Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2010 September 2

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September 2[edit]

Engstrom quote source?[edit]

The Last Messiah by Peter Wessel Zapffe contains the following quote, which Zapffe attributes to a certain "Engstrom":

"One should not think, it is just confusing."

Which Engstrom does Zapffe refer to? And what is the source of the quote? -- noosphere 00:35, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Well, as you've no doubt seen, the exact quote doesn't pull up much, Google-wise. My suspicion is that it is Zapffe's translation from either Swedish or Norwegian. My wild guess in looking for Swedish quotes that seem similar (using Google Translate), and in which Engstrom's people seem to cite as a source of art and culture, would lead me to suspect that Albert Engström is the likely culprit. But this is just a very wild guess based on a lot of fairly fruitless Googling. You might try on the language desk, to see if anyone over there can search for similar phrases in Swedish or Norwegian. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:29, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

What would Thomas Jefferson have said about Somalia?[edit]

If he came back as some kind of interactable ghost, of course.

Would he retract this? --Let Us Update Wikipedia: Dusty Articles 03:49, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Ah yes, the time honored tradition of taking quotations out of context. Jefferson was not arguing for anarchy, which is basically what Somalia is today. See Jeffersonian democracy for Jefferson's actual political theories, which are far more complex and nuanced than can be explained by a simple, one-sentance quote. --Jayron32 04:07, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Somalia's an extremely interesting case, and I don't think the term "anarchy" fully captures the nuances of what is going on there. Yes, the legitimate (that is, internationally recognized) government only controls a small part of Mogidishu and a bit of the rest of the country. On the other hand, it's not like it's just riots and random acts of violence happening in the rest of the country. There are of course the "autonomous" regions of Somaliland and Puntland, which, as I understand, do a reasonable job governing themselves (especially Somaliland. Puntland seems to have more trouble controlling it's coast and such). Formerly, the Islamic Courts Union controlled much of the country, and while their control would not be considered fair or open by any standards, it was certainly not anarchy. Now, of course, Al-Shabaab is controlling much of the region formerly held by the ICU, and which our article describes as imposing a "harsh form of Sharia law". I'm not as familiar with the current situation, so I guess I can't really assess how firmly they actually "control" this region. Somalia's a fascinating study in nation building, and I urge anyone interested in the topic to look at some of the myriad of links that can be found in the main article.
As for what Thomas Jefferson would say, I have no idea. Buddy431 (talk) 04:43, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Mr Jefferson, what do you think about the situation in Somalia?
Where? I’m not familiar with the place.
DOR (HK) (talk) 07:41, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
In Somalia, Jefferson might have seen some parallels to the Barbary states of his day -- African Muslim countries that were sources of pirates that preyed on international shipping. During Jefferson's term in office, the U.S. fought the First Barbary War against the Barbary states rather than pay the tribute the Africans demanded for protection of American ships. -- Mwalcoff (talk) 08:35, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
On the other hand, piracy in the Barbary states was more or less state sanctioned, as I understand, and the U.S. was paying tribute to a centralized state to not have pirates attack their ships. It was thus possible to put a stop to the tribute payments by attacking the government. In Somalia's case, it's not our government paying tribute, but rather individual merchants, to pirates who are not state sanctioned (it's basically an organized crime operation, as I understand). Considering that Jefferson largely tried to stay out of foreign affairs, I'm not sure that he would have wanted to (much less have had the power to) done anything about Somali based pirates. Buddy431 (talk) 19:24, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I don't think Jefferson would have altered his views on government particularily in response to the current Somali situation. Somalia is in a state of war, and it is hardly that scenario he wished for in the linked quote. Moreover, Jefferson's views on Somalia would probably have been tainted by the racist worldview that engulfed his surroundings. Thomas_Jefferson#On_slavery gives some detail on the debate about Jefferson's (himself a slave owner) ambiguities towards slavery and Black people in general. --Soman (talk) 23:46, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Jews and automatic citizenship in Israel[edit]

Can a non-religious or atheist jew be granted automatic citizenship in Israel? ScienceApe (talk) 04:23, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Have you read Israeli nationality law? --Jayron32 04:28, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Can a non-Jew become a Jew if he wants to ?  Jon Ascton  (talk) 00:53, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it happens often. See Conversion to Judaism. —D. Monack talk 02:31, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

If you read the article Jayron points to, you'll find that not only do you not need to believe or practise Judaism, you don't even need to be Jewish to qualify under the Law of Return, for example, non-Jewish spouses. --Dweller (talk) 10:43, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

But according to the Jews for Jesus article, they are not granted automatic citizenship. Is this correct? ScienceApe (talk) 15:03, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes: "Those who believe in Jesus are, in fact, Christians."[1] --jpgordon::==( o ) 17:57, 3 September 2010 (UTC)


What are the ideals of democracy. What are the elements of demorcracy that help support the ideals of democracy —Preceding unsigned comment added by Christiedickens (talkcontribs) 06:30, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Did you read Democracy? The article at Wikipedia is useful for a general overview, however your teacher is likely looking for you to use a combination of reading comprehension and critical thinking skills to combine things they taught you in class with things you read from your textbook, so that you can formulate the answer yourself. It can be useful to read additional information, like the Wikipedia article on Democracy, however it should be entirely possible to answer a homework question like this using only the materials your teacher gave you. Indeed, it should be easier to do it that way, since textbooks and class lectures are likely to be focused in such a way as to provide a more direct answer to your teacher's question than a general overview like the Wikipedia article on Democracy. --Jayron32 06:38, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Sounds like a homework question. It's that time of year. Shadowjams (talk) 09:34, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
You can start by "Democracy is a government of the People, by the people and for the people....". Your teachers will love you for it !  Jon Ascton  (talk) 00:56, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

What is this story?[edit]

This has been driving me out of my mind. In elementary school (circa 1995) my class read an extract of a story, written by an African American author, set (I presume) in the 1950s or early 60s, about a young black boy living in a city in the northern United States. It was set during the winter. Apart from that, I remember only two concrete details: (1) the protagonist discovers a transistor radio, sitting unguarded in a convertible or an unlocked car, and it becomes his most treasured possession; (2) the protagonist wears a pair of corduroy trousers, and I recall much discussion about the merits and drawbacks of corduroy. LANTZYTALK 06:41, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

But not the merits and drawbacks of theft??? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:07, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Does everything have to be a morality play? LANTZYTALK 17:26, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Lantzy—you say, "Does everything have to be a morality play?" You were speaking about theft, were you not, when you referred to "a transistor radio, sitting unguarded in a convertible or an unlocked car"? If that is the case, then I think it is understandable that considerations of morality would come to mind. Bus stop (talk) 17:50, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I think Lantzy meant that interesting literature often involves heroes and protagonists who do unlawful things. Literature, even children's literature, has moved on quite a bit since the days when taies or morality plays tended to need a clear-cut moral in the end (such as "Thou shalt not steal"). ---Sluzzelin talk 18:16, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
It's possible the author was being satirical, in making a big thing of corduroy pants while saying nothing about theft. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:05, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It's vaguely the same approach as the antagonist in No Country for Old Men, who had no qualms about killing as long as he didn't get blood on his nifty shoes. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:06, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
In the recollections of the story as related to us above, we find out that we need to determine the merits and drawbacks of corduroy, but it doesn't occur to us to examine the rightness or wrongness of stealing. Bus stop (talk) 11:19, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
At the risk of prolonging this unnecessarily: Lantzy, who regularly posts here and knows what helps us googleurs and what doesn't, gave two rather specific recollections. The corduroy reference actually didn't happen to help my search, the words "transistor radio" and "convertible" did. Had I read the story, I might have remembered the corduroy reference (because these are the kind of asides I love in literature). Had Lantzy said something like: "the book was about the morals of stealing" (I have no idea whether that's what the book is about, I suspect it's more complex than that, but even if ...), that wouldn't have helped my search a lot, as those keywords are too generic. ---Sluzzelin talk 10:28, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Can someone tell me what is wrong with this picture? Bus stop (talk) 13:13, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
That it was done in watercolors, and after the theft, it ran? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:18, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I think the picture painted is a little bizarre. But I guess memory is like that. One simply remembers what one remembers. Bus stop (talk) 13:45, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I think it's the from the book version of J.T. [2] (originally a TV drama from 1969 [3]) by Jane Wagner (granted, she's not African American, but J.T. Gamble is). ---Sluzzelin talk 13:55, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that's it. Thanks! LANTZYTALK 17:26, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Religion vs. Science[edit]

Are religion and science enemies of each other ? Does one's religion affect one's progress in science ?  Jon Ascton  (talk) 06:51, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Nope. Go to the library today, find Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould, and read it. Seriously. When you have read it, come back and we'll discuss. --Jayron32 06:55, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Richard Dawkins would probably tell you yes, although he did name Arthur Peacocke, Russell Stannard, John Polkinghorne and Francis Collins as examples of good scientists who were sincerely religious. You may find Templeton Prize interesting. Karenjc 07:05, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Even as an atheist, I would generally say no. The theory of evolution does not necessarily disprove the existence of God(s). However, the two do clash when someone challenges another to disprove the existence of God via science. Ethereal beings are not something that can be tested. If it can't be falsified through testing, then it is not based in the scientific world. Despite this, as others have point out above, there are numerous religious scientists. --Ghostexorcist (talk) 07:15, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
But all religions cannot be put in same bracket. We have Freud, Einstein, Karl Marx and numerous other Jews as great scientists which are difficult to count, perhaps we'd no science without Jews, but with an exception or two no muslims are scientists. why ?  Jon Ascton  (talk) 07:55, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
"no muslims are scientists" [citation needed]. Pfly (talk) 08:08, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Islam and science may be useful, if that's the OP's perception. Karenjc 08:10, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
"In recent years, the lagging of the Muslim world in science is manifest in the disproportionately small amount of scientific output..." it appears to support the OP's perception, if we remember that he mentioned there are one or two exceptions, and make allowances for rhetoric. (talk) 12:32, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Abdus Salam could be a prominent modern example, but Muslim rigorists are quick to deny that he's a "real" Muslim... AnonMoos (talk) 08:14, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Are you sure ? I can understand rigorists denying Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen but why on earth would they deny a man like Abdus Salam ? He, I think, is Pakistan's(?) only hope  Jon Ascton  (talk) 23:52, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Because Abdus Salam was a Ahmadi or "Qadiani", a group which denies the finality of prophethood of Muhammad, so that a large number of Muslims consider them to be non-Muslim. There are many Wikipedia articles about this, starting with Persecution of Ahmadis... AnonMoos (talk) 13:39, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It's a bit all encompassing to say no muslim..., in fact many are. There are schools of thought within Islam that tend to be hostile to progress, but that's not a hostility to science per se
ALR (talk) 08:19, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Are you kidding? No Muslims are scientists? Take a look at this. A heap of modern sciences is based on stuff Muslims in the middle ages researched. Heck, you can even tell from the terminology - as a rule, stuff beginning with "al-" was first named by Muslims scientists. You know, like algebra, alchemy, alcohol, algorithm... TomorrowTime (talk) 08:37, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Semantic quibble, but none of those Muslims are scientists. They were scientists. (talk) 12:32, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Jim Al-Khalili did a series for the BBC called "Science and Islam". Tell him there are no Muslim scientists!--TammyMoet (talk) 09:09, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Though he is an atheist. (talk) 12:32, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
You've listed two atheists and one agnostic or something. (Although the agnostic far outclasses the atheists as scientists, since they were only a sociologist and a psychologist, and were responsible for the unpleasantness of various socialist republics and Emma Eckstein's nose.) (talk) 12:32, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
It is worth noting that if Muslims lacked the ability or inclination to do any science, it would be pretty difficult for, say, Pakistan and Iran to pose the technological-based threats they currently seem to pose. Both countries, in any case, have voluminous scientific output, as does Turkey. What people are really disputing here is whether or not there are any "first rate" Muslim scientists as defined by the kinds of standards that relate to historical (20th century) Western science. It should be cautioned that this calculus might also make one believe that there are basically no scientists other than white males, a few white females, and a few Asian males. It is an approach that does not reflect the scientific discipline as a whole, but rather the way scientific accomplishments have been historically represented. It may represent the level of "innovation" among various groups at different points in our recent past — which have certainly changed quite a lot (for example, note the major shift in "important" scientific work from Europe to the United States following WWII) — but it hardly represents whether there are "scientists" in these groups. --Mr.98 (talk) 12:48, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
It has nothing to do with population genetics, and very little to do with religion directly, but many people notice things such as that it took Japan only around 80 years to go from its isolation being broken by Commodore Perry in 1853 to the work which won Hideki Yukawa his physics Nobel prize, while other societies which have had easier and more continuous access to the work of international scientists (if they were interested in it) have produced less impressive results over a rather longer period of time -- and when they finally did produce a world-class scientist (Abdus Salam), they spurned and scorned him in significant degree because his religious beliefs were "incorrect". It wouldn't be too far off to say that the last world-class Arab intellectual whose efforts were not confined solely to the literary and religious realms was Ibn Khaldun -- and the excuse of blaming all problems on those eeeevil Western colonialists and imperialists is starting to wear a little thin around about now... AnonMoos (talk) 13:57, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Well, to be fair, Western colonialism did have massive implications for the region, and Western imperialism was a major problem. We still lend support to fairly backwards monarchies and autocrats so long as they practice policies that are conducive to our financial and political interests in the region. We fed guns and explosives and guerilla training into some of the most volatile regions, for some of the most volatile groups. These are not exactly the most positive conditions for first rate "basic science", which is generally what we are talking about when we point out they don't have Nobel Prizes and things like that. Obviously a view that puts all of the Middle East's troubles at the hands of the West is too simplistic, but saying, "well, they've had a few decades of freedom, why can't they shape up already?" goes far too far the other direction (and is not even true). We're not talking about historical wrongs that go back to the Crusades as being the problem; we're talking about things that happened in the last two generations. --Mr.98 (talk) 19:57, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
I think I've quoted this before - possibly at you - but Dawkins' opinion of it is: "Gould carried the art of bending over backwards to positively supine lengths in one of his less admired books, Rocks of Ages." (talk) 12:03, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Dawkins said something negative about religion, or someone who doesn't despise religion? He smarmily disparaged a book that didn't insist that all religion is stupid, cannot exist in a mind that also does science, and directly causes killing? Stop the presses! Take notes! This is the evidence we've all be waiting for: guess we'll just have to give up this 'God' thing! All those people who claim to have religious faith while also carrying out science? They must just be lying, or don't realise they don't really believe in God, or have been fooled into thinking they are doing science. Dawkins has spoken! Seriously, that's like quoting Jack Chick's opinion of Harry Potter. (talk) 23:10, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
It sounds like you're defensively hating an imaginary version of Dawkins. It's a popular hobby. Mr. 98's summation, below, of the controversy over "non-overlapping magesteria", is reasonable. I quoted Dawkins, a noted critic of Gould, to illustrate that Gould is not necessarily deeply insightful but may in fact just be an equivocating tit. Of course, it doesn't behove me to take a position on the matter myself. (talk) 06:09, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It depends on your definitions of "religion" and "science." Plenty of learned and pretty intelligent people have come to different conclusions. Some people (Gould being a principle example on the scientist side) argue that they are non-overlapping magisteria — that they don't conflict, because they describe different things. A lot of people (Dawkins on the atheist side, plenty of others on the religious side) say that they do conflict, because they do both present incompatible accounts of the world.
There's no one right answer on this, and the question has been asked pretty explicitly for a very long time now. I think we can safely say, though, that some formulations of science do conflict with some formulations of religion. Some scientists have found their work to be incompatible with some religious beliefs. And the converse is true as well — some scientists have found their work to be supportive of, or at least not in conflict with, religion.
There are strong political motivations for all sides in saying that there is or isn't a conflict, obviously. One should be suspicious of any answers that seem to present it as an easy question. It's not. --Mr.98 (talk) 12:43, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

We have a whole article on the conflict thesis and nobody's mentioned it yet? Marnanel (talk) 12:54, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Nor has anyone mentioned the previous discussion, a few months back, on exactly the same question - buried somewhere within the archives. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:05, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
One factor is that many major religions require assent to an ancient book or body of writings considered authoritative. This is surely in direct conflict with the scientific principle of subjecting all assertions to objective tests. --rossb (talk) 15:38, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
If only such holy books contained instructions to test everything and only hold on to the good! Marnanel (talk) 15:48, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Though it has its limits, the Catholic Church to a certain extent has been a supporter of science, and has even apologized for the whole Galileo affair. See Evolution and the Catholic Church. So, no, I think not. Also, Islam was pretty into math and astronomy for a while, too. Aaronite (talk) 15:58, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Wow, that's great - it's critical rationalism in a nutshell, or even evolution - but does it mean I can test and throw out the preceding instructions which are no good, such as "do not treat prophecies with contempt" and "pray continually"? If only this book came with a handy appendix explaining the order of operations. (talk) 16:50, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Or to make my point in a less smartarsed way: you seem to have it backwards. Let's assume that if a person believes certain things in an ancient document (let's say the Nicene Creed), then it's reasonable to call them a Christian. That doesn't mean they decided to become a Christian and are believing in the statements in the Nicene Creed against their better judgement. Rather, after considering the statements in the Creed, they believe them to be true, and necessarily in so doing have joined the category of Christians. There is nothing stopping themselves asking whether the statements in the Creed are true, and they may decide that they are, or that they are not, in which case they may also stop calling themselves a Christian. (Of course, this has nothing to do with the scientific method, since none of the statements in the Creed are experimentally falsifiable anyway. But there are other reasons to believe things than the scientific method.) Marnanel (talk) 16:01, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I think Marnanel makes a good point. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith rather succinctly:

Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld

— Hebrews 11:1

The key is "the evident demonstration of realities..." In other words it is very clear that this is the actual reality to the believer. schyler (talk) 19:59, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

In plainer English, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (New International Version, Letter to the Hebrews 11:1. Or, in the Contemporary English Version, "Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see." Or, hey, Young's Literal Translation, "And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction," I think these are easier for most English-speakers to understand. What translation is yours? I'd usually assume King James when an English-speaker doesn't specify, and when the language is unnecessarily obscure, but that has "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.", so it isn't that. I'm especially curious given that your version introduces the idea of 'realities', and even 'demonstration of realities', absent from other translations. (talk) 22:56, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Or as Cesare Baronio said, rather succinctly "The Bible tells us how to go to Heavan, not how the Heavans go". --Jayron32 04:05, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Physical Exercises on Sabbath Day[edit]

Did the ancient Jews do physical exercises on Sabbath Day? What does the bible say about physical exercises on Sabbath Day? (talk) 11:59, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

    • The Gospels refer to this, in a number of ways. MacOfJesus (talk) 17:21, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
"Maybe you should read your Bible."
"Any particular passage?"
"Oh, it's all good."
LANTZYTALK 17:30, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
The Old Testament is a poor source for information regarding what can and cannot be done on The Sabbath Day. This is because details of all laws are absent and Jews follow the Shulchan Aruch, which is based on rabbinic commentary of Talmudic law that relates to the particular biblical verses one is interested in. In case you're interested in physical exercise in particular, you can check out The Shabbos Home by Simcha Bunim Cohen. Unless you assert that rabbinic Judaism is a distortion of reality, in which case you wouldn't be too interested in Cohen's work. You can check Maimonides, but he pretty much is in agreement with the later view of someone like Cohen, despite the modern Conservative Jew's claims that Maimonides practiced what now takes the form of Conservative Judaism. I don't believe that Christian theology dictates that ancient Jews did what Orthodox Jews do today, but I'm not sure. DRosenbach (Talk | Contribs) 19:45, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
    • I can indeed go through the Gospels finding the references outlining the context, but is anyone interested enough to care? Or is someone asking in order to rubbish my effort, with a preconceived notion. Sorry, if this does not apply here. Then you must be an exeption! MacOfJesus (talk) 19:55, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
    • The references, on this, from the Gospels, come in two different catagories: 1/ Travelling Preacher and his Disciples were hungry and ate corn on the Sabbath. 2/ Jesus curing/healing on the Sabbath, involving effort. MacOfJesus (talk) 21:19, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
    • Over the Bible, there seems to be a very different approach to law before the Temple was destroyed as to after. (The Book of Ezra), Ezra. MacOfJesus (talk) 21:40, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I question if the ancient Jews would have done much exercise for exercise's sake. Sports were considered a pagan Greek thing to do; one of the complaints of the Maccabees was that the Jews had begun engaging in games such as discus throwing (according to II Maccabees, which Catholics consider part of the Bible). According to Saul Berman, the Mishnah specifically condemns mud wrestling on the sabbath. ([4]). On the other hand, Yisroel Chait, a prominent American Orthodox rabbi, writes (in making a point), "A person could exercise vigorously all Sabbath, lifting weights for hours on end, without violating the Biblical injunction regarding the Sabbath, while throwing a splinter of wood into a fire would involve a major violation." ([5]). -- Mwalcoff (talk) 22:52, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Mwalcoff's evidence from the time of the Maccabees is persuasive. The ancient Israelites would have spent their sabbaths much as their modern day equivalents do - praying too much, eating too much, studying too much and trying to sleep too much. No doubt, they'd have been chatting round their dinner tables about the shortcomings of their local priest and how much better the one in the next town was. --Dweller (talk) 10:37, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Vagrancy Act 1824 (5 Geo. 4. c. 83)[edit]

I am developing the draft of an article on the Littleport riots of 1816 here. I have a statement summarised from a none WP:RS: "General unrest and riots such as that at Littleport may have been a factor[citation needed] in the government passing the Vagrancy Act 1824". Can anyone help find a RS for that statement or help derive a similar statement along the same theme? --Senra (Talk) 13:10, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

You forgot the wikilink prefix Ely and Littleport riots 1816--Aspro (talk) 13:57, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Yups. Sorry. Fixed --Senra (Talk) 14:20, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I would say that that website is just padding their text out on pure flight of fancy. Eight years is a long time to-update exiting acts and vagrancy acts pre-date by over a century. Also, the update appears to be concerning the behaviours of individual vagrants. See in blue: behaving in a riotous or indecent manner. I would have thought, that had legislation been written up in response to the Littleport riots, then an Act like the Riotous Assemblies (Scotland) Act 1822 was more appropriate. Therefore, should anyone fail to find a lack of a RS, I will not be surprised. This comment should really go on the articles talk page but of course it does not exist yet.--Aspro (talk) 15:18, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. I have no problem with you creating the comment on the article talk page. All comments welcome. The article will go to main space when it is in better shape :) --Senra (Talk) 15:47, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
There are some records at the National Archives: TS 11/1120 seems to be the main file for the prosecutions at the Special Assizes while TS/11/1027 records the prosecution of Henry Benson. HO 33/1/96 may also be relevant. Unfortunately the records of the Assizes in ASSI 31 are incomplete. Sam Blacketer (talk) 11:43, 7 September 2010 (UTC)

Am I a character in a novel?[edit]

Am I a character in a novel? I ask because I have been reading a novel by Muriel Spark, in which a character discovers that she is a character in it. So I am wondering: if I were a character in a novel, how would I know? Wikiscient (talk) 16:52, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

See Cogito ergo sum. -- kainaw 17:02, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
To put it semi-scientifically... Since we can't ever know anything with absolute certainly, what does your best evidence indicate? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:15, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
If the nature of being a character in a novel is in every way identical to being a character in real life, this has two consequences: firstly, there is no way to know whether the assertion is true or not, and secondly, there is no meaning to the assertion, so it doesn't matter. If, on the other hand, you are affected in some way by being a character in a novel - well, it's your idea (or Muriel's) so you'd know the precise details of how you are affected, and how to test for it; we wouldn't be able to tell you how. Solipsism is countered by this same argument. (talk) 17:19, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Even the most omniscient narrator usually doesn't know every single detail of a character's life. How often do you just sit around doing nothing? Why would a novel include that information? Life is boring and full of pointless details. (Actually, in that case you could be a Stieg Larsson character...) Adam Bishop (talk) 17:21, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
We know no more about being a character in a novel than we know about other things that we know nothing about. A character in a novel is not a person at all. A character in a novel is a composite of cliches that one person—a writer—uses in communication with another person—a reader. Bus stop (talk) 17:29, 2 September 2010 (UTC) Bus stop (talk) 17:24, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Go see Stranger than Fiction, which is about this. Staecker (talk) 20:53, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

No. You are a life form in a physical universe. But you should still see Stranger than Fiction (2006 film) because it's spectacular. Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 23:48, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I defy anyone to prove that you are anything other than a character in a novel. What difference does it make, in the long run? Edison (talk) 05:21, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Go with the best evidence you have. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:34, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
If I am in fact only a character in a novel, then the novelist must be simultaneously both a genius and a moron. A genius because I would be one of the most well-developed characters ever created in a book, and a moron because the novelist would have bored the reader to death long before I turned 2 years old. Googlemeister (talk) 13:38, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for all the responses, folks! And please also see my follow-up question, below. (I was expecting perhaps more of a postmodernist critique to this one, though, actually, this being the Humanities desk and all. Eg. didn't someone mention the fourth wall somewhere here recently...? I'm sure we would have gotten around to it eventually. Anyway, thanks again, question answered! :) Wikiscient (talk) 15:41, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Out of curiosity, if one was to become conscious that they are a character in a narrative, then certain notions/emotions would be rather difficult to express such as alienation.Smallman12q (talk) 23:36, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

MLitt/MSc (Scotland)[edit]

In Scotland, how does the MLitt degree compare to the MSc? The article on the MLitt says that it's the equivalent of the English MA; what is the MSc equivalent to in the English system? The Jade Knight (talk) 17:00, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

The MSc is the same as in the rest of the UK, so it is of roughly equivalent academic standard to the MLitt or English MA. Warofdreams talk 22:32, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
So what's the difference between the MLitt and MSc in Scotland? The Jade Knight (talk) 22:51, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
As stated in the article, the MLitt is the equivalent of an English MA - it is awarded in arts, humanities and social science subjects. The MSc is awarded in science and engineering subjects. Warofdreams talk 09:58, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
That doesn't seem to be true. For example, the University of Glasgow offers a great many taught degrees as either MLitt or MSc degrees (one example: You can get an MLitt in History, or an MSc in History). The Jade Knight (talk) 20:58, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It's broadly true. Universities don't always stick strictly to these definitions, and some have particular traditions of awarding certain titles for otherwise unlikely topics - for example, the London School of Economics awards little other than BSc and MSc degrees, even for subjects which would be likely to receive a BA, MA or MLitt elsewhere. Warofdreams talk 23:15, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Crest on UK royal proclamation[edit]

Does anybody know what the crest used here is? Thanks, ╟─TreasuryTagperson of reasonable firmness─╢ 13:23, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Seems to be a combination of the Edward crown, Tudor rose (England) and thistle (Scotland). It's a selection of symbolic elements, but I don't know that that particular combination has any distinctive name or special status... AnonMoos (talk) 20:34, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I can also see a leek (Wales) in there. (talk) 10:35, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Looking at the crest; the Crown in the centre. To the right of the Crown is the Rose of England surrounded by young buds still to flower. To the left of the Crown is the Leek of Wales and the Thistle of Scotland. I've just spotted the Shamrock below the Rose of England, to the Right of the Crown, representing Ireland. MacOfJesus (talk) 22:07, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

"Are you living in a computer simulation?"[edit]

Here is the abstract from the paper "Are you living in a computer simulation?" by Nick Bostrom in Philosophical Quarterly (2003), Vol. 53, No. 211:

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

I haven't read it since it came out, but plan to have a look at it again soon as I think it may have some bearing on a question I asked earlier today. Specifically I believe it argues that if I were living in a computer simulation, I wouldn't know it. Does the paper make a sound and convincing argument for that case?

Although it is the protocol here to not give medical advice, I can speak from personal experience that delving into these kind of theories is not good for the psyche. I myself was (and it sometimes still happens) that I am on a TV show. Try to focus on what really matters in life. schyler (talk) 21:58, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
[Meta-question (from the OP): is it really good policy at a Reference desk to discourage the question-asker from asking the sort of question asked...? Wikiscient (talk) 22:11, 4 September 2010 (UTC)]
Schyler, what do you mean ? Are you saying that you are under illusion that you are on a TV show while in reality you are not ? Or did you mean something else ?  Jon Ascton  (talk) 06:54, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
While this is meant to be humorous (I think?), is it really good policy at a Reference desk to discourage the question-asker from asking the sort of question asked...? Wikiscient (talk) 23:33, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Who do you mean when you say "question-asker", Schyler, OP or me ? If you mean me - no, I am not at all being humorous. I am confused by what schyler has said... Jon Ascton  (talk) 04:31, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
The entire point of such a question is to try and get at "what really matters in life." If you don't know whether reality is real or not, then what matters is not necessarily clear either. What you really mean is, "stop thinking about it, because it'll make your head hurt," which, while potentially true, is not philosophically satisifying. --Mr.98 (talk) 22:59, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't see the OP raising that aspect of the question, but it certainly seems to be the next step. I'll observe that "is reality real?" is not often a meaningful question. Anything which is functionally identical to reality (as we think of it), is reality. (And therefore, intriguingly, any crisis over the purpose of life, which we would experience if we knew we were living in a simulation, also applies to life as we know it, and needs to be met with arguments.) There is some meaning to the question in this context, because if we are in a computer simulation, it might not be completely functionally identical to our conception of reality - in other words, there's a threat hanging over our heads that one day our simulation might be switched off by the operators. However, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I hope they would do the morally right thing, whatever that is. (talk) 06:23, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Derealization is relevant and interesting, I think. (talk) 06:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I believe the appropriate answer to this question is mu. --Ludwigs2 23:07, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
I'd say the interesting follow-up question is, if we are living in a computer simulation that exactly simulates real life, and we are simply programmes in the machine, does that change anything? Does that actually mean you should do anything different, or treat anything as less real? That doesn't mean "stop wondering", because it can be interesting to wonder, and enlightening to investigate. But it does mean, don't worry about the implications, because if the simulation is so good that you can't find unambiguous evidence for it, you are in exactly the same situation as if it were real. After all, the reality you experience is a creation of your mind out of the electrical signals your sense organs send: a decent simulation is exactly as real as 'real' can be. (And I see GC below me has some very strange reasoning) (talk) 23:47, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

No. If the universe were simulated, there would be evidence that the forces we experience were not as evenly distributed as we observe them. Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 23:44, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps, or perhaps not, but in either case we would accept that as a truth about out universe, not as evidence of a simulation. As Wittgenstein pointed out, the one thing you can never determine is whether a standard is accurate. The standard is what we measure everything else by; there is no way to measure a standard against itself. to determine whether the universe was simulated we would need some standard outside of the universe against which to measure it; merely having such a standard would demonstrate that the universe was a simulation, and without such we can't say anything at all. --Ludwigs2 02:04, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Interestingly, there's a mathematical eqiuvalent of Wittgenstein's philosophy here, see Gödel's incompleteness theorems, the first states that all systems must contain statements which are taken as axiomatic, but which are unprovable by the system itself, and the second states that no system contains the tools to prove its own consistancy. We have to operate as though we can trust our interpretation of the world. We could all be living in the Matrix, but to assume so doesn't allow us to operate effectively within the world. In other words, we have to act as though the world is real; if it isn't, acting as though it isn't doesn't allow us to interact effectively with it anyways. --Jayron32 04:50, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
It is highly plausible and intuitive that our experiences and perceptions could as easily occur in a "computer simulation" as in "reality," If it were "all fake," what could we do about it? Many years before Bostrom wrote about this one of my professors agreed this scenario of us existing in a computer simulation was plausible, but said "If I stop pretending that I work as a professor, then the pretend university will stop issuing pretend checks, and soon thereafter I will feel hungry due to the lack of pretend food." Edison (talk) 05:16, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
I haven't read the paper either, so cannot comment on it. But I'd say the phrase "computer simulation" is potentially misleading, as it implies something possible with today's computers, or future computers not that different from today's. A reality involving billions, at least, of "AIs", in a vast and complex environment, is so far beyond today's computers that to use the term "computer simulation" is to invite readers to consider this feat less significant than it would be. I have no problem with the notion that we live in a reality created by superior beings. But you might as well call such a belief "religious" as much as "simultation". Pfly (talk) 06:36, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
you might like to read Chaotic system (talk) 11:39, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Why not ask Nick Bostrom to clarify? MacOfJesus (talk) 12:39, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

I would suggest reading the paper first. Really! It's hilarious. And sound. :)
Now that I have re-read it myself, I see what it was I wanted to use in response to the initial respondents to my first question. But as I am the one asking that question, and have now found a sufficient answer to it, it no longer seems too necessary to actually use it there.
Thanks for all the responses to both questions! :) Cheers,Wikiscient (talk) 14:11, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

In the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation the holodeck had fictional characters who learned they were only characters in a detective story adventure of Captain Pickard, The Big Goodbye. One had the existential crisis of asking Pickard what would happen to him, his friends and his family when Pickard left the simulation; would they just suddenly not exist? Pickard told him he "did not know." In a college newspaper there was a comic strip which was set to end (in reality) at the end of the schoolyear. Various characters in the strip "started a protest" against the end of the strip, stating that they simply "refused to stop existing," and that they would just "go on as if nothing had happened." One character said "What do you mean 'comic strip?' Aren't we REAL?" and the other said "Sorry. I thought you knew." "Real world" fictional characters getting into a "work of fiction" or "fictional characters" coming into the "real world" have been common themes in fiction, especially of the science fiction/fantasy genre. Tron is one example, in which a "real person" gets stuck into a computer game. My favorite is "The Island of Doctor Death and other stories and other stories" (yes, that is the title of the book) by Gene Wolfe. In one story "The Island of Dr. Death," there a boy who reads lurid fiction to escape from a bleak and boring life and a character from a story comes into his world and tells him "If a story is written well enough, the characters can become real to the readers- like YOU." This gives the reader a certain jolt. Some fiction has dealt with a character becoming aware that he is in a simulation, as in by noticing some flaw in the rendering of some part of the "world." In such works there may be ways the character can affect the simulation that would not apply in a "real world" akin to the secret codes used by players of computer war games to gain some advantage (like unlimited ammunition in their weapon. I suppose that such hacking would seem like "magic" or "miracles" in a "real world." I see computer simulations like The Sims and am convinced that it should be possible in the future to have characters in a computer simulation "believe they are real" as surely as we do. "Are You Really Alive? A Sims 3 Existential Crisis" (you can google the title to find the essay) suggests that we all might be "meat sims." Edison (talk) 14:27, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Another story of this type is "Non Serviam" from A Perfect Vacuum by Stanisław Lem (well, it's not really a story, but a review of a nonexistant book, but all the same ...) ---Sluzzelin talk 14:52, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Don't know how well known this is in the Anglophone world (i.e., not sure if it was ever translated), but the sequels Koji Suzuki wrote to his bestselling Ring novel (yes, the one the movie was made after, with Sadako coming from the TV set and all) all had a different twist - while the first book was essentially a revenge-of-the-pissed-off-ghost story, the third novel goes on to discover that we are all living in a computer simulation, and Sadako is basically a glitch in the system, a virus. Also, regarding what Edison wrote higher up about stories, there's always the wonderful The Neverending Story TomorrowTime (talk) 15:59, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

Town and country parks from urban sprawl?[edit]

At what is the label of the middle two segments of land utilization? Ginger Conspiracy (talk) 21:29, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

Could be "transporte". (talk) 09:41, 3 September 2010 (UTC)