Links for 2010-08-14

  • "So, in the future, how can you decide whether a claimed Pâ NP proof is worth reading? I'll now let you in on my magic secrets (which turn out not to be magic or secret at all).

    The thing not to do is to worry about the author's credentials or background. I say that not only for ethical reasons, but because there are too many cases in the history of mathematics where doing so led to catastrophic mistakes. Fortunately, there's something else you can do that's almost as lazy: scan the manuscript, keeping a mental checklist for the eight warning signs below."

  • "You see, that Elmo ball was Johanna's reward for consistently using the potty this past week. She wasn't given the ball simply because she'd demonstrated an exceptional need for it--she earned it. And from the way Aiden's pants sagged as he tried in vain to run away from our daughter, it was clear that he wasn't anywhere close to deserving that kind of remuneration. By so much as allowing Johanna to share her toy with him, we'd be undermining her appreciation of one of life's most important lessons: You should never feel guilty about your abilities. Including your ability to repeatedly peg a fellow toddler with your Elmo ball as he sobs for mercy. "
  • "One cannot logically proceed from the belief that same-gender sex is a sin to the conclusion that homosexuals ought therefore to be denied full access to civil rights.

    Many of the conservative Baptists among whom I grew up believe that dancing is a sin. I have never heard any of them suggest that weddings are invalid if there is dancing at the reception. Nor did any of them argue that professional dancers ought to be relegated to second-class citizenship -- forbidden to marry, to adopt children, to serve openly in the military. They didn't argue such things because it wouldn't have made sense. The leap from "dancing is a sin" to "dancers are subhuman and should not have rights" is illogical and it's bad theology by their own standards. The belief in a religious prohibition against homosexuality can be exploited by demagogues to produce and nurture bigotry among those who are prone to bigotry, but that religious prohibition is not, in itself, the cause or the source of that bigotry."

  • "It seems a bit strange to me that the media carefully warn about and label any content that involves sex, violence or strong language -- but there's no similar labelling system for, say, sloppy journalism and other questionable content.

    I figured it was time to fix that, so I made some stickers. I've been putting them on copies of the free papers that I find on the London Underground. You might want to as well."

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