Thursday, 29 December 2011

Life is not like a video game

No, not because "it has no reset button". That's boring and if, like me, you first played video games in arcades where your mum would only give you one coin, not obviously true. There's a couple of other fallacies that I want to tackle. The general heading is "life is not fair". Firstly life has no obligation to let you win. Secondly, life does not give everyone the same 100 skill points to start with.

Friday, 16 December 2011


On the day Christopher Hitchens died religion is on my mind. This post is not about that, but you'll excuse if I use it as an example more than once. One thing that I dislike about twitter is the way the immense power of this unprecedented tool is used for a large category of bad ends. Twitter is amazing, every hashtag, used right, is an impromptu, undirected, leaderless lobby group. It comes into existence, organises action, generates followers, achieves some end or gives up and then burns itself up totally. This is a vast improvement over the old pressure groups that invariably fought more for their own continued existence and influence than for the actual aim that founded them. But what if this power is used stupidly? What if it's used to amplify the offence taken by a small number of people?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Religion and ethics.

I had a rather confusing conversation a while ago. I was discussing the fact that I was confused about ethics and was looking for something more firm to base it on. My friend suggested religion. My friend is very intelligent, which is why his comments confused me. He hadn't noticed something obvious to me. Which is that religion can never be a satisfying basis for morality. And that in fact no religious people derive their ethics this way.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Myth of the Unimaginableity of Evil

"Josef Fritzl was a monster. His crimes are unimaginable. No normal human being could ever do what he did." This is a common trope in our culture. Extreme evil is due to being an anomaly, an abomination, possessed by Satan, whatever. Either way it is clear that we could never do this. This is false. Tragically false. There were very very few mutants in Nazi Germany. The system in that evil place was designed, set up and run by totally ordinary people. We must all be on our guard all the time. There is nothing at all, no external power of any kind, to stop you, dear reader, becoming someone worse than Fritzl.

Monday, 31 October 2011

My crisis

This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a twelve-storey crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'. A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two pencils and a pair of underpants.

I'm currently undergoing a crisis of faith, I'm trying (to a greater or lesser extent) to embrace this fact. The crisis is the following. Over the last few months I've been slowly exposed to weird little niggling ideas that I realised I was trying too hard to force into my ethical system. So I'm going to say it now. WOOPS. Turns out my ethical system is built on a foundation of sand. This is a crisis, I need to fix it. Not being wildly and madly optimistic and looking at other's experience I dont expect this problem to be fixed before 2014. So I'm not going to be able to post more on foundational ethics for a while.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The virtue of honesty.

I believe that every aborted child goes to heaven.
So women are doing them a favour by aborting them then?
That's a very trivial response to a very serious issue.
This exchange, taken from here, is typical of a certain type of argument. The moral failure of the first speaker isn't his notion of heaven. If you want that notion and think you can defend it go ahead, I'll argue that another day. There's something more serious here. There's a fundamental lack of honesty. Not that he is lying to others, but far far more importantly, to himself. This is probably the biggest single failure of human thought. Pretty much all the other mad thoughts people have are examples of it. I want to consider this failure.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Climate Change

The Ascent of Man is not just a species-wide phenomenon. The joy of science is that the whole species progress by means of individuals progressing. It is the defining characteristic of a rational scientific mind to despair at its past self. A scientist corrects the errors in her worldview, over time her map looks more and more like the territory. Errors only get smaller. I'm annoyed at my past self, just as my future self will be annoyed at me. One error my past self made I dont get annoyed at, because I dont think it was unreasonable. Though I have now corrected it in my map, it should not be hard to imagine why others should not have done so yet. This phenomenon tells us something wider about the danger of a little information and science communication.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Against Spock

When I used to get into arguments with religious/alt. med./supernaturalist/generally wrong people on the internet* I would often come up against a common TV trope. The Spock. "You want to be so rational," goes the argument, "but have you thought that The Spock is flawed for this reason?" The short answer is yes I have, I'm vastly more intelegent than you, of course I've thought about and dismissed your pathetic argument. But it's not polite to say this. I want to argue that the Spock trope is fundamentally misconceived, and that we perhaps need to alter what we generally mean when we say "rational".

Monday, 26 September 2011

Human Rights

Against my better judgement I've been reading up on Dale Farm. Against my better judgement because it sounds like, and turns out to be, the kind of rank stupidity that just gives me a headache. At issue is a small part of the land, those living there have no planning permission to build the houses that they have built. Various groups have claimed that the law as it stands should not be enforced against these people because they are part of a particular ethnic group. This has got me thinking about how annoying are a lot of public supporters of human rights. And how damaging to the rights they claim (and ought) to be supporting. There's a deep confusion about the extent and nature of human rights.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


There are 3 rough categories of "games". Games here in the sense of game theory, a branch of maths dealing with massively simplified and anaemic economic situations. In a game there are some number of players, they all make a decision and walk away with some amount of happiness depending on what everyone decided. Playing roulette is such a game. You turn up and call out a number and leave with (on average) less money than you started with. My question is why people play each category of game.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Every generation needs The Ascent of Man, Cosmos or Wonders of the Universe. It needs a documentary series not about the facts of science per se, but about Science. You need a popular work that gets the culture of science across, explaining to people that science feels good and is exciting. In short you need a popular manifesto for a scientific philosophy of life. One such is provided by Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction written by Eliezer Yudkowsky. I want to explain why I've read this story from start to last update not less than 3 times and why it's had a huge impression on me.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Dear BT

I live in a house in the sticks. I know the phone lines round here are poor. There are phone lines in this area made of aluminium. But when I sign up to a broadband package I expect that the company which runs both my ISP and my phoneline to be able to cope with this fact. If you cant cope with this dont sell broadband to people who live in the sticks.

There is noise on the line here. A lot of it. It's hard to hear what people are saying sometimes. As a result of this we regularly drop down to a lower speed connection. I'm ok with this. Slow broadband is as annoying as anything, but I can cope with it. What I cannot cope with is that after a while it switches off entirely. If you cannot offer me a broadband connection that is on always then dont sell me broadband. I'm not complaining that the connection is offline for a couple of minutes every few weeks. I'm complaining that we cannot get onto the service we have paid for for hours and even days at a time. I'm complaining that we cannot get on for a third of the time some weeks.

It's reasonable to check the problem is not internal wiring. It's not reasonable that determining that took not less than 3 engineers and several months straddling our last ISP and BT.

It's reasonable that working out what has gone wrong could take a while. What is not reasonable is the way engineer visits have been handled. The last 5+ callouts have all followed the same pattern.

  • An engineer comes round.
  • He does some tests
  • He insists there is no problem
  • I insist there is a problem in that we keep loosing connection
  • He changes something either in our house or at the exchange in the hope of speeding up our connection
  • He re-sets the system telling us to monitor things
  • He goes away
  • We have decent internet for a week
  • The internet goes back to how it was and starts dropping out again
I'm not being funny but I can spot the pattern here, why cant you? Something other than this has to happen. None of the fixes that have been tried so far have done anything at all. If anything the connection is slightly worse now that with our last ISP. I'd be prepared to bet a large sum of money that none of the fixes that we are now working through are going to work. There is something fundamentally wrong with our phoneline that 5 separate visits haven't located.

There is an obvious and straightforward way to fix and unknown problem with a phoneline. Go back to the last point where everything is known to work well and replace everything from there to my computer. If you can come up with a better solution that this, great, please follow it. But when in a weeks time this last engineer's patch doesn't work please dont just send another one round to do the same damned thing. 

I'm getting very very tired with the same damned problem and the same false assurances that it's now fixed and everything is fine. I'm getting very very tired of having to set aside days waiting for yet another engineer. I'm getting very very tired of having to send yet another message to BT for them to reassure me once again that everything will work now. I'm getting very very tired of an internet connection that doesn't bloody work. 


Adam Casey

Monday, 22 August 2011

Anonymous Blogging

There's been a lot of fuss on twitter recently about @Lord_Credo (account now deleted). A blogger recently announced that he was "fake" and had run an account based on a lot of lies. This got me thinking more broadly about anonymous and pseudonymous blogging. I like blogs under pseudonyms, that's why I have one. I want to argue that some of the greatest works of public discourse were pseudonymous blogs, and that, all things being equal, I dont want the people who run them to be outed.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Confucius say:

One day a disciple asked Confucius `If a king were to entrust you with a territory which you could govern according to your ideas, what would you do first?' Confucius replied, `My first task would would certainly be to rectify the names.' The puzzled disciple asked, `Rectify the names? And that would be your first priority? Is this a joke?' Confucius was required to explain what he meant: `If the names are not correct, if they do not match realities, language has no object. If the language is without an object, action becomes impossible - and therefore, all human affairs disintegrate and their management becomes impossible. Hence, the very first task of a true statesman is to rectify the names.'
From The Analects of Confucius, Book 13, Verse 3
I've never heard the task of philosophy explained so clearly and precisely. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Science for religious fundamentalists

"It is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one's neighbor. … it is called the most grievous sin, for as much as it makes every sin more grievous.” ~ Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
For this essay I will assume the existence of a god. For simplicity I will use the names and forms of address reserved to the Christian god (ie referring to this being by the name God or with a capitalised He), but as we will see I wont assume much more than that He created the universe.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

No reflection on the majority of people

One line that's been annoying me throughout the riots. "This violence is no reflection on the law-abiding majority of people" or  "the people of Hakney are appalled by the violence they see on the streets". This is wrong-headed on several levels.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The point.

Why blog? Why think about ethics? Why practice science? What ultimately is the point of all of it? What are we worrying about? And importantly, is it clear this goal is attainable? Is it clear we can work towards it successfully? It's not clear I've ever answered this question. So, here we go.

Friday, 29 July 2011

If I ruled the world

Just a quickie on what rules I would put in place if I had the chance to design from scratch a society's customs and norms around sex and reproduction. Obviously I dont, because things like cultures unfortunately evolve they are not designed. Which is a shame... because things that are designed (at least ones designed by people with half a brain) are an awful lot better. Probably for the best that I dont get that kind of power though. I plan on becoming morally better, and thus on being disgusted with my current morality in about 10 years time. (I'm certainly disappointed at least by half the things 15 year old me thought). If so it's probably best to leave the omnipotence until I've had some more time to think about it.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sherlock v Poirot

I've been reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories recently. I've been thinking about Sherlock as a detective and Arthur Conan Doyle and an author. So, here's some thoughts: Basically Holmes has the potential to be the greatest detective ever, but Arthur Conan Doyle doesn't seem to me have the ability to show off his creation. I'd like to explain this by comparing him with Poirot.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Born this way

Now I'm going to stick my head in a hornet's nest. But this is annoying me, and massively common. My problem is the phrase "Born This Way". I'm straight...ish, I was born with the gender and sex I have now, those two are the same, so I just want to make clear, this is an outsider's perspective. But I hope it's an interesting one. "Born This Way" is not the right way to make the argument for gay rights, not the right way to make LGBT people seem like full humans, and factually it's problematic.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The NHS - Coalition Agreement.

22. NHS
The Government believes that the NHS is an
important expression of our national values.
We are committed to an NHS that is free at the
point of use and available to everyone based on
need, not the ability to pay. We want to free
NHS staff from political micromanagement,
increase democratic participation in the NHS
and make the NHS more accountable to the
patients that it serves. That way we will drive up
standards, support professional responsibility,
deliver better value for money and create a
healthier nation.

• We will guarantee that health spending
increases in real terms in each year of the
Parliament, while recognising the impact this
decision will have on other departments.
• We will stop the top-down reorganisations
of the NHS that have got in the way of
patient care. We are committed to reducing
duplication and the resources spent on
administration, and diverting these resources
back to front-line care.
• We will significantly cut the number of health
• We will cut the cost of NHS administration
by a third and transfer resources to support
doctors and nurses on the front line.
• We will stop the centrally dictated closure of
A&E and maternity wards, so that people have
better access to local services.
• We will strengthen the power of GPs as
patients’ expert guides through the health
system by enabling them to commission care
on their behalf.
• We will ensure that there is a stronger voice
for patients locally through directly elected
individuals on the boards of their local
primary care trust (PCT). The remainder
of the PCT’s board will be appointed by the
relevant local authority or authorities, and
the Chief Executive and principal officers will
be appointed by the Secretary of State on the
advice of the new independent NHS board.
This will ensure the right balance between
locally accountable individuals and technical
• The local PCT will act as a champion for
patients and commission those residual
services that are best undertaken at a wider
level, rather than directly by GPs. It will also
take responsibility for improving public health
for people in their area, working closely
with the local authority and other local
• If a local authority has concerns about a
significant proposed closure of local services,
for example an A&E department, it will have
the right to challenge health organisations,
and refer the case to the Independent
Reconfiguration Panel. The Panel would then
provide advice to the Secretary of State for
• We will give every patient the right to choose
to register with the GP they want, without
being restricted by where they live.
• We will develop a 24/7 urgent care service in
every area of England, including GP out-of-
hours services, and ensure every patient can
access a local GP. We will make care more
accessible by introducing a single number
for every kind of urgent care and by using
technology to help people communicate with
their doctors.
• We will renegotiate the GP contract and
incentivise ways of improving access to
primary care in disadvantaged areas.
• We will make the NHS work better by
extending best practice on improving
discharge from hospital, maximising the
number of day care operations, reducing
delays prior to operations, and where possible
enabling community access to care and
• We will help elderly people live at home
for longer through solutions such as home
adaptations and community support
• We will prioritise dementia research within
the health research and development budget.
The Coalition: our programme for government 25
• We will seek to stop foreign healthcare
professionals working in the NHS unless they
have passed robust language and competence
• Doctors and nurses need to be able to use
their professional judgement about what is
right for patients and we will support this by
giving front-line staff more control of their
working environment.
• We will strengthen the role of the Care
Quality Commission so it becomes an
effective quality inspectorate. We will develop
Monitor into an economic regulator that will
oversee aspects of access, competition and
price-setting in the NHS.
• We will establish an independent NHS
board to allocate resources and provide
commissioning guidelines.
• We will enable patients to rate hospitals and
doctors according to the quality of care they
received, and we will require hospitals to be
open about mistakes and always tell patients if
something has gone wrong.
• We will measure our success on the health
results that really matter – such as improving
cancer and stroke survival rates or reducing
hospital infections.
• We will publish detailed data about the
performance of healthcare providers online,
so everyone will know who is providing a
good service and who is falling behind.
• We will put patients in charge of making
decisions about their care, including control of
their health records.
• We will create a Cancer Drugs Fund to
enable patients to access the cancer drugs
their doctors think will help them, paid for
using money saved by the NHS through our
pledge to stop the rise in Employer National
Insurance contributions from April 2011.
• We will reform NICE and move to a system
of value-based pricing, so that all patients can
access the drugs and treatments their doctors
think they need.
26 The Coalition: our programme for government
• We will introduce a new dentistry contract
that will focus on achieving good dental health
and increasing access to NHS dentistry, with
an additional focus on the oral health of
• We will provide £10 million a year beyond
2011 from within the budget of the
Department of Health to support children’s
hospices in their vital work. And so that
proper support for the most sick children
and adults can continue in the setting of their
choice, we will introduce a new per-patient
funding system for all hospices and providers
of palliative care.
• We will encourage NHS organisations to
work better with their local police forces to
clamp down on anyone who is aggressive and
abusive to staff.
• We are committed to the continuous
improvement of the quality of services to
patients, and to achieving this through much
greater involvement of independent and
voluntary providers.
• We will give every patient the power
to choose any healthcare provider that
meets NHS standards, within NHS prices.
This includes independent, voluntary and
community sector providers.

Friday, 6 May 2011

A history of mechanical calculating devices

Today I gave a talk to a group of Cambridge maths students on the history of mathematics. It was an exhilarating and exhausting experience. I've been asked to put up a video of this, unfortunately the best I can do is a rather poor camera-phone video, which may make understanding me difficult. But there's a lot in the slides so I've uploaded them too. Thanks to everyone there, especially the person to my left who keeps interrupting with corrections and clarifications that I really needed. He is of course the legendary Prof Piers Bursill-Hall whose lecture series this was.

Sadly due to battery life limitations I can only give you the 1 hour 10 min talk and not the much more interesting 40 min question and answer session afterwards where I really showed up how shallow my research was. Abraham Izrael Stern especially, I make the claim that he's doing something really important, but I've done almost no research into the guy's life and impact, that needs serious work. But this is such a vast topic that in the Q&A afterwards a phd thesis and a whole seminar of talks were identified of extra study that could be done. Which sounds great to me ... you know, after exams and stuff.

My slides:

Monday, 2 May 2011

Cognitive blind-spots – a request for help

Cognitive blind-spots – a request for help

So, the last few days I've had fun trying to get a new phone. There was epic fail, during which I discovered that never having owned a credit card was a bad move on my part. That's not the interesting thing though. I cant go back in time and change the fact so there's very little point in worrying about it, except that it's representative of a category of error. And this is where I need your help.

You see, it's not that I made an incorrect judgement, that implies making a judgement. With me and credit cards that's not the case. I have never decided not to own a credit card. Up to a week ago, say, I had not even considered it. It's not that I sat down, weighed up the pros and cons and made an error. It's that I never sat down and the default option was worse. Nobody has ever asked me “would you like a credit card”, I've never had that prompt to consider the things. Oh I grant you I know they exist, there those things that all the people I know who are in a financial mess have, but I've never thought that it's something I could own.

So, I'm now worried that there are other things that it's never crossed my mind to do. Other things that some people do that I've never thought about like … well that's the thing. I can hardly give an example of a mental blindspot, a thing I've never thought about. The whole point is I'm not aware of it. But, for instance, someone who'd never travelled and hence had never though about owning a passport and so hadn't thought about other uses for one. I've tried to think about tools people use to solve specific problems that I've not considered, the best candidate I can think of is life insurance. I've never sat down and asked myself if I want to be insured against injury or death. It may well be that I should get insured, the fact that I've never given it the most cursory consideration means that if so I'll commit another error.

So everyone. Tell me, are there tools, things that you have that help you, even very rarely, that not everyone has? What are they? Tell me especially about things like a driver's licence or a CV that are clearly designed for one task but which can be used for something else. The odds are that's the kind of thing that someone who's not wanted to drive or not wanted to get a job wouldn't have thought about. That's the kind of thing that lends itself to becoming a blindspot.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Initial thoughts on philosophy of religion

I've been listening to an excellent lecture series on philosophy of religion recently by The Teaching Company. And it's got me thinking about how easy it would be to write a book entitled "bad ideas in philosophy of religion". But, here's some initial thoughts for words and phrases that shouldn't be used.


When I mentioned this the other day I was asked "what word would you say instead?" Which highlights exactly the point I dont want to make. The word God is as good as any other. The word itself it not a problem. The danger is when we use that one world to mean different things.

God has a fairly sensible meaning. "Something which is worthy of worship". Generally an omniscient, omni-etc being which created the universe. The problem is when people try to argue about a different meaning of God as though it were the same. Sometimes this is the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, sometimes it's just downright word-magic.

The classic example is people who argue that there is a Church of England God who wants us to go to church on a Sunday and use the book of common prayer by using the cosmological or ontological argument. Now, as it happens both of those arguments are nonsense, but for the sake of argument let us assume they work. What you have proved if so is that a being either "that which no greater can be conceived" in the ontological case or "the uncaused first cause of all". Neither of these ideas contain the slightest reference to the Book of Common Prayer. To argue as though they're the same is just plain wrong.


Language is complex. We often use terms non-literally or non-exactly. We talk about an electron "trying to get to the lowest energy level" knowing damn well that of course the electron hasn't got desires or anything of the kind. The important thing is that it's clear what the metaphor means. In this case that the electron will tend to occupy the lowest energy level it can consistent with the exclusion principle etc etc. If you cant unpack things in this way then there's no point saying it. It's not real communication, it's just you saying words. What's not acceptable, what's not meaningful communication is:

Careful now

"This book in my hand is the most perfect book in the world. It is a literal and perfectly true account of historical events. I base my beliefs and actions on the premise that the events contained in it are genuinely true."

"But this event mentioned here is clearly false."

"That's a metaphor."

To say that the book contains non-literal accounts is fine (so long as what those non-literal accounts mean is clear, which it isn't), but not if the literal accuracy of other parts of the book is something you rely on. Simply put, how do you know what's a metaphor and what's literal?

God is your father

Even given what I said about metaphor "God is your father" is a really bad example of the species. Because it gives a misleading idea of what the relationship between creator and created is. Same problem is implicit in the line "a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner". A loving father does need to be harsh so that his child can survive in the real world. Someone does need to expose a sailor to rough seas so they can survive in the real world.

But in no sense is this true of someone who creates the real world in question. A far better analogy, if we must use one, is to AI and programmer. The programmer can create the virtual world in which the AI is to live. There's nothing to limit what experiences this AI can have. So there's no compulsion on a loving programmer to expose the AI to harsh environments so it can survive in the "real world", there's no reason the AI ever needs to experience a scary world.


While I'm at it, see also the word certain, impossible etc. There are really really intelligent an well read theists, really really intelligent and well read atheists, really really intelligent and well read agnostics. So you can probably guess that at least someone has heard your argument, it's probably not as knock-down as you think it is. It's not a proof, it's just not.

Also while we're at it. A rather bizarre syllogism that people need to stop using. "You cant prove p" is not a proof that "not p", these are very very different statements.


I know you live in the West. I know it's sometimes easier to just stick to what you know and have experience of. But seriously. The God of Abraham is not the only god.

(Btw, as I use it, there is a difference between God and god, a god is a type of thing, God is the name of one such example, God is another word for Yahweh).

This comes up a lot in Pascal's wager type discussions. God or not God is too simple. Which god? The question is how many gods are there and what are they like?


Just a quick thing because this is something that offends me. Your religion and your holy book did not invent ethics. People do not need your religion to be moral. Please please dont be so arrogant as to think that you have unique access to moral truth. You just dont.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The internet

"I said I was an addict. I didn't say I had a problem." ~ House

Sorry to everyone on twitter. It's the only thing on the net I can send messages to with my phone so you have to endure me going cold turkey on what I now recognise is a real and genuine internet addiction. The cretins at Orange have left me with a non-functioning Livebox – a device that I was assured by the only useful man in the Customer Support department is now not given to customers as it's notoriously unreliable. But as he was the man whose job it was to give me the Migration Authorisation Code that wasn't much help. The result of this is that after a damned awesome weekend away (and seriously everyone who was there, thankyou, it was wonderful) I came back to discover that there is no internet at my house. After a week of this I've discovered several things.

I'm addicted to internet access. I need it to feel normal. Without it I get jumpy and irritable. It's not a nice feeling.

TV news and radio news and even a dead-tree newspaper are no substitute at all for real internet news. An example. The recent story about the US budget. I discovered there was a problem with the budget negotiations after pressing the red button. Had I had internet I would have instantly had Fox, CNN, the New York Times and maybe even official press releases from both parties and the Whitehouse to compare. I could have read analysis from the most respected commentators … a lot of idiots as well, but amongst them people who really knew what they were talking about. As it was I had BBC news 24, Channel 4, Radio 4 and the World Service. From these I got a half page. A half page of excellent analysis no doubt. But I had to wait several hours to listen out for this half page hidden amongst deep descriptions of stories I didn't care about. It's really frustrating not being able to tell the news what story you want to hear. Sure you get a wide selection … well in theory. In fact I heard fewer stories than I would searching the net for a half hour. And even listening to the world service I didn't get as broad a selection.

All of my friends live online. This is great because I can talk to them wherever I am. But if I'm not online then that's not really much help. It's depressing to not being able to talk to ones friends, or indeed anyone other than family, for days on end. I know it's quite pathetic, but I'm really missing everyone badly, I'm not enjoying the feeling that I'll be separated from everyone I respect and care about for a period of time measured in working days. Note to self: if you plan to be anywhere where you could be without internet access for more than a week, be sure to find a friend in easy distance.

It's relaxing not finding things to rant about.

It's also bloody boring.

The most frustrating thing not to have is instant fact checking and general referencing. To hold a long conversation without being able to instantly look up relevant facts is frustrating. There a literally dozens of instances in an average conversation of “who said that” or “I wonder what the figure for that is” or “when was that” or “what does that look like”, facts you dont know but which would be really useful to have at hand.

Long story short. The internet is bloody awesome.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Anti-Terror and the coalition.

You remember back in the day, when people like me were cautiously optimistic about the coalition? Well reading it back something strikes me, all the mainstream media coverage of all the things I talked about from last May to now is maybe a few hours worth. My passions, my reasons for backing the coalition in May are not economic. They are civil liberties, political and constitutional reform, and the general possibility of liberal governance for the first time in decades. And now is the time for a big bit of that list. As the government publishes details of the conclusions of its review of terror laws.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Guest post

Here's an experiment. I've had a guest post sent into me by a long time fan and admirer of my blog*, who wants to say something about an issue I've ranted about myself. So I've decided to post it up here unedited and see what you think. If you like it please do say and I'll try and get more guest posts arranged**. If not of course then do let me know and I'll not. This is from Tom Conway.

*Read university friend.
**If you do this you are essentially saying you like my blog best when I dont write it... and I will cry.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Something ridiculous.

An example of inefficiency in public spending that I would have reported to the coalition cuts website if such a thing still existed. It annoyed me so much I feel the need to blog. Anyway.

Monday, 10 January 2011


An amusing question has been raised on Twitter, if the election in Oldham East and Saddleworth were run under AV, how would you vote? The answers are interesting, but it got me thinking.

Were there an AV referendum (or any other preferential vote) on what voting system should be used for the House of Commons how would you vote?

Gabrielle Giffords and the second amendment

I've been out of the loop the last few days so sorry if this isn't a response to what most people are saying, but needs to be said.

Firstly the attack on Gabrielle Giffords and others is tragic, all human deaths are tragic. Attacking a serving politician is doubly a crime, firstly the human crime and secondly the attack on the right of her constituents to the representative of their choice. But that's not what I want to write about. I want to caution liberals (I use this both in the American sense of left wingers and the British sense Millites) that, as much as it may seem that this gives further proof to your idea, using today to attack the second amendment is seriously dangerous. I honestly believe it's at lest arguable that it's more dangerous than a madman with a gun.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Cultural relativism

There's an argument I'm bored of hearing and bored of responding to, so here it is and I'm never going to complain again, I'm just going to point people here. The question is "dont be closed minded, people other than western scientists have access to truths that are just as valid, how do you know that you're not wrong about creationism, alternative medicine, 2012, astrology etc". The claim is that other cultures and other modes of thinking have access to truths about the physical world that are just as valid as those of science. I want to make sure I dont overstate my response so here it is in big flashing letters.

You're so wrong about the nature of the concept of truth that it hurts me to the very core of my being. Go away and die before you throw humanity back to the stone age.