several takes on religion and science

On slate, John Horgan writes ..

Four years ago, I joined a Buddhist meditation class and began talking to (and reading books by) intellectuals sympathetic to Buddhism. Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth; Buddhism’s moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science—or, more generally, with modern humanistic values

The article is a revelation. It touches on a subject that has been avoided in the west. Funny that I came across this a day after I listened to Sam Harris’s lecture. Serendipity I guess.
The lecture was aired on KQED as a Radio Special program on Dec 22, 2005 at 8 pm and organized by the Long Now Foundation. They don’t have a downloadable copy yet. It was an amazing lecture about faith and science and incompatibilites between them and the current state of the world in terms of religious fervor etc etc.. Mindblowing stuff. I probably couldn’t have come up with something like that in a hundred years.


can’t have laws for everything

In another recent district court ruling, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against the formation of a law that would restrict video game sales based on ratings. In my opinion, this is a good thing. I don’t deny that violent video games may induce violence inducing behaviour. For that matter, I don’t deny that violent movies may induce similar behaviour either, or tv news that show violence or anything else reported on the media today. I don’t believe that’s the root of the problem.

Creating a law just to curb the sale of such items is just a band-aid solution. It’s market economy at work. The industry will find another way to sell to their customers what is in high demand. You can’t butt heads with an emergent behaviour phenomena like market-economics and hope to succeed with just a regulation. The trick, I think, is to work with it. Work towards an environment where the economics of selling violent video games simply doesn’t work for the industry. There’s less incentive to produce it if there’s less demand for it.

The problem may lie in the way kids are raised increasingly in today’s world. It’s the lack of attention the children get. It’s the social coherence that increasing numbers of families are experiencing.With it comes belligerence, kids working to earn their own spending money and a whole host of other issues. Buying violent video games is simply just one of the symptoms of the huge social problems we have today in the US. Other issues like teenage drug addiction, drunk-driving, rates of high-school dropouts, teenage pregnancy all can probably be traced back to the same root cause. The parents are not at fault by themselves though. High cost of living, long work hours, lack of social infrastructure, lack of education are all to blame. It’s a classic downward spiral, each generation producing more of the same.

It’s easy to point out problems. I don’t have a solution for this. There are tons of people who realize it’s the root problem and are working towards solving it. I don’t see major changes changes and haven’t for a while. In fact, the problems are getting worse. The rate of the downward spiral is way higher than than the solutions people are coming up for it. I do see hope in grassroots movements created by communities. These have the best chances of working because they are the most passionate and they are in constant contact with the people they’re trying to help. It’s about people after all, not laws.

a hurrah for evolution and science

A federal court has decided against Intelligent Design in the classroom.

It’s one matter to acknowledge the possibility of different origins and to scientifically study the subject. It’s another matter to completely forgo the scientific tradition of proofs, repoducibile experiments and rigorous dissection of proofs by peers. On top of that, they want to instill in young people’s mind a burgeoning distrust of the scientific tradition from early on.

I’m sure this matter is not yet closed. The creationists will keep on trying to take this country backwards, maybe they’ll even take it to the supreme court.

washington post reporting on how the judge’s arguments against ID in the Dover school board case may have repercussions beyond just the schoolboard in question.

Also, if you have any doubts and are an ID proponent, here’s a good place to start learning about the facts on evolution so you can better prepare to present more intelligent counter-arguments in your defense of ID. You might do well to read the above-mentioned article as well. If you do get your hands on a copy of the judge’s report, please send one my way. I’d cherish it.

color illusion

Amazing demonstration of our perception of color (or the lack thereof)..

found at :

If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, you will only see one color, pink. If you stare at the black + in the center, the moving dot turns to green. Now, concentrate on the black + in the center of the picture. After a short period of time, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see a green dot rotating if you’re lucky! It’s amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot, and the pink ones really don’t disappear. This should be proof enough, we don’t always see what we think we see.

people really have no clue .. linux social experiment

An experiment that someone did in Austin

I spent a day doing something I see people do every day and never give them another thought.

There is hardly a street corner or intersection in Austin Texas that does not have bedraggled soul standing there with a sign in his hand. Sometimes they have spouses, some have kids, sometimes they have dogs…but regardless of who they have with them, there is a constant.

They all hold signs.

….What if I were to stand on a street corner with a sign in MY hand? One in which did not ask for money, food, a job or sympathy, but offered to give people something for free? What if I offered people waiting at the stoplight of a busy intersection free Linux disks?

Guess how it turned out? I’m not suprised at at all

….My “sign” was a 3×3 cardboard boxtop with the following message.

Stop paying for the privilege of using your computer. Get your free Linux disks here.
Ask scroungy-looking guy for details.

And in droves, by the dozen and then by the hundreds…they ignored me. I made it a point to attempt eye contact with everyone in the closest lane to me. When cars were stopped at the light, I had several disks in one hand and the sign in the other. It was amazing how many people found things to fiddle with in their cars when I looked at them. As the traffic idled at the light, I would walk down the median and hold up my sign so they could see it clearly. It was shortly after the morning work rush hour that it began to happen.

People gave me money…

And cigarettes…

4 gave me gift certificates to local eateries.

Some gave me phone numbers.

Go figure.

They were not reading my sign. They just assumed I was begging for money, and they handed it out the car windows and quickly retreated to their sanctuary. Most had the power windows rolled up before I could say thank you.

machines to aid in euthanasia

One more sign that we’re approaching the singularity. Machines versus people, machines and people.

More on singularity at the singularity institue. There was a talk about it at one of the long now seminars that piqued my interest (look for bruce sterling’s talk on singularity).

Here’s the post:

Judaism is so awesome — it’s the only religion composed entirely of loopholes!

Israelis to be allowed euthanasia by machine

Machines will perform euthanasia on terminally ill patients in Israel under legislation devised not to offend Jewish law, which forbids people taking human life.

A special timer will be fitted to a patient’s respirator which will sound an alarm 12 hours before turning it off. Normally, carers would override the alarm and keep the respirator turned on but, if various stringent conditions are met, including the giving of consent by the patient or legal guardian, the alarm would not be overridden.

Similar timing devices, known as Sabbath clocks, are used in the homes of orthodox Jews so that light switches and electrical devices can be turned on during the Sabbath without offending religious strictures.

dabble away

Dabble db is brilliant. Rejoice, all you database haters, for all the pre-work you have to do to even get started with a traditional web/database environmnet. They have a blog as well. It’s currently in beta. I don’t have an account there yet, but I’ve seen some videos and demos.

I would love to get my hands on a beta account. Google base pales by comparison. Maybe they should just acquire dabbledb (if they’re willing to be acquired). Rails is generic enough to let a developer write any sort of database application quick enough. I take that back. Cross out the word database. It’s got too many relational database connotations. It’s semi-structured information, any kind. You build structures and views with the information you have, as you need it.

With dabble, you don’t have to be a developer. You don’t have to know java, perl, ruby, python (or smalltalk). You don’t have to know html, xml, rss. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about sql and foreign keys, inner joins and data integrity. Any mom and pop could build a database, starting with the information they already have. Recipes, anecdotes, jokes you name it. This is pervasive technology of a different kind.

Good luck, you all at dabble. You’ve got a gem on your hands.
They have a blog that’s interesting reading.