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So long as the question of the meaning of life is posed in its abstract form, “Why anything?”, it will escape every attempted answer within our experience. To every such attempted answer, there will be a further question, “Why that?” This “absurd reasoning” is either hopeless or a mere excuse to slip in a bit of religious proselytizing . . . .

What gives our lives meaning is not anything beyond our lives, but the richness of our lives. And that richness is predominantly a product of the passions, which thereby become our answer to the problem of the meaning of life. —Robert Solomon


  • Girls' math skills now equal boys' - Education- msnbc.com

  • The U.S. Economy Is Socialism for the Rich | | AlterNet
    In the United States, far-Right Republicans and Democratic liberals alike have sold many people on the notion that the market should be the main force to drive the economy and define social relationships. They maintain that government should stay off people's backs and out of our wallets. They promote rugged individualism and consumerism couched in terms like "personal responsibility," "freedom" and "independence." "Greed is good!" was the mantra of Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gecko, in the 1980s movie "Wall Street," and those became the words to live by in the '80s and '90s. The philosophy and value of greed was taken to heart by many a corporate CEO, and, over the past three decades, this twisted logic -- underlined by the values of individualism and the culture of consumerism -- has turned back the clock on human development with devastating consequences.

  • Does Fructose Make You Fatter? - Well - Tara Parker-Pope - Health - New York Times Blog
    High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener used in many processed foods ranging from sodas to baked goods. While the ingredient is cheaper and sweeter than regular sugar, new research suggests that it can also make you fatter.

    In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with “surprising speed,'’ said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.


  • blog.talkingphilosophy.com » Clever Hands

  • Kauffman on emergence and reductionism
    Since people have asked, here is my take on Stuart Kauffman’s ideas on reductionism and emergence. Kauffman distinguishes between two types of emergence, “epistemological” and “ontological.” Epistemological emergence is the idea that complex systems cannot be described, as a matter of practice, in terms of their component units because of our epistemic limitations, that is our inability to do the computations. According to ontological emergence, on the other hand, a full understanding of complex systems in terms of their components is not possible in principle, not just because of practical considerations, because new levels of causality appear at higher levels of organization.

  • The Minimum Wage: A Disgrace and A Scandal - Working Life
    There will be a lot of chatter about today's hike in the minimum wage. We should be happy for the people who will get another seventy cents an hour in their gross pay. But, we should keep in mind that, at the grand new sum of $6.55 an hour, the minimum wage is a disgrace and a sad commentary about the state of our social safety net, the economy and our political system.


 

Comments

RE: Girls' math skills now equal boys

I remember a conversation some classmates in high school and I were having with our math teacher Mr. Martin. It was that he noticed the decline in females developing their math skills were culturally related. When they start getting involved in relationships they felt that in order to feel more popular/liked, they couldn't allow themselves to be more intelligent then the guy they were dating to make them more appealing. He knew they were just as capable as boys, and was disappointed that they weren't allowing themselves to their full potential.

The U.S. Economy Is Socialism for the Rich

Then stop complaining and start making money!

The "girls' math skills equal boys'!!!" headline was trumpeted pretty loudly by the media - goes to show in which direction the bias truly leans. Funny that nobody seems concerned about the reasons these scores are leveling.

Everybody seems to have forgotten that the standardized tests were declared 'sexist' because males tended to do better on certain parts of them (namely, math and science) and these tests were then changed so that females would score higher. So if we change the results to get better scores from females, they get better scores! Headline news.

We continue to foster the myth that women are sidelined or 'oppressed' by our education system when that is anything but true. For years the level of female high school graduates and college enrollees has greatly exceeded the male. Our education system (in fact, our society) is utterly failing our male children, a crisis that has been documented by psychologists in countless books and films (even in a series run by PBS). Yet we continue to focus on women, because of the political clout of post-third-wave feminism.

Also funny that nobody notices this triumphant news of female mathematical success comes right on the heels of numerous reports of the US losing ground in tech and science. The country's going to Hell in a rainbow-colored hippie hand basket, folks. But at least we can all feel good about ourselves on the ride. A meaningless statistic just got bumped up through politically-motivated meddling! That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Everybody seems to have forgotten that the standardized tests were declared 'sexist' because males tended to do better on certain parts of them (namely, math and science) and these tests were then changed so that females would score higher.

How exactly can you make a math test easier for girls and harder for boys to skew the results in favor of girls?

I would love to hear your answer.

Really.

If have a lot of problems with SAT tests, but this isn't one of them:

males tended to do better on certain parts of them (namely, math and science) and these tests were then changed so that females would score higher.

Go the College Board site and you can see for yourself whether tests have been changed to somehow favor females. Sample questions can be examined here. I just signed up, told them I was an educator and downloaded a practice test. Assuming that all the practice tests are the same, sections 2, 5, and 8 are math tests. After reading those math tests, please explain which of these questions you think were written so that females would have an advantage over males. Since the SAT math scores are reported separately from verbal scores, any claim that the sections are weighted differently are irrelevant because colleges are free to use or ignore SAT scores in any way they wish and place any importance they wish on the separate math and verbal scores. I know personally many people who do admissions - I know this is true. I was involved in graduate level admissions myself for many years, and the same is true of GRE exams.

You can find advanced achievement tests on the College Board site too - various subjects including math and science. My challenge goes for them as well.

he country's going to Hell in a rainbow-colored hippie hand basket, folks.

yeah, that's what i always picture when i think of america. and the hippie handbasket is full of calligraphs, looking out of place and angry about it.

sorry, too good to pass up.

re: Fructose

The equation is simple: consume more calories than you burn and you get fat.

doesn't matter if the calories are from beer, bread, bacon or Sunny Delight.

Obesity results when a person consumes more calories than they expend for activity and basic metabolic processes.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

wtf? nurse...?

Some real questions regarding SAT scores and their meaning as far as historical comparisons are concerned:

(1) How many students today pick up SAT practice exams at bookstores and literally study the exams?

(2) How many students take the exams more than once?

I don't have any real data to answer these questions - only (dangerous) anecdotal impressions. When I took the SATs in 1973, I never knew anyone who studied for them and I never knew anyone who took them again. My daughter took them twice and her scores, which were pretty good to begin with, improved significantly.

jonathan - it's a quote from a popular movie, Babe.

oh thanks, tim. i was worried there...guess my pop culture chops are a little rusty.

Also funny that nobody notices this triumphant news of female mathematical success comes right on the heels of numerous reports of the US losing ground in tech and science. The country's going to Hell in a rainbow-colored hippie hand basket, folks.

You know, every time I see a rainbow or meet a gay person, my science and math skills down. Meanwhile I understand every time a close minded individual reads the bible the learn a little calculus or engineering through Godly osmosis.

A meaningless statistic just got bumped up through politically-motivated meddling!

Indeed it probably isn't a lot of relevance to this one statistic and someone no doubt pointed it out to make a point.

But so what, if it turns out to be a trend that reflects that we have improved our equal treatments of genders and eliminated some predjudice about what sex is smart about what things then it is indeed a very good thing.

The U.S. Economy Is Socialism for the Rich
David Mamet - a writer whom I've always admired - penned a great essay about this type of thinking, called "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'" An excerpt:
Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.

http://www.villagevoice.com/2008-03-11/news/why-i-am-no-longer-a-brain-dead-liberal/

You can take the 'everything is horribly broken' approach of constantly finding fault with our country, or you can just admit that people here, in general, have it pretty damn good - because of the system left-wingers are constantly vilifying.

But so what, if it turns out to be a trend that reflects that we have improved our equal treatments of genders and eliminated some predjudice about what sex is smart about what things then it is indeed a very good thing.

That would be great, if it weren't a myth. We haven't "improved our equal treatment of genders", we have artificially given that impression by actually practicing robust sexism.

It's very much like how we 'got closer to equality' in professions like firefighting and police work: by lowering necessary standards so that more women could qualify. Firefighters used to have to lift a large amount of weight to qualify, as firefighters spend most of their time clearing victims and bodies from accidents. To boost the number of successful female applicants - due to pressure from feminist groups - this amount was lowered. We lowered the chance that the firefighter can save a life in order to meet a superficial and ridiculous statistical goal.

You simply cannot evaluate equality by looking at end-result numbers - there are too many factors. You cannot say "only 15% of the police force is female, thus the police force is sexist". You cannot say "men were doing better than women at math, thus our schools are sexist" (and certainly nobody seems concerned that men historically test lower than women in reading and language skills - guess men are just dumb, while women are 'oppressed').

This type of thinking goes directly against the 'strong will survive' axiom, the very core of evolutionary theory and a competitive society. It is reactionary, and concerned more with the superficial appearance of progress than long-term effect.

It's great that you post such a long-winded tirade, Calligraph, but you still have yet to explain how standard tests are skewed to favor girls over boys in math. If you can explain this rationally, and with even a smidgen of proof, I will never ever ever make fun of you ever ever ever again...

I guess my point is, if your logic skills are a little goofy here, how much else in your goofy mind have you twisted and reshaped into such cuckoo-nutty goofiness?

I know we shouldn't feed the trolls, but, damn, this Calligraph goof is fun to deconstruct.

calligraph,

C'mon, smart guy, did you download the SAT tests? It only takes a minute or two to sign up, and you'll have it.

Yesterday you accuse a liberal veteran of being a coward - and when he calls you on it .... deafening silence. Any reasonable person would be embarrassed. This has nothing to do with political orientation, I'm betting that Syngas would have apologized if he'd made such an ass of himself. Today its SAT tests and you get called on it ... deafening silence. You look absurdly foolish, but what the hell - it on to the next rant.

If I were Norm, I'd never ban you - you are the poster child for blowhard conservatives.

calligraph ----

Awwww....a playwright comes up with a Horatio Alger story - Americans LOVE those. Too bad the conservative right is determined to take those opportunities down (and when liberals call them on it, they are accused of vilifying the system.)

Meanwhile - it's class warfare and a return to the Gilded Age. What Mamet should be writing about is the suckers --- Republican-supporting middle and lower classes who are begging to be slaves for the upper 1% (with the hilarious belief they are soon to jump classes- hey ---- maybe when they win the lottery or compete on a game show!) You see, they not only have to make money for themselves, make up for the financial loss of the programs that helped them, deal with the economic problems driven by this administration,----they also have to carry the weight of the super wealthy who aren't paying their fair share.

As far as the low test scores - when you don't want to invest in educating the general population (and why should the rich? Their kids are NEVER going to go anywhere other than the best schools, anyway) and when you have programs like the no child left behind which is all about teaching to the test and never actually LEARNING anything...What do you expect? BTW - I agree there has to be more understanding of boys' development since they are usually somewhat behind girls initially. We as a nation need to get the most out of all our citizens - male and female.

Enjoy.... http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/07/03/thenewgildedageandclassw/ http://dissentmag.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/americas-middle-class-cant-take-much-more-punishment/

Norm, i think it would be great to explore more what Robert Solomon is hinting at in his by-passing of the "Why anything?" question that you feature at the top of your post.

It may well be that the question is meaningless, as Bertrand Russell (with others) used to think, but my first reaction is that Solomon's take is a cheap cop-out, confusing the meaning of "Life"—with a upper case "L" with the meaning of OUR own life.

How many people could disagree with the assertion that "What gives our lives meaning is not anything beyond our lives, but the richness of our lives. And that richness is predominantly a product of the passions, which thereby become our answer to the problem of the meaning of life." Duh, no shit Sherlock (as Watson used to say)…

But what a mediocre sleight of hand. Now, i understand Solomon's reluctance in the light of what he perceives as religious proselytism insinuating itself in the cracks of our knowledge limits. Still, it sounds to me like "Don't look there!".

i much prefer Steven Weinberg's take when discussing the theory of everything with Richard Dawkins (on the Voices of Science DVDs). Weinberg points out to Dawkins (uncharacteristically quiet and acquiescent for once) that the "final" answer (meaning the TOE) will still make absolutely no sense to us (perhaps this is what Russell was alluding to), that there is NO final answer. So, I suppose that Solomon is right to say that our meaning is in ourselves—but let us not fool ourselves into thinking there is any profundity to that: it's more a proof of our ignorance and our cosmic insignificance.

"The country's going to Hell in a rainbow-colored hippie hand basket, folks."

I'm imagining Barney Five yelling that at Andy, while running after some hippies and trying to load his single bullet into his gun...

:)

The equation is simple: consume more calories than you burn and you get fat. doesn't matter if the calories are from beer, bread, bacon or Sunny Delight. Obesity results when a person consumes more calories than they expend for activity and basic metabolic processes.

the "calorie is a calorie" arguement is a red herring. Types of cholesterol (LDL vs. HDL) have different effects on your body, and even the type of molecule of cholesterol has an effect on how well your body can get rid of it. Your digestive system is built to break down certain types of materials as food, and we are feeding ourselves High-Fructose Corn Syrup, which apparently, our body isn't so good at breaking down and metabolizing.

Mat Scheck1 said

How exactly can you make a math test easier for girls and harder for boys to skew the results in favor of girls?

I would love to hear your answer.

Really.

I'm still curious what the answer to this question is.

And yet, the next response from Calligraph/Average Joe/TeafortheTillerman etc etc was not a response to this question.. he just ignored the question and went forward with another response typical of any coward/troo

Mat Scheck1 also noticed this, and again asked how this could be and again posed the question.

However, once again Average Joe/Calligraph got cornered into being an irrational idiot, and he wimped out and again he didn't respond. Surprise surprise.

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