Link blog: mechanics, lindy, biology, newton

The science and magic of Lindy Hop | Andy Connelly | Science | theguardian.com
“Great partner dancers may not know it but they are masters of space, time and Newton’s laws of motion.” Of course we know it: for example, I’ve decided my “dance name” is “The Oncoming Storm”. (I also suspect I know who the Alistair credited at the end is, as he’s a Cambridge person).
(tags: lindy physics dancing lindyhop guardian newton mechanics)
liv | Against Dawkins
Is the gene centred view (of which Dawkins is a major proponent) the best one?
(tags: genetics genes richard-dawkins selfish-gene biology science genotype phenotype)
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Richard Dawkins and the Islamic Nobel Prizewinners

Richard Dawkins is in the news again, for his twits on Twitter pointing out that Trinity College has produced more Nobel prizewinners than Islam. While he accepts that Muslims were great shakes in the Middle Ages, they haven’t done much science lately, apparently. By saying this, Dawkins has caused a bit of a stir.

Dawkins futher explains his views in a post on his site.

Dawkins is right about science in the Muslim world

Neil deGrasse Tyson makes Dawkins’s point at greater length. The Islamic world has long since lost its former scientific glory. Tyson puts the blame on Al Ghazali and a switch from inquiry to accepting “revelation”1. A much more extensive article on the decline, in the form of an interview with a Turkish physicist, makes the point that the Golden Age mixed the precursors to modern science with a lot of other weird stuff (but shurely this also applied in the West?)

Whatever the reasons, it seems Dawkins is right to say things ain’t what they used to be. Contra Nesrine Malik, he didn’t make the statement out of the blue, but rather, as part of a debate on the role of Islam in the birth of science (see this previous twit, for example). Everyone thinks science is a Good Thing2, so both Muslims and Christians like to claim credit for fostering science. Dawkins’s stuff about Nobel prizes should be read as “what have you done for us in the last 500 years, then?”

That’s racist!

(Edit:)Writing before Dawkins posted about Nobel Prizes (end of edit), Alex Gabriel says that some of Dawkins’s twits are racist statements.3

What sort of thing is a “racist statement”? It seems it’s something that encourages prejudice (a fault of reasoning) which can lead to discrimination (a moral fault), all on the grounds of race. However, it then doesn’t seem to follow that we ought never to make “racist statements”, because it all depends on how much encouragement we’re giving.

The best thing I’ve seen written about the interaction between criticism of Islam and racism is Russell Blackford’s piece in Talking Philosophy. Blackford says that “opponents of Islam who do not wish to be seen as the extreme-right’s sympathizers or dupes would be well-advised to take care in the impression that they convey”. I agree with Gabriel’s point that Dawkins’s support for Pat Condell and talk of “barbarians” and “alien” stuff shows Dawkins’s failure to take care here. But I see the EDL re-tweeted some of Dawkins’s twits about Islamic science, and I don’t think that implies Dawkins should not have talked about that. As Blackford says “After all, there are reasons why extreme-right organizations have borrowed arguments based on feminism, secularism, etc. These arguments are useful precisely because they have an intellectual and emotional appeal independent of their convenience to opportunists.”

Gabriel also says that it’s unacceptable to single Islam out for criticism. I don’t see any reason to think that. People may have legitimate reasons for singling out Islam: perhaps they know a lot about it (because they are ex-Muslims, say) or perhaps they think it is more harmful than other religions. Dawkins himself famously doesn’t single out Islam, usually leading to taunts of “you wouldn’t dare say that about Muslims” when he criticises Christianity4. So a criticism of Dawkins on those grounds seems to be either false or a “why aren’t you also addressing these evils?” sort of criticism (which is bad, as this expert guide to epistemic rationality could tell you).

9781118038048_p0_v1_s260x420Twitter is for twits

Finally, all of these people (including Dawkins) are foolish for taking Twitter spats seriously. The 140 character limit on twits precludes serious discussion, so it’s either for telling your friends what you had for lunch today, or getting your hit of self-righteous rage by swapping telegrams with people whose views you violently disagree with. The whole thing could fall into the sea tomorrow and nothing of value would be lost, John Donne notwithstanding. If Malik found that reading Dawkins’s twits hashed her Eid mellow, there’s an obvious solution.

In conclusion: the only legitimate use of Twitter is to link to blog posts. Get off my lawn.

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  1. Though this comment seems to be a counterpoint to that 

  2. Believers like point to bits of their scripture and claim that verse is, if you use the eye of faith and squint a bit, actually a correct scientific statement that the authors could not possibly have known by mundane means, which proves that God revealed it. Oddly, God did not see fit to reveal that germs cause disease. 

  3. If you’re in Internet social justice fandom, you carefully avoid saying “Jones is a racist”, rather, you say “Jones said X, and X is a racist statement”: it’s like the “hate the sin, love the sinner” thing I remember from my evangelical days. While the evangelicals and social justice fans are rightly trying to avoid ad hom arguments or giving the impression that they are not themselves sinners, I think the two share the same difficulties. 

  4. The jargon for that sort of taunt is “fatwa envy”

Link blog: de-conversion, shopping, psychology, dawkins

deconversion | Black, White and Gray
Some Christian sociologists did some research into why people leave, by looking at 50 de-conversion “testimonies”. Results: intellectual problems (hell, suffering, reliability of the Bible); God’s failure to answer prayer; other Christians responding to doubt in trite or unhelpful ways. Contact with unbelievers wasn’t often cited as a cause of de-conversion.
(tags: psychology de-conversion christianity religion sociology)
I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave | Mother Jones
“My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine.”
(tags: economics work warehouse poverty shopping shipping online amazon)
Why Richard Dawkins is still an atheist – Guest Voices – The Washington Post
Paula Kirby on the recent “Dawkins admits he’s an agnostic!” stories following his debate with Cuddly Rowan Bear. “Religious commentators have become so excited at the thought of his conversion that I almost don’t have the heart to break it to them that he said nothing in Thursday’s discussion that he hadn’t already said six years ago in “The God Delusion””
(tags: the god delusion religion agnosticism paula-kirby richard-dawkins dawkins atheism)
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Link blog: christianity, richard-dawkins, philosophy, dawkins

What is the proper place for religion in Britain’s public life? | World news | The Observer
An exchange between Dawkins and Will Hutton. D: “That doesn’t mean religious people shouldn’t advocate their religion. So long as they are not granted privileged power to do so (which at present they are) of course they should. And the rest of us should be free to argue against them. But of all arguments out there, arguments against religion are almost uniquely branded “intolerant”. When you put a cogent and trenchant argument against the government’s economic policy, nobody would call you “intolerant” of the Tories. But when an atheist does the same against a religion, that’s intolerance. Why the double standard? Do you really want to privilege religious ideas by granting them unique immunity against reasoned argument?”
(tags: uk secularism politics religion dawkins richard-dawkins will-hutton)
The Sins of the Fathers – Richard Dawkins – RichardDawkins.net – RichardDawkins.net
Dawkins sez: “Yesterday evening I was telephoned by a reporter who announced himself as Adam Lusher from the Sunday Telegraph. At the end of a week of successfully rattling cages, I was ready for yet another smear or diversionary tactic of some kind, but in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the surreal form this one was to take. I obviously can’t repeat what was said word-for-word (my poor recall of long strings of words has this week been highly advertised), and I may get the order of the points wrong, but this is approximately how the conversation went.” Lusher says Dawkins’s ancestors owned slaves and wonders whether D will make reparations. Bizarre and desperate.
(tags: adam-lusher slavery dawkins richard-dawkins journalism newspapers telegraph)
Stephen Law vs. William Lane Craig Debate: Argument map » » The Polemical MedicThe Polemical Medic
“there’s lots of debate over who won the Law/Craig debate. Instead of joining that, I though I’d do something niftier: I’ve mapped the whole of the debate in argument form, to give a more intuitive way of seeing how all the arguments and objections interact”. This is excellent stuff.
(tags: religion theodicy philosophy christianity atheism debate william-lane-craig stephen-law)
Evangelism, disbelief, and being ‘without excuse’ » » The Polemical MedicThe Polemical Medic
“Christians who indulge in evangelism and apologetics often hold to a thesis of disbelief as epistemic pathology – that disbelief is the result of some culpable error of judgment. Such an attitude is a poor fit for the facts and counter productive to the cause of evangelism. Ironically, the urge of these people to pathologize disagreement is diagnostic of their own epistemic pathology.” I’ve mentioned this attitude (inspired by Romans 1) before: Thrasymachus neatly dissects it.
(tags: philosophy epistemology christianity religion apologetics evangelicalism evangelism)
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Link blog: culture, university, programming, atheism

Project Euler

“Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.”
(tags: puzzles maths mathematics programming)

Science, Reason and Critical Thinking: How to replace the School ICT Curriculum

10 PRINT “PAUL IS SKILL”
20 GOTO 10

The undeniable fact and its inescapable consequence | Alethian Worldview

“The undeniable fact is this: God does not show up in the real world, not visibly, not audibly, not tangibly, not for you, not for me, not for saint or for sinner or for seeker. … the inescapable consequence is that we have no alternative but to put our faith in men rather than in God. … When men say things on God’s behalf, and make promises that God is supposed to keep, the word they tell you is the word of men, not the word of God. That’s true even if what men say is, “This is the word of God.” They’re not giving you God’s word, they’re giving you man’s word about God’s word (or at least what they claim is God’s word). Sure, you can believe what men tell you about God if you like, but if you do, you are putting your faith in men. Before you can have faith in God, God has to show up, in person, to tell you directly the things He wants you to have faith in. Otherwise it’s just faith in men.”
(tags: deacon-duncan religion atheism)

I Am An Atheist: 16 Things Atheists Need Christians to Know

Some only relevant to Americans, but there are some good general points.
(tags: lists religion christianity atheism)

Atheists face Muslim-led censorship from UCL Union

The atheist society at UCL posted a Jesus and Mo cartoon as the image accompanying their Facebook event. One Muslim objected as the cartoon depicts Mohammed in a pub (what the Muslim was doing looking at the Facebook page for an atheist event isn’t clear). The UCL student union got a complaint from someone and asked them to take it down. They refused. The story got picked up by atheist blogs and Dawkins Our Leader and hence the newspapers. The union backed down though there’s still the vague threat in the air that the atheist soc might be guilty of bullying or harassment.

Hopefully the media attention has put the fear of God into the Union and they won’t be so silly in future. Muslims do not have the right not to be offended.
(tags: richard-dawkins dawkins ucl university censorship religion islam)

Bash Tips for Power Users

I didn’t know about the “fc” command. Nice.
(tags: programming shell unix linux bash)

Twilight: The Use of Sparkle

If Iain M. Banks had written Twilight. Funny, even though I’ve never read/seen any Twilight.
(tags: parody twilight iain-m-banks sf science-fiction sci-fi culture books)

So who is good enough to get into Cambridge? | Education | The Guardian

Guardian reporter sits in on admissions meetings at my old college. Inevitably, the photo with the story is of King’s, because it’s prettier than Churchill.
(tags: churchill cambridge-university university education cambridge)

Fat Acceptance Movement. || kuro5hin.org

kuro5hin is still alive: who knew? Anyway, this is a recent Diary entry from HollyHopDrive who discovered a bunch of Fat Acceptance blogs while looking for fitness information. Her division of what she found into stuff she agrees with and bullshit looks sound.
(tags: medicine health fat)

The Americanization of Mental Illness – NYTimes.com

The expression of mental illness is cultural: anorexia was more or less introduced to Hong Kong by newspaper articles. A view in which mental illness is caused by brain problems rather than childhood experiences or demons actually makes people less sympathetic to those with mental illness, because they’re perceived as being unfixable.
(tags: anorexia schizophrenia culture science psychiatry psychology)
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Link blog: funny, sally-morgan, murder, jo-yeates

A Much More Exotic – The bad kind of murder

“A call to restrict porn is, in effect, a call for more women to be murdered. It’s a good thing we have a government that’s not afraid to take tough decisions.

Starting next week, this LJ account will be syndicated on Comment is Free and Feministing.”
(tags: porn rape murder jo-yeates media guardian satire)

Testing psychics « Derren Brown Blog

Derren Brown carefully avoids libelling Sally Morgan while pointing out that, well, all the other psychics were frauds…
(tags: derren-brown psychics woo woo-woo simon-singh sally-morgan sally morgan)

A suggestion for Dr. Dawkins | Alethian Worldview

‘Dr. Dawkins should challenge God to a debate. There should be an empty chair on a stage somewhere, and Dawkins should stand up beside it and say, “Well then, I believe that according to William Lane Craig’s rules of engagement, I am now entitled to declare that God is afraid to face me because He knows He’s wrong.”’
(tags: funny religion richard-dawkins william-lane-craig debate god)
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Link blog: william-lane-craig, richard-dawkins, debate, philosophy

Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig | Richard Dawkins | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Dawkins now says he won’t debate with Craig because Craig defends the genocide of the Canaanites in the Old Testament. Craig’s views, like those of other evangelicals who share them, are pretty odious, but I don’t quite see why that means Dawkins should not debate with Craig: “no platform” principles are there so people can’t put forward their odious views, but a debate on the existence of God isn’t likely to revolve around what God did to the Canaanites. I think I’d just prefer to say “Craig is a better public speaker, I’d lose” and offer to debate in written form.
(tags: richard-dawkins william-lane-craig debate religion philosophy)
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Link blog: funny, evolution, dawkins, dancing

Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim schools for stuffing children’s minds with ‘alien rubbish’ – Telegraph

“He said that while he opposed faith schools as a whole, it was the Muslim ones that worried him the most.” That seems reasonable: the C of E schools are mostly harmless, as far as I can tell: they accept evolution and don’t examine the consequences for Christian doctrine too carefully.
(tags: evolution religon islam richard-dawkins dawkins education schools)

Religious People Are Nerds – YouTube

Following on from my post about how religion is a fandom, here are some more interesting parallels.
(tags: religion nerds fandom hobby funny)

Strictly Come Dancing! | Woruld under wolcnum

“Some exciting factoids from my trip to be in the Strictly studio audience (in no particular order!)”
(tags: television tv dancing)
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Link blog: atheism, meme, sam-harris, politics

New Statesman – Faith no more

"Earlier this year, Andrew Zak Williams asked public figures why they believe in God. Now it’s the turn of the atheists – from A C Grayling to P Z Myers – to explain why they don’t "
(tags: atheism richard-dawkins philip-pullman daniel-dennett sam-harris)

Pompous Theist

You've seen Advice Dog and Courage Wolf, now enjoy Pompous Theist. Well observed stuff: I've seen quite a few of these "arguments" in my time.
(tags: atheism meme funny humour theism religion)

“Shut Up, Rich Boy”: The Problem With “Privilege.” | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

"I’m a feminist writer, but I don’t like to use the word “privilege” in my writing. Here’s why not:"
(tags: feminism privilege)

Why Have Hackers Hit Russia’s Most Popular Blogging Service? – TIME

Where LJ has been the past week or so. For once, it's not their fault.
(tags: internet security livejournal politics ddos)
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Link blog: uk, anglican, new-atheism, anglicanism

Paul Haggis Vs. the Church of Scientology : The New Yorker

Just in case you were in any doubt that Scientology is a massive con.
(tags: religion scientology cult)

Clergy told to take on the ‘new atheists’ – Telegraph

The Archdruid is going to fight the Dawkinsator. This will be epic.
(tags: atheism uk anglicanism anglican cofe rowan-williams new-atheism richard-dawkins)

What “socalized healthcare” is really like

Not perfect, but pretty good at treating urgent stuff.
(tags: uk nhs health medicine)

Terry Jones Adapting Good Omens Into A TV Series Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors

Should be good, if it happens.
(tags: terry-pratchett pratchett neil-gaiman books television fantasy)

On ableist language

Why you shouldn't call the Conservative cuts "crazy". I found this very helpful.
(tags: satire identity-politics disability politics)
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