Elsewhere: Atheism and objective rights

Back in August, Clark at Popehat did a slightly confusing posting on how some atheists are confused about rights because they speak as if rights exist while also saying that nothing but matter exists. Clark seems to be one of those theists who thinks that gods are be required to exist for objective rights to exist, but he doesn’t really say why he thinks that. (The real trick in all these arguments is specifying quite what you mean by “objective”. I enjoyed John D’s quote from Richard Joyce: “So many debates in philosophy revolve around the issue of objectivity versus subjectivity that one may be forgiven for assuming that someone somewhere understands this distinction.”)

I argued that Clark had got materialism wrong. Someone asked how any atheist can avoid the conclusions of Alex Rosenberg. I slightly facetiously replied “by not being an eliminative materialist”, but I can do better than that, I think. Rosenberg gets a lot of counterargument from people who are avowed naturalists and philosophically respectable. It doesn’t seem unreasonable for an atheist, especially one who isn’t an expert on philosophy, not to share Rosenberg’s conclusions.

Typically, Christian apologists ignore any distinction between varieties of naturalistic worldview (see Luke M’s interview with John Shook) and go with something like “if atheism is true, we’re nothing but matter in motion, chemical fizzes like soda spilled on the ground”. They then make an argument which uses the fallacy of composition to “show” that properties which matter and energy don’t have can’t be real on atheism (by which they mean some kind of materialism). This is all bunk, but pretty popular bunk, at least in the blogosphere, if not in philosophy journals.

Finally, I got into Yudkowsky’s belief in moral absolutes, which is interesting as Yudkowsky’s an atheist. Massimo P had a post about that back in January, where he sort of disagreed with Yudkowsky but then actually seemed to agree with him if you stripped away the layers of words a bit. My most significant comment on that is here. Yudkowsky’s transition from what looks like mathematical Platonism to the claim that morality is absolute deserves a post of its own, which I might get around to at some point. There’s a lesson for atheists, though: atheist appeals to evolution as a moral justifier are confused. Evolution might be a (partial) answer to “why do I care about X?” but not “why should I care about X?”

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Elsewhere: Cambridge vintage night

I haven’t had much time for proper blogging lately, but I’ve been commenting elsewhere a bit, so I’m doing a series of short posts about that in an attempt to get back into the proper blogging habit.

Cambridge Vintage Night

I went to the inaugural Cambridge Vintage Night recently, so I was interested to read what Anthony thought of it and to stick my oar in:

One odd thing about this event was that I wasn’t quite sure what it was trying to be: it wasn’t quite advertised as a lindy event, but it was advertised to the local lindy hoppers (on Facebook) and it started with an introductory lindy lesson. There was a reasonable contingent of people from the various lindy scenes around Cambs, but we were outnumbered by muggles. I think everyone complaining about the music being too fast is a lindy hopper and so they mean “too many fast songs for (sustained) lindy” (which I’d agree with). I’m not sure what the non-dancers thought of it. The other Paul (who, if he’s who I think he is, runs a fun local event outside Cambridge, he’s probably too modest to say) has some good points on how you welcome in newbies at lindy events. There are plenty of people in Cambs who know how to do events like that if that’s what you want your event to be.

Playing for lindy hoppers is a different thing from playing from people who’ve come to bop around while wearing flapper dresses (there’s nothing wrong with the latter, of course). Lindy hoppers do turn up to things where there might be suitable music and make what we can of it without feeling hard done by if it doesn’t work out. But if you’ve sort of positioned it as a lindy thing and then it doesn’t work, the people who came thinking it was a lindy thing will be annoyed (hi Mark!)

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Link blog: digits, lindy, processors, etiquette

Swing 101 — Etiquette & Floorcraft | Swungover*
Mr Darcy gives some etiquette tips.
(tags: dancing lindy floorcraft etiquette lindyhop)
The Slow Winter
A lament that the low hanging fruit in processor design has gone, but done in a crazy discursive way with SENTENCES IN CAPS. Fun.
(tags: moores-law hardware funny usenix digits processors)
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Link blog: hugo-boss, bible, sociopath, gq

Making Light: Victory to the People
A history of the development of the Biblical canon, recounted as if it were fan fiction.
(tags: canon religion bible nicea)
Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath? – NYTimes.com
No, but you can note that some of them are Callous-Unemotional and may grow up to be psychopaths.
(tags: psychology sociopath children brain psychopath)
Russell Brand and the GQ awards: ‘It’s amazing how absurd it seems’ | Culture | The Guardian
Russell Brand on being ejected from the GQ awards for making a joke about Hugo Boss, the sponsors. He’s a good writer.
(tags: russell-brand comedy awards hugo-boss gq)
Putting Time In Perspective
Nice little timelines zooming out from the day to human history to evolutionary history to the history of the Universe.
(tags: time physics universe evolution)
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Link blog: science, philosophy, nagel, thomas-nagel

The Core of ‘Mind and Cosmos’
Thomas Nagel wrote a short outline of his book "Mind and Cosmos" for the New York Times. He attributes a lot of the criticism he’s been getting to people worried that he’s giving comfort to theism. If so, that reflects badly on the critics, because arguments are not soldiers, etc. etc. Via Massimo Pigliucci.
(tags: nagel philosophy consciousness thomas-nagel science)
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