- Let the Universe Be the Universe | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
- Sean Caroll got mentioned in Craig’s podcast, and responds: “The moment of the Big Bang is, if anything is, a place where quantum gravity is supremely important. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin results are simply not about quantum gravity.” “But when we’re not experts, it’s not intellectually honest to distort the words of experts to make them sound like they fit our pre-conceived narrative. That’s why engagement with people like Craig is fundamentally less interesting than engagement with open-minded people who are willing to take what the universe has to offer, rather than forcing it into their favorite boxes.”
(tags: inflation william-lane-craig big-bang cosmology religion god physics sean-carroll)
- Obama’s Address to United Nations – NYTimes.com
- “Mr. Obama appeared to relish the larger canvas of the United Nations and his subject, freedom of speech and why in the United States, even making “a crude and disgusting video” is a right of all citizens.” Interesting: some of this is heading off Romney’s criticism, but it’s good to see, anyway.
(tags: UN united-nations islam politics freedom speech obama)
- The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
- Cool comic about the MMR nonsense.
(tags: fraud medicine autism andrew-wakefield comic vaccination vaccine MMR)
- “Popular Fast Tunes (>= 195 bpm)” by Ms. Lindy Hopper – Grooveshark
(tags: lindyhop playlist charleston music lindy jazz)
- FactCheck: Case dismissed on employment law reform | The FactCheck Blog
- “The Beecroft study as it appears in the Telegraph contains little in the way of factual evidence as it stands, so it’s difficult to support the venture capitalist’s assertions that a change in the law on unfair dismissal is needed.” Via andrewducker.
(tags: dismissal factcheck law employment beecroft conservatives)
- Heresy Corner: Tom Holland: In the shadow of a sword?
- Don’t examine Islam too closely: “Channel 4 said today that it had cancelled a special screening planned for this Thursday of Islam: the Untold Story, its documentary of last month written and presented by Tom Holland and based on his latest book In The Shadow of the Sword.”
(tags: history tom-holland channel4 muslim islam)
- Speaking Out Because I Must
- “I am shocked but not surprised by the film. I am horrified and really, really pissed off at my Muslim brothers.”
(tags: muslim islam)
- On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God : Sam Harris
- “Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it.” “The freedom to think out loud on certain topics, without fear of being hounded into hiding or killed, has already been lost. And the only forces on earth that can recover it are strong, secular governments that will face down charges of blasphemy with scorn. “
(tags: sam-harris islam mohammed koran politics free speech religion)
- Sam Harris on the Innocence of Muslims affair | Talking Philosophy
- Russel Blackford examines Harris’s essay. He gets a couple of commenters telling him that he’s a cultural imperialist or doesn’t understand the sacred or something, so I waded in.
(tags: religion blasphemy islam russell-blackford sam-harris)
There was apparently another Draw Mohammed Day yesterday: Hermant at Friendly Atheist covers it (that link may obviously contain links to pictures of Mo).
My previous LJ entry on Muslims vs Student Atheist Societies provoked some discussion about whether criticism of Islam is necessarily motivated by racism, and whether white atheists ought to be involved in such criticism. During that, cartesiandaemon linked to Yvain’s utilitarian argument against Mo pics which appeared on Less Wrong. Yvain argued against Draw Mo Day on the basis of harm minimisation (Less Wrong orthodoxy is consequentalist so people there are likely to be responsive to such arguments).
Vladimir M won the Less Wrong thread with the response that “In a world where people make decisions according to this principle, one has the incentive to self-modify into a utility monster who feels enormous suffering at any actions of other people one dislikes for whatever reason”. He also made the observation (due to Thomas Schelling) that “in conflict situations, it is often a rational strategy to pre-commit to act irrationally (i.e. without regards to cost and benefit) unless the opponent yields. The idea in this case is that I’ll self-modify to care about X far more than I initially do, and thus pre-commit to lash out if anyone does it”. He adds “such behavior is usually not consciously manipulative and calculated. On the contrary — someone flipping out and creating drama for a seemingly trivial reason is likely to be under God-honest severe distress, feeling genuine pain of offense and injustice.”. Yvain then behaved excellently by formally withdrawing his argument.
Muslims may be harmed by seeing Mo pictures. However, Vladimir M’s point applies. So, what to do?
There are things called “trigger warnings” which are popular in some parts of the Internet. Medically, a trigger is something which can set off PTSD symptoms. These trigger warnings are usually appear on links to, and the beginning of, pages about rape or domestic violence, where victims may suffer from PTSD on reading the text.
[Latterly, the term has been broadened to encompass not just PTSD flashbacks, but that uncomfortable feeling you get when reading something which advances a view different from your own (for instance, the trigger warnings for misogyny and Islamophobia on this post mean “comments disagreeing with feminists/Muslims”), and has also become a way of signalling that one is down with the identity politics posse (this is well known enough for it to be parodied: see Is this Feminist?, for example). However, I think that few people would disagree with the idea that some Muslims’ distress at seeing such pictures is more towards the PTSD end of things than the “people disagree with me”/signalling end.]
It feels like a Schelling point in this conflict might be to agree that pictures of Mo should appear behind trigger warnings. These might be specific warnings; or a general warning that by continuing to read a site, one may encounter such pictures, or links to them. In the case of the atheist Facebook group, Jesus and Mo cartoons should not be used for public events (since the cartoons may then appear on the feeds of people who are not members of the group) but would be OK for events which are private to the group, assuming that the group is covered by a general warning. Obviously, all Draw Mo Day pictures should appear behind such warnings.
- gmancasefile: TSA: Fail
- “I have dealt with TSA since its inception and FAA security prior to that. I have witnessed TSA operate since they became a separate organization in 2002 and seen their reaction to intelligence provided them. I have now watched them operate for a decade, and I have respect for their hard-working employees who are doing a thankless job. But I have come to the conclusion that TSA is one of the worst-run, ineffective and most unnecessarily intrusive agencies in the United States government.”
(tags: america 911 hijacking usa government fbi politics DHS security tsa)
- Open letter to violent Muslim protestors | The Chronicle
- “I really don’t understand how my fellow Muslims do not see that, with their reactions, they actually prove what has been said about them by their enemies. You call my religion evil or terrorism and, in order to “disprove” this insult, I will go kill people, burn embassies, act like a bloodthirsty crazy person…. Don’t you fellow Muslims see the ridiculousness of this logic and actions! The uncivilized images of these violent protests by these irresponsible and violent Muslims shape the image of 1.6 billion Muslims all around the world. “
(tags: violence religion terrorism quran islam)
- Verisign seizes .com domain registered via foreign Registrar on behalf of US Authorities. » blog2.easydns.org – Happenings and observations
- Don’t register a .com if you don’t want the US authorities to be able to take it down, apparently.
(tags: SOPA web law DNS verisign internet domains icann)
- 24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed
- “there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.” Includes good stuff about how ears work. Via andrewducker.
(tags: Nyquist sound sampling mp3 science music audio)
- The Crazyist Metaphysics of Mind by Eric Schwitzgebel
- “Crazyism about X is the view that something that it would be crazy to believe must be among the core truths about X. In this essay, I argue that crazyism is true of the metaphysics of mind. A position is “crazy” in the intended sense if it is contrary to common sense and we are not epistemically compelled to believe it. …. Well developed metaphysical theories will inevitably violate common sense, I argue, because common sense is incoherent in matters of metaphysics. No coherent and detailed view could respect it all. Common sense is thus impaired as a ground of choice. Nor can scientific evidence or abstract theoretical virtue compellingly favor any one moderately specific metaphysical approach over all competitors. Something bizarre must be true about the mind, but which bizarre propositions are the true ones, we are in no good position to know.”
(tags: crazyism david-chalmers epistemology descartes dualism idealism materialism consciousness metaphysics 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)
- 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)
- Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim schools for stuffing children’s minds with ‘alien rubbish’ – Telegraph
- “He said that while he opposed faith schools as a whole, it was the Muslim ones that worried him the most.” That seems reasonable: the C of E schools are mostly harmless, as far as I can tell: they accept evolution and don’t examine the consequences for Christian doctrine too carefully.
(tags: evolution religon islam richard-dawkins dawkins education schools)
- Religious People Are Nerds – YouTube
- Following on from my post about how religion is a fandom, here are some more interesting parallels.
(tags: religion nerds fandom hobby funny)
- Strictly Come Dancing! | Woruld under wolcnum
- “Some exciting factoids from my trip to be in the Strictly studio audience (in no particular order!)”
(tags: television tv dancing)