- Hegemonic Heterosexuality
- “hegemonic heterosexuality is the vast cultural conspiracy to describe all heterosexual relationships as the unending war between stupid people and crazy people.” Good observation of the view of the world promoted by TV and film. Via auntysarah.
(tags: psychology relationships sex)
- The Apologist’s Turnstile
- “the idea that no particular level of knowledge is needed to assent to a religion, but an impossibly, unattainably high level of knowledge and expertise is needed to deny it. In the minds of many believers, the entrance to their religion is like a subway turnstile: a barrier that only allows people to pass through in one direction.”
(tags: apologist epistemology religion atheism)
- Cancer is just as deadly as it was 50 years ago. Here’s why that’s about to change.
- “We spoke to cancer experts to find out why the death rate from cancer hasn’t changed in the past 50 years — and we learned how genetic therapies could transform cancer treatments tomorrow.”
(tags: medicine biology science genetics cancer)
- How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism – Maarten Boudry
- “In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the supernatural (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science. (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative.”
(tags: creationism intelligent-design religion science naturalism philosophy)
- Unexpurgated atheist FAQ
- At last, it can be told! Via andrewducker.
(tags: faq funny religion atheism parody)
- synecdochic: the Megaupload indictment, in detail; or, a crash course in the DMCA and why they’re totally fucked
- Why Megaupload are doomed, and some interesting stuff about the DMCA. Via andrewducker.
(tags: internet law DMCA copyright megaupload)
- YCRFS 9: Kill Hollywood
- “Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.” Y Combinator requests that startups come up with ways to kill Hollywood.
(tags: internet startups technology sopa hollywood ycombinator)
- A Positive Account of Property Rights
- Vladmir M on Lesswrong linked to this as a good explanation of what Schelling points are. It’s also an interesting theory about how property rights could arise out of a Hobbesian state of nature, although I’m not familiar enough with the literature to know whether that part of it makes any obvious errors.
(tags: game theory philosophy Hobbes Schelling politics Friedman economics)
- Alex Gabriel // LSE’s student union copy UCL’s
- More on the LSE nonsense: “Essentially, a large of group of Muslim students felt offended that there were pictures of Mohammed on the facebook group. As a result, they felt that our facebook group was no longer a ‘safe space’ for Muslims.” Alex Gabriel points out that the Facebook group in question is a closed one, and certainly not what you’d expect to be a “safe space” for Muslims. It would certainly be crass for a student atheist group to put that cartoon on posters, say, but complaining about a closed Facebook group is just whining for the sake of it.
(tags: lse university freedom religion politics islam)
- LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society say giving offence is no crime
- More student unions and offended Muslims vs atheists, this time at LSE. “Ms Bartle commented, ‘There has been too much conflation recently of being offended and being intimidated, with the implication being that they are equivalent. Such an assumption is a potential threat to free speech and free debate, and we are concerned to address this underlying problem in the long term.’”
This time, it’s about the LSE atheists putting a cartoon on their Facebook page. Again, why are the Muslims looking at it? Very strange.
- Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice in America : The New Yorker
- Astonishing (and worrying that it’s apparently so easy for British people to be extradited to the US).
(tags: america law crime politics prison)
- The New French Hacker-Artist Underground | Magazine
- “There is no law in France, it turns out, against the improvement of clocks.” Fascinating stuff. Via mefi.
(tags: restoration tunnels underground activism france paris pantheon)
- When people ask why I have a problem with religion, it’s hard to come up with a single answer… – Imgur
- (tags: christianity islam religion)
- Worrying developments for freedom of expression in the UK – Various – Various – RichardDawkins.net
- “This thread combines a number of examples where atheists, humanists and/or secularists have been threatened or coerced into silence, both by Muslims and by institutions or other groups apparently subscribing to the view that ‘If someone believes it, you must respect it’. All these examples have happened in the UK in the course of the last week or so. … But the key thing to note in all these cases is that it is no longer just the religious who would inhibit our freedom of expression: increasingly, secular bodies are buying into this invidious idea too, all in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘community relations’ or ‘respect’.”
Fuck it, I’m joining the EDL.
Just kidding, I don’t have the beer belly or the conviction for football hooliganism and I’ve never seen a “Muslamic raygun”. Still, it is alarming to see these things happening in Britain. Who are the reasonable opposition? Can’t leave something that important to the Nazis.
(tags: sharia speech freedom islamism uk islam)
- Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship … with reality | Unreasonable Faith
- A summary of blogged responses to that “I hate religion but love Jesus” video that’s been doing the rounds. I made a comment at the bottom. Also good for the comment thread on Atheismo, the diety for atheists.
(tags: relationship with god video atheism religion)
- Driscoll & Brierley on Women in Leadership « Cognitive Discopants
- Well known complementarian and fan of big strong manly men, Mark Driscoll, recently did an interview with Justin Brierley of Premier Christian Radio. Driscoll came out with a few choice quotes about Christians in the UK (“guys in dresses preaching to grandmas”).
He then had a go at Brierley for going to a church run by a woman (Brierley’s wife!) and not believing in penal substitutionary atonement and eternal conscious torment in Hell (Brierley is an annihilationist: we unsaved will be told off and then vapourised rather then being tortured forever). Fun times.
(tags: homosexuality premier christian radio complementarianism mark-driscoll religion church mark driscoll christianity women sexism markdriscoll)
- The Rise of the New Groupthink – NYTimes.com
- “Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in.
But there’s a problem with this view. Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”
(tags: flow solitude groupthink team office work creativity)
- 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)
I’ve been commenting in other places. You might be interested in where:
The Evil God Challenge
Stephen Law’s Evil God Challenge is a new take on the problem of evil. The challenge is to ask theists why it’s more reasonable to believe that there’s a good God (accepting the standard theodicies for the problem of evil) than it is to believe there’s an evil God (accepting flipped theodicies, for example, that evil God created us with free will so that we could freely choose to do evil).
Law has been dealing with responses to this challenge ever since his debate with William Lane Craig. On his blog, he mentions a conversation with Glenn Peoples. That blog entry attracted a few comments, so I joined in.
What does good mean?
There’s been a lot of chat about just what Law means by good or evil, how this is “grounded” and so on, as theists often want to say you cannot have meaningful morality if there’s no God (there’s no reason to suppose this is true, as far as I can tell, but it’s psychologically appealing even to atheists). Law says he’s using the terms in a “pre-theoretic” sense (I suspect because he doesn’t want the whole thing to turn into an argument about meta-ethics). Interestingly, I found a quote from Craig which says that theists shouldn’t argue that atheists can’t meaningfully use moral vocabulary, so I commented on that: it seems perfectly reasonable to use terms like (morally) good in the common sense way, or to point to cases like gratuitous suffering and call those evil (in fact, Law says he can make his challenge about suffering rather then morality: the challenge is then why it’s reasonable to believe there’s a God who doesn’t want us to suffer unnecessarily, I guess).
I’ve also been responding to some comments by someone called BenYachov. He’s been arguing that if you believe in the God of Thomas Aquinas (which apparently is the official God of the Catholic church), Law’s challenge won’t faze you. I was trying to tease out why. BenYachov claims that God “grounds” moral goodness but isn’t himself a moral agent (a moral agent being something which is capable of acting on moral considerations). As Thomist God is not a moral agent, he cannot be said to be morally good or morally evil. Nevertheless, he is still Good in some sense related to “grounding” all goods and being perfect (the Thomists seem to like to use lots of Capital Letters for Significant Concepts).
I wondered at this Thomist God’s “goodness” if it means nothing like moral goodness. I went on to say that this God is morally alien. He’s a bit like what happens when weird aliens build an artificial intelligence. I was also still not sure what it means for Thomist God to “ground” moral goodness as he’s not morally good, only Good: as I’ve said before, the word “ground” should be a red flag in debates like these, as it often means the other person is skating over something for which they don’t really have a good explanation. Finally, I responded to another comment of BenYachov’s, by saying that there’s no reason to worship something because it created you or because it’s mysterious.
I get the impression that there’s a lot of work being done by Capital Letter Concepts in BenYachov’s world, and a lot of trading on different meanings of the world “good”. There’s also the weird idea that these meanings have something in common and that there’s an attribute called “Goodness” which somehow incorporates them all. This seems a bit like what Jaynes calls the Mind Projection Fallacy, the idea that every property we perceive in something is out there in the world.
Over on Metafilter, there’s a section where people can ask questions. Someone recently said they’d been talking to their father-in-law about religion and philosophy and ended up accidentally de-converting him from Christianity. Now the mother-in-law is trying to cut her daughter and son-in-law off. I posted a response trying to explain what the in-laws might be thinking, and suggesting that the best way back with the mother-in-law might be to talk about seeking truth.
Brains, sex, fat
livredor posted about brain sex differences and fat acceptance. I commented: I think the popularisation of research into neuroscience and evolutionary psychology leads to unscientific statements (see also this Less Wrong article about one way to misunderstand it), but there’s also a set of feminists who don’t believe in innate brain differences between men and women because it contradicts their ideology, making them equivalent to creationists. In the case of fat acceptance, I was also a bit suspicious of activist claims that the medical establishment is wrong about fat being unhealthy being linked with the desire to see fat people treated more kindly. I owe livredor some replies there.
- The return to religion – Telegraph
- “Church attendances, in freefall for so long, have started to rise again, particularly in Britain’s capital city. Numbers on the electoral rolls are increasing by well over two per cent every year, while some churches have seen truly dramatic rises in numbers.” (The electoral roll of a church is the only way the C of E has of recording membership: they don’t really go in for the formal process of the free churches, as it’s an established church).
This is interesting, though not sure how good the evidence of a revival is: you’ve got a couple of anecdotes plus evidence of a positive second derivative (decline is slowing). It’s interesting that this is always presented as being about an alternative to shopping and a search for meaning rather than being about the evidence. I suspect that’s the way it actually works though, depressingly.
(tags: christianity church-of-england anglican c-of-e telegraph uk religion)