Monthly Archives: May 2012

atheism

I’ve been an atheist most of my life, and I find it very strange when people don’t understand.

So, this article will try to explain why I am an atheist.

First, we need to define what a “god” is. Incredibly, this first step annoys some people! When I ask people what they mean by “god”, they say things like “well, you know…” (no, I don’t), or “what do you mean?” (was I not clear?).

Let’s define a god based on the most common christian beliefs:

Each one of these criteria is incredibly unlikely.

Seven Day Creation

The first one, “Can create a whole universe in 7 days right down to animals” is easily disproved.

By simply looking at the night sky, measuring the distance of stars and how the further stars are from us, the more their light is shifted to the red, we can measure the age of the universe pretty confidently to about 13.75 billion years.

That’s not 7 days. And if the religious apologists reply by starting “well when the bible says ‘days’, what it means is …” – stop right there. If the bible said “days”, then the bible meant “days”. Otherwise the bible is incorrect.

Self-creation

Next, we have “can create itself”.

Obviously, it is possible for something to come from nothing. This is self-evident.

Things that exist either existed forever, or they came into being from nothing.

The idea that everything that exists has always existed was believed for a very long time, but it causes a load of unanswered questions, such as why, after an eternity of existence, everything is not either compressed to a single un-moving point, or spread out to a completely uniform volume.

The idea that things can come from nothing causes a few questions as well, such as “how?”.

Combining the two, modern science shows that something can come from nothing, through a quantum effect called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and yet the sum total energy still equals zero. In other words, the universe is both eternal, and yet its material can have emerged a set length of time ago.

On the religious side, Christianity does not believe in an eternal universe. If the universe is eternal, it does not need a creator, and therefore there is no need for a god.

Christianity believes that something can be intentionally created from nothing. They say that God created himself from nothing (example 1), and then created the universe from nothing (example 2).

So, based on two explanations of how things can come from nothing, we have a choice of which to believe.

Choice 1:

  1. God intentionally created God from nothing.
  2. God then created the universe from nothing.

Choice 2:

  1. The universe emerged naturally from nothing.

Occam’s Razor suggests that when given the choice between two explanations, you should choose the one that is the least complex.

Even if there were no God, the universe would have created itself from nothing anyway. Quantum mechanics ensure this.

We do not need to invoke a god to create a universe.

Creation of Life

According to the bible, God simply created life one day. As simple as that.

And then after all of the animals were created, a human male was created. From clay.

And then a human female was created. From the male’s rib.

Compare that to the idea of evolution, where simple molecular reactions “evolve” over time through competition to eventually become the hugely diverse life-forms that cover the planet today.

I don’t even know why I need to explain this one. Seriously – created from clay? And a rib?

Evolution is the only viable explanation for life and its huge variety.

Everything else is fairy-tales.

Selectively Infinite Caring

Priests say that “God loves us, every one”, and then they claim that you will go to hell if you don’t worship him.

As an aside: in 1999, Pope John Paul II changed the Catholic church’s stance on Hell, demoting it from an actual place to a mere state of being. This changed 2000 years of supposedly infallible truth that Hell was a place.

I guess “infallible” doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to them.

Anyway – apparently, God sees everything and knows everything, and cares for all of his children, but only those that worship Jesus.

This means that, if the christian God exists, then every person that has never heard of Jesus, or that doesn’t believe he is the son of God, will be punished eternally.

Yeah… right.

Personally, if I created a universe (for example, a computerised simulation), I really don’t care about the individuals. I might find the civilisations interesting, but the individuals are not interesting.

Similarly, for someone studying ants does not find any individual ant interesting, but the colony would be fascinating. Even if they do focus on an individual ant, it’s not that specific ant that they are interested in, but the type of ant it is (soldier, queen, worker).

And even if any individual was interesting, why is their belief somehow a criteria for whether they should be rewarded or not?

Summary

Well, there it is.

So, I don’t believe in gods for the simple reason that I don’t see any compelling evidence that gods (of any type) exist.

split testing

I wrote a split-testing plugin (also known as “A/B testing”) for my CMS early last year. It wasn’t very good, so I wrote an external split-testing tool instead, which you can you for your own websites if you want.

Split-testing application

It works similarly to Google’s “web optimiser”, but I think it’s easier to use.

As a test, I chose to optimise the front page of KV Sites, to see if I could encourage people to contact me or read other pages on the website.

In particular, I wanted to see if it was better to explain what I do, or to assume that the reader knows and just wants to get on with.

As an example, consider the following two extracts:

Indirect speach – explaining what I do
Web Development
Reduce costs by automating and networking your business.
Proven record, with a number of large projects completed. Example projects include Duffy Transport's management application, the crop prediction software used by Cropworks, ongoing development of the WebME CMS, and technical support for a number of projects by other web development companies.

vs.:

Direct speech – asking what the reader wants
I am looking for Web Development
If you are looking for an online solution which to reduce your office expenses, we have experience writing solutions which can cut hours of work per day off your load. Read more about our web application development here.

It seems obvious that the direct speech version would work better, but when your job is involved, it’s better to be certain than to work based on assumptions.

So, I set up a split test. On the homepage of KV Sites, I sent the HTML for both versions to the browser, and set the different versions to display randomly using CSS.

Each version includes a “more info” link (of sorts), so I added the “conversion” code (which records when people go to the page you want them to) to the pages they were linked to, and started recording.

It took a few weeks for the information to come in, as my site does not have heavy traffic, and I didn’t want to artificially boost it in any way, but here’s how it turned out:

Name Visitors Conversions
front page direct marketing 237 v2: 12
v1: 24

It’s obvious from the above that “v1” (the direct speech one) is twice as effective as “v2” (indirect speech).

I’m very encouraged by these results. They mean that it is possible to both a) improve “conversions” based on text changes, and b) provide numbers proving those results.

This year’s Féile Oriel sucked

Féile Oriel this year is crap, in my opinion. We went into town today to see what was going on.

The Market House had a few violins in it. Well, my house has a few violins as well. There were two interesting violins. One had a long neck and only one string. I imagine it’s played something like the Chinese erhu. I asked what it was. The guys that were managing the exhibition didn’t know. I then spotted a violin that had a very interesting shape for its top plate – there was a deep scoop just inside the arches. I asked why that was. I was told “I don’t know – they’re just different”.

We were looking forward to the “try it out” shop that they’d had last year, where the owner of a local instrument shop would bring a load of things into a vacant shop and let visitors come in and try them out. We were then told that it wouldn’t be on this year.

So, I asked Bronwyn if the website had said anything about what’s on. She said no, that there /were/ some things mentioned, but generally things that you have to pay into.

We found some music finally outside the Westenra hotel. Boann had a great time dancing.

Then we noticed there was a session going on inside the hotel and went in, in the hope that we could sit down for a few minutes with a coke or lemonade and listen. The musicians were all in the reception area, where we couldn’t stand and listen as that’s where people come in and out. So i took the kids in to the seated area. We couldn’t hear the musicians at all from there – just some football that was on a TV. the kids wanted some food, so we got sandwiches and then went home.

I then checked the website, and found that Bronwyn was right:

– under Musical Events, it mentions /one/ thing on today and /one/ thing on tomorrow, and doesn’t give a time for either.
– There is a link for Sessions, and the link is to a broken page.
– under Other Activities, there’s a busking competition mentioned. well, my guess is that there won’t be any winners this year, because there weren’t any buskers that I could see!

All-in-all, the day sucked.