Link blog: romania, mohammed, journalism, twitter

The Millions : One Fixed Point: “Sherlock,” Sherlock Holmes, and the British Imagination
Why we love Sherlock.
(tags: sherlock sherlock-holmes britain television books)
13 reasons why I am taking the Daily Mail to the Press Complaints Commission | British InfluenceBritish Influence
The Heil lied about Romanian immigration to the UK. This isn’t that surprising, but it’s nice to see someone do the research to prove it.
(tags: dailymail fail journalism lies uk romania immigration politics)
The Descent to C
Simon Tatham introduces C to people who’ve only worked in high level languages, the innocent little darlings. You ‘ad array bounds checking? You were lucky!
(tags: C programming language)
The Liberal Democrats face a true test of liberty | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
“The real scandal in the Liberal Democrats is not leading the news. Extremists are menacing the career and life of a Liberal Democrat politician and respectable society hardly considers these authentically scandalous threats to be a scandal at all. The scandal, in short, is that there is no scandal.”
(tags: islam libdems liberal-democrats nick-clegg islamism freedom twitter mohammed)
The Millions : Read Me! Please!: Book Titles Rewritten to Get More Clicks
Classic literature titles re-written as those click-bait headlines you see spreading around Facebook: “They Told Him White Whales Were Impossible to Hunt. That’s When He Went Literally Crazy.” Via marn.
(tags: creative funny literature parody)

Link blog: fiction, google, twitter, bookshop

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)

Link blog: funny, programming, nsa, twitter

The 29 Stages Of A Twitterstorm
Tells it how it is.
(tags: twitter controversy funny storm satire)
Age-ism, Transhumanism, and Silicon Valley’s Cognitive Dissonance — Better Humans — Medium
“If you’re irrelevant at thirty, why live forever?”
(tags: silicon-valley ageism transhumanism aging)
Ken Auletta: Can the Guardian Take Its Aggressive Investigations Global? : The New Yorker
The NYT looks at the history of the Graun and its recent scoops (the NSA files). Apparently the paper is running out of money. 🙁
(tags: journalism nsa surveillance guardian edward-snowden internet gchq newspaper)
Hard Sci-Fi Movies (HardSciFiMovies) on Twitter
Hard SF plots from Twitter. Via AndrewDucker.
(tags: science-fiction scifi movies funny space)
Saint Paul says shit
Although you won’t find many English translations admitting it (try the Vulgate).
(tags: philipians paul st-paul bible language shit)
Reverse Engineering a D-Link Backdoor – /dev/ttyS0
Interesting post on using a disassembler to find a backdoor someone left in a bunch of D-Link routers.
(tags: dlink backdoor programming hacking router)

Link blog: politics, law, privacy, nsa

The mandatory tweets of the self-righteous vacillating centrist stats bore: a user’s guide – Telegraph Blogs
"Sit back with a look of superiority on your face." Tee hee. I think I’ve probably used some of these (though not on Twitter of course, that’s for twits).
(tags: argument twitter funny)
A plea for politeness; or, a call for kindness | Slave of the Passions
"politeness is something you owe to me not in virtue of my natural superiority over you, but in virtue of our equality. You should be polite to me, not in deference to my authority, but in recognition of our shared humanity, according to which I, like you, am a human being with feelings, weaknesses and frustrations; I am vulnerable and capable of being hurt, just as you are." But are people who are systematically better off than others as vulnerable?
(tags: argument politeness privilege philosophy)
Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service | Techdirt
If you shut down your email service rather than giving the US government a back door, they’ll threaten to arrest you.
(tags: law politics nsa email encryption privacy lavabit)
Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours
"David Miranda, partner of Guardian interviewer of whistleblower Edward Snowden, questioned under Terrorism Act." This is why we don’t permit laws which allow people to be held for long periods without charge, even if the laws are ostensibly about fighting "terrorism". There’s no way that the UK authorities can seriously think Miranda is a terrorist. Via Metafilter, where they’re speculating that the US and UK are spooked because they don’t know what Snowden has actually got.
(tags: law politics terrorism nsa spying heathrow privacy edward-snowden glenn-greenwald gchq)
Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
"I am an independent Q.C. and not part of the government machine. I am tasked with reviewing the operation of the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorism laws. Where I am critical, I recommend change. My reports and recommendations are submitted to ministers and laid before Parliament." Interesting blog posts and reports on the police use of their anti-terrorism powers.
(tags: law politics terrorism police)

Richard Dawkins and the Islamic Nobel Prizewinners

Richard Dawkins is in the news again, for his twits on Twitter pointing out that Trinity College has produced more Nobel prizewinners than Islam. While he accepts that Muslims were great shakes in the Middle Ages, they haven’t done much science lately, apparently. By saying this, Dawkins has caused a bit of a stir.

Dawkins futher explains his views in a post on his site.

Dawkins is right about science in the Muslim world

Neil deGrasse Tyson makes Dawkins’s point at greater length. The Islamic world has long since lost its former scientific glory. Tyson puts the blame on Al Ghazali and a switch from inquiry to accepting “revelation”1. A much more extensive article on the decline, in the form of an interview with a Turkish physicist, makes the point that the Golden Age mixed the precursors to modern science with a lot of other weird stuff (but shurely this also applied in the West?)

Whatever the reasons, it seems Dawkins is right to say things ain’t what they used to be. Contra Nesrine Malik, he didn’t make the statement out of the blue, but rather, as part of a debate on the role of Islam in the birth of science (see this previous twit, for example). Everyone thinks science is a Good Thing2, so both Muslims and Christians like to claim credit for fostering science. Dawkins’s stuff about Nobel prizes should be read as “what have you done for us in the last 500 years, then?”

That’s racist!

(Edit:)Writing before Dawkins posted about Nobel Prizes (end of edit), Alex Gabriel says that some of Dawkins’s twits are racist statements.3

What sort of thing is a “racist statement”? It seems it’s something that encourages prejudice (a fault of reasoning) which can lead to discrimination (a moral fault), all on the grounds of race. However, it then doesn’t seem to follow that we ought never to make “racist statements”, because it all depends on how much encouragement we’re giving.

The best thing I’ve seen written about the interaction between criticism of Islam and racism is Russell Blackford’s piece in Talking Philosophy. Blackford says that “opponents of Islam who do not wish to be seen as the extreme-right’s sympathizers or dupes would be well-advised to take care in the impression that they convey”. I agree with Gabriel’s point that Dawkins’s support for Pat Condell and talk of “barbarians” and “alien” stuff shows Dawkins’s failure to take care here. But I see the EDL re-tweeted some of Dawkins’s twits about Islamic science, and I don’t think that implies Dawkins should not have talked about that. As Blackford says “After all, there are reasons why extreme-right organizations have borrowed arguments based on feminism, secularism, etc. These arguments are useful precisely because they have an intellectual and emotional appeal independent of their convenience to opportunists.”

Gabriel also says that it’s unacceptable to single Islam out for criticism. I don’t see any reason to think that. People may have legitimate reasons for singling out Islam: perhaps they know a lot about it (because they are ex-Muslims, say) or perhaps they think it is more harmful than other religions. Dawkins himself famously doesn’t single out Islam, usually leading to taunts of “you wouldn’t dare say that about Muslims” when he criticises Christianity4. So a criticism of Dawkins on those grounds seems to be either false or a “why aren’t you also addressing these evils?” sort of criticism (which is bad, as this expert guide to epistemic rationality could tell you).

9781118038048_p0_v1_s260x420Twitter is for twits

Finally, all of these people (including Dawkins) are foolish for taking Twitter spats seriously. The 140 character limit on twits precludes serious discussion, so it’s either for telling your friends what you had for lunch today, or getting your hit of self-righteous rage by swapping telegrams with people whose views you violently disagree with. The whole thing could fall into the sea tomorrow and nothing of value would be lost, John Donne notwithstanding. If Malik found that reading Dawkins’s twits hashed her Eid mellow, there’s an obvious solution.

In conclusion: the only legitimate use of Twitter is to link to blog posts. Get off my lawn.


  1. Though this comment seems to be a counterpoint to that 

  2. Believers like point to bits of their scripture and claim that verse is, if you use the eye of faith and squint a bit, actually a correct scientific statement that the authors could not possibly have known by mundane means, which proves that God revealed it. Oddly, God did not see fit to reveal that germs cause disease. 

  3. If you’re in Internet social justice fandom, you carefully avoid saying “Jones is a racist”, rather, you say “Jones said X, and X is a racist statement”: it’s like the “hate the sin, love the sinner” thing I remember from my evangelical days. While the evangelicals and social justice fans are rightly trying to avoid ad hom arguments or giving the impression that they are not themselves sinners, I think the two share the same difficulties. 

  4. The jargon for that sort of taunt is “fatwa envy”

Link blog: V-force, nuclear, twitter, Trident

The nuclear deterrent and reasons for its replacement
Interesting discussion from UK armed forces people on Trident and whatnot. Found in a comment on the aforementioned Charles Stross blog post.
(tags: Vulcan nuclear Trident ICBM SSBN V-force war)
Free Speech on the Internet: Silicon Valley is Making the Rules | New Republic
Google, Twitter, Facebook and the new global battle over the future of free speech
(tags: law twitter speech google islam censorship facebook)