Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Humanist Delusion?

In his book, Straw Dogs (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), professor of European thought, John Gray, argues that the humanist belief in progress is deluded in part because our experience of “consciousness, selfhood, and free will” are uneven at best (p. 38): Our lives … Continue reading

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A Good Reason to Stop Fearing Cancer

If you worry about detecting cancer early, and therefore anxiously get regular cancer screenings, the New York Times today has an article on cancer screening that puts the whole subject into perspective: early detection doesn’t reduce the actual mortality rates from most … Continue reading

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Barnes and Noble Used to Be a Bookstore

And the fact that it’s not anymore suggests (at least to me) that the franchise is dying. Just last night, for example, I went into my nearby Barnes and Noble in northern Los Angeles County and had a look around. While … Continue reading

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Pope Benedict’s Third Force: Nice Agnostics Like Me

As an agnostic, it’s nice to learn that the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a Cardinal Ratzinger), wants to make solidarity with me in pursuit of truth, goodness, and peace. In a recent speech, here’s part of … Continue reading

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Walking in the Paws of Others: Was It Love, Duty, or Sympathy That Motivated This Dog?

Or am I anthropomorphizing? — If the dog’s behavior was not triggered by a conscious impulse to love, duty, or sympathy, why did the dog cross the road? I wonder if the dogs were even related. Can a dog have … Continue reading

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I Still Like Obama

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Jacob Wrestling the Irrational Animal: George Orwell on Critical Thinking

In London’s Tribune, George Orwell wrote an essay (“In Front of Your Nose,” March 22, 1946) with a number of great observations on critical thinking. The first is this:   In general, one is only right when either wish or fear coincides with … Continue reading

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Critical Thinking Watch: Is Jonathon Keats’ “Copernican Art Manifesto” Serious?

—– Jonathon Keats, “conceptual artist,” has written an art manifesto worthy of an Onion News parody, and yet I think he’s actually serious. His manifesto is getting some straight press (such as from Wired magazine) and he’s accompanied the manifesto with the kinds of … Continue reading

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The Ummah Curtain: Tunisia’s “Moderate Islamist Party Ennahda” is Coming to Power

So long, secularism in Tunisia. Concerning the Tunisian elections, AP reports today that secularism appears to be in retreat there: [A] once-banned Islamist party is leading in many constituencies in the country that unleashed uprisings across the Arab world. But, AP … Continue reading

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Issues in Critical Thinking: Bertrand Russell on Human Irrationality

The following sentences begin Bertrand Russell’s essay, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish”, which was first published in 1943: Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of … Continue reading

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Stuxnet-Like Virus Duqu is Coming from India?

This is curious. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Stuxnet-like computer virus, Duqu, is coming from India, and it’s one bad mother fucker: Systems infected with Duqu are connected to a command computer that is in an unknown location in India, … Continue reading

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Critical Thinking Quote Watch: Derek Bok on the Primary Goal of a College Education (and Higher Education’s General Failure at Reaching It)

The following quote comes from Derek Bok’s book, Our Underachieving Colleges (Princeton 2006, p. 8): Many [college] seniors graduate without being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers. Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, … Continue reading

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Richard Dawkins Won’t Debate William Lane Craig Because Craig Rationalizes Genocide

Though I’d like to see Richard Dawkins debate William Lane Craig, I actually think that Dawkins has given a good reason for not debating him, highlighting the following passage from Craig’s writings in which Craig rationalizes genocide: I have come to appreciate … Continue reading

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Naturalism, Supernaturalism, and Motivated Reasoning

At the ID website, Uncommon Descent, a person who goes by the name of “Mirrortothesun” makes the following thread comment: Here’s the problem with every single post on this site, including this one. They are all examples of motivated reasoning. … Continue reading

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Bearing Witness to Maspero: Image of Egyptian Christians at Maspero Morgue Killed by Police and Islamic Mob Violence, October 9th, 2011

The image comes from Wikipedia Commons. These were among the 26 victims of October 9th, 2011, in the Cairo district of Maspero. The image was taken at the Coptic hospital’s morgue. ———- This, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, seems … Continue reading

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Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria Comments on the Maspero Square Massacre of Egyptian Christians

Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria is a graduate of Cairo University and has been the leader of Coptic Christians in Alexandria (and most other Christians residing in north Africa and the Middle East) since 1971. Coptic Christians make up about 9% of the … Continue reading

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Kansas City Bishop Robert W. Finn Knew of the Child Pornography Photographs Taken by Father Shawn Ratigan

Father Robert W. Finn is bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph archdiocese. He is also, according to today’s New York Times, an outspoken theological conservative. And he’s a protector of at least one child abuser. That child abuser’s name is Father Shawn Ratigan. Here’s the … Continue reading

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No Matter How You Supplement, Cosmo, You’re Still Going to Die

A little reminder, from Ronald Bailey at Reason magazine, that there continues to be no evidence that vitamin supplementation improves health or increases longevity. Here’s his summary of two recent medical studies: One finding is that men in the prostate cancer study who took … Continue reading

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On the Road to Weimar: Pat Buchanan’s New Book

Pat Buchanan thinks America’s headed for Weimar-era levels of inflation. At least, this is what Jeffrey Kuhner claims in a favorable review of Buchanan’s new book, Suicide of a Superpower (2011), for the Washington Times: Mr. Buchanan states that the exploding debt threatens … Continue reading

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Sarah Churman, Deaf from Birth, Hears for the First Time

Implants, not from the laying on of hands. Try not to cry. _____ A big thank you to the Enlightenment (yes, that Enlightenment) and Francis Bacon (who got the whole “let’s try systematic empiricism” thing going in earnest). Hat tip: Andrew. … Continue reading

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