Archive for August, 2011

Quantum Diaries

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Triumph's Byron Jennings at Quantum Diaries overstates the case for experiment as the only source of truth. What on earth does he mean by saying that Euclidean Geometry "turned out not to be true"? And for that matter doesn't all of mathematics (or any other system of complex tautology) provide examples of what anyone bound by […]

Absolute Ethics

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Joel Marks 'Confessions of an Ex-Moralist' came to me via Jean Kazez. Another attempt to "derive 'ought' from 'is' " is provided by CamelsWithHammers who identifies "goodness" with "effectiveness" at enhancing the "function" of a being. But his use of the word "function" (rather than something more neutral such as "effect) seems to beg the […]

Learning by Trial-and-Error

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Steve Jobs is one example of the general principle that learning and problem solving occurs most efficiently via a process of successive approximation or error-and-correction. I know that, for me, the solution of a math problem generally proceeds this way, and I suspect that, for those who are less successful, the problem is less with […]

The Lesson of Adam and Eve

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Sean Carroll of the Cosmic Variance blog at Discover Magazine claims that the "Fall" of Adam and Eve is "a terrible lesson on which to found a system of belief" On the contrary, it is a wonderful "lesson on which to found a system of belief" because its flexibility of interpretation demonstrates to any with eyes to see […]

What is the True Essence of Humanity?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In this post at Discover Magazine (referencing a New Yorker article on Svante Pääbo), Razib Khan suggests that "Perhaps the difference between Neandertals and behaviorally modern humans was less about large between group differences in individual level traits, and more about the fact than Neandertals simply lacked the leadership cadre which behaviorally modern humans possessed". […]

Why do you believe in God?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

This series from the New Statesman may (or may not) provide some of the insight I have been looking for into why intelligent decent people can adopt traditional-sounding religious positions. The answers I have been able to get from personal friends are generally not persuasive and it seems that to get something more satisfactory would require […]

Does Philosophy Matter?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Stanley Fish suggests that philosophical questions such as that of Moral Relativism vs Moral Absolutism are essentially irrelevant in practical terms. Though I might agree with Fish's take on philosophy about many other examples, this in particular is one where I do not.  In fact I think that one's position on that issue colours the […]