Archive for February, 2015

What does the “Many-Worlds Interpretation” of Quantum Mechanics even mean?

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Sean Carroll identifies some Wrong Objections to the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which is fine but I’d rather he addressed some of the better ones.

I have always thought of (my own experience of) the universe as corresponding to (a very small part of) one particular configuration of a stochastic system, and that having a theoretical model for that system allows me to predict conditional probabilities of certain features (measurements) given others (state preparations). I suppose other configurations could be regarded as alternate worlds which *could* in some sense exist. But why is it necessary (and in fact, what would it mean) to suggest that they *do* exist?

Oh dear! Now I feel a little Feynmanesque “poem” coming on:

We don’t know the meaning of “meaning”,
And we don’t know the meaning of “is”.
So how can we possibly claim to know
What the meaning of  “the meaning of “is”” is?

What’s in a Name?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Shadi Hamid and William McCants (of the Brookings Institution) object that “John Kerry Won’t Call the Islamic State by its Name Anymore”. The article contains two arguments, the first very bad and the second very good.

The good argument is that no non-Muslim has any business dictating what is or is not “true Islam”. It may be fine to report on one’s understanding of what the majority of Muslims seem to be saying on the matter, but to put that in the form of an authoritative declaration is both patronizing and ridiculous.

But the idea that this forces one to accept the self-declared “name” of an organization is also ridiculous. If the LRA had decided to call itself “Christians of Africa” would anyone seriously think it appropriate to go around saying “the Christians of Africa must be destroyed”? Of course it is appropriate to refuse ISIS the dignity of calling it “The Islamic State”, and indeed to accept that designation is an insult to the many Muslims who do not accept it as such. (But of course this refusal can and should be done by reference to the requests of other Muslims rather than to one’s own position on what is “true Islam”.)


More on Zealotry

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

The proper response to Islamic Zealotry (including some criticism of Walzer’s position) has also been discussed (again in ‘The Atlantic’) by Shadi Hamid with particular reference to the situation in France.

Hamid points out some of the real inconsistencies in the French (and much of the European) position, but his analysis also seems to me to be dangerously off-base in some respects.

Christians Enraged by Obama’s Failure to Demonize All Muslims

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Apparently the conservative pundits and right wing religious types are all excited about President Obama’s having mentioned that using religion to brutalize other people is neither a Muslim invention nor foreign to the American experience.

According to ThinkProgress, Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, “The evil actions that he mentioned were clearly outside the moral parameters of Christianity itself and were met with overwhelming moral opposition from Christians.” Would that be the same Southern Baptists whose very raison d’etre was to split off from the main Baptist Church in order to allow their preachers to be slave owners (and who continued resisting integration right through the 1960’s)?

See also Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on this, and also Jim Fallows, at The Atlantic.

The Media analyses Varoufakis’ wardrobe

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

The European has an article on the new Greek finance minister – which apparently picks up on a report in The Guardian. There is also news about his discussions with Osborne and other Euro finance ministers but in a profile of the man I would have liked to learn more about his economics background. Anyhow I guess it’s nice to see even just one example of a male politician being discussed largely in terms of his appearance and clothing.