Link blog: derren-brown, Chicago, ex-christian, university

Derren Brown: The miracle maker reveals his Christian past
All the best people are ex-Christians.
(tags: derren-brown ex-christian premier)
How The University of Chicago Could Have Done A Better Job Defending Free Speech | Popehat
Popehat improves the wording of the letter.
(tags: university education trigger Chicago)

Link blog: psychology, trigger, university, microagression.

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic
American identity politics and the attempt to curtail academic freedom with talk of triggers and microaggressions and all that jazz. “You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness.” (Via Mefi, where the mods deleted a posting someone made linking to this, disappointingly: Mefi’s mods seem to have crossed the ID politics event horizon recently)
(tags: ptsd trigger psychology university america academia microagression.)

Link blog: gaming, oxbridge, cambridge, tv

The Stuff Of Knightmare | Featured Article | The Gameological Society
“Knightmare ran for eight years and 112 episodes. At the height of the program’s popularity, 5 million viewers tuned in every week. It remains one of the most fondly remembered children’s shows on British television, 25 years after the first episode was broadcast.” Great article on a top TV programme from my youth.
(tags: games knightmare gaming tv)
The Oxbridge delusion: why the more we talk about these two great universities, the less we know – Comment – Voices – The Independent
“Worse still is when journalists, comedians and television producers casually use Oxbridge as a byword for ‘elitist’ – and not elitist in the benevolent, meritocratic sense, but in the loaded dice sense. It politicises and toxifies Oxbridge, dragging it down into the national mood of resentment. The Guardian website even has a whole education section helpfully entitled ‘Oxbridge and elitism’ just in case the message ‘it’s not for people like you’ was too subtle.”
(tags: university education oxbridge oxford cambridge)

Link blog: politics, internet, law, lse

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)

Link blog: culture, university, programming, atheism

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)

Link blog: cambridge, funny, philosophy, twitter

War of words breaks out among Jehovah’s Witnesses – Home News, UK – The Independent

For some reason, a bunch of newspapers in the UK have recently noticed that the Jehovas Witnesses are a cult. Nice to see so many people in the comments relating their stories of getting out.
(tags: religion cult jehovas-witness)

Richard Feynman on doubt, uncertainty and religion (subtitled) – YouTube

Feynman! Thou shouldst be living at this hour.
(tags: feynman doubt religion science physics)

Stephen Law: GOING NUCLEAR

A chapter from Law’s “Believing Bullshit” about the tactic he calls “going nuclear”: when the argument is going against you, blow everyone away by saying that “all arguments rest on faith” or “everything is relative” or some other such nonsense. Law anatomises the various forms of this tactic.
(tags: philosophy rationality argument stephen-law presuppositionalism)

Meeting Jesus at Oxford | Commentary | Fortean Times

CICCUs cousins DICCU and OICCU made the Fortean Times. Gripping stuff, with some ideas about why evangelical religion is so appealing to people at the famous universities.
(tags: ciccu religion university oxford cambridge)

An Interview with @AlmightyGod | Friendly Atheist

God has a Twitter feed (@almightygod). Hemant interviews Him.
(tags: religion funny god twitter)

The Origin of Apostasy in the Breakdown of the Evangelical Mind

Evangelicals like to quote scary (to them) statistics about how many teenage Christians will “fall away” (Christian jargon for leaving the faith) on going to university, or how many student Christians will no longer be Christians 5 or 10 years later.

P Z Myers over at Pharyngula pointed to a recent press release from US evangelicals who were worried about their teenagers going astray, quoting surveys which said over 50% would fall away at university. It’s not clear who did the surveys, so atheists should probably find that out before joining Myers in jumping for joy. As one of the commenters at Pharyngula says, moral panic is a great way to raise funds for your organisation.

When I was a lad, CICCU liked to quote similarly hopeful surveys about the perseverance of their graduates. In an old post of mine you can see my notes from a leavers’ talk given by the students’ curate at my old church. She quoted a UCCF survey which gave an attrition rate of over 50% after 5 years. It turns out that UCCF have never heard of such a survey. The link to the UCCF web forum where they said this is now defunct (presumably as part of the UCCF’s goal of ruthlessly suppressing open discussion), but you can see what Dave Bish, one of their staff workers, has to say about it. As well as saying there is no such survery, he writes that Christians should be careful of the post-hoc fallacy if they are tempted to blame university Christian Unions for their apostates. After saying that, he replies to a comment saying that someone should get some real statistics (which must include appropriate controls for non-CU Christians, and non-Christians, I think) by saying that such statistics are irrelevant because God has already told us in the Bible what causes people to fall away. Phew! I’m glad we sorted that one out.

Back here in the reality-based community, though, I’d be very interested in the results of such a survey. I know lots of people like me, and another LJer has said that “to say that I keep stumbling upon people with similar experiences is an understatement”. But the plural of anecdote is not data. Such a survey wouldn’t prove anything about the truth or otherwise of Christianity, of course, but that’s not why it’s interesting.

The discussion on Pharyngula turned up something which struck a chord with me. In the past, when talking about other post-university ex-evangelicals, many of whom studied science, I’ve spoken about them as seeing evangelicalism as a spiritual analogue of science. Is it science students that fall into evangelicalism and then fall out again? Perhaps that’s a bit too simple. A commenter on Myer’s posting quotes The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer, a free book about the state of politics in the USA. Chapter 4 discusses evangelicalism. The author writes about ex-evangelical apostates, and completely nails it:

What then gnawed away so mercilessly at the apostates that they could no longer overpower doubt with faith?

Their families will say it was Satan. But we thought, after interviewing dozens of “amazing apostates,” that (most ironically) their religious training had made them leave. Their church had told them it was God’s true religion. That’s what made it so right, so much better than all the others. It had the truth, it spoke the truth, it was The Truth. But that emphasis can create in some people a tremendous valuing of truth per se, especially among highly intelligent youth who have been rewarded all their lives for getting “the right answer.” So if the religion itself begins making less and less sense, it fails by the very criterion that it set up to show its superiority.

Similarly, pretending to believe the unbelievable violated the integrity that had brought praise to the amazing apostates as children. Their consciences, thoroughly developed by their upbringing, made it hard for them to bear false witness. So again they were essentially trapped by their religious training. It had worked too well for them to stay in the home religion, given the problems they saw with it.



The truth will make you free, as someone once said.