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).

Friday

Intersectionality and Allies: Exiting the Secular Bubble

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

Saturday

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+]

Sunday

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…]

Beyond the Black Rainbow…and Other New Films in my Amazon Store

Besides adding a Blu-Ray section, I’ve added five new films to my “Favorite Films” portion of my Amazon store. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the backstory.)

  • Whip It (directed by Drew Barrymore), with my remark, “Google ‘Bechdel test’. This is how it’s done. Also the best roller derby film ever made. By far.”
  • Licence To Kill (directed by John Glen II), with my remark, “Really the best under-appreciated Bond film. And has Pam Bouvier, my favorite bond girl (not just beautiful but funny, capable, has real skills and actually calls bond out on his shit).”
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (directed by Hayao Miyazaki), with my remark, “Second best Miyazaki film ever [the first being Spirited Away]. Steampunk + magic + surprisingly moving story of friendship and self-discovery. You won’t ever have seen a film quite like this.”
  • The Whisperer in Darkness (directed by Sean Branney), with my remark, “The same production company nailed it again, this time producing another Lovecraft classic by mimicking a 1940s talkie,” referring to the entry now immediately before this one, the excellent Call of Cthulhu silent film.
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow (directed by Panos Cosmatos), with my remark, “This bizarre 80s noir scifi film is an artistic masterpiece, but requires multiple very careful viewings to see why (and to understand all the nuances of what’s actually happening).”

Cover of the DVD for Beyond the Black Rainbow. With a dominant color scheme of red, shows the silhouette of a girl running toward the viewer from a glowing and radiating pyramid of light, above whom is a man whose face is oddly hairless, and eyes black, and whose grasping right hand and scary dagger-wielding left hand looms many sizes larger above her, all on a background of pitch darkness. Title above reads: Beyond the Black Rainbow, a Panos Cosmatos Picture, in red over the blackness. Tagline at bottom in white reads The last of those requires a bit more explanation. It’s definitely now one of my favorite films, but for reasons that will be quite mysterious to someone who sees it for the first time and gets frustrated wondering what the hell. (It’s worse if you watch it in a lit room with background noise, then you’ll be totally confused and not at all in the right mood. So…don’t do that. Darkened room, quiet, no interruptions. Best viewed on whiskey at 1am.)

The most fascinating thing about Beyond the Black Rainbow is how superbly well it captures the entire feel of a 1980s noir scifi film–it’s literally made as if it were produced in 1983 (right down to the minutest detail of the cheesy faux-80s pop song playing incongruously over the closing credits, exactly as you’d find if this really had been made in 1983), while trying to top Video Drome, Warriors, and Repo Man for weird atmospheric but totally excitingly bizarre cult classic (while also not being at all like any of those films). The music alone is teleporting and evokes a feeling of odd nostalgia–as if you had seen this movie thirty years ago and had forgotten about it. But even such things as a shag carpet, a plastic faux-futuristic chair, the look and sound of a 1980s computer keyboard, are emphasized masterfully by the director to evoke the feel, the sights and sounds, even–I honestly have to say–the smells of that bygone era.

The script is minimalist and the shooting impressionistic, so you may have too watch the whole movie multiple times to understand what’s going on and what the point is behind every bizarre choice made by the director (and there are a lot of bizarre choices–this movie was made well outside the box of mainstream filmmaking cliches). But even on first viewing you’ll be stuck to your chair, mesmerized, wondering where on earth this is going and what on earth is happening.

The product description is apt but nowhere near captures the reality:

Held captive in a specialized medical facility, a young woman with unique abilities seeks a chance to escape her obsessed captor. Set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of the year 1983, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons. From the producer of Machotaildrop, Rainbow is the outlandish feature film debut of writer and director Panos Cosmatos. Featuring a hypnotic analog synthesizer score by Jeremy Schmidt of Sinoia Caves and Black Mountain, Rainbow is a film experience for the senses.

I caught this by accident on uVerse On Demand some time back, where the preview was so weird and nostagia-evoking I just had to see the thing. My wife and I have been weirdly drawn to this film ever since. We later explored the net looking for takes on the film, which ranged from outraged disgust to fawning admiration for its genius (just look at the wild inverted-bell split in the Amazon customer reviews). Overall, I find the people who hated it didn’t understand it (and don’t have the patience for suspense). Whereas I’ve found more and more depth and genius to the film the more times I watch it and realize why the director did what he did at each particular moment, and what it was supposed to evoke or communicate. I love art like that. But it’s not for everyone.

Want to Read All Our Blogs with NO Ads? Well, Now You Can!

You can now subscribe to FtB, and your subscription fee substitutes for our ad revenue, and the ads go away, and you still get to support our work. It’s just $30 a year (or less if you want smaller increments). You get access not just to my blog without ads, but to all the FtB blogs with no ads.

Right now it only works through PayPal, though in future we will have other pay methods worked in. And you have to have, or create, a user account (and stay logged in, or log in when you want to view FtB without the ads) either with us or WordPress, Yahoo or Google. All four types of user account will be recognized, but if you want the easiest enjoyment, you should subscribe through whichever account you don’t mind staying logged into all or most of the time, and that may just be our local user account, which you can create just for that purpose.

If you are interested in this, then login here. It’s a great way to help reward us for our work that doesn’t require your enduring the aesthetic displeasure of some other shill’s popup or other annoying attempt to get your attention (because basically, right now, like with most of the internets, it’s the shills who are paying for you to read FtB for free).

This is a new feature and you may encounter bugs. If you do, report them directly to Jason Thibeault (Lousy Canuck), the amazing guy who made this happen all on his own time–he will be happy to fix any problem that comes up if he can (just post a bug report in his thread here).

Now You Can Wear Even More Bayes’ Theorem!

Picture of the Odds Form Bayesian mug (white mug with artsy black text) offered at Richard Carrier's Marvelous Amusements shop at Cafe Press.Did you say Odds Form? Shirt? Car Flag? Panties? Hell yeah.

I just finished loading my old Cafe Press store with tons of different shirts and other odds and ends featuring my Bayesian graphic, which uses imaginative rather than standard mathematical notation (as I reported last week, you can get jewelry with it from SurlyRamics).

I also duplicated most items with a cool graphic design of the Odds Form of Bayes’ Theorem (in standard mathematical notation, but artful font). Because a lot of people are fans of the Odds Form. No joke…it has actual vocal fans. It’s also the form I use to run the math in my upcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus. If you want to know what the difference is and what the Odds Form equation means and how to use it, see Proving History (index, “Bayes’ Theorem, Odds Form”). Like with the other graphic (as I explained last week), you have to assume b (background knowledge) is in the givens of every term (a common assumption mathematicians allow).

Picture of women's cap-T shirt with Odds Form Bayesian graphic across the chest. White shirt with black shoulders and neckline.Above right is a pic of the Odds Form mug I’m selling. It actually looks pretty awesome. Likewise the women’s Cap-T (below right).

To check out the full range of products, and help support my work by buying some, visit Richard Carrier’s Marvelous Amusements. Note that many items actually have color options at the purchasing page (so it’s not just all black or white). If you have ideas for other products I could develop and offer there, feel free to recommend them in comments here. Just note that I’m limited by the stock and capabilities of Cafe Press.

I have also included some Solon’s Commandments materials, as some fans requested I do many months ago, after I wrote about them in That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation). Cafe Press doesn’t offer the option of an inscribed plastic plate, so you would have to get the mini-poster and put it in a hard plastic casement or sheath from a local office supply store–or else buy the expensive framed print option (although that does look quite nice). Junior high and high school students who feel like living dangerously can even bring a Solon’s Commandments lunch bag to school.

Two More New Bloggers

We have two more new awesome bloggers at Freethought Blogs. Kate Donovan (of the US) joined us in July, and now Alex Gabriel (of the UK) joins us this August.

Kate is blogging here at Gruntled & Hinged (“A Blog about Madness and Mental Health by Your Incorrigibly Optimistic Narrator, Who Is Neither Disgruntled Nor Unhinged”). As she describes herself…

Kate Donovan's Gravatar pic. Illustrates her best snark face.Kate is a psychology student at Northwestern University who runs on coffee and snark. At some point she’d like to make people sit on couches and tell her about their feelings, but right now she writes on the internet and makes silly faces when she doesn’t know what to say. An incorrigible optimist, she likes to knit, juggle, and will devour any book in reach.

In Which Our Narrator Strikes Out on Her Own is her inaugural post. If you missed it, check it out to get even better introduced. She’s been blogging cool things about psychology and mental health from an atheist and skeptical perspective.

Alex is now blogging here at Godlessness in Theory (“Queer Left Politics, Pop Culture and Skepticism”). As he describes himself…

Alex Gabriel's Gravatar pic. In which he looks curious, whimsical, and ready to warrior his keyboard.Alex Gabriel is a twentysomething British graduate. He writes from a theoretical perspective on religion and how to leave it, popular rhetoric and political dissent, secular, nerd and LGBT cultures, sexuality and gender or whatever else crosses his mind. His main pursuit is blending frameworks of secularity and social justice – more than just intersecting actions, he yearns for synthetic secular thought. When not putting sacred cows to slaughter or training with the PC brigade, he can usually be found somewhere online.

Secular Synthesis and Why We Need It – or, Hello Freethought Blogs is his inaugural post. Definitely check it out to get even better introduced. He blogs insightful, thoughtful, and detailed things about politics and culture from an atheist and skeptical perspective. And as he says, “I’m 22, secular, British, poly, queer, tall, ex-Christian, left wing and long-winded, a nerd, a graduate and a keyboard warrior.” Indeed. He’ll fit right in.

Enjoy the juggernaut!