2011

Times Higher Education – Divine irony

Blackburn’s summary of Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”.
(tags: simon-blackburn david-hume hume history religion philosophy atheism)

A Christmas Cracker

“On 16 December 1893, when Parliament had been in continuous session for 11 months and it had been announced that members would have only four daysě°˝€™ recess for Christmasě°˝€”Mr Gladstone received a letter in a neat but childish hand, written on ruled paper, from the infant son of the Earl of Pembroke.”
(tags: parliament history funny politics)

Good Minus God: The Moral Atheist – NYTimes.com

Louise M. Antony writes a reasonable introduction to the idea that being an atheist does not lead to moral nihilism. Mentions the Euthyphro dilemma but doesn’t deal directly with apologetical responses about “God’s nature” (but then we’ve dealt with those here before, I think).
(tags: Euthyphro morality ethics philosophy religion atheism)

Of Hume and Bondage – NYTimes.com

Simon Blackburn defends Hume from some sillier criticisms, and wonders what philosophy is for.
(tags: simon-blackburn hume david-hume philosophy)

Talking Philosophy | Religion and science: the issue that won’t go away

This is great, and has productive discussion in the comments too. Subscribed!

“Recall that the rise of science did not subtract from our pre-existing resources for investigating the world. Rather, it added to them; and the old pragmatic and scholarly methods and the new, distinctively scientific, ones can always be used together in any given case. We need to know whether such claims as that Jesus rose from the dead and that the universe was created by God are plausible when set against what we know overall about how the world works, both through methods that we could have employed anyway and through the distinctive methods developed by science.

When the question is framed like that, surely we don’t think that these claims come under no pressure at all from our best empirical investigations of the world?”
(tags: resurrection russell-blackford philosophy science religion)

Islam and “Islamophobia” – a little manifesto

“The extreme right benefits from the availability of politically respectable criticisms of Islamic thought and associated cultural practices. As this goes on, there is a risk that the word “Islamophobia” will be used to demonize and intimidate individuals whose hostility to Islam is genuinely based on what they perceive as its faults. In particular, we should remember that Islam contains ideas, and in a liberal democracy ideas are fair targets for criticism or repudiation. … After all, there are reasons why extreme-right organizations have borrowed arguments based on feminism and secularism. These arguments are useful precisely because they have an intellectual and emotional appeal independent of their convenience to extreme-right opportunists.”
(tags: islamophobia politics religion islam)

All things to all people, but Christmas is … people – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A very human Christmas to you all 🙂
(tags: religion christmas)

Scientific presuppositions and the supernatural « Just Another Deisidaimon

Konrad Talmont-Kaminski on the metaphysical/methodological naturalism distinction, which he thinks is a distortion of actual naturalist views: “it effectively assumes the primacy of ontology over epistemology… assumes that to understand science one must begin with the ontology of science. This is very much understandable from the point of view of someone who was brought up on a Christian religion that is presented as having its basis in a number of ontological claims that must be taken as true. It is also a profound misunderstanding of what science is. It would be better to think of science in terms of various methods that are used to investigate the world. The scientific ontology is an a posteriori result of the application of those methods to the world. To put it in other terms again, ontological naturalism is the a posteriori result of accepting epistemic naturalism. Yet, even that is not quite right as it suggests that science can be identified in terms of some set of methods.”
(tags: philosophy science religion epistemology naturalism)

Infant male circumcision is genital mutilation | Martin Robbins | Science | guardian.co.uk

“Men should have the right to choose circumcision, not have the choice forced upon them. Infant circumcision without consent or immediate medical justification is an unjustified violation of basic human rights, that shares more in common with ancient coming-of-age rituals than responsible medical practice.” Seems fair enough to me: the only reason we permit this is because of the common error of “respecting” religious opinions.
(tags: circumcision medicine surgery genital-mutilation religion science)

How Doctors Die « Zócalo Public Square

Doctors are better at making end of life choices for themselves than they are for their patients, as they’re often hamstrung by patients, families and “the system”.
(tags: death medicine health healthcare ethics dying doctors medical)

richardpowers.com

“Richard has been teaching contemporary and historic social dance for over thirty years. He leads workshops around the world and is currently a full-time instructor at Stanford University’s Dance Division.” Some interesting stuff on teaching, DJing and whatnot.
(tags: dance swing waltz dancing ballroom lindyhop stanford)

Open letter to Bell Pottinger | Bloggerheads

PR firm Bell Pottinger has been editing Wikipedia articles using fake accounts on behalf of their rather unsavoury clientele. When caught out, they responded that they’d done nothing illegal. Great public relations there, chaps.
(tags: astroturfing bellpottinger wikipedia lobbying uk news public-relations)

King Under The Mountain: Soundtrack and Adventure Log

Someone actually ran a Dungeons and Discourse game (see the Dresden Codak cartoon). This is what happened. “In the middle of the Cartesian Plain at the confluence of the rivers Ordinate and Abcissa stands the mightiest of all, the imperial city of Origin. At the very center of the city stands the infinitely tall Z-Axis Tower, on whose bottom floor lives the all-seeing Wizard of 0=Z.”
(tags: betrand-russell philosophy roleplaying dungeons-and-dragons funny)

Cow Clicker Founder: If You Can’t Ruin It, Destroy It : NPR

Bloke makes spoof Facebook game to mock the grinding required by Facebook games. Facebook users play it for real.
(tags: games zynga facebook cow psychology)

Embedded in Academia : Nine ways to break your systems code using volatile

“The volatile qualifier in C/C++ is a little bit like the C preprocessor: an ugly, blunt tool that is easy to misuse but that — in a very narrow set of circumstances — gets the job done. This article will first briefly explain volatile and its history and then, through a series of examples about how not to use it, explain how to most effectively create correct systems software using volatile. Although this article focuses on C, almost everything in it also applies to C++.” Relevant to my interests as compilers get cleverer about re-ordering.
(tags: volatile embedded programming C threads multicore memory-model)

Ask Chris #81: Scooby-Doo and Secular Humanism – ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews

“On Scooby-Doo, do you prefer the monsters to be real or people in costumes?”
(tags: scooby doo rationality)

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin | Magazine

Whatever happened to Bitcoin? Via Andrewducker.
(tags: bitcoin currency money economics wired crypto cryptography)

Boys’ brains, girls’ brains: How to think about sex differences in psychology. – Slate Magazine

“Fear of sexism has produced a bias against conceding sex differences, which gets in the way of frank discussion and investigation.” “Beware any explanation that relies on a single factor. Hormones matter, but so does socialization.” “The fishy part of neuroscience isn’t the data. It’s the spin we put on the data in the guise of explanation.”
(tags: gender neuroscience psychology feminism)

How Much Religion Should You Expose Your Children To? | Friendly Atheist

Tycho and Gabe talking about what they should teach their kids about religion. Interesting that Gabe (who’s son is also called Gabe) is a vague theist but didn’t want to pass on much formal religion to his son, but Tycho (an atheist) thought the kid should know about the Bible.
(tags: atheism religion bible penny-arcade children)

Strange Horizons Fiction: Tomorrow is Waiting, by Holli Mintzer

A short science fiction story about the Muppets. Heartwarming stuff. Via Sumana.
(tags: sci-fi science-fiction muppets ai)

The Social Graph is Neither (Pinboard Blog)

The guy who single handedly runs Pinboard writing about Facebook and social stuff.
(tags: socialgraph social facebook graph pinboard relationships)

The Marvels And The Flaws Of Intuitive Thinking Edge Master Class 2011 | Conversation | Edge

The Edge also did a feature on Kahneman a while back. Here it is, with more examples of ways in which our thinking fails, but also things we can do which we’re finding difficult to program computers to do.
(tags: psychology intuition daniel-kahneman cognition cognitive-bias rationality)

Michael Lewis on the King of Human Error | Business | Vanity Fair

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky did ground breaking work on cognitive biases: the ways in which human thinking systematically fails. Fascinating article. Via andrewducker.
(tags: psychology rationality bias cognition cognitive-bias daniel-kahneman amos-tversky)

Requests: HTTP for Humans — Requests 0.8.0 documentation

An HTTP library for Python that’s less awful than urllib2. Hopefully someone will add it to the standard library at some point. Via Leonard Richardson.
(tags: python http library requests programming)

I kveld med YLVIS – «Stonehenge» – YouTube

This is epic.
(tags: video funny stonehenge)

Index of /nelhage/Public/condition-echo-blueshift/case-nightmare-green

Someone’s LARP rules for a game based on Charles Stross’s Laundry books.
(tags: laundry roleplaying charles-stross horror cthulhu larp)

Arthur Recreates Scenes from Classic Movies

So cute! I like the Close Encounters one.
(tags: funny baby movies cinema pictures)

Stöwer TitanicSo, I’ve been looking into ways of running a “proper” blog, and I’ve come down to PyBlosxom or WordPress. In either case, I’ll get my own hosting for it.

Advantages of PyBlosxom over WordPress:

  • Keeps entries in text files. I fear databases.
  • Seems to have a better security record than WordPress.
  • In Python, so hackable and I’d feel I’d have some hope of understanding what it’s doing (WordPress is in PHP).

Advantages of WordPress over PyBlosxom:

  • Very active developer community, so lots of nice plugins. (PyBlosxom isn’t abandoned but doesn’t have so many people working on it).
  • More themes, some of which are pretty (PyBlosxom has a few themes in their repository, none of which are that pretty).

Anyone who’s used either of those care to comment?

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)

A thing I found while investigating how to get journal backups going again in the wake of LJ’s most recent debacle:

A while back, geeks kept saying that LiveJournal should be Usenet news, that is, instead of mucking about with all the tedious web forum stuff, it’d be nice to have a program which let you read comments and entries, kept track of threading and which comments you’d already read, and so on (remembering what you’ve read on LJ was the motivation for my LJ New Comments script, but that doesn’t avoid LJ’s clunky interface).

This was tricky as there was no obvious way to get all the comments from an entry. There was the old comment export thing, but that only works on your own journal. You could “screen scrape” with a program that tried to pull the comments from the human-readable versions of LJ’s pages, but that’s considered rude because of the load it’d put on LJ’s server, and it’s fragile as it might break if LJ changes the human-readable output.

Luckily, LJ added a bunch of new stuff to its existing interface for “clients” (programs which access LJ, like Semagic). This includes the getcomments method, which allows you to get all the comments on any entry you can see.

Add this to the existing machine-readable stuff (Atom feeds, getfriendspage) and you could probably write either a client specific for LJ (the iPhone client is the reason LJ added the getcomments method, by the looks of it) or a proxy to turn the whole thing into NNTP and let you use conventional Usenet clients. Who’s first?

(Personally, I still plan to be off once I can actually back up this journal, including the comments of my esteemed readers. But I won’t stop reading, so this would be a nifty toy even for me.)

Edit: another thing this allows is third parties offering comment feeds of your journal: someone could write a thing which turned the comments from an LJ entry into an Atom feed. Real blogs have these, so LJ could too.