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Offending Religiosity

Posted on January 1, 2008, in Philosophy, Programming

In my recent post, I made the following introductory statement:

Scala is a far superior language to Java.

Sadly, but most predictably, some people took issue with this fact. It seems I have “stepped on someone’s meme” so-to-speak. Programming languages, unfortunately, have formed cliques who defend their territory with classic religious devotion.

It is certainly not difficult to conceive two programming languages where one is inferior to the other, and so long as neither language has any devoted followers, it is acceptable and makes perfect sense to anyone willing to hear it. I invent a language called Plus and it has one function + and integral literals; I invent another language PlusMinus and it has two functions, + and - and integral literals also. PlusMinus is superior to Plus.

We can traverse the futile path of “Actually, whether PlusMinus is superior to Plus depends on whether - is of any value. The non-existence of the - function in Plus may make it superior under some circumstances”, but I’m hoping, perhaps too optimistically, any objectors can see straight through this misnomer.

It is cases like these where the similarities to the typical religious organisations becomes astounding. I am charged with religiosity, because I am completely atheistic (i.e. null hypothesis) about my meme membership, by those who themselves are more religious than ever! Something about pots, kettles and blackness seems apt here. Furthermore, it is quite often the case that when the charges roll in, in defence of Java, those making the charges know Java quite poorly anyway (most so-called Java programmers do in my observations) – another religious theme that seems to be deeply embedded.

The status of “Java” has been artificially elevated by its groupthink members such that any attack or suggestion of inferiority is reviled, even if the suggestion is perfectly rational and able to be supported with evidence. I could simply discredit their understanding of their belief system by demonstrating how little they know about it (I am always surprised at how easy this is), but it does seem somewhat distasteful. Alternatively, I could present aforementioned evidence, only to have it (predictably so) misunderstood and misrepresented in various forms of logical fallacy.

No, I’d rather work toward abandoning religiosity itself and demonstrating that reason trumps. After all, like most religious memberships, I don’t think these charges have any kind of malicious intent or deceptive techniques behind them, invoke Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.