Jonathan Korman on Twitter: “I have been tangled in a bushy set of threads in my mentions about Scott Alexander and Slate Star Codex. I missed important good criticisms of Scott in a forest of bad criticisms. So I am going to try to collect the important
“I missed important good criticisms of Scott [Alexander] in a forest of bad criticisms. So I am going to try to collect the important stuff.” This guy’s about where I am on the SlateStarCodex/AstralCodexTen/NYT drama after those emails leaked.
(tags: rationalism lesswrong scott-alexander drama)

Proof of Batman’s existence

Fun with the Ontological Argument. The comments are good, too… Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny philosophy ontological anselm religion)

The curious case of the You’re Not Helping blog « The Buddha Is Not Serious

How not to do it: Atheist starts anonymous blog to tell some other outspoken atheists (PZ, Ophelia Benson, and so on) to cool it, or something. Eventually, someone notices that many commenters on the site are the same person. That person makes a flounce post about being "silenced" and makes their blog private. D'oh!
(tags: blogging drama atheism internet)

Leicester strikes a blow for secularism | Theo Hobson | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Theo Hobson on events in Leicester, where the new Lord Mayor has appointed a secular chaplain and removed prayers before monthly council meetings. Hobson notes that the C of E is, perhaps wisely, not making much of a fuss about this: "establishment at all levels is more or less indefensible; the more discussed it is, the more obvious this is. The church can only hope that interest dies down."
(tags: anglicanism religion leicester secularism)

2008 Google I/O Session Videos and Slides: Building Scalable Web Applications with Google App Engine

Writing a blog in Google App Engine: tempting…
(tags: google tutorial video appengine gae scalability python)

Dr. Marlene Winell speaks about indoctrination by authoritarian religion

Dr Winell speaks to Valeria Tarico. Winell's experiences and those of her clients were much more traumatic than mine, because their churches really did deserve the "fundamentalist" label, but it's still an interesting video on the psychology of leaving a religion. The part about how if something doesn't work for you it's your fault and you must try harder rang some bells. Via Debunking Christianity.
(tags: video religion valerie-tarico indoctrination hell rapture psychology fundamentalism christianity)

txt2re: headache relief for programmers :: regular expression generator

Generate regular expressions from some sample text by clicking on what you want to match. Neat toy.
(tags: programming software tools regexp regex)

‘An Apology’ by Richard Dawkins – RichardDawkins.net

Dawkins apologises for the forum drama: "I would like to start by apologising for our handling of this situation. We have not communicated well with our forum volunteers and users (for example in my insensitive 'Outrage' post, which was written in the heat of the moment). In the process we have caused unintended hurt and offence, and I am very sorry about that. In a classic case of a vicious circle, some of the responses to our announcement also caused considerable hurt and distress to us, and in the atmosphere of heightened emotion that followed, some of our subsequent actions went too far. I hope you will understand the human impulses that led to this, and accept my apology for them. I take full personal responsibility."
(tags: drama internet dawkins richard-dawkins atheism)

Fallacies on fallacies : Evolving Thoughts

"Appeal to authority is not fallacious, so long as the authority cited is relevant and reliable. A principle known as the division of cognitive labor (I think due to Hilary Putnam) suggests that we literally must rely on authorities in the absence of time, resources and cognitive capacities to rerun all experiments and observations since the beginnings of science and history."
(tags: logic fallacy appeal authority putnam philosophy rationality)

Furious backlash from Simon Singh libel case puts chiropractors on ropes | Martin Robbins | Science | guardian.co.uk

"A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council." Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.
(tags: science simon-singh chiropractor guardian health pseudoscience quackery woo-woo libel legal law)

Photographic Height/Weight Chart

Self-submitted photographs of people, tabulated by weight and height. Interesting stuff. Via Metafilter.
(tags: health photos photography images height weight statistics photo biology)


Paul Copan has some sensible thoughts on how to do evangelism. On no account should Christians put any of them into practice.
(tags: evangelism religion christianity sin gospel)

Heresy Corner: A Reading from the Book of Dawk

This is hilarious: "And some of the disciples said, O Dawk, our anger is not mixed against thee, but against thy servant Josh, who hath offended us. But others said, Hath not the Dawk deserted us? Come, let us depart the land of Dawk and hearken unto some other prophet, for the Dawk loveth not his people."
(tags: richard-dawkins drama internet forum atheism funny parody dawkins)

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)

Link roundup and browser tab closing time…

Expel the evildoer from among you

If you’re not reading back over my old entries (why not? I used to be much better before I jumped the shark), you might not have noticed that there was some LJ drama over the last one. robhu conclusively won the debate on whether complementarianism is sexist by the cunning ploy of banning me from commenting on his blog: an innovative rhetorical tactic, and undeniably a powerful one. But it’s not over yet. I’ve realised that he may have made a Tone Argument, which might enable me to reject his ideas out of hand and advance three squares to the nearest Safe Space, so I’m awaiting the results of a steward’s inquiry. It’s possible I may have too many Privilege Points to make a valid claim for Tone Argument, but I’m hopeful the powers that be will see things my way.

Could out-consume Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Down on the Premier Christian Radio boards, they’re talking about science and religion again, specifically whether science can ignore the possibility of God’s existence. I’ve been sticking my oar in, as usual.

Red Ken again

When I reviewed Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions, I reckoned that he had something to do with Christianity himself at one point, as the observational humour was too keen to come from a total outsider. It turns out he’s the son of a Presbyterian minister. At an SF convention in 2006, MacLeod spoke about his childhood, discovering that creationism was wrong, and the social contract. This old speech of his was linked from his recent blog posting on the changing meaning of evolution. MacLeod says a change occurred in the 1970s when Jacques Monod and Richard Dawkins introduced a thoroughly materialistic theory. This replaced older ideas that evolution is progress up a sort of secular Great Chain of Being, ideas which C.S. Lewis grumbled about, though not for the same reasons as the biologists. “Evolutionary Humanism was no doubt troubling enough to believers, but at least it wasn’t a vision of blind, pitiless indifference at the heart of things.” It’s the latter vision which MacLeod says has so riled modern creationists. I’m not sure whether he’s right, but it’s an interesting speculation.


Some people argue that if there’s no God, you can’t have real morality. We’ve discussed this previously here (and also here). The debate seems to boil down to which definition of morality you find psychologically satisfying, since as far as I can tell it has no practical consequences: almost everyone thinks that Bad Things are Bad, whether or not they also think there are moral absolutes.

Anyway, Jeffrey Amos over at Failing the Insider Test has an interesting post specifically about the idea that morality shows there’s a God. Firstly, he argues that all moral systems have the problem of where you start from, so the Euthyphro dilemma isn’t introducing a new problem for theists. Nevertheless, it does show that the problem isn’t solved by introducing God, either. Secondly, he argues that a theist must either say that God’s ideas of morality are not similar to ours, in which case pretty much everyone is wrong about morality and once we allow this, it’s no stretch to say that they might be wrong about it in a different way (for example, maybe true morality doesn’t have to be absolute). Or a theist must say that God’s morality is similar to ours, but this runs into the problem of pain: a God whose morality was similar to ours wouldn’t allow there to be so much suffering in the world. The standard response that God allows suffering for inscrutable reasons doesn’t help: if God is inscrutable, how can we know his morality is similar to ours? The second prong of the second argument isn’t new (gjm11 makes it here, and I doubt he was the first), but I think Amos’s article states it very clearly.

Readers: in a recent thread on robhu‘s journal, Rob said I had misrepresented complementarians (of which he is one). I’m not sure how many of you click the links in my postings and have noticed that I occasionally have a joke with them, but to be clear, on the occasions where I have linked the word complementarian to Houseplants of Gor, I did not mean to imply that complementarians are the same as Goreans. Unlike Goreans, complementarians do not believe that women are intrinsically inferior to men and should naturally be their slaves. They believe that men and women are equal in status and dignity, but should occupy different roles in relationships like marriage, with women submitting to men’s loving, self-sacrificial leadership. You can find a summary of complementarian beliefs in the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Despite the complementarian assertion that men and women are of equal status, I find complementarianism problematic because it seeks to perpetuate a hierarchy with men in a position of power over women, and claims that this sort of hierarchy is normative. While I should probably be cautious about comparing historically oppressed classes for fear of being called problematic myself (this being one of the worst things that can happen to you on LJ, as some of you will know, second only to being accused of “fail”), I’d note that replacing “men” with “white people” and “women” with “black people” in complementarian statements would not result in something many of us were happy to sign up to (with the possible exception of Rudyard Kipling, who was big on loving, self-sacrificial leadership). To be clear, I am not saying the complementarianism is racist (I’m saying it’s sexist), but I believe the analogy is appropriate as members of both classes were and are oppressed as a result of being born into a particular group.

While there are important differences between them, complementarians and Goreans are similar in that both advocate a male-led hierarchy and claim it is the correct and fulfilling state of all male/female relationships. As such, the two philosophies are, shall we say, equal in status and dignity, with complementarianism certainly not deserving more respect merely because it originates in a religion.

Hope that’s cleared things up. Must go, scribb1e‘s just finished cooking my dinner.

Update: Expelled!

Edited to add: So, Rob didn’t like my analogy and banned me from commenting on his blog.

Of course, I didn’t chose the analogy at random. The question at hand was whether complementarianism should be considered sexist. I think it should. If similar statements to those complementarians make about women were made about another historically disadvantaged group, like black people, we would rightly consider them discriminatory against that group. Likewise, there have been times when sentiments we’d now consider discriminatory have been couched in terms of self-sacrifice and serving the disadvantaged group, as Kipling’s poem illustrates.

Is complementarianism as bad as racism or sexism at its most horrible? No. It is patronising rather than hateful, and I’m not sure how much harm it does. There are much worse examples discrimination around today. I suppose what irks me about complementarianism is that it pretends to righteousness (that, and the fact that I was once taken in by it). Were the early Christians ahead of their time in their attitude to women? Quite possibly, but complementarians are behind theirs.

If anyone feels the analogy was taking things too far, I’d be interested to discuss it.

Update again: Censored!

And now the post has gone. I never appreciate people playing the “unpublishing” game: here’s my copy so you can see what I actually said.

In other news:

As readers of news will know, LiveJournal is in the process of electing representatives from among its users, to sit on the LiveJournal advisory board, alongside various e-luminaries.

<lj-cut text=”Who I think you should vote for”>Originally, I was going to vote for jameth purely because it’d annoy a certain sort of person I find irksome on LiveJournal (“jameth, as hated by ginmar“: what higher endorsement could there be?). jameth is an LJ personality who’s known for, shall we say, a certain unique sense of humour. I didn’t regard him as a serious candidate, so he wasn’t my first choice.

As time has gone on, however, I’ve become impressed with the open discussion of his candidacy which jameth has allowed on his journal: his policy is that he will allow any comment which does not violate LJ’s Terms of Service (he’s screening anonymous comments to help with this). This contrasts favourably with some of the other front-running candidates, notably legomymalfoy, who has been less forthcoming, and who has been deleting/locking posts.

legomymalfoy is on the LJ Abuse Team and does not intend to resign this position if she is elected, which seems a bit like having the fox guarding the hen-house. The post of hers where she confirmed this is now locked (this thread contains two screen captures of the relevant posting). I don’t believe she is a serious candidate. This is a shame, as she’s currently in the lead.

I’ve seen allegations that large numbers of role-playing journals (where one person keeps lots of journals for each character they play) have been used as sock puppets to block vote. LJ can’t use the obvious defence against this as it does not want to prevent people sharing the same HTTP proxy from voting. I don’t know whether these allegations are true, but this is hilarious.

More seriously, some candidates have recently reported that LJ’s staff has received what they seem to regard as credible death threats against some front-running candidates. It’s possible this is a huge hoax, but it’s currently looking like it’s real. cambler (note: style contains photos of semi-naked ladies: NSFW) has withdrawn from the election as he doesn’t see it as worth risking his personal safety for. He made this post (link will force the style to one without semi-naked ladies, so should be SFW) giving details of what’s occurred. This thread is particularly relevant. randomposting has likewise withdrawn and endorsed jameth.

As these were my other two choices, I’m endorsing jameth, for his platform commitment to free speech, for the way he’s conducted himself as this business has unfolded, and because he’s the only person who can now beat legomymalfoy. Any suggestions for worthwhile second and third choices gratefully received 🙂

Regardless of whether you agree with me, if you’ve moaned about what 6Apart and SUP have done over the last few years, please read the candidates’ manifestos and vote, and encourage others to do the same. If you have already voted, note that it is possible to change your vote until the election closes, on 29th May.

There’s a new LiveJournal meme doing the rounds, where you make a post about what you think of theferrett‘s Open Source Boob Project. All the cool kids are doing it, so I thought I’d join in. Here’s a compendium of comments I’ve been making elsewhere.

I agree with springheel_jack‘s point that this is all about geekery. theferrett has been here before, expressing similar sentiments about how it would be easier if you could just tell women you wanted to do them.

The dance that most heterosexual courtship rituals involve is (what? all my courtship rituals have involved dancing) at least partly about face saving if it goes wrong, but also about not scaring off the woman, who is physically smaller and weaker, on average, and probably has reason to fear the sort of man who would ask direct questions of the sort theferrett talks about. Some geeks do dispense with some of the dance, and that can work for them when they’re dealing with other geeks.

theferrett wants to dispense with more of the dance than most people are comfortable with. He had a nice time at the convention, which is fair enough. It also seems that the original thing was instigated by women who are happy to defend it. His mistake is to think that experience can be generalised and codified into a “project”, and his other mistake is writing about it on LJ, especially in the style he used.

I’m becoming a big fan of synecdochic, whose postings on the drama itself and how not to be That Guy are excellent.