Archive for religions

only in India… [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2018 by xi'an

Last time I visited India, I highlighted an advertisement for a machine-learning match-making system. This time, while eating a last aloo paratha for breakfast in Kolkata, I noticed ads for Hindu temples on the back of my Air India boarding passes which are actually run by the State of Gujarat rather than the temples themselves. (Gujarat is India’s westernmost state.)

humanism [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2018 by xi'an

Along Atheism a very short introduction, I also bought Humanism a very short introduction, as they come by two at the Warwick campus bookstore (!). And here is a very short review.

Written by Stephen Lee, the book is much less irritating than Atheism. In my opinion. Maybe because it is constructed in a much more positive way, maybe because the quotes and illustrations suited me better, maybe because it was another day, or maybe because the stress on the “human” rather than on the “a-” is closer to my own philosophy. Still, the core of the two books is essentially the same, namely a rebuke of the argument that morality only comes as a byproduct of religion(s), and a rather standard processing of arguments for and against the existence of god(s). Plus entries on humanist education and the meaning of life. And a nice cover. Pleasant but not earth-breaking to the point of convincing sceptics.

it’s only an eclipse, for heavens sake!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2017 by xi'an

I have been amazed and utterly baffled by the number of commentaries about the solar eclipse of last week that involved metaphysics and religious aspects. An eclipse is a most natural [and beautiful] phenomenon of one astronomical object getting in front of another one in a very predictable way: no reason to invoke deities or spirits in the process!


Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2016 by xi'an

27053069The current burkini bans and the ensuing controversy are yet another indicator of the low standards of the French political class as a whole. Rather than acknowledging that terrorist and (even less) psychopath attacks cannot be always prevented and that a democratic society has to live with the possibility of such dangers, politicians of both sides engage into a blame game and try to cater to far-right and xenophobic voters by introducing anti-democratic measures such as this absurd ban. Measures that have no impact whatsoever on the security threats but strongly infringe upon civil liberties. The reasons advanced by the dozen of mayors who imposed such bans are non-sensical: from hygiene (walking or bathing on one of those beaches can quickly demonstrate this is not a shared concern!), to good manners (no matter how one defines this term, beaches are the last place to seek good manners!), to public order (if wearing a specific dress leads to verbal or physical aggressions by other beach-goers, the aggressors should be prosecuted, not the aggressed), to women rights (because the few women involved visibly cannot make their own choices) and to security (of whom? the wearer who could drown in 30cm of water or the watcher who could choke upon one’s extreme-righteous rage?!). No, the real and only reason is to exclude muslim gear from beaches, once again to cater to the extreme portion of the electorate. Further, as noted by many commentators on this ridiculous affair, this ban only impacts women, while no French policeman goes asking male sunbathers about their religious or political opinions… Local and State authorities would be definitely inspired in creating support against social, religious and sexual harassment on women, rather than adding to this harassment.

As someone permanently opposed to dress codes, whether imposed by State, religions or social environment, I obviously object to such bans as a privation of liberty. The way and the reasons people dress or undress the way they dress or undress is their business, it does not have to account for the feelings of the onlookers, and one does not have to provide justification for wearing long sleeves or a scarf on a beach. Just as one does not have to wear long sleeves or a scarf to obey social pressure. The very few times I could not avoid standing on a beach with no shade, I chose to cover myself as much as possible. And did not feel I needed to give a reason for my attitude. The same should apply to everyone: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

je suis Raif

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 19, 2015 by xi'an

latest interviews on the philosophy of religion(s)

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2014 by xi'an

“But is the existence of God just a philosophical question, like, say, the definition of knowledge or the existence of Plato’s forms?” Gary Gutting, NYT

Although I stopped following The Stone‘s interviews of philosophers about their views on religion, six more took place and Gary Gutting has now closed the series he started a while ago with a self-interview. On this occasion, I went quickly through the last interviews, which had the same variability in depth and appeal as the earlier ones. A lot of them were somewhat misplaced in trying to understand or justify the reasons for believing in a god (a.k.a., God), which sounds more appropriate for a psychology or sociology perspective. I presume that what I was expecting from the series was more a “science vs. religion” debate, rather than entries into the metaphysics of various religions… Continue reading

Le Monde puzzle [#869]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2014 by xi'an

An uninteresting Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Solve the system of equations

  • a+b+c=16,
  • b+c+d=12,
  • d+c+e=16,
  • e+c+f=18,
  • g+c+a=15

for 7 different integers 1≤a,…,g9.

Indeed, the final four equations determine d=a-4, e=b+4, f=a-2, g=b-1 as functions of a and b. While forcing 5≤a, 2b≤5, and  7a+b≤15. Hence, 5 possible values for a and 4 for b. Which makes 20 possible solutions for the system. However the fact that a,b,c,d,e,f,g are all different reduces considerably the possibilities. For instance, b must be less than a-4. The elimination of impossible cases leads in the end to consider b=a-5 and b=a-7. And eventually to a=8, b=3… Not so uninteresting then. A variant of Sudoku, with open questions like what is the collection of the possible values of the five sums, i.e. of the values with one and only one existing solution? Are there cases where four equations only suffice to determine a,b,c,d,e,f,g?

Apart from this integer programming exercise, a few items of relevance in this Le Monde Science & Medicine leaflet.  A description of the day of a social sciences worker in front of a computer, in connection with a sociology (or sociometry) blog and a conference on Big Data in sociology at Collège de France. A tribune by the physicist Marco on data sharing (and not-sharing) illustrated by an experiment on dark matter called Cogent. And then a long interview of Matthieu Ricard, who argues about the “scientifically proven impact of meditation”, a sad illustration of the ease with which religions permeate the scientific debate [or at least the science section of Le Monde] and mingle scientific terms with religious concepts (e.g., the fusion term of “contemplative sciences”). [As another “of those coincidences”, on the same day I read this leaflet, Matthieu Ricard was the topic of one question on a radio quizz.]