Econstudentlog

Den heterogene ateisme

Jeg skrev denne kommentar ovre på William Jansen’s blog, og besluttede mig for også at gengive det meste af kommentaren her, da jeg ikke er sikker på, jeg før har fremhævet denne pointe på bloggen:

Ateister har, modsat hvad mange kristne debattører har det med at bilde sig selv ind, i udgangspunktet næsten intet til fælles. ‘Ateisme’ er en meget bred samlebetegnelse, og medlemmer af religion X burde i udgangspunktet antages at have langt mere til fælles end ikke-medlemmer. Religionsmedlemsskab er en positivt defineret størrelse, ateisme er bare medlemsskabets negation; og jo mere udbygget religionen er, jo flere fælles dogmer, ritualer osv. den har, jo mere har de religiøse alt andet lige til fælles, og jo mere forholdsmæssigt heterogen vil den så at sige ateistiske kontrolgruppe være.

Forestil dig to grupper. Den ene gruppe tror på eksistensen af usynlige regnorme, som om natten spiser alt græsset på din græsplæne, for efterfølgende, altid, før du står op, at plante nyt græs, som er vokset frem igen når du vågner. Den anden gruppe gør ikke. Hvilken gruppe har, alt andet lige, mest til fælles?

Her er det også væsentligt at vedkende sig, at mit ‘alt andet lige’ kun er medtaget for at holde eksemplet simpelt. For alt andet er ikke lige. Gruppen som tror på regnormene har normalt også regler om, hvor tidligt man skal gå i seng og stå op, for ikke at forstyrre regnormene. Ikke kun er den første gruppe ikke altid enige om, hvor store regnormene er (et betydende udsagn er langt fra nok til at beskrive de fleste religioners fundament), religionsbegrebet er også mere end bare tro; til det traditionelle religionsbegreb hører også et sæt af religiøse ritualer samt religiøse dogmer i form af moralske værdidomme, som de fleste af troens medlemmer i udgangspunktet antages at bakke op om (gruppe 1 danser nu og da ude på græsplænen for at sikre sig, at ormene ikke efterlader plænen uden græs den følgende morgen/gruppe 1 mener det er moralsk ‘godt’ at fjerne løse blade der ligger på plænen).

Sagt med lidt færre ord: Det er ikke spor underligt, at de kristne kan finde ateister som, af den ene eller anden grund, bakker op om nogle af religion X’s værdidomme. De kan helt sikkert finde rigtigt mange. Det er bare ikke noget særligt stærkt skudsmål mod ‘ateister i al almindelighed’. Ateister har, når man ser på gruppen som helhed, næsten ingenting til fælles.

De kristne islamkritikere ville, hvis de også vil tages seriøst af de ateistiske islamkritikere som tager dette emne alvorligt, gøre klogt i at nuancere deres kritik af ateisterne bare en smule mere, end de normalt har for vane. Hvis kritikken påtænkes at være korrekt og velplaceret, og ikke bare har til formål at ‘score point’ i en strid som er emnet mere eller mindre uvedkomment, bør de kristne, alt andet lige, bruge flere kræfter på at skelne mellem de forskellige ateister, end ateisterne bør bruge på at skelne mellem de kristne. De bør […] gøre sig klart, at nogle af de vantro faktisk trækker en rigtig stor del af læsset i dag.

Et kort addendum. Jeg har tidligere postuleret at antallet af religiøse forestillinger er uendeligt. Herunder følger en sandsynliggørelse af postulatet:

Antag en religiøs forestilling, R, opfylder kriterierne (k1,k2,k3). Jeg kan konstruere en ny religiøs forestilling forskellig fra R, ved at opfinde en ny religiøs forestilling R’, som opfylder kriterierne (k1,k2,k3,k4). Sagt på godt dansk: Din gud er sød, god og tilgivende. Min gud er sød, god, tilgivende og højrehåndet. Det er ikke den samme gud, den samme religiøse forestilling. Det er simpelt at generalisere argumentet: For alle religiøse forestillinger R = R(i), der opfylder kriterierne K = ∑ k(i), i ∈ (1,2,…,n) kan jeg konstruere en religiøs forestilling R’, der er forskellig fra R, ved at tilføje til R(K) en religiøs forestilling k(n+1), der ikke er indeholdt i R.

Hvis vi antager at postulatet er korrekt, hvordan indvirker det så på mit argument om graden af ‘same-ness’ for hhv. religiøse medlemmer af gruppe X og ateister? Det kan jeg ikke rigtigt gennemskue lige nu. Måske vil jeg følge op på posten senere, evt. vha. et nyt opfølgende indlæg.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | islam, religion | 3 Comments

Quote of the day

Having seen the splendor of Debt Mountain, I feel so thankful to have been on the winning side in the Cold War. Imagine having to live in country where the central government drives housing, eduction, finance, health care, energy, the auto industry, and infrastructure.

‘Manuel’, in a comment here.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | quotes | Leave a comment

The Selfish Gene

I have been reading and am now finishing Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, the 30th anniversary edition. Here’s Wikipedia’s article about the book.

Dawkins’ title of the book is aptly chosen (at least it was much better than the alternatives he mentions in the book, ie: ‘The Selfish Cistron’ or ‘The slightly selfish big bit of cromosome and the even more selfish little bit of cromosome’) and in the book he makes a very strong case in favour of a gene-centered view on evolution. According to Dawkins, individuals don’t evolve. Species don’t evolve. Evolution takes place in the genes. The ‘selfish’ genes.

Dawkins’ writing is both clear and systematic. He is very careful to define his terms and the book, even if it is a ‘popular science’ book, never feels like it’s been excessively dumbed-down. I must say I was positively surprised about this. His approach throughout pretty much all the book’s chapters is to start out with establishing a set of first principles, after which he extrapolates and introduces several subleties and variations on the common theme to ‘get more to the bottom of things’. He uses game theoretical themes implicitly in a big part of the book, and although I would perhaps have preferred explicit equations here and there (there is not a single equation in the book), I must admit that his communicative strategy was probably close to optimal given his target group; he’s done a very good job making people who are interested in biology and evolutionary theory, but who are completely unfamiliar with gametheoretical concepts like backward induction, equilibria, mixed strategies ect., still being able to follow the main ideas and arguments in the book.

In short, I found the book highly enlightening and very much worth a read. Reading it also made me consider once again acquiring The Blind Watchmaker.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | biology, books, evolution, genetics | Leave a comment

Corus!

The Corus-tournament’s fourth round, out of 14 altogether, is starting in just a few minutes.

The official site is here, where you can follow the games live. On the site there are also daily reports, standings, schedule and photo galleries.

As always, it is a very strong field, 10 of the world’s 25 best players participate in this event, and quite a few excellent games have already been played. In the grandmaster group A, Sergey Karjakin, Gata Kamsky, Jan Smeets, Teimour Radjabov and Sergey Movsesian are all on +0.5. In the B group, Nigel Short, David Navarra and Rustam Kazimdzhanov are in the lead with +1.

Yesterday Short literally killed L’Ami in only 19 moves. It’s very rare these days to see a game between two Grandmasters end before move 20 unless it’s a draw, but somehow L’Ami very quickly got himself into a terrible position. Nigel Short – Erwin L’Ami, the position after 14…fxe6:

shortlami

15.Qh5+…g6,
16.Qg4…Kg7,
17.c4…d4,
18.Qf3+…Kg8,
19.Bf6!…Resigned,

1-0

shortlami1

19…Bg7 doesn’t save the position, it only makes it worse. After 20.Qxb7! the rook on a1 is hanging.

January 20, 2009 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment

Stuff you probably don’t know

I certainly didn’t:

i) What is Compton scattering?

ii) When was the Qing Dynasty founded?

iii) When did the neanderthals go extinct and what are the main theories as to why and how they disappeared? (Well, here I must add that I have read most of Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series – but that was probably almost 10 years ago, and I don’t remember much of it anyway; so I didn’t know the answer. Now I do.)

iv) Can one hear the shape of a drum? (from my new startpage)

January 20, 2009 Posted by | anthropology, archaeology, history, Physics, random stuff | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

It is easier to fight for one´s principles than to live up to them

Alfred Adler

January 19, 2009 Posted by | quotes | Leave a comment

Random articles about mathematics

I have known about Wikipedia’s Search:Random function for some time. It’s a link that lands you on a random wikipedia article, and it’s a great timewaster. However, if you – like me – think that there’s just a little too much randomness about that search function (ie. too many articles about music bands you’ve never heard about and couldn’t care less about, star trek episodes, unimportant clergymen who died more than 600 years ago, articles about pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo ect., it is actually possible to target your search somewhat while still maintaining the element of randomness; at least when it comes to the subject of mathematics. I recently learned that Wikipedia has a Search:Random function that deals only with articles about mathematics – here’s the link.

Both the standard Random function and the math one is, with P->1, likely to turn up an article containing knowledge I didn’t know I didn’t know. But the math one is in my case much more likely to contain knowledge I didn’t know I didn’t know and actually do want to know, than the unspecified random function is (as said, the unspecified random function is unfortunately very likely to direct me towards articles containing knowledge I didn’t know I didn’t know, and didn’t want to know. Sometimes there are even articles containing knowledge I didn’t know I didn’t want to know I didn’t know… 😉 ), and if one is completely lost, then backtracking is almost always as option when you move around wikipedia.

This article was my first hit using that function, this one was the second. I guess I have just found myself a great new startpage…

January 16, 2009 Posted by | mathematics, wikipedia | Leave a comment

An endgame

Most of the time when the more experienced player defeats the less experienced player, it happens because of a tactical oversight by the less experienced player in the opening or middle game. But it’s actually not at all rare that two players with very different skill levels manage to play what to the idle kibitzer might look like an almost ‘equal’ game for the first 25-30, sometimes 40 moves, and that the skill level differential is not made obvious before quite late in the game. I just played a couple of game like this as ‘the more experienced player’ (I must confess I have of course played plenty of games where I was the less experienced as well), one of which I shall take a closer look at in the following.

I’ll skip the boring shuffling around with pieces and exchanges and all that and jump straight to the fun stuff. The text in bold contains the lines that were actually played in the game, the rest is analysis and commentary. The position after 27.h3 (I was black):

chessa

27…c5,
28.Rde4…a5,
29.Rf7+
. So far white has not made any errors at all. Fritz slightly prefer 29.a4 to Rf7, which leads to a dead draw after …bxa4, 30.Rxa4…Rd5, 31.Ke3…Rg5, 32.Rg4…Rxg4, 33.hxg4…h3, 34.gxh3…Rxh3+, Kf(/e)4…Rh2 – but only slightly, and the evaluation of the end position it gives is almost the same in the two lines (ie. dead draw) – after these moves you could continue playing for a little while yet, but this is pretty much as close to a dead draw as you get:

chessa1

Of course one could also play …b4 in response to 29…a4 but it doesn’t change much. After 30.Rf7+…Kc6, 31.Ra7…Rf5+, 32.Kg1 (Ke3 is bad on account of …Rg5!, 33.Kf2…Rhg8 or 33.Rg4…Rxg4) …Kb6, 33.Rd7 it’s still dead draw (Fritz’ evaluation of this position is actually 0.00) – neither can make any headway, as is so often the case in rook endings:

chessa2

…as it were, white chose to play 29.Rf7. I played 29…Kc6, which is pretty much the only move. Black played 30.Ree7. I must admit I made a blunder and responded by playing 30…Rc8, quite fast and, well, pretty much without thinking, even if I still had plenty of time – it was a 20 minute game and I still had 13 minutes left here. I regretted the move almost the second I had let go of the piece – the check on c7 is not a threat, it is a bad move that, if anything, helps black by moving his King closer to the action. Better is 30…Rg8 (idea 31…Rg7 with pressure on the weak g-pawn), but of course the position is still drawn with correct play by both sides.

The game went on 31.Kf3…Rg8, 32.Rg7:

chessa3

I spent a minute thinking here. The move I contemplated here was of course …Rf5+, my problem was that I had to look forward quite a few moves to figure out if 33.Kg4 would make me lose the game. I realized it wouldn’t, quite the opposite in fact, and the reason why was made clear in the game:
32…Rf5+, 33.Kg4…Rxg7+, 34.Rxg7…Rf2:

chessa4

My gut feeling had told me, before I played Rf5+, that this position had to be won for black. The post-mortem proved me right: White is toast, and 33.Kg4 is basically a losing move. If white had played, say, 33.Ke3 instead, and avoided exchanging both rooks after that, the game is still draw. The game went on like this:

35.Kxh4 (fritz strongly prefers Ra7 here, but the position is still won for black) …Rxc2, 36.g4 (Kg3)…Rxb2, 37.g5…c4, 38.Ra7? this move is a wasted tempo and nothing else. White should at least try to push the g-pawn here, even if it looks rather hopeless. …Rxa2 (…c3), 39.g6…Rg2, 40.g7…c3

chessa5

Here white resigned.

One thing to note here is that absent Kg4, this game would have been draw. I didn’t win the game, my opponent lost it, because he couldn’t settle with a draw, but instead just wanted to grab that h-pawn and push his K-side pawns and win this damn game. I have a feeling that to learn to be content with a draw is one of the hardest lessons of all to learn when you start out playing chess. My opponent wasn’t exactly a beginner, but I could tell from his play at the end that he hadn’t learned that lesson.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Chess | Leave a comment

Claude Berri er død

Den franske filmskaber Claude Berri er død, 74 år gammel. Jeg vil ikke sige ‘hvil i fred’ eller lignende, for manden er jo død, og så er det lidt svært at kommunikere med ham. Men til alle andre…

Jeg er ret sikker på mit ynglingsfag i 2.g var fransk. Vi havde en fremragende lærer, der overbeviste mig om, at ordet humanist ikke nødvendigvis behøver at være et skældsord, og på vores pensum var manuskriftafsnit fra hvad der efter min opfattelse er to af fransk films største præstationer, Manon des Sources (naturligvis sammen med forgængeren Jean de Florette) og Le Boucher, sidstnævnte er skrevet og instrueret af Claude Chabrol.

Claude Berri’s duologi Jean de Florette og Manon des Sources er simpelthen pragtfulde film du bør unde dig selv at se, hvis du ikke allerede har gjort det. At se eller gense hans mesterværker er nok desværre det tætteste, vi mennesker kan komme på at sikre ham et liv efter døden.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | kultur | Leave a comment

Lectures on macroeconomics

Arnold Kling has collected his 14 blogposts on macroeconomics here.

If you have not been following his lectures on econlog, now might be a good time to follow the link and take a closer look at his ideas.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | economics | Leave a comment

Surprising facts of the day

According to USA Today, the average age of a House member this term will be 57 — which is a day nursery compared to the Senate, where the average age now stands at 63.

More here, via instapundit.

Incidentally, I recently stumbled upon this article “on theory and practice in fighting new terrorism in Israel”. Very much worth a read.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | random stuff | Leave a comment

The latest project

In case you were wondering, this piece is much, much harder than it sounds. Every time you hear one note clearly (the ‘melody’), 6 notes are played both with the right and left hand, and most of the time the broken chords in the left hand stretches well beyond an octave, some places two and a half octaves (needless to say, the broken chords are still supposed to be played molto legato). I’ve probably already spent as much time on this piece as I spent on this piece altogether, and I can still only play roughly the first ~40 seconds at something close to the tempo it’s supposed to be – and of course still with much less clarity and stability than Rubinstein.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Chopin, music | Leave a comment

What I’ve been reading

Not a lot of blogging at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I’m just sitting around doing nothing. A couple of books I’ve taken a closer look at:

i) 1001 movies you must see before you die. I got the translated Danish version which is called ‘1001 film du skal se før du dør’ for Christmas, and I liked it so much that I finished the whole book (~ 950 pages) before New Years Eve.

ii) The Good Terrorist, by Doris Lessing. I liked this book very much. I read it before Christmas, and I still don’t know quite what to think of it. It’s a book that makes you think. I like those books…

iii) Another book that makes you think is Kritik af den negative opbyggelighed, by Stjernfelt and Thomsen. I got this one for Christmas as well, and so far I’ve read the first two essays – there are seven altogether, so there’s still a long way to go. I liked the first one, the second I’m still digesting.

iv) Orientalism, by Said – a third Christmas present. On the excerpt from my wish list which I posted on this blog some time ago, I included Ibn Warraq’s criticism of this book, Defending the West…, as a gift idea for the readers of this blog. Of course Said was also on my wish list. I only just started reading it yesterday, so I haven’t got a lot to say about it yet.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | books | 4 Comments