programming

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)

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)

Parchment and Pen » DO WE NEED TO TELL PEOPLE THE BAD NEWS BEFORE THE GOOD NEWS?

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)

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)

Heresy Corner: Equality before the law

"If Harriet Harman's odious Equality Bill reaches the statute book in anything like its current form (in other words, if the House of Lords doesn't manage to delay it before a general election intervenes) then there may well be social and legal chaos in this country. There will also be a lot more work for lawyers. A lot." – Heresiarch reckons the Equality Bill is a bad thing.
(tags: law politics equality)

Killing In The Climb – rathergood.com

Why have them vying for the Christmas number one when you can combine them?
(tags: music video rathergood funny mashup)

DAVID SIMON – Vice Magazine

"David Simon is responsible for one of the greatest feats of storytelling of the past century, and that’s the entire five-season run of the television series The Wire." – Vice Magazine interview him.
(tags: vicemagazine the-wire tv-programmes tv television wire crime drugs politics journalism)

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Members of the earth's earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.
(tags: religion funny onion history creationism)

IEEE Spectrum: Math Quiz: Why Do Men Predominate?

"among top math performers, the gender gap doesn’t exist in some ethnic groups and in some countries. The researchers conclude that culture is the main reason more men excel at the highest math levels in most countries."
(tags: maths mathematics gender feminism equality)

The C Programming Language: 4.10 by Brian W Kernighan & Dennis M Ritchie & HP Lovecraft

"C functions may be used recursively; that is, a function may call itself either directly or indirectly. Uninquiring souls may take this as just another peculiarity of those C folk, of whose ways their neighbours speak little to outsiders but much among themselves.

Keener news-followers, however, wondered at the events of the winter of 1927-28, the abnormally large number of calls placed upon the stack, the swiftness with which that list was sorted, the disturbing lack of heap allocation throughout the proceedings, and the secrecy surrounding the affair."
(tags: funny humour parody C programming lovecraft horror)

The Punchtape Letters

"My Dear Malware,

Thank you for your latest news. I agree that your bombarding of on-line programming sites with questions about “cascading style sheets” (whatever they may be) and “rounded corners” (as if anyone cared) will irritate and annoy a certain number (possibly even a large number) of programmers, but it seems a lot of effort to go to."
(tags: funny programming computers c.s.-lewis parody screwtape c++)

Creating God in one’s own image

Research in the psychology of religion shows that people tend to think God thinks what they think: "People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."
(tags: religion psychology science politics god morality)

Atheism: Proving The Negative: Encyclopedia Entry: Atheism

Matt McCormick's draft of an encyclopedia entry on various arguments for and against atheism.
(tags: atheism religion matt-mccormick theodicy design kalam)

In the Pipeline: Things I Won’t Work With

Derek Lowe, a medicinal chemist, has a section of his blog on the subject of really nasty chemicals. Light hearted yet terrifying.
(tags: science funny humour smell chemistry dangerous explosives)

Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’ – Book Review

"Armstrong may perhaps make a plausible claim in asserting that faith, as understood by mainstream religious traditions before the advent of modernity, involved more than “mere” belief in the modern sense; but if the problem with religious life is that it encourages false, absurd, unjustified beliefs, showing that it does other things as well is not sufficient."
(tags: religion philosophy atheism karen-armstrong apophatic christianity)

‘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)

As promised, the link blog stuff is now working. It’s pulling links and descriptions from my Delicious bookmarks and posting them to LJ in batches of 10 or more, or when there’s stuff to be posted and nothing’s been posted for 4 days. Let me know if it becomes annoying.

Here comes the science

It turns out there’s a PHP script called Delicious Glue to do this, but that would involve using PHP, so no (gateway drug: next thing you know, you’ll be using Perl). It looks like that script also doesn’t cope with the brave new world of Unicode terribly well, doesn’t tag the LJ post using the tags from Delicious, and doesn’t support the elaborate posting scheme described in the previous paragraph. Also, it wasn’t invented here.

So I did it in Python. Mark Pilgrim’s excellent Universal Feed Parser module does much of the heavy lifting. Posting to LJ using XML RPC turns out to be surprisingly easy using the built-in xmlrpclib. Most of the faff comes in getting it to persist state between runs of the script, which I’m doing using pickle. Here’s the code: you’d need to be a programmer to adapt it for your own use, but if you are, it shouldn’t be hard. I’ll probably run it daily using cron.