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Paul Wright's blog
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25th Aug 2020, 09:29 pm - Welcome to my blog
I'm Paul Wright, a software engineer based in Cambridge, England. You can now find my public blog on my own site: http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/. I'll be crossposting from there to LJ but you'll only be able to comment on my site. See you over there.
15th Jul 2017, 12:13 am - Link blog: wireless, radio, Bluetooth
Ask HN: Why is Bluetooth so unreliable? | Hacker News
It’s my fault. Sorry.
(tags: Bluetooth wireless radio)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War
“In 1993 Sir Harry Hinsley kindly agreed to speak about Bletchley Park, where he worked during the Second World War. Sir Harry Hinsley is a distinguished historian who during the Second World War worked at Bletchley Park, where much of the allied forces code-breaking effort took place.” A transcript of the talk.
(tags: bletchley-park world-war-II encryption enigma history)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

On Facebook, I ran across a couple of Christian responses to the recent resignation of Tim “Nice-but-Evangelical” Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

A worrying sign

A post by John Stevens, Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, argues that Farron’s resignation is a worrying sign: Farron’s actions as a friend to LGBT people were not sufficient, people were worried about “what Tim thinks” and wouldn’t leave him alone about it.

As Nick Spencer writes, there are two sorts of liberalism. Farron was an example of liberalism as a way of living (or modus vivendi, as we say in the New Statesman) in a pluralist society, but fell victim to people who saw liberalism as a system which itself provides the right answers to moral questions. But taking liberalism as such as system, as Stevens says, opens its followers to the same sorts of criticism that Farron got: can a follower of a system fairly represent the interests of those who disagree with it?

(Unfortunately, Stevens does get dangerously close to using the phrase “virtue signalling”, which should worry him, for is it not written whosoever shall say to his brother, “thou art virtue signalling”, shall be in danger of being a huge arsehole, and that goes double for “snowflake”.?)

The burning of Latimer and Ridley at OxfordStevens has an interesting argument for liberalism as a way of living: if idolatry is the greatest sin, yet Christians do not want religion imposed by the government as this has historically not ended well (pic related), how much more so (or a fortiori, as we probably say in the New Statesman) ought Christians to allow freedom in law for people to commit lesser sins?

Public reason

With his mention of a “substantive, even comprehensive” liberalism, Nick Spencer in the New Stateman is gesturing at Rawl’s ideas of public reason. From what I read of this, a liberalism which is what Rawls calls a comprehensive doctrine can’t legitimately be the sole basis for arguments in favour of a fundamental right (such as gay marriage), any more than the religious comprehensive system can be the sole basis for an argument against. As Mariel Johns’s summary puts it,

It is important to remember that secular comprehensive doctrines are not allowed – the same way that philosophical and religious comprehensive doctrines are not allowed. These fall outside the domain of the political. This can be seen if we consider what each type of doctrine might ask with regard to making homosexual relations among citizens a criminal offense. A secular doctrine might ask, “Is it precluded by a worthy idea of the full human good?” A religious doctrine might ask, “Is it a sin?” A political conception would ask, “Will legislative statues forbidding those relations infringe on the civil rights of free and equal democratic citizens?”

I’m not an expert in political philosophy, but this seems to get something important right, namely that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. “What Tim thinks” can only be of political concern if we’re reasoning from a comprehensive doctrine which says our thoughts can be wrong in and of themselves (such as Christianity, or liberalism of the second sort), or if we can show that what he thinks is somehow relevant in reasoning which is not unique to any such doctrine. Only the latter is legitimate, if I’m reading Rawls right.

So, what should Farron have said? Perhaps “What I think is What The Bible Says1, but look at my voting record and see that I don’t seek to impose my views on others, because (insert Stevens’s a fortiori argument here)”. Note that Rawls doesn’t think people cannot bring forward religious reasons (in fact, he thinks they should, in a “cards on the table” sort of way), only that they should then be backed by public reasons (such as “enforcing religion infringes on the civil rights of citizens”, presumably).

This is easy to say in hindsight, of course.

Shearer

G J Shearer writes that “Arguing that Christians shouldn’t ‘impose’ their views on society is simply a tacit way of saying that someone else should.” But this ignores the distinction between liberalism of the first, Rawlsian, sort, and liberalism of the second, comprehensive, sort. Perhaps Shearer thinks that such a distinction can’t be maintained, and everything must collapse into a fight between competing comprehensive doctrines. But why think that? It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if nobody makes the effort to maintain it, it certainly won’t be maintained. Farron’s pursuers harmed our political life by making it harder to maintain it.

Shearer argues that secular liberalism is illogical:

What, in effect, is the logic of secular liberalism? We live in a world heading towards extinction, our consciousness created by blind physical laws and driven by a ruthless will to reproduce and survive, therefore… What? Love each other? Look after the poor, the lame, the vulnerable? A moment’s consideration shows that these conclusions do not flow from the premise.

Hume lives! But his guillotine is a multi-purpose tool (it slices! it dices! it cuts both ways!). Suppose the facts are these: we live in a world ruled by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent creator, therefore… what? What conclusions about morality follow from these premises? You need to add some other premise (like “we ought to do what God wants/commands of us”), and if you need that, why fault secular philosophers for needing to add theirs (like “we ought to do that which leads to human flourishing” or “the greatest good of the greatest number” or whatever)? All moral systems, including theistic ones, are “illogical” by these lights.

He also wonders whether atheist politicians could explain how “their belief that human life is merely ‘an accidental collocation of atoms’, to use Bertrand Russell’s phrase, fits with the various moral imperatives that drive their politics”. Probably not, because politicians, unlike Hume, are generally crap at philosophy. But, as we’ve just seen, Shearer hasn’t explained why his premises about God lead to his moral conclusions, either.

Offred from a Handmaid's Tale, with the caption "But her emails"Shearer ends with a call to Christians to get more involved getting Christian values into law: “it is time that Christians began to unapologetically argue that society is best served by Christian, rather than secular, values shaping the public sphere.” This doesn’t seem likely to end any better than it did historically (pic related).


  1. This is an evangelical term of art, so should be taken with the usual caveat 


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Book of Jeremy Corbyn – The New Yorker
“And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremy, and believed. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a helmet upon his head. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but hummus is quite another matter.”
(tags: satire politics bible jeremy-corbyn funny)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Oh My Gosh, It’s Covered in Rule 30s!—Stephen Wolfram Blog
Cambridge North Station is decorated with patterns formed by a cellular automaton.
(tags: computing wolfram cellular-automata automata cambridge)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Maybe the Internet Isn’t Tearing Us Apart After All | WIRED
People don’t actually just stick to sites which match their political views, and their Facebook acquaintances don’t always share their politics.
(tags: facebook society politics internet)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Strange Horizons – Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift By Erin Horáková
A lengthy essay arguing that the popular image of Shatner’s Kirk isn’t what the original episodes of Star Trek portray (but that the reboot has picked up the stereotype and run with it).
(tags: star-trek kirk james-t-kirk science-fiction television)
BENDOCKERY.COM: The Anatomy of Swing
A series of articles with examples. The bit about “laying back” was new to me.
(tags: swing music jazz)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Science Behind “The Expanse” – 1/25/17 – YouTube
A panel with Caltech scientists and people from the show.
(tags: tv the-expanse science science-fiction sci-fi physics astronomy)
Abigail Nussbaum — Person of Interest – The Good Bits Version
If you want just the SF bits of Person of Interest (which are great, see Peter Watts’s review) without the police procedural/victim of the week stuff, Abigail Nussbaum has a useful list of episodes to watch.
(tags: person-of-interest artificial-intelligence science-fiction television)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Acing the technical interview
Do read the comments.
(tags: programming funny lisp linked-list interview)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Conversion via Twitter – The New Yorker
Megan Phelps – Roper on leaving Westboro Baptist Church, the church notorious for picketing funerals.
(tags: religion culture Twitter homosexuality Christianity de-conversion)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
1st Mar 2017, 01:13 am - Link blog: toys, teddy, iot, bear
Internet of Things Teddy Bear Leaked 2 Million Parent and Kids Message Recordings – Motherboard
Best Hacker News comment: “The ‘S’ in IoT stands for Security.”
(tags: iot security toys bear teddy hack)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
CAN GOD’S GOODNESS SAVE THE DIVINE COMMAND THEORY FROM EUTHYPHRO?
Koon’s paper in response to Alston’s response to the Euthyphro dilemma. tl;dr: if God is the exemplar of goodness, his goodness is not explained by his virtues (rather, vice versa). But, bracketing the virtues, why would we then say he was good?
(tags: Euthyphro euthypro-dilemma philosophy good religion)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Last Question – Album on Imgur
Asimov’s classic short story, illustrated.
(tags: asimov science-fiction sci-fi art comics)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

Where’d Trump get the list of bad countries from which none shall pass (except if they have a Green Card and a court order)? From legislation passed on Obama’s watch, we’re told by various people defending Trump’s latest omnishambles. As Seth Frantzman says, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), the legislation referred to in the Executive Order was signed into law under Obama. However, Frantzman’s commenters make a few interesting points, which I summarise below.

Under the legislation, if you’ve visited one of those countries or are a national of them, this will prevent you from getting a visa waiver.

How’d those countries get into the visa waiver banned list, and is that Obama’s fault? Some of them appear to have been added by a Republican sponsored bill which failed to pass, but became law by getting tagged on to a larger spending bill. This letter is a complaint that Obama had weakened the provisions of that Bill, which, in passing, gives a history of how it became law.

From my extensive viewing of The West Wing, it seems that tagging stuff on to a spending bill is a way to force the point: if you refuse to sign the bill, other important stuff will not be funded. So, it’s not clear how much Obama’s administration approved of the additions (since they apparently went on to weaken it when it was implemented, perhaps they didn’t and their hands were forced, but I haven’t seen any public statements either way by them). Either way, they certainly didn’t ever put that list to the use that Trump has. To use a list to exclude people from getting visa waivers is quite different from using it to bar people outright. Implying that the list of countries in the Executive Order came from Obama is disingenuous.

What about?

Presidents Carter and Obama have blocked visa applications from nationals of certain countries at certain times (Obama in relation to Syria). Pointing out that the other lot did something similar and therefore can’t argue that Trump is wrong to do it is called the tu quoque fallacy.


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
24th Jan 2017, 01:13 am - Link blog: funny, aliens, brexit
Brexit As Expressed Through The Medium Of Aliens Quotes.: gonzo21
“Newt: We’d better get back ’cause it’ll be dark soon and Theresa May mostly comes at night. Mostly.”</p>

Via andrewducker
(tags: aliens funny brexit)


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Scott Aaronson on order and chaos
Via Luke M’s blog, for the added cartoon.
(tags: entropy thermodynamics order chaos)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
World War Three, by Mistake – The New Yorker
The author of “Command and Control” on the cheery topic of the degradation of the USA’s control systems and the possibility of cyber attacks. Also touches on Trump/Putin.
(tags: war history nuclear ICBM donald-trump vladimir-putin cold-war)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Twelve Hundred Ghosts – A Christmas Carol in Supercut (400 versions, plus extras) – YouTube
YouTube supercut of a LOT of Christmas Carol versions (there’s Scrooge slash fiction? Of course there is), including the definitive Muppets version, Quantum Leap, and a bunch of over stuff.
(tags: dickens christmas supercut ghosts)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
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