Sunday, April 27, 2008

Homosexuality And Darwinism

The other day I was thinking of how homosexuality came into existence, and whether or not homosexuality might be genetically influenced. The idea is that if homosexuality was nothing more than an anomaly, you would expect it to vanish, or at least be a very rare case. But the matter of fact is that homosexuality is common, and it would be very hard to suggest that it's an anomaly.

One idea that came through my head was that social pressure was probably a very influential factor that sustained homosexuality. Thats to say, social pressure exerted upon homosexuals forced them to undergo the process of reproduction, and hence that anomaly was sustained through human generations. Following this line of thought, it seems that the easiest way to eliminate homosexuality is to allow guilt-free homosexual activity, since this would simply decrease the survival value of the homosexual "gene".

But again, saying that homosexuality is an anomaly might not be wise. Much evidence shows that many animals exhibit homosexual behavior. Those animals probably don't face the same kind of social pressure that humans exert.

This evidence has challenged Darwin's "sexual selection" theory [NOT "survival of the fittest"]. Darwin simply viewed sexuality to be motivated by reproduction. But strong evidence shows otherwise. The truth is, as humans, most sexual encounters are not reproduction related, and don't fit Darwin's description. Consider this:
Darwin had very specific sex roles for males and females. He wrote that females are docile and dainty and always prefer mates who are attractive and vigorous. But the world doesn't work like that. A quick look at humans tells you that women don't always prefer musclebound models. It's really obvious, but women choose all kinds of men as mates, and very rarely do those choices have to do with exhibited traits, like the peacock's tail or a stag's antlers, that Darwin thought represented "good genes."

In fact, the whole good-gene idea is suspect. The idea that a female could look at a male and tell by his appearance how good his genes are and how those genes are going to play out in 20 years is extremely far-fetched. Scientists have been trying to prove this idea experimentally, and it never bears out. It doesn't bear out, because not even supercomputers can offer that kind of predictability. (source)

In short, I think anyone who would say that homosexuality is an anomaly, or would think that homosexuality has no survival value, is shown to be incorrect by evidence from our reality. Homosexuality has gained ground in many aspects of life, including the political arena... This can't be an anomaly that we are talking about! Homosexuality should have a function in humanity that caused it to have such strong presence, and denying that is being blind to the fact of its influence...

PS: The scientific validity of the claims is NOT asserted

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Suppose we define a horse's tail to be a leg. How many legs does a horse have?

This question is part of a joke, but I decided to turn it into a real question... What do you think the answer should be?!

Read More:
This question is part of a joke that goes like this:
A mathematician, scientist, and engineer are each asked: "Suppose we define a horse's tail to be a leg. How many legs does a horse have?" The mathematician answers "5"; the scientist "1"; and the engineer says "But you can't do that!"

The joke is basically to ridicule engineers, as they are stereotyped to not have a great command of the concepts of hypothesizes and inferencing. But the joke includes another implicit stereotyping of the difference between mathematicians and scientists.

In the field of mathematics, new definitions and theories are usually inclusive of all the definitions and theories that preceded it. Hence, a mathematician would consider a new definition to be inclusive of previous definitions. There is actually another joke about this specific idea:
Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.

Hence, the mathematician's answer is 5!

In the field of science, usually new theories replace older theories, thats why the scientist's answer assumes that the new definition abolishes the older definition. Hence the scientist answered 1!

My answer to this question is "5"... It was actually my first reaction, and also after some thought I think its most convincing. The argument is that: The question doesn't specify whether or not the conventional concept of a leg is still called a leg. First of all, we can agree that the question does not specify; Which is -after all- why the answer is debatable. But the first rule that comes to the mind is that the best answer is the one with the least problematic assumptions. As a rule of the thumb, when something is not explicitly stated to have changed, then leave it as it is. We shouldn't assume something to change when the question doesn't explicitly state that it was changed.
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Update: Added an explained answer

Thursday, April 10, 2008


"Well, if you want to get technical, all writing is plagiarism because you're using words that already exist!"

Sandi / Daria

Originality is overrated!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sexual Misconduct: Rape And Exploitation

The Pillars of Proper Sexual Conduct:
Sexuality is an important aspect of human life. Many people seek sexual activity in several ways most of which are natural and of proper conduct. Regardless of the details of the sexual activity, consent is an important pillar of proper sexual conduct. While most of the sexual misconducts are known to many people -say, forceful rape- there are other sexual misconducts that are less obvious. As I always say, awareness is the first line of defense.

Lets first define our first pillar: Every person has the legitimate right to join any sexual activity where all parties that are directly involved in the act are consenting to that act.

Our second pillar is: Any sexual activity that includes direct participants who are not consenting to that act, would be an illegitimate act.

A good system should grantee both the first and second pillars.

Legitimate Sexual Activities:
Here we can define two types of legitimate sexual activities:
1- Positively consensual sexual activities: Where all participants are consenting to the sexual activity, and are involved for a positive will to join the sexual activity. This would include the most common scenario, where two or more people are involved in a sexual activity for any of several reasons including -among others-: Love, lust, and enjoyment.

2- Negatively consensual sexual activities: Where all participants are consenting to the sexual activity, but one or more of the participants don't necessarily want to join the sexual activity - and are involved to complete a transaction, or abide terms of a contract. The most common scenario for this is prostitution, where the prostitute is consenting to the sexual activity, but the sexual activity is not a goal, but rather a side-effect to a trade. This would also include consensual engagement in sexual activity with a partner who may not want sex at the time, but does it to satisfy their partner's needs.

Illegitimate Sexual Activities:
Having identified the two possible legitimate forms of sexual activity, lets look more closely at the illegitimate forms of sexual activity.

1- Forceful rape: The type where physical force is used to force one party into sexual activity against their consent. It includes two types:
1a- Blitz rape: Being raped by a stranger. The type of rape most people know, and is usually punishable by most legal systems.
1b- Date rape: Being raped by an acquaintance (ie. someone who is not a stranger). This type is usually less known among most people. This type is not strictly applicable to dates - Don't let the name fool you. It is not necessary whether or not this type of rape is preceded -or not preceded- by consensual sexual activity. Prior sexual activity is irrelevant. This type of rape is sometimes not reported by the victims because of its confusing nature to human emotions, especially when prior sexual activity was established. A special case of "Date rape" is "Spouse rape".
1b'- Spousal rape: Being raped by a spouse (or someone with whom the victim has established a medium-term to long-term relationship with). This type of rape is common, yet is usually not reported -especially where women are the victims-!! Two factors depreciate the act of reporting spousal rape. The first reason is that in many cases the victims don't realize that they have been raped. Some women think that just because their husband has earned their socially imposed right to sexual activity -marriage that is- that that man has the right to engage in sexual activity at all times including when she is not consenting. This is obviously a fallacy. No one should be able to force anyone into sex, even if they are their spouses. The second factor for not reporting is that law enforcement in certain countries are uncooperative in those cases. Law enforcement has at times abstained from enforcing rape laws between married couples. [X-Ref: Law enforcement abstaining from homicide laws in "honor killings"]

2- Non-forceful rape (aka sexual exploitation): Non-consenting parties are directly involved where explicit consent is not given, and physical force is not used.
This includes many types including -among others-:
2a- Drug facilitated rape: Several types of drugs are used for this technique, including -among others-: Drugs that cause unconsciousness, drugs that cause hyper sexual activity, drugs that subvert rational decision-making (eg. Alcohol). Sexual activity where the participant is unconsently unconscious is illegitimate. Also, sexual activity where the participant's consent is unconsently subverted, is also illegitimate.
2b- Imposing rape: Using psychological or social pressure to subvert consent. This is the type that is most challenging to identify or handle. Several types of psychological tricks -including reverse psychology- can be used to manipulate the victim into sexual activity. For example: "You should have sex with me, to prove that you love me.", "Don't expect me to stay around if you are not willing to satisfy my needs.", or "Well, if you don't want to have sex with me that's fine. I get the message!"... etc, are all methods to impose sexual activity to a person who otherwise would not engage in sexual activity. Sure, the wording may not be as explicit as the examples I gave, and may include implying instead of declarations. Social pressure is sometimes used to subvert the victim's consent into sexual activity. [The opposite of this may also happen, where social pressure is used to subvert consent into abstaining from sexual activity.] [X-Ref: An example of using social pressure to subvert consent (although not in a sexual context) is demonstrated in The Observer's fictional story]
2c- Blackmail rape: Using the method of blackmailing to subvert consent. This technique can be used in several ways. This method usually includes a forceful bargain of not disclosing certain information in return for sexual favors. Two versions of blackmail rape are -disturbingly- common in sexually conservative societies (like Jordan!). The first scenario goes like this: One participant of a previous socially unapproved sexual activity blackmails one or more of the other participants into sexual activity for not disclosing details of the previous sexual activity. Or in more specific terms, a guy who has slept with a girl would threaten to tell about the sexual affair if the girl does not continue the sexual relationship. The girl would have to continue the sexual activity for the fear of honor killing. A second scenario goes like this: A person witnesses a socially unapproved sexual activity, and blackmails one or more of the participants into sexual activity for not disclosing his knowledge of that sexual activity. Or in more specific terms: A guy walks into a guy and a girl participating in pre-marital sexual activity, and threatens to tell about this affair if the girl does not do him some sexual favors. The guy who witnessed the sexual activity may -or may not- do this with participation of the guy involved in the sexual activity. Sometimes a guy may try to make a favor to another guy by giving time and place details of a sexual affair, so that the other guy walk into the scene and practically force the victim to give the other guy sexual favors. Again, the victim has to comply for the fear of honor killing.

While it may not be easy to avoid most forms of rape, awareness of "imposing rape" and -to a lesser extent- of "blackmail rape" can help avoid those types of rape. Imposing rape cannot always be protected legally. That's to say, no law could exist to prevent certain patterns of imposing rape. The only tool for protection from certain patterns of imposing rape is awareness - and no other type of protection could be provided in those cases. Manipulation using psychological or social pressure does not always involve any criminal activity of any kind. On the other hand, blackmail rape does involve criminal activity, but would most probably not be reported for the fear of disclosure of the information that was used in the blackmailing procedure. For example, a woman who was intimidated by honor killing would unlikely report the blackmail rape for the fear of honor killing.

It might be argued that "blackmail rape" is a subtype of "negatively consensual sexual activity", and hence can be seen as a legitimate form of sexual activity. It might be argued that the "bargain" made in blackmail rape turns it into some form of a trade. There is an important factor that differentiates a trade from blackmailing. A trade is consensual and opt-in. Blackmailing is forceful. For example: A prostitute can at will provide sexual favors for money. She consensually makes the deal, and can refuse to make that deal. On the other hand, blackmailing includes a threat (and threatening people is a criminal activity). The victim of a blackmail rape has no choice to opt-out.

Hard-to-Classify Sexual Activities:
Finally, I wish to point out some of the "gray" sexual conducts which cannot be easily classified as legitimate or illegitimate due to subtle details of consent.
Drunk sex: Having consensual sexual activity with a drunk person. Similar to "drug facilitated rape", where "drug facilitated rape" is a purposeful act to subvert consent, while drunk sex is only taking advantage of improper decision-making ability of a person. That's to say that the other participant did not subvert the drunk person into drinking, or manipulate that drunk person to sexual activity. The drunk person is considered as not in their right mind to make the decision, and hence acting on that consent can be problematic. A good solution to this problem would be asking for consent before drinking. For example, asking: "If you get drunk and start to want to engage in sexual activity, should we proceed?"... Asking this question -or another version of the question to the same effect- would make drunk sex unambiguously legitimate.
Statutory rape (with consent): Having consensual sexual activity with a minor. Most legal systems would criminalize sexual activities with minors - regardless of consent. The argument is that a child cannot give consent. While being different from "drunk sex", it is argued that a child is not in the right mind to make the decision. There are several problems that put child abuse in the gray section. Unlike drunk sex, where it is possible to solve it by asking for consent prior to the drinking, there are no similar solutions. The second problem is that based on the first pillar of this discussion, every person has the right to participate in consensual sexual activities. Denying a child from his right to consent is dubious [X-Ref: The problem of Age Discrimination]. It is very problematic to simply rule out that a child cannot give consent, or rule out that a child is not in the right mind to make a decision. It is important that we preserve the second pillar (prohibiting non-consensual sexual activities), but it is equally important that we preserve the first pillar (every person's right to join consensual sexual activities). A good solution is hard to make, but I would suggest a combination of sexual education to minors who are willing to engage in sexual activities, and a way for case-by-case assessment, that would assess whether or not the minor understands the decision he is making. Last, but not least, parents should take better responsibility to educate their children about sexuality, so that they can make informed judgment about their choices.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Why Do I Blog?

I have been tagged. The proposed question is a tough one, with many dimensions... I will try to summarize:
- Blogging is enjoyable
- Good way to pass time
- A reference for me about myself and the change of ideas, method of presentation, and feelings in time...
- Documenting myself for people who know me, or will know me
- Practicing organizing my thoughts coherently, instead of them being chaotically unrelated bursts of thought in my head
- Documenting the details of my personal religion and political thoughts
- Expressing my ideas with the style I see fit
- Egotism: The ideas presented will be available worldwide, which reflects a feeling of self-importance.
- Peer reviews: Allowing other people to criticize my ideas, which will increase the quality of my thoughts. Thinking without feedback would mean certain ideas don't undergo critical thinking. Documentation of ideas and being criticized by other people will force me to rethink of my position in many aspects.
- Increase knowledge of people to issues of interest to me
- Create an atmosphere where intelligent ideas are exchanged

These are some of the reasons that I blog, listed such that more important reasons come first.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Expressions And Meanings - Part 4: Conclusion

We have already disqualified some of the interpretations about what Timmy [of part 1] is saying. Since we established what cannot be said about Timmy's beliefs from an observer's POV, the question is: What can an observer say?

One suggested answer would be this: "Timmy says: '666 is a prime number', which is a false statement when interpreted in English language." - Notice that when we qualify a sentence with a language we can judge its truthfulness and falseness, but without a reference language this judgment is impossible. Thats because language is relativistic. And as previously discussed, a relativistic value is inseparable from its reference.

Since -in most cases- the meaning is the goal, rather than the expression, it is important to express ideas in pre-specified reference language. In short, without language interpreting an expression becomes impossible. For example, if you are reading this article without assuming that it is written in English language, understanding it becomes impossible.

Since defining language is important, there need to be certain references that explain the terminology of language. These references cannot be formalized, because of the relativistic nature of language. But since conventions need to be established to pave the path for communication, such conventions are established. The most commonly agreed references that define languages are usually called "Dictionaries". Dictionaries are references that are established to define lingual terminology.

While terminology can be redefined in sub-cultures [that is a group of people can agree that certain terms mean something different that the conventional terminology], this practice hinders mainstream understanding of the language. In fact, this practice can be viewed as a form of encryption where the parties that have knowledge of the encryption scheme can decrypt the message.

For this reason, any communicator needs to establish a reference language for the expressions. For example, it is a good practice for a blogger who wishes for his articles to be understood worldwide to write in a language that is known worldwide and to conform to the conventions proposed for it by the dictionaries that are established for that language. Another example is standards-compliance of the internet or documents, as proprietary formats can lead to problems like vendor lock-in or vendor lock-out.

In this series:
Expressions And Meanings - Part 1: Introduction
Expressions And Meanings - Part 2: Elaboration
Expressions And Meanings - Part 3: Linguistic Relativism
Expressions And Meanings - Part 4: Conclusion