Log in

GCU Dancer on the Midway
Paul Wright's blog
Recent Entries 
The Author of a Best-Selling Abstinence Manifesto Is Sorry. Kind Of. Maybe.
Joshua Harris reflects on “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. Didn’t really catch on in the UK when I was an evangelical, as far as I remember. Probably a good thing!
(tags: dating evangelicalism joshua-harris book)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Tech debt and makers vs menders
Notes on how to get good at maintenance, and the transition from scrambling to stability.
(tags: programming business software technical-debt code)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists | Aeon Ideas
“A typical problem is that, in the absence of equations, they project literal meanings onto words such as ‘grains’ of space-time or particles ‘popping’ in and out of existence. Science writers should be more careful to point out when we are using metaphors. My clients read way too much into pictures, measuring every angle, scrutinising every colour, counting every dash. Illustrators should be more careful to point out what is relevant information and what is artistic freedom. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is that journalists are so successful at making physics seem not so complicated that many readers come away with the impression that they can easily do it themselves. How can we blame them for not knowing what it takes if we never tell them?”
(tags: science physics culture pseudoscience)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Human Cost of Tech Debt – DaedTech

(tags: programming work)

BPS Research Digest: 10 of The Most Widely Believed Myths in Psychology

(tags: psychology myths experiments)

Surprises of the Faraday Cage
Something Feynman got wrong, apparently (and which was repeated in the electro-magnetism lectures at university, as I recall).
(tags: physics science feynman electromagnetism)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
John Lanchester · Brexit Blues · LRB 28 July 2016
The LRB takes stock of where we’re up to.
(tags: brexit eu economics Politics)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Fintan O’Toole: Brexit fantasy is about to come crashing down
“Brexit is not so much a peasants’ revolt as a deeply strange peasants’ – and – landlords’ revolt.
It is a Downton Abbey fantasy of toffs and servants all mucking in together. But when the toffs, as the slogan goes, “take back control”, the underlings will quickly discover that a fantasy is exactly what it is.
The disaffected working- class voter in Sunderland, rightly angry about being economically marginalised and politically disenfranchised, will wait in vain for the magical billions that are supposedly going to be repatriated from Brussels to drop from the clear blue skies of a free England.”
(tags: britain eu brexit referendum politics)
There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove | Nick Cohen | Opinion | The Guardian
‘The Brexit figureheads had no plan besides exploiting populist fears and dismissing experts who rubbished their thinking.’
(tags: brexit eu Politics referendum)
Worrying Signs
Recording post-referendum incidents of racism. Not all leavers are racist, but all th racists voted leave, and now they think they’ve won.
(tags: eu referendum Politics racism brexit)
I want my country back
Laurie Penny, you magnificent bastard: “When all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like David Cameron’s face.”
(tags: brexit Politics referendum eu)
“I want to stop something exploitative, divisive and dishonest” — conversation with a Leaver — Medium
Interesting discussion between a young Remainer and his Lexiter father.
(tags: eu referendum Politics lexit brexit)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Why the Article 50 notification is important – Jack of Kent blog
Cameron has not formally notified the EU of our intention to leave. Boris says there’s no hurry. Perhaps it will never happen?
(tags: eu europe referendum brexit)
Lord Ashcroft on Twitter: “More from my 12k referendum-day poll on how leavers and remainers see the world differently: https://t.co/VgQ7Z6v9XK”
How the referendum leavers and remainers view the world. Not particularly surprising, but nice to see some actual evidence.
(tags: referendum opinion eu europe brexit)
Brexit | Legally and constitutionally, what now? – Public Law for Everyone

(tags: brexit referendum europe eu)

Ian Clark on Twitter: “Interesting comment on FB. Think it might be spot on. https://t.co/r9hCKUZN2Y”
An argument that Cameron has passed on a poisoned chalice to his successor, which is why Boris looks so glum: nobody will ever push the Article 50 button, because it’s political suicide, but not doing so is also political suicide.
(tags: brexit politics referendum europe cameron)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
6th Jun 2016, 12:13 am - Link blog: knitting, programming
As an analogy to programming.
(tags: programming knitting)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Who Was David Hume? by Anthony Gottlieb | The New York Review of Books
“David Hume, who died in his native Edinburgh in 1776, has become something of a hero to academic philosophers. In 2009, he won first place in a large international poll of professors and graduate students who were asked to name the dead thinker with whom they most identified. The runners-up in this peculiar race were Aristotle and Kant. Hume beat them by a comfortable margin. Socrates only just made the top twenty.”
(tags: philosophy hume david-hume books review)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
‘To be or not to be?’
The soliloquy, with the BBC doing that thing getting a bunch of unexpected people on the stage.
(tags: soliloquy hamlet funny BBC)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
18th Apr 2016, 06:50 pm - LJ New Comments: new release

I’ve updated the little script I wrote to keep track of which comments are new on LJ and Dreamwidth (LJ now does this automatically in its default style, DW doesn’t, by the looks of it). Thanks to sally_maria for alerting me to both the problem and the solution.

Userscripts.org is long dead, so I’m now hosting it on my site.

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Doctor J / interview-questions · GitLab
Update to the Joel list.
(tags: hiring interview jobs career software)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Rupert Murdog
“I can’t say I have their kind of fire in my gut, but I probably have some old bits of tennis ball.” On LinkedIn, nobody knows you’re a dog.
(tags: dog funny linkedin recruiters employment)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Street Epistemology: An Effective Response to Credulity – YouTube
Anthony Magnabosco discusses his experiences applying the methods from the book “A Manual For Creating Atheists”.
(tags: street-epistemology atheism argument conversion)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
3rd Apr 2016, 07:58 pm - Atheism: not merely a lack of belief

Atheist shoes for shoe atheists
Atheist shoes for shoe atheists
On the Reddits, there’s a bit of debate about what we should understand by the term “atheist”. The most popular view among atheists there is that their atheism is a “lack of belief”, and that they make no claim about whether or not God exists. Take the sidebar on /r/DebateAnAtheist as an example of this view:

For r/DebateAnAtheist, the majority of people identify as agnostic or ‘weak’ atheists, that is, they lack a belief in a god. They make no claims about whether or not a god actually exists, and thus, this is a passive position philosophically.

What’s going on here?

Firstly, some people think that someone who believes or who states a belief has a “burden of proof”. See Frank Turek’s blog, for example, where he makes the analogy to a courtroom (I guess he doesn’t know about Scottish law). In this view, the atheist needs to make their case, they can’t just sit back and wait for the apologist to make theirs. The “lack of belief” atheists accept that a person with a belief has a burden of proof, so they are careful to say they don’t have a belief, just a lack of belief.

Secondly, apologists also like to say that atheists have a belief, therefore they have faith (meaning unevidenced belief), therefore we’re not so different, you and I. Again, a “lack of belief” atheist might accept that a “belief” is “something accepted on faith”, and that believing without “positive evidence” is always bad, but deny that they have a belief.

Finally, the apologist and the “lack of belief” atheist might both accept that “you can’t prove a negative” and relatedly, that to claim to “know” something requires you to be absolutely certain of it.

I think what’s going wrong in all these cases is that the atheists have gone too far in accepting stuff which the apologists made up to muddy the waters (or, more charitably, which is confused thinking shared by atheists and apologists), but then suddenly realised they need to pull up just before crashing into an undesirable conclusion.

What does the “lack of belief” view get right? Well, people do have degrees of belief, so it’s true to say that failing to accept one belief is not the same as believing the opposite belief. The classic example quoted by “lack of belief” atheists is the jar of beans: if I say I don’t believe the number of beans is even, I’m not saying it’s odd, I’m saying I don’t know. If I wanted to put a number on it, I’d say it was 50% likely to odd and 50% likely to be even, in the absence of any other information.

However, if I thought it was 50% likely that there was a God, I’d still be in church every Sunday. The consequences of being wrong are too great to risk on a coin toss. I think most atheists consider it much less likely that there’s a God, unlikely enough that, if the question were about anything other than God, they’d be happy enough to say “X does not exist”.

Burden of proof

Going back to the first point, we should distinguish between rules of debate (or of a courtroom) and rules of rationality. An atheist who goes into a debate and says just sits there repeatedly telling their theist opponent “you haven’t proven your case” deserves to lose the debate. Entering into a debate requires taking up the burden of convincing the audience.

But it’s not true that if we want to be rational, we take on a duty to defeat all comers when we believe something or say out loud that we believe it. Being rational means we ought to have good reasons for our beliefs, but our time is limited, so we cannot become experts on everything. Rational belief in evolution doesn’t require us to rebut everything in a Gish Gallop in a way which would convince a creationist.

It’s not that hard to come up with good reasons to think there isn’t a God based on our background knowledge: on the face of it, the universe looks nothing like what we’d expect if there were. We’re rational in believing and saying that there are no teapots in the asteroid belt, no unicorns on Pluto, no fairies at the bottom of the garden, and that there’s no God.

Belief, faith, and evidence

On to the second point. As I’ve mentioned previously, atheism doesn’t require faith, at least in most common senses of the world. A belief is just a mental assent to some statement of how things are. This assent isn’t something that only happens because a person has faith: perhaps they have excellent reasons for their belief (or perhaps they don’t: both cases are examples of belief).

There’s also some confusion about evidence, where some people don’t realise that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Something that doesn’t happen when your theory says it should have can provide as much evidence as something that does happen.

Proving a negative, absolute certainty

We can certainly prove a negative in mathematics (the square root of 2 is not a rational number, there are no even primes above 2, and so on). Outside of mathematics, it’s difficult to reach 100% certainty for anything we believe, but that just means that we’ll have to make do without it. It’s generally harder to show that something does not exist than that something does (where we can just point to an example of the thing), but remember, something that does not happen can still be evidence.

When someone says “I know there is no God”, they might be doing a couple of things: they might be emphasising the strength of their belief (“I don’t just believe it, I know it”) and/or making a claim that this belief is true and justified (which is traditionally what knowledge means to a philosopher). The confusion between these two is responsible for a lot of argument between people who know a bit of philosophy and those who don’t.

In either case, just because we can think of ways in which we could be wrong does not mean we shouldn’t believe something or act on that belief (for example, by saying out loud that we believe it or know it).

Are atheistic arguments failures?

Sometimes, people say they’re “lack of belief” atheists because of the variety of things one could refer to as gods, but that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good capital-“G” God does not exist. I think this is one situation where the “lack of belief” idea makes sense: where the person has not really considered all the possible things that could be called gods. We can only formulate a belief when we know what we’re talking about. (But see You can’t know there isn’t an X out there, previously).

But, elsewhere, I’ve also seen Internet atheists respond to Christians with the “lack of belief” definition, i.e. saying that they lack belief in the Christian God. This seems to imply that those atheists think all the arguments against the existence of that God are failures (they’re presumably aware of the arguments if they’re discussing atheism on the Internet), so they can’t say there is no such God, only that they “lack belief”. That’s an odd thing for an atheist to think!

Further reading

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
We only hire the trendiest
More efficient hiring and better tools are cheaper than competing for candidates from the top universities.
(tags: tech programming hiring recruiters google)
Critically Examining the doctrine of gender identity – YouTube
A presentation by Rebecca Reilly-Cooper for Coventry Skeptics. The Q&A; (linked from the description) is interesting too.</p>

A concept of gender identity which is entirely exhausted by “I am what I say I am” doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of a professional philosopher like Reilly-Cooper, and I hadn’t realised that people were saying things like “my penis is a female sex organ, because I am female” (as opposed to saying “it’s a woman’s, because I am a woman”).

I do wonder how much harm is being done by people believing wacky things in this case, though: is it common for males to cynically claiming to be women in order to harass women?
(tags: gender sex feminism identity identity-politics biology philosophy)

Libertarian Social Justice Warrior: A Surprisingly Coherent Position | Thing of Things
“As far as I am aware, “libertarian social justice warrior” is a niche very rarely filled. This is annoying to me, because a really good case can be made for the social justice libertarian.”
(tags: social-justice libertarianism sjw basic-income economics welfare)
Infographic: Taking Easter Seriously – Jericho Brisance
“Many Christians read the Easter stories year upon year, as I did for several decades, yet we never compare them in detail. As a consequence, we often do not realize that they are not telling the same story. There are indeed contradictions in the texts, but it is very important to move beyond “mere contradiction” – the issues with our gospels are far more extensive than that. Comparison against the historical record and assessing the gospels for trends of legend development are probably far more crucial. As with many non-believers, I left Christianity specifically because of the Bible, and because I considered and examined its content very seriously indeed.”
(tags: bible easter crucifixion contradictions history Christianity Religion)
Not quite the original comic. Makes a good point though. Via andrewducker.
(tags: comic sealioning)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
BBCiPlayer Plugins – an alternative quick fix guide
How to get BBC radio stations working with Squeezebox again after the BBC broke it.
(tags: bbc audio radio squeezebox)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
This page was loaded Feb 22nd 2017, 5:55 pm GMT.