Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for June, 2009

A Bad Day at the Office

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 30, 2009

Timithrobo asked for a plug, and being the nice guy that I am, here it is.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 26, 2009

This analogy kind of sucks. I mean, why would anyone want to catch flies?

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

RE: BibleStudier

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 26, 2009

I was on the World Net Daily (or as Pharyngula calls it, Whirled Nut Daily), when a member named BibleStudier left me this, er, interesting comment:

So, you are “Michael the Glorious and Powerful [MTGAP]” according to your blog. Being self-described as glorious and powerful, one would assume you have the intelligence to know that speaking about abortion on a global warming thread is contradictory. {You may also want to read about Herod and see what end his pride brought about.} Why you describe yourself as “crazy” on your blog is something only you understand.

In short, Michael, I thoroughly enjoyed debate and discussion while an undergrad at Columbia at the same time our deceiver-in-chief claims to have attended. As you demonstrate on your blog and as I enjoyed pre-salvation, intellect allows one to argue both sides of any seemingly unsolved dilemna. But simply arguing for the sake of arguing is folly and accomplishes nothing.

I hope you are young enough that something within you, when you look at how all of the stars are arrayed, how grass grows, how birds fly and don’t fall to the ground, how the human eye is formed, how a mother or father loves their child, that something will tug at your intellect/curiosity and humble you to realize the world is far too perfectly created to be made by chance or significantly affected by man. If you come to that conclusion one day, you may want to seek out a true Christian and ask them to help you begin to understand the Bible. For within its pages, Michael, you will find a story of a truly Glorious and Powerful Lord filled with grace, love, redemption, compassion and a knowledge we cannot comprehend. You will also come to the realization that God is omnipotent and, in fact, controls or allows everything on earth, including the weather.

Being self-described as glorious and powerful, one would assume you have the intelligence to know that speaking about abortion on a global warming thread is contradictory.

This was in response to something I had said earlier: “BibleStudier, would you be interested in discussing our views on abortion? I don’t want to go off topic here, but if you’re interested, check out some of my musings on abortion here: http://mtgap.bilfo.com/blog/2009/02/03/abortion/”
I was actually trying to avoid going off-topic by directing a potential discussion on abortion to somewhere else. And for the record, the “Glorious and Powerful” title is meant to be humorous.

Why you describe yourself as “crazy” on your blog is something only you understand.

Mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say that was catchy enough. But you’re right, “crazy” is not a good way to describe myself. I changed it to “fun”, though that’s hardly better. I am open to suggestions.

In short, Michael, I thoroughly enjoyed debate and discussion while an undergrad at Columbia at the same time our deceiver-in-chief claims to have attended. As you demonstrate on your blog and as I enjoyed pre-salvation, intellect allows one to argue both sides of any seemingly unsolved dilemna.

Maybe I’m just being overly defensive, but it seems to me like the “I used to be like you but now I’m better” is nothing but a personal attack.

But simply arguing for the sake of arguing is folly and accomplishes nothing.

Firstly, arguing both sides of an argument is very helpful. It helps one to establish a strong and unbiased perspective. If one cannot argue both sides of some proposition, then one is heavily suffering from foundational bias. I can still argue both sides on the issues that I feel strongest about, and when I do it gives me a better perspective on what I really should believe. If you can argue against your own beliefs and still support them, it is probably a sound belief.

Secondly, arguing for the sake of arguing does accomplish something. It expands the horizons of the mind. It serves as practice for when argumentation and analysis become necessary, which happens rather frequently in today’s political arena. It confounds knowledge. And, of course, it’s fun.

I hope you are young enough that something within you, when you look at how all of the stars are arrayed, how grass grows, how birds fly and don’t fall to the ground, how the human eye is formed, how a mother or father loves their child, that something will tug at your intellect/curiosity and humble you to realize the world is far too perfectly created to be made by chance or significantly affected by man.

Perfectly created? Are you kidding?

-There is nothing special about how stars are arrayed.
-Birds fly because they evolved wings. There’s nothing special about that.
-Eyes evolved. Good eyes favor survival. link. And don’t try to tell me that eyes are perfect. They can only effectively see for a few hundred yards, they can only see forward as opposed to in all directions, and they each have a big blind spot.
-Parents loving their children is an evolutionary advantage. It should be obvious how children with loving parents have a survival advantage over children with hateful parents.
-How exactly is the world so perfect? The world is cruel and painful and flawed.

If you come to that conclusion one day, you may want to seek out a true Christian and ask them to help you begin to understand the Bible. For within its pages, Michael, you will find a story of a truly Glorious and Powerful Lord filled with grace, love, redemption, compassion and a knowledge we cannot comprehend.

I am far more Glorious and Powerful than God. No, that’s not arrogance: you are too. So is everyone. So are birds flowers and ants and bacteria.

You will also come to the realization that God is omnipotent and, in fact, controls or allows everything on earth, including the weather.

Omnipotence is not possible.

BibleStudier, I hope that one day you will open your mind to alternative viewpoints and actively consider them. I hope you will eradicate your foundational bias. One day, you may come to the realization that sometimes logic and reason are indeed more reliable than faith.

Posted in Science | 2 Comments »

Political Compass

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 26, 2009

I took this political test. Some of the questions were interesting, so I want to justify my responses here. Please read it, since making all these quote and bold tags was a pain and I want it to be worth something.

ON BIAS:
Political views vary greatly, and I am interested in why. Is there a single “correct” political position that people only fail to see because of biases? Is an unbiased perspective even possible?

I am not going to go too much into that. I don’t want to analyze my own biases too much because it requires revelation of a lot of personal information, but I want to point out something about my stance on economics.

I do not have income, nor do I pay taxes. This reduces bias in terms of economic issues (lower class want to tax the rich, while the rich want flat tax), though bias may still be present from my family’s economic status. My opinion on economic issues is therefore less biased than the opinion of any adult. Therefore, if you are an adult, you should value my opinion and the opinion of any moderately well informed youth. If you are reading this, Luke, I would like to hear your own minimally-biased opinion on some of this material, since we tend to disagree a lot.

***

All quoted grammatical errors are their error, not mine.

If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.

Strongly agree. Humanity as a whole is one of the most important things (most important of its size, and third most important after the universe and the earth (the solar system is not really a unit of importance, nor is the galaxy)).

I’d always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.

Strongly disagree. I see no possible way to justify supporting a country in immoral acts.

No one chooses his or her country of birth, so it’s foolish to be proud of it.

Agree. This seems self-explanatory to me.

Our race has many superior qualities, compared with other races.

Strongly disagree. Different races of humans are so genetically similar that there are no real differences.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Disagree. To look at it mathematically, this is only true if “enemy” equals -1. a*-1*-1 = a. Back to reality, this implies that one’s enemy is the direct opposite of oneself, which is not necessarily the case.

Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified.

Agree. I do believe that international law should override national law, but sometimes international law is wrong.

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.

Strongly disagree. The only people who disagree with this statement are people who grew up without the fusion and are afraid of change.

People are ultimately divided more by class than by nationality.

Agree. Nationality is arbitrary, while class is concrete.

Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.

Disagree. Inflation negatively affects many people, but only a little. Unemployment severely affects people.

Because corporations cannot be trusted to voluntarily protect the environment, they require regulation.

Strongly agree. If we are assuming that businesses cannot be trusted, then of course they require regulation.

“from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is a fundamentally good idea.

Strongly agree. I would not agree as strongly, but it says “fundamentally” which implies that it is more theoretical. In practice, a society that embodies this ideal can be easily exploited. If we find humane some way to prevent this exploitation, then I would love to live in a society that embodies this.

It’s a sad reflection on our society that something as basic as drinking water is now a bottled, branded consumer product.

Strongly disagree. To agree with this statement requires intense foundational bias: the agreer must assume that selling a product somehow completely ruins it.

Land shouldn’t be a commodity to be bought and sold.

Disagree. This requires a similar foundational bias to that of above. I do not strongly disagree, and instead only disagree, because buying and selling land can sometimes lead to a devaluation of animals living on the land. But as long as the animals are all right, there is nothing wrong with selling land. (By “animals” I really mean basically mammals, since I don’t really care about insects as individuals.)

It is regrettable that many personal fortunes are made by people who simply manipulate money and contribute nothing to their society.

Disagree. The very fact that they are making money by doing work proves that they are contributing something. What exactly are they contributing? I’m not an economist, but I would say that they are increasing the efficiency of the market by their manipulation of money.

Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.

Strongly agree. My strength in agreement comes from the “sometimes” clause.

The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders.

Strongly disagree. A company is responsible for various things, among them obeying the law and not defacing the environment.

The rich are too highly taxed.

Disagree. They can afford it.

Those with the ability to pay should have the right to higher standards of medical care .

Agree. If they are paying more, they are fueling the medical facilities. They deserve better care. This is not to say that those who can’t pay don’t deserve medical care.

Governments should penalise businesses that mislead the public.

Strongly agree. What the hell are they doing misleading people?

A genuine free market requires restrictions on the ability of predator multinationals to create monopolies.

Strongly agree. Monopolies hurt the consumer.

The freer the market, the freer the people.

Agree. When people are more free to make economic decisions, they are by definition more free.

Abortion, when the woman’s life is not threatened, should always be illegal.

Strongly disagree. See this, this.

All authority should be questioned.

Strongly agree. Benefits: bias, corruption or potential harm in the authority figure can be uncovered. Detriments: it takes time and *gasp* work! The benefits clearly outweigh the detriments. I am assuming that “all authority” really means “all authority that we didn’t just question five minutes ago”.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Disagree. While better than many justice systems, this system is still outdated and inadequate. Cutting off a guy’s hand will not cure him of theft.

Taxpayers should not be expected to prop up any theatres or museums that cannot survive on a commercial basis.

Agree. If there is anything of real value in the theater/museum, it will sustain itself. If there isn’t, why waste taxpayers’ money when the taxpayers clearly don’t care about the theater/museum?

Schools should not make classroom attendance compulsory.

Disagree. School is a great social advantage, so that may be encouragement enough to attend, but sometimes people don’t know what’s in their own best interests or are just too lazy.

All people have their rights, but it is better for all of us that different sorts of people should keep to their own kind.

Strongly disagree. I see no sound justification for the statement.

Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.

Disagree. Parents very rarely *have to* do anything. There are multiple successful methods of parenting.

It’s natural for children to keep some secrets from their parents.

Agree. It’s natural, but they still shouldn’t do it.

Possessing marijuana for personal use should not be a criminal offence.

Disagree. Marijuana is harmful.

The prime function of schooling should be to equip the future generation to find jobs.

Agree. A job/career is central to a person’s lifestyle.

People with serious inheritable disabilities should not be allowed to reproduce.

Agree. See this.

The most important thing for children to learn is to accept discipline.

Strongly disagree. There are so many important things to learn. What about learning a career? What about learning to get along with others?

There are no savage and civilised peoples; there are only different cultures.

Agree. “Savage” and “civilized” are subjective labels.

Those who are able to work, and refuse the opportunity, should not expect society’s support.

Strongly agree. If they’re just lazy, there is no reason to support them.

When you are troubled, it’s better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things.

Strongly disagree. The problem won’t just solve itself.

First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country.

Disagree. This is an absolute statement, and absolute statements are rarely true. And it seems to me that the barrier between immigrants and a new country is small enough to be torn down.

What’s good for the most successful corporations is always, ultimately, good for all of us.

Disagree. Successful corporations are not connected to everyone, and are strongly connected to few.

No broadcasting institution, however independent its content, should receive public funding.

Agree. Consentingly-contributed donations from the public are acceptable, but tax-based donations are a violation of personal property (that property being money).

Our civil liberties are being excessively curbed in the name of counter-terrorism.

Agree. Terrorism is minor compared to an entire country’s liberties.

A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.

Strongly disagree. A one-party state oppresses external viewpoints.

Although the electronic age makes official surveillance easier, only wrongdoers need to be worried.

Agree. Though the government may not be trustworthy, it is statistically unlikely that you personally are in danger of being spied on.

The death penalty should be an option for the most serious crimes.

Strongly disagree. I really need to write an entire post on this. For now, a summary: even felons have a right to life; the death penalty is more costly; innocents are sometimes falsely executed.

In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.

Strongly disagree. Besides the fact that we already established that “civilized” doesn’t mean anything, there is no fundamental need for a hierarchical structure.

Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything shouldn’t be considered art at all.

Disagree. Some people just don’t understand art.

In criminal justice, punishment should be more important than rehabilitation.

Strongly disagree. Rehabilitation “cures” criminals; punishment only deters them.

It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.

Disagree. Just because we don’t know how to rehabilitate a particular criminal doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The businessperson and the manufacturer are more important than the writer and the artist.

Disagree. Their importance cannot be compared in any linear way. Without the manufacturer, life is difficult. Without the artist, life is dull. (Not a bad quote for one in the morning.)

Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.

Agree. Children need raising, and the mother is in the best position to do that. I also believe the same about fathers, though when there are two parents it somewhat lessens the importance of each parent.

Multinational companies are unethically exploiting the plant genetic resources of developing countries.

Disagree. I’m not sure what “plant genetic resources” are, but if they have to do with plants (as in the kingdom plantae), then I have no ethical problem with it.

Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity.

Disagree. Sometimes the establishment is wrong.

Astrology accurately explains many things.

Strongly disagree. What kind of idiot do you think I am?

You cannot be moral without being religious.

Strongly disagree. What kind of moron do you think I am? Morality stems from the evolutionary advantage of cooperation, not from religion. People were moral before 5000 years ago. Animals are moral.

Charity is better than social security as a means of helping the genuinely disadvantaged.

Agree. Charity is willingly and happily provided. Charity makes everyone happy. But I deny that this has anything to do with religion, since charity is possible without religion.

Some people are naturally unlucky.

Strongly disagree. By definition, this is impossible. Luck is not determined by nature. Luck is random.

It is important that my child’s school instills religious values.

Strongly disagree. What kind of doofus do you think I am?

Sex outside marriage is usually immoral.

Strongly agree. If the marital partners both consent to sex outside of marriage, then it is acceptable. If they don’t, then the unfaithfulness is unjustified. The “usually” clause is the reason for my strength in agreement.

A same sex couple in a stable, loving relationship, should not be excluded from the possibility of child adoption.

Strongly agree. See this.

Pornography, depicting consenting adults, should be legal for the adult population.

Strongly agree. They’re consenting. Adults are mature. What else do I have to say?

What goes on in a private bedroom between consenting adults is no business of the state.

Strongly agree. They’re consenting. No one’s watching. Get out of the way, state.

No one can feel naturally homosexual.

Strongly disagree. Homosexuality is primarily genetic, and therefore natural.

These days openness about sex has gone too far.

Disagree. People were a lot more open about sex 40,000 years ago.

***

***

So that’s the quiz. How did I score?

(The image is broken. Check out this link.)

This makes me significantly more libertarian-anarchist than authoritarian. I am pretty evenly balanced between liberal communism and absolute capitalism. This makes me something of a Mozart. And I’m pretty far from any politician from the 2008 presidential election, though I’m not too far from Joe Biden or Barack Obama.

I’m surprised. I thought I was a lot more left than that. I’ve taken studies before, but I’ve never thoroughly analyzed it. The analysis significantly affected my results.

ON DISTANCE:

It is important to recognise that The Political Compass™ is a continuum rather than consisting of hard and fast quadrants.

True. Is there some optimized method of determining how far apart two people are? A direct line – square root of (economic squared plus social squared) – is not the best option. Perhaps simply economy plus social? This puts me eight away from Joe Biden, but only six away from Ralph Nader. Of course, one should not just vote for the presidential candidate that one is closest to. The president has more power in some areas than others, so the areas of the president’s power should be weighted more heavily. For instance, the president has a lot of military power, but little power in issues such as gay marriage which are up to states. So it may be worth it to vote for a candidate who disagrees with you on gay marriage if the candidate agrees with you on military.

I encourage the readers to take this quiz and comment on your results if you come up with anything interesting.

Posted in Politics | 5 Comments »

This doesn't make much sense.

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 25, 2009

Not really; it makes perfect sense. But it’s still illogical.

Earlier today, I turned on the television. My intent was to watch The Simpsons, but I don’t get Fox anymore for some reason so my plans were shattered. I briefly flipped through the channels and saw a couple of news stories entitled “Remembering Michael Jackson” (yes, they were both called that). They appeared to be *gasp* making him look good!! If I remember correctly, whenever anyone mentioned Michael Jackson for the past five years it was a negative comment. If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all. Unless it’s about Michael Jackson: in that case, if you can’t say anything mean, don’t say anything at all. But now, all of a sudden, he is worth remembering. ‘Look at his dancing! He’s legendary!’ News flash: being accused of molesting children doesn’t change the fact that he’s legendary. And if he hadn’t been legendary, his death wouldn’t have changed that fact.

When a person dies, suddenly we can only remember the good things about him. But why do we have to wait until he’s dead? It seems rather illogical. Why not praise people while they are alive?

I have the feeling that this makes sense, but I don’t understand it.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

Is free will ever possible? Like, ever?

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 25, 2009

Free will requires the following:

1. That the entity be capable of rational decisions independent of external input.
2. That the entity has the ability to be completely unpredictable. (This does not mean that the entity will be unpredictable all the time, only that it is possible.)
3. That the entity is responsible for all decisions.

It follows from (3) that decisions cannot be random. So (2) and (3) seem contradictory. Unless . . . what if the entity is responsible for decisions, but the decisions are still random? Is this possible? Unfortunately, no. The only case in which it works is if the entity is combining a random result with a personal decision, which violates (1).

Let’s defy logic here. Maybe that will work. What if the entity is both responsible for all decisions and not responsible for all decisions? Well that doesn’t make any sense.

In conclusion, free will is not ever possible. Like, never.

Posted in Free Will, Philosophy | 5 Comments »

God does not have free will.

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 25, 2009

You’d think that God, being omnipotent and all that, would be able to have free will. But even God is subject to determinism.

Free will is impossible, since an event is either predetermined or random. So not even God can have free will. He still has to make choices, and those choices are determined somehow. God cannot have free will. Interestingly, this is a proof that God is not omnipotent, since he is incapable of making free choices and can therefore not do everything.

Posted in Free Will, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Interesting Quiz Question

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 25, 2009

I was taking a political quiz when I came across this interesting question.

People with serious inheritable disabilities should not be allowed to reproduce.

This was the first question that I really had to think about. I thought it was interesting enough to post here.

This issue seems similar to abortion: should a genetically disabled mother be allowed to choose to reproduce, or should she be forced not to for the sake of her children? Though it differs somewhat: reproduction does not only cause suffering for her children, but it degrades the gene pool. It is our responsibility to uphold the integrity of the gene pool, as genes are the units of natural selection (I’m in the process of reading The Selfish Gene) and are therefore vital. I agree with the quoted statement, because it is for the good of the populus that genetically disabled individuals not be allowed to reproduce. And for their own satisfaction, they can always adopt. Adoption is always helpful.

Posted in Ethics | 1 Comment »

Did you know? Brains are 16 bits.

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 20, 2009

http://xkcd.com/571/

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

Read this, and your life will be enriched.

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 19, 2009

http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf
delicious little link

Posted in Math | Leave a Comment »

 
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