Yes, yes, I know I always said Weekly Link Roundups were supposed to appear on Friday, and yes, today is a Sunday. I just forgot to… you know… actually write the Weekly Link Roundup. With all the confusion developing a posting schedule for the debate, it just kind of skipped out my mind. But now’s the time to fix that mistake and start sharing some links! Yeah!
After writing about normativity/morality/ethics/whatever-it’s-called in November and kind of messing it up, I finally felt confident enough to return to the topic this Monday, writing “Of Oughts and Is, Part I”. Here I introduce everyone to the Is-Ought Problem, or the question of how we actually justify the claim that people ought to do certain things, and then show how a few often mentioned solutions don’t actually do what they claim to do.
Then on Wednesday, I wrote “Cl – Peter Debate: Peter’s Opening Statement”, which actually has the more catchy title of “Needless Suffering Exists (and God Does Not)”. Here I argue in a debate (see my announcement and debate index) against blogger Cl of The Warfare is Mental that needless suffering exists, furthering our mutual contention over that Problem of Evil I write so much about.
And on Friday, I actually post that debate index I just talked about, called “Cl – Peter Debate: Index of Entries and Commentary”, intended to contain links to all of entries made by Cl and I, along with everything other people write on it, both official debate judge commentary and otherwise.
The most significant conversations I’ve had this week are:
In “Comments on Letters From a Skeptic, I: The Preface”, I outline two positive reasons for atheism — the failure of God to be a coherent concept and the failure of any positive reason to believe in God.
In “Is God Good, Part I”, we discuss further how one arrives at a definition of “evil” and the role needless suffering plays in morality.
At Cl’s “We Cannot Answer the Ultimate Moral Questions”, I briefly give reasons for not accepting the claims that Stefan Molyneux makes about morality with his theory of Universally Preferable Behavior.
At Cl’s “Call For Judges, Scoring Suggestions”, I along with a bunch of other people discuss how my debate with Cl should be properly scored and discussed to determine a winner.
(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 350 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.
- Rats in a Maze: “Think of it this way. If God exists, and if his goal for us is to be saved and rejoin him in Heaven, then all he’s done is deliberately create us apart from him and then set up a series of arbitrary hurdles we have to jump over to get back to him. Why not just create us in Heaven in the first place? Why create us at all? In the theistic view, our lives and the cosmos are just an experiment, a test run, a child’s puzzle box. The things we do here and now have all the significance of a rat trying to find the way through a maze contrived by the experimenter. What’s the point? To memorize a route through the maze and be rewarded with a piece of cheese? I refuse to believe my life has no greater purpose than that. Why is so much – an infinity, in fact – riding on our performance in this infinitesimal blip of existence in a lower sphere?”
- Kiss Hank’s Ass: “Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can’t until you kiss His ass.”
- A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep: “Only four in ten Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments. Astonishingly, even to me, only half can name even one of the four gospels. 12% of Americans – which is something in excess of thirty million people – believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. And finally, three-quarters of Americans – very nearly the nation’s entire Christian population – believe that the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves”. This maxim was actually uttered by Benjamin Franklin, and appears nowhere in scripture.”
- Keynes Was Right: “The bottom line is that 2011 was a year in which our political elite obsessed over short-term deficits that aren’t actually a problem and, in the process, made the real problem — a depressed economy and mass unemployment — worse. The good news, such as it is, is that President Obama has finally gone back to fighting against premature austerity — and he seems to be winning the political battle. And one of these years we might actually end up taking Keynes’s advice, which is every bit as valid now as it was 75 years ago.”
- Faith as a Last Resort: “So why should you need faith to believe in God? I know that seems like a dumb-ass question. But hear me out. Why should there be a real, enormously powerful entity in the world, an entity with a more real and more powerful effect on the world than anything else… and yet, for this entity and this entity only, in order to fully understand and believe in its existence, the most essential requirement is that we want to believe?”
- Givewell’s Giving 101: “Your donation can change someone’s life. For a few thousand dollars you can literally save someone’s life in the developing world. For around $15,000 you can reduce the chance that a child born today in the United States ends up in prison. These claims aren’t normal ‘marketing pitches’ you read in direct mail solicitations — these are the results that the top 1% of charities we’ve looked at achieve — and you can count on them.”
- David Damberger – What happens when an NGO admits failure [TED Talk]: “International aid groups make the same mistakes over and over again. At TEDxYYC David Damberger uses his own engineering failure in India to call for the development sector to publicly admit, analyze, and learn from their missteps. David Damberger’s work with Engineers Without Borders has taken him from communities in India to Southern Africa where he ran development and infrastructure programs.”
- Why There Aren’t More Googles: “From the evidence I’ve seen so far, startups that turn down acquisition offers usually end up doing better. Not always, but usually there’s a bigger offer coming, or perhaps even an IPO. Of course, the reason startups do better when they turn down acquisition offers is not necessarily that all such offers undervalue startups. More likely the reason is that the kind of founders who have the balls to turn down a big offer also tend to be very successful. That spirit is exactly what you want in a startup.”
- Religion and Me – A Photo Essay: “Hi, this is me! A 24-year-old from Ontario, Canada. I like spending time with family: And friends: And I like to play the guitar: And I am an atheist!”
- Religious Liberty: “These organizations say that anything that can be defined as a ‘religious practice’ – even if it is hurtful or harmful to the interests of those who are not members of that religion – must be respected by the government. Since attacking infidels fits this definition, the logical conclusion that this religious practice must be provided with constitutional protections.”
- XFiles: Reasons and rationalizations: “How do you account for the existence of suffering? Well, maybe God has a good reason for it. Ok, what good reason? Well, think of something God might be trying to do. If you can think of something, then that’s a reason. But it might not be a good reason. So how can you be sure God’s reasons are good? Well, what’s He trying to do? If it’s a good thing, then that makes the reason a good reason (aka “the end justifies the means”). Right? So maybe suffering exists because God wants us to get to know Him, because knowledge of God is the greatest possible joy and satisfaction for mankind, even if it doesn’t happen until after we die. Since maximum happiness and satisfaction are good, that means God has a good reason for allowing suffering.”
- The Second Law of Thermodynamics, and Engines of Cognition: “And conversely, one subsystem cannot increase in mutual information with another subsystem, without (a) interacting with it and (b) doing thermodynamic work. Otherwise you could build a Maxwell’s Demon and violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics – which in turn would violate Liouville’s Theorem – which is prohibited in the standard model of physics. Which is to say: To form accurate beliefs about something, you really do have to observe it. It’s a very physical, very real process: any rational mind does “work” in the thermodynamic sense, not just the sense of mental effort.”
- Knowing Why We Act: “A stranger asks you on a date, or asks you to dance at a club. Presumably your decision of whether to agree might depend on how good-looking you think the person is. But what other, subtler factors, might influence your decision? It turns out that a powerfully influential factor in these cases is whether the person gives you a brief touch on the upper arm when making their request.”
- Sticking to It: “Human decision-making is complex. On our own, our tendency to yield to short-term temptations, and even to addictions, may be too strong for our rational, long-term planning. But when the temptations are not immediately present, we can erect barriers to them that make us less likely to succumb when they return. Knowing that we can control our own behavior makes it more likely that we will.”
- Universal Basic Income: “Should the state provide a baseline income to all adult citizens? It need not be a lot – though it could be – but even a few thousand dollars a year would surely help many of the less fortunate in our society. I think it is a much better idea than targeted (non-universal) welfare benefits, for several reasons.”
- You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You: “Now that the SOPA and PIPA fights have died down, and Hollywood prepares their next salvo against internet freedom with ACTA and PCIP, it’s worth pausing to consider how the war on piracy could actually be won. It can’t, is the short answer, and one these companies do not want to hear as they put their fingers in their ears and start yelling.”
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