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Comment: these guys are dead (Score 1) 113

by orabidoo (#31196624) Attached to: Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Gets Go-Ahead From EU, US DoJ
from the article:

engineers will begin adapting Bing for the Yahoo site "in the coming days" and that they hope work is completed, at least the United States, by the end of this year.

and:

After full implementation, which the companies expect will come about two years after regulatory approval...

with these kind of glacial speeds of development... and they wonder why the mighty Google is trouncing them?

Comment: Re:Sorry, No. (Score 1) 799

by orabidoo (#28715751) Attached to: Tomorrow's Science Heroes?
From the Wikipedia article on scientism:

The term scientism is used to describe the view that natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life, such as philosophical, religious, mythical, spiritual, or humanistic explanations, and over other fields of inquiry, such as the social sciences. The term is used by social scientists like Hayek[1] or Karl Popper to describe what they see as the underlying attitudes and beliefs common to many scientists.

I've explicitly discounted both factual claims about measurable things (as in "physical stuff has this or that other charactersitic") and talk of creator god(s), from what I claim is the interesting core of religions, so both your arguments are beside the point.

What I actually claim, is that the most interesting part of a human's life is the subjective experience, which has little to do with anything science could measure.

Comment: Re:Sorry, No. (Score 1) 799

by orabidoo (#28695461) Attached to: Tomorrow's Science Heroes?

Heh, time for some lecturing on one of my favourite topics :)

The whole point of religion has nothing, and I mean really nothing, to do with filling explanatory gaps in our knowledge of the universe. It also has little to do, really, with conceptual notions of a kind of super-being called God. To quote from a christian authority on the subject: "If you can understand it, then it is not God" (St. Augustine). It also does not really have much to do with plain, cold facts.

That, in itself, is a pretty good thing. By and large, we humans do not live in a world of plain cold facts. Any one random given fact will probably make one person happy and another depressed, so it's clearly not the fact itself that makes much of a difference. And, "what's the point of living", arguably the most important question that a living and thinking individual faces, can hardly have a factual (let alone measurable) answer.

Meanings are not facts, and we humans need, want and crave meaning. Possibilities are also not facts, and we humans live in a whole world of possibilities.... there's much to say on that too.

At the same time, science has, for the past few centuries, done a pretty good job at amassing cold, plain facts, including meta-facts such as whole theories and models. So basically, we can feel pretty safe in delegating questions of plain cold facts to science and the scientific method. But as we've said, facts do not constitute meaning! A well-known scientific example of this is quantum theory, which has a large number of diverging "interpretations" for the exact same equations and sets of facts.

It's also good to be clear on the distinction between *science* and *scientism*. Science is a method of enquiry based on the principles empirical experimentation and theorisation, which inform each other in an evolutionary way. Scientism, on the other hand, is the *belief* that science produces not just plain, hard facts, but also the best, most authoritative and most useful interpretation of life in general. It often goes together with *materialism*, which means that everything that exists must come down to things that science can measure and make theories about. In any case, these are *beliefs*, or philosophical positions, not verified truths.

Now, these are a lot of hairy words, and the above sentences can be made to mean very different things depending on how you want to read it. What exactly do we mean by "exist". Does the number three exist? Does consciousness exist? Does a quantum state exist? And what does "come down to" really mean?

Another hairy thing to consider when we look for any "truth" involving "meaning": there is no ultimate criterion for "truth" or meaning, besides "it convinces enough people who have thought hard about it". I know, that sounds inexcusably soft and flimsy and subjective, but that's the way it is. No matter how technical an argument may be, you just can't take the subjective element out of it. Turning an argument into a formal proof only raises the problem to a higher level: you'll still have to *convince* people that the logical model actually applies, etc.

Now, if religion is not about facts, what to do about the many facts that all the worlds' religions claim? That should not be much of a problem either! Remember, in Christian terms, "If you can understand it, then it is not God". So absolutely *any* claimed fact of any religion can be safely viewed as no more than a metaphor, or a stage of conceptualization which may be appropriate for some individuals (not necessarily all), and may help them towards finding that elusive "meaning".

And what kind of "meaning" is that? There are many possible answers, so I'll just highlight a couple of points.

An important point, is viewing the conscious human being in an absolute positive way, and without any pre-imposed limitations, both in terms of what it *is* and in its *potential*. Instead of taking Joe Sixpack, or Jane Prettygoodlawyer, or Bill Gates as the yardstick of humanity, you think of someone like Jesus, or Buddha, Socrates, Lao Tse, etc. Someone whose every word pretty much embodied "meaning": honesty, courage, generosity, humility, you name it. If you adopt the worldview that we are all basically made of *that stuff*, and that's what our innermost being is, and is trying to be all the time... well, something pretty deep changes.

Another point, is to realize that *you* are not the most important thing in the world. The individual "I" is not the biggest or most real "meaning". Which means that when you die (as we all will), the most important thing(s) in the world will still be there! On its own, this could even sound depressing, but if you put it together with the first point, it's entirely the other way around.

There are many more things to say, but that's best left to whole books than slashdot posts.

From here on, it's pretty much a matter of choice... there are many valid spiritual "systems" out there, with wildly different approaches and vocabularies. Some traditional, some not. Some profound and well-tested, some half-jokes. If you're interested, look around and choose wisely. Do choose one vocabulary, staying "neutral" doesn't really go anywhere. And get some guidance along the way. Good luck!

Spam

+ - Spammers use modified PDF files to avoid detection

Submitted by thefickler
thefickler (1030556) writes "In the continuing effort to get more spam past email filters, professional spammers are not only stepping up their use of PDF attachments to deliver their offers of penile implants and cheap pharmaceuticals, but they are also modifying the PDFs to avoid detection. Worse yet, the chief security analyst at MessageLabs, Mark Sunner, has suggested that PDF attachments might soon be used by spammers to delivery malware."
Software

+ - Open-source Sophie may steal thunder of Web gurus->

Submitted by VeryVito
VeryVito (807017) writes "Flash and Web multimedia developers are taking note of a quietly announced new offering from The Institute for the Future of the Book: an open-source, cross-platform and very real multimedia publishing platform (Sophie) that's made for the non-technical Everyman.

Today, even the simplest "rich media" projects still demand a good understanding of the tools we designers and developers use to create our wares. Flash, After Effects and Flex (or *gasp* even PowerPoint) may seem like overkill ... but the truth is, most people wouldn't know how to begin such a project without them (or how to begin with them, for that matter).
Sophie is planning to change that, and from the looks of it, it's off to a good start. Sophie already runs on Windows, Linux and OS X, and the creators are even preparing it for the OLPC platform."

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