Open thread for episode 20.07: Russell & Martin

Martin here. Predictably there have been the usual suspects on social media firing off about the discussion with Kieran. I think a lot about the conversation with Kieran could have gone better, but what’s notable about those responding is the way in which binary thinking is their general pattern. Either you’re someone who condemns everything about Islam as a cancer and scourge upon the earth that requires immediate cauterization, or you’re a jihadi apologist. Very little in the way of nuance, shall we say, is on display. The usual dog-whistle terms (“regressive left,” etc etc.) are trotted out and put through their paces, indicating a preference for lazy reactionary emotionalism over intellectual engagement.

Also, posting actual data which shows that, in the US at least, random gun violence has been an exponentially higher cause of death than violence of an expressly terrorist nature is seen as a “deflection” from the real issue. The following tweet (not embedding it because I don’t wish anyone to come back at the guy) is typical: Three different issues: Mass shootings by insane people, gang violence/crime, & terrorism. “Different issues”? They’re all about mass murder and its causes, which sounds like the same issue to me. Are the victims of mass shootings by “insane people” somehow less dead than those deliberately carried out by ISIS cells?

Click to embiggenify.

There is a contigent among atheists who are very much in line with conservative Christian Republicans on this topic, and it’s a problem. Allow me to suggest the following radical ideas: rejecting xenophobia towards Muslims generally does not mean one is blithely pretending Islamist violence and terrorism do not exist at all. (Yes, some of the haters are arguing that.) Pointing out that gun violence by angry white men takes vastly more lives in the US is, also, not a way of denying that Islamist terrorists are a thing. It’s simply asking paranoid people to look at the data, put your paranoia in perspective, and then come up with reasoned and effective responses to terrorism that don’t target the innocent victims who are fleeing that very terrorism.

That Islamist theocracies are the most oppressive societies in the world is not anything any sensible person would debate (in fact I recall both of us on the show yesterday making that point). But when people assume, and politicians like Trump and Farage go on to exploit said assumption, that we have to fear all the people fleeing an Islamist bloodbath because they’re obviously just coming here to start a bloodbath of their own, then it’s time for folks to step back and take a breath. Caving into that manipulative fear is playing right into the terrorists’ hands.

Phones are now better than the Access studio

We’ve been working like beavers to get the new phone system up and running at last in the ACA library, and here, according to Matt, is where it currently stands:

The Internet connection is fixed. The coaxial connector on the telephone pole across the street had been loosened (probably due to high winds and not being tightened properly initially). We just performed a full test of the phone system thanks to some fans who quickly responded to a tweet. Call quality is on par with what you’d get from any cell phone.

We have 6 lines. (The public access studio had 4, sometimes 3.) We can lock any of those lines “on air”. I had all 6 lines live and everyone could hear everyone. (The public access studio could only ever have 1 line live.)
This means we can do a “conference call”-style discussion…or have remote guest host(s) able to address calls alongside the studio hosts. We also have caller ID. Public access does not.

We’re looking into a few more options (I’d like to be able to flag calls from known numbers—to highlight hosts or prank callers), but the phones work really well.

Remaining audio tweaks:
– Sound dampening to get rid of street noises.
– Double check audio to/from stream/record box
– Final check of all sound levels and the compressor/limiter/expander gate
– Additional sound dampening in studio
After that, or along with it:
– A couple of lighting tweaks
– Green screen support
Long term:
– Video conference guests
– More ideas

Of Liars and Truth-Tellers

(Hidden tribute to the late David Bowie here)

I used to really love logic puzzles when I was a kid. I’ve mentioned the professional logician Raymond Smullyan a few times as a big influence of mine, and I highly recommend his puzzle books. Here’s a complete list of what Amazon carries, and I’ll highlight some, roughly in order of personal preference:

Also noteworthy is his book of philosophical essays, The Tao Is Silent. Smullyan, like fellow mathematician Bertrand Russell, dabbles in philosophy a bit, and this book is a westerner’s perspective on eastern religion. I’m sure it takes a lot of liberties with the subject matter, and I imagine if I reread the whole thing now I’d find I agree with him a lot less than I used to in my teens and twenties. But still, his style is playful and entertaining, and there are a couple of essays in that book which I love to reference: “Is God a Taoist?” and “An Epistemological Nightmare.” The first is one of my favorite speculations I’ve ever read on the nature of the “god” concept.

But I digress. I wanted to talk for a minute about Smullyan’s logic puzzles in order to illustrate a point about religious arguments.

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