Link blog: illness, psychology, humour, science

On Self-Delusion and Bounded Rationality

or "Flowers for Carl Sagan", or something. A short story on whether it's always a good idea to know the truth.
(tags: psychology rationalism rationality philosophy reason science fiction humour)

A Letter to Patients With Chronic Disease

"You scare doctors… We don’t want to face things we can’t fix because it shows our limits. We want the miraculous, and you deny us that chance."
(tags: chronic doctors medical illness medicine)
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Link blog: sexism, philosophy, filtering, porn

Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity – NYTimes.com

"An Internet content reviewer, Mr. Bess sifts through photographs that people upload to a big social networking site and keeps the illicit material — and there is plenty of it — from being posted." Rule 34 applies: some of these people end up needing counselling, apparently.
(tags: censorship filtering internet porn pornography social-networks)

Out with pink and blue: Don’t foster the gender divide – opinion – 19 July 2010 – New Scientist

Neurologist Lise Eliot argues that, while there are some differences innate differences between males and females, there's also a lot of plasticity in human brains.
(tags: gender science neuroscience brains psychology)

Kafkatrapping

'One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”'. Eric S. Raymond coins the phrase "kafkatrap" to describe a "heads I win, tails you lose" form of argument which sounds pretty similar to Suber's "logical rudeness".
(tags: culture debate debunking philosophy rhetoric racism sexism kafka esr)

Common Sense Atheism » Am I Sexist? (index)

Link to a series of posts: Luke at Common Sense Atheism put up a fairly crass "15 sexy scientists" post with pictures of said scientists (the scientists were all women, with the exception of PZ Myers). He got quite a strong reaction, especially over at Pharyngula (Myers's blog), read some Martha Nussbaum and eventually apologised and took down the posting.

Of note: for all that the atheists at Pharyngula tend to regard Christians as irrational, they aren't too keen on rationality when someone applies it to a domain where they mostly navigate by strong religious convictions (feminism, in this case). Luke initially seems hopelessly naive but ultimately finds the right answer and knows why it's right, which seems better than being cowed by yelling. Well done to him for publicly changing his mind.
(tags: rationality feminism sex objectification martha-nussbaum philosophy ethics morality sexism)

Top Eleven Reasons Why the Reformed Theologian Did not Cross the Road

Theology jokes are fun!
(tags: theology religion reformed joke funny)
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Link blog: funny, video, christianity, parody

App Inventor for Android

Graphical app builder for Android phones, for people who don't want to write Java. Interesting to contrast Google's approach with Apple's here: Apple have effectively banned this sort of thing.
(tags: programming development tools google mobile android)

Heresy Corner: The case against women bishops in the Church of England, reduced to seven words

I lol'd.
(tags: funny religion christianity misogyny sexism complementarianism church-of-england c-of-e synod)

“Sunday’s Coming” Movie Trailer on Vimeo

Yeah, I went to Soul Survivor once, too.
(tags: bible charismatic christian christianity humour satire parody church sunday video funny religion)

YouTube – Top 10 quirky science tricks for parties

I like the one about pouring CO2 onto candles to extinguish them.
(tags: science youtube magic video tricks physics chemistry)

Moderate Bouncers condemn Raoul Moat’s methods | NewsBiscuit

It's good to see moderate bouncers speaking out.
(tags: funny bouncers parody news)

Alt Text: Enter the Brave New World of Internet Psychology | Underwire | Wired.com

"The main symptom of a severely damaged person is that they don’t agree with you, so how can you convince them you’re right?" Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny internet psychology wired)
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Reform and the Interminable Anglican Sex Kerfuffle

Down at the Graun, they’ve been looking into those “traditionalists” in the Church of England, the ones who are involved in the most recent bout of the Interminable Anglican Sex Kerfuffle. Andrew Brown has discovered complementarianism, and he doesn’t approve. He’s found the Doctrinal Rectitude Trust‘s site, wherein he’s learned that trustees sign various declarations of their doctrinal rectitude, annually (which seems a bit lax: I’d go for twice nightly, and three times on Saturdays). We’ve discussed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy before, and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was mentioned during the ComplementarianFail drama of 2009. It’s the Danvers Statement which has Brown so exercised, and he quotes a few choice passages from it for your enjoyment.

Intelligent, willing submission

Now, my old church was a Reform one, so I remember a bit about this stuff. I’ve been sharing my memories of those halycon days of “intelligent, willing submission” here; wheeling out the inevitable Houseplants of Gor gag (and handcuffs) here (another commenter has actually read John Norman’s books: fun times); making simont‘s point about the failure mode of complementarianism here; and arguing that Christianity is not necessarily evil here.

Some of the reports I’ve seen about the Sex Kerfuffle have been theologically confused (not Brown’s of course: he correctly identifies the Reform people as Calvinists). It’s reported that the “traditionalists” might all defect to Rome: in Reform’s case, this is about as likely as Ian Paisley getting all chummy with Jessel the Tri-felge Putenard. The traditionalists are two distinct groups, both of whom suspect that the other lot aren’t really Christians, but who are prepared to make common cause over the vital issue of penises and the possession (bishops must have them) and disposition (they must not put them too near other men) of the same. It is the traditionalist Anglo-Catholics who might defect to Rome.

Disestablishmentarianism

The Graun‘s recent editorial warned that the church should either get with the programme or face disestablishment: “The Church of England now expects both the benefits of establishment and the cultural freedom of private religion. At the very least, a national church should not become disconnected from the best values of the country it serves.”

The Graun seems to think that the established church should be what Andrew Rilstone describes as “the Church of Dumbledore”, a sort of deistic religion whose purpose is to work for social goods, “baptising the dead and burying the sick”. Rilstone originally wrote The Ballad of Reading Diocese the previous time a Kerfuffle over Jeffrey John arose, but it remains as relevant as it was then.

The National God Service, the Church of Dumbledore, seems to be one of those oddly British historical vestiges, like the monarchy. While I don’t particularly see the point of it, it hardly seems worth the trouble of getting rid of it. A church which patronises women and views gay relationships as sinful, on the other hand, should go its own way: the state should have nothing to do with such an organisation. It’s not clear to me who’s currently winning: I’ll watch developments with interest.

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Link blog: youtube, video, funny, flying

GodBlock – Protect your children

"GodBlock is a web filter that blocks religious content. It is targeted at parents and schools who wish to protect their kids from the often violent, sexual, and psychologically harmful material in many holy texts, and from being indoctrinated into any religion before they are of the age to make such decisions." Via Metafilter
(tags: religion atheism software censorship children web internet god funny parody filter)

Johann Hari: Did the media help to pull the trigger? – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

"Every time there is a massacre by a mentally ill person, like Derrick Bird's last month, journalists are warned by psychologists that, if we are not very careful in our reporting, we will spur copycat attacks by more mentally ill people. We ignored their warnings. We reported the case in precisely the way they said was most risky. Are we now seeing the result?"
(tags: murder psychology crime ethics guns journalism media violence uk suicide)

The Turn – 93.12

"At the very heart of winged flight lies the banked turn, a procedure that by now seems so routine and familiar that airline passengers appreciate neither its elegance and mystery nor its dangerously delusive character. The author, a pilot, takes us up into the subject"
(tags: flight history aviation flying banking physics)

YouTube – N559DW full flight with radar overlay – Doug White King Air landing HD

Via realinterrobang: passenger with a PPL for single engined light aircraft lands something a bit bigger when his pilot dies. Video of the radar with audio from the radio.
(tags: aviation flying pilot air-traffic-control emergency radar)

FIREFLY: The Credits Sequence It Deserved!

io9.com gives Joss Whedon's "Firefly' an 80s style intro sequence. Still not as good as Airwolf's, but a good effort.
(tags: video funny youtube television firefly intro)

YouTube – Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us

"Excerpts from Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. More specifically, from the chapter titled A Universe Not Made For Us. I edited together the audio from the audio-book, and added the video from Stephen Hawking's Into the Universe and Brian Cox's Wonders of the Solar System. The music is Jack's Theme from the Lost soundtrack."
(tags: cosmology astronomy sagan science evolution universe video youtube religion creationism)

Moral Realism in the Bible?

"Most theologians seem to think the Hebrew Bible presupposes a subjective theory of ethics that grounds right and wrong in the nature or attitudes of a person, Yahweh. This is called divine command theory. Bible scholar Jaco Gericke has proposed an alternate view: that some passages of the Bible presuppose objective moral realism, such that right and wrong are grounded in something beyond the attitudes of a person or persons. Under such a view, Yahweh might sometimes be wrong."
(tags: bible morality philosophy religion christianity)
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Link blog: science, humour, homosexuality, politics

Preventing Lesbianism and “Uppity Women” in the Womb? No. | Focal Point | Big Think

That story that's been doing the rounds about about a pill to prevent your kid being a lesbian turns out to be bullshit.
(tags: homosexuality medicine science)

What I think about global warming : Stoat

What Dr Connolley thinks of global warming: the science is well established, the sceptics want to argue it isn't because they don't like many of the suggestions for what we should do about it.
(tags: science global-warming climate)

http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton contest results are out! Read the worst first line of a story that people have been able to come up with this year.
(tags: writing literature funny language humour fiction bulwer-lytton)

What isn’t wrong with Sharia law? | Law | guardian.co.uk

"To safeguard our rights there must be one law for all and no religious courts."
(tags: islam feminism islamism secularism uk religion politics sharia)

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Spotting the "instinctive drowning response". People who are drowning don't look distressed or yell, apparently, as their bodies are working too hard at staying afloat.
(tags: health drowning safety swimming death)
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Healing prayer experiments and pigeons

Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable programme recently featured the atheist physicist Victor Stenger talking to the Christian statistician David Bartholomew about whether the failure of healing prayer experiments provides evidence against God’s existence. You can listen to the programme, and see some of the lively debates which occurred on Premier’s site, here and here. Bartholomew’s claim seems to be that these sort of experiments just can’t give any evidence about God, either for or against his existence. If the experiments had instead shown prayer did help with healing, he’d be among the people cautioning his fellow Christians not to draw any conclusion from it.

God is not a pigeon

So, why can’t experiments tell you anything about God? On the Premier forums, Tom Coverly summarises Bartholomew’s argument by saying that “God is a person, not a pigeon” (presumably a reference to Skinner’s experiments). But the objection that God is a person doesn’t seem to stand up: psychologists do useful experiments on people, after all, so God’s personhood alone can’t be the problem. Likewise, the fact that God knows every detail of the experiment isn’t necessarily a problem: not all experiments involving people can be done as blind trials (for instance, I suspect it’s pretty hard to come up with a placebo therapist when comparing antidepressant drugs to therapy).

The reason why scientists do healing prayer experiments in the first place is that Christians generally do claim that God answers prayers. They usually (though Coverly does not, as we’ll see) anticipate that some prayers are more likely to be answered than others: they might say that God is more likely to answer a prayer to heal a sick child than a prayer to give someone a brand new Ferrari. I’ll assume that Christians have some evidence for these beliefs. The claim that healing prayer experiments don’t provide evidence about God is then a rather strange one. Is this other evidence that the Christian has invalidated because they believe God is a person and that God knew he was providing the evidence? What makes the healing prayer experiments different?

Whatever can be destroyed by Bayes’ Theorem should be

Perhaps foreseeing this problem, Coverly claims that he does not think God is more likely to answer certain prayers than others, in fact, he says that humans cannot anticipate God’s actions at all. How should someone who agrees with Coverly bet on prayer experiments? How should an atheist bet? Suppose there are two outcomes: call healing the result that the prayers had a healing effect (after allowing for everything else), and no healing the result that the prayers had no effect. If we think that God exists but we cannot anticipate his actions, we should bet that the two are equally likely: after all, if we bet preferentially either way, we’re anticipating God’s actions (we could not bet, Coverly’s preferred option, but let’s suppose we have to bet, so we’d best minimise our losses). If we think that God doesn’t exist, we should bet strongly on no healing.

What this means is that the result no healing still provides more evidence for the claim that “God does not exist” than Coverly’s claim that “God exists but you can’t anticipate the result of prayers”. The claim that “God does not exist” is bolder: it sticks its neck out and says “you’ll certainly see no healing“, so that when no healing occurs (and it does), this claim is confirmed more strongly than the claim that which predicts you’ll see no healing about half the time. We can turn this into mathematics if we like, but that’s the gist of it.

Of course, there are other possibilities, such as “God exists but likes hiding from scientists more than healing sick people”, and in fact, this claim is confirmed over Coverly’s by our observations of no healing. Clearly, this area needs further research to differentiate the possible claims (for instance, we might investigate whether there is some threshold of seriousness for an illness, where God switches over to preferring healing to hiding from scientists): don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t learn anything about God from science.

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Link blog: funny, google, leicester, python

Proof of Batman’s existence

Fun with the Ontological Argument. The comments are good, too… Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny philosophy ontological anselm religion)

The curious case of the You’re Not Helping blog « The Buddha Is Not Serious

How not to do it: Atheist starts anonymous blog to tell some other outspoken atheists (PZ, Ophelia Benson, and so on) to cool it, or something. Eventually, someone notices that many commenters on the site are the same person. That person makes a flounce post about being "silenced" and makes their blog private. D'oh!
(tags: blogging drama atheism internet)

Leicester strikes a blow for secularism | Theo Hobson | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Theo Hobson on events in Leicester, where the new Lord Mayor has appointed a secular chaplain and removed prayers before monthly council meetings. Hobson notes that the C of E is, perhaps wisely, not making much of a fuss about this: "establishment at all levels is more or less indefensible; the more discussed it is, the more obvious this is. The church can only hope that interest dies down."
(tags: anglicanism religion leicester secularism)

2008 Google I/O Session Videos and Slides: Building Scalable Web Applications with Google App Engine

Writing a blog in Google App Engine: tempting…
(tags: google tutorial video appengine gae scalability python)
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