All 17 entries tagged Seriousness

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May 20, 2008

'Phone calls database considered'

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7409593.stm

Oh for the love of all that's sane. Where to begin? No...all right? Just "No".

This kind of shit is why I have less than no faith in politics.

It was a stupid idea before, it's still a stupid idea, it won't work, it'll be too easily abused, and I seriously doubt it'll catch any real dingleberries.

Whatever happened to privacy?

Whatever happened to this being a free country?

What makes the government think they can protect this data? They don't exactly have a good track record...


May 11, 2008

An Experiment II: The Sequel

Follow-up to An experiment from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Follow-up to Creationism Gets You Nowhere from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Writing about web page http://revver.com/video/877410/affiliate/194516/i-have-a-problem-with-creationism-part-2/

Before you ask: no, they're not all going to be based on my blog entries that you'll have read already...


April 30, 2008

An experiment

Follow-up to I've got an idea for how God might work from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Writing about web page http://revver.com/video/865965/affiliate/194516/i-have-a-problem-with-creationism-part-1/

The words of the Ten Thirteen Productions slide from the X-Files credits come to mind: "I made this!"


April 12, 2008

It's a bypass… gotta build bypasses…

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7344045.stm

I wholeheartedly support Mrs Reid's actions; I find it absolutely disgusting that houses are still demolished to make way for building projects, and I can think of no better way to get that point across.

It is an archaic and irrational process, and I seriously worry about the mental state of anyone who thinks it's a good idea to demolish someone's home for something as frivolous as fucking football or a damned supermarket.


April 08, 2008

If backpack bombs actually looked like bombs, then they'd be useless…

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/7336740.stm

A BBC radio reporter was held to the ground and searched by police under the Terrorism Act after his transmitter equipment was mistaken for a bomb.

I have several issues with this. Firstly, the equipment apparently looks like this:

Radio transmitter backpack

Admittedly, as well as a radio transmitter, I will accept that this could look like a bomb, but that is precisely the problem: backpack bombs look like backpacks; if they looked like bombs then the bombers would never be able to get near their target...

Secondly, it is worth pointing out the sentence Mr Khan's backpack contained equipment that is regularly used to allow reporters to broadcast from locations around the city centre. Did you notice the important word? It's "regularly". This equipment is regularly used around the city. It is not a rare occurrence for this equipment to be chosen; it is used regularly.

Thirdly, apparently Police were told an "Arabic-looking man was acting suspiciously" outside a shopping centre. Surely all that matters was that a man was acting suspiciously; or even "someone" was acting suspiciously. What difference does it make if he looks like an Arab or not? Have people forgotten that just the other decade stupid people would have been informing the police of "green-clad suspicious people with shamrocks" or some other appropriate stupid stereotype. "Arab" does not equal "terrorist", and "terrorist" does not equal "Arab"; any Arab terrorists just happen to be Arabs and terrorists for completely separate reasons.

Finally, Chief Superintendent Jane Sawyers said I am pleased with the positive and professional way the officers dealt with the incident. I'm sorry! Forcing a professional radio reporter to the ground because some people decide to make bombs that, apparently, resemble radio transmitting equipment is now considered professional!? What's wrong with "We fucked up, big time" or "Epic Fail", or "Keeping the peace; we're doing it wrong"?


March 31, 2008

Creationism Gets You Nowhere

The argument "God did it" is an intellectual dead end.

For example, if your answer to the question "How is fire created?" is "God does it" then that tells you nothing about how fire is created, and the chances of a prayer for fire yielding fire in a short enough time are very small.

If, however, you don't simply attribute fire to God, then the thought process may go something like this: Fire is hot; I can tell that by approaching it. Perhaps heat is required. How can I generate heat? When I'm cold I rub my hands together to warm them; rubbing obviously causes heat. My hands have never caught on fire; hands must not be able to create fire. Perhaps something that burns can create fire. Wood burns; what happens if I try rubbing two sticks together?

And so on.

"God did it" is only a problem if the entirety of your explanation is "God did it"; it is still possible to believe God made something if your next thought is trying to figure out how God made it work. For example: How is fire created? God does it. Through what mechanism does God create fire? Fire is hot; perhaps God uses heat to create fire. Fire is a useful tool; how can I generate heat to create fire? etc.

As I explained in an earlier post, there is no doubt in my mind that the Universe works as Science describes it. However, although I do not believe in God, if I did then I would believe he created the Universe with the intention that it functions as we have discovered.


March 22, 2008

It's all our fault…

As I understand it, the story behind most Holy Books is that God(s) dictated them to men; that is to say that it was men that created the physical books.

I can see one major flaw with this: ask any* woman "What's the one thing that irritates you most about men?" and she'll probably say we're crap in bed. Say to her, "No not that one; the other one" and she'll probably reply "You never put the toilet seat down?" Then say "OK, the third most irritating thing about us" and she'll probably say we never listen.

And that is the problem with Holy Books: men did the physical writing, and men never listen. Surely, therefore, they are poor records of the points God was trying to get across...

---

* OK, so probably not any woman; I'm sure sexual orientation will have an effect on how the irritants are ranked.


March 17, 2008

I've got an idea for how God might work

Firstly, the disclaimer that goes with all of my ideas, even if I don't actually bother to explicitly state it: As far as I know I came up with this independently, but I have no idea if anyone else came up with it independently before me...

Firstly (technically "Secondly", but it's important to understand this before we get to the actual point...) I feel it is relevant to point out (in case anyone was unsure) that I do not believe in God, I do not require God to exist for me to be happy, but my world view will accept the existence of a God if/when sufficient evidence presents itself. I've heard a lot of discussion on this point, but I use "Agnostic" to refer to this. This entry is basically an explanation of how, as a non-religious non-spiritual scientist, I think God and Science can coexist.

First, however, an important aside:

My problem with Creationism

As I see it, there are two main views on the topic of the creation of Everything in the west: The Scientific explanation is the Big Bang etc. and the Creationism explanation is God snapping his fingers and Everything appearing in a crowd-pleasing puff of smoke.

This is where I have a problem: according to my understanding of Science the Big Bang happened (for reasons that are unlikely to become clear again at the moment) and hydrogen appeared. Then - as determined by Physics and a simplistic overview of the events - the hydrogen collected together and became stars which ran on nuclear fusion and created a few heavier elements. These stars then exploded, scattering the heavier elements and any remaining hydrogen. These then gathered together into more stars which produced even heavier elements, and then exploded. Finally stars formed again, but this time there were heavier elements which formed the planets orbiting around them. Now if we focus on one particular planet orbiting (for the sake of argument) a class G star at a distance of (just so we have a number to work with) about 93 million miles, the planet cools down and interesting things start happening. I admit to being less clear about the overview of this particular few million (or billion, maybe) years, so we shall skip to the amoebas. Eventually the volcanoes and chemical processes on the surface of this planet cause oxygen to appear. Life As We Know It seems to quite like oxygen, so the single-celled amoebas were suddenly presented with more complicated multi-celled organisms that were probably better at finding sources of nutrition. The organisms kept gaining more cells and becoming even better suited to their environment. Then some of them developed cells that were able to detect differences in the quantity of photons coming from the aforementioned star; these probably became quite useful in situations where a drop in the intensity signalled the approach of something that may want to eat you. And eventually some organisms discovered that if these light-sensitive cells were bowed slightly then it was possible to make out shapes and not just average intensity. Then some organisms developed an aperture over this dish which made the shapes clearer. Then some organisms developed a sort of lens-like structure over the aperture, and you finally had an eye after a long line of gradual improvements (but that's a subject for a different argument). And so things kept developing in this way until we get to now.

However according to Creationism, God willed Everything into existence exactly as it was a few thousand years ago and nothing has changed since, except fashion trends, architecture, and the quality of our tools; oh, and Evolution is apparently a lie.

And this is what I have a problem with: the apparent impotence of the Abrahamic God; He is supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful, all-talented, all-this, all-that, all-the-other. Yet the one thing He is apparently incapable of doing is devising and implementing Evolution.

In each of the situations below, which do you think is more impressive, more awe inspiring, or more worthy of merit and respect:

  • Humans create an incredibly powerful computer; or humans create an incredibly simple computer which is capable of making itself progressively more powerful until it is far more powerful than we could have ever made it.
  • Someone uses a Game of Life applet to create as realistic a rendition of the Mona Lisa as it is possible to create with two colours; or someone sits down and works out what the simplest starting conditions would be such that the rules of the Game will eventually create the Mona themselves.
  • A magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat; or a mummy rabbit and a daddy rabbit, who love each other very much, f**k like rabbits and, by cell division and whatnot, a baby rabbit builds itself.

If I was going to believe in a God, I'd much rather believe in a God that would put the time and effort into figuring out how to get the Universe to create us itself rather than just magically creating us out of nothing.

And this leads nicely into my main point:

How God and Science Can Coexist

(Please do not dismiss this based on apparent flippancy; the sci-fi references are merely cogent paradigms.)

As I understand it, Science is fantastic once the Universe exists, but it's a little shaky on the exact moment of creation and what came before. You get questions like "What was there before the Big Bang, and how did it get there, and what was there before that?" and so on. This is where this idea comes in.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Bajoran Prophets are a race of aliens that exist outside time and space, such that the concept of linear time cannot be applied to them.

In the Stargate universe the Ancients are a humanoid race that have ascended to a higher plane of existence.

I can see God as being a sort of hybrid of these two ideas; He is outside time, and either outside space or in a higher plane of existence. He would therefore exist in a "realm" where our Science does not apply (which would fit with the fact that there is no Scientific evidence for His existence), and since He exists outside time we have a theory for the "before" of our Universe: there was no "before"; our entire reality came into existence at the exact moment that God created it. And since He exists outside linear time, the idea of "where did God come from?" is irrelevant; from God's perspective there is no "before" for Him to come from, nor "after" for Him to go to.

Also it should go without saying (why do we always say that right before we say it anyway?) that, given my complaints about Creationism, in this theory God created our reality to start from something simple and to make itself more complex.

So. Any questions?


February 17, 2008

Sharia Law and the UK

There's been quite a furore over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on Sharia law and the UK, and I'm not entirely sure that people haven't got the wrong end of the stick.

According to a BBC News article from 7 Feb:

Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.

The important word to note here is "parts"; he is not suggesting that the entire of Sharia be officially acknowledged in the UK, in fact he even says that later on:

Nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states; the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women as well.

What he thinks is that Muslims should not have to choose between the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty. After all, Jews don't have to: the UK already recognises Beth Din (a rabbinical court of Judaism) with the main court (at Finchley in north London) handling a wide range of cases including divorce settlements, contractual rows between traders, and tenancy disputes.

Obviously the punishments would need to be tweaked, but since there is no strictly static codified set of laws of sharia this would probably be an acceptable compromise. It would, after all, be part of adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law.

It is also important to point out that the Archbishop did not say that Sharia should be directly woven into British law such as to govern everybody; it would be there as an option for Muslims to use to settle their disputes if both parties agreed to use it. Theoretically non-Muslims wouldn't even notice the difference, because there wouldn't be one for them.

This is exactly the case with Jewish Beth Din. Did you know it existed here? I'm guessing "no", because most of you probably aren't Jews (and even then I think it's only Orthodox Jews), so it obviously isn't affecting you. The only time it comes into play is if two Jews agree to use it to settle their dispute.

But anyway, I digress...

According to The Sun (which I don't read, but I thought the tabloid perspective would help get a balanced argument... ironically) former Tory Home Secretary Ken Clarke said:

It's a subject he should not have gone into. We have only one law here.

Which quite clearly is not true because, as I've already mentioned, Jewish Beth Din already exists here.

Dolores Joshi, 50, (I don't know who she is, but she's quoted in the Sun article) said:

I totally disagree with what the Archbishop said. This is a Christian country. Introducing aspects of Christian law would never be entertained in a Muslim country.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that only 38% [of the UK] proclaims a belief in a God, surely accepting parts of Sharia law would be less childish than saying "they don't accept out laws so we won't accept their laws". After all, if they disapproved or our policy of not jumping off cliffs, would you jump off a cliff just to spite them? (Somewhat facetious, I admit, but I'm sure you see what I mean.) She goes on to say:

If he knows the word of God, why is he entertaining Islamic law? Christ would never have allowed such a thing to happen. Our law is in the Bible, and that's where it should remain.

Which leads us into somewhat grey area because I'm sure most Muslims would insist that it is Islamic law that is God's word (or at least part of God's word) and not Christian, and also Christ seems very much to have focused on "love thy neighbour" so might not have had too much to say about the principle of Muslims having their own law but I think he would have disapproved of the extreme punishments... but then there was never any suggestion of integrating the extreme punishments, after all nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states.

On the subject of our law being in the Bible, I find it interesting to note that:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

which appears to be God permitting incest, and :

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

which would suggest that ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is 3 and not Pi, and:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.

which appears to be God permitting slavery, and:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

which appears to be Jesus' apostle Paul having no quarrel with slavery, and:

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

which appears to be God telling Moses that the punishment for an unfaithful wife is that she should suffer and be rendered incapable of bearing children, and:

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

which appears to suggest that Moses was a murderer, and:

If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.

which appears to be God using cannibalism as a punishment.

Looking at that, the literal word of the Bible doesn't strike me as a more appropriate moral compass than Sharia law.

But again I digress...

Gerald Sterne, 63, (again, no idea who he is) is quoted in The Sun as saying:

Anyone who comes to this country should respect our church and abide by our laws.

But this doesn't explain why Jews have sanctioned access to Beth Din courts, or why the approximately 270,000 Jews in Britain have more right to their own laws than the UK Muslims that are believed to number 1.8 million, or why the 390,000 individuals [that] proclaimed themselves as "Jedi Knight" in the 2001 census don't have their own court either.

Getting back on point, the Archbishop said that:

That principle that there is only one law for everybody is an important pillar of our social identity as a western democracy

But he also thinks that it is a misunderstanding to suppose that means people don't have other affiliations, other loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and that the law needs to take some account of that.

What he appears to want is a fair compromise with which everyone is happy: Muslims in this country being bound by our laws just like anyone else, but having the option to settle disputes with other Muslims in their own courts like Jews already can. He is not suggesting that we abandon any laws or values we already have. He is not suggesting that we all follow Sharia law. He is not suggesting that the entire of Sharia be woven into British law. What he is suggesting is that Muslims should be given the same option as Jews: the ability to resolve day-to-day disputes in their own courts... remembering, of course, that nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states

So remember these wise words: love your neighbour as yourself, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, and love with your heart, use your head for everything else.


February 05, 2008

Since you're not Gordon Brown…

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7213460.stm

I've just watched The TV Show from Saturday (I love Sky+) and they had a section about Bremner, Bird and Fortune and how several people have complained about a joke they did. The joke involves two people sitting in a pub discussing underhand tactics that Gordon Brown might use to win an election. One of them says:

I don't trust Gordon Brown... I wouldn't be surprised if the night before the election he went on television and said, "look what I found," and held up little Maddie McCann.

According to the BBC News article I've referenced, Ofcom received 63 complaints about this.

I don't understand what people are complaining about; the joke is not about her kidnapping; the joke does not give any opinion about her kidnapping; the joke does not mock her kidnapping; the joke does not deny her kidnapping.

What the joke does is accept that this horrible tragedy happened, and suggests that a politician would be so depraved, so insensitive, and so desperate that they would stoop to trying to use the tragedy for their advantage.

The target of the offensiveness of the joke is Gordon Brown; the only people that should be offended are Gordon Brown and his staunch supporters.


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