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Silence Exile and Crumpets
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Sunday, February 12th, 2006

Time Event
There are a very few occasions when conceit takes me more or less into ecstasy. One of those occured this evening when I was looking for BSG plot summaries and discovered that one of the BSG sites is called Big Dumb Object. This is a critical term I created back in 1981 or so - the consensus seems to be that no-one came up with it before me - to cover the phenomenon of sf novels which were set in a vast artefact which was at once setting and McGuffin, like the Ringworld or Rama.

And look, I find myself saying when people use the term in novels, or for websites, my baby is all growed up and walking in the worlds...
A slow examination of my conscience in the course of which I will try to keep my temper
Clearly I am not the free speech fundamentalist I sometimes think I am, because, as my friend Shutters points out in his comments to the Sacranie post of a couple of weeks ago, I do seem to think that people have some sort of duty - albeit not one to be enforced by law - not to offend gratuitously in polite society.

As biascut points out, the idea is being pushed in some circles that free speech advocates are fundamentalist secular liberal believers and morally and intellectually equivalent to Islamists and fundamentalist Christians. Now, clearly, inasmuch as liberal humanism is a slowly evolving work in progress rather than a set of ideas carved in stone, it is always possible to point to failings on the part of secularism that make this plausible - I'd welcome some comments to this effect, because I think them highly relevant. In what follows behind the cut, I don't define secular liberal humanism for precisely that reason. I would argue, however, that what I mean by it is a set of thoughts and behaviours that are sceptical, rational and humane, in which we examine not only ideas but also their practical consequences and question our own motives as much as those of others.Collapse )

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