- post modern C tooling – draft 5
- ‘My ties to England have loosened’: John le Carré on Britain, Boris and Brexit | Books | The Guardian
- “At 87, le Carré is publishing his 25th novel. He talks to John Banville about our ‘dismal statesmanship’ and what he learned from his time as a spy”
(tags: spies intelligence MI5 MI6 le-carre politics)
- The New Zealand Shootings: The Untold Stories | GQ
- A moving account of the shootings and their aftermath. Via Metafilter.
(tags: shooting terrorism racism new-zealand)
- How Derren Brown Remade Mind Reading for Skeptics | The New Yorker
- Introducing Derren Brown to the Americans. Via Mefi.
(tags: magic derren-brown mentalism)
- WSJ, WaPo, NYT Spread False Internet Law Claims | Cato @ Liberty
- Rebutting nonsense about the supposed publisher/platform distinction in Section 230 of the US’s Communications Decency Act. From the Cato Institute, so can’t be dismissed as leftist propaganda.
(tags: law censorship internet)
- The button that isn’t | Restricted Data
- There’s no actual big red button to launch all the missiles. Interesting article on nuclear command and control.
(tags: nuclear icbm button war missiles)
- Secular Solstice: Doing good for goodness’ sake – The Washington Post
- The WaPo reports on secular solstice celebration. Sounds cool.
(tags: atheism religion solstice)
- “Yer a Developer, Harry” – Programming Is Magic
- How being a programmer is a bit like being a wizard. Via andrewducker.
(tags: magic programming spells software wizards)
- A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing by Christian Caryl | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
- The Imitation Game is pretty bad as history. Via HD on Facebook.
(tags: biography film review turing history war world-war-II)
- Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality – Robert Wright – The Atlantic
- “Squaring recent research suggesting we’re “naturally moral” with all the strife in the world.”
(tags: morality science evolution utilitarianism joshua-greene trolley-problem)
- Djina Unchained
- A social justice blogger. I think it’s a parody, but it’s hard to be sure.
(tags: sjw social-justice privilege tumblr patriarchy feminism)
- The cult of Cthulhu: real prayer for a fake tentacle | The Verge
- Someone published a Necronomicon. I never knew that.
(tags: necronomicon h.p.-lovecraft fiction magic horror aleister-crowley)
- Waterstones’s social stories · Storify
- Turns out Twitter is useful for something after all. Waterstones (the bookshop) in Oxford Street have been writing short stories with theirs. I liked “Quantum Leap”.
(tags: twitter waterstones oxford-street books bookshop funny fiction storify)
- Burkhard Bilger: Inside Google’s Driverless Car : The New Yorker
- The engineers behind Google’s driveless car.
(tags: google cars robots automotive driveless artificial-intelligence)
- Dungeons and Discourse revision – help with spells?
- Yvain wants suggestions for spell names and effects in his Dungeons and Discourse games. These should be horrible puns on scientific, mathematical or philosophical concepts.There are some good ones in the comments.
(tags: mathematics maths funny humour philosophy magic)
- A Jazz Anthology MP3 Choose listen download 36004 tunes jazz artists
- Lots of out of copyright jazz stuff.
(tags: lindyhop lindy free mp3 jazz music)
- Rationally Speaking: On guns: the facts, the reasons
- (tags: shooting law violence guns)
- God & Sandy Hook | Talking Philosophy
- Mike LaBossiere wrote my blog post for me: he talks about Mike Huckabee’s response and the two ways to take it (either as an assertion that God judged America or as a statement about moral education) and notes that in either case, God doesn’t really come out well.
(tags: huckabee mike-huckabee violence shooting sandy-hook philosophy christian religion theodicy)
- App Inventor for Android
- Graphical app builder for Android phones, for people who don't want to write Java. Interesting to contrast Google's approach with Apple's here: Apple have effectively banned this sort of thing.
(tags: programming development tools google mobile android)
- Heresy Corner: The case against women bishops in the Church of England, reduced to seven words
- I lol'd.
(tags: funny religion christianity misogyny sexism complementarianism church-of-england c-of-e synod)
- “Sunday’s Coming” Movie Trailer on Vimeo
- Yeah, I went to Soul Survivor once, too.
(tags: bible charismatic christian christianity humour satire parody church sunday video funny religion)
- YouTube – Top 10 quirky science tricks for parties
- I like the one about pouring CO2 onto candles to extinguish them.
(tags: science youtube magic video tricks physics chemistry)
- Moderate Bouncers condemn Raoul Moat’s methods | NewsBiscuit
- It's good to see moderate bouncers speaking out.
(tags: funny bouncers parody news)
- Alt Text: Enter the Brave New World of Internet Psychology | Underwire | Wired.com
- "The main symptom of a severely damaged person is that they don’t agree with you, so how can you convince them you’re right?" Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny internet psychology wired)
- Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: Science/religion compatibility yet again
- Another round of the accommodationism debates: "Viewed historically, religion needs to thin out its epistemic content, or to introduce notions of the capricious way supernatural beings act, or to adopt intellectually unacceptable ad hoc tactics of various kinds, in order to maintain a formal compatibility with the scientific picture of the world; the advance of science pushes God into smaller gaps; and some religious views are plainly inconsistent with robust scientific findings. All this reflects a general mismatch between the scientific approach to the world and the religious approach, which follows from (1) the fact that they use different methods for discovering the truth and (2) the methods of science do not, historically and contingently, reach the same conclusions as previously reached by religion."
(tags: religion science russell-blackford philosophy)
- You Are Not So Smart
- Blog recommendation. Journalist David McRaney writes about cognitive biases and whatnot in a straightforward and funny way.
(tags: psychology science blog cognition cognitive-bias rationality)
- Penn Jillette Is Willing to Be a Guest on Adolf Hitler’s Talk Show | Little Gold Men | Vanity Fair
- Penn on why he went on Glenn Beck's show, among other things. Hugely quotable: "Well remember, the Catholic League is just one divorced guy in his garage. Or as Teller and I like to say, the Catholic League and his wife. I love that it's called hate speech when you have the audacity to suggest that pederasty and child rape might not be a good idea."
(tags: religion penn-jillette magic media catholicism islamism islam censorship)
- Reluctance to Let Go | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
- Sean Carroll's last post before taking a break from blogging: "Instead of taking the natural world seriously, we have discussions about “Faith.” We pretend that questions of meaning and purpose and value must be the domain of religion. We are saddled with bizarre, antiquated attitudes toward sex and love, which have terrible consequences for real human beings.
I understand the reluctance to let go of religion as the lens through which we view questions of meaning and morality. For thousands of years it was the best we could do; it provided social structures and a framework for thinking about our place in the world. But that framework turns out not to be right, and it’s time to move on."
(tags: science religion accomodationism atheism)
- YouTube – Charlie Brooker – How To Report The News
- Every news report you've ever seen.
(tags: news video funny journalism parody bbc media charlie-brooker)
- The Devil Rides Out | Features | Fortean Times
- Dennis Wheatley: "virtually invented the popular image of Satanism in 20th-century Britain, and he made it seem strangely seductive. If the appeal of Black Magic in popular culture was ultimately erotic, then this was largely due to Wheatley’s writing, with its reliable prospect of virgins being ritually ravished on altar tops." Via Metafilter
(tags: satan satanism occult magic dennis-wheatley devil fortean-times)
- Tales of a Wayward Classicist: Latin Tattoos
- Latin tattoos gone wrong. Probably SFW, shows a lot of skin (obviously) but no rude bits. Via Stoat.
(tags: tattoo funny latin language)
- Luke on reformed epistemology and moral realism : The Uncredible Hallq
- Nice: "A better response to Plantinga is just to point out that belief in the Christian God isn’t very much at all like most of the common-sense beliefs commonly cited as threatened by Descartes & Hume-style skepticism (like belief in the reliability of our senses), but is an awful lot like beliefs most Christians wouldn’t accept without evidence–namely, the beliefs of other religions."
(tags: philosophy plantinga hume descartes alvin-plantinga epistemology religion reformed)
- Signature in the Cell | The BioLogos Foundation
- Darrel Falk, a Christian and a professor of biology, finds problems with the science in Stephen Mayer's "The Signature in the Cell". Via Jerry Coyne.
(tags: evolution intelligent-design science religion creationism dna rna stephen-meyer darrel-falk biology discovery-institute)
- The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion – This Britain, UK – The Independent
- Indy journalist goes undercover to Christian counsellors who try to cure him of Teh Gay. Apparently, gayness can be caused by Freemasonry: who knew?
(tags: psychology uk homosexuality quacks lolxians religion)
- Harriet Harman defends equality legislation following Pope’s criticism – Home News, UK – The Independent
- No pot pourri, as Ian Paisley would say.
(tags: pope catholicism catholic bigot homosexuality religion lolxians)
Wandering around the web recently, I found Prisoner of Narnia, an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker from 2005. It’s about the life of C.S. Lewis, and the enduring attraction of the Narnia books.
The link to the article came from Daylight Atheism, where they liked this bit:
A startling thing in Lewis’s letters to other believers is how much energy and practical advice is dispensed about how to keep your belief going: they are constantly writing to each other about the state of their beliefs, as chronic sinus sufferers might write to each other about the state of their noses. Keep your belief going, no matter what it takes — the thought not occurring that a belief that needs this much work to believe in isn’t really a belief but a very strong desire to believe.
It’s that belief in belief thing again. This has also come up in my sporadic discussion with apdraper2000, where he’s asking why I spend so much time blogging about theism. If you want to know what my motivation is, you can read the thread.
Of course, any Christian worth their salt would be able to you that the reason it’s so hard to keep believing in the existence of God as compared to say, believing in the existence of atoms, is because the world is currently a hostile place, where the believer is a footsoldier in a cosmic battle, facing the flaming arrows of Original Sin, Satan, Dust, the BBC’s blatant bias, the Patriarchy, the Illuminati, New Labour, Zionists, and Communists. Let us waste no more time on the naive idea that if you keep having to shore up your belief in something, it just might be because you’re wrong.
Rather, it’s the article’s insight into Lewis’s psyche which is interesting. Gopnik portrays Lewis as a mystic who saw Christianity as a way to keep the magic, the joy of life, real. I was reminded of Jesus in John’s gospel, promising life in all its fullness.
Cardinal Manning agonized over eating too much cake, and was eventually drawn to the Church of Rome to keep himself from doing it again. Lewis didn’t embrace Christianity because he had eaten too much cake; he embraced it because he thought that it would keep the cake coming, that the Anglican Church was God’s own bakery. “The story of Christ is simply a true myth,” he says he discovered that night, “a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”
It sounds like Lewis might have agreed with my contention that scriptural religion is lived fan-fiction, although, of course, he’d have said it was fan-truth.
Gopnik says that the believer and unbeliever can agree on the importance of imagination and stories as a way to reach the parts that both institutional Christianity and a narrow materialism do not reach. The final couple of paragraphs are particularly good, and we learn a lot about Lewis and Tolkien along they way. Definitely worth a read.
Edited: I changed “it just might be because it’s bollocks” to “it just might be because you’re wrong” after a Christian found the former form offensive. I’m recording that here so it doesn’t look like I’m hiding something.
Dawkins has published the complete interview he did with Derren Brown for the Enemies of Reason programme: it’s available on YouTube (in several parts, but that link is to a playlist which should play them in order). It’s mostly Brown talking about the techniques used by mediums, with occasional questions from Dawkins. I’m a fan of Brown, so I enjoyed it.
Like all the best people, the inestimable Mr Brown is an ex-Christian. The final part of the video re-iterates the first chapter of Tricks of the Mind, where he describes how he turned to rationality. He learned about hypnosis, which his fellow Christians claimed would allow in demons (keen students: from the teaching on demons in Matthew 12, or otherwise, show that this is What The Bible Says [5 marks]). He got into stage magic and learned how psychic powers were a con, and that believers in it were only interested in evidence in favour of their beliefs (this is what he calls “circular belief” in the book and video), and would discount or forget the evidence against them.
The young Brown realised this circularity applied to his own Christianity as much as it did to the believers in the psychics. As Brown says, it’s hard to see a difference between these sorts of claims, other than that religious claims have a certain gravitas from having been around for a long time. After all, you could probably construct plausible reasons for the psychic “misses” or why the people who are in contact with aliens can’t provide a proof of the Goldbach conjecture, just as you can for why God is silent (in fact, variants of “it doesn’t work because of your scepticism” and “you wouldn’t believe me anyway” are already common to all of them).
These beliefs rely on rear-guard actions against those who explicitly deny them, coupled with a personal conviction that the belief must be true. There’s little positive evidence in favour. We saw this in the case of Christianity, recently, when looking at Keller’s reasons for faith, much as Brown found when he investigated his former faith for himself.
Both Brown and Dawkins seem surprised that people don’t actually want to know that psychics have been debunked. Randi debunked Peter Popoff, but Popoff is still pulling in the donations. Although I’m occasionally irritated by Andrew Brown’s “New Atheists: UR DOIN IT WRONG” stuff, I think he’s right to say that most people don’t think the way Derren and Dawkins do, whether they’re theists or atheists:
It’s not natural to suppose that our emotions should be in line with our intellectual representations of the world and consistent and coherent over time: but as an ideal it’s tremendously important. Even as an ideal it has to be transmitted by a culture: as a discipline, it needs years of education and of practice. You might call it thinking for yourself, in a rather silly clever way, if by that you meant not independence from society, but using thinking as a tool with which to build yourself. Getting to that point is just about the central task of education, moral as well as intellectual, which means that almost everyone pays lip service to it. Yet the evidence suggests that most people, certainly most believers, don’t entertain it as a serious possibility. But neither do most unbelievers.
It’s all a bit depressing really. Perhaps Plantinga is right and rationality doesn’t necessarily have a survival value.
One of the Freeview channels recently repeated Derren Brown‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was the episode which mattghg blogged about a while back, wondering about free will in a universe containing Derren Brown. You can find clips from the programme on Google Video.<lj-cut text=”Cut for people who don’t like talking about how tricks are done”>
Having finally watched the programme, I’m in awe of Brown’s showmanship. It used to be that people doing these sort of acts would claim to have psychic powers, either seriously, if they were charlatans, or as part of the contract between the magician and the audience (we know that the magician who says “I will now read your mind” isn’t really saying he’s psychic, it’s just part of the story told around the trick). These days, as part of our desire to be “scientific”, we sort of believe in pop psychological guff like neuro-linguistic programming. Brown’s hooked into this belief. He rightly lambastes the psychic industry for conning people (e.g. in his appearance on the Dawkins documentary). He’s careful to prefix his shows with a statement that he uses a mixture of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”. But! The neat trick is that the misdirection includes the explanation of how he did it. Brown’s frenetic exposition at the end (starts about 4 minutes into this video) is part of the act, just as the claim of psychic powers was for older magicians.
Those of you with plenty of time on your hands can go and argue with all the commenters on YouTube who think that Brown’s an NLP guru. As the man himself says:
Years ago the issue was whether or not you told people it was psychic because people were prepared to believe in psychic ability–and how far down that road do you take them. Now we’re in a situation where we’re into pop psychology, and NLP [Neuro Linguistic Programming], all these huge industries, and people are prepared to believe in that, and maybe in a way that’s the new psychic realm.
The whole interview with Jamy Ian Swiss is an interesting discussion of the difference between what Brown does and what old-style mentalists did and the ethics of misleading an audience who are expecting to be misled. I’d recommend it.