• Cartoon history

    Giordano BrunoThe Christian blogs these days seem to be erupting with outrage over a short cartoon sequence in the new Cosmos TV show. The segment in question tells the story of Giordano Bruno, and it’s… well, cartoony, both literally and figuratively. That’s not shocking on its own, the science itself in Cosmos is cartoony: biologists will cringe at inaccurate representations of a DNA molecule, astronomers will face palm when Tyson’s spaceship avoids planetoids that are in reality many orders of magnitude farther away from one another. It’s the nature of the exercise: trying to convey complex ideas to an uninitiated public in simple and entertaining images, will require simplifications, dramatization, shortcuts, and even that you’ll occasionally be plain wrong. Being a science show, maybe it was sloppier and more caricature on the history. I don’t know, I’m no historian. As long as deception is not deliberate and central to the discourse…

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  • Something you can know with 100% certainty

    A fragment of Escher's RelativityYet another supposedly gotcha question that irrational people often ask in order to unsettle their interlocutor: “can you know anything with 100% certainty?” Well, of course I can, and so can you...

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    Tags: Science

    Sunday, September 22, 2013 3:34:00 PM
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  • We don’t need no education

    GatekeeperThe number of faux-pas and botched damage control attempts from Microsoft around Xbox One has been hard to keep up with these last few days. Microsoft has confirmed shortly before E3 that the rumors about used and loaned games were true: you won’t be able to dispose of your property without Microsoft’s authorization, and various actors are going to get a cut out of all used sales. Some additional restrictions apply.

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    Tags: Gaming

    Thursday, June 13, 2013 5:06:00 AM
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  • What if… small businesses could get out of the patent system?

    The Monopoly patent was granted in 1935It should be pretty clear at this point that our patent system is broken. It’s been designed to foster innovation, but is nowadays stifling it. It’s supposed to protect inventors, but instead threatens innovators. Patent trolls are extorting billions of dollars from our top tech companies, and are threatening to do the same to small businesses and individuals. Meanwhile, big corporations amass enormous patent portfolios that they use as currency, with contents so vague that they can be used to attack their smaller competitors before they even start: if you want to start a small technological business today, don’t do a patent search: you are going to find patents broad enough to cover your innovation, and you may have to give up for fear of litigation that would kill you from the legal fees alone.

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  • Infallible, part 2: Consistency is Insufficient

    Kurt GödelMichael, on his way to establish the infallibility of the Catholic Church, makes the claim that consistency is the defining characteristic of truth:

    The hallmark of truth is consistency. Error can always be shown, at the core of the argument, to
    be logically inconsistent and ultimately self­refuting. Ergo, consistency is contingent to any claim
    of truth.

    This is of course an error of monumental proportions.

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  • Infallible, part 1: Starting the Gish Gallop

    Le papeOver the past few weeks, I had an interesting discussion on Facebook with Michael, a militant Catholic, about the Catholic Church’s claim that it is infallible. Like many arguments with believers, this has rapidly morphed from a single simple problem into a full-blown Gish Gallop. I should know better, but I bit. This series of posts is a compilation of my answers to his claims.

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  • The tyranny of liberty

    Liberty BellLast night, I watched one of Glenn Beck’s shows, and it surprised me: it actually had bits of thought in it, instead of the distilled lib’ral hating I was expecting. Sure, Beck is unnervingly arrogant and assumes everyone disagreeing with him is an idiot, but, maybe under the influence of his guest Penn Jillette, he followed a coherent train of thoughts and actually was interesting. I’m disagreeing vehemently with most of what both said in the show, but I also understood something.

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  • Objective, Transcendent, or Absolute?

    God shows something to MosesThe number one cliché I hear about atheism is that lacking an objective / transcendent / absolute morality, everything is permitted, and surely we must be eating babies for breakfast. Religious people seem to be very insistent on this point, and all but attempt to push us to be immoral, telling us that we are being inconsistent if we aren’t, and that ours is a self-defeating position.

    There are quite a few parts to deconstruct in those assertions. First, can the religious point(s) of view really claim objectivity, transcendence or absoluteness? Second, are the only games in town really religion and extreme relativism?

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  • The outlaw and the sheriff

    Click the image to open in full size.The little town in a remote corner of Arizona had been living in fear since Jim Coldhands and his band of outlaws had decided to stop here on their way to nowhere. They had taken the biggest house in town at gunpoint and were robbing the bank every week, leaving the townsfolk only the bare minimum to survive. They had the guns, and according to them, it was generous on their part to let anyone live. The sheriff was just as frightened as anybody else.

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    Tags: Democracy

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012 9:32:00 AM
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  • Not a house of cards

    Mechanical TurkReligious positions are often compared to a house of cards, meaning that they are elaborate but extremely fragile edifices that can be brought down by the merest gust of wind. They are, however, nothing but. A house of cards has more foundation than substance, whereas religion only has unfounded matter. Blow all you want, it won’t come down so easily. No, there are more apt metaphors to produce on the subject.

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    Tags: Religion

    Sunday, October 21, 2012 11:35:28 PM
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