On Human Negativity Bias

What was the best year in history? If you could choose any year out of the entire span of human existence so far to be alive in, which one should you pick?You could pick your answer for any number of reasons. You might choose to live in the age of exploration, or at the dawn of the scientific revolution, or in the company of great historical figures. But if you want the best chance of living a peaceful and happy life, if you're going solely by the numbers, then it's obvious: the answer is … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Does Not Compute

Atlas Shrugged, part III, chapter IXAs we've seen previously, the villains of Atlas Shrugged are strangely reluctant to actually do anything evil. But now that they've run out of options, they've finally decided to act like villains by torturing John Galt. (Insert "Muahahaha!" laughter here.) It's all part of their evil master plan to force him to give in to their nefarious demands that he, um, save the world.OK, look, they're pretty new at this villainy thing. Maybe they're still a … [Read more...]

Is Addiction a Moral Failing?

Something that, as an atheist, I always insist upon is that we are biochemical machines. There's no spooky, supernatural ghost in the machine directing our bodies, no Cartesian Theater where the nervous system feeds into a single ineffable locus of consciousness. Our thoughts and our desires arise from patterns of electrochemical activity in our heads, and drugs and other interventions that alter those patterns of connectivity produce corresponding changes in our minds.But even if we know … [Read more...]

Movie Review: Alive Inside

Alive Inside is an award-winning documentary by Michael Rossato-Bennett about the work of Dan Cohen, a social worker from Long Island, and the charity he founded, Music & Memory. (Disclaimer: I know Dan personally, and I've contributed to his charity.) It spotlights a slow-rolling demographic crisis poised to overtake the Western world, and offers at least one startlingly powerful idea that could be part of the solution.In the next few decades, the developed world is going to confront … [Read more...]

Book Review: The Illusion of God’s Presence

Summary: Not a new theory, but a new and strong case for an old theory, supplemented with up-to-date neurological evidence.Jack Wathey is a neuroscientist and computational biologist and the founder of Wathey Research, a scientific firm that focuses on problems like protein folding. His new book, The Illusion of God's Presence, presents an answer to a puzzling problem: Why do human beings believe so strongly in a supernatural deity, even in the face of ample contradictory evidence? (Full … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Trigger Warnings

The latest thinkpiece that's consumed the internet is an editorial by Judith Shulevitz about trigger warnings. A trigger warning, if you don't know, is a warning label intended to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. It's meant to give advance warning of material they might find distressing so that they can avoid it and keep from suffering a flashback, panic attack or other recurrence of their trauma. It's become a popular concept on college campuses, such as at UC-Santa Barbara, … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: March 28

• GOP congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers asked her constituents for Obamacare horror stories. The response she got was rather different.• "Shouldn't you be having these same kind of prayer circles around divorce attorneys' offices to 'save' people from acting on the sin of divorce?"• According to federal investigators, a self-described American "patriot" named Michael Sibley was upset that Muslims weren't committing enough acts of terrorism to make everyone see how evil … [Read more...]

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 9

This is part 9 of my "Think! Of God and Government" debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew's reply.Hello Andrew,Just to briefly return to our previous topic, on Heaven and the problem of evil: If you say you don't know why God does or doesn't do X, that's fine. But in that case, don't also say that God is good, or that his actions advance a greater good that we can't perceive. Saying that someone is good (or evil) requires some understanding of … [Read more...]

A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 8

This is part 8 of my "Think! Of God and Government" debate series with Christian author Andrew Murtagh. Read my latest post and Andrew's reply.Hello Andrew,We'll get into consciousness soon, but before we do, I have a few more things I want to say about the problem of evil. Let's jump right into it:The emergence of free, loving, moral, and compassionate human beings comes at quite a price - the duality of nature and the duality of humanity. God created a universe to result in the … [Read more...]

Religious Violence Isn’t a Mental Illness, and Neither Is Misogyny

In the wake of the mass shooting in California last month, committed by a killer who left a long, misogynist manifesto vowing to punish women for not dating him, many pundits and commenters have strained to blame something other than sexism for his rampage. The most common claim is that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was mentally ill, that the illness was the real cause of his killing, and the misogyny is just what his disturbed mind happened to latch onto as an excuse; if not for that, it would … [Read more...]


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