Since I still have a fair amount of links left in my queue that I really want to share, I’ve decided to come back a day early with an installment in my Weekly Link Roundup series. Here, I list links for the links that I liked for the week. Remember that I don’t necessarily agree with everything stated in every article. Feel free to comment or ask. Lastly, it may be worth noting that I do try to sort these links in the order that I like them, descending.
- The Worst Argument in the World: “I declare the Worst Argument In The World to be this: ‘X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is only a marginal category member.’ [...] It sounds dumb only because we are talking soberly of categories and features. As soon as the argument gets framed in terms of words, it becomes so powerful that somewhere between many and most of the bad arguments in politics, philosophy and culture take some form of the Worst Argument In The World.”
- Atheist Tribes: “I told you so. [...] I told you that atheists are human beings. They are not a group of hyper-rational super humans. We have not discovered how to transcend those elements of our psychology that still plagues those who *scoff* believe in a god. We are humans, subject to human foibles unless we take pains to correct them. Unfortunately, we cannot take pains to correct them as long as we believe that we are some super-human entity that have overcome the failings of mere mortals. It is a classic case of admitting that a problem exists before we can take steps to effectively fight it.”
- Cultivating Virtue – How to Encourage Moral Behaviour: “It seems a crucial but oft overlooked step in discussions of morality: how to actually encourage moral behaviour? Most moral philosophy is obsessed with either understanding the nature of moral judgement, or in developing a system that reliably produces the correct moral judgements. Good on it, but that’s not the end of the story. Even if we did have a system that produces judgements on which we can all agree, what then? How to we translate that theoretical triumph into the actual end goal of moral enquiry: encouraging moral behaviour? Seems little ink has been spilled by moral philosophers on this issue.”
- You Have $75 Billion To Save the World – How Would You Spend It?: “If you had $75 billion to spend over the next four years and your goal was to advance human welfare, especially in the developing world, how could you get the most value for your money? That is the question that I posed to a panel of five top economists, including four Nobel laureates, in the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 project. The panel members were chosen for their expertise in prioritization and their ability to use economic principles to compare policy choices.”
- The Seventh Mediation on the War on Applause Lights: “Speaking of Wars on Things, let’s talk about the War on Terror. Everyone agrees terrorism is really bad. Some people want a Strong Response To Terror, which in practice consists of waterboarding some people and then bombing a randomly chosen Middle Eastern country. Other people want a More Measured Response To Terror, which in practice consists of trying to figure out what kind of things we do that make us a target for terrorism and then not doing them. The former group of people call the latter group of people Soft On Terror. [...] And every time they try to figure out the conditions that promote terrorism and decrease them, it’s because of their deep-seated desire to blame the victims of terrorism for the attacks.”
- Redistributing Wealth Upward [WashingtonPost]: “Which is the more redistributionist of our two parties? In recent decades, as Republicans have devoted themselves with laser-like intensity to redistributing America’s wealth and income upward, the evidence suggests the answer is the GOP. The most obvious way that Republicans have robbed from the middle to give to the rich has been the changes they wrought in the tax code — reducing income taxes for the wealthy in the Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, and cutting the tax rate on capital gains to less than half the rate on the top income of upper-middle-class employees.”
- Get the Picture? Art in the Brain of the Beholder: “Since then, I have come to appreciate the work of many more modern artists, who express varying levels of abstraction in their work, in particular the great Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, and contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. Even so, when I tried to explain my taste, I found myself lost for words. Why are we attracted to paintings and sculptures that seem to bear no relation to the physical world? Little did I know that researchers have already started to address this question. By studying the brain’s responses to different paintings, they have been examining the way the mind perceives art. Although their work cannot yet explain the nuances of our tastes, it has highlighted some of the unique ways in which these masterpieces hijack the brain’s visual system.”
- Partisan Standard of Ethics: “We say that politicians are slimy, our noses wrinkling with disdain – but is that the way we like them? It seems the answer depends on whether we agree with their agenda. With the 2012 election steadily approaching, I wondered whether Democratic and Republican voters hold their preferred candidate and the opposing candidate to similar ethical standards. To find out, Heather Mann (a graduate student working with me) and I conducted a little survey on American voters.”
- The Neuroscience of Emotion [YouTube]: “The ability to recognize and work with different emotions is fundamental to psychological flexibility and well-being. Neuroscience has contributed to the understanding of the neural bases of emotion, emotion regulation, and emotional intelligence, and has begun to elucidate the brain mechanisms involved in emotion processing. Of great interest is the degree to which these mechanisms demonstrate neuroplasticity in both anatomical and functional levels of the brain.”
- Does Pinker’s “Better Angels” Undermine Religious Morality?: “People assume that a moral sense or code, an understanding of right and wrong, requires religion. Is this true? In reviewing data outlined in The Better Nature of Our Nature it is apparent that religion played at best a minimal role. It seems more plausible to explain the decline of violence through other historical circumstances and events, which I’ve outlined here.”
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