Well another week has flown by, and it’s been action packed! With this Weekly Link Roundup I bring it to a close with more essays, discussion, and — of course — links!
- Monday, May 21 >> Much Ado About Gay Marriage, Part I: “With gay marriage back in the news, I want to enter the fray to add my own comprehensive take on it, detailing the underlying history, philosophy, and constitutional law of it, and maybe drop a bit of science. When all is told, the case for traditional marriage as being between “one man and one woman” is anything but.”
- Tuesday, May 22 >> Books I Want to Write: “I’m announcing tentative outlines for the books I would write, assuming I had the time, money, skills, and research needed to actually write them. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll actually close the gap and write some of these books? These books may seem a bit presumptuous and premature, but this is really just for fun. A man can dream, right?”
- Wednesday, May 23 >> Out of Many, A Dumb Motto: “‘E Pluribus Unum’, meaning ‘Out of many, one’ was a much better national motto than the current official one, ‘In God We Trust’. ‘E Pluribus Unum’ celebrates the diversity of cultures, beliefs, desires, and philosophies in America, whereas ‘In God We Trust’ does away with this diversity and enforces a monolithic belief on everyone. I want my old motto back, and not just because I don’t trust in God.”
- Thursday, May 24 >> You Can’t Make Everyone Happy All The Time – Congress Dissapproval Research: “I have decided a third time to publish more of my political science research on my blog. This paper, entitled “You Can’t Make Everyone Happy All The Time: Why Partisans Wanting Different Legislative Outcomes Might Mean Disapproval is Here to Stay” is about looking at three theories for why people disapprove of Congress, and synthesizes some parts of these theories with partisanship to come up with a newer theory. It is available via PDF.”
Within the past week, this blog has received 25 comments.
On “TheraminTrees’s Atheism, 4: Skeptical Theism”, we discuss the language that I use to make my conclusions and whether it shows proper humility and uncertainty, as well as the development of what I call the “Almost Problem of Evil”.
On “You Can’t Make Everyone Happy All The Time – Congress Disaproval Research”, we talk about the validity of my conclusions, how well they might hold over time, and some methodological discussion about how survey analysis can gain insight into people’s opinions on Congress.
On “Much Ado About Gay Marriage, Part I”, we start discussing about whether the state should be involved in marriage.
On “Out of Many, A Dumb Motto” we discuss a little bit about the controversy of E Pluribus Unum and the role the Pledge plays in nationalism.
On “TheraminTrees’s Atheism, 3: Evil”, there is a bit of chatter on the Free Will Defense and what unnecessary suffering is.
Elsewhere offsite, on Cl’s “Science! It Works!”, I discuss more about responsibility and justice if there are no gods, souls, or universal moral principles.
Also on Cl’s “A Legitimate Question”, I talk about the role of science versus the role of philosophy, and talk about what Genesis gets right and wrong when it describes the unfolding of the universe.
I’m developing this “Misc!” section so that I can document random changes, like updates to old essays, or fixes around the blog. This won’t show up unless I have something to add, but I wanted to mention that not only did I add this new section to Weekly Link Roundups, but I also changed the tagline to this blog, located under the header image.
It’s now “I like to dabble, and when I dabble, I learn things. And when I learn things, I want to share them. And when I start sharing, I have lots to say. Thus, a blog.” It used to be “There are a lot of ideas out there. Some of them are good. Some of them are mine. Your job is to see if they overlap.”
Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite links to other cool places, for more ideas to share! 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, I’d estimate, over 500 more links if you need the extra distraction. At a link an hour, that’s 20+ days of constant reading. If you budgeted 8 hours a day to constantly read these links, at a link per hour, that would take over two months. Fun facts!
(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.
- Why God is a Terrible Explanation for Anything: “I think what you have there is a total train wreck. That is my opinion of theistic explanations. For a start, when they say ‘God is the simplest explanation,’ who says that? Suppose instead of Newton, someone had come along and said, ‘I think that your inverse square law of gravity is much too complicated. I’m going to explain the motion of the planets in terms of woo-woo.’ And you say, ‘What’s woo-woo?’ And they say, ‘The woo-woo is the thing which makes the planets move. It’s the single perfect entity which makes them go round in their orbits. And what can be simpler than woo-woo?’”
- Happiness, Money, and Giving It Away: “For 50 years, Buffett, now 75, has worked at accumulating a vast fortune. [...] Yet his frugal lifestyle shows that he does not particularly enjoy spending large amounts of money. Even if his tastes were more lavish, he would be hard-pressed to spend more than a tiny fraction of his wealth. [...] Coincidentally, Kahneman’s article appeared the same week that Buffett announced the largest philanthropic donation in US history – $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and another $7 billion to other charitable foundations. [...] Perhaps, as Kahneman’s research would lead us to expect, Buffett spent less of his life in a positive mood than he would have if, at some point in the 1960’s, he had quit working, lived on his assets, and played a lot more bridge. But, in that case, he surely would not have experienced the satisfaction that he can now rightly feel at the thought that his hard work and remarkable investment skills will, through the Gates Foundation, help to cure diseases that cause death and disability to billions of the world’s poorest people. Buffett reminds us that there is more to happiness than being in a good mood.”
- Are We Doomed?: “[S]ome think I and many other atheists are too optimistic about the future. I made the point that the past three hundred years have displayed a steady pace of overall progress in social, scientific, and technological progress, which shows no signs of abating. Here I will give a reply in two parts, the second much longer than the first, so those who just want the short of it will know where to stop, while those who want to fully hear me out on this can go on to the rest.”
- The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists: “Ask any believer what would convince him he was mistaken and persuade him to leave his religion and become an atheist, and if you get a response, it will almost invariably be, ‘Nothing – I have faith in my god.’ Although such people may well exist, I personally have yet to meet a theist who would acknowledge even the possibility that his belief was in error. [...] Thus, in the spirit of proving that atheists’ minds are not closed, I’ve assembled below a list of everything I can think of that I would accept as proof that a given religion is true. Also included are things that I would accept as circumstantial evidence of a particular religion’s truth and things that would not be acceptable to me as proof of anything. [...] To be fair, I invite all theists to respond by preparing a list of things that they would accept as proof that atheism is true. If any theist prepares such a list, posts it on the Internet and tells me about it, I’ll link to it from this page.”
- 7 Worst International Aid Ideas: “Maybe their hearts were in the right place. Maybe not. Either way, these are solid contenders for the title of ‘worst attempts at helping others since colonialism.’”
- Privileging the Hypothesis: “Suppose that the police of Largeville, a town with a million inhabitants, are investigating a murder in which there are few or no clues—the victim was stabbed to death in an alley, and there are no fingerprints and no witnesses. Then, one of the detectives says, ‘Well… we have no idea who did it… no particular evidence singling out any of the million people in this city… but let’s consider the hypothesis that this murder was committed by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, who lives at 128 Ordinary Ln. It could have been him, after all.’ I’ll label this the fallacy of privileging the hypothesis.”
- The Trouble With Airport Profiling: “Why do otherwise rational people think it’s a good idea to profile people at airports? Recently, neuroscientist and best-selling author Sam Harris related a story of an elderly couple being given the twice-over by the TSA, pointed out how these two were obviously not a threat, and recommended that the TSA focus on the actual threat: ‘Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim.’ This is a bad idea. It doesn’t make us any safer — and it actually puts us all at risk.”
- The Persistence of Moral Disagreement [YouTube]: “In this lecture, Stephen Stich attempts to answer the questions – Is moral disagreement fundamental? Can all moral disagreements be shown to be the result of disagreements about non-moral facts? Both moral realists and anti-realists agree that if it can’t be shown, then moral realism is a dead end. He takes a look at the data of several studies including the ethics of Hopi Indians, cultures of honor, the differences between American southern gentlemen and their northern counterparts, and the differences between Western and Asian conceptions of self and their relation to each culture’s morality.”
- The Lame That Would Not Die!: “What is The Lame? Unfortunately no one can be told what The Lame is. You have to see it for yourself. No, just kidding. It’s the claim that “Science Requires a Christian Worldview.” JT just blogged that, responding reasonably enough to a repeat of a standard Christian apologetic shibboleth (and, as he callously and shamelessly threatened therein, did indeed email me the link in question as if to annoy me, like the gangster cad that we all know he is; for shame). I realized I should probably collect a resource list of all I’ve written in refutation of it. This is that list.”
- What Do Atheists Feel?: “Believers, especially evangelical Christians, seem to be immune to logical arguments against their beliefs. My theory is that they believe for emotional reasons, as their emotional “arguments” for belief indicate. I have enountered many completely emotional responses to my rational arguments. It’s like we speak two different languages. Atheism as a non-belief position rather than a systemic response to existential fears and feelings, so it offers nothing for them. In fact, they actually accuse atheists of believing in “nothing.” To them, our worldview is dark, depressing, and nihilistic. So I thought I would answer some of the questions I’ve heard and seen coming from the other side.”
- The Matrix as Metaphysics: “I will argue that the hypothesis that I am envatted [and thus am in a computer simulation and not the real world, aka the Matrix Hypothesis] is not a skeptical hypothesis, but a metaphysical hypothesis. That is, it is a hypothesis about the underlying nature of reality. Where physics is concerned with the microscopic processes that underlie macroscopic reality, metaphysics is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality. A metaphysical hypothesis might make a claim about the reality that underlies physics itself. Alternatively, it might say something about the nature of our minds, or the creation of our world. I think the Matrix Hypothesis should be regarded as a metaphysical hypothesis with all three of these elements. It makes a claim about the reality underlying physics, about the nature of our minds, and about the creation of the world.”
- Answering Greta – My Goals As An Atheist Writer: “What I am against is not religion per se but a set of awful things that existing religions, particularly in the West but also in other places, are especially prone to. Here’s a somewhat comprehensive list of 16 things which I vehemently oppose which are to one or extent another unforgivably bound up with the dominant religions of the West: faith (i.e., the willful belief contrary to rational evidence), supernaturalism, superstition, moral and cultural regressivism, traditionalism for its own sake, fundamentalism, tribalism, patriarchal values, nationalism, racism, anti-intellectualism, pseudoscience, moral and cultural stagnation, anti-natural moralities, homophobia, and, most importantly, authoritarianism in all its ugly forms—be they intellectual, moral, or political.”
- How Bad the Debate Is: “Many pundits still like to pretend that we’re having something resembling a rational national debate, with members of both parties saying reasonable things given their views about how policy works. And when you find a politician saying something not at all reasonable, there’s a lot of false equivalence — surely both sides do it, even if you don’t have any, you know, actual examples from one side.”
- Giving What We Can [YouTube]: “Peter Singer speaking at Rutgers University on December 2nd, 2010 to launch the first US chapter of Giving What We Can.”
- To Like Each Other, Sing and Dance in Synchrony: “If you want to make the members of the group like each other more and feel more like a group, synchronized actions may be one of the easiest ways of achieving this goal. Anthropologists have long known the community-building effect of dancing[...] The implication for meetup groups, as well as any other groups that might want to make their members like each other more, seems clear: spend some time singing and dancing together, possibly in the form of drinking songs if people are too self-conscious to sing while sober.”
- Another Day, Another Dragon: “Some days, I hate writing about atheism. [...] I hate that it’s necessary to have these fights. Even if we always won, which we obviously don’t, there are so many more interesting things we could be talking about – so many real, fascinating, important problems we could be solving – that we’re not addressing because the endless battles over antiquated superstition distract us and consume our time and energy. [...] I’d like to write about these other things, but this fight is important. It’s secularism against theocracy, the free intellect against dogmatism, conscience against barbarity, the future against the past. Like it or not, it’s one of the defining struggles of our time.”
- The Grindstone of Persuasion: “When we think about changing minds, we should bear in mind the “wind and water” analogy. Minds do change, but that change doesn’t come in great tectonic shifts. It comes in slow, patient accumulation, like water dripping on stone, carrying away a few grains at a time; like ice freezing and thawing, widening the cracks a little each year. The next time you get into one of these arguments, bear this in mind.”
- The Instability of Professional Philosophers’ Endorsement of the Famous ‘Doctrine of the Double Effect’: “The simplest interpretation of our overall results, across three types of scenarios (Double Effect, Moral Luck, and Action-Omission), is that in cases like these skill in philosophy doesn’t manifest as skill in consistently applying explicitly endorsed abstract principles to reach stable judgments about hypothetical scenarios; rather, it manifests more as skill in choosing principles to rationalize, post-hoc, scenario judgments that are driven by the same types of factors that drive non-philosophers’ judgments.”
- Do People Become More Conservative as They Age?: “Contrary to popular belief, people generally do not become more conservative as they age.
Seniors often describe themselves as being more tolerant and more open to new ideas in their old age. What’s happening in society when people come of age often greatly influences the set point for their core beliefs.”
- Good Reasons to Keep the Faith: “I don’t think there are good intellectual reasons to believe in Zeus, fairies, Jesus, or other magical beings. But there are many good practical reasons for believers to avoid anything that might cause them to doubt their religion. In a religious world, doubting religion can carry high costs.”
I now blog at EverydayUtilitarian.com. I hope you'll join me at my new blog! This page has been left as an archive.