Link blog: atheism, agnosticism, philosophy, belief

Is a ‘lack of belief’ the best we can do? | The Philosopher’s Groan
“There is a common view – one you yourself may hold – that the only intellectually honest position for an atheist to have is a ‘lack of belief’ in gods. Today I’m going to argue that this definition is confused, and should be retired. It is too broad to be useful, and that we ought to reserve the word ‘atheist’ for active disbelief in the existence of gods. Furthermore, I’ll try to demonstrate that we have a much stronger positive philosophical case for rationally believing that no god – theistic or deistic – exists.”
(tags: atheism philosophy agnosticism belief)
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Link blog: git, hash, islamophobia, internals

Git from the inside out
If you’re someone who understands things best by knowing how the guts of them work, here’s a good post on Git’s insides.
(tags: git programming revision-control internals blob hash)
Losing their religion: The hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims | Global | The Guardian
The experiences of ex-Muslims in the UK, who face ostracism and maybe even violence, as well as finding it hard to find help because of worries about Islamophobia. Sulaiman, who is featured in the article, is a former colleague of mine. “Shams believes that this kind of gesture and the NUS decision last month to lobby alongside Cage, the militant Islamic prisoners pressure group, undermines the position of dissenting Muslims. “What it does is to say to reformists and secularists, you’re not really Muslims.””
(tags: ex-muslim islam apostasy politics multiculturalism uk islamophobia)
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Link blog: progressive, latin-america, monbiot, brain

Ground Control | George Monbiot
“No progressive party can survive the corporate press, corrupt party funding systems and conservative fear machines by fighting these forces on their own terms. The left can build only from the ground up; reshaping itself through the revitalisation of communities, working with local people to help fill the gaps in social provision left by an uncaring elite. Successful progressive movements must now be citizen’s advice bureau, housing association, scout troop, trade union, credit union, bingo hall, food bank, careworker, football club and evangelical church, rolled into one. Focus groups and spin doctors no longer deliver.”
(tags: monbiot george-monbiot politics left progressive latin-america)
Henry Marsh’s “Do No Harm” – The New Yorker
The New Yorker looks at Henry Marsh, author of “Do No Harm”.
(tags: books surgery medicine brain neurosurgery)
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Link blog: politics, election, whig, britain

Whig Party | Britain’s original progressive political party is back
Crikey. It’s like a Neal Stephenson novel: “The Whigs are returning to British politics. We are going into the 2015 General Election to provide a fresh choice to the British people, and to show that everyone can get involved in politics. Our campaign will be positive and optimistic, both online and in the streets. The Whigs are back. Come and join the party.”
(tags: whig politics election history uk general-election)
David Hume and the sensible knave | Ask a Philosopher
Is there a response to Hume’s “sensible knave”, who does evil only when he can be reasonably sure of not getting found out?
(tags: david-hume hume morality knave philosophy glaucon)
Why I Don’t Read The News Anymore | Thing of Things
I don’t, either, for roughly the same reasons.
(tags: news ozymandias psychology availability politics)
A fixed-term hung Parliament? | British Government and the Constitution
Prof Adam Tomkins explains the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Points out that, while a defeat which is not a motion of no confidence does not allow an early election, nothing compels a Prime Minister to stay in office: Labour could hold the threat of Milliband’s resignation (and the Tories being invited to form a government) over the SNP in order to pass a budget, for example.
(tags: constitution government politics election confidence)
The British press has lost it – POLITICO
Even the broadsheets don’t bother to hide the fact that they’re rooting for the Tories because their oligarch owners told them to (except the Graun, of course). No one in my liberal bubble actually reads print newspapers, they just share links to the Graun’s “Comment is Dumb” section on Facebook. Still, I might not be typical, so it’s all a bit worrying.
(tags: press newspapers journalism politics britain election)
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Link blog: politics, david-simon, work, sexism

86ing a.k.a. Throwing Someone Out Of Your Venue | It’s The Way That You Do It
After all the discussions on harassment, I’m coming to the conclusion that the hardest thing is not finding the right words for your code of conduct, but actually dealing with the nasty business of having to tell someone they’re doing something wrong and maybe they can’t come back. Here’s a post from someone who’s done it.
(tags: harassment lindy-hop lindy dancing safety)
The austerity delusion | Paul Krugman | Business | The Guardian
“It has been astonishing, from a US perspective, to witness the limpness of Labour’s response to the austerity push. Britain’s opposition has been amazingly willing to accept claims that budget deficits are the biggest economic issue facing the nation, and has made hardly any effort to challenge the extremely dubious proposition that fiscal policy under Blair and Brown was deeply irresponsible – or even the nonsensical proposition that this supposed fiscal irresponsibility caused the crisis of 2008-2009.”
(tags: austerity economics deficit debt paul-krugman politics labour)
David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish | The Marshall Project
David Simon (“The Wire”, “Homicide”) blames the drug war for the breakdown of trust between the police and the community following the abandonment of constitutional protections. Points out that the police force is largely black. Petyr Baelish really did cook the crime stats, too.
(tags: baltimore the-wire david-simon drugs police politics)
A Manual for Creating Atheists – Godless Haven
“Godless Haven” has a good review of Boghossian’s book, “A Manual For Creating Atheists”.
(tags: review atheism peter-boghossian epistemology)
Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80-Hour Weeks – HBR
Interesting research into the sort of place where you’re expected to be available all the time and work all the hours. Some successful men found ways to “pass” i.e. to appear they were hard workers while finding time for other things (like their families). Women tended to ask explicitly for allowances to be made for child care and their careers suffered for it.
(tags: work hours time employment sexism feminism)
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Link blog: pobox.com, billing, database, armando-iannucci

The Universe of Discourse : Moonpig: a billing system that doesn’t suck
cartesiandaemon linked to this old blog post about designing a billing system. I’ve never designed a billing system, but it was interesting anyway.
(tags: software billing moonpig object-orientation database accounting pobox.com design perl)
Armando Iannucci: It’s time for a very British revolution
“I call it Rump Politics, because it is so clearly marked by an admission that it is for the few.” “In the last election, the three main parties succeeded so magnificently in drawing a curtain of silence around their future plans for government, that the dominating policies of the past five years have all been ones that simply were not discussed in the election campaign or mentioned in the party manifestos. These policies were: £9,000 university tuition fees, the bedroom tax, the total reorganisation of the NHS and 40 per cent cuts in local government. Put together, it’s a stark programme. Not an iota of it was mentioned during the 2010 campaign. This time round, both the main TV debates were conducted before the parties published their manifestos. No wonder they felt like talks about nothing. Is it any wonder that people feel disconnected from Westminster?”
(tags: politics election rump labour conservatives armando-iannucci)
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Link blog: politics, belief, faith, atheism

Justin Schieber on Twitter: “Nobody just lacks belief in unicorns. We all believe (for good reason, mind you) that they are fictions. So too is it the case with gods.”
Justin Schieber (an atheist) argues against the claim that “atheism is just a lack of belief”. This seems fair enough: what atheists tend to use the claim for is to say that they don’t have a duty to rebut any random stuff someone comes up with, but in fact, we consider the eixstence of gods and unicorns unlikely based on our background knowledge and the lack of expected evidence (which is evidence of absence), and this is a legitimate belief.
(tags: belief god atheism theism unicorns evidence epistemology)
60 Years On: Academic Atheist Philosophers Then & Now : The Critique
Graham Oppy reviews 60 years of atheist thought in philosophy. Interesting stuff. Is it true to say that people think sceptical theism means that a theist should not be convinced by the evidential problem of evil? I thought that sceptical theism had problems of its own, but I rely on people like John Danaher to digest the literature for me rather than reading journals or anything…
(tags: graham-oppy atheism philosophy theodicy religion)
Faith vs. Facts – NYTimes.com
“a broad group of scholars is beginning to demonstrate that religious belief and factual belief are indeed different kinds of mental creatures. People process evidence differently when they think with a factual mind-set rather than with a religious mind-set. Even what they count as evidence is different. And they are motivated differently, based on what they conclude. On what grounds do scholars make such claims?”
(tags: faith facts psychology religion anthropology scott-atran)
Britain Uncovered survey results: the attitudes and beliefs of Britons in 2015 | Society | The Guardian
The Graun surveyed about 1000 people and weighted the results according to the UK’s demographics. Among other things, the bit about religion was interesting to me: their survey said “A majority of Britons (82%) do not actively practise a religion and a clear majority of the population (61%) agree with that “These days religion is a negative influence in the world rather than a force for good.” Unsurprisingly, those who associate with a religion are less likely to hold this view.”
(tags: survey britain secularism religion belief attitudes politics guardian)
God Doesn’t; We Do: The apologist two-step–McGrew and Marshall on Boghossian
Argues that Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” use “faith” in a very similar way to the way Boghossian does, namely “We mean that the less evidence you have for your position, the more faith you need to believe it (and vice versa). Faith covers a gap in knowledge.”
(tags: faith peter-boghossian apologetics religion)
The economists’ manifesto – FT.com
The FT asks a random selection of economists what they’d do if they were PM. A whole lot more sensible than the politicians’ one.
(tags: economics politics FT finance)
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Elsewhere: God, cosmology, complexity

Spot the godOver on top cosmologist Sean Carroll’s blog, there’s a guest post by his fellow top cosmologist Don Page, who is a Christian. Page was responding to Carroll’s debate with William Lane Craig. Page does not find Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument persuasive, but has his own reasons for being a Christian, which you can read about over there (spoilers: maybe God is the simplest explanation for the fact that the universe is orderly; also the Resurrection happened).

The comment thread beneath the post is huge and goes off in all sorts of interesting directions. Page makes use of Bayes’ Theorem in his arguments. There are some people who use in their day jobs (rather than just reading Less Wrong and bullshitting, as I do) who respond to him, notably Bill Jefferys, staring here.

I’ve been commenting on and off. I reconstructed the threads I got involved in as the lack of threaded commenting over there makes it difficult to follow. I’ve been reading Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I hope to post about at some point) so I was trying for some Socratic dialogue and questioning of “faith” as a means of knowing. See how I got on:

Mathematicians wanted

I was interested in Daniel Kerr’s comments (for example, here, here, and finally here, in response to one of mine). He says that simplicity depends on a choice of mathematical language, but I thought this was just a constant factor. However, the comments rapidly go off into model theory and stuff about the Axiom of Choice, so I got lost. Can anyone comment on what he’s saying and whether he’s right?

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Link blog: funny, evidence, philosophy, unbelievable

Peter Boghossian vs Tim McGrew – YouTube
Here’s an “Unbelievable” show in which Boghossian (“A Manual For Creating Atheists”) talks to Tim McGrew, who’s reasonably well known for his arguments in favour of belief in miracles. I’ve linked to a set of comments from “MrShamuto” where he undertakes more or less the process Boghossian describes in the books, of Socratic dialogue with “AdeToz”, a Christian. It is long and occasionally interrupted by other people who are bonkers, but it’s interesting to see Boghossian’s stuff in action.
(tags: street-epistemology epistemology peter-boghossian tim-mcgrew philosophy evidence unbelievable premier christian radio socratic)
W00tstock 5.0 – George RR Martin vs. Paul and Storm – YouTube
The singers of “Write like the Wind, George RR Martin” get a surprise.
(tags: game-of-thrones grrm george-rr-martin funny video wootstock)
List of testimonies from people who just know their religion is true
amymea, writing in the ex-Mormon Reddit, takes to task someone who argues that the “testimony of the spirit” is good evidence that Mormonism is true, by listing a bunch of other people who had strong feelings upon reading their own religious texts.
(tags: mormonism reddit feelings faith religion evidence)
Advanced Trolley Problems
Funny.
(tags: philosophy funny comic ethics trolley-problem)
What I’ve Learned About Female Desire From Reading
Mallory Ortberg is fun. “100% of women want to have sex with a man who embodies the fox version of Robin Hood from the cartoon Robin Hood, but most do not actually want to have sex with a fox or a man dressed as one.”
(tags: mallory-ortberg funny reading sex desire books)
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Elsewhere: lindy conduct

I’ve been talking elsewhere, so I thought I’d make some posts about that.

Previously, I talked about the push to introduce codes of conduct for lindy hop events in the wake of a high profile sexual assault case. Over on Reddit, /r/SwingDancing saw quite a bit of discussion of the whole business, as you’d expect.

Someone calling themselves The Logical Lead started a Reddit discussion about a blog post of his and another discussion about where the boundaries of flirting are. His burden seems to be that Mobtown Ballroom’s Code bans flirting and victimises men, because of the third rule, which begins “Don’t treat the ballroom like a pick-up joint.”

He makes the true point that, in the recent case, things were made worse because the perpetrator was a famous and popular teacher. But he then went off the rails in saying that the community’s reaction was victimising men by targeting them rather than only dealing with the abuse of fame, and even implying that the codes would be abused by popular men to corner the market in women. I commented saying that, although the recent case was certainly about the misuse of fame, the discussion that followed allowed many women talk about problems they’d had, most of which were not with famous teachers.

On the question of differentiating flirting and harassment, this thread linked to Dogpossum’s own guide to dating dancers. Some people quibbled about Dogpossum’s advice, but I think the point is that if you’re asking how to do it and not fall foul of a code of conduct, you’re saying you’re not sure of your social skills and need rules. If you are skilled enough not to creep people out anyway, you can probably treat them more as guidelines.

I also bigged up the Northerners’ STEPS code and their FAQ, where they make it clear that “we certainly aren’t suggesting that dancers aren’t allowed to form romantic relationships at our events (including, a-hem, extremely short relationships)”.

On Metafilter, Reddit has a reputation as a terrible place full of MRAs, libertarians and other ne’er do wells, but The Logical Lead didn’t get a very good reception for his stuff, so I suppose it depends which sub-reddits you’re talking about.

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