not suggesting that it does mean the wider system is unreal. I'm not suggesting that the abstractions and fictions are "more real" than whatever they represent. But we're still stuck with them. We can reassess, measure and otherwise attempt to improve them and to tunnel through them but we still have to have systems for dealing with fictions and abstractions efficiently and productively because they will never go away unless, in your words, we construct a society out of robots or clones.

    We can continue developing our math and our logical systems and continue developing reductionist models without preempting the results, instead dealing (as we do, always have and probably always will I must reassert as forcefully as possible) with a complex series of placeholder concepts, abstractions, and fictions as though they are sovereign and proper and real except when greater precision, greater empirical data, or deeper discussion is necessary.
    You can't have the noncommittal cake of relativism and eat it. If everything is always an approximation then nothing is true or false. If somebody forcefully slapped you in the face, how would you react if asked whether it hurt? Would you say "I am not sure, but I lean towards yes"? That's how it seems you're approaching this conversation.

    I am a moral error theorist, so I believe there is no absolute right or wrong clearly evinced by the physical world or by the cogitations of any singular mind. That said, we're still here. If we don't want anarchy we can't get away with "do what thou wilt". We need laws and norms which proscribe and promote various behaviors regardless of the fact that it's ultimately a charade.

    If we're going to have laws and norms it's best to frame them physically because we're apparently physical creatures sharing a physical universe. Moral and descriptive claims which reject this physical reality are best treated as fictional (if you absolutely insist on qualifying every claim, "fictional" is here to be contrasted with the temporal, iterative, evolving truths of scientific knowledge and scientifically-informed law).

    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    Once again, ideas of a deity beyond measure are at the extreme end of fictions and abstractions. They are inherently more disconnected from the wider system and thus inherently less rational and, for that matter, relevant. But for precisely that reason, those concepts are not to blame for the crimes of religious institutions and movements. An abstraction as wild as God can be filled with just about anything and lead to any motivation; you say this makes it more dangerous, but I don't see how that could possibly be true. Delete the concept of god and demagogues will find other abstractions and hooks to sink into their audiences. Something as faceless as god can't really be blamed for the specific visage of religion. It might be a useless, valueless concept in many contexts but it is hardly a harmful one. It's not the fictions and abstractions themselves that are problematic but how they are implemented; who teaches them to whom, what contexts they are meant to be applied to, and so forth.
    The Christian god is not a noncommittal hippy consomme of pantheism. It is Yahweh. We are said to be made in his image. It is said that Yahweh sent and/or was Jesus, that Jesus died and was miraculously reborn, and that if we believe this we will be in a good way after we die. It is held by many that these are true descriptions of our shared universe. Reformed and progressive Christians believe this is metaphor which is fun to ponder every Sunday after gossip hour, but in America these types are an extreme minority.

    There is no respectable evidence for any of these claims; they are bald fictions. They have the same validity and respectability in the arenas of morality and social policy as any other proof-averse contemporary fiction.

    Deism is less ridiculous than organized religion but that's not a selling point in a land in which 70% of the people believe Jesus was a deity and was literally magicked back from death while only 45% believe in evolution.

    ---

    A schizophrenic unaware of her condition would be forgiven for believing her experiences to be externally consistent and/or true. Once informed, though (and supposing she doesn't suffer from impaired insight and/or self-control) it is expected that she attempt to differentiate physically-plausible experiences from schizophrenic episodes. Why? Because inconsistent perception presents a physical danger to her and those around her. Extrapolate from there to my disrespect for faith (and do throw the "internal beliefs don't shape outward behaviors" card if you hold it; I'll just play my Jefferson Davis).

    In case you want further qualifications: most religious people are not schizotypal but rather perceptively-normal individuals socialized into institutions which promote rituals, beliefs and obsessions that are diagnostic of schizotypalism. Again, Sapolsky is insightful there.
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  3. #2703
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    The Christian god is not a noncommittal hippy consomme of pantheism. It is Yahweh. We are said to be made in his image.
    [..]
    Deism is less ridiculous than organized religion but that's not a selling point in a land in which 70% of the people believe Jesus was a deity and was literally magicked back from death while only 45% believe in evolution.
    I'm not denying any of that, last I checked.

    If everything is always an approximation then nothing is true or false.
    You're missing the forest for the tall green stick things all bunched together on the same piece of land. It's not that everything is an approximation. It's that everything we experience has an approximation and it is with that approximation we are forced to treat for the most part.

    Through cleverly construction of those approximations we can approach something resembling reality and we can make a reasonable show of "proving" certain elements of our abstraction to be, for all useful purposes, as good as true. I think the field of Astronomy makes a particularly concise analog for the human experience.

    Where faith fits into this is ... well a lot of faith is absurd. A lot of magical thinking is so clearly serving a purpose or so artificial that it cannot reasonably be held as true in the face of direct contradiction and does not deserve special consideration as a candidate for our running hypothesis about reality. But. I do not think divestment from empiricism makes an approach an inherently bad without qualification or exception. Religious approaches cannot be thrown out clearly on the grounds of how empirical they are, especially if your concern is the pragmatic and the physical. More in a bit.

    You can't have the noncommittal cake of relativism and eat it. If everything is always an approximation then nothing is true or false. If somebody forcefully slapped you in the face, how would you react if asked whether it hurt? Would you say "I am not sure, but I lean towards yes"? That's how it seems you're approaching this conversation.
    Different contexts, different parameters. Stimulus, response. Very simple. The concept of pain is one tightly bound in physical experience. Were you hurt? Well, you felt pain. Your cells were damaged. Your nociceptors activated. The question of "hurt" itself does wax a tad experiential and relative and fuzzy compared to the concept of pain--was there enough pain for you to be hurt? But it is a relatively simple question. I think it is the wrong question.

    A more relevant question: do I find my hurting acceptable? Now we're more in the realm of this discussion. Why was I hit? Was there a reason? Was it a good reason? Ultimately, while we can construct an ethical system to deal with these matters and build it entirely out of careful rationalizations it would be quite impractical to do so. It would be like trying to model every single muscle as a separate roll in GURPS--it's perfectly doable yet utterly moronic to attempt. Rather, our ethical systems deal with things fuzzily; we take a bunch of things we've carefully assessed and reasoned over and do a connect-the-dots approximation for everything else. This is unavoidable. We have to make do.

    I am a moral error theorist, so I believe there is no absolute right or wrong clearly evinced by the physical world or by the cogitations of any singular mind. That said, we're still here. If we don't want anarchy we can't get away with "do what thou wilt". We need laws and norms which proscribe and promote various behaviors regardless of the fact that it's ultimately a charade.
    This describes my own system quite well. Insofar as this, we are perfectly aligned.

    If we're going to have laws and norms it's best to frame them physically because we're apparently physical creatures sharing a physical universe. Moral and descriptive claims which reject this physical reality are best treated as fictional
    Reject is a sticky word. As is frame. We can frame laws and norms physically and ensure that physical necessities and efficiencies are met. But why can't we do other things on top of that? Suppose our physical description (purely for the sake of argument, this is not an attempt to treat with actual religion) shows we're much more efficiently made content and relaxed when we have an intangible, relatively uninvolved sky-god to tell us what to eat on Friday's and where to be on Tuesday evenings and gives us a sense of purpose when we're feeling shitty? So long as this does not cause us to reject laws and norms necessary and efficient for our more physical and empirical determinations about ourselves, how is this a problem? A physical, practical assessment of norms and laws will incorporate our very real tendency to lie to ourselves for a number of reasons both beneficial and not; it is foreseeable this incorporation would make use of the ability rather than avoid the weakness.

    The reality of irrational, magical, and otherwise exceedingly unempirical thinking is much more complex. But so too is the establishing of our most basic necessary and efficient physical laws and norms.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 31-08-2013 at 10:39 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexius View Post
    The more an abstraction is detached from reality the more it hampers critical thinking. When we do something for freedom, equality, happiness etc. it's possible to observe results and see if they are in accordance with our values. (Of course it's not so simple but we can try at least.) If we do something to please God the feedback is far more arbitrary or even completely absent in the case "you have to die to see how you've done".
    How does valuing an abstraction hamper critical thinking? Brains can value more than one thing at a time and can structure that valuing to account for conflicts. Abstraction isn't going to rot your brain.

    The concept of freedom can be treated with rationally, but it quite often isn't and has caused quite a number of problems. The American Way of Freedom and Democracy is as cult-like and misleading as any dogmatic religion; these concepts are not safer and more predictable simply becasue they are less flexible. How much feedback do we really get about concepts like freedom? I feel like the noise surrounding the concepts is so much greater than the signal ... most people can't run the sorts of intellectual reduction algorithms required to make enough sense out of Freedom and Justice for All that the concepts become that much more grounded that your typical religious ideology. Not generically, at least, and my whole point is that religion in a proper context is not only harmless but valuable so stipulating that non-generic freedom is a perfectly rational, usable concept doesn't quite fix the problem.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 31-08-2013 at 10:50 AM.
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  5. #2705
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    How does valuing an abstraction hamper critical thinking? Brains can value more than one thing at a time and can structure that valuing to account for conflicts. Abstraction isn't going to rot your brain.
    Uh... I didn't say that. Freedom and equality are also abstractions. My point was that it's relatively easier to have a more critical discourse about concepts that are more grounded in reality. While we could have different perceptions of freedom it's still gives us a better foundation for critical assessment and constructive discussion than will of God. It doesn't make less abstract concepts automatically better (e.g. immediate pleasure is one of the most grounded values), but it does make them intellectually safer in general.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    Suppose our physical description (purely for the sake of argument, this is not an attempt to treat with actual religion) shows we're much more efficiently made content and relaxed when we have an intangible, relatively uninvolved sky-god to tell us what to eat on Friday's and where to be on Tuesday evenings and gives us a sense of purpose when we're feeling shitty? So long as this does not cause us to reject laws and norms necessary and efficient for our more physical and empirical determinations about ourselves, how is this a problem? A physical, practical assessment of norms and laws will incorporate our very real tendency to lie to ourselves for a number of reasons both beneficial and not; it is foreseeable this incorporation would make use of the ability rather than avoid the weakness.
    Why should we directly rely on metaphysics to structure our sociality? Because there is a physical system beyond our minds of which they are a part; because solipsism and narcissism are bad. Our social systems are not "all in the mind"; they're not all an endless regress of approximations. People do love each other and do go to war. These things happen, and they're temporal and real and physical and important despite our best attempts at language not being perfect accounts of the phenomenology involved.

    You're exasperating. "Physical, practical assessments" of the world are better because they are practical; the reasoning is there in the language you used. The obvious fact that physical inquiry is and always will be imperfect does not mean metaphysical proof-rejecting inquiry is acceptable, good, respectable, or proper outside the realm of explicitly-framed fiction.

    "I have this idea about efficient human metabolism. It's not perfect – it can't be – but study shows it's quite consistent! It's perhaps our most-consistent idea yet in this area of study. I think we should use it."

    "Since it's imperfect we should use any dietary ideas we want to. Nyarlathotep sez: eat plenty of rice."

    No.

    Everything is not a relativistic wash. There is a physical world. Its external consistency is why science works, it's why this conversation is happening, it's how we determine our relationships with one another. It's bad to delude ourselves that it's not there or that there are more important things upon which to organize our social systems.

    We needn't reference physicality in a dogmatic sense – only as it's practical. Proof-disregarding information is fine when it's explicitly culturally-framed as fiction, but insofar as our laws are concerned? As we teach our children how to think and behave? As we approach international relations and such? No, physicality works best there because it's the ontological framework most closely aligned with the external reality by which we establish consistent proofs.

    We can use metaphysics without lying to ourselves that it's real. The Bible should be studied in public schools because understanding it is critical to grokking western civilization. Other religions should be studied with Christianity in the style of a comparative mythology course because 1) it shows that moral and spiritual systems can grossly diverge from physical reality and 2) it highlights that there are shared, evolved preferences in homo sapiens which converge on physical reality.

    We needn't destroy our extant social order and replace it with whatever SCIENCE-LAW might be. We can keep what we have – this melange of Abrahamic metaphysics and its incoherent "free" will – and we can continually improve it by using science and skepticism to align it ever-more to reality instead of circling around the magic and woo which got us here. We can evolve, gawdammit.
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  7. #2707
    Jambe is on fire!

  8. #2708
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    "I have this idea about efficient human metabolism. It's not perfect – it can't be – but study shows it's quite consistent! It's perhaps our most-consistent idea yet in this area of study. I think we should use it."

    "Since it's imperfect we should use any dietary ideas we want to. Nyarlathotep sez: eat plenty of rice."

    [No.]

    Everything is not a relativistic wash. There is a physical world. Its external consistency is why science works, it's why this conversation is happening, it's how we determine our relationships with one another. It's bad to delude ourselves that it's not there or that there are more important things upon which to organize our social systems.

    We needn't reference physicality in a dogmatic sense – only as it's practical.
    Proof-disregarding information is fine when it's explicitly culturally-framed as fiction, but insofar as our laws are concerned? As we teach our children how to think and behave? As we approach international relations and such? No, physicality works best there because it's the ontological framework most closely aligned with the external reality by which we establish consistent proofs.
    You aren't listening if this is what's exasperating you, emphasis mine. I'm not disagreeing with any of those things and I've parroted several of them in my own arguments. The little Lovecraftian rice comment? It's not even close to anything I've said. Really, we seem mostly to agree but there are some finicky details where we don't agree that are hanging us up and rather than addressing them we're spending our time bickering over the broader features neither of us fundamentally opposes.

    I'm not saying I have evidence this is the case in a given circumstance, but I'm allowing for the possibility that our abstraction-happy brains are perhaps most most efficiently, physically dealt with when intentionally (or at least knowingly) allowed to drift into convenient abstraction not strictly necessary given our understanding of the universe. I posit only that such contexts may exist. If nothing else, we have to deal somehow with the world we're offered and you seem to agree that we've no need to take up speaking Lojban and enact perfect, crystalline Science-Law. Where we disagree is that I feel you are preempting the results of our continual struggle to evolve and assuming that aligning our thoughts more with reality will inherently lead to our behavior and social structures being more practical and physical. I do not think this is an assumption we're equipped to make yet for all contexts; it is certainly true in specific cases but we should push for it only in those cases not broadly attack all things a certain distance from empiricism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexius
    Uh... I didn't say that. Freedom and equality are also abstractions. My point was that it's relatively easier to have a more critical discourse about concepts that are more grounded in reality.
    Ah. Sorry. Hmm. Sure, I get that. I'd add that we can have a relatively clear discourse about complete abstractions as long as they have relatively clear and complete rule-sets. It's an inherently less practical discourse, but not necessarily less "clear." God does not have clear, concise, agreed upon rules and is the extreme end of this kind of discussion in terms of both abstraction and fuzziness. As such it's difficult to have clear discourse about the concept of god.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 31-08-2013 at 11:08 PM.
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    A lot of people seem to be talking about people basing decisions on the Ten Commandments versus people basing decisions on facts and reasoning. I'm thinking of stuff like Jambe's
    "I have this idea about efficient human metabolism. It's not perfect – it can't be – but study shows it's quite consistent! It's perhaps our most-consistent idea yet in this area of study. I think we should use it."

    "Since it's imperfect we should use any dietary ideas we want to. Nyarlathotep sez: eat plenty of rice."
    That's fine, as far as it goes. Of course it's better to make that choice based on facts. The problem is that the vast majority of society, religious and atheist, are going to base their diet on advertising- not God. Not Reason. Just Cap'n Crunch (or the Weight Watchers' logo). People don't smoke because God told them to, they smoke because it's cool and they don't think it through.

    However, I feel like I agree with the other stuff Jambe's saying- existence and usefulness of the physical world, not acting directly on the orders of some feathery snake. I'm on board! Just, don't expect people to act more rationally just because they drop fundamentalist religion.

  10. #2710
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwathdring View Post
    But I'm allowing for the possibility that our abstraction-happy brains are perhaps most most efficiently, physically dealt with when intentionally (or at least knowingly) allowed to drift into convenient abstraction. Such contexts may exist. If nothing else, we have to deal somehow with the world we're offered and you seem to agree that we've no need to take up speaking Lojban and enact perfect, crystalline Science-Law. Where we disagree is that I feel you are preempting the results of our continual struggle to evolve and assuming that aligning our thoughts more with reality will inherently lead to our behavior and social structures being more practical and physical. I do not think this is an assumption we're equipped to make yet.
    Is doing science not a "behavior"? Is requiring a reasonable chain of physically-grounded and scientifically-plausible evidence before criminal conviction not a "behavior"?

    I'm not preempting anything, I'm describing what is. Science is. The physical world is. Our picture thereof is and will remain an incomplete and imperfect abstraction but that is not reasonable evidence that metaphysical abstractions are acceptable as the basis for sociality given what we know of the physical world. We are not as ignorant as our ancient kin.

    Again, you can't have the cake of semiotic or moral relativism whilst eating it. Tarski demonstrated the inability to prove a formal logical system with said system, but we still have to try because these systems produce the most consistent internal results.

    You must draw a line if you are a temporal creature. If everything is abstraction, nothing is real. Or more pointedly, if everything is metaphysics, nothing is science. If everything is approximate and contingent and relative then nothing is true, therefore it is not true that people suffer or feel joy and it is not true that we should try influencing the occurrence of those phenomena.
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    If everything is abstraction, nothing is real.
    I don't have to deny that science is to accept that non-empirical illusions might have, in certain contexts, value. You keep reiterating the world is, science is. I'm not disagreeing with you. I cannot be any more explicit about that. The physical world is. If you cannot accept my other opinions that's fine. We're entitled to disagree with one another. But stop repeating that. We agree that the physical is real and that it is the thing we can most empirically approach and that we should taylor our society according to relatively empirical methods where possible and relevant. We agree insofar as that, so you can stop repeating that part. It's not that everything is abstraction but that everything we engage with has some level of abstraction becasue we are not perfect machines that deal directly with our surroundings.

    This is entirely unrelated but I've always hated the phrase about cake. I know, I know. It can't be in front of you on the table when it's in your stomach. But it's rarely a good metaphor when it's used that way and from a semantic perspective it's annoying because you very much can have something and eat it and be said to have it so long as that something if food and eating is to some extent an expected part of possessing it. At the very least you can have it and then eat it and be perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. That is how it's supposed to work. Anyway, unrelated and silly indulgence over. Onwards!

    Is doing science not a "behavior"? Is requiring a reasonable chain of physically-grounded and scientifically-plausible evidence before criminal conviction not a "behavior"?
    Those aren't really just behaviors; they're too broad. Doing science is a series of behaviors propelled by a series of goals in turn wound up in a greater goal. The search for pure empirical truth is itself a somewhat abstract idea, even though it deals with finding the most physical and concrete ... things/truths/whatevers in existence. The idea that it is important to know what is real rather than merely what is perceived? This is a heavily abstracted idea; it is also a goddamn evolved idea, as it were.

    We have had most of the hard work done for us here, so it's easy to forget just how maddeningly abstract the leap from "this is what I can taste, touch feel" to "this is what really exists given when I can taste, touch, feel" is. We're just fed ideas about concrete empirical reality and because we've understood those ideas we take for granted the the empirical reality is "more" concrete even though the process through which we determine that is quite fuzzy.

    Not much of this is directly relevant to the original discussion though, before you complain about my desires wrt cake again. Religion, after all, isn't about approaching a more empirical reality through clever, bent-over-backwards abstraction. Nor are any of the other irrational ideologies I'm intending to defend, here. The above discussion about said bent-over-backwards abstraction is more to clarify how I approach these concepts and help us look at what we're actually disagreeing about. Because we aren't disagreeing about the importance of science, the importance of rational thought, the specific dangers of specific religions/religious teachings, or the hierarchical precedence of the most empirical over the least empirical when such conflict arises. And yet those are the things you're focusing on. Posed here, my main argument can be boiled down to "such conflict does not always arise" and my secondary argument can't be boiled down so neatly.

    Secondary argument: Our brains have weaknesses including a propensity of "lie to themselves" and over-apply fictions and abstractions. Accepting a truly practical, physical method of establishing laws and norms means taking this into account. There are many ways to take this into account depending on the specific context. I think we need to be able to use this capability/weakness in a productive and efficient manner sometimes rather than just put "slippery when wet" signs around it.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 31-08-2013 at 11:53 PM.
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    We are getting off-off-topic. Whether or not abstractions CAN be valuable, religion as an abstraction ISN'T. It provides no value that couldn't be better provided by other abstractions with none of the downsides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MoLAoS View Post
    We are getting off-off-topic. Whether or not abstractions CAN be valuable, religion as an abstraction ISN'T. It provides no value that couldn't be better provided by other abstractions with none of the downsides.
    I disagree. I think there are contexts where it can and does provide value, that there are downsides to most alternatives, and that there are more efficient ways to deal with the downsides of religion than attempting to crush it. But we've been over that already.

    I think Jambe and I have been over everything we have to discuss on the matter too, so while Jambe is welcome to respond I don't think there will be much for me to add after said response one way or another.

    I know I hindered much more than I helped, but there was an attempt to get back on topic a while back. After the next post from anyone who wants a last word on the subject comes through (Jambe, Alexius, ... ) we should probably desist entirely or move back on topic. I'd say move back on topic now but that would be rather unfair of me since I got a last word in myself. If there's still too much momentum to get back on topic, I propose folks who want to keep going beyond closing remarks just set-up a thread in the General Discussion forum.
    Last edited by gwathdring; 01-09-2013 at 12:40 AM.
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    Ladies playing videogames! The sky is falling! I'm gonna take away your dudebros! Every time you run over a woman in GTA I'm gonna program a little feminist lady from the 1900s in a bonnet to pop up at the bottom right of the screen and chide you for your misogyny! I'm gonna make everyone wear bras and then burn em, and if you ever ever make a joke I will scald your hands with a kettle.

    WOOGAWOOGAWOOGA I'M GONNA GET YOU.

    Ok right I think I put the topic back on track. You can all recommence freaking out now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serenegoose View Post
    Ladies playing videogames! The sky is falling! I'm gonna take away your dudebros! Every time you run over a woman in GTA I'm gonna program a little feminist lady from the 1900s in a bonnet to pop up at the bottom right of the screen and chide you for your misogyny! I'm gonna make everyone wear bras and then burn em, and if you ever ever make a joke I will scald your hands with a kettle.

    WOOGAWOOGAWOOGA I'M GONNA GET YOU.

    Ok right I think I put the topic back on track. You can all recommence freaking out now.


    But seriously, if there's nothing productive to say on topic, either, "desisting entirely" is totally on the table.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serenegoose View Post
    Ladies playing videogames! The sky is falling! I'm gonna take away your dudebros! Every time you run over a woman in GTA I'm gonna program a little feminist lady from the 1900s in a bonnet to pop up at the bottom right of the screen and chide you for your misogyny!
    I'm calculating the time until said woman is screen capped, 3Ded, and animated into performing lewd sex acts, in only a bonnet, at t-minus 3 hours from release. There are people on forums that you never want to go to who specialize in that sort of thing.

  17. #2717
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    Blame Valve and Source Filmmaker.

  18. #2718
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohorovicic View Post
    Blame Valve and Source Filmmaker.
    Media are becoming increasingly accessible to the average human. Unfortunately Sturgeon's Law is in full effect.

  19. #2719
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    I was talking about Rule 34, but I guess that too

  20. #2720
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohorovicic View Post
    I was talking about Rule 34, but I guess that too
    I was trying to pretend there was no rule 34. The compound effect of Rule 34 and Sturgeon's Law is too horrifying for my fragile mind.

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