Vibrant Illusions

All Things Are Possible Given Time And Imagination

Contacting Me and Questions

Hey guys,

 I get a lot of comments here and it's very difficult to differentiate some legitimate questions from spam. So I'll let you know at this point: I don't general respond to questions or comments on this site (except sometimes blog responses or addendums).

If you'd like to contact me, I'm regularly on twitter:

Oh Tim Schafer

Anita Sarkeesian


Anita Sarkeesian


Criticisms from a Skeptic


 I throw my hat in the ring of what has become a very heated debate, both online and in the public media – Anita Sarkeesian. Now, to be fair, I’ve been critical of Sarkeesian for several months now. It started with an introduction to her videos by the rather infamous Thunderf00t. I very much appreciated his brand of humor and ironic derision – but I was not comfortable taking his arguments (though well-researched and, in my opinion, well-presented). I’ve since gone through a number of her videos and am now ready to present my arguments.

 Let me be clear: My intent, here, is not to incite – but, rather to stimulate discourse between the factions (supporters of Anita Sarkeesian’s brand of feminism and its dissenters). While I stand on the side of dissent here, that’s only because, so far, dissent appears to me to be more logically consistent. I leave open the very real possibility that new evidence, or a new rational framework, could change my position. And, while I consider Anita Sarkeesian to be a fraud, that doesn’t mean that I’m not open to dialog with her supporters – or even her. In fact, I invite it (and have been inviting it for several months, both from her and her supporters).


Sarkeesian commonly refers to “tropes” in her videos. “Tropes” (in the modern vernacular), for those of you who aren’t aware, refer to commonly used artistic devices. Sarkeesian points out many tropes in the field of gaming, to which she attributes sexism, specifically misogyny. In support of this claim, she refers to several games which show depictions of women, either scantily clad, having overtly sexual body proportions, or acting in a passive, demure or submissive fashion (“a princess awaiting her princely savior”).

While the pointing out of this particular device is not technically inaccurate, as it is a device commonly used in the video game arts, the theme itself does not actually constitute sexism. Sexism is characterized by a prejudice against women for being women. Sarkeesian fails to establish how the depiction of women in a submissive or sexual fashion actually contains prejudice. The women in these games, for the most part, aren’t demonized or derided for being women; they’re not derided for being in a bad position; they’re not derided for being sexual. In fact, in almost every game (except Duke Nukem, which she leaves out, despite that it would be the best supporting evidence of her positions) the property of being female is never actually derided – merely expressed.

Further, the “trope” of harm being done to women fails to establish the same thing. In her commentary on Grand Theft Auto 5, for instance, she depicts the user having sex with a prostitute, then beating her up to take her money. But, she fails to connect how the beating of the prostitute is intended on the grounds that said prostitute is female. Under Occam’s Razor, the posit that the prostitute was killed simply to rob her is a more philosophically likely scenario.

And this is a common fallacy in radical feminism (“Sarkeesian-esque” feminism, if you will): Affirming the Consequent. Here’s the fallacy:  

  1. If P, then Q
  2. Q
  3. Therefore P


  1. If it’s misogynistic, then women are being harmed
  2. Women are being harmed
  3. Therefore, it’s misogynistic

This isn’t an informal logical fallacy; it’s a formal fallacy, and therefore a non-sequitur. That is: It’s simply logically invalid.

Real World Translation

Even if we were to grant that the video games being criticized by Anita Sarkeesian are, in fact, misogynistic (I don’t grant this, but for argument’s sake), the argument of harm to women is predicated on the notion that sexist depiction of women in video games does actual harm to real women. Sarkeesian has not actually established this. No reliable study has been performed which establishes even a correlation between the two. Sarkeesian makes this assertion repeatedly, but offers no evidence. In the words of the great philosopher Christopher Hitchens: “That which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence”

This is such a fundamentally fallacious composition that it isn’t even listed as a logical fallacy – it’s merely assumed. This might be properly referred to as a “false axiom”.

Dissent and Debate

My biggest concern with the issue of the posits and analyses of Anita Sarkeesian is its public interaction. Or, perhaps more accurately, its *lack* of public interaction. A supporter may argue that Sarkeesian engages the public all the time, through speeches and lectures. This is true – Anita Sarkeesian certainly makes herself visible to the public. However, this is not public interaction. Interaction is multi-faceted; Sarkeesian only offers one side of her arguments and makes available debate or dissenting discussion to nobody. She doesn’t engage in debate; she doesn’t engage in discussion or discourse with dissenters. She never has. This isn’t the measure of philosophy or social advocacy – it [far] more closely resembles the measure of a sectarian leader. An unquestionable, undebateable, perfect leader.

The most important tool of social progress is critical inquiry – no matter the subject. We must all, including Anita Sarkeesian and her followers, including myself and #GamerGate, be willing to, at the same time, defend and question even our most deeply held personal beliefs and opinions. Even those things which we believe have been firmly logically established.


So far, the evidence presented by Sarkeesian [and similar 3rd wave feminists] has not been convincing to me. While I can’t argue that sexism in gaming *doesn’t* exist, I can argue that no reasonably convincing evidence has yet been provided to me by Anita Sarkeesian.

Post Script

This is an ongoing issue which I frequently debate. There will be addenda, but I will try to separate them from this specific post. Please check back regularly if you’re interested in this debate. 

Standards of Public Debate


Standards of Public Debate


A Brief Commentary on the Ethics of Public Debate



 I’ve been privy to many discussions online over the last couple of years. Well, years before that – but it wasn’t until I reached about the age of 31 or so that I really started to engage in the discussion. As we all know, this is a bang-head-against-wall approach to changing public perceptions; unfortunately, it’s also true that most people, nowadays at least, form their opinions from information they find on that combination of tubes and transistors we call The Interweb.

 This leads me to an inevitable controversy that many of my companions would consider foolish: If I wish to influence the public in a meaningful way, I must start online.

 *GASP* - I know; it seems counter-intuitive. Why should we care, at all, about the opinions of some “rando fucktards” on Twitter or YouTube?

 Well…because they are “the people”, like it or not. Those random people are, in fact, The People - which means that the narrative that exists is highly influenced by the sphere in which they frequently find themselves: The World Wide Web.

 But, you must now propose: If we include these “The People”, we can’t just take *any* argument they provide; without logic, reason or evidence, no argument can end!

 In fact, I agree. While I don’t think we should hold the public to the standard of debate to which we hold PhD philosophers, there must be some sort of social construct by which to judge the merit of a public argument. That is the sand in which I dig for this foundation. I seek, here, to present some basic principles of public debate, by which we may judge the efficacy and merit of a particular argument.


 Please realize: We can’t hold public debate to too high a standard, or it can just be passed back as “scholarly debate”, and therefore dismissible by the general public. It is why I prefer to be labeled a “natural philosopher” rather than a “scientist”. It’s in that spirit in which I provide these basic criteria by which to judge the efficacy of a public argument, posit or debate: 

  1. Reason
    Any argument made in a public forum must have some sort of connection between the point being argued against and the position being argued for.

  2. Connection
    Any argument made which relates two particular points must have a logical reason why those points are connected.

  3. Evidence
    Any claim made which asserts a particular area of debate for public scrutiny must have some sort of supporting evidence, whether it be deductive reason or inductive, empirical evidence.

  4. Fallacy
    Any claim made, which is predicated on a common logical fallacy, must be dismissed – either to be rendered invalid, or to be sent back to the presenter for refinement.

  5. Openness
    Any claim made in the public arena, no matter how controversial, must be left open to public scrutiny, so long as that scrutiny is reasonable. No person has the right to express a public opinion while also having the right to be protected from a public dissent. 

  6. Relevance
    Any position of dissent or support made within a public conversation must be relevant to the original narrative of the conversation. That is: no irrelevant fact, figures or logic may be considered reasonable to the discussion.


I present these basic criteria to the public arena for refinement. This is a basic set of rules which I feel encompasses the spirit of public debate – but, I also realize that I am not perfect, and would seek public opinion as to refinement of the rules. 

I encourage any constructive criticism or addendums. I will refine my positions as I feel necessary and resubmit in the future for public scrutiny. 

Radical Feminism


Radical Feminism


The Dirty Word!


This dirty expression, “Radical Feminism”, has been thrown around a lot these days. Ever increasing trends of resistance to social censorship have created a vitriolic battle in language not seen since the long ago social decision to leave “nigger” out of our polite vernacular. And I consider this rather heated debate to be progress, despite the factionalism it embodies. I’d like to comment on my own positions regarding the issue in this post.

But first, let’s clarify some definitions. “Radical Feminism” is technically a specific political ideology debated in scholarly venues:


It refers to a specific social philosophy which considers, for lack of a better explanation, the oppression of women to be caused by a systemic social engine fueled by male supremacy [in a social context].

While this particular philosophy does boast membership by many of the types of feminists I attack, by itself, it’s not actually what I mean. So, in order to clear up confusion, I’m going to brand a new term: “Sectarian Feminism”. It could also be referred to as “Factional Feminism” or “Tribal Feminism”, but I prefer “Sectarian” (makes it sound more science-y).

“Sectarian Feminism” refers to a separate brand of political philosophy, by which its members inexorably comingle their self-identity with their membership in the group. The “group” could be any kind of feminism: Radical, Anarcha-, Liberal, Post-modern, third-wave – take your pick. The important qualifier is that the members place the greatest value on membership in the group, and less value on other things, such as reason and merit.

In this article, I intend to write on both Radical Feminism and Sectarian Feminism. I include Radical Feminism because Radical and Third-Wave feminists seem to make up the largest portion of Sectarian feminists. This is an assertion I make from personal experience – so I qualify it by saying it is simply an opinion based on observation.

Radical Feminism

I criticize radical feminism on the grounds that it suffers from a serious, systemic logical flaw – which is guilt by association. Radical feminists (heretofore sporadically referred to as “radfems”) argue that society is organized into a sophisticated, organized system of oppression of women. While it is certainly true that such oppression exists, I retort that the level of oppression in most of the first world, particularly in the United States, is significantly short of such a grand assertion. While there are social factors which make female progress more difficult than male progress, I would respond that an organized systemic device has not been shown to exist. To put it another way: In response to the assertion that radical feminism makes, I argue that feminists are seeing structure and organization where none actually exists.

Now, don’t be confused – like I said, I believe there are social factors which make progress more difficult for females [overall] difficult; however, I have yet to find any evidence that it is a concerted, planned and deliberate effort by men [overall] in order to oppress women [in the US]. At most, radfems have shown disjoined, unorganized and/or acute efforts by small groups to do some kind of harm.

This, of course, isn’t a complete refutation of radical feminism – it’s an argument in line with Hitchens’s Razor: “Any claim made without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence”

Sectarian Feminism

Here’s the more insidious form – Sectarian Feminism. My criticism of this brand of political positioning is quite simple: If you’re not a member of a particular group, you are summarily dismissed – regardless of the merits of your arguments or the spirit in which they are presented. This kind of political philosophy is not restricted to Feminism, of course; it’s found in virtually every political and religious philosophy that’s ever existed.

But, I’ve seen that it does seem to be gaining considerable momentum, socially. Anita Sarkeesian leads a political philosophy, including but not limited to the Anti-GamerGate movement, whose advocates seem to be unwilling to defend in open debate. I know this for a fact – I’ve been trying to establish debate on the subject for many months now, and have always been ignored or outright derided. This sort of “agree with us or be considered outcast” philosophy embodies the very core nature of Sectarianism (e.g. “anyone outside the group is the enemy”).

Social Change

Social change seems to be a common theme among radical and sectarian feminists. For instance, Anita Sarkeesian believes that misogynist tropes in video games do harm to women, and would therefore seek to pressure game developers to make games which reflect a reduction in such “tropes”. The problem with this line of reasoning is the weight of the influence.

A thought experiment: Let’s say I want to develop a game which embodies the sexualization of women by depicting them as “sluts” or “whores”. The Sarkeesian movement would seek to pressure me to remove such sexual identities and, instead, show women positively. But: what if I don’t want to? What if I intend to release such a game and it is guaranteed success (perhaps through opinion polls before release)?

What method would be employed to further Sarkeesian politics in this case?

My argument is that the propriety of “social change” is in ideological weight; that is: social change of such sort is warranted only when the harm done by the expression outweighs the harm done to the individual right to free expression by censoring it. Since simply depicting women in a sexual manner (even if the depiction is particularly salacious and “negative”) doesn’t do actual harm to real women, then the need for censorship does not outweigh my right to release such a game.

Now, if I chose to force employees to make the game against their will, or I pressured female employees to pose for the game in demeaning manners at the risk of their jobs, then the harm would be great enough to warrant censorship. But, in that case, individualized relief is available through the judiciary which would make release of the game unviable.


No idea is worthy of respect simply by existing – respect is earned through merit. I’ve secured no debate or discussion from either Radical Feminists or Sectarian Feminists. And this is an insidious device; it creates the appearance of merit without the grueling task of rigorous peer review.

And, perhaps more importantly, the merit of an idea must be judged objectively.

I invite you all to respond, support or dissent. 

A Flight of Intellectual Fancy


A Flight of Intellectual Fancy

 Brief Commentary on Quantum Physics, Intelligence and Religion



I have found the debate on the existence of God a rather fascinating one; not because I believe or don’t believe in such a being – but rather because the debate really opens up the human mind and exposes its character. One’s position and comments on the matter shows one’s objectivity, capacity for trust, faith, emotion and self-restraint.

The specific topic I intend to discuss in this article is the proposition that sapient life is “random”. It’s an interesting proposition with which I don’t agree, being the objective rationalist that I am. But, a couple of years ago, during one of my many extended pensive periods, I discovered that, under the laws of quantum physics, intelligent life is not only not random, but its emergence in any universe with similar laws of quantum physics is inevitable.



In this proposition (or article, depending on where I manage to publish it), I refer to intelligence. However, technically, anything with sensory ability, memory and a capacity to self-modify in response to said memories is intelligent.

However, I refer to something a little more advanced in my proposition. I extend the basic definition in the previous paragraph to “A group of devices with said intelligence which are able to also propagate said memories to other such devices.” The propagation is important: without such capacity of some sort of communication, memories would be lost within a generation.

The Quantum Superposition

So this article is rather steeped in scientific hugamaloo – a lot of definitions that probably won’t make a lot of sense without context. One such definition is the quantum superposition.

Wow – I must be drunk, because that sentence made perfect sense to me. But, internal annotations aside – the quantum superposition is the scientist’s way of saying “Well, something happens where we don’t know what the hell is going on in the background”

Seriously – I’m not making that up! Find a real nuclear or quantum physicist and as him “What is the quantum superposition?” – his answer won’t make much more sense than what I said above.

But, it is an important property – sensical or not. Essentially, it refers to a semi-random state from which all “objects” start, but which is “materialized” into “the real world” through measurement.

Let’s say, for instance, we start with an electron, whose position and momentum are known to within a 99.9% precision; that would mean that its position and momentum, at the next instance, can only be known with a minuscule (less than 0.01%) precision. The remaining precision isn’t a factor of our lack of knowledge, according to quantum physics, but rather a factor of complete randomness to within that [less than] 0.01% degree.

Okay, physicists – I realize that I’m simplifying this far beyond that which you’re comfortable condoning. I promise: I have a point in my simplification. It’s not to pretend that “thought makes reality” or “the world exists entirely as observation”, as Amit Goswami or Deepak Chopra might claim. No – no bleepin’ rabbit hole, here! Just – before criticizing this commentary – please realize that most of your explanations of reality are purely mathematical – something for which the [current] layman simply isn’t ready.

So, for the non-physicists here: The quantum superposition is a state of existence in which a particular object, usually very very very very very very very very small, exists just before it pops into “the real world”. The outcome of this state is random, though mathematically predictable over *very* large periods of time or *very* large numbers of tries. That is to say that, while a particle in such a state will result in an unpredictable state (perhaps a position 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilometers away or with a momentum 7,000,000,000,000 times greater than that with which it started) – if performed enough times, the overall result will, with an incredibly high level of precision, follow a mathematically predictable formula (see Schroedinger’s equation).


Measurement is a tricky item. No one can really give a proper, objective definition, so far as I’ve been able to determine. Examples of what it is can be given, but not an actual definition. So, for lack of a better description, I’m going to narrow the “measurement” quality of the breakdown of the quantum superposition to this: When a specific interaction between two quantum objects is somehow recorded.

For instance, when the spread pattern on a photo-responsive electron monitor excites photons, which travel to a human eye, which are stored in memory by a human brain; for the layman: when a person sees (and remembers) a recording sheet indicate that an electron has passed through it (a CRT television screen is an example of a similar phenomenon).

The important part to my definition is not the measurement, but rather the recording. Many quantum and nuclear physicists would probably disagree with this minimization; but, I feel it meets the odd behavior of the breakdown of the ever-elusive quantum superposition.

On To the Proposition, Dammit!

“Oh, what are you babbling on about, nerd?” I hear you cry. Well, if you’ve made it this far, I think it’s safe for me to assume that you’re interested enough to follow me to my conclusion.

And, thanks for that, by the way. In fact, I propose you take 15-20 to stand up, right now, and applaud yourself for humoring my ramblings. Go on – you can do it. I promise I won’t go away!

Okay, so you’re back? Awesome.

So, the proposition:

  • If nothing is physically manifest until its quantum superposition is broken down by observation, and
  • If we, as intelligent creatures exist in the physical world,
  • Then nothing in the physical world could exist without the eventual emergence of intelligent observers

Since time is a physical phenomenon, and purely quantum states aren’t particularly affected by it, then it would follow that, no matter how long the stretch of events, at some point, intelligent observers would have to emerge. Otherwise, everything in the universe would exist in giant, pure superposition and nothing physical would ever occur.

This proposition, or perhaps more accurately “posit”, is contingent on an underlying assumption though (one I haven’t seen evidence to dismiss): That an object doesn’t exist in the physical world until its superposition is broken down. So far as I can determine, this is the position of most quantum physicists. 

Feminism and Questions

Apparently, asking a question for clarification is now considered branding or misogyny by feminists:


A Word On Research

It has come to my attention, lately, that there is a new wave of propaganda on the Internet (whether it's intentional or not). I call it troll propaganda. I liken it to the kind of corruption that business creates in our economy: Not some dark scheme that 5 or 6 evil men in cowls and cloaks which are scheming up in some dark recess of a European castle - but, rather, a convergence of objectives, which is reached, rather unintentionally, by otherwise unconnected individuals and groups.
I'm sure you're wondering what the hell I'm babbling on about. Well, it's the resources necessary to do real, objective research these days. See - it takes time to fact-check claims nowadays, even with the advent of the Internet. And I'm one of those fools who really does triple-source his assertions. But, I've found that I'm being flooded ever more with people who are simply claiming to disagree with me, and demanding research on my part.
So, I do the research, rather succinctly dismantling their assertions and positions. It takes hours - even tens of hours sometimes. But, I put it together.
And what happens next?
I'm sure that most of you have deducted the answer, having probably been through this yourselves. But, basically, I'm either denounced as simply being "wrong" [rather without evidence], or otherwise altogether ignored (while my opponent chooses someone else [with less empirical footing] to debate).
I normally would chock this phenomenon up to human nature, and not some random convergence of nefarious wills; however, I've noticed the rate sharply rise over the last year or so. I'm not sure whether to make of this an increase in my political activism online, a simple random chance, or even, perhaps, the recent politically divisive elections and their rather significant consequences.
But, regardless of the cause, this trend has been increasing for me. I spend countless hours of work, dismantling political claims, only to be ignored or argued in an intellectually dishonest fashion - this to be tallied at an ever accelerating rate.
Is it just trolls, I wonder? Or, is it something more nefarious and collaborative? Halon's Razor seems to eliminate the latter possibility - but, is it so unlikely that such an intentional convergence could happen in this politically charged world? Is it possible that similar interests are flooding the Internet, our greatest public resource, with garbage users, intent on wasting our time in debate with opponents who never had any intention of real debate?
I put it to you guys - what do you think?

A Note to Jackie of Newsy News

A note to Jackie of Newsy News, a small and underrated Youtube satire of modern news stations. The caption reads:

 You are a wonderful person who brings smiles and joy to myself and many others. Thank you for all that you do. May your days be filled with peace and happiness :-)


Sam Harris Interview on TYT Interviews - A Partial Response

I recently saw a rather excellent discussion by Sam Harris with Cenk Uygur on TYT Interviews:
Sam Harris's blog:
Plenty of people have probably seen this discussion, and it was certainly needed. Well, needed in the sense that justice is needed against a person who commits murder - that is to say, justice is not needed in that case if noone committed the murder. I actually view Cenk Uygur's treatment of Sam Harris prior to the interview to be the crime and the video to be the justice that was sorely needed.
But, that's an aside - not the topic of my comments here. No - I wanted to respond to some of the points Sam Harris makes regarding national security.
I'd like to preface my arguments by pointing out that I generally agree with Dr. Harris - this is not an attack or prosecution of Harris or his positions, but rather a personal response on how I disagree with certain positions he argues. Also, for my family and friends who might read this and probably aren't familiar with Sam Harris or his work, please be aware that he is, in fact, liberal. The discussions I'm arguing against here would likely appear, on their own, to be ultra-right wing and nationalistic. I assure you that, if you read his work (either his blogs or his books), he is in fact quite progressive - I'm merely picking out arguments he's made with which I disagree.
First, Harris takes a position - or, to be more accurate, makes an argument - for the rational basis of certain forms of tempered profiling. In the case of airport screenings, he argues the rationale for applying greater scrutiny for Muslims on the grounds that the statistics show that most airplane hijackings have been performed by radical Muslims. His argument is, in fact, completely rational - in a situation where the resources to scrutinize are limited, then priority should be given to those persons who most fit the historical profile of committing relevant crimes on airplanes.
Second, Harris makes the argument that a situation could exist, which is not too far a stretch from the situation in which we find ourselves today, in which a nuclear first strike would be appropriate. He doesn't support the nuclear first strike mentality, but rather argues that not much would be required to change our situation to one where the damage done to innocents would be outweighed by the damage their regime would do to us.
Third, Harris makes an argument for the propriety of torture. His argument is that the harm done to the victim shouldn't be the only factor for determining the propriety of torture - but that given a situation in which:
  *) The interrogators are 100% sure that the victim has the information they seek; and
  *) There is no other way of getting the information in time; and
  *) The interrogators are 100% sure that torture would reveal the information; and
  *) The information would be 100% necessary in order to prevent a a certain number of people from being killed (or kidnapped, or tortured, or raped - take your pick)
Then the judgement that should be made should weigh the potential harm to the suspect with the potential harm to the victims of the suspect's information.
As to the first point, specifically, I would argue that such a policy might be effective at first, but as we've seen with sleeper cells in the past, dangerously radical Muslims would simply find a way to hide their Islamic beliefs from authorities. Remember - most of the terrorists who've been caught in the US were originally caught on unrelated, minor charges (smuggling, narcotics trafficking, traffic violations, etc). And, as an institution, profiling Muslims would necessarily incentivize them to hide their Islamic beliefs.
As to the second point, while I'd like to agree that such a situation *could* exist, I simply can't think of any set of circumstances where build-up to that situation couldn't be otherwise prevented. ISIS, for instance, is a radical organization that could take over Iraq - and, they could conceivably obtain nuclear materials, and they could conceivably weaponize those materials, and they could conceivably put those weapons into international missiles; and, if such a situation were to arise, they would be more than happy, as an organization, to use those weapons. however, those are *a lot* of steps to go through without gaining the attention of the US or the international community. It would require far fewer resources (both fiscally and in terms of collateral damage) to prevent such a situation from reaching fruition.
As to the third point, specifically, I would argue that no situation exists where torture is more reliable than other forms of interrogation. Prolonged general discomfiture (sitting in a hot room with little water, for instance), sleep deprivation, targeted questioning, psychiatric and sociological training of interrogators, proper interrogation training, properly incentivizing cooperation of the suspect - these combined are vastly more reliable than torture. Well, that is, in my opinion. Of course, were empirical evidence to be presented to me to the contrary, I might change my position. However, to this point, I've uncovered no convincing evidence of the relative effectiveness of torture over other methods.
To the three points overall, I would agree with the rational foundation of the arguments. That is to say - I believe that the way in which his arguments are formed, and the underlying reasoning, make rational sense. I still disagree with them, however, on a rather simple principle: I posit that no such society exists which is both free and secure; and, as such, in order to live in a free society, we must, as citizens, assume a certain amount of risk to ourselves, our family and friends and our infrastructure. To put it simply, I would argue with Harris that a certain amount of risk of being killed in a terrorist attack is one of the core prices we must pay in order to live in a relatively free society.
Freedom and security are much like time and space - inexorably linked in the physical world. If you give to one, you must remove from the other. That is, of course, in my own humble opinion (Although perhaps not stated quite so humbly).