A Weekly Link Roundup contains two things — links to articles on the web that I found worth reading, and a summary of the discussions I have here and other places. Remember, 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. And if you need a couple hundred more links, don’t be afraid to look to the link roundup category.
- Some Mistakes of Scripture – When the Bible Gets the Bible Wrong: “As most atheists are well aware, fundamentalist Christians generally treat the Bible as a perfect, self-contained whole: missing nothing, containing no errors, and every word written by the infallible inspiration of God. [...But t]he Bible is not the flawless, self-contained whole they imagine it to be: the text convicts itself of this, by repeatedly quoting and referring to other writings, evidently considered in their own day to be just as canonical as the surviving ones, but that are now long lost or have long since been rejected as pious forgeries. Nor were the Bible’s authors the inspired, divinely guided saints of Christian myth; on the contrary, they were as fallible and forgetful as any other human being. We can see proof of this in the mistakes they made – mistakes that are preserved in the text as we have it today.”
- Seek Criticism: “There was a time as a kid when I believed I was pretty much flawless. Unsurprisingly, it turned out I had even more flaws as a kid than I do now. I just had very poor self-awareness. [...] Criticism is easier to hear when you have sought it out than when it is thrust on you. And most people won’t volunteer it, until they are quite annoyed. So don’t wait until criticism comes your way. Seek criticism from your friends, your boss, and your spouse. Even acquaintances can provide an interesting perspective. Break down this criticism into the Accurate, Ignorant, and Emotive components. Know your flaws so you can correct them. Become greater.”
- Rand Paul Takes on The TSA: “It doesn’t matter if an airport screener receives a paycheck signed by the Department of the Treasury or Private Airport Screening Services, Inc. As long as a terrorized government — one that needs to be seen by voters as “tough on terror” and wants to stop every terrorist attack, regardless of the cost, and is willing to sacrifice all for the illusion of security — gets to set the security standards, we’re going to get TSA-style security.”
- Don’t Replace Data With Ideology: “In the U.S., a battle is brewing in Congress over two of the most valuable gauges of the nation’s economic health: the American Community Survey and the Economic Census. The data sets, which the U.S. has maintained in some form since the early 1900s, provide researchers and the public with a trove of information on everything from the size of families’ mortgage payments in Boise, Idaho, to the nation’s median annual income. [...] It’s hard to overstate how dangerous the destruction of high-quality, objective statistical information would be. Policy making would become more subjective, and hence more ideological. Governments would have more leeway to lie to the people about the success of their policies and the state of the economy.”
- The Psychology of the Honor System at the Farm Stand: “But what customers seem to love at least as much as the expansive views and good food is Swanton’s old-style method of payment: Step up to the unmanned counter whenever you’re ready, figure out what you owe (scratch paper provided), and stuff the cash through a slot in the honor box. Swanton founder Jim Cochran says his stand has thrived for years on the honor payment system, a style of business he first admired as a college student at his favorite bakery in Santa Cruz decades ago. [...] That doesn’t surprise social psychologist Michael Cunningham of the University of Louisville who has used “trust games” to investigate what spurs good and bad behavior for the last 25 years. For many people, Cunningham says, trust seems to be at least as strong a motivator as guilt. He thinks he knows why.”
- Faith is a Vice: “Faith is like drunk driving, or failing to secure a load when going on the highway. He creates a risk for others. Faith that a prayer may cure a young child puts the child at risk of dying from an easily treatable disease. The person who kills that child is no different than a drunk parent driving with their child in the back seat. The person who boasts about his faith should be looked at the same way we look at the person who brags that he constantly drives while drunk and hasn’t killed anybody . . . yet. They display the same qualities, and deserve to be treated as such.”
- Today’s Reasons To Quit the Catholic Church: “Consider the picture painted by all these stories taken together. The Catholic church admits that its most powerful officials have participated in the cover-up of child molestation; it pays off the child molesters and castrates their victims; and wherever the laws permit it, it tries to have its critics arrested and imprisoned. Is this arrogant, corrupt, medievally minded institution the kind of religion you want to belong to? If you haven’t left the church yet, what are you waiting for?”
- Abortive Virtues: “Peter Thurley argues that circumstances of rape or incest are irrelevant to the (im)morality of abortion. Mostly everyone else in the world disagrees. Peter argues that the circumstances shouldn’t register on the two extreme ideologies of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’. But he neglects to note that most people have a more moderate view. Indeed, I think that the common-sense view is best reflected in theory by some form of virtue ethics.”
- The Way It Was: “In thinking about problems that currently devastate developing nation, I try to remember that the US was a developing nation not so long ago. Malaria once plagued the American south and Midwest. It’s the reason English colonists abandoned the Jamestown, Virginia settlement for somewhere with fewer mosquitoes. In 1946, the Centers for Disease Control were formed to fight malaria. Five years later, malaria was eradicated in the United States. [...] We’ve come a long way. Now I want this life for everyone.”
- The Math Behind The Culture: “What is so striking, even beautiful, about the demise of the long s is that, as seen the time series documenting the disappearance of ‘loſt’ and its replacement by ‘lost’ look exactly like a pair of logistic functions.”
52 more comments have been added to Greatplay.net this week. Here’s a breakdown of comments here, as well as other discussions I’ve participated in elsewhere:
On “Heaven, Coddling Gods, and Other Theodicies”, we discuss whether its worth accepting for the sake of argument that Heaven exists, whether the Problem of Evil succeeds, and some barriers to discussing the Problem of Evil (or its variants, like my “Almost Problem of Evil”).
On “Continuing Comments on Randomness and Naturalism”, I link to a ton of references for understanding quantum mechanics and, more specifically, the Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI). We also discuss what MWI makes of randomness, the potential virtues of other interpretations in comparison to MWI, and more about just how to sort out quantum mechanics in general.
On “Why Argue About Religion”, we talk a bit about whether discussing religion logically is an indication of open-mindedness.
On “Comments on Letters From a Skeptic, 2: Evil”, we discuss about whether an all-good God would reveal itself (either directly or indirectly) to prevent suffering, in context of the Problem of Evil.
On “My List of Theodicy Responses”, Patrick argues his “Theodicy from divine justice” and regular commenter Stephen R. Diamond argues against it, but then poses another interesting theodicy — that suffering is actually good.
Author’s Note: A massive power failure across central Ohio delayed the posting of this essay.
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