culture

Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity – NYTimes.com

"An Internet content reviewer, Mr. Bess sifts through photographs that people upload to a big social networking site and keeps the illicit material — and there is plenty of it — from being posted." Rule 34 applies: some of these people end up needing counselling, apparently.
(tags: censorship filtering internet porn pornography social-networks)

Out with pink and blue: Don’t foster the gender divide – opinion – 19 July 2010 – New Scientist

Neurologist Lise Eliot argues that, while there are some differences innate differences between males and females, there's also a lot of plasticity in human brains.
(tags: gender science neuroscience brains psychology)

Kafkatrapping

'One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”'. Eric S. Raymond coins the phrase "kafkatrap" to describe a "heads I win, tails you lose" form of argument which sounds pretty similar to Suber's "logical rudeness".
(tags: culture debate debunking philosophy rhetoric racism sexism kafka esr)

Common Sense Atheism » Am I Sexist? (index)

Link to a series of posts: Luke at Common Sense Atheism put up a fairly crass "15 sexy scientists" post with pictures of said scientists (the scientists were all women, with the exception of PZ Myers). He got quite a strong reaction, especially over at Pharyngula (Myers's blog), read some Martha Nussbaum and eventually apologised and took down the posting.

Of note: for all that the atheists at Pharyngula tend to regard Christians as irrational, they aren't too keen on rationality when someone applies it to a domain where they mostly navigate by strong religious convictions (feminism, in this case). Luke initially seems hopelessly naive but ultimately finds the right answer and knows why it's right, which seems better than being cowed by yelling. Well done to him for publicly changing his mind.
(tags: rationality feminism sex objectification martha-nussbaum philosophy ethics morality sexism)

Top Eleven Reasons Why the Reformed Theologian Did not Cross the Road

Theology jokes are fun!
(tags: theology religion reformed joke funny)

Plato’s Man Cave

Shadows on the wall, plus 52" plasma TV.
(tags: plato cave philosophy funny parody)

Why Sex and the City 2 is a science fiction movie

I LOL'd.
(tags: movies review funny future sf scifi sci-fi science-fiction)

Decoding God’s Changing Moods – TIME

You'd think the Abrahamic God would make up his mind — Can he live with other gods or not? What's with the random mood fluctuations?
But the fluctuations aren't really random. If you juxtapose the Abrahamic Scriptures with what scholars have learned about the circumstances surrounding their creation, a pattern appears.
(tags: religion islam history christianity god culture)

God, Science and Philanthropy | The Nation

An interesting article on the history of the Templeton Foundation, the controversial foundation which provides grants to scientists interested in "the Big Questions".
(tags: templeton dawkins richard-dawkins science religion intelligent-design)

Living in denial: Why sensible people reject the truth – opinion – 19 May 2010 – New Scientist

"…denialism, the systematic rejection of a body of science in favour of make-believe. There's a lot of it about, attacking evolution, global warming, tobacco research, HIV, vaccines – and now, it seems, flu. But why does it happen? What motivates people to retreat from the real world into denial?"
(tags: climate conspiracy creationism epistemology politics psychology religion science denialism denial)

Aretae: Cognitive Antivirus

"Suppose that you are a bear of very little brain, or perhaps an average human on the street, of nearly average proportions, intellect, and character. What is the best thing you can do, belief-wise, in order to make your life better. I am beginning to believe that you should believe in your parents' God, and go to church on Sundays. God and tradition are perhaps the best and strongest way to avoid believing really stupid stuff that could actually mess up your life, or others' lives." Via the Less Wrong threads on undiscriminating scepticism.
(tags: religion epistemology rationality cognitive-bias)

FT.com / Reportage – Immigrant Muslims in Belleville

"Yet there are two main reasons the Belle­ville scenario looks more likely than the Eurabia one. The first is demographic: no serious demographer expects Muslims to become a majority in any western European country. The second is attitudes: only a tiny minority of French Muslims appears to want to establish a medieval caliphate in Europe. In surveys, most French Muslims say that they feel French… Many of them no longer observe Islam. And although here and there Muslims have made France a little more north African or Islamic, the influence seems to be more the other way: Muslim immigrants are being infected by Frenchness."
(tags: islam europe religion anthropology culture immigration demographics eurabia)

Johann Hari: The Pope, the Prophet, and the religious support for evil – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

"What can make tens of millions of people – who are in their daily lives peaceful and compassionate and caring – suddenly want to physically dismember a man for drawing a cartoon, or make excuses for an international criminal conspiracy to protect child-rapists?" Anyone, Bueller, anyone?
(tags: atheism catholic christianity culture evil fundamentalism islam johann-hari pope religion mohammed cartoons)

Less Wrong: Undiscriminating Skepticism

"Since it can be cheap and easy to attack everything your tribe doesn't believe, you shouldn't trust the rationality of just anyone who slams astrology and creationism; these beliefs aren't just false, they're also non-tribal among educated audiences. Test what happens when a "skeptic" argues for a non-tribal belief, or argues against a tribal belief, before you decide they're good general rationalists."
(tags: culture rationality scepticism eliezer-yudkowsky)

WebSequenceDiagrams.com – Make Sequence Diagrams with one click

Nice tool for drawing message sequence charts: sort of the MSC equivalent of GraphViz.
(tags: design development programming software tools msc message sequence diagram)

Experimental Theology: How Facebook Killed the Church

Richard Beck reckons Facebook killed the radio star, erm, church: "Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!"
(tags: facebook church society religion christianity social-networks generation-y internet)

A nice cup of rabies – What is LJ doing to my links? Part 4

LJ has been messing about with links to Amazon and other online shops: there's some Javascript which they're serving which re-writes the links (possibly to get LJ some money as an affiliate) and then makes the browser display the old link when you mouse over it. The script source is posted here: it's illuminating.
You do wonder how long LJ can keep cocking it up like this. I'm still here because I don't think Dreamwidth is financially credible and I've noticed that people who've moved tend to get fewer comments, but I'm annoyed that this script was also served on the journals of paying users and boggling at LJ's excuse that they didn't check what the thing did before they started serving it: putting unknown Javascript on your site is such a good idea.
(tags: livejournal internet dreamwidth javascript programming)

A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever – Funny Videos | Cracked.com

"LEAD FEMALE'S NAAAAAME!"
(tags: funny video movies trailer humour comedy parody cracked movie)

Persecute me – I’m after the Brownie points | Frank Skinner – Times Online

Frank Skinner (who's a Catholic) on whether Christians are persecuted in the UK. "We’re a bit like Goths — no one can remember us being fashionable and we talk about death a lot. I love the glorious un-coolness of that"
(tags: catholic christian christianity church culture religion politics uk society funny)

If every hardware engineer just understood that…

Bunch of low level software people whinge at the hardware designers. A bit Windows-specific, but there are some generally applicable things in there (write-only registers, oh my).
(tags: programming embedded drivers windows hardware interrupt)

Ruth Gledhill – Times Online – WBLG: Gays could soon ‘marry’ in churches, synagogues

Civil partnerships are like civil weddings: you can't have anything religious in the ceremony. A group of theists is now asking for that restriction to be lifted so they can perform partnership ceremonies in their churches and synagogues. Seems reasonable to me: we wouldn't want to place restrictions on religious freedom, would we? Oddly, the same Anglican bishops who recently defeated an amendment to the Equality Bill providing greater gay rights (previously) also seem to want to prevent other churches from doing what they want.
(tags: homosexuality religion christianity judaism bigot civil-partnership anglican anglicanism politics)

The Richard Dawkins Foundation net forum (RDF) self-destructs — yet another big atheist board immolates itself

The Dawkins site maintainer decided to re-do their forums. The existing (volunteer) moderators were annoyed that all old comments would be lost and that their positions as mods been done away with without a word of thanks. Maintainer responded to criticism (and to attempts to organise a move to another site) by wielding the banhammer all over the place. Dawkins responds with a post exhibiting no clue about the politics of web forums and what the existing forum users were upset about. Therefore God exists.

This will, I suspect, run and run: the Graun and the Times have already picked up on it with some glee.

Remember: if you post something you think is worthwhile to a forum, keep your own copy.
(tags: lolatheists dawkins richard-dawkins internet drama atheism forum)

Sceptics Beware: The Dangers of Debunking

When debunking popular but false information, it's better not to present the false information over again, as you just re-enforce the availability bias of the false information.
(tags: rationality cognitive-bias debunking availability)

Open Mic: What Have We Wrought? | internetmonk.com

iMonk links to a short video of Os Guinness on the Biologos site (can anything good come from there?) Guinness says, “In many ways, the new atheists are partly created by the Religious Right. You can see that in America there is no vehement repudiation of religion until recently. In Europe, the atheism is a reaction to corrupt state churches. Here, you’ve never had that until the rise of the Religious Right.” Part of the reaction against religion, he argues, stems from the poor ways people of faith think about science.

The commenters almost immediately tell us that it's not that atheists are annoyed about the corruption of science, it's that we're in league with Satan (though other, more, sensible Christians also disagree with them). I've commented and linked to Suber's logical rudeness paper.
(tags: religion atheism new-atheism christianity science culture culture-war)

A Few Billion Lines of Code Later: Using Static Analysis to Find Bugs in the Real World | February 2010 | Communications of the ACM

Bunch of academics write a static checker and take it commercial. They are surprised to find that: Compilers for embedded targets accept stuff which isn't quite C, embedded programmers use the stuff, because we're evil. A worryingly large proportion of programmers are clueless ("No, ANSI lets you write 1 past the end of the array"), concluding that "You cannot often argue with people who are sufficiently confused about technical matters; they think you are the one who doesn't get it. They also tend to get emotional. Arguing reliably kills sales." Also, managers like graphs of bad stuff to go down over time, so don't like the tool to improve. Fun article. Via Metafilter.
(tags: programming analysis security software coverity development tools C)

A review of ‘The language of God’ (Francis Collins)

Gert Korthof likes Collins's stuff on evolution, but thinks the Moral Law argument (which Collins acknowledges he got from C.S. Lewis) is terrible: "Collins fails to demonstrate

a. the failure of Darwinism to explain the Moral Law (true altruism)
b. the divine origin of the Moral Law
c. b follows from a "
(tags: creation evolution morality religion science francis-collins c.s.-lewis altruism)

“I WANT TO TAKE GOOGLES OFF OF MY HOME PAGE” | MetaFilter

What happens when your blog becomes one of the top Google results for "login to Facebook". Take it either as a serious lesson about user interface design, or an opportunity to mock the stupid.
(tags: facebook login funny internet computers ui user-interface browser google)

Meat stylus for the iPhone

I got yer meat stylus right here, baby.
(tags: iphone culture funny meat)

Simon Blackburn (2) – Religion and Respect – Investigating Atheism

Blackburn's interesting and slightly cheeky ("Even Christians are human") article on what it might mean to respect someone's religion. He thinks there might be something in respecting emotions but not attitudes, and bemoans religious appropriation of the sacred. Contains quote from Hume which is another example of the way Hume seems to have had everyone's ideas before they did (this time on belief in belief).
(tags: religion respect simon-blackburn philosophy hume)

Why reject miracles? (Irrational Rationalist)

An attempt at formulating the argument in a way which doesn't beg the question, and some talk about what Hume actually meant.
(tags: hume miracles philosophy religion rationality)

Is there anything wrong with “God of the gaps” reasoning? by Robert Larmer

Larmer argues that both theists and atheists shouldn't be so hard on "God of the Gaps" explanations (the phrase originated as a criticism of Christians by Christians). While it's certainly true that it's not a formal fallacy, I think what makes me uneasy about such explanations is the ease with which "the thing which explains X" is identified with "the Christian God" (say). But I'll have to think about it some more.
(tags: theology philosophy naturalism science religion god gaps larmer robert-larmer)

‘Witch’ set to stand in general election

Everyone's favourite Cambridge witch, Magus Lynius Shadee, is going to stand for MP for Cambridge. Policies include getting rid of faith schools (sort of want), banning RE lessons (do not want), more tax on booze (do want, I think). Previously, Shadee was in the news for summoning demons in the local Catholic church, and for threatening to open an occult shop in Cambridge. He's Satan's gift to local journalism.
(tags: witchcraft woo-woo paganism politics)

Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian

The Onion scores again. HT to Friendly Atheist.
(tags: politics religion humour funnny onion homosexuality)

Oh no! “Licentiousness breeds extremism”

"Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has a worrying column in The Independent. It is not worrying because of the concerns she raises about "licentiousness", "social nihilism", "debauchery", etc., but because it is another example of blaming the victims. Somehow the blame for Islamist terrorism is to be sheeted home to the relative sexual permissiveness of Western (in this case, British) society. It is also worrying because Alibhai-Brown is supposed to be an example of a moderate Muslim"
(tags: islam muslim uk politics sex religion terrorism)

Conversations About The Internet #5: Anonymous Facebook Employee – The Rumpus.net

Interesting stuff about privacy and re-writing PHP. HT to Andrew Ducker.
(tags: culture internet facebook security privacy media social programming php)

Beyond belief

Short but interesting article on the growth of atheism in Australia.
(tags: atheism religion australia)

Heresy Corner: Sir Ian Blair defends the indefensible

I do try not to link to every single thing Heresiarch posts, but this is a particularly good one. " Evidence that the powers have been used inappropriately is not hard to find. Much more striking is the lack of evidence that the powers have ever been used appropriately. No terrorism-related charges have been brought against anyone as a result of a search carried out under the 2000 Terrorism Act".
(tags: terrorism politics ian-blair crime police)

Is Obama About To Become Just Another War Criminal?

"Aghanistan is not a country, it's a criminal enterprise" – Evert Cilliers wonders what America is doing there, a question you might also ask about the UK.
(tags: drugs politics war afghanistan taliban pakistan islam)

George Carlin – Religion is bullshit.

Carlin's classic routine on religion, in which he tells us how he worships the Sun and Joe Pesci. May be "strident".
(tags: religion video youtube funny atheism humour god carlin comedy)

36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD —  By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

The Edge introduces and gives us an excerpt from Goldstein's novel. The 36 arguments (and their rebuttals) are included in the excerpt, handily: the moral argument and the cosmological argument are in there.
(tags: religion philosophy god atheism books morality)

Caveman Science Fiction

From the same people who brought you "Dungeons and Discourse": Caveman SF.
(tags: comics scifi funny science satire comic humour)

The Open Road London (1927)

Colour footage of London in 1927. Pretty amazing stuff.
(tags: london video history youtube archive)

Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

The stories of former Islamists who came back from the brink, and just what went wrong to put them there in the first place. "From the right, there was the brutal nativist cry of "Go back where you came from!" But from the left, there was its mirror-image: a gooey multicultural sense that immigrants didn't want liberal democratic values and should be exempted from them. Again and again, they described how at school they were treated as "the funny foreign child", and told to "explain their customs" to the class. It patronised them into alienation. "
(tags: islam religion politics terrorism culture war hari johann-hari jihad islamism)

‘Good Reasons for ‘Believing’ in God’ by Dan Dennett

Dennett talks about why it's sensible to profess belief in God. He lives up to his reputation of being a bit fluffier than Dawkins.
(tags: daniel-dennett philosophy religion atheism)

Valerie Tarico: Christian Belief Through The Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 6 of 6

The final part of Tarico's series, which links to the others. "Despite its boundaries, cognitive science, does offer what is rapidly becoming a sufficient explanation for the supernaturalism that underlies organized religion."
(tags: christianity science religion brain psychology cognitive-bias cognition)

WHY DOES THE UNVIERSE LOOK THE WAY IT DOES: A Conversation With Sean Carroll

"Inflation does not provide a natural explanation for why the early universe looks like it does unless you can give me an answer for why inflation ever started in the first place. That is not a question we know the answer to right now. That is why we need to go back before inflation into before the Big Bang, into a different part of the universe to understand why inflation happened versus something else."
(tags: physics cosmology big-bang universe inflation string-theory)

RegEx match open tags except XHTML self-contained tags – Stack Overflow

"If you parse HTML with regex you are giving in to Them and their blasphemous ways which doom us all to inhuman toil for the One whose Name cannot be expressed in the Basic Multilingual Plane, he comes." Quite right: you should use Beautiful Soup like everyone else does.
(tags: funny programming humour xml parse lovecraft stackoverflow regexp regex html)

The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality

Alex Rosenberg argues that scientism is a good thing, and puts forward a very reductionist naturalism which he applies to consciousness, morality and a bunch of other stuff philosophers like to worry about. His fellow naturalists disagree in the comments (notably, Richard Carrier and Tom Clark produce good arguments against him).
(tags: naturalism philosophy science reductionism morality consciousness)

Riffs: 11:14:09: Patrol Magazine and Evangelicals Who Won’t “Get Over It”

"It is astonishing that so many intelligent Christians seem to believe there is a deficit in emphasis on evangelism and scriptural literalism, and that, if the hatches are just battened down on a more solid “worldview,” evangelicalism can resume explaining the universe to new generations of believers."
(tags: evangelicalism christianity)

I’m Belle de Jour

Former blogging prostitute Belle de Jour reveals her real identity to the Times. She was an impoverished PhD student.
(tags: culture sex identity anonymous science prostitution)

What Stormtroopers do on Their Day Off

Funny photos of stormtroopers at play.
(tags: humour funny scifi images starwars toys photo photography)

Valerie Tarico: Speaking Evangelese: Tips for Politicians

Tarico's article on evangelical jargon phrases and dog whistles. Some of these sound familiar
(tags: evangelicalism christianity politics religion jargon language)

Experimental Theology: Christians and Torture: Part 6, Hell and Torture

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology has been doing a series of posts on Christian and torture. His survey said: "Christians who believed in a horrific and never-ending hell were more likely to endorse torture. As God tortures so we torture." Unsurprising, perhaps, but interesting to see it backed up by research. In the comments, Beck notes the correlation is not strong, but is significant.
(tags: hell torture politics religion christianity morality)

Why the Big Bang Singularity Does Not Help the Kalam Cosmological Argument for Theism — Pitts 59 (4): 675 — The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Paper on whether the Big Bang supports theistic arguments for creation ex nihilo, and particularly the Kalam argument. Notably, the author points out that if the singularity in the past requires a Creator, surely singularities in the future (such as black holes) require a Destroyer.
(tags: science religion creationism kalam bigbang big-bang Singularity philosophy)

August and Everything After (San Francisco, 2004)

Adam Duritz singing the Counting Crows song whose lyrics are on the album cover of August and Everything After (but which doesn't appear on the album itself). There are a couple of live versions of this: this one's better because the crowd aren't yelling through it.
(tags: counting-crows adam-duritz music)

Gastronomic Realism—A Cautionary Tale

Loeb's charming paper comparing Moral Realism and Gastronomic Realism (the idea that some foods are simply better than others, independent of individual tastes).
(tags: philosophy morality food realism gastronomic don-loeb system:filetype:pdf system:media:document)

“The Collapse Of Intelligent Design”

Ken Miller demonstrating why ID is not backed by evidence. Miller's a Catholic, not a neo-sceptical atheist neo-rationalist.
(tags: ken-miller intelligent-design id evolution creationism science biology dna)

Don Loeb – Moral Irrealism

Philosopher Don Loeb in conversation about moral irrealism, the view that there are no moral facts independent of our beliefs about them. Touches on whether introducing a God would help moral realism: Loeb thinks not.
(tags: philosophy morality atheism don-loeb)

Mr. Deity and the Identity Crisis

"any time anyone's said anything comprehensible about the Trinity the Church has declared it a heresy." – Gareth
(tags: funny video religion christianity trinity mr-deity)

The Non-Expert: IKEA by Matthew Baldwin

A walkthrough of the various levels of the IKEA game: "As you continue through the main SHOWROOM you will see groups blocking the walkways while chatting and others moving against traffic. These people should be killed immediately."
(tags: funny humour culture parody games ikea furniture shopping)

David Nutt: Governments should get real on drugs – opinion – 04 November 2009 – New Scientist

David Nutt's opinion piece in New Scientist.
(tags: drugs science badscience government law medicine politics david-nutt)

A life changed by evidence

Series of videos by a former evangelical Christian explaining why he became an atheist. Well produced and informative stuff. The chap makes a palpable effort to show how he was a Christian and how, for much of the time before his deconversion, he thought the things he was learning could be incorporated into Christianity rather than working against it.
(tags: video youtube de-conversion christianity evangelicalism bible morality)