Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


The impossible dream

Aug 4th, 2014 11:01 am | By

Oh yes, this is a permanent wish / gripe / dissent of mine – Robert Reich’s suggestion that we Just Imagine If People Were Paid What Their Work Is Really Worth to Society. Well yes. Teachers, farmers, people who clean hospitals and hotels and schools, bus drivers, garbage collectors, as opposed to people who massage money or market harmful shit or sell cigarettes.

What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society.

Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the  $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?

On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of  $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year.

How much does society gain from personal-care aides who assist the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities? Likely more than their average pay of  $9.67 an hour, or just over $20,000 a year.

What’s the social worth of hospital orderlies who feed, bathe, dress, and move patients, and empty their ben pans? Surely higher than their median wage of  $11.63 an hour, or $24,190 a year.

Exactly.

Most financiers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants are competing with other financiers, lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants in zero-sum games that take money out of one set of pockets and put it into another.

They’re paid gigantic amounts because winning these games can generate far bigger sums, while losing them can be extremely costly.

It’s said that by moving money to where it can make more money, these games make the economy more efficient.

In fact, the games amount to a mammoth waste of societal resources.

They demand ever more cunning innovations but they create no social value. High-frequency traders who win by a thousandth of a second can reap a fortune, but society as a whole is no better off.

Meanwhile, the games consume the energies of loads of talented people who might otherwise be making real contributions to society — if not by tending to human needs or enriching our culture then by curing diseases or devising new technological breakthroughs, or helping solve some of our most intractable social problems.

Not to mention the fact that the competitive money-massagers caused the entire global economy to tank while making a few massagers grotesquely rich. Not a fabulous arrangement, if you ask me.

Reich suggests canceling the college debts of people who go into useful but underpaid fields. A very tiny band-aid.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The withdrawing room 2

Aug 4th, 2014 10:35 am | By

Time explains today’s Google doodle celebrating the 180th birthday of John Venn.

Correlation has never looked this cute. Google created an interactive illustration in honor of the 180th birthday of logician and philosopher John Venn — best known, of course, for inventing the circles known as the Venn diagram. The doodle allows you to choose from five different subjects (mammals and sea life, for example) along with five descriptors (thrives in cold, has wings, etc.) and then see the resulting correlation. 

I’ve been playing with it, with much amusement.

Venn’s 180th.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



An increase of 158 in 4 days

Aug 4th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The WHO reports new numbers on the Ebola outbreak.

The World Health Organization says the death toll from the worst outbreak of Ebola on record has reached 887.

That’s an increase of 158 since the global health body released figures on July 31.

WHO said in a statement on Monday that there now have been more than 1,600 cases of Ebola since the disease emerged in Guinea earlier this year.

According to WHO, there now have been a total of 358 deaths in Guinea, 255 deaths in Liberia, 273 deaths in Sierra Leone and one in Nigeria.

The news comes as Nigeria announced Monday that it now had confirmed a second case in Africa’s most populous nation. Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the case is a doctor who had helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who died July 25 days after arriving in Nigeria from Liberia.

Three other people who treated Sawyer are showing symptoms, and are being tested.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



To the closeted atheists, you are not alone

Aug 3rd, 2014 6:21 pm | By

The BBC has discovered American Atheists.

Atheists in the US are rallying together, launching a new TV programme and providing support for those who go public with their beliefs.

“Sometimes things need to be said, and fights need to be fought even if they are unpopular. To the closeted atheists, you are not alone, and you deserve equality.”

So goes the rousing speech from the American Atheists president, David Silverman, in the opening moments of the first US television broadcaster dedicated to those who do not believe in God, Atheist TV.

A series of testimonies from prominent atheists then follows.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and I completely advocate people ‘coming out’,” says Mark Hatcher, from Black Atheists of America.

“Coming out” is how many atheists in the USA describe what remains, for many, a very difficult admission to make publicly.

I know Mark Hatcher – I was on a panel with him at the CFI Summit last fall.

At one of the biggest gatherings of atheist students in the country, in Columbus, Ohio, Jamila Bey from the Secular Student Alliance said there were many attendees who were nervous about being interviewed and had indicated so by what they were wearing around their neck.

“Red lanyards mean ‘You may not talk to me’,” says Bey. “A number of the students we have aren’t ‘out’. Their parents may not know that they are atheist or questioning their religion.”

She said many were worried about being ostracised or were even scared of violence if they revealed they did not believe in God.

I know Jamila, too. It’s odd reading about people you know at the BBC.

They offers some numbers.

Who is an atheist?

• 2% of US adults say they are atheists

• 67% of them are men

• 26% of them see themselves as spiritual

• 82% say at times they feel a deep connection with nature

Source: Pew Research Center

That 67% – that’s sad. That’s terrible. You’d think it would be worth making organized atheism less shitty to women in hopes of bringing more of them in.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Some tortoise

Aug 3rd, 2014 5:39 pm | By

The cops in Alhambra, California nabbed a tortoise yesterday. They told us about it on their Facebook page, in hopes of reuniting tortoise with human or humans.

It wasn’t your dime-store tortoise.

It has a sweet face. As tortoises do.

It’s back with its people now, and we know its name.

* * * Turtleman Update 08/03/14* * *

The tortoise is actually named “Dirk.” He has been reunited with his human family who actually live in Alhambra. According to 21310 of the Penal Code, it is illegal to possess a “dirk.” We enjoy keeping families together, so an exception was made in this case.
* * * We stand corrected and have edited this post at 4:30 pm* * * The tortoises’ confirmed name is CLARK. Thank you Alhambra partners and FB friends! Until next time . . .

Clark. I’m a little sad, because I liked Dirk – that was a great name for a tortoise.

Happy homecoming, Clark.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



As the stag calms down

Aug 3rd, 2014 5:14 pm | By

Interesting.

Aug. 1, 2014 – A study of 1,400 ancient and modern human skulls suggests that a reduction in testosterone hormone levels accompanied the development of cooperation, complex communication and modern culture some 50,000 years ago.

The research, published in today’s issue of the journal Current Anthropology, “uses craniofacial evidence to propose that lowered testosterone levels could explain the relatively sudden origin of modern behavior about 50,000 years ago,” says University of Utah biology graduate student Robert Cieri.

The idea being – to put it as crudely as possible – that lower testosterone would lead to less bashing over the head and more dialogue.

“Humans are uniquely able to communicate complex thoughts and cooperate even with strangers,” Cieri says. “New research on fossilized Stone Age humans from Europe, Africa and the Near East suggests these traits are linked, developed around 50,000 years ago, and were a driving force behind the development of complex culture.”

Homo sapiens, or modern humans, first appeared in the fossil record about 200,000 years ago, but evidence of modern behavior, such as symbolic artifacts and advanced tools are only about 50,000 years old, he adds.

So if that hypothesis is right, lower testosterone made all the good stuff possible – language, chat, jokes; social interaction and co-operation, art, pecan brownies. (Also nuclear weapons, global warming, genocide.)

I’m wondering if they mean lower testosterone in females as well as males or just males.

Patricia Churchland puts hormones at the center of human morality. Lena Groeger wrote up a talk of hers at Massimo Pigliucci’s blog in 2011.

It all begins with me. Ok, not me, but the self. Each one of us is equipped with a neural circuitry that ensures our own self-caring and well-being — values in the most fundamental sense. As Churchland likes to say “we’re all born with systems that are very deep in the values business.” Neurons in the brainstem and hypothalamus monitor the inner state of our bodies to keep us alive; they also cause us to run from predators or eat when we’re hungry. Without these life-relevant feelings we wouldn’t survive very long, let alone reproduce.

The next step is to move from self-caring to other-caring. In mammals, this shift occurs not by some radical new engineering plan, but by slight adjustments to the neural mechanisms that are already in place. Modifications to the emotional, endocrine, stress and reward/punishment systems motivate new values, namely, the well-being of certain others. It’s as if the “golden circle of me” expands to include offspring, mates, friends and eventually even strangers.

At the heart of all these modifications and changes to the brain is a relatively simple hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is thought to play an important role in mammalian bonding, evoking feelings of contentment and trust, reducing defensive behaviors like fleeing or fighting, and increasing the sense of calmness and security. Churchland describes the importance of oxytocin by telling her favorite story of all time — it involves voles.

Actually, two types of voles: prairie voles and montane voles. Prairie voles bond for life; montane voles are promiscuous. Male prairie voles protect their pups from harm, provide them with food, and fight off other males. Male montane voles take no role in guarding the nest, the female, or the pups. Scatter them across a room, prairie voles will collect back together in a huddle. Montane voles are content to be left alone.
What makes these furry little rodents behave so differently? In the 1970’s neuroscientist Sue Carter decided to look for the answer in the brain. She found that in a very specific place, the density for oxytocin receptors was much higher in prairie voles than in montane voles. Subsequent studies have shown that blocking the receptors for oxytocin in prairie voles changes their social behavior dramatically, and they no longer bond with their mates. For Churchland, this story was the clue that oxytocin was the neural mechanism for attachment, or what “Hume might accept as the germ of the moral sentiment.”
Oxytocin. Attachment. Feeeelings. Warm fuzzies. Without that there is no morality, there’s only self. Without that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is of no interest; you might as well talk about the greatest happiness of the greatest number of rocks. Without that the well-being of conscious creatures is of no more interest than the well-being of rocks. You need to add reason, to avoid making a whole lot of mistakes along the way, but reason isn’t the engine.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



More brawling

Aug 3rd, 2014 4:27 pm | By

It’s good to see that everyone sees the point of the joint statement and has decided to avoid the more childish ways of responding to disagreements like attacks on appearance and photoshops and caricatures and similar. Well maybe not quite everyone…

backback2Haw haw.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Lifestyles of the rich archbishops

Aug 3rd, 2014 12:46 pm | By

CNN notes that being a big noise in the Catholic church provides some pretty comfortable lodgings.

There’s Timothy Dolan’s cottage on Madison Avenue, for instance.


From Google

It’s 15,000 square feet. He squeezes into it with three other priests. Not too shabby, is it.

The one in Chicago for Cardinal Francis George is even nicer.

This mansion has 19 chimneys and sits on 1.7 acres of prime real estate in Chicago’s ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood. It’s worth $14.3 million “as is,” but the property could fetch far more, appraisers told CNN.

George, whose private quarters occupy the mansion’s top two floors, according to the archdiocese, shares the residence with two bishops and a priest.

Three nuns who care for the cardinal and his mansion live in a 5,800-square-foot coach house near the main residence.

The mansion’s size, architectural details, location and unobstructed view of nearby Lincoln Park make the residence “one of a kind,” said Thomas Schurer, director of sales for Chicago’s Real Valuation Services, which appraised George’s residence for CNN.

But hey, they deserve it for their hard work in making sure that women who have incomplete miscarriages will die because they can’t get an abortion.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



In a better world

Aug 3rd, 2014 12:10 pm | By

Meriam Ibrahim arrived in the US a few days ago.

Mrs Ibrahim flew from Rome to Philadelphia with her husband and two children, en route to Manchester, New Hampshire, where her husband has relatives and the family hope to settle.

The mayor said nice things to her there.

Her next stop was Manchester, and there were about 40 relatives and supporters at the airport to greet her, some of them chanting “Long Live America”, says the BBC’s Gringo Wotshela, who was at the scene.

He said her husband said a few words, in which he thanked the US government for its strong stance, the New Hampshire senators who worked hard to arrange her asylum and the people of Sudan for their support.

 

That’s all good.

Of course in a better world, none of this would be news, because no one would have tried to kill Meriam Ibrahim for not belonging to a particular religion, because it would be universally acknowledged that people have the right to choose 1. whether to belong to a religion at all and 2. what religion to belong to.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The sin of laughter

Aug 3rd, 2014 11:33 am | By

Channel 4 provides a bunch of pictures of women laughing in response to Bulent Arinc’s demand that women stop laughing in public.

They’re glorious pictures, all the better as a collection. What would life be without laughter??

A couple from Twitter under #kahkaha:

Embedded image permalink

 

Embedded image permalink

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Why did not they remove the Qur’an from the mosque before destroying it?

Aug 3rd, 2014 10:59 am | By

There’s a rather depressing piece in the Guardian by Fazel Hawramy and Mohammad Moslawi about the beginnings of resistance to ISIS in Mosul.

Iraqis living under Isis rule in Iraq, where non-Sunni residents have been forced from their homes and tens of mosques have been deemed idolatrous and marked for destruction, have started to push back against the extreme interpretation of Islam being imposed on them.

In Mosul, despite its military triumphs, Isis is losing the hearts, minds and obedience of residents who say they have had enough.

When its fighters destroyed the Nabi Jonah mosque (Jonah’s tomb) in the Iraqi city last Thursday, they failed to removed copies of the Qur’an and other religious texts. Residents treading through the ruins of the building found torn and burnt pages of the holy books scattered across the rubble. It was an insult to Islam that was captured on video and unified the city in outrage.

“[Isis] claims that having graves inside mosques is heretical but what about the Qur’an, why did not they remove the Qur’an from the mosque before destroying it?” one resident, who did not wish to be named, asked the Guardian.

That’s the first specific grievance against ISIS they mention. There’s more about that, and other mosques, and other sites. There’s an attempt to order people to continue to fast on the first day of Eid. There’s an expulsion of Christians, and something about hair salons. The coverage seems to reflect a very impoverished set of concerns and priorities: huge concern for mosques and Korans, a little concern for Christians and people wanting unorthodox haircuts, and – nothing else.

It’s sad.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



And even the obligation

Aug 3rd, 2014 10:13 am | By

Oh yes, the ever-popular Incitement to Murder as Political Dissent routine.

Knight Science Journalism’s Paul Raeburn has weighed in on the increasingly sordid Mike Adams fiasco.

He writes: An anti-GMO activist has compared some science journalists and publications to the Nazis, saying they are “Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of ‘feeding the world’ with toxic GMOs.”

In the post on his Natural News blog, Mike Adams also writes that ” it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.”

Oh. Uh. But…that’s just rhetoric, right? He didn’t say kill these specific named people, right? It’s just hot air?

It is not known whether Adams is behind a separate website that appeared called Monsanto Collaborators, which listed more than a dozen science writers as collaborators, including Keith Kloor, Jon Entine, Brooke Borel, and others. It also listed Discover, National Geographic, MIT’s Technology Review, and Forbes.com, among others, as “publisher collaborators.”

NOTE: The GLP has been able to confirm that Adams is indeed the mastermind and financier behind the Monsanto Collaborator’s website. The story has now taken an even more bizarre twist, as Adams, facing multiple investigations from law enforcement officials, including the FBI, is now trying to make it appear that not only did he not oversee the project, but that it was a set up by Monsanto in a twisted plot to discredit anti-GMO critics.

Not just hot air then.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Strap an explosive belt to a ten-year-old girl

Aug 2nd, 2014 4:23 pm | By

But in Nigeria

A female suicide bomber killed six people at a college campus in Nigeria’s Kano city on Wednesday, the fourth time Boko Haram Islamists were suspected of using a female attacker in as many days.

The latest violence came as the government announced the arrest of a 10-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her chest in a neighbouring area.

At about 2:30 pm (1330 GMT) on Wednesday, an assailant blew herself up at a noticeboard on the campus of the Kano Polytechnic College while students were crowded around it.

Witness Isyaku Adamu said the explosion came from within the crush of students and left blood splattered on the ground, as soldiers and police scrambled to secure the area.

Government spokesman Mike Omeri put the casualties at six dead and six wounded and confirmed that a female, whose age was not immediately known, was responsible for the bloodshed.

It was the fourth attack by a female bomber in Nigeria’s second city since the weekend.

Apparently the only thing that’s not haram is murder.

On Sunday, a young woman injured five police officers as she blew herself up at a another campus in the city.

The next day, two young women believed to be in their late teens or early 20s separately attacked a petrol station and a shopping centre, suicide blasts that killed at least three people and injured 13.

Omeri said security forces on Tuesday stopped a car in Kano’s neighbouring state of Katsina and arrested three suspected Boko Haram members.

The group included one male and two girls, aged 18 and 10.

The older two tried to flee, according to Omeri’s statement.

The “10-year-old … was discovered to have been strapped with an explosive belt,” he said.

On the road to a halal world with no people in it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Well done Uganda’s Constitutional Court

Aug 2nd, 2014 4:03 pm | By

One piece of good news: The Pink Humanist reports that Uganda’s Constitutional Court has annulled the anti-gay legislation passed and signed into law last February.

It ruled that the bill was passed by MPs in December without the requisite quorum and was therefore illegal.

Homosexual acts were already illegal, but the new law allowed for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality” and banned the “promotion of homosexuality”.

Several donors have cut aid to Uganda since the law was adopted.

The BBC has more.

Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said the government was still waiting the attorney general’s advice about whether to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court.

He added that the ruling showed to Western donors that Uganda’s democracy was functioning very well and that they should reinstate any aid they had cut.

The Ugandan authorities have defended the law in the past, saying President Yoweri Museveni wanted “to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation”.

Yeah don’t do that. Don’t persecute people as a way to demonstrate independence. Demonstrate independence by doing something good, not by doing something hateful.

The challenge to the law was brought by 10 petitioners, including academics, journalists, both ruling and opposition MPs, human rights activists and rights groups.

“The retrogressive anti-homosexuality act of Uganda has been struck down by the constitutional court – it’s now dead as a door nail,” the AFP news agency quotes prominent journalist Andrew Mwenda, one of the petitioners, as saying.

Hope so.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: You teach reason, not emotions

Aug 2nd, 2014 3:20 pm | By

Originally a comment by Brony on Vulcans can’t argue.

@ brianpansky

Accepting that our primary motives are not rational (and not even conscious) is not , however, the same as saying – as Hume did – that reason should be the slave of emotions. Indeed, if that were the case, we should abandon any hope of progress in ethics and general well-being. Fortunately we do, in fact, use reason all the time to shape our emotions. What else is psychotherapy, if not a (mostly) rational attempt to modify our emotions? What are penalties for, if not to curb some desires?

Reason is in fact the slave of the emotions because reason is software carved into existence through the emotions. Emotions are tagging systems for transforming experience into memory, and recalling events stored and contextualized via those tags. You teach reason, not emotions. Psychotherapy is about modifying emotional contexts. Alterations of the tags and how they relate to stored memories.

We all weigh different emotions and assign different values to each.

And the value system in terms of reading/writing, perceived intensity, permanence, pervasiveness, valence and more is modified by inheritance, experience, and more. We can’t even measure best flavors of ice cream. The subjective differences in this system are too broad for anything like what you are attempting.

Where would I fit into your equation? My mind receives social information signals at altered intensity and valence. I get the very unique sensation of having “good” and “bad” combined into intensity with no moral direction in some social situations. Some folks like me even get signals that mean “good” turned into “bad” and vice versa.

I represent about 1-3% of the population. Other cognitive “disorders” are present at similar rates and all seem to blend into the rest of the population such that I mostly see myself as an archetype with other types of people around me to provide context. Suppose that the system is designed to have people present with altered moral, sensory, and other information processing to keep randomness in the population for the sake of natural selection?

Doesn’t he also have a right to fulfil his desire for sexual satisfactionby taking what they want from another?

Fixed.

You are trying to measure the desire to assert personal agency against the desire to ignore personal agency. Nauseating as it is, at least get your variables correct. Sexual satisfaction can be gained without treating another human as a sex toy.

Indeed. When rationally discussing a topic we should try to keep a cold head because emotions can interfere with our reasoning and lead to the wrong conclusions.

Some of us, and not necessarily permanently so I’ll take this to be applied only to the who might need it now. But one nice side effect of being me is a life time of dealing with your lizard brain being turned into an emotional hurricane that never shuts up is that you get really good at being rational while having access to your strongest emotions. Pick a fucked up thought or impulse. I’ve had them all and can even call up emotional states and function fine. Don’t assume that you are like me, or even most people. “Normal” is a strange phantom indeed.

This implies that somehow social justice and human rights are beyond reason and logic.

The context around it suggests that reason and logic cannot function without emotion.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post: If you want to have that conversation, go have it

Aug 2nd, 2014 1:10 pm | By

Originally a comment by Nathaniel Frein on Public property.

@sonof: I think what Ophelia is saying in response to your #16 could be paraphrased as ‘bothering men that way is bad but doing it to women is WORSE so shut up and go away’, so apparently she is learning a lot from her new friend (Richard).

Oh do fuck off. Seriously.

You have the wide wide internet to make your point that “People in general should not have their emotions audited by others”, and instead you choose to come here and criticize one blogger for choosing to focus on a behavior that by far happens to women much more than men.

Lets have an anecdote off: I have never been told to smile. I have watched people tell my wife to smile constantly. Hell, I worked retail for a year and while I have what, on a woman, would be called a “bitchy resting face” I never got told that I needed to smile more, by customers or by management. In fact I often got complimented for my helpfulness and friendliness. Without smiling much.

Here’s another anecdote. My grandfather died three years ago, and my grandmother passed on about six months ago. My father has for the most part dealt with this loss, but the family home just sold and he commented gamely that he felt a bit uprooted. Now, I’ve never been in one place more than three or four years (largely due to choices made by my father), so I quipped “I wouldn’t know”. And immediately felt guilty. Cuz it was an asshole thing to do. I saw my father dealing with his personal loss, and I made the conversation about me.

You guys are that asshole right now. Stop it. Ophelia is not saying that your experiences are less than women’s. What she is saying is that this is not that conversation. If you want to have that conversation, go have it. I doubt anyone here would come over to say “but what about the women?” You’re pulling the same bullshit as people who say “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist”.

Fuck

Off.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Stamp out all the things

Aug 2nd, 2014 11:37 am | By

So everything good is evil, it seems.

Dangerous Minds on Facebook

Orange Church of God announces on the advertising board thingy (what do you call those things, anyway?):

SURFERS, SKATEBOARDERS, MUSICIANS, ARTISTS, VEGETARIANS, OCCUPIERS, ACTIVISTS, ADDICTS AND FORNICATORS ARE ALL GOING TO HELL!

REPENT NOW!

Seriously? Surfboarders? Skateboarders? Musicians, artists, vegetarians, activists? Going to hell? Why?

Maybe the Orange Church of God is actually just someone’s living room, and that’s a list of someone’s pet peeves. (But even then – surfing?? Why on earth? It’s so obviously fun, and it’s pretty to watch, and it doesn’t hurt anything. It doesn’t mess up anyone’s living room.)

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Ok here’s one

Aug 2nd, 2014 10:58 am | By

Here’s an example of the kind of thing that the statement Richard Dawkins and I posted last week opposes.

John ‏@JohnTheSecular
So tell me, @RichardDawkins, what is “modern art” the result of, then? Your fuckwittery?

shop

Description: it’s a photo of Dawkins talking next to a passage in quotation marks:

“Too many so-called ‘great works of art’, from the Sistine Chapel to Bach’s Masses, were inspired by the Christ myth and therefore, despite their beauty, come from a place of anti-intellectualism and refusal to confront empirical reality.

The only pure, untainted art form left is the Japanese RPG.”

Richard Dawkins

That’s a shitty trick because it’s too plausible and people are passing it around and taking it seriously. It looks real. It’s not marked as satire.

That’s dirty pool.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The curse of knowledge

Aug 2nd, 2014 10:32 am | By

I learned about another cognitive bias this morning – the curse of knowledge. Wikipedia explains.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that leads better-informed parties to find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed parties. The effect was first described in print by the economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber, though they give original credit for suggesting the term to Robin Hogarth.

…researchers have linked the curse of knowledge bias with false-belief reasoning in both children and adults, as well as theory of mind development difficulties in children. The curse of knowledge bias reportedly decreases in degree for adults versus children, who experience exaggerated effects; however, it was also found that for adults: “knowledge becomes a more potent curse when it can be combined with a rationale (even if only an implicit one) for inflating one’s estimates of what others know”.

This has a lot of applications.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves

Aug 2nd, 2014 10:17 am | By

The last paragraph of chapter XXI of George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as an udder to feed our supreme selves: Dorothea had early begun to emerge from that stupidity, but yet it had been easier to her to imagine how she would devote herself to Mr. Casaubon, and become wise and strong in his strength and wisdom, than to conceive with that distinctness which is no longer reflection but feeling—an idea wrought back to the directness of sense, like the solidity of objects—that he had an equivalent centre of self, whence the lights and shadows must always fall with a certain difference.

Morality requires educated feeling. It’s never a finished product. We never get good enough at understanding other people’s equivalent centre of self. Reason and logic by themselves are hopeless at the task.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)