Friday, May 25, 2007

Stats on Quiz Entries from Pharyngula

Right, so I was bored... yeah, REALLY bored and I thought, wow! what a great idea to teach myself some basic spreadsheet stuff and perform some dopey statistical analysis on everyone's entries! yay! Numbers!

***** JUNK SCIENCE WARNING!!!! ******
Take this crap seriously at your OWN RISK.
***** JUNK SCIENCE WARNING!!!! ******

So, here's a quick breakdown:

Scientific -
High:100% (17/38 Full Disclosures)

Militant -

Angry -
Low:8% (2/38)

Apathetic -
High:83% (3/38)
Low:17% (3/38)

Spiritual -
Low:17% (3/38)

Agnostic -
Low:0% (2/38)

Theist -
Low:0% (7/38)

No suprises there. However, things got more interesting when I computed rationality.
For rationality, I took the entries and applied the following formula (yay excel!)

R = Avg(Scientific, Militant, Agnostic)/Avg(Spiritual, Angry, Theist)

Rational Side:
Scientific - Self Explanatory
Militant - Forthrightness with worldview.
Agnostic - Intellectual honesty

Irrational Side:
Spiritual: Wonderment
Angry: Self Explanatory
Theist: Self Explanatory

Apathy, being relatively neutral, was ignored.
Now, let's look at rationality:

Rationality -

A rationality score of 1.0 would mean that your rational and irrational sides are very nearly balanced. The higher the number goes, the more your rational side dominates. Scores near the top of the range have a roughly 3/1 dominance ratio (this is proof of aliens btw: they're obviously Vulcans), whereas the average over the group settles down to a much more moderate 1.86.

Personally, I scored a 1.68, due to that huge spirituality score.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Kind of Atheist are You?

A post light on thought today. Found it on Pharyngula today. Nice to see that I score with that guiding light of rationalism, PZ Myers.

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Militant Atheist


Spiritual Atheist




Apathetic Atheist


Angry Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ten things Christians and atheists can - and must - agree on. Before it's too late.

An interesting article came up on Digg today. The author, a christian, tries to make a good case for discussion between a-theists and believers. The problem with this nice little article is that the author seems to want to have the discussion on his terms and really has no understanding of the a-theistic position. I critique his piece, adding my thoughts to each of his points below:

1. You Can Do Terrible Things in the Name of Either One.
Wrong. Pol Pot, Stalin et. al. did NOT commit atrocities in the NAME of atheism. There is nothing to believe in with atheism. There is no system of beliefs that comes with refusing to comit intellectual suicide. Whereas the seemingly endless list of atrocities committed by the overtly religious was EXACTLY because people's religious views differed from the persecutors. The author confuses atheism with a positive belief system. Just as darkness is the absence of light, atheism is the absence of credulity.

2. Both Sides Really Do Believe What They're Saying.
Wrong. I don't BELIEVE in atheism. Non-belief is the default position of humanity, and belief IN something has to be inculcated. Again, do not confuse positive religious belief with what everyone in this world is born as - atheist.

3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different.
Only for very strange values of 'Not that different'. I don't spend one day a week of my time singing to invisible old men. I don't have a religious tax - tithe - on my income going to visible old men who would like me to continue in the tradition of 'thinking' that an "Appeal to Authority" is a good let alone a logical argument.

4. There Are Good People on Both Sides.
Wrong. Religion itself is evil. It inculcates credulity, allows - no demands - that people accept authoritarianism, spreads bigotry, hate and the belief that 'the other' is bad, evil and/or wrong. In no way can a person who spreads these beliefs be called GOOD.

5. Your Point of View is Legitimately Offensive to Them.
Good. Their point of view is reprehensible, inexcusable, immoral and disgusting.

6. We Tend to Exaggerate About the Other Guy.
I'll quote the article for this one:
To move on, we only need to agree that rejecting science on one subject doesn't mean you reject all science on all subjects, and that rejecting Christian morality doesn't mean rejecting all morality.Interesting sentence.
The first part isn't logically possible and the second is a straw-man. If you reject science on ONE subject, you do indeed reject science as a whole because you are rejecting the scientific method. You don't get to have an order of physics with a side of sociology, hold the evolution. It's an interconnected whole.

The second part is simply untrue. Atheists reject the idea that morality can come from figments of the imagination in the guise of bearded old men with an unhealthy facination in causing irreparable harm to humanity. Morality is a human invention that allows groups of people to get along. Defining morality as coming from some non-observable entity simply allows one to define whatever morality one likes. You say there are no atheists in foxholes, I say that there are no atheist suicide bombers.

7. We Tend to Exaggerate About Ourselves, Too.
Again, a quote from the article:
In reality, there are very few Christians who do or even try to follow the Bible
exactly, including all the obscure rules about church women staying silent and
Well then, why bother following religion AT ALL if one can simply pick and choose the rules that one likes? If you find my stance irritating, then it's time for you to examine your own beliefs and find out what it is that is striking such a chord within you. You don't follow the rules set forth by your 'betters', then quite possibly you should come over to our side and work on coming up with some rules that you can live with.

When atheism is the default for educated adults in the US of A, then, and only then will I quiet down and live and let live. But as long as I live in a country where my president can say "I'm not so sure that atheists should be considered as citizens," with the full knowledge that he will not receive censure from the population, I WILL NOT YIELD AN INCH.

8. Focusing on Negative Examples Makes You Stupid.
Wrong. Believing in fairy tales makes you stupid. Wishful thinking and 'gosh, wouldn't it be nice,' makes you stupid. Allowing yourself to be cowed and blackmailed into believing because of a fear of eternal damnation makes you stupid. You christians come across as arrogant, confident and utterly, completely, irrevocably stupid.

9. Both Sides Have Brought Good to the Table.
Right, because anti-gay legislation is good, defense of slavery is good, intolerance, hatred, bigotry and deceitfulness is good. Remind me again what religion has done for me? Has it brought me greater understanding of the universe that I live in? No, I can thank Aristotle, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and Max Planck for that. Has it brought me great moral teachings? No, christian morals are just rehashes of previous moral systems. Has it brought me great literature? If you call a book written by committee, riddled with more plot holes than a block of Swiss cheese in a machine-gun factory and so contradictory that you could walk away less confused from a house of mirrors, then, yes, I suppose it has brought me great literature. What has rationalism gotten me? Hrmm.. this computer, my car, the lights in my house, advanced medicine, air travel, several men on the moon, the dream of being able to walk on Mars... I could go on and on. The truth of the matter is that religion does so LITTLE good and so MUCH harm, that when balanced against the benefits to rationalism, I can't believe that one could POSSIBLY consider religion of benefit to humanity.

10. You'll Never Harass the Other Side Out of Existence.
No, but I can, and will, shame you out of relevancy.

read more digg story

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Digg Meltdown

I've never seen a rebellion quite as virulent as this one.

I captured a screenshot of the front page of on May 1st. It's incredible. Look at the number of diggs some of the stories have!
For those who don't know, this whole kerfluffle started when a couple of diggers submitted stories about the newly discovered AACS code that controls access to HD-DVDs and suddenly found their accounts banned.

Of course, no self-respecting digger is an island. When people found out that they had been banned, they called their friends, who then posted stories about people getting banned for posting the story. Of course, this led those people to get banned from Digg as well. People on Digg noticed that stories were disappearing and were - with some justification - peeved. As the evening went on, more and more people started digging stories about the AACS, about the 'magic' number, and about Digg's banning of accounts, calling Mr. Rose, one of the creators of Digg, a coward and worse. By 9:50pm on May 1st, the entire front page of Digg was covered in stories.

Kevin Rose eventually gave up trying to contain the riot and put up a post on his own blog that was both brave and somewhat sad at the same time. Here's the post, quoted in full:
Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my
In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as
on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying)
power to
the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that
violate our terms
of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads,
racial hate sites, etc.).
So today was a difficult day for us. We had to
decide whether to remove stories
containing a single code based on a cease
and desist declaration. We had to make
a call, and in our desire to avoid a
scenario where Digg would be interrupted or
shut down, we decided to comply
and remove the stories with the code.
now, after seeing hundreds of
stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve
made it clear. You’d
rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger
company. We hear
you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or
containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might
If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.
I have to congratulate Kevin on his bravery. At the same time, I fear that Digg may be going down, the DMCA is a scary document and it changes the way we treat intellectual property. Specifically, it criminalizes people who try and make full use of their fair use rights by disallowing the breaking of cryptography.

That's a sad state of affairs and it needs to change, because it's not the denizens of Digg who caused this upheaval, it's not even the AACS's fault, the blame for Digg's meltdown lands squarely on the shoulders of our congresspeople who voted the DMCA into law.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Einstein and Faith

From the article: "But the awe part comes in his 50s when he settled into a deism based on what he called the "spirit manifest in the laws of the universe" and a sincere belief in a "God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists.""

You know, it's uniquely frustrating to see such tripe proffered in one of the nation's leading news-magazines.  Einstein was not a deist.  Calling him one does not make it so.  Even the great man himself saying "I believe in God," would not necessarily point to him being a believer in an Almighty. 

Why? Well, let's perform a gedankenexperiment in Einstein's honor, shall we? 

The year is 1920.  You are in the heart of New York (or Paris, or London, Budapest, or any other place in western civilization).  You are in a position of power or importance, let's say you're an elected official or a scientist who wants to give his theories full shrift in the marketplace of ideas.  Go to your local broadsheet's office and ask to be interviewed.  In that interview, declare that you can no longer justify a belief in god, any god.

How many people do you think will listen to your ideas now?

Pete Stark recently came out as an atheist.  He's a minor representative from a state that has so many that most people in California couldn't list them all.  Yet he made the national news.  This was last month.  30 days ago, not 100 years ago.

However, it is true that he did not like being labeled an atheist, as attested to by this quote, "What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos."  But then again, who in their right mind would want to be labeled so?  It's not like atheists are a protected minority.  Freedom of religion in theory does not equate to freedom from religion in practice.  But Einstien's god is unlike any god the general population believes in.  His god is also utterly unlike what today's ivory tower theological intellectuals describe. 

The phrase "...utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos," is particularly telling.  Einstein does not worship a god.  He is entranced by mystery.  He is continuously amazed by the  simplicity of the universe but that doesn't mean he believes in a 'creator' or a 'first cause', just that he feels when studying the universe what other people feel when thinking about their god: wonder.

Calling Einstein a deist is like calling a swan a titmouse.  One is a majestic symbol of purity and light, the other is... a titmouse.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Blizzard Introduces PTS

Blizzard has introduced their highly anticipated PTS - Paid Transfer Service. As expected, it has some strings attached, though they could have been considerably more draconian.

1. You can't transfer TO a server that is less than 90 days old.
2. You can't transfer FROM a PvE server TO a PvP server.
3. You can't cause a faction violation when transfering between PvP servers.

The cost is $25USD and can take up to 5 days.

To qualify, your 'toon must meet all of the following criteria:

1. Must be above level 10.
2. Must NOT be a guild leader.
3. Must NOT have mail in the Mailbox.
4. Must NOT have active auctions in the Auction House.
5. Cannot have over the following amounts of gold:
* Level 10-30: 300 gold
* Level 31-50: 1000 gold
* Level 51+: 5000 gold

That's a pretty easy set of restrictions. However, Blizzard is not putting all realms up for grabs all at once. They are opening up a limited number of realms for transfers - wisely, I might add - so that they can slowly stress test the whole system.

Also, not every server will always have transfers avaliable, depending on realm population and peak-time logins. Don't expect to be able to transfer to Mannoroth or Frostmourne any time soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Someone Else's Balrog

What do you do when you want to make a game about a subject that has spawned multitudes of doctoral theses? You're designing up a hill and it has got to be more than a bit unsettling. For every decision you make, there's someone out there who knows more than you'll ever know about the subject. Worse, that person is likely to be passionate about the subject, especially when that subject is J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. You also have the estate of the man to worry about too. So, you've got legions of knowledgable fans on one hand, the owners of the intellectual property looking over your shoulder on the other hand. Then, on the gripping hand you have your financeers, the guys giving you money to make them even more money! Yikes! Yet, that's exactly what Turbine is planning on doing with their upcomming MMO Lord of the Rings Online.

What do you do? You have no less than three very different groups of people demanding that you tailor the game in different - sometimes mutually exclusive - ways.

The Finance guys want you to make the game FUN, so that people will play and play and bring their friends into it and have everyone pay nice little subscription fees.

The Tolkien Estate wants you to make sure that their intellectual property isn't damaged and is actually increased in value, something entirely different than making the game FUN.

The highly educated in Tolkien lore set is going to expect you to keep Middle Earth's cannon straight and not introduce any plot holes or inconsitencies. Worse, they're going to expect you to re-create the feeling that they got when reading the books for the first time.

All of these things can be seen Here, where the seemingly simple question is asked "Should players be able to defeat a Balrog?" There's investigative journalism, personal opinion, invective, scholarly research and consultation with the 'powers that be', all contained within that thread. Sounds like a good soap opera if you ask me. Furthermore, one can almost feel the forces of the Tolkien Estate and the Financeers working in the background, in the way Turbine has carefully formulated answers to the various questions prospective players of LotRO have asked of them.

The obvious answer to the question "Should players be able to kill a Balrog" is no. On the surface it seems simple enough. The Balrog that people are most familiar with is the one in the Mines of Moria, the one Gandalf sacrifices his life (later returned to him) to to give the Fellowship a chance at escaping. If it takes the death of an Istari to kill a Balrog, what chance mere mortals?

What are the more complex answers? I'll leave that as an exersize for the reader...