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Comments by nalfeshnee

Go to: Japan sets sail for Venus with solar-powered space yacht

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by nalfeshnee

This is the kind of article I come here to read up on, refreshing to actally see some science on for a change.

That said, I do wonder what the largest size sail might be, before the likelihood of being torn and rendered useless by interplanetary junk comes into play.

Especially as it gathers speed, such a collision has the potential to cause even more damage.

Or how was this problem countered in e.g. the "Mote" book?

Sun, 02 May 2010 16:41:00 UTC | #464982

Go to: Ministers apologise for insult to Pope

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 79 by nalfeshnee

"Anticatholicism (a hatred or fear of catholics as opposed to opposition to the RCC) is not IMO dissimilar to antisemitism."

Well, you can redefine all you want, but since I see no virtue whatsoever in the oppressive, patriarchal, war-mongering faiths of Judaism or Catholicism, then I am quite happy to declare myself both an anti-catholic and antisemite.

Just to reverse-engineer your simile-chaining, it is quite possible to be horrified by the murderous activites of both Nazis and Crusaders without automatically being forced to embrace Judaism or Islam.

Also, to your comment:

"The dangerous idiots are the Catholic hierarchy."

There wouldn't be a hierarchy if it weren't supported by the rank and file.

To my mind, the world's catholic flock could do with a bit of unwelcome publicity. Perhaps they might think twice about what their tithes and unquestioned hero-worship actually props up the whole time.

It'd also be interesting to know where you get your figures about the UK's catholics being working-class. Slightly dated opposing view here, e.g.

Sun, 25 Apr 2010 16:35:00 UTC | #462700

Go to: Ministers apologise for insult to Pope

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by nalfeshnee

It would help the Pope's media profile immensely if he didn't look, so, well unsavoury.

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 21:21:00 UTC | #462469

Go to: Sex, lies and duct tape: Science and morality make for strange bedfellows in D-11

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by nalfeshnee

"If I had a rose in here, and I passed it around and each one of you took a petal off," he says, making a plucking motion with his giant hands, "there wouldn't be anything left."

What an erudite reference.

Is Mr McPherson somehow the most educated cornerback in the history of the NFL in terms of the imagery of erotic love?

Nod to Carto – Guillaume de Lorris ;-) (Well, and Jean de Meun)

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 19:47:00 UTC | #457292

Go to: First Animals to Live Without Oxygen Discovered

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by nalfeshnee

The only thing sad about this posting and the one about sediba is the paucity of comments.

crookedshoes - thanks for your comment though, nice to see a thoughtful answer to a good question.

Thu, 08 Apr 2010 19:27:00 UTC | #457283

Go to: Forget party MPs, vote science MPs

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by nalfeshnee

I was curious about my "local" MP (I am a registered overseas elector), and found They Work For You to be a great site.

Looks as though Don will be getting my vote:

Tue, 06 Apr 2010 10:10:00 UTC | #456364

Go to: Free Expression Cartoon Contest Winners Announced

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by nalfeshnee

Have to second Alfster's point: I find the choice of "slept with" is absolutely chilling.

Much, much worse than the alternatives offered.

The cartoon comes off as a little casual to begin with. Then you re-read it a second and a third time.

And its power grows.

Superb and deserved winner.

(And shame aquilacane missed the comp. I always enjoy your work a lot, mate.)

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 11:58:00 UTC | #454863

Go to: Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by nalfeshnee

Would the evidence that Ratzinger "covered up" the abuse of children hold up in a court of law?

What makes you think it wouldn't?

Your opinion that Ratzinger hadn't read the documents in question (your post 17)?

Anyway, bit of a red herring, old chap: you can't impeach monarchs of tinpot kingdoms.

I also think the Pope has a whole lot more to say sorry for than Dawkins.

I'd take a bit of mild libel against child rape any day.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010 17:49:00 UTC | #453427

Go to: Science can answer moral questions

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 109 by nalfeshnee

Sciros, interesting point:

"The utilitarian "maximize happiness, minimize suffering" perspective is nothing new and does not actually introduce an absolute morality. It also has some serious weaknesses when it comes to weighing happiness against suffering, as well as recognizing it."

It also grounds morality in the present-day concerns of the vaguely sentient* tribal ape-things we are.

Just to pick an obvious dilemma: at some point in the not-too-distant future, mankind may have to consider the moral question of whether human adults have a right to have a child.

For the sake of non-human life on the planet. And not just the touchy-feely life like lions and baby penguins.

This is not something that our morality is equipped to handle as yet, and I think any increased focus on morality from "outside" (i.e. science) can only be beneficial.

(*I always think it's amusing how proud we humans are of our consciousness, considering we spend so much of our time unconscious)

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 21:45:00 UTC | #451622

Go to: Science can answer moral questions

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 97 by nalfeshnee

I think the most interesting thing that science has to offer in terms of morality is the idea that it doesn't just apply to homo sapiens, or other (semi-)sentient beings.

This struck me:

"I like Ross Perot's criteria: "Is what I'm doing going to be good for my grandchildren?""

Without picking on the poster of the above, there are certain standpoints from which this is a terrible kind of morality to follow.

And I would suggest those standpoints are informed by science, and not by anthropically-centred ethics.

It's a bit like Dawkins' "last elephant" alive story.

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:51:00 UTC | #451539

Go to: Exclusive Interview with Satan at a Café near the Vatican

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by nalfeshnee

A far more apposite quote from Shakespeare (and more nearly contemporary to the KJV than Romeo and Juliet, to which I assume a fairly botched reference is being made) would surely have been this one:

And Duncan's horses—a thing most strange and certain—
Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,
Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make
War with mankind.

However, I was not aware that Shakespeare was a medieval poet.

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 13:05:00 UTC | #451090

Go to: Update from Alexa Adams regarding Doctors without Borders

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by nalfeshnee

DWB are a good choice because they are often there before disaster strikes and they stay long after many other aid organisations have left.

By donating, you are really helping to rebuild the medical support services for the society, not just short-term relief.

(Disclaimer: I am a permanent donor.)

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 12:53:00 UTC | #451086

Go to: The Pope, the Prophet, and the religious support for evil

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by nalfeshnee

Apathy personified:

"you can't take offense on behalf of others and expect to be taken seriously..."

Yes, that's it in a nutshell.

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 16:54:00 UTC | #450428

Go to: His fortune polishes atheists' reputation

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by nalfeshnee

Here's to Todd. Well done, Sir.

There's hope for this Planet of the Apes yet.

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 16:51:00 UTC | #450427

Go to: Dissident theologian Hans Kung calls on Pope to issue

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by nalfeshnee


All his fat-arsed ratziness has to do is sign the frickin' thing.

It's not as if he has actually been near the letter before it was written.

Sinecure ain't the word.

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 16:49:00 UTC | #450426

Go to: I believe in the god of thunder ...thank Thor our politicians agree

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 40 by nalfeshnee

Re Lovecraft:

"He had a vast, thoughtful imagination (partly inspired by his depression and nightmares) and he could write well."

And he came up with the most delightful names for his creations!

I played the Call... game and thoroughly enjoyed it, since you had to really think, since most of the beasties in the game were ludicrously more powerful than you in a physical sense, and so some serious outwitting of the DM was called for.

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 12:53:00 UTC | #446225

Go to: Widening the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by nalfeshnee

"Davies is as annoying as he's irrelevant, and SETI is a waste of money."

And that Sagan guy - what an idiot!

By the way, the full Davies article is Pretty good stuff for the layman, in my humble opinion.

(Yes, I tried to make a link but it didn't work.)

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 12:34:00 UTC | #446215

Go to: An Apology

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 317 by nalfeshnee

This website had a forum?

Well, that's usually a recipe for disaster.

Reading the comments on this thread, it seems we need a few more "Flag" types.

One much-needed new type would be "[pompous]".

Another might be "[childish]".

Mon, 01 Mar 2010 11:44:00 UTC | #445297

Go to: MPs criticised homeopathy this week. What's their evidence?

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by nalfeshnee

"In the Netherlands we have a basic health insurance which doesn't include this homeopathic nonsense, but... if you take an extra insurance it consists of proven medical treatments and also homeopathic bullshit. You can't choose to leave out the homeopathic crap. It's an outrage!"

Interesting. Here in Germany, a great many state-owned companies offer magic pills, while very few private medical insurers will reimburse patients for them.

Says something about the business model of treating your patients and policyholders with sugar instead of real medicine.

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 19:47:00 UTC | #444652

Go to: Doing what comes supernaturally: Stanley Fish on fact and value

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by nalfeshnee

"Unfortunately our representatives are all desperate for cultural exemptions, so if enough people are homophobic, for 'cultural' reasons, they will allow it."

Culture used to mean literature, music, science, philosophy, sculpture, etc. In short: all the GOOD things that a society could produce or had produced over time.

Now it seems to be used as a euphemism for tolerated barbarity.

(Clarification: this is a general point, not directed against Mark. Mark uses the term accurately, precisely as it has now come be used.)

Sat, 27 Feb 2010 19:39:00 UTC | #444650

Go to: Comment: 'Ban faith schools'

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by nalfeshnee

"These institutions are an initiation ritual for the ghettoisation of mankind."

Which is why pointing to academic results gets you nowhere.

It wouldn't matter if faith schools got results 100% better than a comparable non-faith school.

I could, after all, probably get better results out of a class of students within one term by telling them that they would be caned within an inch of their lives unless their grades improved.

It still wouldn't make my approach appropriate or ethical.

Fri, 26 Feb 2010 14:48:00 UTC | #444268

Go to: Essay of the week: The New Puritanism

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 182 by nalfeshnee


"I see no reason why a single person's taxes should fund the married (childless, child-rearing, or pre- or post-child-rearing)."

Yes, tax breaks simply for being married makes no sense.

Moreover, in today's world of increasing freedom of movement, the very notion that a country's taxes do in fact support growing its young fellow citizens is increasingly being challenged.

Savvy potential parents in Europe, for instance, could move to Finland for the childcare and then leave for Spain 16 years later - for the climate.

Leaving Finland with a childcare bill and no "fellow citizens" at all.

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 18:43:00 UTC | #443874

Go to: Essay of the week: The New Puritanism

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 178 by nalfeshnee

Returning to ACG's article, this caught my eye:

Tory leader David Cameron’s announcement of plans to “support marriage” with tax breaks – not families with children, note, but only those in which the parents have secured a marriage certificate from the authorities.

Does anyone else think, as I do, that the state of cohabiting and the act of production and/or nurturing of children should be considered separately from a legal/official perspective?

That is:

- If you wish to live together and enjoy certain benefits* then you acquire a marriage certificate.

- If you wish to oversee the nurturing of children, you acquire a guardianship certificate.

Note: Whether b) requires a) would be another interesting question.

As an aside, I note hungarianelephant's comment:

The evidence seems to show that a child is more likely to be better off in a whole range of life measures if his/her parents are married than if they aren't.

Really? I thought it showed the exact opposite. This opinion is, however, heavily influenced by my recent re-reading of "The Blank Slate" by Pinker (itself now rather dated). I'd love to see some figures, since I thought the opposite. Links? Articles?

Returning to my two-certificate system...

I think this would drive an important and much-needed stake into the heart of the marriage-is-only-for-heterosexuals-and-for-babies nonsense.

It would also clarify things for Mr. Cameron.

* Cartomancer, I disagree (mildly) that singles should get benefits instead of cohabiting couples. From the State's point of view, there are many benefits to treating two people as one (a status conferred by marriage in many respects) and it could -- even sans children -- still wish to foster this state of affairs from a purely financial perspective. Whether a couple save money or not by living together is not, after all, relevant to state funding. It doesn't fund child-rearing out of the goodness of its heart: it funds child-rearing because it, the State, wants and needs those children.

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 14:56:00 UTC | #443764

Go to: Should Richard Dawkins be arrested for incitement to religious hatred?

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 194 by nalfeshnee

Anyone thinking "Oh, this looks meaty, I'll grab a coffee and start wading through it.".

You should first be aware of the fact that the deluded fool hiding behind the persona of "Cranmer" is a pompous reactionary tosser of the first water.

Anyone who constantly refers to himself in the third person as Your Grace deserves to be laughed at, not taken seriously.

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 14:27:00 UTC | #437853

Go to: Real men find Church too girly

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 98 by nalfeshnee

The point about joining a large group of drones "singing love songs to a man" really does sum up about 99% of Christianity in one neat image.

I suppose it's a step up from Islam, where you prostrate yourself on the floor, ready to be kicked in the arse by said godhead.

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 14:16:00 UTC | #437847

Go to: Did Charles Darwin get it wrong?

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by nalfeshnee

Well, I'd be very surprised if Charles Darwin got nothing wrong - wouldn't you?

Though I imagine if everyone made a big pile of things they got right, Charles' pile would be bigger than Jerry's.

Sat, 30 Jan 2010 00:40:00 UTC | #436846

Go to: Problem of evil and religion's double standard

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by nalfeshnee

And Dennett pwns the debate in just over 150 words.

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 08:58:00 UTC | #434929

Go to: Haiti earthquake: religion fills the void left by aid agencies

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by nalfeshnee

It's terribly, blackly ironic at the moment.

It seems not a day goes by without another mini-quake or aftershock for Haiti.

I hope I'm not viewed as trying to make humour out of people's misery, but honestly - how many earthquakes do you need to suffer before you question your faith in this evil god who is torturing you?

I also note Robertson has been interestingly silent on the many aftershocks. Guess they just happened randomly, huh?

Mon, 25 Jan 2010 08:53:00 UTC | #434928

Go to: Suffering and the vain quest for significance

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 69 by nalfeshnee

Vaal - that was a great comment.


If humanity or even the earth suffered a catastrophic event, such as a massive asteroid impact, changes in solar radiation, cosmic violence such as a nearby supernova, then the Universe would just carry on, just as it did in the several billion years before our solar system even existed.

Certain events such as massive asteroid impact would probably make it difficult for alien paleobiologists to even piece together the facts of our existence.

And it's certainly unlikely to be Shakespeare's Sonnets or Mt. Rushmore's presidential faces that they find. Or any "great works" of religious madmen (including temples built in their honour).

At the moment, I'd estimate our longest-lived legacy on this planet at least as being U-238 (depleted uranium), which has a half-life so long that it exceeds the putative remaining lifespan of the planet itself.

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 16:05:00 UTC | #434531

Go to: Suffering and the vain quest for significance

nalfeshnee's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by nalfeshnee

Fantastic article, and I would only add the following observation.

Plate tectonics was met with considerable scepticism when first proposed (actually as Kontinentalverschiebung, continental drift) by Alfred Wegener in 1912. There was even a conference organised to discredit it! (( Wegener had no convincing mechanism (much less data) to bolster his theory of continental drift and more than 30 years would pass before the theory gained traction - largely as a result of entirely new fields opening up in science.

This is a superb example of the scientific community slowly being forced to humbly accept its errors in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and is one of its greatest success stories.

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 11:46:00 UTC | #434495