21 March 2012

On Tolkien Berating Nazis, and my getting scooped.

One problem I have found myself facing as a blogger is my lax posting. I often have a great idea, or write a nice rant on a current event, only to find myself neglecting to post it, and it remaining in draft form long after the event has remained topical.
I bring this up because of this article over at one of my more frequent blog haunts, io9.com.
It’s only a short post, the crux of which is J.R.R. Tolkien’s reply to some German publishers who are looking to get a German translation of his masterworks produced. There is a great quote from the man himself directly to the cretinous Nazi’s.
The annoying thing is, during my research into Tolkien for my previous post regarding a Tolkienesque monogram I tried to design for myself*, I came across the Tolkien/Nazi missives and thought it was impressive, and would make for a cool blog.
And really, who is cooler than an old age Tolkien?
But gods damn it I was scooped; and it wasn't even a recent story!
Nonetheless, I will include the quote here for those who either haven’t read the link yet, or don’t plan to, along with a bit of commentary from myself.
The whole thing started in 1938, when German publishing house Rütten & Loening Verlag was getting ready to release a German language version of The Hobbit. Germany being well within the throws of Nazism at the time lead the publishers to enquire as to whether Tolkien was of Aryan descent. Being well aware of the situation in Germany, and no fan of the totalitarian Hitler (who he called a 'ruddy little ignoramus'), Tolkien wrote a letter to the publisher, first outlining the ridiculous etymological origins of the supposed “Aryan race” by pointing out to the witless Nazis that ‘Aryan’ is actually a linguistic term to denoting speakers of Indo-Iranian languages; and secondly by going to great length to not only rub his admiration of Jewish people in their face, but also to express his lament at what he sees as the degradation of German integrity at the hands of the Nazis.
Suck it Nazi's!
Unfortunately Tolkien wrote two versions of this letter and provided them to his British publisher; one was harsh and critical, the other more tactful. Tolkien instructed his publisher to decide what one should be sent, and he chose the more tactful missive. We will never know what that letter contained (as it was destroyed during the war), but I would like to hope that it still contained something similar to the below quote, taken from his more aggressive reply to the Germans race questioning:
“But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject—which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride”
I hope this was somewhat insightful.
*Props to one of my mates who read that previous post, and managed to get me an updated version of my monogram as a vector graphic, just like I wanted.
Cheers mate.

16 March 2012

On Moon Landing Evidence and the Dangers of Conspiracy Theories

2010 marked the year of extensive lunar mapping thanks to the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and as a result scientists and regular science loving people were quick to come out and use some of this new lunar photography to thwart an old foe, stuck firmly in the popular imagination: the Moon Landing Hoax conspiracy theory.
Back in September of last year images of the Apollo moon landing sites were released, which showed not only the remains left behind from the lunar landers, but also the tracks left by the astronauts themselves (as the moon has no atmosphere to disturb them after 40 odd years).

Then again last week another announcement was made which had one article boasting “refute this hoax lovers; more proof men totally walked on the moon”. This was in response to more images made public which show moonwalkers Pete Conrad and Alan Bean’s tracks from their sojourn to the Surveyor 3 probe while on the moon as a part of the Apollo 12 mission.
Now I love science as much as the next guy, and yes if I meet someone who entertains the idea of a moon landing hoax, I am quick to get an argument going (if only a friendly one). But it seems a bit odd to be touting this new evidence as being in any way convincing to those in the conspiracy theory camp.
After all, they are willing to dismiss photos apparently taken on the moon back in the 60’s-70’s; so why should we feel confident in debunking their theories with photographs taken remotely? Not to mention the more important fact that these new images were produced in the modern age of Photoshop and computer generated imagery. If anything, the release of these images is something that would have been long expected by any forward thinking hoax claimer. Of course NASA and the shadowy government conspiracy (which must be staffed with a lot of very old men these days) would have the ability to fake photos from satellite; after all they even placed laser reflectors on the moon to support their lie.
I wouldn’t even be surprised if when future people return to the moon, and the Chinese explorers there tour the remains of a once mighty America’s space efforts, that there would be people who still maintained that the landing was a fake, and any subsequent evidence was a party to this.
This is always going to be the case, as with most conspiracy theories there are pervasive elements at work that undermine our mental faculties. They are driven by wants and desires; generally of the kind where we don’t want something to be true. We don’t want to believe that an influential person like JFK, who seemingly had such a steadfast place in history set out before him, could be so easily taken from the world by the actions of a lone gunman. So we push our reasoning slightly aside, and delve into the conspiracy theory box to pull out something that agrees with how we want the world to be.
Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes once said “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”, which seems to capture the general idea, except that in this case the conspiracy theorist twists the facts to their theories when the alternate theories seem too impalpable.
This abandonment of rational thinking is a dangerous thing, as once you get rid of the tenets of evidence and logical thinking, you will find self referential confirmation and verification all too easily.

It reminds me of that other great conspiracy theory. The one that states that after we die we don’t actually cease to exist, but rather there is some obscure secondary existence awaiting us. Something that is hidden from the world as we know it, but nonetheless must be out there, because if it wasn’t, then we would have to live up to uncomfortable realities.
And the best part about conspiracy theories (and yes, religions too), is that it takes relatively little effort on our behalf in order to ascribe to them, and reap the mental benefits of believing our world is just that little bit better.
It is easy to assert that man didn’t walk on the moon, as you don’t have to give up anything, except perhaps the respect of a few more discerning people.
The problem with conspiracy theories, as with religion, is that you can evoke your powerful external force in order to explain away any objections to the theory. In the Moon Hoax example the external force is some form of government body who are either working to keep the lie undercover, or else have simply succeeded in their goal of fooling the world, and are now inactive.
In the case of most modern religions, the external force is much more potent, as any god can generally be said to have controls over reality, and thus any contrary evidence to the god’s theory can be explained away through magic. This is akin to how people used to claim (and some still do today) that the fossil record is a work of the devil, put there to fool man. The external powerful force at work.
Clearly the work of the devil
Once you start entering in these agents with seemingly limitless abilities, you can work your way around almost any rational argument, or contrary evidence.
This is the crux of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s theology, where any experiment or evidence which appears contradictory to the word of the Pastafarians only appears so due to the diligent manipulations of ‘his noodly appendage’.
So in closing, though I like these new images being produced from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, I don’t think it is wise to use this evidence in an argument against conspiracy theorists. Their bag of magic tricks can explain away anything that could be used as proof, especially now that the thing we are talking about is set firmly in the past, and beyond direct investigation.
Rant complete.

P.b. (post bloggedum) 
I also note that Russia has announced plans to get a cosmonaut to the moon by 2030. I guess second place in the space race is still quite an achievement, even if it would mark sixty years since the yanks beat them to it.
Then again, it might get crowded up there, what with the Chinese and Indians hoping to beat the Ruskies to it in 2025 and 2020 respectively.

14 March 2012

Wednesdays Words 6 - Literary Taste and Personal Development

“Once one is caught up into the material world not one person in ten thousand finds the time to form literary taste, to examine the validity of philosophic concepts for himself, or to form what, for lack of a better phrase, I might call the wise and tragic sense of life.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
I like this quote, and unfortunately feel that it describes me to a great degree. I haven’t taken the time to properly develop myself as a person to the extent that I would like to have if my situation had been ideal (read: was a millionaire with time to spare). I don’t know all the things I would like to know, I haven’t read the books I know I should have read, and I don’t fully understand my own views about the world I live in. I feel like I am making do with a minimal set of the information I would like to have in order to be content with my own personal sphere of knowledge.
Case in point: this very quote itself. I know of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I don’t know much about him. He was a writer I believe, active around the twenties, but I couldn’t name a book he was responsible for, and I know that there was a Zelda involved, but that this has nothing to do with Link.
This Zelda though, I know quite well
I find that rather than knowing important things, I know of important things. It is like my previous post on how I just don’t get poetry, yet I still have a tacit acceptance that it must be a worthwhile thing to know.
Literary taste is likewise something I have failed to cultivate. Though I possess an extensive knowledge of book titles which I should have read, or which nonetheless have some sort of literary significance; I have yet to move very far along my list of ‘books I need to read’. Brideshead Revisted, Wuthering Heights, anything by Hemingway, anything by suitably long dead Russians; the list goes on.
I know of these books, but I haven’t the slightest idea why they are important, or what the overall gist of their respective stories are.
Is it just me, or has this title always sounded more like a B-grade horror sequel than a literary work?
But the way that the modern world can overtake you is evident all over the place. I love chess, but I don’t play chess much anymore; I haven’t cultivated that part of my life anywhere near as much as I would want. I play with my son occasionally, but in order to fully embrace the game, I would have to devote far too much time to it. Let’s face it, in these days where a half hour of chess playing could be replaced with a scroll through Facebook activities, a read of my Twitter feed, a glance at the latest blog entries via RSS, a few informative and hilarious videos on YouTube, insightful commentary from Al-Jazerra or any other activities on the web; the ancient Indian game all but certainly loses the bet.
Or perhaps I can kill two birds with one stone? 
On the other hand, if we are to look at Fitz’s quote from a more modern perspective we might be tempted to dismiss it, or at least diminish its accusations, as somewhat anachronistic.
After all while it is no doubt true that the majority of the population will not form a literary taste as such, these days literature is not the only medium with which people can form a personal philosophical viewpoint.
Nowadays we can devote our attention to the multitude of movies out there, and slowly cultivate a unique cinematic taste, which may very well help us to plumb the depths of the human condition as much as any literary viewpoint would. We can similarly turn our attention to the small screen, which these days exhibits works of such complexity and daring that it is hardly worthy of the scorn so often associated with devoting time to watching the box.
But if there is any one tool which has emerged out of the past century as the superlative force in cultivating our own personal beliefs, tastes and philosophical development, it has to be the Internet.
And it's useful for pictures of people lying face down in various situations......
Nothing else can compare to the net’s ability to pervade every instance of our personality. You can read books online, turn to articles about them, read a blog, or take part in a discussion with people from across the globe. But considering the medium I am using for this message, this should be of no doubt to anyone reading.
Perhaps this widening of the information sphere is the reason for my thoughts regarding my own apparent lack in refinement. As there is so much more available to us in this information age, and our attention spans have been stretched much further than ever before, we in a sense dilute our tastes over a variety of knowledge sources never before experienced by anyone at any point in history. In this sense, a short attention span isn’t the worst thing in the world, for while it may result in a less thorough approach to whatever is being analysed at the time, it nevertheless allows for rapid transitions from one source of attention, knowledge or amusement, to another.
I mean sure I may not have much of an understanding of the great Russian authors, or the popular British novelists of the past few hundred years, but thanks to the internet I know such obscure things as the amazing abilities of animal penises, the curious nature of infinite numbers that differ in size and how to make a trebuchet out of office supplies. And this is only a small subset of the much larger experiences I have garnered from the venerable World Wide Web.
So while Fitzgerald may have been lamenting modern mans aversion to literary and philosophical development and self determination, I think it is somewhat encouraging that today we have a lot more tools available to the everyday man to help them in their quest through life.
That's all for this late night rant dear reader. I hope this makes up for the missed Wednesdays Words last week; whats more I hope someone noticed it was missing.
Good night all.

Oh and on a quick wiki, I see that F. Scott wrote The Great Gatsby. I haven't read it, but luckily come December this year I might not have to...

08 March 2012

AAAAAAAAAAAAA Quick Post on ‘Jumping the Gun’ in Classifieds

My aforementioned MS Paint skills at work anonymyzing mobile phone numbers.

I saw the above ad in the Courier today, and I couldn't help but comment on it here.
I don’t get it? I mean I get it, but on second glance, I don’t get why putting ‘1AAAAA’ was the strategy they chose.
I mean look at what they have elected to use; they clearly understand the concept of getting in on top based on the alphanumerical ordering system, hence the multiple A’s and single 1 in front of their ad proper. But it clearly didn’t work, because they forgot a couple of key points.
First, they forgot that there would be cars legitimately advertising their year model first (such as the pre-empting Mazda Astina), and which are thus numerically superior to a single 1. And secondly they forgot that no matter how many A’s you put after it, it is still going to the back of the line if anyone uses a single other letter past 1! I mean why include A’s at all, if you understand that a 1 pre-empts it? Did they think there would be a lot of 1BBBBBBB’s? Or 1AA’s? Yet they never considered a 11AAAA or the logical next step, 111AAA, then 1111AA, followed by 1111A and then eventually the far superior 11111?
Or perhaps they did it because they wanted to pack in a bit more legitimacy. After all people do use numbers to tell actual information about a car, as mentioned above, so perhaps they felt it would be a bit disingenuous to put 1111111 first, whereas people are so used to a bunch of A’s before an advertisement that it is no longer considered dishonest to jam them in front of your true advertising goal.
But hey, as I have said many times; I am prone to over thinking things.
I would however think that there would be an interesting study in here somewhere about the lengths of AAAAAAAA’s that people are willing to go to in their advertising.
At any rate, that is the end of my little rant on the subject.

06 March 2012

A mini-post on Rick Santorum and the Wrongness of the Religious Right

First a quick disclaimer. I understand this post is very U.S.-centric, and that it is mainly about an American who we (hopefully) will never have to deal with in the antipodes. But upon hearing some of the stuff I comment on below, I just couldn’t help myself. The U.S. religious right are just so much more amusing than our brand of Christian crazies over here. I am however open to any suggestions people might have as to who I should turn my attentions to here in Australia, but until then, enjoy:

Rick Santorum: 53 and still needs to label his cloths...
I was reading this great article over at Al-Jazeera about the American presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. It focuses particularly on his religious views, as he so often brings them into not only his public life but also his official one, stating such things as:
Comparing gay marriage, to beastiality;
“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”
Arguing for the state to be able to limit consensual sex (whether it be gay or unmarried);
“The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society”
Claiming that Satan controls Academia, and has it bent for evil;
“The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful, and first successful, was in academia. He understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were in fact smarter than everybody else, and could come up with something new and different, pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it, because they're smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell.”
And linking problems funding Social Security to the labour loss from abortions;
“The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don't have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion.”
The man has a lot to say, and it’s pretty obvious where his motivations come from.
Around about two thousand years ago it seems.
Needless to say, he is making good headway in the Republican primaries despite originally polling as a third tier nominee, and this late surge appears to be largely due to his conservatism; in particular his conservative religious views. This piece by Paul Rosenberg takes to heart some comments made by the former United States senator regarding the theology of Obama, and how Rick questions the religion he follows (they are both Christians, just different flavours). The author decided to turn Santorum’s inquisitional spotlight back on him, and promptly tears him apart as not only a hypocrite, but also a religiously motivated opportunist.
Anyhow for those interested in how the Republican race to try for president is going, I recommend you read it, but for those less interested, I will get to the true crux of this post.
The start of the article questions how much not only Rick Santorum, but also the religious right in general, actually follow their supposed religious principles. It uses the following quote from the Bible to highlight the disparity present in a lot of this conservatively based religion driven politics:
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."- Matthew 6:5-6
That’s right; it appears that at least in this portion of the Bible, Christians are implored to be modest and discrete in their prayers. They are told to confine it to their personal life, and perhaps not try and force it into schools for instance.
No doubt there are other sections of the Bible that take a different tack, and advocate aggressive prosthelytising. But hey, that’s the up side of having a religious text that was cobbled together over thousands of years, by many authors; you are able to pick and choose so that you can take on whatever contradictory views you like, and still feel a sense of divine authorisation.
Anyhow, that's was just a quick post to get me back into the swing of things after a long weekend of birthdays and buck's nights.
Hope you enjoyed it, see you in the comments.

02 March 2012

My Tolkien Inspired Monogram

Years ago when I first discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and enveloped myself in the world of Middle-Earth, I was intrigued by the little symbol on the spine of the books Tolkien had written. My edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are both bordered by Dwarf runes (which I decoded with relish), and feature the mark of Tolkien’s estate, his own personal monograph, on the spine.
For those who don’t know, this is the mark I am talking about:
I haven’t been able to uncover much information on this symbol, and I suppose there probably isn't much to find. It is after all a simple monogram, a combination of the author’s famous initials, and now symbol of the venerable Tolkien estate.
Back in the day I was quite the MS Paint wiz (I still am to this day, but it is less to be proud of now), so I resolved to create my own initial based monogram. After a lot of searching at themeWorld.com for the appropriate font (what I hoped was the somewhat Tolkienesque ‘Viking’), and a few minutes with Paint, I created this:
My initials are MJM in case it wasn’t clear enough
I have been quite happy with this over the years, adding it discretely to my documents, web pages, resume and so on. It even made its way onto my work email signature until this was deemed ‘inappropriate’...
Anyhow, I decided to break it out again for this blog, when I noticed how dated it is looking. Not the design itself, but rather the image that I saved. It was a lovingly crafted bitmap made with my own two hands (well one hand, with one clicking finger), but as a result its edges are a bit jagged. I worked this picture to life with a studious carving of pixels after all, not the vector based graphics of this millennium.
So I am interested in updating, and was wondering if anyone has any idea what programs would be good for making a vector graphic version of this symbol?
Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook, or wherever you find my digital presence.

01 March 2012

Wednesday’s Words – Free Will

I have decided to add a little descriptive section to my Wednesdays Words title this past few weeks because my previous entries were turning into quite long and rambling discussions on a certain topic, rather than just the quotes that spurned them forth. This has again happened this week, with a seemingly innocent quote regarding free will launching me into a diatribe against the free will argument as it is applied by religious apologists.
What can I say; I am missing my regular Christian debates now that Facebook has disabled their old discussion boards. Nevertheless, I hope this is somehow engaging. Enjoy!

“We have to believe in free will. We’ve got no choice” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

The idea of free will has always been interesting to me.
Looking at the world from our inevitable first person bias, our own will seems all but indisputable. Yet by the same token there are things in me that I cannot control, things that appear to be beyond the purview of my will, but which nevertheless I would consider an integral part of myself.
For instance the love I have for my wife and son is not something I have brought about due to my will, but it is nevertheless something I consider a core part of my being. Much more so than other things which are a part of me, but not subject to the whims of my free will. Things such as my automatically beating heart, or my preference to cry, if I have been sufficiently hurt.
I, like Dawson, am only human after all
But then the limits of what we mean by our will are also not so easily defined. I like to think of my will as my ability to deliberate in my own mind, to come to decisions and then to act so that these things are brought about. However as mentioned above, any decisions I make are inevitably based on further components of what I consider as central to my being. I can’t will that I love my wife, but I can will to marry her, and to devote myself in this way.
It’s like Schopenhauer said, “a man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”.
Another reason why we find free will as central to our views on life is because it inevitably links in with our concepts of responsibility. I can be held accountable for things only if they arise from my own free will, and are not forced upon me by others.
However free will is also a common scapegoat when it comes to one of my other interests; atheism/religion debates.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
The above quote is one of the more formidable and pressing arguments against the existence of certain kinds of gods in our universe. This is often referred to as the ‘Problem of Evil’, and is generally credited as being put forth by the ancient philosopher Epicurus, though it may date even further into antiquity than he.
The argument has retained a place in modern culture, well within the realm of the everyman, because of a few defining qualities it possesses. For starters it is simple; everyone can remember it, and it walks forward in a nice syllogism, with steps we can all follow. It is also very pertinent to our daily lives, with the evidence of pain and suffering evident across the globe to any caring person.
There are arguments against the existence of god (or for it) that delve too far into philosophical parlance, so that we have to try and understand concepts like ‘necessary agents’, or ‘parsimonious existence’,  before we can even begin to ponder the questions themselves. But the problem of evil argument is put forth in a way everyone can understand.
It is a burning question for people trying to reconcile the way the world is, with the way gods are presented to them. If a Christian puts forth the idea of their god as a loving god; one who is all-powerful and keenly interested in the affairs of man, then there appears to be a contradiction at play when you fail to see this divine agent acting out to alleviate the ills of the world. [Then there are I suppose the worst cases of Christianity, where they ascribe natural disasters to the very same gods capricious wrath.]
So we must ask ourselves why these actions aren’t taking place; is the god unwilling or unable.
It is at this point that we find the interjection of free will into the argument, as rather than addressing the question directly, religious proponents seek to skirt the problem altogether.
Their answer: There is evil in the world, because there is free will.
Here religious apologists seek to connect some of the worst factors of existence with arguably one of its finest; with our ability to think independently, and act of our own accord.
There is evil in the world because we have our own free will, and the only way to stifle this evil, to stop it at its core, is to withhold that very same will. To take what is free, and bind it in the staples of religious dogma.*
I prefer this kind of Dogma
Something important to consider however is that not all restrictions of will are violations of free will. This is especially worth noting, as if we are to grant these gods the credit for designing the universe, then these limits on our will must be intentional, and part of the design.
As an example of restriction of will, versus removal of free will, consider a prisoner. We have restricted his will (statistically it is a he); he cannot leave his cell, he cannot choose his meals, and he cannot run for political office. However this is a restriction upon his exercising of this will; not of the will itself. He can still will these things to happen; he just cannot make them happen. If we were on the other hand to subject him to a bit of advanced neurosurgery so that even though his cell door was open, he was unable to will himself to walk through it, we have taken away some of the freedom of his will. [Does that even make grammatical sense?]
But then if we want to apply this kind of thinking to a creator god, we have to ask a lot of incisive questions regarding not only the motivations of the god, but also the nature of creation.
Under the free will explanation for the existence of evil in the universe we have a god who allows evils to take place, because it feels that this freedom of will is more important than freedom from suffering. Generally in a theological sense this freedom must be present so that we humans have the ability to choose to worship a god freely, because apparently these gods prefer voluntary submission to some form of mandatory one. Its smacks of egoism to me, but anyhow.
We thus find ourselves with the ability to do evil actions, but also to choose to do good actions. Evidently some will choose to do evil over good, and we arrive at the world we are in today.
Now ignoring the fact that Christians believe everyone must choose evil actions at some point (which is either a violation of free will, a design flaw, or else a misunderstanding of statistics), I will instead focus on the curious fact that these evil choices are even presented to us at all.
I say presented to us, because the mere presence of free will does not mean there must intrinsically be evil options to choose from. After all, this creator god is apparently (or at least in most cases) all powerful, all knowing and perfect. So when creating the world we live in, there was a deliberate design in all the options that are available to us.
Looking at this critically it brings up some unpleasant realities, as this means that things like murder, rape and physical abuse had to have been systematically made possible from a physical and biological standpoint.
Why is it I can use my free will to batter a man to death, but I can’t employ the same free will to psychically slay him with my brain powers? It’s because such things are not possible in the physical realm we reside in.
It may seem a ridiculous point to argue, but it is something that needs to be addressed. Because just as I can posit a world where we have extra abilities, and thus room to commit more evils, I can likewise hypothesise a world where such physical killings are made impossible not through the removal of free will, but rather due to a physical restriction on certain actions within the physical world. Such a world would be preferential int he sense that it contains not only less evil, but less possible evil.
Then there is the fact that you could still have a world with free will, but protect the innocent from harm. Take murder for instance. Murder is evil, is a sin, and with rational reasons behind it. However one need not remove the ability to murder in order to eliminate the suffering caused by murder.
This god could stop you stabbing someone by turning the knife into a fish. It could prevent a shooting death by making the bullets disappear. True this hypothetical god intervening universe would then lead to a lot more questions (would guns have even been invented for instance) that I don’t have room to go into here. But the fact remains that the will to do evil does not require that actions are allowed to be taken through to fruition. This is why we have attempted murder charges after all.
At any rate, I think this ramble has gone on far too long, and perhaps I best save my atheistic arguments for a more dedicated post. There is evidently a lot to say on the subject of free will, and its place within the atheist/theist debate, and I would be interested in any comments here.

*Disclaimer: I have spent long enough debating online and in person with religious people to know that it is worth making a distinction here before people accuse me of generalisation. Being an atheist, I have to argue against not just one form of theism, but all forms of theism, and as a result there are no doubt theists out there who don’t share some of the values I am ascribing to them here. So I will make myself clear now., I am not saying that the views expressed in this post as belonging to theists must belong to all theists. I am arguing against a theistic argument, not against all theism. I simply omit pointing this out overtly throughout the post, as it becomes a bit tedious to always be saying, ‘a subset of theists’, or ‘theistic evolutionists’ or some other such group within theism. If you don’t agree with the form of theist I am presenting, don’t assume it is a straw man argument; instead recognise it as an argument against some other form of theist.
That was a damn long disclaimer...