Archive for May, 2006

Serving Maths

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Serving Maths (at York in the UK) is a project combining various assessment tools in mathematics.

Google Web Toolkit – Build AJAX apps in the Java language

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Google Web Toolkit – Build AJAX apps in the Java language

Google Cleans Ajax for Java

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Google Cleans Ajax for Java reports on the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) for converting Java apps to Ajax (Javascript&XML). Hard to believe it’s possible at all! but anything that produces Ajax which overcomes all browser incompatibilities is already a marvel.

Nextbook with Goldstein on Spinoza

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Arts&Letters Daily linked to this interview (at nextbook.org) with Rebecca Goldstein (author of ‘Betraying Spinoza’).

In her answer to the last question Ms Goldstein asserts that “despite himself, Spinoza identified with Jews”, citing as evidence his emotional reaction to a story of someone murdered by the inquisition. But identifying with the Jews in that context is an inevitable consequence of rational humanity, and surely it does not require any Jewish heritage in order to feel similarly.

Dirda on Goldstein on Spinoza

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

From the Washington Post (via Atrs&Letters Daily) comes This review by Michael Dirda of the book ‘Betraying Spinoza’ by Rebecca Goldstein.

AlterNet: Why Religion Must End

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

This AlterNet interview with Sam Harris identifies him as a “leading atheist” but the acceptance of authoritative “leadership” is exactly what is wrong with religion and if “leading” is here intended to mean generating new ideas then the word is again inappropriate as nothing he says is new. Personally I find the goal of persuading the religious “of the illegitimacy of their core beliefs” to be desirable, if achievable without undue cost, but to accept Harris’s leadership in that endeavour would be foolhardy as the ammunition and strategy he provides are both defective.
While much of what Harris says is consistent with my own view, I believe that he says it badly – not badly from his own economic point of view perhaps, since generating controversy sells books and establishes a reputation for “leadership”, but certainly badly from the point of view of changing the minds of people who don’t already share his opinions. The view that authoritative religion is, on a net value basis, harmful is one that I share although much of the argument is necessarily hypothetical and so warrants a somewhat more modest presentation. And the view that all religion would be best eliminated is one that needs to be presented with much more subtlety than Harris seems capable of. The defensive reactions, though wrong, are predictable.

Other commenters react to the reactions, and yet others legitimately question the suitability of making Harris’s agenda (and especially his version of it) a priority when there are many economic and social issues on which¬† believers and non-believers can work together.
Commenter ‘pdxlinuxchix’ attributes to Harris a much more palatable position than he actually expresses by saying “What bothers folks about Sam Harris…”
< < ...is that he is breaking the rules. In the West, certainly, there is this tacit agreement that we will not comment about religious belief--provided that one practices a mainstream religion and that one is not an atheist. The ONE metaphysical position that people feel no compunction saying something about is non-theism.... ... Sam Harris, whatever flaws he has in presentation, has the courage to break the rules and start the dialog of saying "if you want your religious beliefs translated to public policy, the rest of us have an obligation to challenge you to demonstrate that your religious beliefs have some kind of high correspondence mapping to the real world". >>

If Harris had confined himself to statements of that sort, then he might have actually persuaded someone.

AlterNet: How the Right Stole the ’60s (And Why We Should Get Them Back)

Friday, May 19th, 2006

AlterNet: How the Right Stole the ’60s (And Why We Should Get Them Back)

Stephen27s20Web207E20by20Stephen20Downes207E

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Stephen27s20Web207E20by20Stephen20Downes207E
abbout tagging

BCcampus Online Communities –

Monday, May 15th, 2006

BCcampus Online Communities – “BCcampus EdTech Online” will be discussing on-line testing on Wed May 17 @noon

Silence: A short history of our atoms

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Silence: A short history of our atoms is actually a posting by Dutch blogger Renee Alkmar about the idea of science as a form of religion. I arrived there via the link from the author’s March21 comment on the Jan24 posting at ‘Philosophy Talk’. Such are the vagaries of asynchronous communication. I often find it fascinating to see a seemingly dead thread revive like a dry seed in the sand at the onset of rain, but that is not my point in responding so let me move on to the issue at hand.
In her posting Renee comments on the very real spiritual sensibility with which many of us approach science, but I believe that there remains a major distinction between science and religion which hinges on the confounding of two quite different uses of the word “believe”. In particular, the belief I have just expressed is one which I can imagine giving up in the face of a contrary argument, but the belief of a religious disciple prides itself on its immutability. To me, that is the essence of “religion” and is something to be avoided. Perhaps “faith” would be a better word for the religious kind of belief. Granted, that word also sometimes is used with a more modest interpretation – more like “trust” (in the sense that I may have “faith” in my climbing rope but if that faith is betrayed I will be shocked and dismayed but won’t suffer a philisophical crisis over it even though fear of impact may cause a mental breakdown to precede the physical)- but I believe that the weaker interpretation of “faith” is less common than that of “belief” and so that that word is the better choice for how people feel about religion.

Also, a religion seems always to be based on authority, but I believe that a “belief in scientists” is in fact contrary to the true spirit of science. In my opinion, a true scientist doesn’t believe something because some greater scientist declares it but only as and while she is convinced in her own mind that the weight of evidence and argument supports it.

Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~