Archive for June, 2006

Shadi Hamid in DemocracyArsenal

Monday, June 19th, 2006

In, Shadi Hamid makes a Note to Muslims objecting to a the claim by Zaid Shakir that his wish for an Islamic law is shared by “every Muslim who is honest”.

Perhaps the wish for a Muslim country governed by Islamic law is parallel to the wish for a Christian nation governed according to Christian principles, or perhaps it is for sharia law which might be more parallel to asking to be governed by strictly literal Biblical rules. None of the four appeals to me but all are advocated by at least some of the religious “leaders” of each faith.

The claim that “every honest” Whateverist wants a Whateverist government may be denied by what Basil refers to as “Eid-Muslims” and “Christmas-Christians”, but to those who believe that their faith clearly demands committment to its establishment in law, those who do not make that demand are legitimately cast as dishonest.

In the case of Christianity, disestablismentarianism is so evident in scriptural teaching that to any reasonable person (ie anyone who agrees with me) it is clear that it is actually those who would establish religious law who are making a dishonest interpretation. Unfortunately, for Islam, so far as I understand it, this is not the case.

Iraq’s War Porn

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Iraq’s War Porn is powerfully written and has stimulated a thoughtful set of responses – well worth reading.

Follies of the Wise

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

This Butterflies and Wheels Article is the introduction by Frederick Crews to his book ‘Follies of the Wise’

Hi-tone Phones

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

At first I thought this might be a case of “the emperor’s new tones” but when I cranked the volume way up I did start to get that nasty sensation that tends to precede a hard drive crash. Since it’s the same sound used to repel teenage loiterers from hi-tone stores, I suspect that in a class full of people with the necessarily sensitive hearing the owner of the ringing phone will be disciplined by his or her peers without any need for this over-aged instructor to get involved.

Weapons of Math Instruction

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

This has been around for at least a couple of years but keeps returning to the email inbox so I thought I’d point out that although the authors of the joke seem to see “al-gebra” as just a funny coincidence,I’ve always thought that it could be used as a lead-in to a discussion of the origins of the subject and as a timely reminder of the fact that there was once a time when the Islamic world was a refuge of tolerance and rationality.

Confusion about Wikipedia

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

In Edge; DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism, Jaron Lanier garbles many concepts. His complaints about Wikipedia are best answered by the response of Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, who point out his apparent ignorance of the document history and discussion pages and his failure to convincingly identify himself when making edits to a section on which he might have been accepted as an authority.

Meanwhile, the ex-editor Robert McHenry of Encyclopedia Britannica makes some (unbiased?) comments about Wikipedia in the course of (correctly)correcting David Shariatmadari for using the word ‘bias’ in a recent article when what he meant was ‘imbalance’. But although bias, to the extent that it can fairly be defined, does need to be eliminated, the imbalance that concerns Shariatmadari seems to me quite irrelevant in the context of a free on-line product. For a book or CD based product, or a service that I had to pay for, it would be annoying to find that the bulk of what I was paying for or storing was silly entries about fantasy stories or small towns in the US, but even if Wikipedia holds an infinite amount of such material, it’s no problem for me so long as topics of interest are also included.

Captain Copyright Caught Copying

Friday, June 9th, 2006

This is amusing but also frightening. Our public institutions are being blackmailed into paying huge fees to an organization which is aggressively promoting a wrong understanding of ethics and the law mainly for the benefit of institutions which have no qualms about stealing ideas and property which are either public domain or owned by others.
I got it via Stephen Downes who also notes Clarence Fisher’s observations on the duplicity of publishers’ claims about copyright.

Public rights defender Michael Geist also refers to this among other aspects of the issue – including the fact that political contributions from those we pay for this “service” are being accepted as political contributions by those entrusted with determining public policy.

Dyson on Dennet in NYReview of Books

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Freeman Dyson reviews Daniel Dennet’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. He gives what appears to be a fair summary of the book, but takes issue with Dennet’s opinion that religion is harmful and states “I see religion as a precious and ancient part of our human heritage. Dennett sees it as a load of superfluous mental baggage which we should be glad to discard.” Finally after what I found to be a rather weak rejection of the utility of Dennet’s program of scientific investigation of religion, he digresses to a discussion of suicide attacks which I think is more useful than the last part of what he says in response to Dennet.

Whiteboard Movies

Monday, June 5th, 2006

Whiteboard Movies


Friday, June 2nd, 2006

David Brin discusses how tribalism may be an evolved characteristic of humans which appears to follow a pattern in which the scope of altruistic feeling is inversely related to the amount of fear generated by the environment. Good idea and starts well but ends up sounding a bit like Hari Seldon.

Flemming Rose on “Europe’s politics of victimology”

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Jyllands Posten editor Flemming Rose defends himself re the mohammed cartoons which idiot Mullah Krekar decried as a “declaration of war” against Islam claiming without apprent irony about Western secularists that “as the losing side, they commit violence.”

Unfortunately Rose extends his defense in places to attribute to the “left-wing” positions that may never have been taken by anyone more serious than himself, and although his proposal for mutual accomodation to the realities of multiculturalism is reasonable, his use of phrases such as “Giving the same weight to the illiberal values of conservative Islam as to the liberal traditions of the European Enlightenment” belies his claim not to be biased.

Why give them such ammunition?
(Unless your goal is other than what you say it is and is rather to promote discord, jihad, conflagration, and apocalypse)

In this kind of debate, it is essential both to recognize our debt in the West to the liberal values of progressive Islam and to not ignore the illiberal traditions of conservative Western Christianity.

check out

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

This does seem worth looking at for K-8(+) level online math activities.