In defense of scientism

On this 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I want to talk a little bit about science, and how it, in principle, can apply to nearly every subject in life.

The word science is derived from Latin scientia, and earlier scire, which means “to know.”  I am, as you might have guessed, a huge fan of science, and have in the past even been a practitioner of it.  But science is not just a collection of facts, as many have said before me.  Science is an approach to information, and more generally to reality itself, a blend of rationalism and empiricism that calls on us to apply reason to the phenomena which we find in our world and to understand, with increasing completeness, the rules by which our world operates.  Personally, I think there are few—and possibly no—areas into which the scientific method cannot be applied to give us a greater understanding of, insight into, and control of, our world and our experience. Continue reading

Liberty, Independence, Rights, and Patriotism

I’m not planning on writing a great deal today, because I’m going to let other writers, of whom many of you might have heard, take up most of the space of this entry.  But I do want to preface that writing with a few thoughts of my own, some of which I may have articulated previously.

Next Tuesday is the 4th of July, on which, in America, we celebrate Independence Day, with much eating, drinking, and firework firing.  It’s a wonderful holiday, an opportunity to enjoy family togetherness in the summertime, and to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States, a pivotal historical event.  However, it should also be, I think, a time for Americans to reflect upon the origins of our country, upon the ideas on which is was founded, and what we need to do to live up to the hopes of its founders, whose reach—as does our own—often exceeded their grasp. Continue reading

The good/evil number line

During the last presidential election (some of you may remember it) occasional memes floated through social media making pronouncements to the effect that choosing the lesser of two evils (e.g. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in these memes’ cases) is still choosing evil.  These memes seemed often to come from first hopeful, then frustrated, Bernie Sanders supporters, but it’s a notion that’s by no means confined to such groups.  Ideologues of all stripes, from the religious, to the political, to the social-scientific and beyond, fall prey to the classic mental fallacy of the false dichotomy—the notion that the world is divided into two absolute, opposite natures, and that if their own ideas are pure and good (and nearly everyone, on all sides, seems to believe this of themselves), then any choice other than the pure realization of their ideas in all forms is somehow a descent into evil.  Many people implicitly believe that even to choose the “lesser of two evils” is somehow to commit a moral betrayal that can be even worse than simply choosing evil for its own sake.

I hope to explode this notion as the destructive claptrap that it is. Continue reading

You can ONLY get “Ought” from “Is”

There’s a notion held by many intellectuals—or at least those who are educated beyond some minimum level—that one cannot derive any moral “ought” in life from any “is” about nature.  This notion is attributed to David Hume, the famous and by all accounts extremely intelligent 18th century philosopher, though I haven’t read the original source material (and if I’m doing his ideas a disservice, I apologize profusely to his memory).  In general, the “Humeans” seem to accept the apparently dogmatic notion that the realm of morals and ethics is divorced from the realm of our understanding of the natural world, and that nothing that we could learn about the objective facts of reality could ever give us the answers to what we ought to do—ethically, morally—in our lives.

I don’t understand how so many otherwise intelligent people, Hume among them, could ever have accepted such a patently idiotic idea. Continue reading

A Message to the Makers of “Don’t Give Up” Memes

What follows is a brief message for the creators of Hallmark-knockoff style memes that say things like, “No matter how hard it gets, it’s okay for you to feel pain, to feel tired, to feel discouraged, to feel heartbroken…but don’t you give up!”  (These are often inscribed on a floral background, or some more abstract pattern that resembles a pseudo-Gothic wrought-iron fence.)

My message to those people is:  Fuck you.

I don’t know who these people think they are or what they think they’re accomplishing.  Do they really believe they’re helping people who suffer from depression, or who are going through other, similar disturbances or trials?  If so, then they really need to examine their own mental functions, because I fear they must suffer from a prolonged thyroid deficiency, or some other neuro-endocrine disorder.  Or perhaps they’re infected with the same inanity that makes so many think that by saying, “I’ll pray for you,” or “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” or worse, such idiocy as, “Pray for Manchester,” they are accomplishing anything in the world other than bolstering their own egos.  Continue reading

Don’t Try to Make Pronouns Number-Fluid

I want to begin with a very clear and definitive statement:  I firmly support LGBT rights, which are logically implicit in the very notion of human rights.  The right to pursue happiness is enshrined in the founding document of this country.  I have beloved family, friends, and personal heroes (living and dead) who are (or were) members of the LGBT community.  If a person is attracted to others of the same gender, or identifies with a gender other than the one with which they appear to have been born, then that person should be, and feel, free to pursue whatever individual truth is available and inherent to that nature, as with every other person in the world.  This is, of course, followed by the inescapable caveat, “as long as you don’t harm anyone else.”*  Since I have yet to hear of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person seeking the right to harm other people, I need not belabor that caveat.

But I will NOT refer to an individual, no matter what that person’s sexuality or identity, with a plural pronoun! Continue reading

Reflections Following a Sad Event

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Interesting morning so far…in tragic way.  I got up a bit later than usual, planning on taking a slightly later train, since I ordinarily arrive far earlier at the office than anyone else.  However, while the train was going north, there was an accident (another train hit someone), so they had to reroute the passengers by running shuttles and so forth…and of course there were delays.  Most people tend initially to react to such events as if this is something happening to them, but of course, it’s something that already happened to the poor person who died, and to the people who are stuck on the train involved in the accident until the authorities finish their investigation. Continue reading