This Weeks Reader February 17, 2008  

Sunday, February 17, 2008

At first this just started out as a series of posts to point out excellent articles I found on the web, but it's grown into a lot more. I read over 1,000 articles to narrow it down to these few. But they don't seem like few as I'm going through my list for the week, nor when I publish the post.

I hope you, as a reader, find the list valuable. I'd like to continue the series, but it takes up more and more time every week. I've cut down my list of blogs to read a couple of times in the last couple of weeks just to keep up. And that makes me think that instead of broadening my focus, as I'd like to do, I'm narrowing it.

What I'd most like is for the readers to contribute as well. If you see an article that should be included in this list, please link it in the comments, or email me at the contact link in the sidebar.

Evolutionary Art
Ilana Yahav's work is definitely unique (at least to me - never seen anything like it). With the depth of my artistic knowledge it's quite possible that this is a very common artform that I know nothing about. It’s a combination of painting and performance, done with sand instead of paint. I really like this particular one.

Sunday Funnies #4: Billboard Battles!

Question # 1: What Kind Of Atheist Are You?
Do you atheize (I just made that word up) primarily to yourself, or are you a joiner? Do you socially interact as an atheist, or is your atheism simply incidental to your everyday life? Are you outspoken about your lack of belief, or do you keep it to yourself unless directly asked.

In short, are you an extroverted or introverted atheist?

Lies Women Believe
I’d like to point out some other lies that women believe. Thankfully, skepchicks don’t fall for this kind of crap:

* Lies about themselves: Fulfilling your longings is selfish and evil. Women should never put themselves first. Jesus, Others, You is the way to JOY.
* Lies about sin: Sin is a real thing that you should worry about. Offending God is really, really bad, even worse than committing crimes that actually hurt people.
* Lies about their marriage: You should submit to your husband but your husband doesn’t have to submit to you.
* Lies about their emotions: Emotions are a sign of weakness or evil and only women have emotions.
* Lies about their circumstances: Women are weak and need help from God or men to deal with daily stresses.

To The Point, Rational Discussion
If a participant's argument is reformulated by an opponent, it should be expressed in the strongest possible version that is consistent with the original intention of the arguer. If there is any question about that intention or about implicit parts of the argument, the arguer should be given the benefit of any doubt in the reformulation.

Interview with Jessica Hagy, Author of Indexed

Demo shows UI, PSP integration in PlayTV for the PS3
Europe will be getting a very neat product for the PS3 long before we do: PlayTV. The device features two high-resolution tuners and allows you to use your PS3 as a DVR, as well as use your PSP to tell your system to record a show or to watch your content from any WiFi connection. It's a pretty neat idea, and it gives Sony yet another corner of your home entertainment experience. Unfortunately, until the US embraces terrestrial digital broadcasting, we're locked out.

Three Cases to Consider
Here we have, from three completely different milieus, victims of torture inventing crimes and incriminating others under torture. Does anyone really think that Herr Junius was a witch? Did he fly through the air to attend covens with the other witches of Bamberg? Did the rabbis of Damascus kill Father Thomas so that his blood could be used in Passover matzos? Does any but the most rabid anti-Semite believe the ‘blood libel’ really exist? Did a mysterious ‘rabbi Jacob’ create a poison out of frogs, spiders and communion wafers and, through a Europe-wide conspiracy, spread plague through poisoned wells?

A Blog Post That Deserved More Comments …let’s start with mine
But if civil union was the only thing a state granted, then it could be granted to a number of different relationships — not all of which would even necessarily be sexual. Perhaps two heterosexual women with children could decide to establish a civil union. I could think of several reasons they might choose to do so.

Williams is dangerous. He must be resisted
Faiths capture people. I do not mean this disparagingly. So of course do patriotisms, ideologies, families. But a religion, properly understood, makes profound claims on an individual and community, quite unlike the demands of a golf club. It involves the use of public places and public services, the subordination of the individual's will; and may demand that he subordinate his spouse's and children's wills too. Hence our unease about duress, and the completeness of “consent”.

Johann Hari: Rowan Williams has shown us one thing – why multiculturalism must be abandoned
Where a multiculturalist prizes the rights of religious groups, a liberal favours the rights of the individual. So if you want to preach that the Archangel Gabriel revealed the word of God to an illiterate nomad two millennia ago, you can do it as much as you like. You can write books and hold rallies and make your case. What you cannot do is argue that since this angel supposedly said women are worth half of a man when it comes to inheritance, and that gay people should be killed, you can ditch the rules of liberalism and act on it.

The job of a liberal state is not to stamp The True National Essence on its citizens, nor to promote "difference" for its own sake. It is to uphold the equal rights of every individual – whether they are white men or Muslim women. It has one liberal culture, with freedoms used differently by different people.

ESA, IIPA slam Canada for not fixing copyright "deficiencies"
Of course, just because a game is pirated doesn't always mean a sale has been lost. When pirated games are produced en masse in China and Russia, then moved through Paraguay into markets like Brazil—where the ESA admits high tariffs make the sales of legitimate games almost non-existent—the issue becomes even thornier, and the local governments may not have high levels of sympathy for the US economy. This could be why we're seeing a focus on Canada in these reports; our northern neighbor has a thriving game development community but suffers from easy availability of pirated games on the retail level.

The law, Sharia, and religious control
What Williams appears not to acknowledge is that secular civil law was set up to prevent religious interests over-riding the interests of individuals, and more than any other system in the history of the planet, it has done so. Canon law once permitted Catholics to take Jewish children away from their parents if a third party baptised them. Sharia permits the amputation, without anesthetic as if that made it better, of the hands of thieves. So far as I know Jewish law, not being of a proselytising religion, tends not to seek global domination, but it is so closely tied to the religious traditions of a particular ethnicity that it cannot function for all members of a multicultural and polyreligious society. Only secular law can do that.

Euthanasia may be illegal but it’s not exactly unpopular
What I found even more interesting is that even though Euthanasia is illegal in almost all of the world, public attitudes are largely sympathetic to Euthanasia. I got these charts from this blog, and the data is originally from this world survey. I had saved these charts on my pc months ago, and now cannot find them on the original site.

Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'
The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Whisper (2007)
I really hope that someday ABC buys the rights to Whisper and they just use some footage for it as a Sawyer flashback on Lost (in the movie, there's a back-story about his girlfriend cheating on him, maybe they can use it on Lost to explain why he refuses to get close to Kate). It will make Josh Holloway look better. Because honestly, he may call himself “Max” in the film, but he’s fucking Sawyer through and through. Same hairstyle, same mannerisms, and yes, same character (a two bit crook with shades of nobility). So either the guy is afraid to play outside of his comfort zone, or he simply just can’t act.

The Obama failing
There's much more in that speech that grates. For instance, he praises Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech for it's religious content, which he claims was necessary. NO. Read it again. King was a minister, and of course his religious tradition informed his speech, and the cadence of the speech is straight from good ol' sermonizing, but the religious references are nothing but little fillips on a call for social justice, for equality and freedom. If you read that speech and come away thinking it's a paean to religiosity, you're missing the point. Atheists and other secularists are moved and inspired by that speech; the religious content is background, not purpose.

I once was a born-again Christian…
I know that many Christians are unable or unwilling to contemplate that someone can have had the same experiences they’ve had and then turn away from it all. It’s a scary idea. It means they might be wrong. It means that they can’t say, “If you only felt what I’ve felt and lived what I’ve lived you’d turn your life over to God forever.”

10 cc of Atheism

Where Was God?
Clearly, not close by, or even in the general vicinity. He had failed to use his magical powers to prevent the accident from happening, though I can hear those of a religious nature saying that it could have been worse, but for god. However, I was focused on the actual work being done to help. I saw a very organized team of men and women, people who had trained for just this situation, using equipment and knowledge purchased by the taxpayers, probably with the help of some charitable contributions to volunteer companies, doing exactly what they had probably dedicated a portion of their lives to doing - saving the lives of others.

The End of Conservatism
Conservatism grew powerful in the 1970s and 1980s because it proposed solutions appropriate to the problems of the age—a time when socialism was still a serious economic idea, when marginal tax rates reached 70 percent, and when the government regulated the price of oil and natural gas, interest rates on checking accounts and the number of television channels. The culture seemed under attack by a radical fringe. It was an age of stagflation and crime at home, as well as defeat and retreat abroad. Into this landscape came Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, bearing a set of ideas about how to fix the world. Over the next three decades, most of their policies were tried. Many worked. Others didn't, but in any event, time passed and the world changed profoundly. Today, as Frum writes, "after three decades of tax cutting, most Americans no longer pay very much income tax." Inflation has been tamed, the economy does not seem overregulated to most, and crime is not at the forefront of people's consciousness. The culture has proved robust, and has in fact been enriched and broadened by its diversity. Abroad, the cold war is won and America sits atop an increasingly capitalist world. Whatever our problems, an even bigger military and more unilateralism are not seen as the solution.

Ellen Johnson is Wrong, Atheists Should Vote
Given that atheists represent at least 11% of the American population, we could be a powerful voting block if we chose to organize. But even without any formal organization, I think it is fair to assume that we tend to be a bit more oriented to reality than many of our theistic neighbors. I suspect that we are more likely to value secular humanism, science, reason, and critical thinking. Why would we not want these priorities to influence presidential politics?

The galaxy that ate Detroit
NGC 1132 is also quite huge, bigger than the Milky Way (which has eaten its share of smaller galaxies over time too), and sits in a vast cloud of dark matter - normally invisible, but in this case revealing itself by its gravitational effect on the stars in the elliptical itself (actually, to be honest, I’m guessing how they found it: there are many ways to detect dark matter, but the venerable method is to measure the velocities of the stars in the galaxy, which are affected by dark matter; stars move faster when more dark matter is present in a halo around the galaxy). The amount of dark matter detected is way more than usually seen for a single galaxy; more evidence that this galaxy has been busily gobbling up companions — and their dark matter, too.

60 Second Science

The Content of Their Character: Judging On the Basis Of Beliefs
If someone believes that gay couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt because homosexuality is a crime against God and humanity, should I really not judge them on their morality? If someone believes that their tax money shouldn't pay for poor children's health care because "those people are always looking for a handout," should I not judge them on their compassion? If someone believes that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago despite human historical records dating well before that, should I not judge them on their good sense? If someone believes that all human beings have been infested by space aliens, should I not judge them on their sanity? If someone believes that they don't have to reduce their fuel consumption because one person can't make any difference -- or because the Rapture is coming and none of this pollution and global warming stuff will matter -- should I not judge them on their social responsibility? And if someone believes that the moon landing didn't happen because they read it in the Some Guy On The Internet Journal, should I not judge them on their... well, on their judgment, their ability to discern, among other things, what is and is not a good source of information?

Why I Hate Valentine’s Day (Oh, and Jane Fonda Said “Cunt”)
Valentine’s Day makes me nauseous. Every year it’s the same thing: over-commercialized, prewritten crappy poetry on cards, chocolate, roses, chocolate roses, candy, hearts, candy hearts that say “do me,” paper hearts, dinners, “Kiss Kiss” Bears, poems, balloons, stuffed animals, balloons shaped like animals, chocolates arranged in the shape of hearts, and anything else one can fit into this prepackaged love fest. This whole holiday reeks of artificiality, consumerism, and bullshit.

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