The twenty-fifth Weekly Link Roundup! That sounds like a milestone I could be proud of, assuming I could be proud of celebrating a random blog series that finally made it to an arbitrary number within an arbitrary base system! With that said, I’m going to take some time this week to share with you the essays I wrote this week, the comments on my site, my participation in comments on other sites, and my favorite links of the week!
On Monday, cl continued our debate over the existence of needless suffering by writing “Cl – Peter Debate: Cl’s First Rebuttal”.
On Wednesday, I take a break from philosophy to write “Citizens United V. FEC Case Brief”, a summary of the Supreme Court case.
On Thursday, cl and I announced that our debate is being postponed, writing “Cl – Peter Debate: Postponed Until Further Notice”.
Conversation about the ensuing (and currently postponed) debate took place on “Cl – Peter Debate: Cl’s First Rebuttal”, “Cl – Peter Debate: Postponed Until Further Notice”, cl’s “DBT01 Postponed Until Further Notice”, and cl’s “DBT01, Round One: Cl”.
Secondly, in “On ‘Where the Conflict Really Lies’” also talk with Garren and Adamoriens talk about Plantinga’s recent book, and also discuss whether or not it is possible to disprove certain kinds of gods.
Lastly, I updated my comment on “Comments on Letters From a Skeptic, 1: The Preface” with a slightly more complete and better organized explanation of the reasons to be atheist. I intend to make this a blog post of its own someday.
(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.
- The Simple Truth: “This essay is meant to restore a naive view of truth. [...] Many people, so questioned, don’t know how to answer in exquisitely rigorous detail. Nonetheless they would not be wise to abandon the concept of ‘truth’. There was a time when no one knew the equations of gravity in exquisitely rigorous detail, yet if you walked off a cliff, you would fall.”
- 2012 – A Campaign Year: “Let’s say you came to me wanting me to support gay marriage. Let’s say that I agree with you on all of the points of evidence and reason – that the laws are discriminatory and unjust – perhaps even that these restrictions on gay marriage violate the principles on which the Constitution was founded. However, knowing my district, I know that voting for gay marriage would mean a sizable shift in campaign contributions and votes to my opponent – a bible thumping young-earth prayer-in-school creationist. [...] What you are asking me to do is, in practical terms, no different than asking me to resign my position and appoint the bible thumping young-earth prayer-in-school creationist in my place. Is that really what you want me to do? [...] Then you need to bring money and votes to the table.”
- Creating God in One’s Own Image: “For many religious people, the popular question ‘What would Jesus do?’ is essentially the same as ‘What would I do?’ That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.”
- Is Christianity Absurd?: “For the purpose of my argument I will understand Christianity to mean the religious view that is characterized by doctrines such as Salvation through Christ, Heaven, the Atonement, the ethical views of Jesus, and belief in God. So understood is Christianity absurd? This question is seldom asked, let alone answered. I will argue that a plausible case can be made for the claim that Christianity is absurd in an important sense of that term. In what follows I will not so much present new arguments as deploy standard atheistic ones in new ways.”
- The Human’s Hidden Utility Function (Maybe): “Suppose it turned out that humans violate the axioms of VNM rationality (and therefore don’t act like they have utility functions) because there are three valuation systems in the brain that make conflicting valuations, and all three systems contribute to choice. And suppose that upon reflection we would clearly reject the outputs of two of these systems, whereas the third system looks something more like a utility function we might be able to use[...] What I just described is part of the leading theory of choice in the human brain.”
- Inferring Our Desires: “The idea that we lack good introspective access to our own desires – that we often have no idea what we want2 – is a key lemma in naturalistic metaethics, so it seems worth a post to collect the science by which we know that.”
- Dan Gilbert asks, Why are we happy? [TED Talk Video]: “Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.”
- I’ll Take Alvin Plantinga Over John Haught Any Day: “Plantinga isn’t the clearest writer. He sometimes uses more jargon and logical notation than is healthy. And his latest book is surprisingly silent on what he thinks of evolution. But he at least tries clearly, he usually isn’t afraid to state his views, and I’ve never once heard him give the sort of non-answer Haught gave in the above interview. Similarly, while Plantinga’s arguments may not be good, he at least gives them (or gives arguments for why he doesn’t have to give arguments for his beliefs). That’s more than I can say of the academic theologians I’ve encountered.”
- Politics and the English Language: “Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language.”
- The Non-Libertarian FAQ (aka Why I Hate Your Freedom): “But the Internet, especially the parts of it where people debate politics, are full of libertarians. Some areas are downright dominated by them. And I see very few attempts to provide a complete critique of libertarian philosophy. There are a bunch of ad hoc critiques of specific positions: people arguing for socialist health care, people in favor of gun control. But one of the things that draws people to libertarianism is that it is a unified, harmonious system. Unlike the mix-and-match philosophies of the Democratic and Republican parties, libertarianism is coherent and sometimes even derived from first principles. The only way to convincingly talk someone out of libertarianism is to launch a challenge on the entire system.”
- Paul Bloom – The Origins of Pleasure: “Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.”
- Why We Should Use Odds All the Time: “One of the more beautiful things to discover in this world is that there are objective rules for the manipulation of subjective certainties and uncertainties. Bayesian statisticians call these levels of uncertainty ‘probabilities.’ (Frequentists… get confused at this point, on which I hope to write much more in the future). One of the most unexpected beneficial side-effects of thinking probabilistically as a habit, is that it makes you realize just how much you actually know. (This is probably the one skeptical conclusion that doesn’t deflate one’s ego.)”
- Death to Pennies [YouTube Video]: “Why Pennies are economically inefficient and should be abolished.”
- Various Forms of Atheism: “The word atheist has different meanings in different contexts, so we need to unpack it if we want to use the word in productive discussion. Greg Epstein in his book good without God quotes an excellent paragraph from Sherwin Wine, who separates atheism into several distinct intellectual categories, as follows” (By these categories, I’m personally an ontological, ethical, existential, and potentially ignostic atheist.)
- Tax and Redistribute: “Really, this should be a no-brainer. And note that the lesson generalizes. Whenever someone complains that an economic disincentive “unfairly burdens the poor”, the solution is to redistribute the proceeds. (Example: worried that gas taxes are a burden to the poor? Solution: redistribute the proceeds. The poor will profit, as will the environment.) Why is this not common knowledge?”
I now blog at EverydayUtilitarian.com. I hope you'll join me at my new blog! This page has been left as an archive.