August 18, 2006

Binaries, labels, and human nature

Posted in Musings at 12:36 am by The Lizard Queen

Throughout my life, I’ve often found myself caught in the middle. It’s happened among family members; it’s happened among friends. I’m used to being able to see both sides of an issue, even when I feel strongly about that issue. I recently listened to someone rail against NPR for only talking about civilian deaths in Lebanon and ignoring those in Israel. I disagreed with her perception that the reporting was unbalanced, and I certainly didn’t feel that the Israeli civilians deserved more sympathy than the Lebanese civilians. Still, I listened, and was able to see where she was coming from, even though I didn’t agree.

That ability to listen and consider even when I don’t agree has influenced other areas of my life beyond interpersonal relations. Perhaps most notably (or, at least for today, most pertinently), it has influenced my spiritual life. I suspect I had a slightly different reaction to this piece than other non-religious people might have. I feel like it presents a binary: either you operate solely based on reason, or you operate solely based on faith. Like most binaries people try to apply to human behavior, though, I don’t think this one works, because most people I’ve met fall somewhere in the middle. I certainly do. Raised the way I was, it would be difficult not to be a devotee (if you will) of science and reason, and yet I’ve always felt that, to paraphrase Hamlet, there are more things in our world than are dreamt of in all our philosophies.

That idea, then, got me thinking further about those binaries people try to apply to humans and their behavior. Male or female. Black or white. Gay or straight. Liberal or conservative. Intelligent or stupid. And so on and so forth. Just thinking about those five categories, there are only two in which I feel like one side of the binary applies to me much more than the other, and overall I’d say all five (and pretty much any other category one could name) should be considered spectra rather than binaries. Of course, without the binaries, it’s difficult to label people, and without the labels… then what? Why do we have this constant desire to label people? One explanation I’ve heard is that, quite simply, it makes life easier. Categorizing people allows us to understand them (at least in theory) and how they work that much sooner.

So, ultimately, I take issue with binaries and labels, but could we ever actually be rid of them?


August 16, 2006

Our changing solar system

Posted in News, Science at 8:43 pm by The Lizard Queen

It looks like our solar system may soon officially contain twelve planets. Man, and after all that work I put into memorizing a mnemonic for the planets: Mary visits every Monday and just stays until noon, period. (Though I did enjoy the mnemonic one of the posters at the above link suggested: “Moving vans endanger many cats journeying slowly upwards near pest-controlled universities.”)

(Hat tip to PZ Myers)

August 14, 2006

Are you serious?

Posted in History at 5:08 pm by The Lizard Queen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. government has misplaced the original recording of the first moon landing, including astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a NASA spokesman said on Monday.

Now, I’m a champion of misplacing things. I’ll often put them in a place where I firmly believe I’ll be sure to look first, and it never works. But come on–the Neil Armstrong moment is the jewel in NASA’s crown! How do you lose that? And beyond that, how do you lose 700 boxes of tapes in the first place?

Full story here.

August 11, 2006

Question of the day

Posted in Children and adolescents, Law, Sex at 11:07 am by The Lizard Queen

I was just reading this article over at, about a woman who arranged for her 15-year-old daughter to have sex with her boyfriend, in exchange for things like clothes and body piercings, because the mother was afraid her boyfriend would leave her while she was in the hospital recuperating from surgery.

What I found particularly interesting was the fact that the mother “was freed on $25,000 bond after being arraigned on three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct,” while the boyfriend “was being held without bail. He was arraigned last week on six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.” So my question for today is this: do you think it’s fair that the mother is being charged more leniently? Yes, the boyfriend is the one who actually had sex with a minor, but isn’t pimping your daughter out to your erstwhile boyfriend just as bad? I’m curious what my readers think.