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Comment Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

No, the point is that atheism isn't a faith. There are no atheist doctrines. There is no atheist holy book. Faith means believing in something. Not believing something (like existence of a God) doesn't constitute a faith. Lack of faith is not a faith.

I think it depends on how you define "faith". It seems that many atheists use it in a pejorative sense to refer to beliefs which they regard as baseless and silly. (Some theists do too and see their own "faith" in things they know to be absurd as a badge of honor.) But that is not what the word is supposed to mean. Strictly speaking "faith" refers to loyalty or trust. For example, a patient may have faith in a surgeon and consent to an operation. A lender might have faith in the borrower's ability to repay the loan. Such faith may be justified, or it may be misplaced.

A belief in the obvious (such as that the sky is blue) is not a faith. Faith is a confidence in future performance based on past performance. In the Bible "faith" refers not to a religion but to confidence that God will fulfill his promises made to believers based on a record of fulfilling such promises in the past. In Hebrews chapter 11 well-known figures from the Hebrew Bible are described as "men of faith" because they sacrificed present comfort or even their lives because they had faith (confidence) that God would make it up to them later.

If we ignore the modern religious definition and use either the everyday or the biblical definition, then atheism is a faith. It is a faith because the atheist seems no sign that god is acting and so is confident that god does not exist and intends to make life decisions on that basis.

Atheism does not and cannot have a book purporting to contain divine revelation. But it does have beliefs. It answers many of the same questions which religions answer: where did we come from, why are we here, what happens to us when we die, how can we attain immortality. (The answers are very different.) Their are also atheistic philosophies which give guidance on questions of behavior and ethics.

So, I understand why many atheists dislike the application of the term "faith" to their belief systems, but I don't think it is actually incorrect.

Comment Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

You are right, strictly speaking athiesm is not a faith. But Daviskw isn't talking about athiesm as an abstract idea. He is talking about it as an idea around which people build philisophical systems which they use to guide their lives. These may not be religions, but those who subscribe to them tend to guide their lives by them, may promote them, and identify other belief systems as defective or even dangerous. In other words, there are athiests who behave like religionists.

Comment Re:So Arrest Them (Score 1) 207

This is exactly what they want! If you do this, you follow their frame, their method, and you (or congress) approve of it. If congress approves of this, they don't have to hide it anymore. Mission accomplished! And thanks for your helpful suggestion!

Only if he called the bluff by showing up for his schedualed waterboarding session, climbing onto the table and lying down. More likely he would lawyer up and start trying to explain why waterboarding is not appropriate for congressional investigations but is for terrorism investigations. This would be difficult to explain. That of course is the whole point of the exercise.

Comment Re:Who says computers will take over.... (Score 1) 275

Another problem with transliteration is that standard systems often produce results which look very odd to English speakers. For example, under the 1997 passport system would be transliterated Mariya. Under the 2010 system it would be Mariia which is even worse. But there already is a standard spelling of this name in English: Maria.

I know of two people who asked the workers in an Eastern European passport office to transliterate their names in a particular way. Both requests were accepted without argument.

Tsarnayev is an example of such an odd result which one might wish to change to Tsarnaev.

For a general discussion about the ways actual people's names can cause problems for computer programmers, see:

Comment Re:Seem Negligible (Score 1) 155

Seems like a negligible improvement. I mean really. With hard drive space plentiful, and bandwidth faster than most users can use at any given moment, saving 20-60Kb on a 1Mb file is like a fart in the wind, even for mobile users.

It would not be worth the effort for one website or even ten. But what is proposed is an improvement to the most commonly used JPEG implementation in the world. The cost will be amortized over millions of websites as software is upgraded over the next few years.

To see how this works, let's make up some numbers. Lets say that the whole effort will consume $100,000 worth of labor. Let's guess that within five years it will be installed on one million websites. That means it will cost $0.10 per website. Is it worth spending $0.10 per website to reduce the bandwidth use (and increase speed of loading) by a few percent?

As others have pointed out, improvements to this JPEG compressor would not reduce the size of existing static images. But it would help with images which are under the control of some kind of content managment system which recompress the images. Nowadays almost all non-trivial websites fit that description.

Comment Re:An average engineer can be innovative (Score 1) 258

An averagely skilled engineer, faced with the same problem could solve the problem in under the time it takes to do a full patent search, and apply for the patent including all the time to write the patent and get it through all the steps - patents are not actually fostering innovation at all.

You are basically implying that an engineer of average skill is unable to develop anything innovative. I fundamentally disagree with your premise. Length of time it takes to solve a problem has little to do with the level of innovation involved. Some problems take longer to solve than others but it does not automatically follow that those are more difficult problems. Many extremely valuable insights do not require years of effort to develop into something useful. Conversely, many insights that do require years of effort ultimately aren't all that valuable. Time is a poor proxy for difficulty.

Some inventions come about because the inventor had an insight which his contemporaries did not. Others come about because someone financed a long course of trial and error. But you shouldn't be able to get a patent just because you paid an engineer to implement an idea which half of his peers could have described to you during a preliminary consultation.

Comment Re:So what sexual deviation gets a pass next? (Score 1) 917

Have you ever heard a legitimate (i.e. excluding religious) argument against gay marriage?

How about arguments against it made by gays? There are at least some who believe that the gay-marriage movement is unnessary or counter-productive.

For example, this essay by a gay man can be found on the BBC website:

And here is a blog by a gay man who disavows the gay marriage movement: http://nogaymarriage.wordpress...

Here is a site with lots of links on the subject:

Admittedly, the positions taken in these essays are not as strong as those of certain religions organizations, but they are definitly arguments against gay marriage.

Comment Re:So (Score 1) 917

It is not all or nothing. When rights conflict a balance must be struck. To refuse blacks service in McDonald's would clearly be illegal because any freedom of association argument would be frivilous. (A white person's argument that he is being forced to associate with black people because he can see some of them at another table while he is eating his Big Mac is pretty silly.)

However, the KKK absolutely can refuse to accept black people as members. If they have a clubhouse with a lunch counter, they absolutely can prohibit black people from eating at it just by making a members-only rule.

Maybe this should be changed. If it were, then we could find a KKK chapter with a clubhouse and 50 members. We could then find 51 black volunteers who would join up. At the next club business meeting they could all come and vote to disband the chapter or amend its charter to support racial equality.

In theory this would be a good thing since it deprives an obnoxious organization of its clubhouse. But remember how it goes: "First they came for the KKK, but I did not speak up because I am not a racist." all the way down to "Then they came for me and no one spoke up because there was no one left."

Comment Re: There doesn't need to be middle ground. (Score 1) 917

People certainly have a choice about whether to attend a particular church or not. But I am not sure religious belief is something you can just turn off. I suppose you could drive them into the um... closet.

To say that it is OK to discriminate against ideas is dangerous because then someone has to decide which ideas are incorrect and thus fair game. If that had been the way things worked, then the gay rights movement would never have gotten off the ground.

Comment Re:First blacks (Score 1) 917

>Is it OK to refuse service to someone from the Westboro Baptist church? The Catholic church? How about a Neo-Nazi? Because if your answer is yes, you cannot rationally support a veto.

I think that would depend a lot on the nature of the service. There is a big difference between seating the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in your restaurant as part of the lunch crowd and renting him the banquet hall for a dinner celebrating his organization's programs.

Similiarly, I think there is a difference between a photographer taking a picture of two men who come into his or her studio and say that they want a family portrait just like the man and woman before them got and going to their wedding with the express purpose of memorializing it.

I think the difference that in the second parts of the examples above is that speach is the central element of the event. Furthure, the person providing the service is expected to stand in the view of the audiance and smile and provide services supporting the speakers including (in the case of our hypothetical photographer) services which amplify and transmit that speach.

I don't think making people pretend to support speach which they find repugnant is fair or reasonable. On the other hand, it is not right to deny unpopular speakers a meaningful way to express their views. I am not sure how to balance this.

(If you are wondering why I have implied that a wedding is speech, that is because a declaration is the central defining element of a wedding in all cultures of which I am aware. It has sometimes taken the form of a solomn oath pronounced in front of one or more witnesses, sometimes it has been the signing of a document, in some ancient cultures the groom went to the bride's father's home and led her pompously through the streets to his home in the company of friends and relations.)

Comment Re:First blacks, (Score 1) 917

Should a business be COMPELLED to accept customers in a non-discriminatory way?

Yes, definitely. A business should be COMPELLED to accept customers in a non-discriminatory way unless it can prove that this would cause undue hardship, and infringing on "sincerely held religious beliefs" most certainly does not qualify.

Interesting. What would you do if you were a graphic artist and someone came into your shop and asked you to design a poster for an anti-gay campaign? Do you believe the situations are the same or different?

Comment Re:Force them to warrenty whole unit.. (Score 1) 526

I am pretty sure that would fall under an abuse clause in the warranty.

The 'abuse' we are talking about is basically "turning the volume up too high". That might make sense if a high-powered audio system had been damaged where the "too high" means deafening. But this is a laptop. Frequently "all the way up" still isn't high enough to hear clearly.

Comment Re:Force them to warrenty whole unit.. (Score 1) 526

Meanwhile, in the real world, we have to deal with compromise. What you call bad design, others call a bargain. Not every component is designed for every workload; even bridges are designed with load assumptions. It is not economically viable to make everything to the greatest durability possible. If it is important to you that every single thing be as min/max'ed as possible, you are welcome to find a manufacturer that obliges such tastes and fork over a premium for it.

He is not saying that everything should be designed for maximum durability. He is saying that things should be designed so that they don't break the first itme something a little unusual happens. A bridge which collapses under a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam is defective. A laptop computer sound system which breaks if certain sounds are played with the volume all the way up is also defective. (After all, laptops are frequently operated with he volumn all the way up.) Here Dell is claiming that VLC filtered the sound in a certain way and that their speakers are not designed to play that sound. That is just silly. It is as silly as a highway bridge designer who says that he didn't know that his bridge was suppose to be able to handle bumper-to-bumper traffic.

That is asinine. It is the speaker that draws power; it is not up to some "rating" to determine how much power is given to the speaker. If you plug a 200W speaker into a 100W amplifier and open the amplifier up to full, that 200W speaker will try to draw 200 watts of power, likely overwhelming and destroying the amplifier.

Actually, no, higher wattage speakers do not automatically draw more power. The power rating on a speaker specifies the amount of power which the amplier can pump through the speaker without damaging it. How much power actually goes into the speaker is determined by the number of volts which the amplifier puts on the line and the impediance of the speaker (which is generally 4 or 8 ohms). With the volume control set to zero there are zero volts on the line and the speaker is consuming zero power, no matter what its rating. As we raise the volume the voltage rises and the speaker starts consuming power and producing sound. As we raise the volume the amplifier will get to a point where it is producing the maximum voltage of which it is physically capable. That may be less than the speaker could endure, but so what?

Saying that speakers with a too-high power rating will blow an amplifier is like saying that tires with a too-high speed rating will cause a car to go too fast. How fast the car goes depends on how strong the engine is and how much you press the gas pedal, not no how strongly the tires are constructed.

Comment Re:Shocking (Score 4, Informative) 409

This has to do with discrimination: paying someone less than someone else for the same work simply because of the color of their skin.

I think it probably had more to do with the fact that wages are generally a lot lower in India. This improved Oracle's bargaining position in wage negotiations. If they had offered someone already in the US less then the going rate, he would likely refuse in the hope of getting a better offer. But if this employee refused their offer, he would remain in India and get much less than their lowball offer. Is this unfair, exploitive, and illegal? Of course it is. But the decision to exploit him may have had more to do with his poor bargaining position than his skin color.

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