Godel’s Gibbs Lecture


Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gödel, God, and the Afterlife

In addition to his amusing “proof” of the existence of God, Kurt Gödel also argued for belief in an afterlife in letters written to his mother. But I don’t share the view, expressed by Alexander T Englert in this Aeon Essay, that “because the correspondence was private, he did not feel the need to hide his true views, which he might have done in more formal academic settings and among his colleagues at the IAS”.  On the contrary I suspect that he knew well that the arguments were not valid and just used them as a comfort for his mother to alleviate her distress – probably not at death itself but at the fact that they lived far apart and he was unwilling to travel to see her.

Source: Kurt Gödel, his mother and the argument for life after death | Aeon Essays

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Terrible Mistake in the Making?

While there needs to be a broad campaign emphasizing that Trump is a threat to the rule of law it should be something that Joe Biden actually refrains from making any comment on so that he can remain above the perceptions of mere name-calling and muckracking. Rather he should continue to focus on policy differences and economic performance.

Source: Joe Biden Makes Saving Democracy the Center of His Campaign | The New Yorker

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why do people say race isn’t real? 

People who say “race isn’t real” do so because they are so unbelievably lazy that they are prepared to just spout a manifestly silly slogan rather than do the work of explaining what racists get wrong. They do this even though that silly slogan flies in the face of what their intended audience sees as “common sense”, and so is less rather than more likely to change anyone’s mind; and in fact it just serves to reinforce their previous ideas and to extend their rejection of “wokeism” in any progressive position.

The attempt to dress this laziness up in “scientific” clothes by an appeal to authority based on the fact that modern biologists and population geneticists rarely use the term (mainly due to its socio-political baggage rather than due to any problem in giving it a “scientific” definition) just adds to the harm done because it undermines the credibility of science in general.

Source: (1001) Alan Cooper’s answer to Why do people say race isn’t real when there are clearly physical differences between one race to another? – Quora

Posted in biology, social issues | Tagged | Leave a comment

The ‘precolonial’ histories of all continents are richly varied and at least partly colonial

I agree that the idea of ‘precolonial Africa’ is Eurocentric, and that in versions which imply that pre-Eurocolonial Africa was simple and homogeneous it is insultingly vacuous and wrong. But Africa is not alone in being so insulted, and on the other hand many students of ‘precolonial Africa’ as well as the similarly misnamed ‘precolonial America’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘precolonial Australia’ and (to a greater extent) ‘precolonial Asia’ do indeed recognize the diversity of those cultures and histories.

Also, I find it a bit ironic that the other side of that Eurocentric misnaming is the implication that colonialism is a uniquely European invention; as in fact all those pre-Eurocolonial histories are replete with instances of colonial and other imperialism – many of which give Eurocolonialism a substantial run for its money as being the most offensive.

Source: The idea of ‘precolonial Africa’ is vacuous and wrong |  Essays

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

J D Vance may be Trump’s Successor

Cruz and even deSantis have too much of an “elite” manner to take over the mantle but Vance has more of the people touch.

His autobiography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy), which has already been made into a movie, takes a more nuanced view than he now seems to be espousing, so it’s not clear where he really stands. But I think he has the capacity to appeal to Trump’s base – and then to take it God knows where.

Source: Opinion | How a senator’s stunt proved the Trump dictatorship theory – The Washington Post

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Keep the Pickton Evidence

The possibility of looking at this evidence in new ways or in conjunction with new information should never be abandoned so long as there is any chance that some surviving collaborator or negligent investigator is still around to have at least the fear that it may someday be used against them.

Source: Western Canada: Family, advocates strongly opposed to RCMP’s move to destroy evidence in Pickton case – The Globe and Mail

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do You See What I See?

I think the author of this article doesn’t really make his case with the dress example as immediately after saying “none of this explains why the visual systems of different people would automatically infer different ambient light” he adds that “one predictive factor seems to be a person’s typical wake-up time: night owls have more exposure to warmer, indoor light” which I would take as a perfectly good possible explanation of why different people make different inferences without any need for attributing that to innate differences in their visual systems per se.

Another point in the article that interests me is the reference to ‘aphantasia’. I’ve seen quite a few references to this recently, but am not convinced that it is real as opposed to being just a difference in how different people interpret the difference between an imagined scene and one that is actually seen. I have never had the experience of an imagined object being anything near so vivid as to be indistinguishable from reality, and so could perhaps think of myself as aphantastic; but on the other hand I have no reason to assume that others see their imaginings as more real than I do. Does anyone really “see” what they imagine with anything like the intensity of what they actually see in the real world? And if so, how would one quantify the difference so as to decide whether or not I am relatively aphantastic?

Source: The moral imperative to learn from diverse phenomenal experiences | Aeon Essays

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tesla Autopilot safety

I don’t understand why they could not just have the autopilot disabled by default and only enabled when gps indicate that the vehicle is on a road which has been approved as safe for its operation.

Source: Tesla recalls 2 million cars with ‘insufficient’ Autopilot safety controls – The Washington Post

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

The ‘Canadian’ Solution

Two nations in one state? Yes, Biden’s proposal is not quite that, but it does suggest a path to that end. The way I would extend it is for Israel to take full control of North Gaza, quickly set up safe areas and hospitals, and after expurgating Hamas, invite those who have fled South to return to a region under Israeli control with full citizenship rights in a new state whose constitution provides for two “provinces”, one speaking Hebrew (and probably mostly of the Jewish religion), and one speaking Arabic (and probably mostly Muslim), with a polyglot ‘district’ (like the USA’s capital region) around Jerusalem which would remain forever under (and might become the new centre of) UN administration. The boundaries I would suggest are somewhere between the 1947 plan and the current reality, but some kind of local option would determine the actual boundaries.

Source: U.S. Presses Israel to Set Up Safe Areas During Coming Pause in Gaza War – The New York Times

Posted in social issues, uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

Source: What might NuScale’s cancellation mean for Ghana and other nuclear aspirants?

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

Source: John Clauser won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change. – The Washington Post

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can Solar and Wind Suffice? 

This update of David MacKay’s numbers suggests that it may be possible to eliminate CO2 emissions (at least in the UK) without relying on an extended period of nuclear power use.

But on the other side of the coin we have a more pessimistic view of wind power prospects.


Can solar and wind power Britain? An update of David MacKay’s numbers

BP’s renewables boss calls U.S. offshore wind industry ‘fundamentally broken’

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Secularism in Iran 

I agree that Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’, but was surprised to see no mention in that Aeon Essay of what I would consider to be the indigenous Iranian analogues (and precursors!) of “Western” secularism.

Far from being an import from “the West”, I was under the impression that the idea of religious tolerance and substantial separation of church and state has deep roots in Iran – dating back to the Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great and having significant effect on the relative openness of Persian Islam at various stages in its history. Many people I met in Iran, as well as expats in North America, have expressed pride in this tradition and resentment of the current regime (without needing to quote Westerners like Locke in support of their views).

Source: Secularism in Iran is not just a form of Western ‘imperialism’ | Aeon Essays

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Those Damned Chinese!

When we get tired of complaining about their coal-fired electric plants we can always turn to the fact that China’s Spending on Green Energy Is Causing a Global Glut – WSJ

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Misunderstanding Concentration of Wealth

In How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Fame, the editors of The Economist  (of all people!) display a complete misunderstanding of the economics of wealth concentration. In particular, they allege that “. . the famous folk complaining the loudest about the new technology are the ones who stand to benefit the most. Far from diluting star power, AI will make the biggest celebrities bigger than ever . . .”

I am not taking any position on whether or not the use of AI will actually lead to this concentration of audience interest but if it does then I would say that the current crop of media stars actually do have a lot to worry about.

In fact, just as in any other case of a technological or social change leading to more concentrated ownership of limited resources (in this case attentive audience members – aka eyeballs), those who are currently at the top of the heap actually have the most to lose as only a small fraction of the current “stars” will become the next round of “superstars” – with the rest actually losing rather than gaining and falling back closer to those they just pulled ahead of in the previous round.

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is a ‘fair’ carbon-price approach?

The principle of a universal Carbon tax should never have been violated and any weakening of its application invites others to follow.

The debacle caused by the Liberal government’s bizarre introduction of a partial exemption could have easily been avoided by thinking first about what goal it was supposed to achieve.

If the goal was to provide some relief for Canadians who have experienced higher home heating cost inflation than the rest of us, then the solution should just have been to provide such relief by direct payments on that basis directly without any reference to the Carbon tax.

The rebate could be calculated as some function of the difference between per btu home heating cost increase over the previous year and the national average for that increase.

This would have had the benefit of applying fairly to all of us on a basis other than mere geography or specific fuel type and with clarity as to why those who benefit deserve special treatment.

It may end up having the same geographically distributed effect this year but the justification for such inequality would be apparent in its method of calculation and the universality of the Carbon price would not have been compromised.

Is there any chance of persuading the government to roll back its current misguided tax exemption and replace it with such a fair and principled approach?


Source: Premiers unite to appeal for ‘fair’ carbon-price approach – The Globe and Mail

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Nasty Thought

I don’t know whether or not AOC really accused the US of testing chemical weapons for Israel, or whether such an accusation would be anti-semitic, or whether or not it’s true. But it did occur to me that when dealing with an enemy who is hiding in tunnels under a civilian population, perhaps a heavier-than-air gas might be the most “humane” weapon to use.

Source: AOC Finally Wins The Anti-Semitism First Prize! – Seth Mandel, Commentary Magazine

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anti-Jewish Bias in University Culture?

The claim in this recent Globe&Mail article that “EDI administrators do not categorize Jews as a racialized minority” does need to be investigated. And if it’s true, then that situation should be corrected. And if “a deeply engrained culture of campus antisemitism extending well beyond students” is discovered then in-depth investigations of causes and manifestation will need to be carried out, and curriculum change, similar to those carried out to confront anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, will indeed be necessary.

But the linked article provides no evidence for either claim, and goes way overboard in its characterization of various positions as “Anti-Jewish Bias”.

It is indeed obscene to characterize the massacres perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians on October 7 as “legitimate resistance”, but quite reasonable to identify such horrible excesses as an almost inevitable outcome of a failing “decolonization struggle.”  And the claim that pointing this out amounts to “insinuating that the victims were to blame for the atrocities committed against them” makes no more sense than saying the same about the victims of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion (or for that matter those of Ted Bundy). Regardless of the existence or extent of any alleged provocation, innocent victims are never to blame, and pointing out the existence of a possible explanation is not equivalent to an extenuation – and much less so to blaming the victims.

In fact, the characterization of Israel as a settler-colonial enterprise despite the “deep historical ties Jews have to the territory of present-day Israel” is no more outlandish than denying that descendants of those Anglo-Saxon nobility who fled from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to join the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian Guard would now have the right to come back and reclaim their place in England – if only they had kept on claiming that right for the last one thousand years of absence.

But where the article really jumped the shark for me was in its take on the “debates around integrating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism into university anti-racism policies”.

“The issue here is not the merit of the definition itself – something that Jews have debated amongst themselves – but rather that, in an era of EDI, Jews are not afforded the same privileges as other vulnerable minorities to define their experience with oppression. Jewish EDI exceptionalism is premised on the unconscious bias that Jews are more susceptible to make complaints in bad faith.”

The fact that the proposed definition is “something that Jews have debated amongst themselves” (and are continuing to debate quite vociferously) means that accepting it would allow the proponents of that Zionist definition to claim that their view amounts to the collective consensus of Jews to “define their experience with oppression” – and thereby denies the right of other Jews to do so differently.

To note that that particular definition invites complaints in bad faith, and as such may (or may not) actually have been proposed in bad faith, does not in any way suggest that Jews are more susceptible than anyone else to acting in bad faith. Everyone does it, and we all need to guard against it – both in our selves and in the communities that we identify with.

Source: Opinion: Anti-Jewish bias has deeply permeated university culture – The Globe and Mail

Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where’s the line?

The extent to which lab-grown models of embryos increasingly resemble the real thing confirms my expectation that we’ll eventually discover how any human cell has the potential for becoming, with the appropriate stimulus and environment, first a stem cell, then a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, and finally a fully independent human being – which raises some challenges for the “right to life” thesis that all such things should be entitled to the same level of protection.


Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment