Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Naturalistic Fallacy And How It Creeps Into Our Thinking


The naturalistic fallacy can refer to a few things. It can refer to the idea that something is good if it is natural, or bad because it is unnatural. In the context of morality and politics, the fallacy pops up a number of ways and affects our ability to reason. Here are two examples.

Conservatives will often argue that homosexuality is unnatural, and that it's therefore morally and politically wrong to allow it. Catholics who espouse natural law theory are very privy to this kind of reasoning. But it's simply false, on two levels. First, it makes the naturalistic fallacy. What is unnatural is not bad, because plenty of things are "unnatural" in the sense of being man-made, like technology, nose jobs, or medicines, and they can be positively good. Second, it is simply wrong that homosexuality is unnatural. Homosexuality is in fact, natural. But that also doesn't make it good either, since plenty of things are natural and aren't good, like cancer, HIV, poisonous mushrooms, and gamma ray bursts from the sun. The goodness or badness of a thing does not depend on its naturalness.

For liberals, it is very popular to say that there are no fundamental differences between men and women other than the obvious physical differences, and this leads many of them to argue that the low number of women to men in particular fields like science, technology, and engineering, are necessarily due to systemic sexism. But there are good arguments against this. Psychology and biology shows that men and women are not the same in our general preferences. Men tend to prefer working with things, and women tend to prefer working with people. That's why there are so many men in the physical sciences, engineering, and technology, and so many women in the social sciences, healthcare, and education.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

I've Been Busy...


I've had to put blogging on hold in recent weeks because I've just been so busy. I started working on a documentary about free will and in the past few weeks begun all the planning and organizing that goes along with making a feature length documentary. This is going to be a big project for me and one that could take me several years to complete, but I'm very excited and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I will have more details as things get more fleshed out, so stay tuned.

I am also going to put the finishing touches on my pro-choice argument. I've been almost done with it for weeks but had to put it on hold because of the documentary. That should be done by the end of this weekend. I also have many blogging ideas in the pipe that I will hopefully get to in the next few weeks, although for the remainder of this year, as production on the documentary gets started, I will have to blog less frequently than at my usual rate, which is typically around twice a week. I will try and make it happen as much as possible.

I can do things a few different ways. I could focus on quality and do infrequent posts, but ones that are in depth on the topic, or I can focus on quantity and do frequent short posts that just brush up on topics and that could rely on videos and imagery. Or I can do both. I will probably do the latter.

So in the spirit of filling up content, check out this video I stumbled across from Redacted Tonight, an internet show I occasionally watch. Lee Camp, the show's host spends the first 15 minutes pounding our torture industry known as factory farming and its impact on climate change. He makes some great points.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stephen Hawking On Star Talk


As we all bid farewell to the passing of physicist Stephen Hawking, the most famous scientist of his generation, we can appreciate his humor as well as his intellect. Here he was on a recent episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, demonstrating a bit of that. Interestingly, he died on Pi day (3.14), also Einstein's birthday, and was born exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo (Jan 8, 1942), often considered the father of modern astronomy. A life started and ended by mathematical coincidences indeed. What a universe!



Monday, March 12, 2018

The Problems Of Free Will As Explained In Waking Life


Back in 2001 a fantastic movie came out called Waking Life that explored numerous philosophical issues in a way few movies have done before or since. It was also distinct in that it used a technique called rotoscoping, where animations are drawn over live action video. I first saw the movie almost ten years ago and loved it. At the time, I hadn't done any serious research into the free will topic, but since then I've studied it intensely. And given all my current knowledge on the topic (which I think is very extensive), I can say that the part on free will is very good at quickly summarizing two of the known problems inherent in free will belief that many casual thinkers overlook.

Check it out, and watch the full movie if you can. If you're a philosophy lover, you will enjoy it.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed


It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Video I Made Last Year On The Pro-Truth Pledge


This is a video I made last year for my friend John Kirbow on him taking the pro-truth pledge. I made several videos like this, most of them were for The Atheist Conference that is now dead. But some of that footage is still usable, and I will find a way to repurpose it. For now, check it out. I plan on creating a YouTube channel (or several) to make videos like this in the future.



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Economist Mark Blyth On New Economic Normals


For the past year or so I've been listening to economist Mark Blyth break down the rather complex and esoteric field of economics. Despite his thick Scottish accent, he's a skilled communicator at making it somewhat digestible. He's particularly good at criticizing the ineffectiveness of right wing ideas like austerity and showing the problems that come as a result of middle class wage stagnation for 40 years. This is a recent talk of his at the Global Financial Markets Forum on those topics.


Follow him on Twitter here: @MkBlyth

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