Atlas Shrugged: The Passion of Eddie Willers, Part II

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter XAnd now, the crowning infamy.The last time we saw poor, tragic Eddie Willers, he'd set out on a suicide mission to restore Taggart service in California - technically against Dagny's wishes, but she didn't make more than a feeble effort to dissuade him. Now, at the very end of the novel, we find out what happened to him:The locomotive of the eastbound Comet broke down in the middle of a desert in Arizona....When Eddie Willers called for the … [Read more...]

Vote for Harm Reduction, Not Purity

North Carolina's appalling HB2, which I wrote about on Monday, is just one bill in a parade of awfulness from state legislatures. In the last few weeks alone, Indiana has outlawed abortion if the fetus has a defect or disability, and Utah requires women getting abortion to receive unnecessary anesthesia against their will. A South Carolina bill would make anyone who sponsors a refugee criminally liable if that refugee commits a crime. Mississippi wants to grant shoot-to-kill authority to … [Read more...]

On the Morality of: Open Borders

My recap of the Maryam Namazie-Sam Harris exchange spurred a debate about open-border policies, so I wanted to write a post focusing on that topic. Unfortunately, I believe this is only going to become more relevant, not just because of the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, but because it's likely that the next few decades will see millions of people forced to migrate by climate change.On a first pass, it's hard to see what argument could be made against open borders. Shouldn't travel be … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VIIIWith Mr. Thompson's failure, the rest of the looters are taking turns appealing to John Galt, trying to convince him to step in and save the world. Needless to say, it's not going well:"I... I'll just throw myself on your mercy, Mr. Galt," said Chick Morrison with a frantic smile. "You're right. I'll concede that you're right — and all I can appeal to is your pity. Deep down in my heart, I can't believe that you're a total egoist who feels no pity f … [Read more...]

The One-Percent Difference

I posted the other day on Facebook about Richard Dawkins being disinvited from NECSS for promoting a grossly sexist video, which provoked an onlooker to comment that he agreed with Dawkins and not with me. (It was a white man, if you wanted to know.)Since I curate my Facebook wall and don't care to share details of my personal life with people who hold such retrograde opinions, I unfriended him, which he apparently took as a grave insult. He sent me an angry, huffy message, then stopped by … [Read more...]

Welcome Stranger: A Humanist Sermon

I've said in the past, and will have occasion to say again, that the world is slowly becoming a better place despite the tragedies and outrages that parade before our eyes. But just because the overall picture is brightening doesn't mean that there aren't real and lingering dark spots that ought to command our attention. One is the continuing civil war in Syria and the exodus of people, mostly Muslim, it's scattered across Europe and the United States.Last month, I mused about the astounding … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Antiheroism

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter VII've been contemplating the concept of the antihero in literature. It's always struck me as an odd term. Just going by etymology, you'd think it meant the opposite of a hero, but it doesn't. All it means is a different kind of hero - someone who has more obvious character flaws, or a different moral code, than traditional, white-hat, truth-justice-and-the-American-way heroes.What would it mean for someone to really and truly be the opposite of a hero? … [Read more...]

Are Atheist Kids More Altruistic?

When I see a story that promises evidence for something I'd very much like to be true, I try to apply an extra measure of skepticism. That's why I'm hesitant to believe a new study in the journal Current Biology which claims that children raised in atheist households are more altruistic and less judgmental than children of religious families:The children played a game intended to measure their altruistic tendencies (or lack thereof). First, they were presented with a bagful of stickers and … [Read more...]

On Moral Superheroism

I have thoughts about this essay in the Guardian about extreme altruism, seen through the life of an atheist named Julia Wise:Julia believed that because each person was equally valuable, she was not entitled to care more for herself than for anyone else; she believed that she was therefore obliged to spend much of her life working for the benefit of others... She reduced her expenses to the absolute minimum so she could give away 50% of what she earned. She felt that nearly every penny … [Read more...]

What Is the Economy For, Anyway?

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Consumerism Gone Wild. Read other perspectives here.The Guardian ran a column on a group of unsung heroes: the therapists to the super-rich, whose job it is to help their clients deal with the stress and strain of having all that money. According to one of them, Clay Cockrell:"I shifted toward it naturally," he said of his becoming an expert in wealth therapy. "We are trained to have empathy, no judgment and so … [Read more...]


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