The Null Device
Shamelessly plagiarised from Mind Hacks:
A list of delusions taken from the psychiatric literature that don't seem that delusional when you think about them:
To quote Salvador Dalí, "The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad".
- "The earth is doomed"
- Patient with Alzheimer's reported by Sultzer et al. (2003)
- "Bill Gates is destroying my files and spying on me"
- 32 year old patient reported by Podoll et al. (2000)
- "A local gang is going to mug me"
- South London patient reported by Freeman et al. (2001)
- "I drove two people mad when I was 11 to 14 years old"
- Patient from a study by Rhodes and Jakes (2000)
- "My thoughts are being controlled by TV newscasters"
- Inpatient reported by Noffsinger and Saleh (2000)
(via Mind Hacks)
In his recent book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserted that, in today's America, atheists have a standing similar to what gays had 50 years ago. (According to a poll quoted by Dawkins, only 49% of Americans would approve of an atheist holding public office; other traditionally disenfranchised minorities (women, gays and African-Americans) get scores in the high 70s to 90s.) Dawkins' picture is grim for American atheists: they're routinely vilified as amoral nihilists, and often subjected to intimidation.
Scott Adams (the Dilbert one, not the text-adventure one), however, presents a more optimistic picture: according to him, atheists are the new gays; books by Dawkins and gung-ho neoconservative atheist Sam Harris are topping the sales charts, and, as likeable gay characters did a few decades ago, openly atheist characters are now filtering into TV shows:
Prior to 9/11, it would have been career suicide for a public figure to come right out and say God is a fairy tale. Now it's a feature of popular culture. You can see it on cable of course, in shows such as BullSh*t, Real Time, The Daily Show, and Southpark. But it's also a feature of network TV. The main character on House is written as the most brilliant human on the planet, and he's an atheist. The new show 3lbs has a similar character. I can't remember anything like that ten years ago.Adams puts this down to 9/11; whereas during the Cold War, America was fighting a nominally atheistic Soviet Union (hence "In God We Trust" having been added to US currency during the McCarthy era), it is now fighting adversaries who, whichever way you look at them, epitomise religious faith at its most extreme.
Ask a deeply religious Christian if he'd rather live next to a bearded Muslim that may or may not be plotting a terror attack, or an atheist that may or may not show him how to set up a wireless network in his house. On the scale of prejudice, atheists don't seem so bad lately.Depends on the "deeply religious Christian"; don't a lot of religious hardliners in the US lump everybody outside of the One True Religion, from Godless feminists to Wahhabi Islamists, as part of the same Satanic Other?
Anyway, Dawkins suggested in his book that there are many more atheists in America than are willing to identify them as such, and that many of political leaders (and even some religious leaders) who, for reasons of pragmatism, profess to be acceptably religious, are closet atheists, and that if they started coming out of the closet, this could trigger a change in American political culture. Adams suggests that this may be happening now. He furthers that to propose America's first explicitly Atheist President: Bill Gates.
The Australian government is about to enact draconian new copyright laws that, by lowering burdens of proof, expose people doing everyday things to severe criminal liabilities:
"As an example," said Mr Coroneos, "a family who holds a birthday picnic in a place of public entertainment (for example, the grounds of a zoo) and sings 'Happy Birthday' in a manner that can be heard by others, risks an infringement notice carrying a fine of up to $1320. If they make a video recording of the event, they risk a further fine for the possession of a device for the purpose of making an infringing copy of a song. And if they go home and upload the clip to the internet where it can be accessed by others, they risk a further fine of up to $1320 for illegal distribution. All in all, possible fines of up to $3960 for this series of acts -- and the new offences do not require knowledge or improper intent. Just the doing of the acts is enough to ground a legal liability under the new 'strict liability' offences."There's more about the laws here. Apparently the fines will be summary, and not require court offences, and possession of MP3s ripped from CDs you have purchased will be a criminal offense liable to such fines. Which is not to say that the police will be doing mass copyright audits of suburbia anytime soon, but theoretically, if you're carrying a MP3 player and are stopped by a police officer who doesn't like your look/attitude, they will have the power to fine you. The laws could also end up creating an industry of copyright bounty hunters who seek out and prosecute infringers, pocketing a share of the takings (as has happened in the US War On Drugs).
Anyway, the laws have been passed by the House of Representatives, and are being fast-tracked through the Senate. If you live in Australia, it might be an idea to contact your senator now. That and preparing to destroy all copies of your MP3 collection/videotaped TV shows.