Link blog: programming, C, language, make

Implementing non-recursive make
Recursive makes are considered harmful. Here’s a recipe for a non-recursive one where you can still put project files in subdirectories.
(tags: make programming nonrecursive makefiles build software)
Embedded in Academia : Proposal for a Friendly Dialect of C
John Regehr and friends note that C compilers aggressive optimising around use of constructs the spec says are “undefined” can lead to unexpected behaviour. They propose a friendly C dialect where compilers would produce unspecified values in response to use of these constructs, but would not feel free to make demons fly out of your nose.
(tags: C programming language software-engineering)
The Left must reject the relativism at the heart of the Rotherham scandal | Left Foot Forward
This, from Al Razi of Ex-Muslim Forum, seems a sensible response, although as the worlds only impartial observer, I’d say that both the class of the victims and the race of both victims and perpetrators contributed to the horrors being ignored for so long. The Guardian will only talk about the former and the Telegraph about the latter, I suspect.
(tags: rotherham abuse religion islam news multiculturalism)
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Link blog: funny, psychology, consciousness, pop

Postcards From the Edge of Consciousness – Issue 16: Nothingness – Nautilus
“Sensory deprivation goes from CIA torture manuals to a yoga studio near you.” Via andrewduck.
(tags: psychology meditation floatation deprivation consciousness)
TAM2014 – Carol Tavris – Who’s Lying Who’s Self-Justifying – YouTube
“Social psychologist and author Carol Tavris on “Who’s Lying? Who’s Self-Justifying?: Origins of the He Said/She Said Gap in Sexual Communications”. Discusses sexual assault but is mainly about discussions of sexual assault and dissonance.
(tags: sex sexism psychology scepticism cognitive-bias evidence)
Russell91/pythonpy ยท GitHub
Clever idea: quick way of writing per line loops to process files in Python. Via HN.
(tags: python shell programming)
Barely Legal Pawn, feat. Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Julia Louis-Dreyfus – YouTube
Spot all the Breaking Bad references.
(tags: breaking-bad comedy funny emmy parody pawn)
Pop Sonnets
“Young Thomas is a longshoreman by trade” Pop song lyrics turned into Shakespearian sonnets. Via Mefi.
(tags: funny shakespeare sonnets pop music lyrics)
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Bad arguments: the alleged atheist Problem of Evil

1755 Lisbon earthquakeThe Problem of Evil is a pretty difficult one for Christians and other theists. One response to it is to say that atheists have a problem too, either because they also must cope in a world with so much evil and suffering in it, or because without a way to “ground” morality, they have no basis to call anything evil. As we’ll see, these are both Bad Arguments.

Bad argument: Atheists must cope psychologically with evil, and this is a problem for them

Stephen Law dealt with the response that atheists must also cope with the evil and suffering in the world (which actually came from an agnostic, not a theist, in the linked example). As Law says, this sort of response relies on shifting the problem we’re talking about to the problem of how to cope psychologically with evil and suffering (which is indeed a problem for both theists and atheists). But this is not the problem that the discussion was originally about, which is that evil and suffering make theism less likely to be true (i.e. they’re evidence against it), but are not evidence against atheism.

Bad argument: Atheists have no grounds to call anything evil and so cannot make an argument from evil

Wintery Knight and Cornelius Hunter are both Christians, and both make the second sort of argument: if there is no God, they say, there is no matter of fact about what is evil, it’s an entirely subjective judgement either of particular individuals or of human societies, and as such cannot be binding on God.

Firstly, both Knight and Hunter just assert that if there is no God, there are no moral facts1. But in fact the philosophical debate about whether there are moral facts is carried on largely without reference to God: there are atheists who say there are, and atheists who say there aren’t, and a lot of debate about just what it means for something to be an objective moral fact anyway. Apologists like to pick an atheist who says there aren’t moral facts and quote them as defining The Atheist View on Moral Facts, as if there were only one.

But suppose for the sake of argument that Knight and Hunter are right, and if there is no God, there are no moral facts. Conventional Christianity still faces a problem of evil as an internal contradiction. Here’s a little argument from evil:

1. If God exists, God is objectively morally perfect.
2. If God exists, it is objectively morally imperfect for someone to permit human suffering which it is in their power to alleviate (see the Parable of the Good Samaritan, for example).
3. There is human suffering which it would be in God’s power to alleviate, were God to exist.

Now, assume for the sake of argument that God exists. From 3, suffering which it is in God’s power to alleviate exists. From 2, God is objectively morally imperfect, but this contradicts what we get from 1. So God does not exist, proof by contradiction.

Any theist worth their salt will attack premise 2 (and probably say that there should be a “without good reason” after the “permit”, and then say that God either has good reasons or that we have no way of knowing that he doesn’t). But my purpose isn’t to present a comprehensive argument from evil, but rather, to point out the shape of the argument: notice that the argument does not rely on a claim that there are in fact objective moral values, only that if God exists, there are, something which Knight and Hunter agree with. In fact, more robust arguments from evil generally rely on putting together statements which theists should accept and showing that they lead to the conclusion that there is no God.

A couple of Knight’s commenters (1, 2) point this out to him (one even explicitly telling him that the Argument from Evil is what’s known as a reductio ad absurdem) but he just doesn’t seem to get it. I hope you do, but let me know if this could be clearer.

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  1. Along with the claim that if there is a God, he’d provide a grounding for moral facts, which seems dodgy, see previous discussion