Thursday, May 7, 2015

National day of prayer ...

Today is the National Day of prayer. A day I find misguided and utterly absurd in 2015 both in virtue of it's utter impotence and it's ridiculous exclusivity.

I don't disparage people who want to pray, but a national day of prayer does irk me nonetheless...

So first some history. This link gives a great rundown on a timeline behind the NDP:

I note that notable figures like Thomas Jefferson stood against the very notion .. But I won't linger on that point, because I want to be forward thinking and besides others will simply point to other notable figures in the US's venerable past who did.

I want to know what we're supposed to do with this day? What does it mean? Can we all sit together and pray away economic inequality? Crime? Dissenters on the 1st or 2nd amendment? How is this day not a national wishing day of individual vice and virtue... And by virtue here I mean the righteous virtue behind biblical sentencing...

I wonder what people pray for today. Too bad we have no statistics for prayer. Would probably be most enlightening.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Be skeptical of hasty conclusions drawn from google search suggestions

There's a patheos article going around with an image of google searches beginning with "atheists should" .. I figured it must be grossly exaggerated so I decided to try it and received the same result. Shocking? I'm not surprised. See here below:

That said, it strikes me that these two words are clearly part of a negative statement and so google's algorithm is only returning those search phrases most in line with it ...

But what about other phrases?

Next I tried with Christianity:

And then Islam:

And then for good measure a couple more:

Note that neither children nor cute puppies resulted in any suggestion from google... My educated guess is that there simply aren't enough people inclined to form a negative search string for "children" and "cute puppies." But when I did it with spiders I think I received expected results... The bunnies list of suggestion was odd...

I am not claiming this to be a scientific study, in fact I'm suggesting that this shows that we should be far more skeptical of any data taken from this type of sample: people aiming to look for other negative postings.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je ne suis pas Charlie, mais je suis irritée

Several things bothering me at the moment regarding the world's reaction the #CharlieHebdo attacks in Paris.

1) Insisting that Muslims publicly, and formally denounce the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
What kind of since does this make? Where is the reciprocation here? Was the christian world called upon to renounce the views and actions of Westboro Baptist Church? How about the Army of God attacks on abortion clinics. What about the Lord's resistance Army


How about Breivik following the Utøya massacre? He referred to himself as a Christian Crusader for Christ's sake ( pun intended ).

2) That we should respect all religions...

I don't respect any religions at all and consider religion a net-negative in the world. I respect implicitly individual rights to practice religion, pray, and worship. That's very different from actually respecting the religious beliefs themselves. 

3) That the recent attacks have nothing to do with Islam
I think this one annoys me the most. When the perpetrators themselves claim religious justification for their actions then i'm inclined to listen. Any claim to the contrary requires an extraordinary explanation.

A better explanation would be to explain that they're part of a sect. That I can live with .. But even then it's a sect clearly justifying its actions based on the same book.

Is this unique to Islam? Not at all, and I mentioned a few of the others under point one at the top.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Email to the Saudi Embassy regarding Raif Badawi's sentencing

In an effort to show support and as a direct copy of Greta Christina's action here is my letter to the Saudi Embassy. You can read what Greta Christina had to say here.

Subject: Regarding the sentencing of Raif Badawi

The grotesquely harsh punishment awarded to Raif Badawi for the crime of "Insulting Islam" is in an international context "beyond the pale." That insulting Islam is a sentence carrying offense is in itself worthy of all critique, and that Saudi Arabia is effectively going to torture and exact outrageous fines for his pursuit of a more liberal and progressive Saudi Arabia is reprehensible. This is in direct violation of basic human decency and fundamental human rights. If Saudi Arabia wishes to accord international relations it should terminate all such barbaric actions immediately.



And I'll say as well... Send your own!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Betyg, omdömen och pisaresultat

Ibland blir jag förvånad på riktigt....

I måndags kom alliansen med förslaget att från 2017 ska betyg ges redan från fjärde klass. De hade i och för sig andra förslag också, men det var just detta förslag som fick så mycket kritik. Att man diskuterar skolan och eventuell reform är inte så konstigt: det är valår och förre årets PISA-resultat är fortfarande ett färskt minne. Reaktionerna på förslaget har varit många men i nästan alla fallen negativa och baserad på dessa tre punkter:

  1. Betyg är stressande för barnen och ger inget komplett svar om hur ett barn utvecklas
  2. Forskningen tyder på att betyg inte är ett optimalt sätt att mäta ett barns utvecklande vad gäller kunskap och utövandet av den kunskapen
  3. Det är kunskapen i sig och inte betyg som ska räknas

Att betyg är stressande och ger ett icke nyanserat omdöme...

Dagens system består av skriftliga omdömen. Men betyg är en annan sorts omdöme. De som är mest kritiska till betyg menar att det ger *ett* svar till en nyanserad verklighet. Att ge betyg betraktar ett barns kunskap i helhet utan att säga mer. Det må stämma, men varför är vi mer intresserad av den nyanserade verkligheten innan ett barn börjar i 6:an. Eller är det kanske så att man aldrig ska ha betyg? Dessutom kan man fråga sig varför man inte kan tänka ett betyg system som utgår från flera olika områden. Min dotters betyg är består av alla dessa ämnen och jag som föräldrar får ta del av hela den informationen. 

Att betyg ses som mer stressande än nuvarande omdömen säger en hel del om hur luddigt formulerade de är eller kan vara. Man kan väl ana ett skriftligt omdöme som klart och tydligt förklarar var ett barn är stark och var ett barn skulle behöva extra stöd. Men funkar det idag? Lite cyniskt kan jag tycka att vi vet att det inte funkar idag annars hade barnen varit lika oroliga för dessa omdömen som de enligt twitter är för betyg.

Ja... Var våra lärare överraskade över hur Sveriges 15:åringar presterade på PISA? Antingen fungerar nuvarande systemet och levererar barn till 6:e klassen som är beredda att ta på sig den kunskapen de behöver eller så fungerar systemet inte.

Forskning säger si och så...

Här tycker jag att de kan ha en poäng. Har vi trovärdig bevis som tyder på att ett system är att föredra över ett annat så tycker jag naturligtvis att vi ska välja det bättre alternativet. Men, är det så enkelt? Använder vi betyg som varningssignal och inte som substitut för läroplanen? Poängen är att fånga upp problem så tidigt som möjligt för att kunna ta itu med det innan det blir alldeles för svårt. Vi ska inte blunda för att våra 15 åringar inte hade den kunskapsnivån vi har önskat oss. Är det läroplanen som det är fel på? Som jag sa tidigare antingen var våra lärare överraskade över resultatet eller så var de inte det. Jag utgår ifrån att de trodde ändå på kvaliten hos barnen och tycker då att betyg kanske inte är optimalt, men det ger oss i alla fall ett svart-på-vitt svar på hur våra barn presterar och redan från fjärde klassen.

Det är kunskapen som är viktig och inte betyg...

Ja, visst. Och det är naturligtvis ingen som tycker att det är just betyg som är viktigt. Lika lite som vi tycker att just PISA-resultatet är viktig. Men vi kan rösta bort betyg och vi kan välja att ignorera PISA också men vi ska vara föga förvånade när det på sikt leder till att man ifrågasätter utbildningen på nästa generationen. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Agnostic vs Atheist

Recently, I found myself involved in a lengthy twitter debate on the meanings of a few words: agnostic, theist, atheist and gnostic. At issue is the following table:

TheistGnostic -- TheistAgnostic -- Theist
AtheistGnostic -- AtheistAgnostic -- Atheist
You can find the same basic table listed in numerous blogs online, but for reference here's one article that tackles the same basic content:
And here's yet another in swedish:
The table is laid out according to common assumptions about the meanings of these words. This same basic layout is found referenced in numerous places and is perhaps evidence of a misguided predilection toward order. Systems that inspire us to organize ideas in this way while we tackle the consequences and meaning behind it all appease some higher ideal, and yet I find myself immensely frustrated with the sophomoric attempt to sift these complicated words into simple boxes.

My position is that being an agnostic intrinsically implies being an atheist. The notion of an agnostic theist is nonsense. Gnostic atheism is likewise ridiculous, but for a different reason.

Part of what's at play is, I think, a basic misunderstanding on what these terms actually mean. That or the words truly have been co-opted in recent years and have taken on different meanings. If this is the case it is indeed problematic, because the former connotations carry a lot of weight in philosophy.

So what do these words Mean?

Gnosis: This is a greek noun and means, as expected, knowledge. This word gnosis, however, has a long history of meaning in scholasticism (and patristics) and philosophy alike. Gnosis is a kind of spiritual awareness of god's presence; a mystical insight into one's relationship with the spiritual reality. Words and meaning evolve and this is no where more true than with loaned words, however, in this case I think it remiss of us to ignore the relevance of that original meaning. It's this original meaning of the word from which its antonym is derived. Gnosis is the **reason/cause** for belief in god. Obviously, we're not going to be arguing for hard empirical evidence of god, which means that in any way we can

Theist: Theist is, I think, a far less complicated word. A theist believes in god[s].

Atheist: Like theist, atheist is simple. An atheist lacks belief in god[s]. Though the actions, convictions and rhetoric of many known atheists may be interpreted as manifest to the contrary, the word in fact means nothing more than the lack of this belief. This is in juxtaposition to a theist which as stated above believes in god[s].

Agnostic: For agnosticism it's important to understand the origin of the word and where it comes from. Agnositicism was coined by Thomas Huxley and in direct response to this same gnosis described above.
When I reached intellectual maturity, and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker, I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until at last I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure that they had attained a certain "gnosis"--had more or less successfully solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion...
It's clear to me that his notion of agnostic isn't as simple as utter ignorance. It's a statement and response to the notion of gnosis. He's claiming to not have this spiritual awareness of god.

Where does this leave us?

There are really are only two salient positions in the table above that remain cogent: gnostic theist and agnostic atheist. The other two positions though seeminlgy reasonable are in fact incoherent. I will detail them here one by one:

Gnostic Theist: This one is clear. A gnostic theist claims to have spiritual knowledge or understanding of god[s] and, therefore, believes in god[s].

Gnostic Atheist: This one is, I think, absurd. Certainly, according to the definitions I laid out above it's illogical, but I maintain that it has other issues. Other sites (like the two I mentioned at the top) will maintain that gnosis is just simply knowledge, and, therefore, this simply is an expression of knowlege about the lack of gods. Atheist is a lack of belief, so what this really refers to is knowledge about ones lack of belief. This may say something about ones personal insight, but it's hardly a religious utterance. This is where the popular definition of the word atheist rears its head: denial of gods, and so we're left with definitive knowledge about the lack of gods. However, we know it's impossible to be certain of negative knowledge. My detractors will argue that it's theoretically possible to imagine a confused individual who believes that they have knowledge of the lack of god, but that's hardly a reason to keep it in the list. There are loads of bad-faith assumptions and confusions we could come up with, but that doesn't mean that they are sound and should be entered into a matrix to justify its own existence.

Agnostic Theist: The connotation here is that someone who lacks gnosis (which is the only reason to ever believe in god) nevertheless *believes* in god. At this point, I think it's incumbent upon me to discuss the word belief. This word is tricky. Belief in this religious sense is more than the belief associated with the word trust. Do I know the sun will rise tomorrow? No, but I trust that it will based on previous experience. I do, btw, have loads of experience and evidence to corroborate my trust. The same cannot be said of religious belief. Here I have only faith. Faith is a special sort of belief: belief that specifically does *NOT* rest on testable claims or material evidence. Furthermore, the origin of the word agnostic itself is a statement about the lack of conviction behind this belief. Huxley didn't coin this word, because he hadn't seen the empirical evidence supporting god, rather the term stands extant as a repudiation of gnosis. No theist believes, because of evidence. Theism is about belief/faith in spite of the lack of evidence. It's belief because of gnosis.

Agnostic Atheist: Finally. This combination, I think, makes sense but is redundant. An agnostic, lacking gnosis, cannot believe in god and therefore lacks the belief. It's simple.

There we have it. This matrix stands as a model based on common use of the words, but misses, I think, some important background behind what these words mean. Also, I am sure that some will argue that there are loads of atheists who claim to *know* that there are no gods, but I hardly see how this matters. This position is indefensible, and whether they believe (falsely) to have knowledge about the lack of gods or not that position is completely incomprehensible.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Punitive attack on Assad

I've just watched the following O'reilly video:

And i'm floored. He can't seriously equate war with a punitive action on Assad. The idea is nonsense and i'm convinced that O'Reilly knows this. So what on earth is the play here?

Is it really more important to paint a picture that presents Obama as "weak" than it is to propose a credible solution for Syria that fulfills the following criteria?

  1. Action in Syria's best interest
  2. Action in our best interest
  3. Action in the region's best interest
Now, i'm not defending Assad nor his use regimes use of chemical weapons, but surely a scenario which removes them from his arsenal prior to any further military action is a good idea, and it absolutely doesn't need to be the end of the conversation. If we want to remove Assad from power we can still move in that direction and do so with greater authority.

I find this to be a fantastic first step toward a liberated Syria and one that offers the possibility of finding peace through diplomacy. More and more is pointing to a joint diplomatic effort between Russia and the US. Now imagine that. The US threatens with war so that Lavrov can offer to take those nasty chemical weapons off of Assad's hands. Interesting indeed. Yes, the US is now so weak that it chooses to avoid costly wars and exposing it's service men to the threat of chemical weapons.