- Changing my mind on nuclear disarmament – Charlie’s Diary
- Charles Stross argues against renewing Trident.
(tags: trident nuclear disarmament charles-stross war)
- Coding, Fast and Slow: Developers and the Psychology of Overconfidence
- "I’m going to talk today about what goes on in inside developers’ heads when they make estimates, why that’s so hard to fix, and how I personally figured out how to live and write software (for very happy business owners) even though my estimates are just as brutally unreliable as ever." via Andrew Ducker
(tags: software programming scrum estimation daniel-kahneman)
- What Martial Arts Have to Do With Atheism – Graeme Wood – The Atlantic
- Sam Harris on martial arts, meditation and atheism: "No one’s ever accused me of being an optimist, but I think reason and intellectual honesty will win. They’re just too useful."
(tags: religion atheism martial-arts meditation sam-harris)
- How Not to Die – Jonathan Rauch – The Atlantic
- Many doctors aren’t good at having "the Conversation". A doctor uses film to illustrate patients’ options at the end of their lives.
(tags: film ethics death health medicine intensive-care)
- 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)
- The Fireplace Delusion : Sam Harris
- “I recently stumbled upon an example of secular intransigence that may give readers a sense of how religious people feel when their beliefs are criticized. It’s not a perfect analogy, as you will see, but the rigorous research I’ve conducted at dinner parties suggests that it is worth thinking about. We can call the phenomenon “the fireplace delusion.””
(tags: sam-harris wood health psychology fireplace samharris religion)
- The Art of Controversy – Schopenhauer
- Machiavelli for arguments, illustrated here by someone with a keen knowledge of internet memes.
(tags: trolling controversy schopenhauer philosophy argument logic fallacy)
- BBC News – Swiftkey, a scientific start-up
- Interesting article about the best predictive keyboard for Android: it’s the product of some Cambridge PhDs who studied natural language proccessing, apparently.
(tags: cambridge university compsci language swiftkey keyboard text SMS android)
- New Statesman – Faith no more
- "Earlier this year, Andrew Zak Williams asked public figures why they believe in God. Now it’s the turn of the atheists – from A C Grayling to P Z Myers – to explain why they don’t "
(tags: atheism richard-dawkins philip-pullman daniel-dennett sam-harris)
- Pompous Theist
- You've seen Advice Dog and Courage Wolf, now enjoy Pompous Theist. Well observed stuff: I've seen quite a few of these "arguments" in my time.
(tags: atheism meme funny humour theism religion)
- “Shut Up, Rich Boy”: The Problem With “Privilege.” | No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?
- "I’m a feminist writer, but I don’t like to use the word “privilege” in my writing. Here’s why not:"
(tags: feminism privilege)
- Why Have Hackers Hit Russia’s Most Popular Blogging Service? – TIME
- Where LJ has been the past week or so. For once, it's not their fault.
(tags: internet security livejournal politics ddos)
- YouTube – Tim Minchin’s Storm the Animated Movie
- Tim Minchin's beat poem about New Age bullshit has an official animation to accompany it. I'd not seen it before: thanks to gjm11 for linking to it.
(tags: funny religion new-age science)
- The Daily Mash – Biblical apocalypse leaves much of Britain unchanged
- Mother-to-two Emma Bradford lives in Penzance, where a horde of creatures straight out of the painting Garden of Earthly Delights is on a bloody rampage.
She said: "They're scaly and bulbous-headed and they soil the streets with their demon fire-piss.
"And then they have a kebab."
(tags: funny rapture religion uk)
- The Blog : Morality Without “Free Will” : Sam Harris
- Sam Harris asks how the neuroscience of free will, or the lack of free will, should affect moral questions. I don't think people have libertarian free will, so it's nice to see Harris arguing that this doesn't mean an end to morality.
(tags: sam-harris free-will morality philosophy neuroscience)
- Honolulu Magazine | The Secret Life of Storage Units in Honolulu
- What people do with their storage lockers. Including running a business from them…
(tags: storage culture housing)
- “Don’t Talk to the Police” by Professor James Duane
- Of course, in the UK, we don't have an unqualified right to silence, but this stuff's interesting anyway. There's a follow-on video where a police officer responds and says the professor is right 🙂
(tags: law video police legal lectures rights)
- Try Thinking | Here lieth the thoughts of SiânyB
- "I do (despite appearances) totally understand the importance of prayer for some people – I know people who use it as a kind of meditation to clear their heads, to unburden their guilt or to enter some kind of celestial lottery of hope. But, given current world events, the message ‘Try Praying’ is a grimly obscuring lens through which to view your surroundings."
(tags: religion culture advertising prayer edinburgh christianity)
- Sean Carroll: Does the Universe Need God?
- Top theoretical cosmologist Sean Carroll wrote a chapter for the Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, and this is it. Interesting to compare Carroll's stuff with other popular science about the Big Bang.
(tags: philosophy god science bigbang big-bang sean-carroll physics cosmology)
- The Blog : Being Mr. Nobody : Sam Harris
- "Imagine a language in which, instead of saying ‘I found nobody in the room’ one said, ‘I found Mr. Nobody in the room.’ Imagine the philosophical problems that would arise out of such a convention. " Sam Harris quotes Wittgenstein to explain why he doesn't like to call himself an atheist.
(tags: wittgenstein atheism philosophy language sam-harris)
- Fixing HTTPS
- Glyph, of Twisted Python fame, talks about ways to fix HTTPS, presumably in the light of the recent attacks on certification authorities.
(tags: https security internet encryption)
- AC Grayling: ‘How can you be a militant atheist? It’s like sleeping furiously’ | Books | The Guardian
- Graying mocks the people who call atheists militant and fundamentalist, and talks about his new book: "But the third point is about our ethics – how we live, how we treat one another, what the good life is. And that's the question that really concerns me the most."
(tags: philosophy religion atheism grayling books)
- YouTube – Simon Blackburn – The Great Debate: Can Science Tell us Right From Wrong? (6)
- I'm reading Blackburn's "Truth" at the moment, and "Being Good" is next on the queue (clearly I should get "Lust" to complete the set). Here he is arguing that Sam Harris is wrong to claim that science can answer all moral questions.
(tags: sam-harris morality ethics simon-blackburn blackburn harris philosophy)
- Chatroulette Founder Andrey Ternovskiy Raises New Funding: “50,000 Naked Men” | Fast Company
- Chatroulette makes money of naked guys. Neat hack.
(tags: internet funny pornography chatroulette)
- LessWrong – RationalWiki
- What's wrong with Less Wrong, from RationalWiki. I didn't know about the Roko stuff, for example, which seems pretty bizarre. Always useful to see criticism to counteract my fanboy tendencies.
(tags: lesswrong eliezer-yudkowsky rationality bayesian bayes artificial-intelligence ai)
- Double agent | World news | The Guardian
- "Norah Vincent spent 18 months disguised as a man. She relives the boys nights out, the bad dates – and what happened when she ended up in bed with another woman." Women don't quite know what dating is like as a guy, it turns out. Or at least, Norah didn't, and ended up being quite sympathetic when she'd tried it 🙂
(tags: equality gender women men dating sex relationships)
- YouTube – Science Saved My Soul.
(tags: science video religion atheism galaxy milky-way soul)
- YouTube – Sam Harris – The Witchcraft Argument (By SecularSwede)
- Harris gets it. Not sure on his stuff on morality, but this is a good analogy for how I feel about religion.
(tags: sam-harris harris religion youtube witchcraft)
- Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
- They're too busy playing computer games. Wasn't that the explanation in Charles Stross's "Accelerando", too?
(tags: evolution aliens alien fermi science psychology space future)
- Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: If I could lead the cat herd
- "I were leading the cat herd, I'd like to stress that the problem isn't so much religion in itself, or even the Abrahamic tradition in itself. It is, first, the many deplorable elements – the apocalypticism, totalitarianism, sexist, puritanism, intolerance, etc. – that are so prevalent in the Abrahamic holy books and traditions. But it is not every single element of those traditions."
(tags: religion karen-armstrong russell-blackford sam-harris)
- HOSTAGES RESCUED BY COURAGEOUS RACIST The First-Person Observer:
- “He threw one grenade but dropped, like, twenty N-Bombs". Via Metafilter.
(tags: humour games first-person fps counterstrike racism)
- We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!
- A long shot, but you never know, I suppose…
(tags: politics election liberal liberal-democrats uk funny)
- Facebook | I Blame Monotheism For The Earthquakes, Volcanoes And Global Climate Change
- The old gods are not amused!
(tags: religion earthquake volcano climate cthulhu quetzalcoatl)
- Commons library research note on hung parliaments
- or "How Hung Parliaments Work". Via Ben Goldacre.
(tags: government law politics research uk election parliament system:filetype:pdf system:media:document)
Friends have been playing with Spotify, which it turns out has a whole load of Matt Redman songs (imagine U2 singing about how Jesus is their boyfriend, and you’ve got it). I heard Redman at Soul Survivor when I went, many years ago. Though the charismatic services were a little bit scary at first, the whole thing fired me up to the extent that I alarmed my parents on my return by saying I was thinking of training for the ministry (I could have been the next John W. Loftus). At one of those services, I ended up wondering whether I should ask for prayer for healing. Looking back, I can perhaps understand how the Neumanns thought it was better to pray than phone an ambulance. The question of what, if anything, God is up to these days is a tricky one, and it’s easy to get it wrong.
Praise the Prophets
A while ago, the Word of Dawkins came unto me, and the Spirit of Rationality rested upon me, and I spake forth, saying: “most believers already know what excuses to make for the apparent absence of dragons or gods, even as they claim belief in them, so they’re keeping a map of the real world somewhere. The believers without the map are the ones other believers regard either as shiny-eyed lunatics, like the folk who don’t go to doctors because God will heal them.” Prophetic, no? (You may say that I’d read about similar cases in the past, but I think you’re bringing a question-begging assumption of metaphysical naturalism to my text).
Rowan Williams has a map. He recently told everyone not to expect God to do much about global warming (by the way, Newsthump’s version of the story is good fun). Likewise, in the Neumanns’ situation, most Christians would call a doctor. So, I don’t think God is going to stop global warming or heal diabetics (much less amputees), and, for the most part, Christians don’t either. Of course, I don’t attempt to excuse the absence of the dragon by telling the story of the man on the roof of his house in the flood. But when you consider what we anticipate will happen, we’re not so very different after all.
When I was a Christian, it seemed there was an unspoken understanding on these matters. God made all that is, seen and unseen; Jesus did all those miracles you read about in the New Testament; the statistical likelihood was that Jesus would, in the fullness of time, come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and bring fresh supplies of lemon-soaked paper napkins. God could do anything. Still, right now, you were more likely to see answers to prayer about work stress and for courage to evangelise your friends than answers to prayers for people to be healed of cancer. Or at least, it was best not to be too surprised that prayers for the big stuff might be “answered in a different way”. (That is, if someone dies, they don’t have cancer any more. No, really, this is not a joke). There were people who asked annoying questions about why God didn’t do more, dissatisfied customers if you will, but I just found them irritating. God obviously existed, so why couldn’t they just realise that?
The Neumanns did without this tacit understanding, which is unfortunate because having the understanding means you have the map: it’s what allows Christians to get along in polite society without, say, being jailed for killing their children. Rather, just as Elijah did, the Neumanns anticipated-as-if God would act. They believed Biblical promises on prayer, as reiterated by their supporters here and here.
So what went wrong? Well, regular readers will know that God isn’t real, though Christians can hardly say so. The usual excuse won’t do, alas: it can’t be that the Neumanns lacked faith. A family with sufficient faith to gather to pray around their ailing child as she lies on her deathbed is surely an example for Christians everywhere, even the ones who believe in doctors. Likewise, even if God has provided doctors, it seems mean-spirited for God to penalise the Neumanns for not using them: which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? We must look for better excuses.
Things not seen
Perhaps those Bible verses aren’t intended to be the promises they seem to be (though they seem pretty clear to me, so if you encounter this argument, I hope you will chastise the person making it for twisting the Scriptures). Perhaps, as the Neumanns apparently believe, God foreknew that the kid would eventually turn away from Jesus, and took her home early to prevent it (though I’m disappointed by their liberalism, in that after their child died, they didn’t slit the throats of the local pastors and turn instead to Baal, Satan or Dawkins, which would have been a more biblical response). Still, both these explanations are at least possible, and if the maintenance of your belief is itself a virtue, that possibility should suffice. As recent convert Sam Harris says:
These people [that is, neo-militant rationalist atheists like Jerry Coyne] are simply obsessed with finding the best explanation for the patterns we witness in natural world. But faith teaches us that the best, alas, is often the enemy of the good. For instance, given that viruses outnumber animals by ten to one, and given that a single virus like smallpox killed 500 million human beings in the 20th century (many of them children), people like Coyne ask whether these data are best explained by the existence of an all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God who views humanity as His most cherished creation. Wrong question Coyne! You see, the wise have learned to ask, along with Miller, whether it is merely possible, given these facts, that a mysterious God with an inscrutable Will could have created the world. Surely it is! And the heart rejoices…
Of course, one mustn’t carry this sublime inquiry too far. Some have asked whether it is possible that a mysterious God with an inscrutable Will works only on Tuesdays or whether He might be especially fond of soft cheese. There is no denying that such revelations, too, are possible – and may be forthcoming. But they do not conduce to joy, chastity, homophobia, or any other terrestrial virtue – and that is the point. Men like Coyne and Dennett miss these theological nuances. Indeed, one fears that these are the very nuances they were born to miss.
Perhaps God is not deceased, but merely pining for the fjords. This, too, is possible. And the heart rejoices…