FTB Now Hosting a Blogger in Iran

We are going to be onboarding some new bloggers in coming months, mostly after we launch a redesign of the site (coming soon), but one has joined us already:

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.

Kaveh’s blog here is On the Margin of Error. His subjects range widely (he has already posted dozens of entries on his new blog), and he brings a perspective you might not find anywhere else: someone living under a theocracy, who has to hide his identity to save his very life. Maybe start with his post explaining his pseudonym and blog’s title. Then explore from there!

On the Delay

So sorry I’ve left comments in the queue a whole week. Apart from all the stuff keeping me busy to the very wire (as I noted a day or two ago), I really, really wanted to get my review of Maurice Casey’s anti-mythicist’s book posted tonight. So I’ve been reading and annotating it nonstop every spare moment this week and most of today. And now I just realized the time. And alas this terrible book is driving me crazy. I can’t endure the tedious stream of consciousness awful of it any longer. I need to put it down and do other things for a bit. I have my weekend free so I’ll try to get it done by Monday or sooner. But I thought I’d throw this up to at least explain what’s going on. I’m going to try and clear the moderation queue tonight. So any good comments you’ve been waiting forever to see post, at long last they shall!

P.S. The last half of the proof for OHJ didn’t arrive as promised, so I’m hoping that will come early next week. Want. That. Done.

Slowly Spinning up the FTL again…

I was on forced hiatus from my blog for over a week after FtBCon 2, due to a number of tech difficulties on the site and my being in studio all week recording (an exhausting and time consuming business). And then all the chores that were left undone (e.g. a major shop; business correspondence; taxes–which for us are pretty complex, a two-day operation) had to be done. And so on. So just this moment I finally got to and through my whole backlogged moderation queue for comments and finally cleared everything and replied where needed. So anyone who was waiting forever for their comment to post or to see what I or other people said (e.g. on my latest FtBCon 2 posts about the Philosophy panel and Bible Study), now you can go check that out.

I will be in studio again next week, but for fewer days. But also Valentines Day is coming. And I have a ton of other work to do. So although I have a lot of things I want to blog about, I’m going to have to put most of them on a to do list and slowly trickle them out. And some will seem already to be coming late (since they’ve been on the back burner for awhile).

Just FYI.

FtBCon 2: Bible Study (or Taking the Bible Seriously as Fiction: A Read-Along)

At noon today, California time (2pm Central) I’ll be drinking fine scotch, while teaching the people about the literary weirdness of the New Testament, in Bible Study (or Taking the Bible Seriously as Fiction: A Read-Along). Please grab your bible, tune in, and read along with me. (The link to the video feed is the “Official Session Page,” down the right margin of the Lanyrd event page.) I will not be taking questions during the show. But any questions you do have, post them here, and I’ll get to them all eventually (but please heed my comments policy).

Here is a select reading list for anyone who wants to dive further into this kind of thing:

And for beginners in New Testament Studies:


FtBCon 2: Philosophy for Everyone

At 10am PST today (noon Central) I’ll be hosting the panel Philosophy for Everyone. Please tune in and watch. (The link to the video feed is the “Official Session Page,” down the right margin of the Lanyrd event page.) Questions can be directed to us by using the Pharyngula chatroom during the show. If you have questions that don’t make it into the program, post them here if you want to hear my reply–or if you want to ask a question of one of the other panelists that didn’t get answered on the show, follow the links in their bios to find their websites or twitter addresses. Please be polite and productive in your queries!

Of relevance to the subject of this panel is the talk I gave for Skepticon just last year, “Is Philosophy Stupid?” To delve even deeper into philosophy, see my recommended readings (especially, for beginners, the first page). Check that out for more on what philosophy is and why it’s important (and how academic philosophers are often doing it wrong). After the show, if the panelists have suggestions for further reading or additional resources, I will also add them here.

What I’ll Be Up to During FtBCon 2

Lousy Cannuck had a great idea. He listed all the events this weekend he will be facilitating (and thus introducing and helping to run behind the scenes), “Okay,” he wrote, “I’ll admit it, I made this post mostly as a to-do list for my own purposes. Why do something that only has one purpose, when it can have two by simply posting it at my blog as well?” Well said. So here is my equivalent.

Of course, the whole weekend I plan on watching as many panels and talks as I can. Like last year, probably with a glass of scotch. That’s how I like to kick back and enjoy stuff. And I’ll be enjoying this! I may occasionally pop into the chatroom so you might see me in there (when it’s during an event I’m facilitating, I’ll be there in an official capacity, to cull the best questions from viewers who will submit their questions there and pass them on to the speakers or panelists).

But in addition to all that, these are the talks and panels I will be introducing or participating in (with their Lanyrd and [G+] links). Remember all times listed on Lanyrd for these events are Central Time (GMT-6).


Intersectionality and Allies: Exiting the Secular Bubble

(featuring Gordon Maples and Kelley Freeman) [G+]


Social Justice and Young Women of Color

(featuring Kim Veal, Raina Rhoades, noa e jones, Georgina Capetillo and Heina Dadabhoy) [G+]

Secular Woman: Trends in 2013

(featuring Kim Rippere and Julia Burke) [G+]

Child’s Play: Camp Quest and the Future of Secularism

(featuring David Diskin) [G+]

Fighting for Freethought in the Philippines (Meet the Filipino Freethinkers)

(featuring Red Tani, Kristine Chan, Kenneth Keng, Marguerite de Leon, Pepe Bawagan, Jojie Tiongco and Pecier Decierdo) [G+]


Philosophy for Everyone

(featuring Dan Fincke, Julia Galef, Jess Whittlestone and myself) [G+]

Bible Study (or Taking the Bible Seriously as Fiction: A Read-Along)

(featuring me) [G+]

Another Update for FtBCon 2 This Weekend!

I’ll be introducing yet another panel this weekend, featuring Kim Rippere and Julia Burke Secular Woman, who will discuss the trends and developments in 2013 at the intersection of social justice, feminism, and equality in the secular movement and beyond. Check it out.

Remember that all the times listed on the Lanyrd schedule are US Central Time (GMT-6).

Update for FtBCon 2 This Weekend!

The calendar for this weekend’s free online conference is available for perusal. It has undergone several additions and scheduling changes over the past few days, with even more speakers and panelists being added to the list (now counting over 93). Among which, I’ll be introducing another talk this weekend, by David Diskin, President of Camp Quest West, on the value and importance of supporting and promoting Camp Quest and what sorts of things this secular summer camp for children and teens does for education and fun. Check it out.

Remember that all the times listed on the Lanyrd schedule are US Central Time (GMT-6).

A New Bayesian Calculator

Bill Seymour has developed a new, more advanced Bayesian calculator for public use, and he would like people to beta test it and offer advice, or even develop it further.

For this open-source Bayes’ Theorem calculator, Seymour writes:

My intent was to find the middle way between, on the one hand, highly technical (and expensive) commercial software used in the sciences and statistics, and on the other hand, the toy Bayes’ Theorem calculators that abound on the Web. Some features of my calculator are:

  • Hypotheses can be saved in permanent storage so that users can work on several at once as part of a larger project.
  • Complete hypotheses can have any number of alternates.
  • Priors and consequents can be almost any arithmetic expression that evaluates to a probability between 0 and 1.
  • Prior and consequent expressions can contain terms that refer to other hypotheses.
  • Probabilities can be entered, and displayed, as decimal numbers, percentages, or odds.
  • The program happily works with what Carrier calls a fortiori probabilities: ranges of values like “20% to 40%”.

If you’re interested, here are some links:

I’ve given the code the open-source Boost Software License which isn’t viral like the GPL and others are said to be; so if you’d like to use some of my ideas in a program of your own, the open-sourceness (if that’s a word) of my code won’t infect yours.

And I explicitly invite others to help with this project. In particular, I think it really should be a downloadable executable that can be run off-line. Unfortunately, writing GUIs isn’t in my wheelhouse (my failing, not GUIs’).

If anyone would like to create a Windows or OS X version; have at it. I’ll even host your source code on my Web site if it’s open-source and high-quality. (But be warned that I’m a professional programmer, and also an old fart, with some curmudgeonly ideas about how quality code should be written.) You’ll find my e-mail address at the end of the documentation.

So if you are interested, check that out. I have also added a link to these materials on my old calculator page so users have the option of both.

The Gettier Problem

Among my many forms of cobbled-together self-employment I provide specialized tutoring to graduate students in ancient history and philosophy around the world. Which is rewarding in lots of ways. One of which is when my student ends up correcting an error of mine. That’s when you know you are a successful teacher, and they are starting to surpass you in knowledge and acumen. I’ve actually been excited to report on this, and correct the record. Gratitude goes to Nick Clarke.

The short of it is that long ago in a comments thread on my blog many years ago I was incorrect in my analysis of Gettier Problems. I was on to the right solution, but I made the mistake of assuming an unsound conclusion could not be considered justified (and without realizing that’s what I was doing). Conclusions in Gettier Problems rely on false premises to reach true conclusions. I was right about that. But I wasn’t right about that being grounds to dismiss them.

Backstory is required. [Read more…]