Month: August 2016

#CensusDoubleFail

Is it just us?

The new Australian census ad, encouraging people to pause, and still complete their census (after the meltdown of the system on actual census night) presents a truly bizarre message.

If you haven’t seen it, have a look.

My wife pointed this one out to me.

It was an interesting decision to cast an innocent-looking couple who are made to sit, frozen, while a very-faintly middle-eastern looking stranger walks into their living room and calmly accesses their computer as they look on, powerless to stop him.  But don’t worry, your private data is safe with us.

I’m not sure this is the message they were looking for.

Even with that unfortunate element to one side, it’s odd to highlight the frozen/broken element of the whole exercise.  A whole lot of people basically felt like they wasted a night of their life ‘on hold’ for census night.  They can probably empathise all too well with the frozen couple, and don’t especially want a repeat attempt.

And even apart from all that – I simply don’t get it.  Shouldn’t the couple who’ve been frozen simply unfreeze and happily complete their census.  Why does having someone else complete it for them make any sense whatsoever?!?

 

A little black irony

Sometimes if you don’t laugh you have to cry.

Today in my daily ‘Guardian’ news email, I had two articles back-to-back whose juxtaposition tickled my fancy, even if the narrative itself is tragic.

The first reported a letter by Climate Scientists to the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, warning of the unprecedented destruction of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Climate scientists write another letter warning of unfolding crisis for Turnbull to ignore.

It contained the by line:

More than 150 leading climate scientists at universities and government agencies ask for cuts to coal exports, saying: ‘There is no Planet B’

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The second reported the discovery of an earth-like planet in the ‘habitable zone’ around Proxima Centauri, dubbed ‘Proxima b’.

Looks like there might be a Planet B after-all.

It’s just a little over 4 light years away…

Maybe we can send politicians who ignore the impact of climate change there for a vanguard visit?

On Hell, Part 3, or “Perpetual Pain that’s Pointless”

In my previous two posts on hell, I considered the ‘Historical problem’ of hell – how it’s demonstrably nothing more than an evolving meme with no reason to think there’s any basis in reality – and the ultimately arbitrary (part 1) and unjust (part 2) nature of the concept.

A further problem can be seen when the purpose of this ‘institution’ is considered: what is the point of hell?

What function is it supposed to serve?

800px-kalteysen_st-_barbara_altarpiece_28detail29It won’t do to suggest that it simply exists of necessity, without further thought or discussion.  This would undercut God’s sovereign choice, in causing reality to accord with his will – how might ‘God’ understand its function? Continue reading “On Hell, Part 3, or “Perpetual Pain that’s Pointless””

There is no blue pill

Today Neil Carter at Godless in Dixie posted a personal article about his struggle with the emotional toll of blogging and his unbelief in southern USA.  I think Neil is the best blogger I’ve encountered – or at least the one who speak with the most authentic voice, which resonates with me deeply.  In the post Neil wrote:

“But some days you wonder if it would really be so bad to just ask for the blue pill – to see if they couldn’t just plug you back into the Matrix and make you forget what you figured out that brought all this grief on you in the first place.”

This is a poignant comment for me.

red_and_blue_pillFor those who have managed to transition fully or almost fully out of their ‘former life’ this pain is much diminished (I expect).

But what about when your daily life and patterns continues to swirl around Christian themes and content even after you’ve seen it for what it is?

What about when you don’t want to let go of the friendships that make up the substance of your life, even when those friendships are ineluctably covered in scar-tissue from the fall-out of your apostasy?

Continue reading “There is no blue pill”

#CensusFail and #MyCensus – a Journey

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With the Australian Census held last night, with online completion required for all who didn’t opt-into the paper version, everyone was expecting the whole thing to fail horribly, and they weren’t disappointed.

The system shut-down minutes away from our completion of our family data, and hasn’t been up again since.  There are varying reports coming through, with one claim that the site was shut down due to hacking attacks and other claims that the system simply failed and has terrible failsafes in place.  We’d been encouraged to use #MyCensus on Twitter, but #CensusFail was the tag trending on the night and ‘Computer says no’ was trending around the office today.

But putting all that aside, I want to talk about #MyCensus.

With censuses (censi?) held every five years, this was my eighth.  And they actually do map my life fairly well.

Here’s what #MyCensus has shown in terms of religious affiliation. Continue reading “#CensusFail and #MyCensus – a Journey”

On Bayes’ Theorem (or, Why I Might Have Reason To Doubt Its Universal Application)

p03fy6mzBayes’ Theorem is the théorie du jour for probabilistic applications as far reaching as calculating the probability of life in the universe beyond earth to solving court cases to calculating the probability of miracles or Jesus’ resurrection.  In essence, the theorem allows calculation of the probability of an event using the probability of various related conditions.

Richard Carrier’s recent monograph, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt (OHJ) details the probabilities of Jesus’ existence along Bayesian lines. It follows on from his work Proving History: Bayes’ Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.  I haven’t read either book (only reviews of them), but I have reservations about using Bayes’ Theorem in this way.  The conclusion Carrier reaches in OHJ, as I understand it, is that Jesus has a prior probability of existing with an upper range of 32% and a more likely probability of 1 in 12500, which is pretty much zero.

I repeat that I haven’t read OHJ, so I am very open to being corrected on this (esp. from those who have – Matt?).  But I struggle to see how we can meaningfully identify probabilities to unique events (and non-events) in this way.  Continue reading “On Bayes’ Theorem (or, Why I Might Have Reason To Doubt Its Universal Application)”