Weekly Link Roundup #14

It’s that time again, time to add another Weekly Link Roundup to all the previous ones. Here’s the breakdown: first I summarize this week’s happenings on the blog, and then I break out some links.

First to report is that I am still in the middle of my NaNoWriMo 2011 Experiment to see if I can write fifty thousand words and thirty blog posts by the end of November. Upon the completion of this essay, I have written 21784 words (43.57%) and written 12 posts (24%). Adding in my responses to people’s comments, I’ve written 26442 words.


Second, a recap of this week in essays. I started out on Sunday by continuing my series on Morality with “The Meaning of Ought, Part II”, which investigated how the term “ought” is used in various ways within our language.

On Monday, I wrote the “The ‘Why Do We Care?’ Test” about how we can untangle a lot of confused definitions by asking why we care so much about the outcome of our definition.

On Tuesday, I wrote about “The True Fear of Being Wrong”: while figuring out your wrong is never a bad thing because it lets you more properly align your beliefs with the truth, being wrong can be very much a bad thing because many harmful acts of the greatest magnitude are done out of ignorance.

On Wednesday, I wrote “God, Babies, Hell, and Justice” that went straight to the theological conception of Hell found among Christianity and Islam and challenged it as horrendously unjust and a demonstration that the God they worship is not actually all-loving.

On Thursday, I wrote about “The Curious Case of Detached Value” in which we keep preforming an action that once upon a time was connected to a good reason, but now no longer is.

Lastly on Friday, I continued again my morality series by writing “The Meaning of Ought, Part III”, which used hypothetical imperatives to resolve confusion about how we justify a claim that someone ought to do something. I then outlined a problem with morality known as the Problem of Ought: specifically, moral action can only be compelling if it can be proven to be what we actually ought to do.


Third and finally, now for the links. As always:

(1) the links are also ordered so that the ones I like most are at the top, for those who don’t have time for all the links… but for those who do have time, I think all of them are worthwhile.

(2) The Link Roundup category has close to 150 more links among previous Link Roundups if you need the extra distraction.

(3) I don’t necessarily agree with everything said by these links, I just post what I find to be interesting and well-written.


  • The Armor of God, or, The Top One Reason Religion Is Harmful: “Religion is ultimately dependent on belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die. It therefore has no reality check. And it is therefore uniquely armored against criticism, questioning, and self- correction. It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality… and extreme, grotesque immorality.”
  • A Ghost in the Machine – The Existence of the Soul: “As a practical matter, it should be easy to judge between dualism and materialism, because unlike most religious doctrines, the notion of the soul is an idea that would seem to have testable consequences. Specifically, if the human mind is the product of a ‘ghost in the machine’ and not the result of electrochemical interactions among neurons, then the mind should not be dependent on the configuration of the brain that houses it. In short, there should be aspects of the mind that owe nothing to the physical functioning of the brain.”
  • The Trouble With “Good”: “I am a normative utilitarian and a descriptive emotivist: I believe utilitarianism is the correct way to resolve moral problems, but that the normal mental algorithms for resolving moral problems use emotivism.”
  • The “Intuitions” Behind “Utilitarianism”: “Among other things, if you try to violate ‘utilitarianism’, you run into paradoxes, contradictions, circular preferences, and other things that aren’t symptoms of moral wrongness so much as moral incoherence.”
  • Something to Protect: “Similarly, in Western real life, unhappy people are told that they need a ‘purpose in life’, so they should pick out an altruistic cause that goes well with their personality, like picking out nice living-room drapes, and this will brighten up their days by adding some color, like nice living-room drapes.”
  • Missed Opportunities for Doing Well by Doing Good: “The question now arises: if you, the reader, donated substantially more than you usually do with a view toward maximizing your positive social impact, would you become happier? Maybe, maybe not. What I would say is that it’s worth the experiment. An expenditure on the order of 5% or 10% of one’s annual income is small relative to one’s lifetime earnings. And the potential upside for you is high.”
  • Bombs, Bridges, and Jobs: “A few years back Representative Barney Frank coined an apt phrase for many of his colleagues: weaponized Keynesians, defined as those who believe ‘that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.’”
  • Magic Versus Metaphysics: “A third is the suggestion that theism entails a belief in “magical beings.” Anyone who says this either doesn’t know what theism is or doesn’t know what magic is.”
  • Not by Empathy Alone: “Not only is there little evidence for the claim that empathy is necessary, there is also reason to think empathy can interfere with the ends of morality. A capacity for empathy might make us better people, but placing empathy at the center of our moral lives may be ill‐advised.”
  • The Profession and the Crisis: “As I see it, there are three main complaints one can make about economists and their role in the current crisis. First is the complaint that economists fell down on the job by not seeing the crisis coming. Second is the complaint that economists failed even to see the possibility of this kind of crisis — and that by pointing out the possibility, they could have helped head the crisis off. Third is the complaint that they have either failed to offer useful advice on what to do after the crisis struck, or that they have offered such a cacophony of voices as to provide no useful guidance for policy.”
  • Science Controversies Past and Present: “Although nearly all experts accept that the greenhouse gases emitted by humans have caused significant warming to the planet and will likely cause much more, only about half the US public agrees, even after years of heavy media coverage. How did we get into such a mess? What are the implications for science, for how it should be communicated, and for how debates should be interpreted? Some insights may be gained by noting that global warming is not the first ‘inconvenient truth’ in physics.”
  • Echo Chamber or Picking Fights – Atheists Just Can’t Win: “f atheists spend time in religious public forums, and engage with religious believers… we’re picking fights. And if atheists don’t engage with religious believers, and spend most or all of our time with other atheists — we’re living in an echo chamber. Is there any way we can win?”
  • Herman Cain, Outlier: “Has there ever been a candidate with such strong polling but such weak fundamentals? Almost certainly not, at least not at this relatively advanced stage of the race.”
  • Reality Check – What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?: “Below I’ve put together all thirty theses (so far) that most Christians agree on and why they are all improbable”
  • Why I Do What I Do: “And to everyone else reading this: Atheist activism works. Making arguments against religion works; coming out as atheist works; creating atheist communities works. If a lifelong evangelical like Brad can question and possibly let go of his religious beliefs, we should never assume that it’s a waste of time.”


I now blog at EverydayUtilitarian.com. I hope you'll join me at my new blog! This page has been left as an archive.

On 12 Nov 2011 in All, Link Roundup. No Comments.

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