- What Thomas Kuhn Really Thought about Scientific “Truth” | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network
- “To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Structure, I’m posting an edited version of my write-up of Kuhn in The End of Science (Addison Wesley, 1996), which draws heavily on my meeting with him. I hope that this profile—which is longer and more critical of Kuhn than “Reluctant Revolutionary,” my May 1991 profile for Scientific American—provides insights into the complicated views of this complicated man.”
(tags: epistemology paradigm science Kuhn philosophy)
- On God As The Source Of Being But Not Of Evil | Camels With Hammers
- “Very often we atheists are dismissed as ignorant of serious theology and theistic metaphysics or as picking on theologically unsophisticated versions of Christianity because it’s simply an easier target than trying to refute the more profound religious philosophers. In what follows, I will cut to the core of what traditional Roman Catholicism since Thomas Aquinas genuinely thinks is going on philosophically, and not merely metaphorically, when they talk about God’s goodness.”
(tags: theodicy metaethics evil good catholicism catholic philosophy thomist aquinas)
Bring on the crocoducks
Remember Ray Comfort, of Crocoduck fame? Tony Miano, Comfort’s vicar on Earth, made a blog posting in which he argued that the Clergy Project (which tries to help ministers of religion who’ve become closet atheists) was doing the church a favour by ridding it of people who were never Christians in the first place. He also mentioned that atheists know there’s a God really (see previous discussion).
This attracted the attention of the Dawkins massive, mainly because they thought it was written by their arch-enemy Comfort himself, so it got quite a few comments. There was some good stuff. An ex-Christian called The Skeptical Magician had a go at beating the fundies at their own game, arguing from the Bible that he was a real Christian (someone who believes Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead) who changed his mind. I stuck my oar in, pointing out that if Miano is right, we can’t know someone’s a Christian until they die. Is Tony Miano a Christian? Well, we’ll have to wait and see, by his definition.
Had the Magician merely said that he was a believer, the first responses from Christians would have been “it’s easy to say you’re a believer, but that doesn’t make you one”. So he gave examples of doing things he would likely do only if he were truly a believer (faith without deeds being dead, as James tells us). He got replies telling him that his faith had been all about “doing” rather than “believing”, therefore his actions were evidence against him being a believer. This is cheating of the “heads I win/tails you lose” sort, as any Bayesian could tell you.
Some presuppositionalists commented, including my old mate the Internet-famous Sye Ten Bruggencate, who invented the Proof That God Exists (Danger! Atheists, don’t click that link!) Presuppositionalists start out sounding as if they might be fun, in a “late night conversation with philosophy students” sort of way: they like to ask for “accounts” of stuff that most people take, if not as a brute fact, then as a reasonable starting point (the evidence of our senses, memory, logic, belief in the sun rising tomorrow and so on). This might lead to an interesting philosophical discussion, but they spoil it all by applying radical scepticism to all views other than their own, which is cheating. If you read their literature, the reason for this is that they’re not interested in a discussion where both parties might modify their views, they just want to force their opponent “below the line of despair” so they’ll turn to Christianity. It’s fun to ask what an “account” would have to look like to satisfy them, and how they “account” for God’s unchangeable nature. They don’t answer, of course, but the point of intervening in such discussions is to defend the philosophically naive marks who’ve never run into Hume and Descartes before, not to change the presuppers’ minds.
But! I’ve never been one of them
Leah Libresco, an atheist blogger who originally started her Unequally Yoked blog when she was going out with Catholic, announced she’d converted to Catholicism because she’d realised that Morality is a Person who loves her. Camels with Hammers did a good summary of ways atheists responded, noting that the best response was probably to point out that she seemed to have missed a few steps in her argument, rather than accusing her of being off her medication.
squid314 wondered about local maximas in belief-space (which is mathematician speak for wondering whether the steps he’d have to take to get Catholicism individually made his new view seem less likely than before, even if once you get there Catholicism is actually more likely than the Official Bayesian Conspiracy Worldview). He noted that he knew quite a few clever people who’d become Catholic, so maybe it was worth looking into. He reported back on his investigation of the Catholic blogsphere in an amusing fashion, which makes me think he’s safe, for now.
A friend of Libresco’s started a thread on Less Wrong’s discussion board on how to thwart the conversion. Someone there was prepared to predict that the conversion won’t stick, as it’s based on metaphysics rather than the unpleasant reality of the Catholic church (Libresco is already wobbling a bit on the issue of homosexuality). We’ll see: I don’t know her well enough to want to bet on it.
I made a few comments on Libresco’s blog: on the Euthyphro Dilemma (ended up going in circles as usual, gave up); pointing out that the Catholic orthodoxy is that God is not morally good (he’s ontologically good, see Camels with Hammers again), making him a poor choice for a virtue ethicist like Leah; and dealing with the usual bad arguments about science.
- From The Price of Inequality: Joseph Stiglitz on the 1 Percent Problem | Politics | Vanity Fair
- “There are good reasons why plutocrats should care about inequality anyway—even if they’re thinking only about themselves. The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. The evidence from history and from around the modern world is unequivocal: there comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and when it does, even the rich pay a steep price.”
(tags: rentier society politics inequality economics)
- Home cooked blues
- “Basic Blues Piano Lesson 1-10 is for beginners and is absolutley free. These ten lessons were designed to give a piano player a good foundation for beginning blues piano.”
(tags: video lesson blues music piano)
- Embedded in Academia : A Quiz About Integers in C
- “The C language’s rules for integer operations have some quirks that can make even small programs behave in confusing ways. This post is a review of these rules in the form of a quiz containing 20 questions.” I did OK except on the ones about shifts.
(tags: arithmetic integer C programming)
- Sword Fighting with Neal Stephenson and His Mongoliad Co-Authors
- Including Greg Bear, apparently.
(tags: mongoliad weapons history sword greg-bear neal-stephenson)