Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts


i'm a bastard

i am. i and a few other people made a guy storm out of our Grand Challenges of AI tutorial today just by questioning him.

the tutorials are pretty simple for GCAI, which is an introductory, non-technical artificial intelligence primer that i take for giggles (can't get any credit for it, for various reasons.) you get a source book of articles, you bring it to each tutorial, and each time, you read through one of them and a sort of informal town-hall debate arises around it. today it was Turing's seminal paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, from way back in 1950. it's basically the original introduction to the field of AI, where Turing defines intelligence, presents the concept of machine intelligence, and demos the common arguments against the possibility of deep AI. he then rebukes each one, apart from the last, which is (hilariously) the 'argument from telepathy'; at the time, it hadn't yet been discredited, and Turing was a firm believer. it shows in the paper, with a genius like Turing asserting the existence of evidence for telekinesis and telepathy which he doesn't provide and suggesting the necessity of 'telepathy-proof rooms' for testing AI in.

that wasn't the argument we had problems with, however. Turing's first cited objection to AI is religious, the 'Theological Objection'. people apparently didn't like AI, back in the day, because of their ridiculous conviction that only people could think because only people had souls. of course, a machine could never have a soul, so how could it possibly ever be intelligent?

i pointed out that this shouldn't even have been included in a scientific paper in the first place. it's just pandering to the deluded, pretending that their silly beliefs are legitimate enough to warrant consideration in a serious scientific journal, but it was the norm in Turing's time to pamper these people. i get that, but, i explain, you can't argue from God unless you've previously proved God, and you can't make arguments involving souls unless you've demonstrated their existence already. which nobody has.

crazy two rows down from me pipes up. "Just because it involves God is no reason to automatically say it's bullshit," he tells me sternly.
"It is," i throw back. crazy goes on to explain that we have souls, animals don't have souls, machines don't have souls, and that therefore we're fundamentally different from either one and the only intelligences possible.

why is this guy studying AI? it being pretty harsh to say that, i stick with asking him for evidence of his batshit claims, and with giving an explanation of neural nets and how the ones we have are tiny arrays of perceptrons compared to our trillions of neurons. we're not anywhere close to creating an analogy of the human brain, but if we did get that many perceptrons, there's no reason to write off the possibility that they might approximate a sentient intelligence. "If we can build nets as big as our brains," i ask him, "then how can you be so sure that they won't come close to intelligence?" somewhere in this i used the phrase 'biological machines' to describe us. it turns out this was a big fucking mistake. crazy didn't like that one bit.

"We're pointless then," he says, over and over. "We're just pointless then aren't we."
"We're not pointless. That doesn't follow at all," i cut him off when he starts to annoy me. "Knowing how our brains work doesn't mean we're devoid of all meaning. Or are you trying to tell me we need a soul to have meaningful lives?"

at this, crazy finally has enough. he turns round, points at me and the people who've been agreeing with me like we were witches, and goes, "I don't like this, this is just fucking shit. Fuck this. You're all getting so overemotional. Fuck this. Fuck," and he shoves his way out of the lecture theatre and stomps away down the corridor, leaving me feeling like a total asshole and my comrades giggling their asses off at this guy.

"We're getting emotional?" snorts the guy just in front of me as the crazy's footsteps die away. i still feel like a shit about it, but i can't just sit there in those sessions and let people spew bullshit unchallenged. i guess some people just can't cope with being asked to actually prove what they're claiming is true.


an anecdote:

so i was working the labs a couple hours ago when a kid stumbles in, can't be more than about five, with this expression of rapture on its face as it surveys the machines - which must look pretty cool if you're five, what with the masses of dangling cables and the huge shiny black monitors. at this point i'm the only fucker left in the lab, and i've got neon spiked hair and a glowing laptop screen alongside my monitor. to add to this, i'm listening to PTI at full volume and i'm surrounded by a glut of shiny objects, thus making me the most interesting object in the room. kid therefore makes its way towards me, grinning, and install itself on the floor by my chair where it stares up at me as it plays with my RFID equipment, which is under the bench.

i hate children usually, but this one isn't making any noise, instead connecting and disconnecting the USB cable of the RFID reader board with reverence and occasionally trying to press buttons on my Zen, so i let it be. i figure it's lost or something and somebody's gonna come find it eventually.

well, eventually, a guy who turned out to be its dad did. he was pretty pissed at the kid, and pretty damn scared of me even though i was being goddamn polite - i didn't ask why he let his kid wander off around the Engineering Faculty, which features the heavy industrial equipment labs, the chemical labs and storage, big balconies with gaps wide enough for a kid to fall and kill itself, and plenty of machines with loose cables to pull down on top of you if you're stupid and two feet tall, and i told him the kid was fine and wasn't causing any trouble. i thought he was just scared of me cause of the pallor (my anaemia's gotten a lot worse in the last month, so i pretty much look like Bela Lugosi dressed up for a rave) and the bags under my eyes (they're pretty bad) until i heard him say as he dragged the kid out of there, "You don't disturb those people! Here's your Bible."

they left in the direction of the University chapel. religious parent, and i'm pretty notorious around campus as a member of the Atheist Society committee and picker-on of religious delusion, not to mention i've got the society website up on the main monitor. i felt pretty bad for the kid, which obviously liked the machines and my equipment, getting dragged off to church after being abandoned by its dad.

just goes to show the virtues of religious values in childrearing, i guess.


found bigotry

usually, Truthdig is a really nice Yankee politics resource. i use it to get a non-Fox viewpoint on American current events, and usually it serves me well.

until today. i'm reading The Left has Lost its Way, a report by Chris Hedges - yeah, the same author of I Don't Believe in Atheists, which is too fucking stupid for me to give you links to. Hedges is a bigot in his own right, in that he doesn't believe atheists can even be taken seriously in our core statement ("I don't believe in gods,") but he quotes someone who rivals Vox Day for pure idiocy, one Susan Thistlethwaite:

“The other side has religion, and we need some,” said the Rev. Susan B. Thistlethwaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary. “We need a more robust understanding of the role of religious values, values that prevent us from compromising the sanctity and dignity of human life. The left, because it is largely secular, did not do enough as the working class was finished off. And now the same thing is happening with the middle class. It is the loss of the left’s spiritual resources that has crippled the movement. The left forgot that nations, like individuals, have souls. Once you sell your soul, it is hard to get it back. History is not linear. History is about constant struggle. It is the struggle, if you come out of faith, which matters.”
ignorance doesn't begin to define the attitude of someone who can blame secularism for the US' political ills, not to mention tout blind faith in primitive literature as the cure.

once again. secularism is what the Founding Fathers wanted. it is what makes Europe a good place to live. it is what makes countries great. it is not a religion, or a strategy by the left-wing conspiracy, or a product of Satan. fucking deal with it.



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the Virgin Mary did anal

i can say that without being arrested, and i can say Jesus was a child rapist, and i can walk down the street denying the holy spirit, and i can call priests paedophiles and bishops pretentious self-deluded fools and monks antisocial and -

yeah, that's right, after 140 years of campaigning, Britain finally overturned its anti-blasphemy laws. god is a dry-arse buttfucker.



long live science, Lepht not so much

when i die, my body's never going to get buried. i'm proud of this.

i realise how fucked-up that sounds; i ain't gone nuts, though, and i'm not doing the whole viking pyre thing (as cool as that would undoubtedly be.) i don't go in for the valhalla scenario, and i ain't so sure i've exactly distinguished myself enough in combat to get there... what i do go in for is science, and that's what my body's gonna be for once i'm dead. it's gonna be preserved in formaldehyde and dissected by professors, then put back together and prosected time after time by medical students - people who can actually get some benefit from it - and eventually, bits of it will be plastized and put in the University's anatomical museum, and the bones will be wired back together, both for use by more students, for decades. this is a good thing.

so why does it get such a visceral reaction from non-medical students? i've been trying to get other people to do the same thing - either become organ donors or anatomical ones - and so far, all i get is That's fucking disgusting, Lepht or Oh, you'll change your mind about that soon enough, once you've thought about it. the registrar at the Anatomy Department asked my proxy about three times if i was "sure i wanted to do this": i even got "You know they'll cut you up with saws and scalpels, right? You know you're not going to be left in one piece?" from one particularly moronic onlooker. i have a vague idea of what's going through their heads as regards that process, but it's totally fucking illogical - those reactions make no sense.

for a start, yeah, i do know what's gonna happen to the corpse. i'm not going to be there: ergo, it doesn't phase me. i'm the collective function of a brain's multiple systems, and once the brain ceases to function, i will cease to be. my knowledge will have been passed on to the larger matrix of what humans know, my job will be over, and hopefully, i'll have taught as much in life as 'i' will after it, but i'm never going to feel those bonesaws; i'm not going to be there while people poke over my open chest. i won't be hurt by any scalpel.

second, it's not disgusting. it's science. you can't learn about the human systems if you don't have the balls to examine them in vivo, and even though i can't watch anatomy videos, other people can, and they need cadavers more than i need to protect people's pathetic victorian-era concepts of "eww gross". if no fucker donated their bodies because it's "nasty" to cut them up, we'd have no doctors.

third, i'm not gonna change my mind about this. this is the logical lead-on from my (much) earlier logical conclusion that there is no afterlife - my reasoning is as sound as human reasoning can ever be, and unless someone shows me repeatable, solid evidence that i could a. exist independently of my own neurons and b. might somehow need to keep their useless rapidly-decaying mass untouched after death as a result of this, i'm not gonna feel the need to revise my logic.

so i'm not gonna be buried. i specified in my will that i don't want any christian funeral like cadavers are usually eventually given, either: i don't want people thinking i ever subscribed to that bullcrap. i'm honoured to be able to be of use without it. all i want is for, in a hundred years' time, someone to look at my flayed and plastic-infused hand in a dissection room and be able to marvel at its workings, like they would anyone else's; that, and for me to not be the only one with enough sense to have let them see that. i just want people to benefit from medicine while they live, and benefit it in kind once they die.

is that so fucking disgusting?



five of the best

here are five ways to keep yourself the hell awake, from your resident insomnia veteran:

1. don't take powernaps. seriously, i tried it between lectures last week and ended up passed out for three hours. not good.

2. screw coffee, get some kind of instantaneous caffeine - i suggest you start at the Utopia of caffeine, of course. particularly good are SpazzStick caffeinated lipbalm (i'm told "lipbalm is for pussies", but i get away with it through being a programmer, apparently) and Bawls candy - get yourself some Bawls soda too, it's good shit.

3. got music? get music. preferably something loud, vocoded and kickass.

4. listen to professors in tutorials. take notes in lectures with the keys, not the dictation software; if you're not paying attention or you just downloaded all the lecture overheads, you run the risk of falling asleep in the theatre - and you might as well stay in bed if you're gonna be snoozing.

5. pain is not real. pain is only in your mind. you can't sleep if you're wearing one of those, right?

actually, forget that last one. damn programmer's compulsion to fill lists.



i'm not laughing

Ephesians 4:16, Inerrant Book of Magical Funtime Happy Joy:

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
(okay, the real name of that particular Bad Book is the New Living Translation.)

this on the shirt of a girl in the front row of my lectures, who has to sit there on account of her hearing aid.



that's the Golden Rule

i just have a simple point to make. the other day i was sitting calmly on my ass in the labs, listening to the excellent Fresh Body Shop, when i was surprised by a guy doing his PhD thesis who wanted a hand working MS Office. glad to help, and knowing Office and as well as the next guy, i spent a few hours showing him how to work the flowcharts, draw diagrams and import/embed objects into Word. after a while, it transpired that said PhD involved the "faith equation", about which i decided to keep my mouth shut, despite the fact that you can't do algebra with religion and get the same answer twice, never mind a meaningful one (it's like trying to do algebra with anything else that isn't numbers - it's just not gonna work.)

after a while, he asked me if i was still okay with the length of the words and their spellings (at this point i was doing the typing, having taken the keys off the noob in a fit of bad teaching several minutes beforehand.) i was, yeah, i replied, since i'm eidetic, but i wasn't used to seeing so many theological terms in a mathematical context; i said the last person i saw doing that was Behe, and that wasn't good. i went on to add that even if i was a theist i'd still have been able to see the holes, and enquired whether he too had read said bad tract.

"Atheist?" he repeated, obviously perturbed and evidently never having heard of Michael Behe. "You're an atheist?" it was as if i'd accidentally let slip that i was a vampire or a leper. he actually shifted away from me in his seat like he might catch heresy and asked me, bewildered, "Well, why are you helping me then?"

teeth clenched, i explained that you don't have to be Christian or even theist to be good. i put it to him that there is a basic human moral code that exists above holy books and word-of-god, and that we use it, for example, in deciding not to follow the rules in the Qur'an that tell us to stone heretics and behead unbelievers, or the ones in the Bible that involve bull sacrifice and pigeon-killing and the whole gay-hating thing.

unconvinced, he wanted to know what had made me an atheist. i've always been an atheist, having never been convinced by the state religion, the mainstream alternatives or the new-age dross of my hometown as a child, and i said so. i pointed out that i follow the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have others do unto you - and that i was helping him because of that. i'd like to think other people would help me with, say, Maya if i wanted to do some 3D modelling, and so i help people out with what i know.

i think i managed to convince him eventually that we're not baby-eaters, though he might have thought it was just me. that's one of my aims in life - to show that most atheists are not assholes, and most Christians are not assholes either. just because we're either side of a debate doesn't mean that Hitler represents all Christians, or that Stalin stands for all atheists: we're all human, and humans should help each other out regardless of who believes in Yahweh and who doesn't.

that's why i'll help Christians, Muslims and anyone else that can't work a compiler, and that's why i'd expect anyone else to help me if they see me passed out in the lab. that's the Golden Rule.



glass machines and Mary Sues

i've taken a nauseating, long-procrastinated* look at the plot of the Left Behind books recently, and have now finally given up calling it a plot at all. that's not my biggest beef, though.

the heroes are Mary Sues. idk if anyone even remembers what a Mary Sue is, so for the edification of those who've never had their short stories or novels reviewed by honest guys: Mary Sue, a term originally from the world of the fanfic kids, refers to a character who is irritatingly godlike or inherently "better" than their peers, always better-looking and more talented, and represents the fantasy alter-ego of the author. a 'Sue is entertaining to nobody but its creator: a kind of literary wank, if you will.

and Sues is what we got here. as Fred Clark has already criticised:

Rayford Steele -- the virile, sexually obsessed but chaste hero pilot -- seems to be Tim LaHaye's fantasy wish-fulfillment stand-in. Cameron "Buck" Williams seems to represent the dream self of Jerry B. Jenkins. The aging hack ghostwriter of subculture genre fiction transforms himself into a world-famous, Pulitzer-winning, super-journalist admired by writers and desired by women everywhere.
Clark is right; these are Sues par excellence, saving the world for Jesus with their awsum 1337 skillz.

(i can't believe i just typed that.) but i bring up Sues to make a point: i got asked yesterday why i so consistently refuse to reveal my race, gender or age to anyone in the Wired. this is why: because i'm sick of seeing kids create alter-egos for the Net that are so wildly stupid, so stereotypically arrogant and blatantly untrue, that i can't even take them seriously: the impossible body-types of Second Life and IMVU, the boasts i hear again and again about skills and hacks and girls, the image-centred hordes of the social networking cartels, all make me hurl with their pretentiousness, and i wanted to escape that. i didn't wanna be just another grunt with a perfect virtual life and no mind behind it; i was trying to remove the face entirely so you couldn't see anything but the thoughts.

so this is my biggest hitch here: in reading these awful Sues, i became even more aware that we decide part of what we think of others, even here in the Wired, on their persona. that's why mine is a null, as i've said, a genderless, faceless construct: i meant it to be a glass machine, whose workings are clearly visible through its colourless exterior.

and that's why. now, of course, i've started wondering exactly how much of the glass' structure is surmisable from the clockwork, and whether online personae are all Sues or not...


ed: I've been carrying on with Clark's criticism, and sadly, he's disappointed me with his approval of "the surrender of self involved in surrender to God". that frankly disgusts me; surrender? surrender the most valuable thing you all own, your own minds, and let the teachings take control without question? this i cannot and never will advocate. - L

*i know it's not a transitive verb, but it looks good, okay?


open thread: evolution, Roger and homo sapiens sapiens

so over at Pharyngula i ended up in a bigass discussion with Roger the Creationist, who won't accept that evolution is a fact, and i offered to start up a debate here (since the original thread is from ages ago).

so, here is an open thread. i'm not expecting anything decent.

actually, pessimism being my premier mindset, i'm not expecting anyfuckingthing. i'm like the antithesis of Deepak Chopra.



a message from the User!

more correspondence on audio, this time from the man, James Atkinson of the Granite Island Group. i'm actually quite impressed that he replied to me in the first place, seeing as in this sphere, i'm kind of scum. a peasant of the white-hat world, if you will.

It is properly called "audio correlation" where a known audio signal (pressure waves) are induced into an area, and then those same signals are measured both as a physical movement elsewhere, or matching electrical response is sought..

it's a little over my head, seeing as Atkinson is officially trained in TEMPEST, and i'm a dabbler, but i think this might mean you could use the audio signals as a means to verify an image of your target's monitor you obtained via other ways. i've asked him for clarification, and meanwhile, yours truly has about half an experiment proposal finished...

and now, on to today's a la carte special: crispy fried bitch with extra cheese. roquefort, no less.

it is known otherwise as "For fuck's sake, it's spelled 'ATHEIST'."

(baby-eating "athiest fundamentalist")


daft punk is playing in my labs, my labs

things i have been doing in my laboratory that i should not be doing at my age:

1. refusing to get off my wheeled desk chair and instead using the walls as kick-off points to propel myself across the room to the waste bin

2. building ten-can stacks of Pepsi cans

3. logging on to as many of the hundreds of terminals as i can in a vague attempt to satisfy my curiosity as to whether i can DDoS my own network with local access rights

4. laughing at these guys

5. forgetting to turn the lights on, so that Security turns up on its rounds and sees me sat alone in the dark, bathed in the glow of five flatscreens like some sort of mad professor, giggling, and has to see my University ID before it'll believe i actually work here and am not some sort of insane swipe-lock-cracking meth-swigging hacker hobo

ah, the holidays, the bane of my entire existence. i can't believe people like these things. this is another one of those progress report posts, just to convince anyone i've sent here that despite being roommateless for a good few weeks now, i have not been committed, arrested or hospitalised, and i have not killed myself. nor have i gone on an insane rampage and gained administrator access to the med campus in order to create my own twisted modifications of human beings so that i may amass an army of soulless beings to take over the world in the name of atheism and computer science.

i think i'm dealing with it quite well, actually.


ed. today is Friday the thirteenth! sit back and watch as ordinary bad events happen, which will then be blamed on the date by woos of all varieties. oh, the meatspace is such fun. - L


five things

recently i've been yammering a fair amount with a creationist; to my utter disappointment, this man proved entirely unable to give me a reason for faith. like James Randi, for several years i've been waiting for someone to give me a good reason for faith, and none of the believers i've talked to ever can.

thus today's thing. here are five things that i just can't make gel with creationism, and not even the young-earth version: the simple "god done it" excuse.

1. "purpose". one of the canards i always get from christians is that if god didn't make the human race, and it's (unthinkably) just an unusually introspective and intelligent species, then obviously we have no purpose. my response is always this: if god did make sapiens sapiens, then according to you guys' magic book our sole purpose is to worship it. what kind of life is that? you only exist to serve the whims of a callous, capricious deity, who created you to be played with and manipulated at its discretion?

2. fossils. either they're wrong or the bible's bull: which is it?

3. evolutionary residuals, like the rudimentary hipbones on a snake or the tail of a human. if we didn't evolve, why the fuck would a god put those there to make it look like we did?

4. the idea that god is needed for the big bang ("because something can't come from nothing"). for one, science has moved on from the bang, and there are several world models that don't require a singularity at that point, the best of which was derived by Hawking. for another thing, if something can't come from nothing, where the fuck did your magical deity come from?

5. nasty organisms. there are parasites that turn crabs into "zombies" to look after the parasites' own young. there are spiders that nest inside human legs. there is the ebola virus, there are cancer cells, there is alzheimer's disease. why the fuck would a just god create these things? what possible sense is there in that?

i open the debate with this: occam's razor disagrees with theism.