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Do Cardio and Strength Training Work Against Each Other? | ISSA
- If the client’s primary goal is to improve power (e.g. improving sprint speed, vertical jumping, Olympic Lifting, etc.), long duration/low intensity aerobic training should be kept to a minimum.

- If the client’s primary goal is to improve strength and/or hypertrophy and he/she wishes to train concurrently with aerobic training, it is best to keep the duration of aerobic training to less than 30 minutes and the frequency of aerobic training to fewer than 3 days per week. Furthermore, a low-impact mode of aerobic training such as cycling or rowing appears to be a more appropriate option than running.


- If the client’s primary goal is to improve aerobic performance, concurrent training is advisable as resistance training has not been shown to significantly interfere with aerobic capacity gains.
org:health  health  fitness  fitsci  get-fit  evidence-based  study  summary  commentary  tradeoffs  endurance  weightlifting  strategy  running  multi  pdf  piracy  meta-analysis  intervention  metabolic  embodied  cycling  metrics  cost-benefit 
january 2020 by nhaliday
Ask HN: Getting into NLP in 2018? | Hacker News
syllogism (spaCy author):
I think it's probably a bad strategy to try to be the "NLP guy" to potential employers. You'd do much better off being a software engineer on a project with people with ML or NLP expertise.

NLP projects fail a lot. If you line up a job as a company's first NLP person, you'll probably be setting yourself up for failure. You'll get handed an idea that can't work, you won't know enough about how to push back to change it into something that might, etc. After the project fails, you might get a chance to fail at a second one, but maybe not a third. This isn't a great way to move into any new field.

I think a cunning plan would be to angle to be the person who "productionises" models.

Basically, don't just work on having more powerful solutions. Make sure you've tried hard to have easier problems as well --- that part tends to be higher leverage.
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november 2019 by nhaliday
The Definitive Guide To Website Authentication | Hacker News
hn  commentary  q-n-a  stackex  programming  identification-equivalence  security  web  client-server  crypto  checklists  best-practices  objektbuch  api  multi  cheatsheet  chart  system-design  nitty-gritty  yak-shaving  comparison  explanation  summary  jargon  state  networking  protocol-metadata  time 
november 2019 by nhaliday
javascript - ReactJS - Does render get called any time "setState" is called? - Stack Overflow
By default - yes.

There is a method boolean shouldComponentUpdate(object nextProps, object nextState), each component has this method and it's responsible to determine "should component update (run render function)?" every time you change state or pass new props from parent component.

You can write your own implementation of shouldComponentUpdate method for your component, but default implementation always returns true - meaning always re-run render function.


Next part of your question:

If so, why? I thought the idea was that React only rendered as little as needed - when state changed.

There are two steps of what we may call "render":

Virtual DOM render: when render method is called it returns a new virtual dom structure of the component. As I mentioned before, this render method is called always when you call setState(), because shouldComponentUpdate always returns true by default. So, by default, there is no optimization here in React.

Native DOM render: React changes real DOM nodes in your browser only if they were changed in the Virtual DOM and as little as needed - this is that great React's feature which optimizes real DOM mutation and makes React fast.
q-n-a  stackex  programming  intricacy  nitty-gritty  abstraction  state  frontend  web  javascript  libraries  facebook  frameworks  explanation  summary  models 
october 2019 by nhaliday
Has Australia Really Had a 28-Year Expansion? (Yes!) - Marginal REVOLUTION
The bottom line is that however you measure it, Australian performance looks very good. Moreover RER are correct that one of the reasons for strong Australian economic performance is higher population growth rates. It’s not that higher population growth rates are masking poorer performance in real GDP per capita, however, it’s more in my view that higher population growth rates are contributing to strong performance as measured by both real GDP and real GDP per capita.
Control+F "China"
0 results.
China gets a 40 year expansion relying heavily on commodities. Australia squeezes 30 years out of it by happily selling to the Chinese.

econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  links  summary  data  analysis  economics  growth-econ  econ-metrics  wealth  china  asia  anglo  anglosphere  trade  population  demographics  increase-decrease 
october 2019 by nhaliday
When to use margin vs padding in CSS - Stack Overflow
TL;DR: By default I use margin everywhere, except when I have a border or background and want to increase the space inside that visible box.

To me, the biggest difference between padding and margin is that vertical margins auto-collapse, and padding doesn't.
One key thing that is missing in the answers here:

Top/Bottom margins are collapsible.

So if you have a 20px margin at the bottom of an element and a 30px margin at the top of the next element, the margin between the two elements will be 30px rather than 50px. This does not apply to left/right margin or padding.
Note that there are very specific circumstances in which vertical margins collapse - not just any two vertical margins will do so. Which just makes it all the more confusing (unless you're very familiar with the box model).

[ed.: roughly, separation = padding(A) + padding(B) + max{margin(A), margin(B)}, border in between padding and margin]
q-n-a  stackex  comparison  explanation  summary  best-practices  form-design  DSL  web  frontend  stylized-facts  methodology  programming  multi 
october 2019 by nhaliday
What did Max Weber mean by the ‘spirit’ of capitalism? | Aeon Ideas
There was another kind of disintegration besides that of traditional ethics. The proliferation of knowledge and reflection on knowledge had made it impossible for any one person to know and survey it all. In a world which could not be grasped as a whole, and where there were no universally shared values, most people clung to the particular niche to which they were most committed: their job or profession. They treated their work as a post-religious calling, ‘an absolute end in itself’, and if the modern ‘ethic’ or ‘spirit’ had an ultimate found­ation, this was it. One of the most widespread clichés about Weber’s thought is to say that he preached a work ethic. This is a mistake. He personally saw no particular virtue in sweat – he thought his best ideas came to him when relaxing on a sofa with a cigar – and had he known he would be misunder­stood in this way, he would have pointed out that a capacity for hard work was something that did not dist­inguish the modern West from previous soc­ieties and their value systems. However, the idea that people were being ever more defined by the blinkered focus of their employment was one he regarded as profoundly modern and characteristic.

rec'd by Garett Jones
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october 2019 by nhaliday
What do executives do, anyway? - apenwarr
To paraphrase the book, the job of an executive is: to define and enforce culture and values for their whole organization, and to ratify good decisions.

That's all.

Not to decide. Not to break ties. Not to set strategy. Not to be the expert on every, or any topic. Just to sit in the room while the right people make good decisions in alignment with their values. And if they do, to endorse it. And if they don't, to send them back to try again.

There's even an algorithm for this.
techtariat  business  sv  tech  entrepreneurialism  management  startups  books  review  summary  culture  info-dynamics  strategy  hi-order-bits  big-picture  thinking  checklists  top-n  responsibility  organizing 
september 2019 by nhaliday
Measures of cultural distance - Marginal REVOLUTION
A new paper with many authors — most prominently Joseph Henrich — tries to measure the cultural gaps between different countries.  I am reproducing a few of their results (see pp.36-37 for more), noting that higher numbers represent higher gaps:


Overall the numbers show much greater cultural distance of other nations from China than from the United States, a significant and under-discussed problem for China. For instance, the United States is about as culturally close to Hong Kong as China is.

[ed.: Japan is closer to the US than China. Interesting. I'd like to see some data based on something other than self-reported values though.]

the study:
Beyond WEIRD Psychology: Measuring and Mapping Scales of Cultural and Psychological Distance:
We present a new tool that provides a means to measure the psychological and cultural distance between two societies and create a distance scale with any population as the point of comparison. Since psychological data is dominated by samples drawn from the United States or other WEIRD nations, this tool provides a “WEIRD scale” to assist researchers in systematically extending the existing database of psychological phenomena to more diverse and globally representative samples. As the extreme WEIRDness of the literature begins to dissolve, the tool will become more useful for designing, planning, and justifying a wide range of comparative psychological projects. We have made our code available and developed an online application for creating other scales (including the “Sino scale” also presented in this paper). We discuss regional diversity within nations showing the relative homogeneity of the United States. Finally, we use these scales to predict various psychological outcomes.
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september 2019 by nhaliday
Python Tutor - Visualize Python, Java, C, C++, JavaScript, TypeScript, and Ruby code execution
C++ support but not STL

Ten years and nearly ten million users: my experience being a solo maintainer of open-source software in academia:
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september 2019 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : How Idealists Aid Cheaters
I’ve been reading the book Moral Mazes for the last few months; it is excellent, but also depressing, which is why it takes so long to read. It makes a strong case, through many detailed examples, that in typical business organizations, norms are actually enforced far less than members pretend. The typical level of checking is in fact far too little to effectively enforce common norms, such as against self-dealing, bribery, accounting lies, fair evaluation of employees, and treating similar customers differently. Combining this data with other things I know, I’m convinced that this applies not only in business, but in human behavior more generally.

We often argue about this key parameter of how hard or necessary it is to enforce norms. Cynics tend to say that it is hard and necessary, while idealists tend to say that it is easy and unnecessary. This data suggests that cynics tend more to be right, even as idealists tend to win our social arguments.

One reason idealists tend to win arguments is that they impugn the character and motives of cynics. They suggest that cynics can more easily see opportunities for cheating because cynics in fact intend to and do cheat more, or that cynics are losers who seek to make excuses for their failures, by blaming the cheating of others. Idealists also tend to say what while other groups may have norm enforcement problems, our group is better, which suggests that cynics are disloyal to our group.

Norm enforcement is expensive, but worth it if we have good social norms, that discourage harmful behaviors. Yet if we under-estimate how hard norms are to enforce, we won’t check enough, and cheaters will get away with cheating, canceling much of the benefit of the norm. People who privately know this fact will gain by cheating often, as they know they can get away with it. Conversely, people who trust norm enforcement to work will be cheated on, and lose.

When confronted with data, idealists often argue, successfully, that it is good if people tend to overestimate the effectiveness of norm enforcement, as this will make them obey norms more, to everyone’s benefit. They give this as a reason to teach this overestimate in schools and in our standard public speeches. And so that is what societies tend to do. Which benefits those who, even if they give lip service to this claim in public, are privately selfish enough to know it is a lie, and are willing to cheat on the larger pool of gullible victims that this policy creates.

That is, idealists aid cheaters.
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september 2019 by nhaliday
Two Performance Aesthetics: Never Miss a Frame and Do Almost Nothing - Tristan Hume
I’ve noticed when I think about performance nowadays that I think in terms of two different aesthetics. One aesthetic, which I’ll call Never Miss a Frame, comes from the world of game development and is focused on writing code that has good worst case performance by making good use of the hardware. The other aesthetic, which I’ll call Do Almost Nothing comes from a more academic world and is focused on algorithmically minimizing the work that needs to be done to the extent that there’s barely any work left, paying attention to the performance at all scales.

[ed.: Neither of these exactly matches TCS performance PoV but latter is closer (the focus on diffs is kinda weird).]


Never Miss a Frame

In game development the most important performance criteria is that your game doesn’t miss frame deadlines. You have a target frame rate and if you miss the deadline for the screen to draw a new frame your users will notice the jank. This leads to focusing on the worst case scenario and often having fixed maximum limits for various quantities. This property can also be important in areas other than game development, like other graphical applications, real-time audio, safety-critical systems and many embedded systems. A similar dynamic occurs in distributed systems where one server needs to query 100 others and combine the results, you’ll wait for the slowest of the 100 every time so speeding up some of them doesn’t make the query faster, and queries occasionally taking longer (e.g because of garbage collection) will impact almost every request!


In this kind of domain you’ll often run into situations where in the worst case you can’t avoid processing a huge number of things. This means you need to focus your effort on making the best use of the hardware by writing code at a low level and paying attention to properties like cache size and memory bandwidth.

Projects with inviolable deadlines need to adjust different factors than speed if the code runs too slow. For example a game might decrease the size of a level or use a more efficient but less pretty rendering technique.

Aesthetically: Data should be tightly packed, fixed size, and linear. Transcoding data to and from different formats is wasteful. Strings and their variable lengths and inefficient operations must be avoided. Only use tools that allow you to work at a low level, even if they’re annoying, because that’s the only way you can avoid piles of fixed costs making everything slow. Understand the machine and what your code does to it.

Personally I identify this aesthetic most with Jonathan Blow. He has a very strong personality and I’ve watched enough of videos of him that I find imagining “What would Jonathan Blow say?” as a good way to tap into this aesthetic. My favourite articles about designs following this aesthetic are on the Our Machinery Blog.


Do Almost Nothing

Sometimes, it’s important to be as fast as you can in all cases and not just orient around one deadline. The most common case is when you simply have to do something that’s going to take an amount of time noticeable to a human, and if you can make that time shorter in some situations that’s great. Alternatively each operation could be fast but you may run a server that runs tons of them and you’ll save on server costs if you can decrease the load of some requests. Another important case is when you care about power use, for example your text editor not rapidly draining a laptop’s battery, in this case you want to do the least work you possibly can.

A key technique for this approach is to never recompute something from scratch when it’s possible to re-use or patch an old result. This often involves caching: keeping a store of recent results in case the same computation is requested again.

The ultimate realization of this aesthetic is for the entire system to deal only in differences between the new state and the previous state, updating data structures with only the newly needed data and discarding data that’s no longer needed. This way each part of the system does almost no work because ideally the difference from the previous state is very small.

Aesthetically: Data must be in whatever structure scales best for the way it is accessed, lots of trees and hash maps. Computations are graphs of inputs and results so we can use all our favourite graph algorithms to optimize them! Designing optimal systems is hard so you should use whatever tools you can to make it easier, any fixed cost they incur will be made negligible when you optimize away all the work they need to do.

Personally I identify this aesthetic most with my friend Raph Levien and his articles about the design of the Xi text editor, although Raph also appreciates the other aesthetic and taps into it himself sometimes.


_I’m conflating the axes of deadline-oriented vs time-oriented and low-level vs algorithmic optimization, but part of my point is that while they are different, I think these axes are highly correlated._


Text Editors

Sublime Text is a text editor that mostly follows the Never Miss a Frame approach. ...

The Xi Editor is designed to solve this problem by being designed from the ground up to grapple with the fact that some operations, especially those interacting with slow compilers written by other people, can’t be made instantaneous. It does this using a fancy asynchronous plugin model and lots of fancy data structures.



Jonathan Blow’s Jai compiler is clearly designed with the Never Miss a Frame aesthetic. It’s written to be extremely fast at every level, and the language doesn’t have any features that necessarily lead to slow compiles. The LLVM backend wasn’t fast enough to hit his performance goals so he wrote an alternative backend that directly writes x86 code to a buffer without doing any optimizations. Jai compiles something like 100,000 lines of code per second. Designing both the language and compiler to not do anything slow lead to clean build performance 10-100x faster than other commonly-used compilers. Jai is so fast that its clean builds are faster than most compilers incremental builds on common project sizes, due to limitations in how incremental the other compilers are.

However, Jai’s compiler is still O(n) in the codebase size where incremental compilers can be O(n) in the size of the change. Some compilers like the work-in-progress rust-analyzer and I think also Roslyn for C# take a different approach and focus incredibly hard on making everything fully incremental. For small changes (the common case) this can let them beat Jai and respond in milliseconds on arbitrarily large projects, even if they’re slower on clean builds.

I find both of these aesthetics appealing, but I also think there’s real trade-offs that incentivize leaning one way or the other for a given project. I think people having different performance aesthetics, often because one aesthetic really is better suited for their domain, is the source of a lot of online arguments about making fast systems. The different aesthetics also require different bases of knowledge to pursue, like knowledge of data-oriented programming in C++ vs knowledge of abstractions for incrementality like Adapton, so different people may find that one approach seems way easier and better for them than the other.

I try to choose how to dedicate my effort to pursuing each aesthetics on a per project basis by trying to predict how effort in each direction would help. Some projects I know if I code it efficiently it will always hit the performance deadline, others I know a way to drastically cut down on work by investing time in algorithmic design, some projects need a mix of both. Personally I find it helpful to think of different programmers where I have a good sense of their aesthetic and ask myself how they’d solve the problem. One reason I like Rust is that it can do both low-level optimization and also has a good ecosystem and type system for algorithmic optimization, so I can more easily mix approaches in one project. In the end the best approach to follow depends not only on the task, but your skills or the skills of the team working on it, as well as how much time you have to work towards an ambitious design that may take longer for a better result.
techtariat  reflection  things  comparison  lens  programming  engineering  cracker-prog  carmack  games  performance  big-picture  system-design  constraint-satisfaction  metrics  telos-atelos  distributed  incentives  concurrency  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  systems  metal-to-virtual  latency-throughput  abstraction  marginal  caching  editors  strings  ideas  ui  common-case  examples  applications  flux-stasis  nitty-gritty  ends-means  thinking  summary  correlation  degrees-of-freedom  c(pp)  rust  interface  integration-extension  aesthetics  interface-compatibility  efficiency  adversarial 
september 2019 by nhaliday
Unix philosophy - Wikipedia
1. Make each program do one thing well. To do a new job, build afresh rather than complicate old programs by adding new "features".
2. Expect the output of every program to become the input to another, as yet unknown, program. Don't clutter output with extraneous information. Avoid stringently columnar or binary input formats. Don't insist on interactive input.
3. Design and build software, even operating systems, to be tried early, ideally within weeks. Don't hesitate to throw away the clumsy parts and rebuild them.
4. Use tools in preference to unskilled help to lighten a programming task, even if you have to detour to build the tools and expect to throw some of them out after you've finished using them.
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august 2019 by nhaliday
Inventor CEOs - Marginal REVOLUTION
One in five U.S. high-technology firms are led by CEOs with hands-on innovation experience as inventors. Firms led by “Inventor CEOs” are associated with higher quality innovation, especially when the CEO is a high-impact inventor. During an Inventor CEO’s tenure, firms file a greater number of patents and more valuable patents in technology classes where the CEO’s hands-on experience lies. Utilizing plausibly exogenous CEO turnovers to address the matching of CEOs to firms suggests these effects are causal. The results can be explained by an Inventor CEO’s superior ability to evaluate, select, and execute innovative investment projects related to their own hands-on experience.
econotariat  marginal-rev  commentary  study  summary  economics  industrial-org  management  leadership  the-world-is-just-atoms  realness  nitty-gritty  innovation  novelty  business  growth-econ  ability-competence  intellectual-property  branches  cost-benefit 
july 2019 by nhaliday
The Scholar's Stage: Book Notes—Strategy: A History
Freedman's book is something of a shadow history of Western intellectual thought between 1850 and 2010. Marx, Tolstoy, Foucault, game theorists, economists, business law--it is all in there.

Thus the thoughts prompted by this book have surprisingly little to do with war.
Instead I am left with questions about the long-term trajectory of Western thought. Specifically:

*Has America really dominated Western intellectual life in the post 45 world as much as English speakers seem to think it has?
*Has the professionalization/credential-iization of Western intellectual life helped or harmed our ability to understand society?
*Will we ever recover from the 1960s?
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Cleaner, more elegant, and harder to recognize | The Old New Thing
Really easy
Writing bad error-code-based code
Writing bad exception-based code

Writing good error-code-based code

Really hard
Writing good exception-based code


Really easy
Recognizing that error-code-based code is badly-written
Recognizing the difference between bad error-code-based code and
not-bad error-code-based code.

Recognizing that error-code-base code is not badly-written

Really hard
Recognizing that exception-based code is badly-written
Recognizing that exception-based code is not badly-written
Recognizing the difference between bad exception-based code
and not-bad exception-based code
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july 2019 by nhaliday
CPC Elite Perception of the US since the Early 1990s: Wang Huning and Zheng Bijian as Test Cases
What makes this paper distinct from previous research is that it juxtaposes two of the most influential yet under-studied America watchers within the top echelon of the CPC, Wang Huning and Zheng Bijian. To be sure, the two have indelibly shaped CPC attitudes, yet surprisingly enough, although Zheng has been written about extensively in the English language, Wang has hitherto largely remained outside academics’ purview. This paper also aims, in passing, to explore linkages between Wang and Zheng ideas and those of other well-known America watchers like Liu Mingfu and Yan Xuetong. It is hoped that this comparison will offer clues as to the extent to which the current advisory shaping CPC thinking on the US differs from the previous generation, and as to whether CPC thinking is un-American or anti-American in essence. The conclusions will tie the study together by speculating based on Wang and Zheng’s views about the degree to which New Confucianism, as opposed to Neo-Liberalism, might shape Chinese society in the future.
I want someone to translate Wang Huning’s book “America Against America”
For the record, in Chinese that's《美国反对美国》。Wang traveled across USA in the '80s, visiting big cities and small towns. Book lambasted democracy, contrasting the 'ideal' of American rhetoric with the 'reality' of American life. Wang is now one of Xi's closest advisors.
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july 2019 by nhaliday
From Java 8 to Java 11 - Quick Guide - Codete blog
jshell, Optional methods, var (type inference), {List,Set,Map}.copyOf, `java $` execution
programming  cheatsheet  reference  comparison  jvm  pls  oly-programming  gotchas  summary  flux-stasis  marginal  org:com 
july 2019 by nhaliday
Why is Software Engineering so difficult? - James Miller
basic message: No silver bullet!

most interesting nuggets:
Scale and Complexity
- Windows 7 > 50 million LOC
Expect a staggering number of bugs.

- Well-written C and C++ code contains some 5 to 10 errors per 100 LOC after a clean compile, but before inspection and testing.
- At a 5% rate any 50 MLOC program will start off with some 2.5 million bugs.

Bug removal
- Testing typically exercises only half the code.

Better bug removal?
- There are better ways to do testing that do produce fantastic programs.”
- Are we sure about this fact?
* No, its only an opinion!
* In general Software Engineering has ....

So why not do this?
- The costs are unbelievable.
- It’s not unusual for the qualification process to produce a half page of documentation for each line of code.
pdf  slides  engineering  nitty-gritty  programming  best-practices  roots  comparison  cost-benefit  software  systematic-ad-hoc  structure  error  frontier  debugging  checking  formal-methods  context  detail-architecture  intricacy  big-picture  system-design  correctness  scale  scaling-tech  shipping  money  data  stylized-facts  street-fighting  objektbuch  pro-rata  estimate  pessimism  degrees-of-freedom  volo-avolo  no-go  things  thinking  summary  quality  density  methodology 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Links 3/19: Linkguini | Slate Star Codex
How did the descendants of the Mayan Indians end up in the Eastern Orthodox Church?

Does Parental Quality Matter? Study using three sources of parental variation that are mostly immune to genetic confounding find that “the strong parent-child correlation in education is largely causal”. For example, “the parent-child correlation in education is stronger with the parent that spends more time with the child”.

Before and after pictures of tech leaders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Sergey Brin suggest they’re taking supplemental testosterone. And though it may help them keep looking young, Palladium points out that there might be other effects from having some of our most powerful businessmen on a hormone that increases risk-taking and ambition. They ask whether the new availability of testosterone supplements is prolonging Silicon Valley businessmen’s “brash entrepreneur” phase well past the point where they would normally become mature respectable elders. But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring. Paging Peter Thiel and everyone else who takes about how things “just worked better” in Eisenhower’s day.

China’s SesameCredit social monitoring system, widely portrayed as dystopian, has an 80% approval rate in China (vs. 19% neutral and 1% disapproval). The researchers admit that although all data is confidential and they are not affiliated with the Chinese government, their participants might not believe that confidently enough to answer honestly.

I know how much you guys love attacking EAs for “pathological altruism” or whatever terms you’re using nowadays, so here’s an article where rationalist community member John Beshir describes his experience getting malaria on purpose to help researchers test a vaccine.

Some evidence against the theory that missing fathers cause earlier menarche.

John Nerst of EverythingStudies’ political compass.
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march 2019 by nhaliday
"Humankind is unique in its incapacity to learn from experience" | New Humanist
Your new book claims atheism is a “closed system of thought”. Why so?
Because atheists of a certain kind imagine that by rejecting monotheistic beliefs they step out of a monotheistic way of thinking. Actually, they have inherited all of its rigidities and assumptions. Namely, the idea that there is a universal history; that there is something like a collective human agent; or a universal way of life. These are all Christian ideals. Christianity itself is also a much more complex belief system than most contemporary atheists allow for. But then most of these atheists know very little about the history of religion.

Particularly, you argue, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. What is your disagreement with them?
They treat religion as a kind of intellectual error; something only the crudest of Enlightenment thinkers believed. Not every human being has a religious sensibility, but pretty much all human cultures do. Neither Dawkins or Harris are interesting enough to discuss this at length.

Dawkins is really not worth discussing or engaging with at all. He is an ideologue of Darwinism and knows very little about religion, treating it as a kind of a priori notion, rather than the complex social, and anthropological set of ideas which religion usually entails. Harris is partially interesting, in that he talks about how all human values can be derived from science. But I object strongly to that idea.


You are hugely critical of modern liberalism: what is your main problem with the ideology?
That it’s immune to empirical evidence. It’s a form of dogmatic faith. If you are a monotheist it makes sense – I myself am not saying it’s true or right – to say that there is only one way of life for all of humankind. And so you should try and convert the rest of humanity to that faith.

But if you are not a monotheist, and you claim to be an atheist, it makes no sense to claim that there is only one way of life. There may be some good and bad ways of living. And there may be some forms of barbarism, where human societies cannot flourish for very long. But there is no reason for thinking that there is only one way of life: the ones that liberal societies practice.

Why the liberal West is a Christian creation:
Christianity is dismissed as a fairy tale but its assumptions underpin the modern secular world.
- John Gray

Secular liberals dismiss Christianity as a fairy tale, but their values and their view of history remain essentially Christian. The Christian story tells of the son of God being put to death on a cross. In the Roman world, this was the fate of criminals and those who challenged imperial power. Christianity brought with it a moral revolution. The powerless came to be seen as God’s children, and therefore deserving of respect as much as the highest in society. History was a drama of sin and redemption in which God – acting through his son – was on the side of the weak.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind
Tom Holland
Little, Brown & Co, 624pp, £25

The Origin of the Secular Species:
Reviewed by Ben Sixsmith

A great strength of Holland’s book is how it takes the reader back to when Christianity was not institutional and traditional but new and revolutionary. “[Corinth] had a long tradition of hosting eccentrics,” Holland writes in one wry passage:

> Back in the time of Alexander, the philosopher Diogenes had notoriously proclaimed his contempt for the norms of society by living in a large jar and masturbating in public. Paul, though, demanded a far more total recalibration of their most basic assumptions.

Christianity came not with a triumphant warrior wielding his sword, but with a traveling carpenter nailed to a cross; it came not with God as a distant and unimaginable force but with God as man, walking among his followers; it came not with promises of tribal dominance but with the hope of salvation across classes and races.


This may sound more pragmatic than liberal but it does reflect a strange, for the time, confidence in the power of education to shape the beliefs of the common man. Holland is keen to emphasize these progressive elements of history that he argues, with some justice, have helped to shape the modern world. Charity became enshrined in legislation, for example, as being able to access the necessities of life became “in a formulation increasingly deployed by canon lawyers” a human “right.”


This is, I think, a simplification of Galatians 3:28 that makes it more subversive than it actually is. Adolescents and octogenarians are equally eligible for salvation, in the Christian faith, but that does not mean that they have equal earthly functions.

Holland’s stylistic talents add a great deal to the book. His portraits of Boniface, Luther, and Calvin are vivid, evocative, and free of romanticization or its opposite. Some of his accounts of episodes in religious history are a little superficial—he could have read Helen Andrews for a more complicated portrait of Bartolomé de las Casas, for example—but a sweeping historical narrative without superficial aspects would be like an orchard with no bruising on the fruit. It is only natural.


We have to look not just at what survives of Christianity but what has been lost. I agree with Holland that the natural sciences can be aligned with Christian belief, but the predominant explanatory power of secular authorities has inarguably weakened the faith. The abandonment of metaphysics, on which Christian scholarship was founded, was another grievous blow. Finally, the elevation of choice to the highest principles of culture indulges worldly desire over religious adherence. Christianity, in Holland’s book, is a genetic relic.

Still, the tension of Dominion is a haunting one: the tension, that is, between the revolutionary and conservative implications of the Christian faith. On the British right, we—and especially those of us who are not believers—sometimes like to think of Christianity in a mild Scrutonian sense, as a source of wonder, beauty, and social cohesion. What hums throughout Dominion, though, is the intense evangelical spirit of the faith. The most impressive person in the book is St. Paul, striding between cities full of spiritual vigor. Why? Because it was God’s will. And because, as Jean Danielou wrote in his striking little book Prayer as a Political Problem:

> Christ has come to save all that has been made. Redemption is concerned with all creation …

This is not to claim that true Christians are fanatical. Paul himself, as Holland writes, was something of a realist. But the desire to spread the faith is essential to it—the animated evidence of its truth.
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october 2018 by nhaliday
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