Facebook protest

May 29, 2008

Within two years it will be normal to use a false name on Facebook.

Concerns over the attitude of the company to privacy will continue to compound, eg:

Why can my friend’s applications access *my* personal details?
Why should applications keep my information after I have uninstalled it?
Why aren’t applications policed?

Do I want prospective bosses to be able to stalk me on Facebook?
Why do I have social obligations on a virtual space?

Since people will be using false names eventually anyway, I suggest doing it early as part of a protest. Although such a friendly protest doesn’t solve any of the above problems (people can still search for you by your old name), it might get the message across to the company.

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Religious Extremism

May 25, 2008

It really annoys me when I see references to “religious extremism” bandied about, especially by politicians.
They mean to distance themselves from language that refers to a ‘war on terror’. However it doesn’t go far enough; I wish people would say “religious criminality” instead of “religious extremism”.

I contend that many people in Britain are extremists. One may take an extreme view on femminism, another on cycling. One may be a fundamentalist trade unionist, the other a radicalised environmentalist. Diversity is a sometimes useful, sometimes beautiful thing; people should be ‘allowed’ any view they wish, and the freedom to communicate that view and in so doing make a real contribution to diversity of thinking in britain.

Its not the view itself that is the problem. One can hold any view they wish. Its the action which follows. For this reason I think the phrase ‘religious criminality’ is more useful than ‘religious extremism’.

Jesus was a religious extremist, in a sense. Not the type of extremist who murders indiscriminitely but the type of extremist who allowed Himself to be crucified for the sake of all others [John 3:16-17]. A whole different type of extremist. The term extremist should be reclaimed for those who want to live in that mold. They cannot be called moderates, and should not be made to fear being identified with such a pure form of fundamentalism.

You get labour lib dem and tory fundamentalists. SNP too! You get jogging extremists, gaming extremists, femminist extremists. Thank God. Just because they’re extremists doesn’t mean they’re evil. Just because their views are extreme doesn’t mean those views are wrong.

Extremism is fine – you’re all extremists you just dont realise it. Criminality is not fine – but even if the belief is wrong, its the action not the view that should be legislated against.

Abortion of Science

May 22, 2008

Kevin Barron, Labour, says:
“If medical science was telling us that we ought to reduce the limit of weeks that we have, then maybe that’s something that we should do, but it should be driven by science and not driven by some of the debate that we heard last night.”

I am a Scientist and disagree with this in the strongest terms.

Scientists are becoming like society’s witch doctors. They have a patriarchial stature; people go to them for almost any problem and repeat their response like a mantra over their ills. Increasingly you hear people say “Well Scientists have found…” or “Scientists say…” rather than “Science says” which is a massive difference.

In the 30s Martin Heidegger, a philosopher, argued that as technology became more powerful and ubiquitous we would begin to view the earth and human life simply as a resource from which we must extract ever faster and more efficiently. Some would draw parallels with embryonic stem cells for example. You can’t get in the way of progress, Kevin seems to be saying; science overules objections of conscience like rock beats scissors. But regardless of where you stand on this, the idea seems to me to be that science does not have to be divorced from conscience.

Heidegger also argues that we should be able to say yes to some things and no to others, based on conscience. You may be for or against abortion limits changing from six months, but don’t be cowed by science either way. No equation should tell you how to think, even though that equation can be wonderful, beautiful even, and right. Science will only tell you that you can do something. Only a Scientist would ever have the audacity to go further than that and try to tell you whether you should do that something.

Debate, on many issues, is too often beaten down in this country by a quote from an unattributed Scientist. But there is no nirvana of conscience that hits you half way through a physics PhD. Scientists should present choices to people who then use their conscience to decide. Scientists should not don a turban fold their legs, stretch their fingers out and ask you to repeat after them. Metaphorically speaking.

First Post (test)

May 19, 2008

People matter