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Petter Häggholm
Software developer, geek, martial arts dilettante
Software developer, geek, martial arts dilettante

Petter Häggholm's posts

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Basically what I said to the graphic and crap article when they were passed around, but this is a much more in-depth dissection and explanation.

This Québec/hijab thing is just baffling to me. I say this as someone who is aggressively pro-secularisation and against exemptions for religious sensibilities; who dislikes religion including Islam, and is willing to say impolite things about it; and who is inclined to agree that it makes sense not to allow the niqab in the courtroom (after all, if one party is literally not required to show their face in court, that seems to shift the balance a bit).
In short, I am not a priori likely ever to be a Muslim’s (or Christian’s, Jew’s, Hindu’s, or Sikh’s) friend or ally when sensitivity to religious sentiment in a court of law (or any other public forum) is in the spotlight.
And yet EVEN TO ME, it is baffling why on Indifferent Universe’s green Earth any judge should be concerned with policing what kind of scarf a woman chooses to wear in court—let alone if wearing it is important to her—and clearly wrong to make a federal case of it.¹ It’s a bloody SCARF, not a niqab.² It doesn’t prevent identification, it doesn’t obstruct face-to-face communication, it doesn’t help a defendant in court hide her expressions; it doesn’t, it seems to me, have any bloody relevance at all unless perhaps the poor lady’s long flowing locks serve to disprove a shaved-head-related alibi.
I do not believe that any such alibi is in fact at stake.
Maybe it’s just the next step in the Québecois court system: with the judicial War on English well underway, perhaps they’re just trying to ban all headgear except toques (well, they can’t get rid of toques) and berets: frivolous province-driven legalism does seem par for course. I didn’t feel ill-treated by Québecers generally when living there, and violent parochialism never seemed to be the norm, but for some reason it appears to be a prerequisite for service in the legislative, legal, customs, and immigration areas.
¹ Of course, it was a Québec case, not a federal case; but it’s certainly drawn federal criticism, and—oh, you know what I mean anyway.
² The niqab seems about as conducive to conversation as a balaclava, but this woman wasn’t trying to wear one.

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Is there such a thing as a true “placebo effect”?

It just occurred to me that U2's lawyers must always work pro Bono.

How come people act as though the mythicist position—that there was no historical Jesus behind the stories—were prima facie absurd? I’ve actually heard people say¹ that their conclusion (of Jesus’s nonexistence) is so ludicrous that their arguments can be dismissed out of hand. I honestly don’t see how people can say this with a straight face.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a hardcore mythicist. After reading a bunch of Carrier, I’m…well, quite agnostic, wavering between, say, 70-30 for to 60-40 against mythicism (I find Carrier persuasive, but recognise that his is a minority opinion in a field I’ve no education in), and persuasive evidence either way would be interesting but not emotionally impactful². In other words, I’ve no major vested interest nor even very strong conviction.

But I don’t understand how serious people can seriously claim that the mythicist position is absurd. Certainly it may be wrong. Inarguably, it’s been advocated with poor arguments (as has the opposite, of course). But the dismissals are themselves absurd: People seem fond of claiming that Jesus is the best attested of all historical figures(!!!), or at least figures from that era (“more evidence than Caesar”, some claim, in spite of Gaius Julius Caesar appearing on coins, statues, in writings of people who knew him, in his own writing, &c. &c., compared to…er…).

And the insistence seems pretty adamant that religious accounts (like the famous “Q”) are “no more and no less” reliable than any other near-contemporary records, at least once the miraculous bits are removed. Pardon my French, but: my arse,³ they aren’t! Being written down in the Bible, or by a religious person, certainly does not render something automatically false; it doesn’t mean we can simply dismiss it—but surely every reasonable person (historicist, mythicist, or Christian) can agree that people discussing an alleged figure whom they believe to be a god are at least a smidge more likely than disinterested parties to exaggerate the evidence a little bit. Cicero writing about his opponent, Gaius Julius Caesar, is a more reliable witness than whoever wrote the Gospel of Mark—regardless of whether or not a guy called Yeshua bin Yusuf ever lived and preached to a bunch of followers. Obviously the Bible describes some real geopolitical settings, and many of the people in it are probably representations, to various degrees of faithfulness, of people who were actually there; and surely, even the most poorly-attested bits therein⁴ are (at least somewhat) better than nothing at all—but it’s a very far cry indeed from this to the notion that they are “no less reliable” than other accounts, as though there were no additional bias.

I will not by any means dismiss the historicist position out of hand. I do not find it incredible, and am not well equipped to declare it even improbable, contra some atheists who seem to think that because Jesus was in it and Jesus is mythicised, therefore he must never have lived at all. However, the people who take the opposite tack and dismiss mythicism as though historicity were an obvious matter of fact—well, I’m inclined to dismiss their accounts, not because their (historicist) conclusion is necessarily wrong, but because no one has ever presented a persuasive argument that their case is strong enough that such a dismissal can be made without a vast, and discrediting, bias.⁵


¹ Well, read people write. You know what I mean.
² Not like the sight of the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field or the discovery of a 1–4% Neanderthal contribution to the European genome: these are academically interesting, but also deeply fascinating, and speak to our true place in the universe.
³ Or, if you’re of a literal bent, mon cul.
⁴ And some of the bits about Jesus are not what I’d call by any stretch the most poorly attested.
⁵ I really wanted to contrast the sloppy, dogmatic, atheist thinkers—for theists surely have no monopoly on sloppy thinking—to such mythicism-dismissers using the term “mutatis mutandi”; but alas, I was unable to find a phrasing that flowed well, and am therefore reduced to showing off my minuscule grasp of classical terminology in a footnote.

If I had millions and millions of dollars, I’d gather a few hundred of the world’s greatest black and/or Jewish classical musicians, give them a few years to practice as a cohesive orchestra, and produce the definitive Wagner collection to end all Wagner collections. As a result, I’d have some of the most sublime music ever created; racists everywhere would be so torn that their heads exploded, and there would be much rejoicing; and Wagner would spin in his grave with an angular momentum never seen before, solving the energy crisis as I connect him to a large turbine and produce wonderfully clean energy.

Having a LinkedIn profile leads to a lot of spam. I usually don’t even read my LinkedIn messages, but sometimes there are nuggets of comedy gold, or at least iron pyrite. For instance, I wonder what possesses a recruiter (or whatever they are) to look at the profile of someone whose current job is “Software developer”, whose résumé contains only the job title “Software developer” at two different companies, who has an undergraduate and a graduate degree both in comp sci, and whose self-written summary begins with, yes, the words “Software developer” and continues from there—I wonder what made some recruiter take time out of their day to send me a message asking if I should like to be an Office Assistant, "typing, filing, taking inventory, keeping records and sorting checks”.

For succinctness in failure to figure out whom you’re talking to, though, it’s hard to beat “Hi Petter, How are things going in Boston?” For the record, I’ve never even been in Massachussetts.

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I think this is the Grail rabbit without white makeup.
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