* Posts by Silvensis

12 posts • joined 6 Apr 2011

Hacker defaces Irish Catholic paper: 'Gotta love false hope'


"Yup its an internet anti-atheist."

It is - when they do it. Or it's an "internet atheist" when *they* do.

"An atheist does not claim they should have position of authority simply for being atheist..."

Damn right! Except when they do.

"...it is the religious that claim they have authority simply be for being religious."

Absolutely! Except when they don't.

"An atheist does not command people, they just give their opinion..."

Some do. Sometimes quite forcefully. Sometimes so forcefully it borders on... what do you call it... oh yes: command.

"...it is religions that command that their point it accepted as true."

Amen! Except those that don't, of course.

Wait: I'm starting to sense a pattern here...


Science Vesus Religion Again

I agree that the implications made by this article are based on no evidence. Which is kind of ironic. There's nothing here to say this is the work of atheists, or of an opposing religious group. We can infer (only) that the person responsible doesn't share the faith held by those who run the website - but it's only an inference, though I can't see a reason why someone sympathetic to their beliefs would vandalise the site.

But, back to religion. Yes, it's a topic of interest for me, as it clearly is for many of you, and for the Reg.

I'm a pagan, which means I'm a nature-worshipper of sorts. Not that I actively offer prayers to the trees, or anything like that, and nor do I cavort nekkid in the bushes at midsummer, despite the Daily Mail's insistence. And, in case you do get your opinions from that revolting rag, I don't spend my time 'casting spells' instead of working for a living, either.

Like many pagans, I simply perceive a certain divine quality in the natural world around me - including humanity (although that bit does take some determined effort, I admit). 'Religion' - which I take to mean the acknowledgement of divinity rather than simply 'Christianity and Islam' - is a purely aesthetic matter. Like 'good' art, you either see it in something, or you don't. It's not something you *choose* - you can't persuade or coerce someone to see something they don't see; or not see something they do. Don't get me wrong: people *do* fall out of, and into, religion, or switch from one religious path to another - but this is rarely because they've sat down and drawn up the pros and cons, with tables and flowcharts and such. It's because of what they feel, not what they calculate.

And the same tired arguments are being trotted out in this comments section: "Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheism is bad." That's irrational. But similarly: "the Inquisition was about religion, therefore religion is bad." That's also irrational. Atheists assert an intellectual justification for their derision of the religious, saying it's a social good to highlight the 'dangers' of 'irrational beliefs'. Likewise, the religious claim spiritual justification for deriding the atheist, saying it's all about 'saving their soul'. In both cases, I suspect the truth is far less elevated. Some people just enjoy attacking people who are different. Double-standards and logical fallacies are the hallmarks of this entire contrived argument - contrived because there's nothing, anywhere, that says you cannot be perfectly rational about the world around you and still see that world from a religious perspective.

For what it's worth, speaking personally, I don't expect universal respect for my beliefs; I don't expect people to refrain from subjecting me to abuse and mockery if it makes them feel good about themselves. But I would consider it a demonstration of integrity and intelligence if they would find out precisely what I believe before they start, then articulate good, logical arguments as to why I shouldn't believe it.

Now: is there some IT news around, at all?


Why Android houses should give Google the 'fork you'


The New Bad Guys

Amazon have a fairly cuddly reputation, as I understand it. They might be big, but they sell books, which is nice and harmless.

Still, if they advance in the world of the mobile phone OS, I give it six months before they're evil, Orwellian, info-peddling, ad-mongering, omni-litigating, deceitful, underhand, secretive charlatans (at least in these forums).


It's official: Journos are dumb as a bag of IE users


Never too serious...

"That's way to serious for something that wasn't that interesting in the first place."

No, I disagree. This *should* be interesting to anyone who pays any attention to the news as it's provided to us by journalists - even if it's only as a reason why you shouldn't. It's not really about browsers and users' intelligence - that's not really the point. This admittedly small story is the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

It's a symptom of the disease of modern journalism: take a story off the wire or from another source, recycle it to give it your own preferred spin, and publish it without doing any basic fact-checking. True, it's not just the Reg doing this, it's most news sources, and it's on stories of every scale, even if browser-centred intelligence tests are down at the bottom. But that's why it should interest us.

On the other hand, on the issue of Microsoft ripping off the planet, my considered view on that would probably be 'meh', so take that for what you will.


Slightly Flamey

I use Firefox. I don't like Internet Explorer very much. Just thought I'd mention that up front.

At the risk of labouring points already made, this is a pretty weak apology. You were caught out. It wasn't just you: if the BBC and these various other wire-reliant news parrots can fall for it, there's no reason you shouldn't. But you, like they, should have the balls to front up and admit it when you're wrong. And I mean admit it properly: don't just make some breezy self-deprecating joke and say that you were actually right all along anyway. You call their retractions 'flagellation': I call them a sign of honesty - even if it's honesty for the sake of profits rather than morality.

You took a story you liked presumably because you thought it plugged into a common prejudice and would make your readers feel good about themselves - which as we saw, it did. So they had a nice day chanting "I told you so". But then, as I understand it, it was the bloody *BBC* - not you or any of these shiningly intelligent commenters - who became suspicious and uncovered the facts. Must smart.

The simple truth is that, as with all prejudices, there may be individual occasions where the prejudice is accurate. There are people who use IE who are less intelligent than the average. There are also people who use IE who are more intelligent than the average. Selection bias will see to it that those seeking to confirm a prejudice will jump on what they see as evidence for and avoid or play down what might be evidence against. Such bias is what would lead someone to a "we're still right" non-apology like this article.

(And besides, this particular prejudice confuses - as people so often do - intelligence and knowledge. You can be as *intelligent* as you like, but unless you *know* about a particular browser's flaws, you might still see no reason to avoid using it.)


Blow to the head makes people feel good about religion


TL;DR alert

It's odd, you know. Whenever I find myself moved to comment on one of the Reg's stories, it usually seems to be something about religion.

I think it's because I find these articles' 'forums' - and sometimes the article themselves, depending how troll-y they are to begin with - the most irritating, because some (most) of you are clearly bright people. You work, in many cases, in a complex industry. You understand stuff like code and networking and all these tricksy things that I, as a mere scribbler, couldn't hope to grasp. The intelligence and the humour generally show through pretty clearly around here.

And then the subject of religion comes up, and suddenly there's a flurry of comments dripping with predictability and sheep-like conformity, not to mention (most annoyingly) prejudice and irrationality.

As I post this, there are only forty-one comments. I've no doubt, if past performance is anything to go by, that number will go up by an order of magnitude by the time the forum is closed. There will be smart-alec references to invisible pink unicorns, spaghetti monsters, teapots and so on. Fairies at the bottom of the garden, and allusions to 'a bearded man sitting on a cloud'. There will be dismissive phrases such as 'sky-pixie' and 'imaginary friend'. There will be jeering and insults directed at the foolish (and probably evil) idiots who believe in such stupid a stupid idea as religion. I expect all this, because this seems to be what we always get when a crowd of intelligent people decide to show off their intelligence at the expense of those they deem beneath them.

And running through all of it will, as usual, be the tacit agreement that 'religion' is one single homogenous belief structure, and that every believer is essentially the same.

If this all seems over-defensive, consider some of the comments already submitted here. As some have rightly tried to point out, this article refers to research that quite explicitly suggested that religious people feel happier or more contented after a head injury.

In other words, as an AC has rightly said:

"The research had nothing to do with /changes/ in level of belief. [...] The article even suggested that this was likely more to do with the sociat-support that generally comes bundled in with religious beleif rather than the belief itself."

Yet, already, we've got presumably otherwise intelligent people offering such comments as:

"Religion=malfunction, then?" - Anteaus

"So bashing a bible on a religious type's head will make them happier ?" - Karl H

"The more your brain function is impaired by physical trauma, the more religion makes sense." - fixit_f

"Summary: Thinking is unpleasant. People who don't accept what abook or a preacher say, on the sole authority of said book or preacher, have to think for themselves." - Chris Hance

As far as I can tell from the Reg article we're all responding to, no-one has suggested anything approaching the statements made by those first three I've quoted - and the statement from Chris Hance is just a dazzling non-sequitur.

Oh, and 'BristolBachelor' offers the slightly unsettling phrase "religious er.. people". Are we really now at the point where it's the privilege of the 'rational' and the 'intellectual' to question whether the religious are entitled to be called people? Or perhaps I'm reading this wrong?


Red Dwarf to blast off on new adventure



"Cue fawning fanboys voting me down."

I wouldn't worry too much about 'fanboys'*: I'm moderately (hah) sure that Sarah can take care of herself.

[* Fanboy (n.) - lit. "Person who likes or approves of something I don't."]


Not Hopeful

I'll drink to the memory of Red Dwarf.

The first two seasons of Red Dwarf remain some of my favourite comedy. Because there was no budget to speak of, and a limited range of settings, characters and so on, the writers were forced to use actual humour, and the actors were skilled enough to present it well. This is the heart of all the best comedies. 'Fawlty Towers' did the same, restricted as it was to just a few people in a hotel, and Cleese and Booth knew to stop on a high note. 'Dinnerladies' did it: excellent, sharp scripting, some ingenious wordplay - and, again, knowing when to stop. 'Blackadder' pushed it - and I say this as someone who loves that show: although it was still excellent throughout the fourth series (and I won't hear a word of criticism about the ending), there's only so far you can force 'as-cunning-as-a...' and increasingly flowery insults. After a while it stops being clever and starts grating.

But that aside, Blackadder also benefited from restricted sets and small casts, and relied instead on actually being funny (as well as quite thought-provoking in places, especially in 'Goes Forth').

Red Dwarf had that to begin with, but (sorry, Mr Llewellyn) once they decided to start messing around with the formula to extend its life, it started to slide downhill. The introduction of Kryten as a regular character was, I'm sorry to say, a bad decision - not because Robert Llewellyn didn't do a spot-on job, but because he was the precedent that enabled the writers to start abandoning continuity for the sake of dragging out more story possibilities: the 'bog-bot' who became the ship's omniscient science officer (equipped with a joystick 'psi-scan' device*); then the changing back-story, the sudden expansion of settings and scenarios (and effects) that took a clever, niche sit-com and turned it into a standard pulp sci-fi 'monster-of-the-week' space show.

Which isn't to say there weren't good moments. I liked some of the later episodes because there were some great ideas: like many fans, I have a special place for 'Back to Reality', which was a fantastic premise (only spoiled a little by the rushed ending); and the last episode, where Rimmer finally comes good, was pretty powerful. But that was a high point in a pretty weak last series.

The 'Back to Earth' special? Could've done without, to be honest. Actually, I have to admit I did rate the last scenes, when the crew faced their creator; but I've absolutely no time for Coronation Street or any of these other toxic 'soap operas' with their repugnant, vile characters. There's nothing good or worthwhile about any of those shows, and to cross your show with one of them is like deliberately injecting yourself with a disease.

I wouldn't say no to finding out how the situation in the last 'proper' episode actually ended. Did Rimmer succeed? But I can live without, and there's certainly no need to start the whole thing up again, even to end the overall storyline.

Just let it go.

[* It was only recently I discovered it was 'psi-scan': I'd spent years assuming it was a 'sci-scan'. I'm not good with song lyrics, either...]


Canonical kills free Ubuntu CD program



So - hypothetically barring a nice kindly friend with a memory stick or having already made a recovery disc to start with - in order to get hold of Ubuntu now I have to already have an installed OS that I'm migrating from, in order to be able to access The Sacred Cloud of Internet Wondrousness to download Ubuntu in the first place?


Facebook, Google et al grapple with France in privacy row


Must've read it wrong

Hang on. Did I read this right? *Google and Facebook* have the breathtaking brass neck to complain about violating people's privacy? Now personally I wouldn't approve of any government move to require Internet companies to retain anyone's data - but even aside that, we're talking about an elected and (theoretically) accountable government here.

(Good ol' democracy, eh?)

Who're Google and Facebook accountable to, while they're choosing to harvest and retain *and sell* users' information?

(Yes, I know that if I don't want them to have it I just have to choose not to submit it to them, because they can't *possibly* acquire it without my implicit co-operation. Oh, hang on, though...)


Watchdog backs Top Gear in war with Mexico


Re the Point of Voting

If someone manages to work out the point of up/down-voting, would they please let me know? At the moment it seems like just a way of not having to articulate an opinion. They're like convenient knee-jerk buttons: you don't have to know quite *why* you dis/agree. They're just right/wrong, dammit!



I'm actually a fan of Top Gear. I generally like the humour and 'spontaneous' banter and the dynamic between the presenters - as well-worn as it is by now; and I love the presentation of the show, which I swear borders on artistic in some places. I like the silly challenges and the overall sense of fun. And I'm someone who's not the slightest bit interested in cars, beyond their necessity in getting me from one place to another in lieu of non-existent or inadequate bus services and increasingly expensive trains.

All that said, I think Top Gear can do better than this. I know its humour isn't to everyone's taste, but as has been pointed out, no humour is. But let's suppose you believe it's "political correctness gone mad" to criticise someone for making cheap jokes based on dated and inaccurate stereotypes. Let's look at it from a different angle: don't we pay the BBC enough money for them to come up with some new, clever jokes, rather than falling back on lazy material like this?

Finally, whenever the twin subjects of offence and freedom of speech come up, whether it's comedians, Danish newspapers, or whatever else, I tend to take the same view: Freedom of speech means having the right to say what you like. But because you can say a thing, it doesn't mean that you have to say it, or that saying it will be a positive thing to do. It doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't censor *yourself*, in the name of simple respect - or even 'manners', as unfashionable as they may be in these days.

And if you simply *have* to criticise, parody or satirise, go for it; but then recognise that freedom of speech doesn't - can't - render you immune from any possible consequence of what you say. That said, I strongly believe that taking offence about something is a matter of choice: a person makes that decision and further chooses whether to act on that offence. But in general, it's my view that making a big fuss about being offended just shows insecurity.



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