Who's Feeling Cynical? I Am
When does skeptical become cynical? Right now. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision which upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, is being debated for its political implication but looking solely at the climate around the decision I am left feeling cynical. Reason for Optimism On what was one of the most polarizing political issues of our time Chief Justice Roberts decision...
You wouldn’t think of someone who runs a blog dedicated to controversial topics as being practical. However the idea of how to effectively communicate skepticism to the public was brought to my attention over this past weekend so I thought I’d recall some of the my personal hard-learned rules of dialogue. Don’t Do Long Private Debates To begin in complete hypocrisy I admit I...
Why Don't We Sell Votes?
I have a brilliant idea. If markets truly are the most efficient means to getting goods to those who value them most, and markets don’t affect the goods being exchanged, then we should sell votes. Considering that many people in all democracies don’t vote surely a market in votes would maximize social utility in a way our current systems simply fail to do. Better yet why not just...
While I’ve been unproductive this week several of my favorite Youtube channels have not. In case you’ve missed it: * Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week interviewed prominent climate “skeptic” Mark Morano about his practice of publicly releasing scientists’ email addresses. * Speaking of denial the best science channel on youtube featured a great...
In Defense of Biblical Literalism
I’ve known a wide variety of Christians in my life and I’ve seen probably as many interpretations of the Bible as there are Christians. Many of them, being liberal or moderate believers, often chastise atheists like myself for taking certain passages literally. They argue, in effect, that we are taking a naive view of scripture as totally literal but it seems to me this is the only...
Everyone has a right to be irrational, but rampant irrationality in a society on...– Massimo Pigluicci - the scientist turned philosopher from his book Nonsense on Stilts
And that (hopefully) concludes two and a half day free will discussion. If you thought I was tough on Harris about free will just wait till I become the last person to negatively review his ideas about morality. I hope you enjoyed it.
riffee asked: "unconscious decisions" is logically contradictory. If it is unconscious, it isn't a decision. And the fact that people are able to choose doesn't mean that those choices aren't influenced by entirely deterministic stimulus. Compatabilists' ability to defend their belief of free will is no different than a fatalists ability to defend theirs or a theist to defend...
Anonymous asked: I'm not quite sure where I stand on Sam Harris' book, but from what I read of it, when he mentioned conscious thought being unrelated to free will he was discussing the causes of conscious thought. We can't control it: have you ever tried to think of nothing, and random things came into your head? It was basically that. If thoughts are caused, then we don't control them: and if...
Anonymous asked: On the 'know how it feels to not know' point, the main issue is that by analysing our brains, it still doesn't know how it feels as it would know what that person does not know, hence it cannot know how it would feel to not know. It's a subtle difference, but relevant for an omni-trait. Also, on the paradox, the point was there's ultimately a stalemate: one side assumes...
Sam Harris is Wrong About: Free Will
It’s only fitting the inaugural post in this series comes from the musings of Sam Harris. Many have already challenged Harris on free will who is, as the phrase goes, often wrong but never in doubt. This is perhaps the most dangerous of all mindsets but I digress before I begin. Harris’ thoughts on free will in his creatively titled book on the topic, Free Will, often amounts to...
Anonymous asked: On your comment on omniscience, I think the best response to it is simply that the being knows that it's not a brain in the vat, or some such thing. I can't say how the theoretical omniscient being knows that because I'm not omniscient: but it's logical that it could just simply know it. A better paradox would probably be whether an omniscient being knows how it feels to not...
Anonymous asked: waiit you were trying to complete the bible? or make a new one?
Anonymous asked: I would like to just correct you on something. Not in mean way.. I saw your answer to the question about the book "heaven is for real!" and me being someone who has read the book let me just tell you! He said that he went up to heaven where he met Jesus and told hes parents he Saw what they were doing. He said that he saw his dad praying in the church!! His Dad said that he hadnt told...
I'm Done with the Bible
Being Sunday I figured there’s no better time to announce that I’m done attempting to complete the Bible probably forever. The added benefit I’d gain at this point is far surpassed by the opportunity cost. I’d much rather spend my time learning about topics with real world applications instead of completing the Bible such that when I’m inevitably asked by a believer...
If you don’t notice when your model makes the evidence unlikely, you might...– Eliezer Yudkowsky - on the importance of having theories which can’t explain everything
Bayesian Reasoning: What Counts as Evidence?
[Continuing my look at Bayesian reasoning. My previous explanation of Bayes’ theorem.] Perhaps the most fundamental question underlying Bayes’ theorem is what counts as evidence for a theory. Strangely there is a correct answer to this question which applies not just to Bayes’ theorem but all evidence: something is evidence for a theory if and only if it was more likely to...
Prominent Atheist is Wrong
Only half-jokingly I’m beginning a series called “Prominent Atheist is Wrong.” I don’t frequent the prominent atheist blogs because many of them are more like reality tv than drivers of information or interesting reflections on issues. However I regularly come across popular atheists saying things I think are completely and utterly wrong. More closely to my life I regularly...
Ghostbusters of the Mind Part 2
In the first part of my look at dualism I explained how an apt use of Bayesian reasoning offers a knock-down argument against belief in dualism but simple careful reasoning shows us why the conversation about probabilities needn’t be had. There are fundamental problems with attributing consciousness to a non-physical substance. There are two common objections to substance dualism in...