…recommended by 4 out of 5 surveyed seasoned programmers…

In a thread on the Google Group dedicated to discussing languages hosted on the JVM (i.e. Scala, Groovy, JRuby, et al.), it was asked by a fellow named Jon Harrop whether something like F# (an OCaml / Standard ML derivative that targets the .NET CLR) would find any traction if it were made available for the JVM. Well, some unremarkable discussion ensued about the costs associated with developing languages, how existing efforts attract funding, etc., and then things turned towards the question of “Why not just use Scala?”, since Scala does fold in a lot of functional programming primitives.

Mr. Harrop’s replies centered on various aspects of ML-style languages that he misses in Scala, and aspects of Scala that he finds irritating. All fine and good — hey, everyone has their own preferences — until he unveiled this nugget (emphasis mine):

OCaml and F# have shown that ML’s approach to structured programming using modules, variant types and pattern matching and extensive type inference is almost always preferable to OOP. When given the choice between OOP and FP, seasoned programmers rarely choose OOP.

Zealotry isn’t anything new — you can probably find inverse statements right now in some Smalltalk newsgroups, or someone agitating about the uniform superiority of s-expressions in a Lisp or Scheme forum. The odd thing about this is that Mr. Harrop is not exactly a random troll — he seems fairly well-respected in the F#/OCaml/ML community, is a prolific writer, and looks to be writing a book on F# for Microsoft Press.

Stuff like this makes the whole facade about software development being akin to engineering even more farcical than one might initially imagine. Can we please recognize that there is a difference between spirited advocacy and demagoguery? I’ve certainly been guilty of the latter on occasion (usually much to my later regret), but it’s particularly irksome to find those that are apparently unaware of the distinction at all.

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