Archive for February, 2020

Anti-Nausea Pill Resolves Moral Conflict

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Here’s an interesting counterpoint to Jonathan Haidt’s ‘Moral Foundations‘ theory.

Before deciding that something is wrong, we might ask ourselves, is it just that I’m disgusted by it?

Source: Find something morally sickening? Take a ginger pill | Aeon Ideas

Why symmetry gets really interesting when it is broken | Aeon Ideas

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Here’s a nice bit of writing that gives the reader just enough information to start a journey in each of several important directions: Why symmetry gets really interesting when it is broken | Aeon Ideas

From The Village Green

Friday, February 14th, 2020

My good friend and 1964-5 college roommate John Butler is the editor of The Village Green, an environmental newsletter focused on the area around his home in Ontario but with much of more general interest as well.

In the latest issue he writes:

I have long been an admirer of Rex Murphy, Newfoundlander extraordinaire, insightful essayist, courteous radio host, adept and sprightly player with the English language.

But he has changed.

Now, as columnist for mildly right-of-centre publications, he rails angrily (and with inaccurate logic and evidence) at those who oppose fossil fuel projects, particularly projects in Alberta.

He doesn’t seem to be an overt climate change denier, though he savages people who propose policies to deal with climate change. He seems much more interested in touting any fossil fuel project that produces jobs, no matter how vile the outcome of those projects. He also seems near-obsessed with not offending Alberta by espousing fossil fuel reduction policies, lest we seem ungrateful to that province and thereby drive it closer to western-province separatism.

In a recent column he condemns the very idea of an aid package for Alberta to deal with the loss of oil patch jobs, calling it something we do for third-world counties but not for our fellow citizens – it might demean them. Better, he says, for Canadians and their governments to embrace fossil fuel mega-projects like Alberta’s Teck oil sands mine.

Rex Murphy has one thing right – the scale of the issue is enormous. Vastly curtailing – even eliminating – the fossil fuel industry in western Canada will be necessary if Canada is to play its fair role in combatting global heating. Part of that involves drying up the insatiable demand by the rest of Canada – and the world – for fossil fuels. Part of it should also involve concerted national investment in developing green energy jobs in Alberta to compensate for lost oil jobs (easy to say but hard to do since it involves sacrifices on the part of non-Albertans to make those investments. It also involves Alberta’s willingness to be converted).
It will be tempting to make quiet exceptions, to appease oil appetites and industries – a pipeline here, an oil sand extraction plant there – to stanch the blood. Every nation with regions that rely on fossil fuel revenues faces the same temptation. A little exception here, there, everywhere, forgetting that ultimately there is no such thing as a “little catastrophe”.

Rex Murphy’s argument seems to be a call to loyalty and gratitude – western fossil fuels have enriched all of Canada, so it would be ungrateful and disloyal of us to turn our backs on a part of the country that has done so much good for us.

Imagine your brother opened a factory next to your house. For a long time it made a profit and he shared it with you because you are family. But the factory produced toxic by-products that poisoned both your properties and the people on them. For a long time neither you nor your brother noticed this insidious poison. But now you see it, smell it, taste it. Now you know. Your brother says, “If I close the factory I will starve. For old times’ sake and the sake of the family, let’s keep quiet about the poison. It will eventually kill us and others, but don’t interfere with my operation of the factory.

That kind of family loyalty kills people and their planet.

Millenials vs Mayor Pete

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Source: via (178) Habib’s Reading List – Quora

Greenhouse Saturation

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Must work on a “for the layman” clarification of all this:

OneTab shared tabs

Shadows on the wall

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Alexander Parker’s favorite thought experiment is Plato’s cave.

But what caught my eye was the comment by Gergely Mészáros which ended with the claim that “the analogy fails because we are not the watchers, we are the shadows on the wall”.

Why Vote?

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Aeon writer Julia Maskivker asks

Source: Given how little effect you can have, is it rational to vote? But her answer, though in accord with my own, is unconvincingly supported.

Rather than argue from some set of vague moral principles involving duty to community (which could in my opinion have been made much more clear and well supported), I would argue instead from the personal self-interest that Dr Maskivker considers inadequate.

In the modern world many elections are close enough that there is a non negligible probability of a tie. And in the case of a tie every vote has the potential of changing the result.

Furthermore, even when one’s preferred policy option is certain to lose (or to win), the demonstration of a higher level of support can deter those who defeat it (or encourage its elected supporters) in a way that benefits the individuals who wanted it.