2011

YouTube – ‪Game of Thrones Violin Cover‬‏

This is rather nice.
(tags: music violin game-of-thrones)

YouTube – ‪Lara plays the Game of Thrones theme on piano and violin‬‏

Another nice version of the theme, via andrewducker.
(tags: music game-of-thrones tv)

The Real Life Social Network v2

Via andrewducker,a great presentation from Paul Adams at Google which goes some way to explaining the design of Google Plus.
(tags: internet facebook privacy relationships google social social-networks plus)

How to Talk to a Fundamentalist (If You Must)

Former fundie talks about how her uncle convinced her by asking questions, preventing the whole cached thought/semantic stop sign thing, and showing how alternative ways of living can be fulfilling.
(tags: fundamentalism religion quiverfull debate)

Nick Davies on phone hacking, Murdoch and News of the World – video | Media | guardian.co.uk

The investigative journalist Nick Davies on how the phone-hacking scandal has escalated, leading to News of the World's announced closure.
(tags: video law press news-of-the-world nick-davies murdoch)

Unequally Yoked: Guestblogging Challenge: Take the Ideological Turing Test!

A suggestion: if you want to show that you understand the other side's position, test whether you can be distinguished from a genuine advocate of that position in a suitably anonymous test.
(tags: philosophy debate turing)

Theodicy: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Nice metaphor for "solutions" to the Problem of Evil.
(tags: theodicy philosophy comic religion)

Distinguish – Butterflies and Wheels

Ophelia Benson on the Geert Wilders thing: "Nobody should be required to love Islam."
(tags: islam geert-wilders religion)

A field guide to bullshit – opinion – 13 June 2011 – New Scientist

"How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies." A bit similar to my Bad Arguments stuff: Law has "everything is based on faith" as the so-called "nuclear option". An interesting article, might buy the book he's plugging.
(tags: religion science empiricism sceptism philosophy new-age)

Atheism Is the True Embrace of Reality – Paula Kirby – The Hibernia Times – RichardDawkins.net

Paula Kirby is a Scottish freelance journalist who used to be a Christian. She recently wrote a couple of good short articles on why she isn't one any more.
(tags: paula-kirby atheism religion)

Virtual currency: Bits and bob | The Economist

Bitcoin is a distributed digital currency, which hit the news recently after someone set up a site where you could buy illegal drugs using it. This Economist article is a great introduction to how it works.
(tags: cryptography economics bitcoin economist internet)

Charlie Brooker: Why idolise footballers? It’s like living in a world where half of us worship shire horses | Comment is free | The Guardian

"It's like living in a world in which half the population has inexplicably decided to worship shire horses. But as if that wasn't strange enough, they're not content to simply admire the animals' ability to pull brewery wagons: they also want to know what the horses get up to back at the stables. And when Dobbin goes on a hay-eating binge, or tries to mount a donkey, not only will they voraciously read all about it, they'll judge him for it."
(tags: charlie-brooker football injunction)

YouTube – Tim Minchin’s Storm the Animated Movie

Tim Minchin's beat poem about New Age bullshit has an official animation to accompany it. I'd not seen it before: thanks to gjm11 for linking to it.
(tags: funny religion new-age science)

The Daily Mash – Biblical apocalypse leaves much of Britain unchanged

Mother-to-two Emma Bradford lives in Penzance, where a horde of creatures straight out of the painting Garden of Earthly Delights is on a bloody rampage.
She said: "They're scaly and bulbous-headed and they soil the streets with their demon fire-piss.
"And then they have a kebab."
(tags: funny rapture religion uk)

The Blog : Morality Without “Free Will” : Sam Harris

Sam Harris asks how the neuroscience of free will, or the lack of free will, should affect moral questions. I don't think people have libertarian free will, so it's nice to see Harris arguing that this doesn't mean an end to morality.
(tags: sam-harris free-will morality philosophy neuroscience)

Honolulu Magazine | The Secret Life of Storage Units in Honolulu

What people do with their storage lockers. Including running a business from them…
(tags: storage culture housing)

The Reason We Reason | Wired Science | Wired.com

"new theory of reasoning put forth by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. In essence, they argue that human reason has nothing to do with finding the truth, or locating the best alternative. Instead, it’s all about being able to argue with others" And that's why we have confirmation bias. There's some dialogue in the comments about how it's not as hopeless as it may sound.
(tags: science psychology research cognition rationality brain bias)

YouTube – Roll a D6

Just in case there's anyone who hasn't seen this yet…
(tags: video youtube music dungeons-and-dragons roleplaying)

Savage Love by Dan Savage – Columns – Savage Love – Dan Savage – The Stranger, Seattle’s Only Newspaper

Excellent sex advice columnist Dan Savage responds to criticisms that he advocates an "anything goes" approach to sex at the expense of fidelity.
(tags: sex dan-savage advice marriage monogamy)

What Do Women Want? – Discovering What Ignites Female Desire – NYTimes.com

Interesting stuff on the differences between male and female sexual responses.
(tags: sex psychology women science)

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science | Mother Jones

"How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link." Amusing for the number of comments which say "But vaccines really do cause autism" etc. etc.
(tags: science psychology belief neuroscience rationality bias)

Here’s what I currently think about morality. Perhaps the pros in the audience can tell me whether this has a name.

It is very hard to come up with a general theory about what makes something right which isn’t open to objections based on hard cases where the theory contradicts our intuitions (consider the dust speck problem if you’re a utilitarian; or the thought that God might command us to eat babies, if you’re a believer in Divine Command Theory). Russell Blackford says:

I’ve seen many attempts to get around the problem with morality – that it cannot possibly be everything that it is widely thought to be (action guiding, intrinsically prescriptive, objectively correct, etc.). In my experience, this is like trying to get rid of the bump in the carpet. The bump always pops up somewhere else. We have to live with it.

Call something an “intuition” if it’s something we just seem to feel is true. Perhaps there’s no empirical evidence for it, perhaps it even doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing there could be empirical evidence for. There’s a question of whether intuitions are reliable, but since one of the things we want from a theory is that it seems compelling, and the abovementioned problems with the conflict of theory and intuitions typically result in us not finding the theory compelling, a successful theory seems to involve satisfying our intuitions (or at least, our meta-intuitions, the means by which we can change some of our intuitions, since there are convinced utilitarians who really believe in torture over dust specks, Divine Command Theorists who believe God can justly command genocide, and so on).

In the case of free standing feelings that we ought to do something regardless of other benefits to us (assuming that such feelings exist and aren’t always just concealed desires for our own benefit, for example, the pleasure we get by doing good), it seems that our upbringing or genes have gifted us with these goals (even in the case of the pleasure, something has arranged it so that doing good feels pleasurable to us).

Assuming that we could work out any particular person’s process for deciding whether something is right, we could possibly present it to them and say “there you go, that’s morality, at least as far as you’re concerned”. There’s the amusing possibility that they’d disagree, I suppose, since I think a lot of the process isn’t consciously available to us. I think the carpet bump occurs at least in part because the typical human process is a lot more complex than any of the grand philosophical theories make it out to be.

We might also encounter people who disagree with us but are persuadable based on intuitions common to most humans, humans who aren’t persuadable, human sociopaths, or (theoretically) paperclip maximizers. In the cases where someone else’s morality is so alien that we cannot persuade them that it’d be bad to kill people for fun or turn the Earth and all that it contains into a collection of paperclips, we can still think they ought not to do that, but it doesn’t really do us much good unless we can enforce it somehow. I see no reason to suppose there’s a universal solvent, a way of persuading any rational mind that it ought to do something independent of threats of enforcement.

And that’s about it: when I say you ought or ought not to do something, I’m appealing to intuitions I hope we have in common, or possibly making a veiled threat or promise of reward. This works because it turns out that many humans do have a lot in common, especially if we were raised in similar cultures. But there’s no reason to suppose there’s more to it than that, moral laws floating around in a Platonic space or being grounded by God, or similar.

I don’t find that this gives me much trouble in using moral language like “right” and “wrong”, though to the extent that other people use those terms while thinking that there are rights and wrongs floating around in Platonic space which would compel any reasoning mind, I’m kind of an error theorist, I suppose, but I don’t suppose that everyone does do that.

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: On moral evaluations

Blackford points out that morality doesn't require anything spooky or metaphysical to be rational and non-arbitrary, so long as we're prepared to accept that "[w]hatever judgments we make do not compel all comers, regardless of their desire-sets, to act one way or another on pain of making a mistake about the world or something of the sort."
(tags: philosophy morality ethics error-theory mackie russell-blackford)

“Have friends who are atheists? Agnostics? Into Wicca? Or New Age?”

Mefi discovers "Dare2Share", which is one of those worldview based Christian evangelism things where they're training Christians to understand other people's worldviews (which is good) as a preamble to converting them to Christianity (which would be bad). I've linked to Mefi rather than the site itself as the Mefites discussion is interesting. The site has cutesy names for their examplars, like "Willow the Wiccan" and "Andy the Atheist", so the Mefi crowd have come up with a few of their own.
(tags: metafilter apologetics christianity evangelism worldview)

New Statesman – The bugger, bugged

"After a chance meeting with a former News of the World executive who told him his phone had been hacked, Hugh Grant couldn’t resist going back to him – with a hidden tape recorder – to find out if there was more to the story . . . " Coppers taking backhanders from journos, oh my. No wonder the Met dragged their feet about the phone hacking case.
(tags: news journalism crime phones privacy surveillance police hugh-grant hacking)

Scientism « Why Evolution Is True

Jerry Coyne: "when used as a derogatory adjective, “scientism” means this:

the practice of applying rationality and standards of evidence to faith.

For religious people and accommodationists, that practice is a no-no. That’s why the adjective is pejorative."

I think there is something which we could validly call "scientism", namely the belief that science can answer all our questions, or that all questions reduce to scientific ones, or something. However, Coyne's point stands: "scientism" is often code for "how dare you ask us for evidence?"
(tags: scientism science religion jerry-coyne)