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December 22, 2008

Questions Through the Ages

tip to pedantsareus...

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August 9, 2008

Quantum Mechanics

Science Saturday: Problems in Quantum Mechanics Defining Quantum Mechanics (16:13) Why the Schrodinger equation seems crazy… (08:43) …and a few possible ways to make it seem sane (09:29) Sean on the many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (04:00) David attacks the many-worlds interpretation (17:22) Quantum Mechanics and free will (07:29)...

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July 31, 2008

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

Editorial - Low-Road Express - Editorial - NYTimes.comWell, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook. Change *We* Can Believe In An Open Letter to Barack Obama The Power of the Protest Vote - Campaign Stops - 2008 Elections - Opinion - New York Times BlogDon’t be surprised if third or fourth party presidential candidates garner enough votes in November to make a difference in some of the hotly contested swing states. The polls show more than enough Republican disaffection with John McCain’s candidacy to make a case that Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, or another right-of-center candidate could take votes away from the G.O.P. standard bearer. And on the Democratic side, Barack Obama has to worry about defections of not only Hillary Clinton’s supporters, but also of liberals, who are beginning to grumble that he is moving too much toward the center. This Incomprehensible Whatever-it-was—By Wyatt Mason (Harper's Magazine)Philip Roth has an essay at the back of the paperback of Portnoy’s Complaint about how the first lines of his novels came to him. It’s a nice example of how Roth can take a tiny literality and squeeze more metaphorical substance from it than would seem possible (and, simultaneously, take a metaphor and squeeze it unto literality). Media Sheep » Mad Kane's Political Madness Catholic Clergy Call for Reparation in Response to Communion Desecration - Christian Newswire They are in desperate need of a remedial class on free speech. Karen Heller: The dumbing down of science | Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/28/2008Earlier this year, one of Philadelphia's illustrious cultural institutions underwent cosmetic surgery and had its name reduced. Our largest science institution simply became the Franklin, as if it were some glistening condo development or waterfront casino. Which is fitting, given all the sizzle, pyrotechnics and cost. Adult admission has soared to $23.25 if you want to see the current exhibits "Real Pirates" and "Chronicles of Narnia," the latter - correct me if I'm wrong - based on a fictional world and $1 billion global movie franchise. Terry Sanderson: Faith is not the answer | Comment is free | we stopped going to church we've become a nation of fat, isolated, divorced, graceless and uncaring slobs who spend all our time online creating "ever smaller sects of the like-minded." AC Grayling: The religious are intent on taking us back to the middle ages | Comment is free | to nowhere From Turkey to Germany to the States, religious people are intent on taking us back to the middle ages The zombification of philosophy (of mind) David Chalmers is a famous philosopher of mind. His fame rests in great part on his 1996 book, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. It’s too bad that the crucial idea behind the book, dualism, is hopelessly flawed, and -- more surprising yet -- that Chalmers got away with one of the most idiotic thought experiments ever, which a lot of people inexplicably seem to think is oh so very clever. This all came back to (my) mind because of a recent article in Philosophy Now by Rebecca Hanrahan (an assistant professor of philosophy at Whitman College in Washington state), who’s finally got the chutzpah to point out the obvious, telling it like it is about Chalmers’ famous “zombie argument.”...

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July 6, 2008

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

Language Log » Ellipses Elided George Bush demonstrates, once again, what an asshole he is at his core. Don't like what Jeffereson really said, just excise the part that doesn't fit your demented world view. Errors in punctuation sometimes result in misinterpretation, but they usually don't arouse the moral outrage that plagiarism does. Some should. The Satirical Political Report - An Offbeat Look at the Hot-Button Issues of the Day » Liberals Ask Obama: Are We ‘Stuck in the Middle With You?’ Sam Harris: The Boundaries of Belief - On Faith at washingtonpost.comAccording to a recent Pew survey, 21 percent of atheists in the United States believe in “God or a universal spirit,” and 8 percent are “absolutely certain” that such a Being exists. One wonders if they were also “absolutely certain” they understood the meaning of the term “atheist.” Claiming to be an atheist who believes in God is like claiming to be a happily married bachelor. Rarely does one discover nonsense in such a pristine state. Still this hasn’t stopped many people from concluding that there is a schism in the atheist community. McCain Battles a Nemesis, the Teleprompter - The political establishment and telecom immunity -- why it matters - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.comWhat all of this is really about -- the reason why political elites like Nancy Soderberg are so eager to defend it -- is because they really do believe that lawbreaking isn't wrong, that it doesn't deserve punishment, when engaged in by them rather than by commoners. People who defend telecom immunity or who say that it's not a big deal are, by logical necessity, adopting this view: "Our highest political officials and largest corporations shouldn't face consequences when they break our laws as long as they claim it was for our own good." That's the destructive premise that lies at the heart of this deeply corrupt measure, the reason it matters so much. Just like the pardon of Nixon, the protection of Iran-contra criminals, and the commutation of Lewis Libby's sentence, this bill is yet another step in cementing a two-tiered system of justice in America where our highest political officials and connected elite can break our laws with impunity. Dick Cavett and his literary lions | Jacket Copy | Los Angeles Times 'The Dumbest Generation' by Mark Bauerlein - Los Angeles Times Philosophy Now - Saving TruthTruth has been having a rather hard time in recent decades. Insults have been hurled at it from left and right. Truth, we are endlessly told, is relative to perspective, to viewpoint, to ‘where you’re coming from’. The most popular versions of such relativism connect truth with power: what counts as true is the world according to those who have the greatest political or institutional clout. Even the truths of science are less about nature than about discourses that have become dominant for reasons other than their ability to uncover reality. Nietzsche’s famous riposte to the positivist claim that there are only facts – that “there are no such things as facts, only interpretations” – is a favourite among humanist intellectuals. Such assaults on the notion of objective truth appear to have a lot going for them, at least if you’re in a seminar room rather than, say, dealing with a medical emergency or running for a bus. Some political and historical truths do indeed seem to be spin-dependent. And in many other circumstances, the selection and even the construction of facts will be influenced by the interests of those who are offering them as ‘the truth about such-and-such’. Relativism discredits itself, however, when it is generalised to all putative truths. Ultimately, the assertion that there is no such thing as truly objective truth is self-refuting, if it means anything: for there is no reason why this meta-truth about truth should be immune from its own radical attack on all truths. Is it true?...

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June 9, 2008

Links With Your Coffee - Monday

The Jesus Religious Attitudes Survey Pollster: Excuse me, sir. Jesus: I forgive you. Pollster: No, I mean I want a minute or two of your time for a survey I'm doing. Jesus: I have all the time in the world. And then some. The Satirical Political Report - A Look Back at Campaign ‘08: The True Story of the Democrats’ ‘Color Wars’ Language Log » Military WhorfianismLike most people to the left of Genghis Khan, I find much of what appears on Michelle Malkin's blog rather strange . . . Politics and the Classroom: One More Try - Stanley Fish - Think Again - Opinion - New York Times Blog EvolutionBlog : Is Religion Really Such a Powerful Social Force? » City of Pigs Enough or Not Enough? When does a person have enough to live a good life? Is it by possessing the simple basics of life: sufficient food, water, air, clothing and shelter? Without these things, we suffer and die, but, taken together, are they sufficient to live well and thrive as a human being? In Plato’s “Republic,” Socrates describes as healthy a society in which everyone shares the work according to ability and the modest sustenance it provides. The people are not greedy or envious, taking joy or sadness in the successes or failures of their collective enterprises. In the evenings, they sit on the grass, eat off leaves and drink from gourds. They have no fancy spices, but honey for sweetness, and wine and conversation for their entertainment. In this way, they live at peace with themselves, protected from covetous invaders by their collective ‘poverty.’ They have nothing that anyone would wish to steal. THE ESCAPE ARTIST: JOHN BANVILLE ON GEORGES SIMENONI've read well over 100 novels by Georges Simenon both the Inspector Maigret novels and what I refer to as his psychological novels. The human condition is at the root of both, wherein he has artfully explores the many ways humans fail to meet the expectations of others and of themselves.As one contemplates the life and work of Georges Simenon, the question inevitably arises: Was he human? In his energies, creative and erotic, he was certainly extraordinary. He wrote some 400 novels, under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as countless short stories and film scripts, and toward the end of his life, having supposedly given up writing, he dictated thousands of pages of memoirs. He could knock off a novel in a week or 10 days of manic typing — he never revised, as the work sometimes shows—and in Paris in the 1920s he is said to have broken off an affair with Josephine Baker, the expatriate American chanteuse and star of La Revue Nègre, because in the year he was with her, he was so distracted by his passion for her that he had managed to write only three or four books....

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June 5, 2008

The Antidote is Skepticism

The Political Brain: Scientific American: “The Political Brain A recent brain-imaging study shows that our political predilections are a product of unconscious confirmation bias By Michael Shermer The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion ... draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises ... in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. --Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620 Pace Will Rogers, I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a libertarian. As a fiscal conservative and social liberal, I have found at least something to like about each Republican or Democrat I have met. I have close friends in both camps, in which I have observed the following: no matter the issue under discussion, both sides are equally convinced that the evidence overwhelmingly supports their position.”...

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June 2, 2008

A Book For You

I've read it, I enjoyed it, would you like it? The book is The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods by Julian Baggini and Peter S.Ford This is a book that I wouldn't give away but I misplaced it and believing it lost purchased a second copy. It was only a few days later that I found what was lost, and so . . . And the winner is Jill Bryant. I'll take all requests for the book left in the comments during the next 24 hours, or so, and then use a random number generator to determine the winner. I'll then ship the book at my expense to the winner. The offer is limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada. My apologies to my good friends in other countries but the cost of shipments to other destinations is simply too high. Note:The offer is open only to registered comments others will be ignored. Please make it clear if you want to be considered for the book or are just commenting....

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February 21, 2008

How are they the same?

Woody Allen Martin Luther King, Jr Bill Clinton Bruce Lee David Duchovny Raisa Gorbachev Jay Leno Harrison Ford Steve Martin Susan Sarandon George Soros Thomas Jefferson Northrop Frye Iris Murdoch Alexander Solzhenitsin Susan Sontag Pope John Paul II Pierre Trudeau...

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