A Weekly Link Roundup contains links to articles on the web that I found worth reading. 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.
- How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: “Below is a listing of all the articles to be found in the “How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic” guide, presented as a handy one-stop shop for all the material you should need to rebut the more common anti-global warming science arguments constantly echoed across the internet.”
- Beyond Point and Shoot Morality: Why Cognitive Neuroscience Matters for Ethics [YouTube]: “Does the ‘is’ is of empirical moral psychology have implications for the ‘ought’ of normative ethics? I’ll argue that it does. [...] First, I’ll review evidence for the dual-process theory of moral judgment, according to which characteristically deontological judgments tend to be driven by automatic emotional responses while characteristically consequentialist judgments tend to be driven by controlled cognitive processes. [...] Automatic processes are like the point-and-shoot settings on a camera, efficient but inflexible. Controlled processes are like a camera’s manual mode, inefficient but flexible. Putting these theses together, [...] I’ll recommend consequentialist thinking as a better alternative for modern moral problem-solving.”
- No, Science Really Can’t Determine Human Values: “There’s a lot to like about Sam Harris’s views on morality. In fact, I suspect that even his most vocal critics agree with him on a vast majority of what he has to say. His advocacy for a scientific engagement with morality is warmly welcomed, as is his commitment to go beyond the old God versus no-God debate to suggest a positive agenda to build a secular morality devoid of supernatural meddling. But there’s one sticking point – one to which Harris continues to apply glue – and one against which people like myself and Russell Blackford continue to rebound. That is Harris’s insistence that science can describe morality all the way down.”
- The Problems With Forecasting and How to Get Better at It: “Are political scientists any good at making predictions? Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, argued in an Op-Ed last Sunday that political scientists make for lousy forecasters. [...] My position on these issues is somewhat complicated. [...] First, Ms. Stevens is right that there is a problem – prediction has gone very badly in the discipline. But second, her proposed solution might make matters worse. Some of the habits she encourages are the same ones that have helped produce such lousy forecasts in the first place.”
- The Prisoner’s Dilemma: “The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game, but a game that seems to bear lessons for the conduct of human affairs more generally, and it has attracted a great deal of attention from men not noted for their frivolity. It was discovered in 1950 at the RAND corporation, a military think-tank established after World War II by the United States Air Force to conduct a ‘program of study and research on the broad subject of intercontinental warfare’.”
- Know Your Addictions: “Sometimes, the right choice is not cutting an activity out, but changing its form. Perhaps you can’t stop playing World of Warcraft once you log on, but there may be other games you enjoy that you don’t have nearly as much trouble stopping. So switch to one of those. Or maybe there is a certain type of chip that you find you always over consume, but another snack you enjoy almost as much that you can eat in reasonable quantities.”
- Break Your Downward Emotional Spiral: “But negative emotions don’t just cause negative thoughts, they cause excessively negative thoughts, that reflect a distorted picture of reality. Anxiety causes us to overestimate how dangerous things are, depression makes our situation seem hopeless, and anger makes small slights seem like major attacks. In other words, negative emotions cause us to think in distorted ways that make these same emotions grow.”
- Do Progressives, Conservatives and Libertarians Understand Freedom Differently? [PDF]: “A long standing assumption in political philosophy is that the way in which one defines freedom has important consequences for the political system that one favors. The present paper tests this assumption by means of a comprehensive survey that explores trade-offs between seven different concepts of freedom. The results show that, beyond a certain common background, important differences are indeed present[. ...] Finally, it seems that these differences are explained by differences in personal preferences and in the beliefs about what best serves the common good. People thus seem to rationalize their definitions of freedom to fit their normative judgments.”
- Moral Beliefs Don’t Motivate Much: “I think there’s something much more persuasive in The Life You Can Save, namely the part where Singer cites the charity rating organization GiveWell as figuring out that one particular charity was managing to save one life for every $650-$1000 it spent. When you have that kind of factual information, it to some extent moots the moral arguments. Here’s why: rather than trying to argue anyone into different priorities, all you have do is point out to them that if they care about saving lives enough to spend $1,000 doing it, then they should donate that $1,000 to charity. Forget about the point of marginal utility: all that matters is the point at which you don’t have anything you’d rather spend $1,000 on than saving a life. In other words, forget about what you think people should do. Just ask them how badly they, as a matter of fact, care about other people’s well-being and work from there.”
- Morality Without God: “It keeps being said that without God, there can be no morality. It keeps being said that if we’re evolved from selfish genes, there can be no altruism. It keeps being said that a universe without a divine creator is a universe without meaning. It keeps being said. And it’s flat out wrong. [...] So, in the interests of providing a clear and unambiguous exposition of the secular moral position, I’ve compiled a list of false claims made by some in the religious community and the reasons why they’re in error.”
- The Embodiment of Height: Why You Give More To Charity When You Are Elevated: “Do you ever wonder why we associate good things with up and bad things with down? Think about it. We say that , ‘things are looking up today,’ and ‘I’m down in the dumps,’ to express how we are feeling. We say that ‘he’s at the peak of his career,’ and ‘she fell is status,’ to describe social hierarchies. And almost always heaven is up in the sky while hell is down in the Earth. The more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes. These examples are merely linguistic and mental, though. How do our conceptions of up and down affect us physically?”
- A Case Against Religious Moderation: “Imagine that instead of, ‘In God We Trust,’ dollar bills in the United States read, ‘In Zeus We Trust.’ Or think what it would be like if Barack Obama ended his speeches with, ‘Apollo bless the United States of America.’ And consider how strange it would sound if one of your friends told you that they recently found deep comfort in Poseidon. What’s absurd about comments like these is not the mentions of Zeus, Apollo and Poseidon, rather, it is that these Gods have the same ontologically status as the Judeo-Christian God that our money, presidents and friends take seriously. That is, there is zero scientific evidence to suggest any of these Gods are real, though most people overwhelming favor one.”
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