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Comment Re: You have to do better than this. (Score 1) 228

(hit submit on this just before leaving this morning, didn't see till I got back there was an error.)

The Alhambra Decree etc weren't part of the Inquisition itself; that's changing the topic. There weren't 100,000 prisoners who died in the Inquisition; that's roughly the total number of cases they heard. Estimates vary but all the ones actually based on the historical data say less than 10,000.

Anyhow, I'm certainly not saying that the existence of Mao means the treatment of Jews in Spain over the centuries wasn't a problem.

I am saying your perspective is skewed. The data really don't show that the share of violent behavior that's associated with religion is large compared to the share of total social behavior associated with religion.

The result of this study says that people reporting a positive religious experience really have areas in their brain active that are active in other experiences people report as positive.

There's no more justification in history or in these studies for claims that religion is a disease that causes violence than there is for saying the same of commerce or love or any of a number of other basic human behaviors.

Comment Re:You have to do better than this. (Score 3, Interesting) 228

Ultimately, the pairing of classical reward responses when hearing music with learning a smattering of music theory may indicate a brain mechanism for greater music appreciation. So what?

That's not "bypassing rational centers of the brain and creating a loop." It's simply "these people had a positive experience and there were ideas that were associated with that positive experience." If anything, the fact that brain regions which are active in moral reasoning were especially active in these people suggests the opposite of "bypassing rational centers."

You've conveniently ignored the actual data and results of their study entirely and instead taken a couple of speculative comments ("here's an idea, please fund us") out of context and twisted them.

The old baloney about religion being a primary cause of violence is a ridiculous urban legend. Ultimately you can trace the exaggerations back to centuries-old partisan tracts. Actual historians (e.g. Encyclopedia of Wars) find religiously motivated wars to be roughly 2% of the total death count.

If what you get out of the Shoah is that Hitler was right on both counts - Judaism is a disease, as is Christianity - there's something fundamentally wrong, not just with your understanding of history but with you.

The Inquisition killed about 3,000 people over the course of 350 years. (Secular courts, of course, killed people at a much faster rate.) For some perspective, the Great Leap Forward killed 30,000,000 people in 3 years.

Comment You have to do better than this. (Score 1) 228

That conclusion can no more come out of this research than could the idea that listening to music is an illness.

The research simply said that people reporting a positive experience showed activity in the reward centers of their brains. Big surprise! Hey, going outside in the sunshine activates the reward center of my brain, maybe that's an illness too.

The slashdot headline is there because people who are irrational and partisan want to ignore what the research actually said and use lies about it to bludgeon others. Your silly attempt to join the dogpile amounts to using your fame to act as a bully. It's shameful.

Comment You're sounding more like Booth than Oswald there (Score 1) 380

That's completely absurd. Abraham Lincoln's belief in God was very evident not only in what he said to the masses but in his personal behavior, especially during his presidency.

For at least the majority of his adult life he would have been more of a Deist than a Protestant. He firmly held on to the idea of a moral God who shaped and gave order to events. His views on Providence and predestination reflect his Calvinist upbringing. It's hard to say exactly what else he believed and when; he was a very private person, and from what hints we do have, his positions on doctrine seem to have been fluid.

Comment The reason why Schneier is a target (Score 1) 217

It's common knowledge that if you knock out Chuck Norris with a roundhouse kick you become the new Chuck Norris.

Similarly, if you manage to steal Bruce Schneier's identity, you become the new Bruce Schneier.

No wonder he's a target. Everybody wants to be him.

My personal favorite Bruce Schneier Fact: "Most people use passwords. Some people use passphrases. Bruce Schneier uses an epic passpoem, detailing the life and works of seven mythical Norse heroes."

Comment When will there be Pi2/Pi3 images? (Score 1) 134

The archaic ARMv6 architecture CPU in the original Pi is radically different from the ARMv7+NEON of the Pi2 or the ARMv8 of the Pi3. When the Pi2 was released you said the performance advantage of ARMv7 builds optimized for the Pi2 wasn't big enough to justify the complication of having a separate OS image. But after the introduction of the Pi3, as people migrate to newer Pis and the rest of the open source ARM world takes v7 and NEON for granted, don't the scales start to tip in favor of builds for modern processors?

Mathematica devs in particular have said that having to target such disparate architectures in a single binary prevents them from using a high-performance BLAS, which slows many kinds of algorithms down dramatically. And many multimedia codecs have had extensive NEON optimizations but these don't always get enabled at runtime on Pi2/3.

Comment Re: What is this I don't even (Score 1) 268

Those points in the phase space where there exist objects like brains that have records of other parts of the universe, necessarily have records of the universe as it was (is) in less-entropic states, because the processes involved in forming those records happen along paths from less entropic to more entropic states.

No. If you treat all parts of phase space equally, the most likely paths to "brains with memory records" are paths from higher entropy states. Even though memory-filled brains or any other kind of "record" spontaneously appearing from disorder is very unlikely, it is more likely than their emerging from an even lower entropy and thus even less likely state.

Without other reasons to believe an arrow of time exists - a privileged region of phase space or asymmetric physical laws- the likeliest explanation of whatever "record" that appears to indicate a lower-entropy past is that the records are random fluctuations from higher-entropy states. And there are no reasons why "records" should not equally well actually record "previous" higher-entropy states. The region of phase space where I sit here with a neuron arrangement "remembering" my cold chocolate this morning spontaneously getting hot is just as large as the region where I sit here with neurons that "remember" my hot chocolate getting cold.

Comment Re: What is this I don't even (Score 1) 268

But without any other asymmetries in physical laws, we have every reason to think entropy should increase going backwards in time just as well as forwards.

Decreases in entropy aren't impossible, they're just vanishingly unlikely. If you have a state with less than maximal entropy, of course you expect its entropy to increase. But because the physical laws are symmetric, if you're treating all volumes of state space equally, you also expect the same thing if you replace t with -t. The most likely way for a low entropy state to arise is as an unlikely random fluctuation from a higher entropy state. A past with lower entropy than the present is just as unlikely as a future with lower entropy than the present.

So if you define past and future via entropy, any state with less than maximal entropy has no past and both -t and t count as future.

This doesn't match our way of understanding the macroscopic world. We're much more inclined to believe we had an astoundingly unlikely astoundingly low-entropy initial condition. But from a stat mech point of view, without more of an idea why we should treat volumes of phase space this unequally, this amounts to a deus ex machina. So the arrow of time is still a puzzle and this is part of why people are still looking for hints of time asymmetry.

Comment Good parody (Score 5, Funny) 147

I first saw this news on the BBC yesterday. The account is really funny, and the tweet they quote at the start of the article is nicely representative; I'll reproduce it here for those who haven't RTFA yet:

Vladimir Putin (@DarthPutinKGB) May 27, 2016
        Arriving at Athens today:
        Customs: Name?
        Me: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
        Customs: Occupation?
        Me: No, this time i'm just here for 2 days

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