Weekly Link Roundup #21

After finishing up celebrating the best of Weekly Link Roundups #1-#20, it’s time to get into the normal swing of the roundup with the 21st! Given that I took another week off, allow me to use this time to summarize the happenings on this blog for the past two weeks, and then provide you with a sizable helping of links.

 

Essays!

On Monday, I took to responding to a large amount of commentary by writing “Continuing Comments on Randomness and Naturalism”. Here, I spent a record ~5000 words responding to a large amount of comments that had come up in discussing the nature of quantum mechanics and whether or not the randomness that is alleged to be introduced by QM (1) exists and (2) is enough of a basis to reject naturalism. I defend naturalism by arguing that (1) it does not and (2) it isn’t.

On Wednesday, I continued my series on both morality and the Problem of Evil with “Is God Good, Part II”, which is the very final essay written for the Problem of Evil section. I think that I now have a definitive articulation of why God should be considered malevolent if such a character exists, and how we can use God’s counterfactual malevolence as a disproof of certain religions like Christianity.

On Friday, I started an analysis of the famous Stop Online Privacy Act in “What’s Up With Sopa?, Part I”. I consider this my personal protest against SOPA because I demonstrate that even when you factor out the intentional and unintentional misrepresentation of the facts, SOPA still emerges as a bill we should not support because the costs greatly outweigh the benefits.

 

Discussion!

During the first week, the conversation about quantum mechanics and randomness, and their implications on the tenability of naturalism continued on the essay “The Twelve Reasons I Don’t Believe in Supernatural Claims, Part I”. As soon as I wrote “Continuing Comments on Randomness and Naturalism” I asked this conversation to move to the new essay, and it did. The conversation continued there throughout the second week, becoming very lengthy and involved. I invite more people to participate and I definitely intend to follow up here myself!

Also during the second week, discussion began on my final post in the Problem of Evil series, “Is God Good?, Part II”. A commenter by the name of Patrick articulated a “Theodicy from divine justice” and a commenter named Tom Mitchell articulated a somewhat non-serious view of individuals as necessary losses for the survival of society. I intend to follow up these theodicies too, and I invite you to join me in discussing them!

Lastly, I got one more piece of feedback on “Feedback for Me!”. Please keep the feedback coming as it helps me improve my website to better meet the desires of my target audience.

 

Links!

(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, I’d estimate, over 300 more links if you need the extra distraction. That’s enough links to keep you reading for a full month, if not more.

(3) I don’t necessarily agree with everything said by these links; I just post what I find to be interesting and well-written. If you want to know whether I support a particular opinion you see, feel free to ask.

 

  • God is Magic: “The ‘God is Magic’ argument is really just another version of the ‘God of the gaps’; the God that is the answer to whatever gaps there currently are in the body of scientific knowledge; the blue crayon that gets used to fill in all the empty spaces in the coloring book… despite the fact that blue has never, ever proven to be the right color. And it’s not actually an explanation. It doesn’t offer any clarity about why things are the way they are — a magical God could presumably have made things be any way at all, and the answer to why would ultimately just be, “God’s whim.” And it doesn’t offer any predictive power — ditto. It’s not actually an explanation. It’s just a way of getting around the necessity of offering an explanation.”
  • Gospel Disproof #13 – Knowing Pi: “It’s the same with God. We may not know everything an omniscient God would know, but that doesn’t prevent us from recognizing that it’s wrong to withhold information about a terrorist plot that is going to cost thousands of innocent lives, or that it’s similarly wrong to watch people suffering from diseases that would be curable if only you would share your knowledge of the cure. We may not know the exact value of pi, but we know it’s not 77 million and something, and we can recognize an abject failure to undertake even the most minimally moral opposition to evil, even without knowing everything an omniscient God would know.”
  • Why Near Death Experiences Are a Terrible Argument for the Soul: “When we let go of religious or spiritual beliefs, it can be painful to accept the reality and permanence of death. But we can take comfort in the knowledge that, whatever secular philosophies of death we have, they aren’t based on sloppy evidence and wishful thinking and an intense effort to avoid cognitive dissonance. We can take comfort in the knowledge that our philosophies of death are built on a solid foundation of good evidence, reason, plausibility, and the acceptance of reality. And that’s more comforting than any spiritual belief I’ve ever held.”
  • How to Beat Procrastination: “Once you know the procrastination equation, our general strategy is obvious. Since there is usually little you can do about the delay of a task’s reward, we’ll focus on the three terms of the procrastination equation over which we have some control. To beat procrastination, we need to: (1) Increase your expectancy of success. (2) Increase the task’s value. (3) Decrease your impulsiveness. You might think these things are out of your control, but researchers have found several useful methods for achieving each of them.”
  • Why Pay More for Fairness?: “What is curious about Lindsey’s argument, however, is that the Fairtrade coffee campaign can be seen as doing just what he recommends – encouraging coffee farmers to produce a specialty coffee that brings a higher price. Pro-market economists don’t object to corporations that blatantly use snob appeal to promote their products. If people want to pay $48 for a pound of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee because that’s what James Bond prefers, economists don’t object that the market is being distorted. So why be critical when consumers choose to pay $12 for a pound of coffee that they know has been grown without toxic chemicals, under shade trees that help birds to survive, by farmers who can now afford to feed and educate their children?”
  • Dead Child Currency: “I think dead children should be used as a unit of currency. I know this sounds controversial, but hear me out. [...] So one dead child = eight hundred dollars. If you spend eight hundred dollars on a laptop, that’s one African kid who died because you didn’t give it to charity. Distasteful but true. Now that we know that, we can get down to the details of designing the currency itself. It should be a big gold coin, with a picture of a smiling Burmese child on the front, and a tombstone on the back. The abbreviation can be DC.”
  • A Fish Did Not Write This Essay: “Sometimes I have the chance to explain that I am an atheist not because I know there isn’t a god, but because I don’t believe there is. If someone insisted that their pet fish could talk, I really couldn’t say I knew it didn’t, especially if I could not go and see for myself, but it would still be fair for me to say that there are no talking fish. The relevance of this is that I do not believe god exists any more than I believe fish can talk. Certainly, I have not examined all species of fish, nor every single fish for that matter, nor could I ever accomplish such a feat, but the claim that they exist is so contrary to my own personal experience and reliable facts that I simply will not believe it unless very definitive proof is provided.”
  • Can Atheists Do Anything Right?: “Atheists get labeled as offensive and bitter… when we express anger, and when we express hope and morality and meaning. Why is it important for believers to frame atheism as inherently joyless and hostile?”
  • Richard Carrier Interview: “Thank you for allowing us to interview you for TheBestSchools.org. You are an author, philosopher, scholar of ancient history, blogger, former editor-in-chief of the Secular Web, and all-in-all a highly visible atheist public intellectual. Let’s take these identities one at a time, in reverse order. Could you begin by giving us some personal background? What religious tradition, if any, were you raised in? Was there ever a time in your life when you were attracted to belief in God? Were there some pivotal events that led to your rejection of God?”
  • Don’t Call Religious Believers Stupid (Tip 1 of 10 For Reaching Out To Religious Believers): ” I now want to talk about ten things I think my fellow atheists should keep in mind when trying to change religious people’s minds. Some of these tips might not apply to every writing or speaking exercise. Sometimes atheists are writing to other atheists or to people in an open middle. These tips are for when you are directly addressing religious people, either personally or publicly. But nonetheless, in many cases (including in the case of the subject of this first post) the tips involve being truthful to reality with your arguments and so should apply no matter what your audience.”
  • What You Can’t Say: “If you could travel back in a time machine, one thing would be true no matter where you went: you’d have to watch what you said. Opinions we consider harmless could have gotten you in big trouble. I’ve already said at least one thing that would have gotten me in big trouble in most of Europe in the seventeenth century, and did get Galileo in big trouble when he said it– that the earth moves. [...] It would be a remarkable coincidence if ours were the first era to get everything just right. [...] What would someone coming back to visit us in a time machine have to be careful not to say? That’s what I want to study here. But I want to do more than just shock everyone with the heresy du jour. I want to find general recipes for discovering what you can’t say, in any era.”
  • Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny: “It’s depressingly predictable. And it’s depressing that anyone should have to explain why this is a problem. It seems totally obvious to me. But apparently, it’s not so obvious. So I’m going to spell it out. When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it trivializes misogyny. When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it conveys the message that whatever men want to talk about is more important than misogyny. When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject to something that’s about them, it conveys the message that men are the ones who really matter, and that any harm done to men is always more important than misogyny.”
  • How We Won the War on Thai Chili Sauce: “Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to — a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant — now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it’s a false alarm, it’s not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he’s wrong, it’ll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he’ll be praised for “doing his job” and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we’re done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.”
  • Dreams of AI Design: “If you want an AI that plays chess, you can go around in circles indefinitely talking about how you want the AI to make good moves, which are moves that can be expected to win the game, which are moves that are prudent strategies for defeating the opponent, etcetera; and while you may then have some idea of which moves you want the AI to make, it’s all for naught until you come up with the notion of a mini-max search tree.”
  • The Curse of Identity: “It may not be immediately obvious, but all three examples have something in common. In each case, I thought I was working for a particular goal (become capable of doing useful Singularity work, advance the cause of a political party, do useful Singularity work). But as soon as I set that goal, my brain automatically and invisibly re-interpreted it as the goal of doing something that gave the impression of doing prestigious work for a cause (spending all my waking time working, being the spokesman of a political party, writing papers or doing something else few others could do). ‘Prestigious work’ could also be translated as ‘work that really convinces others that you are doing something valuable for a cause’.

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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 20 Jan 2012 in All, Link Roundup. No Comments.

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