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September 24, 2005


"You may decry some of these scruples and protest that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. I am concerned, rather, that there should not be more things dreamt of in my philosophy than there are in heaven or earth."—N. Goodman...

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June 23, 2005

Religion and the Brain

"From a scientific point of view, we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions. "—Bertrand Russell (1935)...

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May 15, 2005

One Kind of Knowledge

If, as our race approaches its maturity, it discovers, as I believe it will, that there is but one kind of knowledge and one method of acquiring it; then we, who are still children may justly feel it our highest duty to recognise the advisability of improving natural knowledge, and so to aid ourselves and our successors towards the noble goal which lies before mankind—Thomas Huxley, "On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge"...

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May 14, 2005

Bye and Bye

Long-haired preachers come out every night, Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right; But when asked how 'bout something to eat They will answer with voices so sweet: You will eat, bye and bye, In that glorious land above the sky; Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die. —Joe Hill, International Workers of the World (IWW), 1911...

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April 24, 2005

Literature Is A Loose Canon

Salman Rushdie on how literature can transform information into gold The old idea of the intellectual as the one who speaks truth to power is still an idea worth holding on to. Tyrants fear the truth of books because it's a truth that's in hock to nobody, it's a single artist's unfettered vision of the world. They fear it even more because it's incomplete, because the act of reading completes it, so that the book's truth is slightly different in each reader's different inner world, and these are the true revolutions of literature, these invisible, intimate communions of strangers, these tiny revolutions inside each reader's imagination, and the enemies of the imagination, politburos, ayatollahs, all the different goon squads of gods and power, want to shut these revolutions down, and can't. Not even the author of a book can know exactly what effect his book will have, but good books do have effects, and some of these effects are powerful, and all of them, thank goodness, are impossible to predict in advance....

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April 19, 2005

Scientific Methods

There are no scientific methods which alone lead to knowledge! We have to tackle things experimentally, now angry and cold with them. One person addresses things as a policeman, a second as a father confessor, a third as an inquisitive wanderer. Something can be wrung from them now with sympathy, now with force; reverence for their secrets will take one person forward, indiscretion and roguishness in revealing their secrets will do the same for another. We investigators are, like all conquerors, seafarers, adventurers, of an audacious morality and must reconcile ourselves to being considered on the whole evil.— Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak...

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April 6, 2005

Feynman on "God"

"God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God; you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don't believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time -- life and death -- stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out. "—Richard Feynman...

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January 15, 2005

Spend It All

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes." — Annie Dillard...

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