TGGD

In the comments on a recent posting of mine, there are several discussions on the subjects of consciousness, Hell, whether a choice is free if the chooser is subject to threats, and a whole bunch of other stuff. robhu is speaking for the “we sinners all deserve to burn, but God is so super that he saves some people” side, gjm11 for the opposition. I’ve been busy all day so haven’t had much chance to contribute. I think it’s shaping up to be the post of mine with the most comments. Have fun.

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LiveJournal advisory board election

As readers of news will know, LiveJournal is in the process of electing representatives from among its users, to sit on the LiveJournal advisory board, alongside various e-luminaries.

<lj-cut text=”Who I think you should vote for”>Originally, I was going to vote for jameth purely because it’d annoy a certain sort of person I find irksome on LiveJournal (“jameth, as hated by ginmar“: what higher endorsement could there be?). jameth is an LJ personality who’s known for, shall we say, a certain unique sense of humour. I didn’t regard him as a serious candidate, so he wasn’t my first choice.

As time has gone on, however, I’ve become impressed with the open discussion of his candidacy which jameth has allowed on his journal: his policy is that he will allow any comment which does not violate LJ’s Terms of Service (he’s screening anonymous comments to help with this). This contrasts favourably with some of the other front-running candidates, notably legomymalfoy, who has been less forthcoming, and who has been deleting/locking posts.

legomymalfoy is on the LJ Abuse Team and does not intend to resign this position if she is elected, which seems a bit like having the fox guarding the hen-house. The post of hers where she confirmed this is now locked (this thread contains two screen captures of the relevant posting). I don’t believe she is a serious candidate. This is a shame, as she’s currently in the lead.

I’ve seen allegations that large numbers of role-playing journals (where one person keeps lots of journals for each character they play) have been used as sock puppets to block vote. LJ can’t use the obvious defence against this as it does not want to prevent people sharing the same HTTP proxy from voting. I don’t know whether these allegations are true, but this is hilarious.

More seriously, some candidates have recently reported that LJ’s staff has received what they seem to regard as credible death threats against some front-running candidates. It’s possible this is a huge hoax, but it’s currently looking like it’s real. cambler (note: style contains photos of semi-naked ladies: NSFW) has withdrawn from the election as he doesn’t see it as worth risking his personal safety for. He made this post (link will force the style to one without semi-naked ladies, so should be SFW) giving details of what’s occurred. This thread is particularly relevant. randomposting has likewise withdrawn and endorsed jameth.

As these were my other two choices, I’m endorsing jameth, for his platform commitment to free speech, for the way he’s conducted himself as this business has unfolded, and because he’s the only person who can now beat legomymalfoy. Any suggestions for worthwhile second and third choices gratefully received 🙂

Regardless of whether you agree with me, if you’ve moaned about what 6Apart and SUP have done over the last few years, please read the candidates’ manifestos and vote, and encourage others to do the same. If you have already voted, note that it is possible to change your vote until the election closes, on 29th May.

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Stuff I found on the web, probably on andrewducker‘s del.icio.us feed or something.

Psychology Today on ex-Christian ex-ministers and on magical thinking

Psychology Today has a couple of interesting articles, one on ministers who lose their faith, and another on magical thinking. Quoteable quote:

“We tend to ignore how much cognitive effort is required to maintain extreme religious beliefs, which have no supporting evidence whatsoever,” says the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. He likens the process to a cell trying to maintain its osmotic pressure. “You’re trying to pump out the mainstream influences all the time. You’re trying to maintain this wall, and keep your beliefs inside, and all these other beliefs outside. That’s hard work.” In some ways, then, at least for fundamentalists, “growing out of it is the easiest thing in the world.”

That sounds sort of familiar. I’m not sure I’d consider myself an ex-fundamentalist, but I did find that giving up removed the constant pressure to keep baling.

The stuff about moral contagion in the magical thinking article reminded me of Haggai 2:10-14, where it’s clear that cleanness (in the Bible’s sense of moral and ceremonial acceptability, rather then lack of dirt) is less contagious than uncleanness. There’s possibly a link here to the tendency of some religions to sharply divide the world into non-believers and believers, and to be careful about how much you expose yourself to the non-believing world (q.v. the unequally yoked teaching you get in the more extreme variants of a lot of religions).

Old interview with Philip Pullman

Third Way interviewed Pullman years ago. It’s the origin of one of his statements on whether he’s an agnostic or an atheist, which I rather like:<lj-cut text=”The quote”>

Can I elucidate my own position as far as atheism is concerned? I don’t know whether I’m an atheist or an agnostic. I’m both, depending on where the standpoint is.

The totality of what I know is no more than the tiniest pinprick of light in an enormous encircling darkness of all the things I don’t know – which includes the number of atoms in the Atlantic Ocean, the thoughts going through the mind of my next-door neighbour at this moment and what is happening two miles above the surface of the planet Mars. In this illimitable darkness there may be God and I don’t know, because I don’t know.

But if we look at this pinprick of light and come closer to it, like a camera zooming in, so that it gradually expands until here we are, sitting in this room, surrounded by all the things we do know – such as what the time is and how to drive to London and all the other things that we know, what we’ve read about history and what we can find out about science – nowhere in this knowledge that’s available to me do I see the slightest evidence for God.

So, within this tiny circle of light I’m a convinced atheist; but when I step back I can see that the totality of what I know is very small compared to the totality of what I don’t know. So, that’s my position.

This isn’t really a surprising statement, but, like Ruth Gledhill’s discovery that Richard Dawkins is a liberal Anglican, some people seem surprised that atheists aren’t ruling out things which some people would regard as gods. The point is that there’s no decent evidence that anyone has met one. Deism is a respectable position, I think (although I’m not sure why you’d bother with it), but religions which claim God has spoken to them are implausible because of God’s inability to keep his story straight.

The walls have Google

The thing about blogging is that you never know who’s reading. Someone called Voyou makes a post ending with an aside which is critical of A.C. Grayling’s response to Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion. Grayling turns up in the comments to argue with them.

(I keep turning up more conversations about the Eagleton review: see my bookmarks for the best of them).

“Compact of hypocrisy and secret vice”

Yellow wonders whether or not he should sign the UCCF doctrinal basis in this post and the followup. Signs point to “not”. Si Hollett reminds me of myself in my foolish youth.

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Derren Brown: Something Wicked This Way Comes

One of the Freeview channels recently repeated Derren Brown‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was the episode which mattghg blogged about a while back, wondering about free will in a universe containing Derren Brown. You can find clips from the programme on Google Video.<lj-cut text=”Cut for people who don’t like talking about how tricks are done”>

Having finally watched the programme, I’m in awe of Brown’s showmanship. It used to be that people doing these sort of acts would claim to have psychic powers, either seriously, if they were charlatans, or as part of the contract between the magician and the audience (we know that the magician who says “I will now read your mind” isn’t really saying he’s psychic, it’s just part of the story told around the trick). These days, as part of our desire to be “scientific”, we sort of believe in pop psychological guff like neuro-linguistic programming. Brown’s hooked into this belief. He rightly lambastes the psychic industry for conning people (e.g. in his appearance on the Dawkins documentary). He’s careful to prefix his shows with a statement that he uses a mixture of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”. But! The neat trick is that the misdirection includes the explanation of how he did it. Brown’s frenetic exposition at the end (starts about 4 minutes into this video) is part of the act, just as the claim of psychic powers was for older magicians.

Those of you with plenty of time on your hands can go and argue with all the commenters on YouTube who think that Brown’s an NLP guru. As the man himself says:

Years ago the issue was whether or not you told people it was psychic because people were prepared to believe in psychic ability–and how far down that road do you take them. Now we’re in a situation where we’re into pop psychology, and NLP [Neuro Linguistic Programming], all these huge industries, and people are prepared to believe in that, and maybe in a way that’s the new psychic realm.

The whole interview with Jamy Ian Swiss is an interesting discussion of the difference between what Brown does and what old-style mentalists did and the ethics of misleading an audience who are expecting to be misled. I’d recommend it.

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Danceblog: leg over

Reggie‘s doing this, so I thought I would, mostly as an aid to my memory. <lj-cut text=”You don’t care about this if you’re not a dancer”>Your comments on what I’ve got wrong are most welcome, any errors are of course mine and not the teacher’s:

Paul’s waltz (that’s the other PaulW, not me).

Starts on LF, facing diag. wall:
Traveling contra-check
Chasse
Curved feather to right
Outside spin
Turning lock
Chair and slip pivot (can use this to take the corner if you’re at the end of a side)
Double reverse spin
Chasse to right
Weave ending

Bruce’s rumba

Basic,
Alamana into sliding doors (man steps back, side forward around lady)
Sliding doors twice, ending in hold with lady on man’s right, man’s weight on RF, LF trailing.
Lady’s leg over (probably not the official name for this): 2: man LF forward leading lady to step back and open out again as if to to another sliding door but with hold, slide right arm as far around her as it’ll go so you can hold on tight for the next bit, 3: replace and lead her to step forward, she hooks her right leg around man’s waist remaining on his RHS (not in front of him), standing on her LF. 4,1: lunge into left leg, right leg straight, lift right hip towards her for support. 2: recover onto RF rotating upper body right which gets her off you and leads her to ronde her RF behind her (4,1 and 2 should be a bounce, don’t settle into it or it’s hard to get her moving again, no offence lauralaitaine).
(Not sure of timing for this bit, maybe he’ll go over it again) 3: no step, 4: let go with RH, single hand hold with LH, LF forward turning 180 degrees, ronde RF behind LF for 1,2, plant RF on 3, AND LF forward, 4 RF forward to meet lady coming back towards you having done something completely different, I know not what.
Hip twist, fan.

Bruce’s stuff with fall away in waltz

Starts on LF diag to centre (e.g. having done spin turn and natural turn ending):
1&2 LF forward, RF forward turning hips to centre, LF back in what I think you people call CBM, head backing LoD, hips to centre.
Weave ending: rise at end of 2 (on the “oo” of 2 :-), 3: RF back still in CBM and lower. 1,2,3, 1,2,3: LF back and weave.
Pivot ending: rise at end of 2, 3: slip RF back tracking past LF and turn right toe in, straightening up so you’re together backing LoD before pivoting onto 1: LF forward down LoD, 2&3 chasse to right, do what you like after that (weave ending, probably).

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