Thursday, April 24, 2014

Owen Anderson on Attributing good to evil, and God to Creation

Some dialogue from Owen Anderson:

Earnest: so your explanation about knowing and showing begins with the assumption that nothing informative is certain.

Bill:  yes I take that to be obvious.

Earnest: that nothing is certain includes nothing is certain about God and about good and evil?

Bill: obviously.

Earnest: would you say that there is a clear distinction between God and what is created, and a clear distinction between good and evil?

Bill: I think so.

Earnest: so isn't what you are calling suppressing really just instances of persons attributing the attributes of God to the creation, or the attributes of good to evil?

Bill: perhaps.

Earnest: then isn't the issue whether we have correctly identified these distinctions, and not whether we have immediate deliverances about them?  After all, everyone has immediate deliverances that require further examination. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guns Cause Violence but we should still not Restrict them

An article entitled, The Murder Rate is Collapsing in Chicago After “Conceal Carry” is Legalized

I can accept the data point in the article, but it's too easy to find correlation in so many cities and so many different laws.

My view in a nutshell: more guns is probably more gun violence. I'm sure more guns prevent certain crimes by discouraging criminals who don't want to get shot, but I'm very skeptical that the net effect is positive. The best point of this is the United States' high violent and gun crime crime rate, which is hard to ignore.

That's only relative to other countries, which isn't really important if we want to make a judgment on the net effect of guns. In reality, guns just don't hurt many people. If you're worried about getting shot in an armed robbery, or your child's school being shot up, or your neighbour's child discovering his dad's gun and shooting himself with it; you need to look at mortality statistics readjust your risk assessments. Guns are a billion dollar industry, lots of people pay that money because they like guns for one reason or another, and the vast majority of guns sold never hurt anybody. I don't think there's a lot to gain from gun restrictions.

But it'll always sound better to say that we'll pay any price to reduce the already negligible risk of school shootings. The reality is that if we care about other people we shouldn't assess the costs of something as "how bad I feel when I think about it", we should actually understand the values of others and get a more serious idea of the costs and benefits.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

XKCD on Free Speech


I think xkcd gets this one right.

I once had someone tell me how ironic it was that tea party people were using their free speech to protest that they don’t have free speech. This person seemed to think that freedom of speech is the freedom to say something at all. Anything less than taping your mouth shut is not a violation of free speech – because that was really something they were worried about. After all, the tea party people were able to say something and therefore they have freedom of speech, how very ironic.

It seems to me that free speech has to mean all free speech or some free speech. If it means some free speech, then which speech? How do we determine? The mechanism by which we decide would be the same mechanism we would if we didn’t have a constitutional protection of free speech at all. It amounts to freedom of speech protecting only the speech they’ve decided not to regulate, which is no protection at all.

It is like if I promised that I will protect you whenever you are not in harm.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jonathan Haidt on America’s Rising Partisanship

Here is Jonathan Haidt establishing that America has become more partisan:

But in the last twelve years Americans have begun to move further apart. There’s been a decline in the number of people calling themselves centrists or moderates (from 40 percent in 2000 down to 36 percent in 2011), a rise in the number of conservatives (from 38 percent to 41 percent), and a rise in the number of liberals (from 19 percent to 21 percent).

He cites Gallup for this fact: go to and search “U.S. Political Ideology.”

He also cites

Candidates began to spend more time and money on “oppo” (opposition research), in which staff members or paid consultants dig up dirt on opponents (sometimes illegally) and then shovel it to the media.

He also cites America’s downgraded credit rating as a failure to work across party lines.

I have heard it said that the predictability of congressional votes based on party affiliation has grown significantly. It is much more common for every Republican to vote the same way or every Democrat to vote the same way. It is rarer to see a handful of politicians vote against their party. I can’t remember if it was Haidt who said this, but it would be further evidence that partisanship has grown.

Though I tend to think he’s right, the justification Jonathan Haidt gives in the book, taken alone, wouldn’t convince me that partisanship in fact has grown. He relies on the commonsense plea that of course partisanship has grown. But that’s not as obvious as some people claim. has a good video of how we romanticize the civility of past partisan debates, and how ridiculous our commonsense notions are.

Chris Date’s Comment on the Nephilim and Fallen Angels

Here is a Great line posted by Chris Date on a Rethinking Hell’s Facebook page:

Daniel and I had a rousing (read me being a stubborn jerk) discussion this morning about Gen 6's sons of God. I am of the wacko opinion that they are not fallen angels magically incarnated complete with 23 human chromosome gamete-producing testes capable of fertilizing human ova.

Jonathan Haidt on Being a Compulsive Liar

Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind:

On February 3, 2007, shortly before lunch, I discovered that I was a chronic liar. I was at home, writing a review article on moral psychology, when my wife, Jayne, walked by my desk. In passing she asked me not to leave dirty dishes on the counter where she prepared our baby’s food. Her request was polite but its tone added a postscript: “As I have asked you a hundred times before.”

My mouth started moving before hers had stopped. Words came out. Those words linked themselves up to say something about a baby having woken up at the same time that our elderly dog barked to ask for a walk and I’m sorry but I just put my breakfast dishes down wherever I could. In my family, caring for a hungry baby and an incontinent dog is a surefire excuse, so I was acquitted…

So there I was at my desk, writing about how people automatically fabricate justifications of their gut feelings, when I suddenly realized that I had just done the same thing with my wife. I disliked being criticized, and I had felt a flash of negativity by the time Jayne had gotten to her third word (“can you not…”). Even before I knew why she was criticizing me, I knew I disagreed with her (because intuitions come first). The instant I knew the content of the criticism (“… leave dirty dishes on the…”), my inner lawyer went to work searching fro an excuse (strategic reasoning second). It’s true that I had eaten breakfast, given Max his first bottle, and let Andy out for his first walk, but these events had all happened at separate times. Only when my wife criticized me did I merge them into a composite image of a harried father with too few hands, and I created this fabrication by the time she had completed her one sentence criticism (“… counter where I make the baby food?). I then lied so quickly and convincingly that my wife and I both believed me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jonathan Haidt on Must vs. Can

Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind:

When my son, Max, was three years old, I discovered that he’s allergic to must. When I would tell him that he must get dressed so that we can go to school (and he loved to go to school), he’d scowl and whine. The word must is a little verbal handcuff that triggered in him the desire to squirm free.

The word can is much nicer: “Can you get dressed, so that we can go to school?”…

The social psychologist Tom Gilovich studies the cognitive mechanisms of strange beliefs. His simple formulation is that when we want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “can I believe it?” Then we search for supporting evidence, and if we find even a single piece of pseudo-evidence, we can stop thinking. We now have permission to believe. We have a justification, in case anyone asks.

In contrast, when we don’t want to believe something, we ask ourselves, “must I believe it?” Then we search for contrary evidence, and if we find a single reason to doubt the claim, we can dismiss it. You only need one key to unlock the handcuffs of must.