GCU Dancer on the Midway
Paul Wright's blog
Recent Entries 
25th Aug 2020, 09:29 pm - Welcome to my blog
I'm Paul Wright, a software engineer based in Cambridge, England. You can now find my public blog on my own site: http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/. I'll be crossposting from there to LJ but you'll only be able to comment on my site. See you over there.
Stephen Law: ‘Skeptical Theism and the Pandora’s Box Question’ – YouTube
Stephen Law did a half hour talk on the sceptical theist response to the Problem of Evil (“you can’t know that God doesn’t have good reasons for allowing some apparently gratuitous evils merely because you can’t think of such reasons”), and how adopting such a response leads to more general scepticism about just about everything (the Pandora’s Box objection, as he calls it).
(tags: theodicy theology religion philosophy problem-of-evil stephen-law epistemology)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
For American pundits, China isn’t a country. It’s a fantasyland. – The Washington Post
“Whenever I want to be cheered up about the future of my adopted country, I turn to American pundits. The air here might be deadly, the water undrinkable, the Internet patchy and the culture strangled, but I can always be reassured that China is beating America at something, whether it’s clean energy, high-speed rail, education or even the military. Over the past decade, American audiences have become accustomed to lectures about China, like a schoolboy whose mother compares him with an overachieving classmate.”
(tags: china america politics)
Ken MacLeod – Socialism and transhumanism
“The challenge for humanists and liberals in the face of a transhuman future is daunting: to replace the socialist project — or to revive it. Without something like it to underpin a sense of common human identity and common human interest, people will divide on the basis of other identities. Many on the left, of course, have found in identity politics a replacement for the universalism of their past. But identity can also be seized on by the far right. It can feed a resentful indifference to the plight of others that comes from having one’s own plight disregarded.”
(tags: socialism politics transhumanism ken-macleod identity-politics humanism)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Is a ‘lack of belief’ the best we can do? | The Philosopher’s Groan
“There is a common view – one you yourself may hold – that the only intellectually honest position for an atheist to have is a ‘lack of belief’ in gods. Today I’m going to argue that this definition is confused, and should be retired. It is too broad to be useful, and that we ought to reserve the word ‘atheist’ for active disbelief in the existence of gods. Furthermore, I’ll try to demonstrate that we have a much stronger positive philosophical case for rationally believing that no god – theistic or deistic – exists.”
(tags: atheism philosophy agnosticism belief)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Git from the inside out
If you’re someone who understands things best by knowing how the guts of them work, here’s a good post on Git’s insides.
(tags: git programming revision-control internals blob hash)
Losing their religion: The hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims | Global | The Guardian
The experiences of ex-Muslims in the UK, who face ostracism and maybe even violence, as well as finding it hard to find help because of worries about Islamophobia. Sulaiman, who is featured in the article, is a former colleague of mine. “Shams believes that this kind of gesture and the NUS decision last month to lobby alongside Cage, the militant Islamic prisoners pressure group, undermines the position of dissenting Muslims. “What it does is to say to reformists and secularists, you’re not really Muslims.””
(tags: ex-muslim islam apostasy politics multiculturalism uk islamophobia)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Ground Control | George Monbiot
“No progressive party can survive the corporate press, corrupt party funding systems and conservative fear machines by fighting these forces on their own terms. The left can build only from the ground up; reshaping itself through the revitalisation of communities, working with local people to help fill the gaps in social provision left by an uncaring elite. Successful progressive movements must now be citizen’s advice bureau, housing association, scout troop, trade union, credit union, bingo hall, food bank, careworker, football club and evangelical church, rolled into one. Focus groups and spin doctors no longer deliver.”
(tags: monbiot george-monbiot politics left progressive latin-america)
Henry Marsh’s “Do No Harm” – The New Yorker
The New Yorker looks at Henry Marsh, author of “Do No Harm”.
(tags: books surgery medicine brain neurosurgery)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Whig Party | Britain’s original progressive political party is back
Crikey. It’s like a Neal Stephenson novel: “The Whigs are returning to British politics. We are going into the 2015 General Election to provide a fresh choice to the British people, and to show that everyone can get involved in politics. Our campaign will be positive and optimistic, both online and in the streets. The Whigs are back. Come and join the party.”
(tags: whig politics election history uk general-election)
David Hume and the sensible knave | Ask a Philosopher
Is there a response to Hume’s “sensible knave”, who does evil only when he can be reasonably sure of not getting found out?
(tags: david-hume hume morality knave philosophy glaucon)
Why I Don’t Read The News Anymore | Thing of Things
I don’t, either, for roughly the same reasons.
(tags: news ozymandias psychology availability politics)
A fixed-term hung Parliament? | British Government and the Constitution
Prof Adam Tomkins explains the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Points out that, while a defeat which is not a motion of no confidence does not allow an early election, nothing compels a Prime Minister to stay in office: Labour could hold the threat of Milliband’s resignation (and the Tories being invited to form a government) over the SNP in order to pass a budget, for example.
(tags: constitution government politics election confidence)
The British press has lost it – POLITICO
Even the broadsheets don’t bother to hide the fact that they’re rooting for the Tories because their oligarch owners told them to (except the Graun, of course). No one in my liberal bubble actually reads print newspapers, they just share links to the Graun’s “Comment is Dumb” section on Facebook. Still, I might not be typical, so it’s all a bit worrying.
(tags: press newspapers journalism politics britain election)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
21st Apr 2015, 11:03 am - Elsewhere: God, cosmology, complexity

Spot the godOver on top cosmologist Sean Carroll’s blog, there’s a guest post by his fellow top cosmologist Don Page, who is a Christian. Page was responding to Carroll’s debate with William Lane Craig. Page does not find Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument persuasive, but has his own reasons for being a Christian, which you can read about over there (spoilers: maybe God is the simplest explanation for the fact that the universe is orderly; also the Resurrection happened).

The comment thread beneath the post is huge and goes off in all sorts of interesting directions. Page makes use of Bayes’ Theorem in his arguments. There are some people who use in their day jobs (rather than just reading Less Wrong and bullshitting, as I do) who respond to him, notably Bill Jefferys, staring here.

I’ve been commenting on and off. I reconstructed the threads I got involved in as the lack of threaded commenting over there makes it difficult to follow. I’ve been reading Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual For Creating Atheists” (which I hope to post about at some point) so I was trying for some Socratic dialogue and questioning of “faith” as a means of knowing. See how I got on:

Mathematicians wanted

I was interested in Daniel Kerr’s comments (for example, here, here, and finally here, in response to one of mine). He says that simplicity depends on a choice of mathematical language, but I thought this was just a constant factor. However, the comments rapidly go off into model theory and stuff about the Axiom of Choice, so I got lost. Can anyone comment on what he’s saying and whether he’s right?


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Peter Boghossian vs Tim McGrew – YouTube
Here’s an “Unbelievable” show in which Boghossian (“A Manual For Creating Atheists”) talks to Tim McGrew, who’s reasonably well known for his arguments in favour of belief in miracles. I’ve linked to a set of comments from “MrShamuto” where he undertakes more or less the process Boghossian describes in the books, of Socratic dialogue with “AdeToz”, a Christian. It is long and occasionally interrupted by other people who are bonkers, but it’s interesting to see Boghossian’s stuff in action.
(tags: street-epistemology epistemology peter-boghossian tim-mcgrew philosophy evidence unbelievable premier christian radio socratic)
W00tstock 5.0 – George RR Martin vs. Paul and Storm – YouTube
The singers of “Write like the Wind, George RR Martin” get a surprise.
(tags: game-of-thrones grrm george-rr-martin funny video wootstock)
List of testimonies from people who just know their religion is true
amymea, writing in the ex-Mormon Reddit, takes to task someone who argues that the “testimony of the spirit” is good evidence that Mormonism is true, by listing a bunch of other people who had strong feelings upon reading their own religious texts.
(tags: mormonism reddit feelings faith religion evidence)
Advanced Trolley Problems
Funny.
(tags: philosophy funny comic ethics trolley-problem)
What I’ve Learned About Female Desire From Reading
Mallory Ortberg is fun. “100% of women want to have sex with a man who embodies the fox version of Robin Hood from the cartoon Robin Hood, but most do not actually want to have sex with a fox or a man dressed as one.”
(tags: mallory-ortberg funny reading sex desire books)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
15th Apr 2015, 05:00 pm - Elsewhere: lindy conduct

I’ve been talking elsewhere, so I thought I’d make some posts about that.

Previously, I talked about the push to introduce codes of conduct for lindy hop events in the wake of a high profile sexual assault case. Over on Reddit, /r/SwingDancing saw quite a bit of discussion of the whole business, as you’d expect.

Someone calling themselves The Logical Lead started a Reddit discussion about a blog post of his and another discussion about where the boundaries of flirting are. His burden seems to be that Mobtown Ballroom’s Code bans flirting and victimises men, because of the third rule, which begins “Don’t treat the ballroom like a pick-up joint.”

He makes the true point that, in the recent case, things were made worse because the perpetrator was a famous and popular teacher. But he then went off the rails in saying that the community’s reaction was victimising men by targeting them rather than only dealing with the abuse of fame, and even implying that the codes would be abused by popular men to corner the market in women. I commented saying that, although the recent case was certainly about the misuse of fame, the discussion that followed allowed many women talk about problems they’d had, most of which were not with famous teachers.

On the question of differentiating flirting and harassment, this thread linked to Dogpossum’s own guide to dating dancers. Some people quibbled about Dogpossum’s advice, but I think the point is that if you’re asking how to do it and not fall foul of a code of conduct, you’re saying you’re not sure of your social skills and need rules. If you are skilled enough not to creep people out anyway, you can probably treat them more as guidelines.

I also bigged up the Northerners’ STEPS code and their FAQ, where they make it clear that “we certainly aren’t suggesting that dancers aren’t allowed to form romantic relationships at our events (including, a-hem, extremely short relationships)”.

On Metafilter, Reddit has a reputation as a terrible place full of MRAs, libertarians and other ne’er do wells, but The Logical Lead didn’t get a very good reception for his stuff, so I suppose it depends which sub-reddits you’re talking about.


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
FtBCon2: Sexual Harassment Law and You – Google
Ken White (Popehat) talks about American laws related to harassment and convention policies.
(tags: conventions harassment law popehat)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
cmocka – unit testing framework for C
Nifty unit test framework which does the checking arguments and providing return values from stub/mocked functions which I tend to spend a bit of time re-creating each time I write a test.
(tags: test development programming testing unit-test C)
What cohabiting couples can to do put their financial house in order | Money | The Guardian
(tags: cohabitation finances will legal law money)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
20th Mar 2015, 01:13 am - Link blog: ad-hoc, gods, list, vimes
Mister Vimes’d Go Spare | Send in the Zeppelins!
One of the many online tribute threads for Terry Pratchett lead me to this fanfic about what happened after Sam Vimes died. Good stuff.
(tags: discworld fanfiction vimes gods terry-pratchett)
Temporary Mailing Lists | Hacking for Christ
Here’s a rough spec for something I’ve often wanted at work (less the “delete the archive after 2 weeks” part). Anyone seen an implementation of something like this?
(tags: email list ad-hoc)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
24th Feb 2015, 01:13 am - Link blog: death, life, cancer, money
The value of a life
“If you have money and want to save lives, you had better put a price on life… But don’t mix up the price of a life with the value of a life. I see this happen all too frequently. To correct this mistake, I’m going to tell a little story.”
(tags: economics life value cost money charity death)
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer – NYTimes.com
Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. He reflects on his life.
(tags: death cancer oliver-sacks david-hume)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Feminism and The Search for Truth | The Merely Real
Chana Messinger’s response to the Scott Aaronson thing (on whether feminism hurts geek guys) is the best one. I learned the term “scrupulousity”.
(tags: scott-aaronson nerds feminism laurie-penny chana-messinger)
Hume and subjective/objective moral values
A Twitlonger page (which I guess is what we used to call a blog post) about Hume and the varied meanings of “subjective” and “objective” wrt morality.
(tags: hume david-hume subjective objective morality)
What Color is Your Function? – journal.stuffwithstuff.com
Interesting stuff about asynchronous programming.
(tags: async programming)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

This post links to descriptions of sexual assault.

Lindy hop got its own version of the Jimmy Saville revelations recently, when it became clear that a long standing international dance teacher (who wasn’t someone I’d heard of prior to this, as it happens) had abused various women. Jeff Leyco has collated a bunch of links to people talking about it, the most important of which is Sarah Sullivan’s original blog posting describing her experiences.

Elaborating on some comments I’ve made in other places:

There’s sometimes a confusion about types of evidence, and between degrees of evidence and degrees of belief, that happens when people read accusations like this online. Testimony is evidence, especially if it’s potentially costly to the testifier if they lie. We rightly demand a very high probability of truth before we bless certain beliefs for certain uses (for example, in a court of law or a science journal). But that the probability doesn’t need to be as high before deciding to keep someone away from young women at dance camps, for example. There were surprisingly few “oh, the Internet says it, so it must have happened, riiiight” comments, but not none. Those commenters looked pretty foolish when the other shoes dropped, and a pattern of predation emerged in the reports of other women. If you’re not actually having to decide whether to allow that teacher to come to your dance camp next weekend, it seems wise to shut up and wait for those other shoes to hit the floor rather than sounding off on the Internet.

There was some use of the word “awkward” to refer to the perp. People who are socially awkward don’t do the stuff described by these women, which, moral considerations aside, requires some nerve (in the case of initiating physical contact) and Dark Side social skills (isolating the victims, telling them they’re special, and so on). Let’s stop calling predators “socially awkward”, it’s an insult to socially awkward people.

Codes of Conduct

One popular suggesting in the wake of all this is to institute codes of conduct for dance events. Having been initially a little wary of that, I’m now in favour as a result of chatting with friend C (who got me into lindy in the first place) and reading around.

One thing that seems to be happening is that people are adopting language from codes for professional conferences. I’d argue that these codes are not suitable for use at dance events without modification. If you’re going to have a code, it’s not a talisman against predators that you can just hold up like a crucifix in front of a vampire and hope they go away. You have to enforce it, and that means getting language right so it’s enforceable.

The general

What am I on about? Broadly, that there’s a difference between the environment you want at a conference where everyone’s on the clock (and subject to employment law) and something that’s a cross between a party and the practice of an art.

There’s also some danger of confusion between the social justice concept of a Safe Space, and the sort of environment the general public would want to dance and socialise in. A Safe Space in the former sense is typically heavily policed against a fairly strict and specialised language code which bans certain words, and the police usually prohibit discussion about matters they consider settled. Assuming that such Spaces make anyone safer, they do so at the expense of other good things, which are put aside in favour of an overriding concern for Safety; and the converse is also true: not making your Space Safe means you’re trading off those other goods against the risk of some people not being Safe (see Mefi, previously). Face this, accept there’s nothing wrong with trading off goods against each other, and don’t use the phrase “safe space” to describe the environment you’re trying to create.

Elizabeth Dingivan criticises this post on safe conferences both for advocating an over-patrolled environment and for concentrating on preventing problems rather than promoting positive values. It’s worth checking our her comment.

Edit: another thought that occurs is that unless you have the resources to police heavily, you cannot in fact offer a totally safe space even if you want to, so your terminology should not offer something you’re not going to deliver.

The specific

More specifically, we need to say more about banning “sexualised material”: if it means porny pictures are banned that’s fair, but do you want to ban a bunch of those songs about food which aren’t actually about food or the songs in which there’s sexual commentary on men’s and women’s bodies? Probably not, because we allow things in an artistic context that we don’t want to see around the office (if you were trying to create a Safe Space, the answer would be different here).

Relatedly, partner dancing got started in part as an early form of speed dating, and some people come to dancing hoping to meet romantic partners, in a way which would not be appropriate for a professional conference. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, though there are wrong ways to go about it and one needs to be alert for the difference between dance chemistry and sexual desire. I don’t know how to convey this in a short document, but just “no harassment, no sexy stuff” won’t cut it.

When we dance, we’re touching another person and, in some dances, adopting a close hold. It’s worth going into more detail about what’s OK here, rather than just banning “inappropriate touching”. It’s also worth dealing with what to do when bad stuff happens by accident when moving at speed, not something that ForkMyDongleCon ’13 attendees had to worry about, I guess. (I’d also like to ban teachers from initiating back-rub circles at the end of lessons, please: that sort of touch isn’t what people signed up for).

Good examples

I like the policies of Mobtown, Baltimore (though the bullet about various banned -isms shades towards Internet social justice jargon and makes me wonder if I’ll get the boot for saying “Mark’s such a crazy dancer”) and Holy Lindy Land, Israel. I like Bryn’s suggestions on Sarah Sullivan’s posting.

A couple more general points: it’s worth distinguishing hints and tips from serious offences. It’s worth emphasising that we’re dealing with hopefully rare stuff here and most people are lovely. I remember discussion of Cambridge Dancers’ Club’s etiquette page where people wondered whether a long etiquette manual might put the punters off. Both these points can be addressed by having a serious bit and a funny FAQ (a FAQ’s a good format for avoiding the CDC page’s wall of text). I like Holy Lindy Land’s pictures, too.

Final point: there’s no point in any of this if there’s no-one to tell about problems or if problems are not investigated and resolved once you tell someone. This requires a lot of the people who organise events, who are often volunteers. In the case I’ve heard about where harassment was not dealt with at an event, those organisers were women, so it wasn’t a case of men belittling women’s problems. Organisers want to be liked and find confrontation difficult, just like anyone else. I’ve never done that job, so I don’t know what to do about that.


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
24th Jan 2015, 07:58 pm - Je ne suis pas votre allié

A red flagThis post discusses victim blaming in the context of both murder and sexual assault.

Scott Alexander wrote, on dealing with social justice debates on the Internet:

H.L. Mencken writes “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Well, this is my temptation. It requires more willpower than anything else I do in my life – more willpower than it takes for me to get up in the morning and work a ten hour day – to resist the urge to just hoist the black flag and turn into a much less tolerant and compassionate version of Heartiste1.

Hoist the colours high

I felt this urge most strongly while reading the Metafilter thread about the attack on Charlie Hebdo (I’m pw201 on Mefi), where many commenters were engaging in what elsewhere might be called victim blaming or de-railing, and then flouncing when called out.

What passes for Leftism in America and in her cultural sphere of influence (i.e. the Guardian) seems to be the the establishment of a ordering of identity groups and the promotion of the interests of those groups lower down the order over those groups higher up. (The claims that there are multiple orthogonal pecking orders or that there’s no strict total ordering in people’s heads seem false: there are only two directions one can “punch”, and, whenever there’s a debate, it’s about who is really higher or lower).

It is one thing to bite the bullet, as I think Arthur Chu does, and admit that the accusations of victim blaming and the like are properly made only against his ideological enemies, without any attempt to pretend that victim blaming is universally bad. But to do this is to admit to special pleading, which most people don’t think is fair.

What I saw in the debate about the attacks and subsequent anger/flouncing was the painful dissonance that arises when Leftists-of-this-sort have to deal with members of a group whose interests they would naturally promote (identifying the murderers as Muslims and brown people) carrying out heinous crimes against people higher up the ordering (identifying the victims as white people or even as racists). Suddenly, those L-O-T-S who in other contexts would be assiduous in calling out any implication, however subtle, that “she was asking for it, dressed like that” or “maybe it was a bad idea to drink so much at the frat party”, are using those same tropes and hoping that a big disclaimer will do the trick.

I guess what’s happened is that the ordering was established as an instrument to promote the positive values of some sort of Leftism, but has now become almost an end in itself. My political leaning were formed growing up in the 1980s reading the Daily Mirror, but it’s fair to say I’m not an “ally” of L-O-T-S. Which isn’t to say I haven’t learned anything from reading Mefi, LJ and even Tumblr (the shocking prevalence of street harassment, to take one example).

Mais je ne suis pas votre ennemi

Scott Alexander’s urge doesn’t really make much sense rationally, though it’s psychologically understandable. If you have lefty views but think the special pleaders are bad, recall that their ideological rivals are worse, or at least, seeking worse outcomes. If you’re just posting and commenting on the Internet (as opposed, to say, voting), you don’t actually have to join up pick a team and buy their views as a package. If people you agree with about a lot of stuff argue with you about some other stuff, you don’t have to feel bad about that, because you’re not letting the team down: remember, you’re not on a team in the first place. People who are experts on social problems aren’t necessarily experts on how you personally should deal with them, as previously discussed. And thus I survive on Mefi, and places like it.

The Mefi thread went in quite a good direction in the end: there was a debate about cartoons and caricature, and some attempt to understand what the cartoons were about, and translated commentary from French people. It is long, but worth reading. I’ve been posting the good bits to the link blog, but allow me to recommend Lost in translation: Charlie Hebdo, free speech and the unilingual left in particular.

tl;dr;

Kitty Stryker said bad things and should feel bad, but that’s no reason to get into bed with Heartiste. He certainly won’t respect you in the morning.


  1. Heartiste is a well known pick up artist, men’s rights activist, and all-round bad egg. Ozy Frantz did a Anti-Heartiste FAQ which might save you some unpleasant research. 


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The case for mocking religion.
Hitchens! thou shouldst be living at this hour: France has need of thee.
(tags: cartoons christopher-hitchens satire religion islam terrorism murder)
22 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting – BuzzFeed News
“Cartoonists from all over the world mourn in the wake of a Paris shooting that killed as many as 12 people, many of whom are members of Charlie Hebdo.”
(tags: charliehebdo jesuischarlie cartoon murder terrorism)
Ex-Muslims Forum on Twitter: “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror http://t.co/EngpM6LbjQ”
The ex-Muslims Forum publish “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror”
(tags: ex-muslim charlie-hebdo terrorism murder islam)
The Blasphemy We Need – NYTimes.com
“Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.”
(tags: blasphemy charlie-hebdo islam speech freedom)
The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders – The New Yorker
“Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture. A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents.”
(tags: charliehebdo journalism terror religion politics islam)
How Muslim Scholars View Paris Attack (In-depth) – Special Coverage – Shari`ah – OnIslam.net
There isn’t a shortage of Muslims condemning the attack in Paris.
(tags: muslim islam terrorism paris charlie-hebdo)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Imaginary Positions – Less Wrong
One I’d missed: Yudkowsky’s post on rounding to the “nearest cliche”.
(tags: cliche nearest eliezer-yudkowsky rationality)
The world is not falling apart: The trend lines reveal an increasingly peaceful period in history.
Steven Pinker argues we should look at trend lines rather than headlines.
(tags: statistics war politics violence world steven-pinker)
A Pasta Sea: Elijah and the Apologist of Baal
1 Kings 18 re-imagined as if Baal had a William Lane Craig on his side. Fun times. “A Pasta Sea” is a good name for an ex-Christian blog, too.
(tags: bible apologetics ahab baal elijah funny parody)
A&E in crisis: a special report – Telegraph
“As the NHS faces its worst winter in years, Robert Colvile provides an in-depth, first-hand account of the pressures facing the health service.” Interesting: combination of people unable to see a GP quickly enough and hospitals unable to turf old people to social care quickly enough. Targets sometimes provide perverse incentives.
(tags: nhs health healthcare medicine hospital)
Free exchange: Nice work if you can get out | The Economist
Why the rich now have less leisure than the poor. Via WMC on FB.
(tags: leisure work economist)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

The Scotts Aaronsen and Alexander both worry that following feminist doctrine makes geeky guys miserable and too scared to even attempt to form a romantic relationship with a woman. Hugh Ristik looks at feminist guilt, along similar lines to Catholic guilt. Laurie Penny responds compassionately to Aaronsen.

I still think of myself as in the Scotts’ tribe because of my awkward formative years, which my brain tends to give undue weight when compared to pieces of evidence like “you haven’t been single for more than, say, 6 months since you were, say, 22″ (hint: learn to dance). So, I hope they won’t mind a little criticism.

Firstly, I wonder why arch-empiricists like the Scotts swallowed whole everything they were being told by the feminists. Why don’t the Scotts quickly work out that either they’re not being told what they think they’re being told (e.g. I bet if you asked the people conducting the harassment seminar, they wouldn’t have said Aaronsen was meant to take home the lesson that he did) or the people telling them this stuff are wrong about some things (e.g. if the people conducting the harassment seminar genuinely meant to say that men should never approach women under any circumstances just in case it’s harassment, they can safely be ignored without feeling bad about it)?

We get our beliefs wholesale

Possibly, if you’re starting from zero and desperately looking around for some rules on how to relate to women romantically, you might just latch on to the first subculture that claims to have expertise. It could have been much worse: Aaronsen could have run into the pick-up artists before the problematic patriarchal privilege posse, then he’d be going on about alphas and betas instead of privilege and de-railing, all the while wondering why having sex with people he despises for being stupid enough to fall for his con doesn’t seem to make him happy1. So, lucky escape there.

The Scotts might respond to me that I swallowed evangelical Christianity whole at the same age and that also messed up my relations with women a bit, so I’m in no position to criticise. That seems fair enough. What on Earth was I thinking? Both American Social Justice Internet Feminism (using my previous definition) and evangelicalism have the ability to form a rules-based system2. The temptation to swallow whole an ideology which has got some things right (especially things that everyone else seems to be ignoring) is common to all of us3, but geeks feel even more of a pull towards systems and clear “right answers” (previously, previouslier). Without wanting to say that evangelicalism and ASJIF aren’t problematically deontological, maybe some of the geeks’ troubles with them are down to these geeky tendencies.

Requirements analysis

Geeks: suppose you are writing (or, more often, updating) some software, as many of you do. The customer (or, more often, the person employed to prevent customers from seeing geeks that might alarm them) comes along and says “we want it to do X”. You’re like “but X will take ten years, will break Y, and the standard clearly says we must do Z not X”. But they’re like “No, X is super important and Customer won’t buy it unless it does X”. What’s the question you should ask now?

“What is the problem you are trying to solve?”

You should ask this because often in these situations you’re being given a solution to an underlying problem (the solution X) and you have to dig a bit to work out what the underlying problem is. The customer is an expert on the problem. You don’t get to say that their problem isn’t real (if you want to keep your job, anyway), but if they’re asking you to do something you’re going to have to live with for a while, you can and should look at that and see whether it makes sense in your context. This will usually involve talking to some people, tricky as that may be. Perhaps you can find a sympathetic geek on the customer’s side of the fence to thrash things out with. That usually works best.

Edit: in response to my question on Mefi (“why didn’t Aaronsen detect the bullshit?”), officer_fred reminds us that geeks take everything a bit seriously and have malfunctioning bullshit detectors.


  1. This assumes that the PUA stuff actually gets geeks laid, of course. 

  2. The fancy word for this when applied to morality is deontology. As previously mentioned, ASJIF is “deontology on steriods”

  3. See in group bias and conjunction bias


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