Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Man, did I pick an auspicious time to transition to Patheos; it’s Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.Ada Lovelace is widely held to have been the first c … [Read more...]

Living Safely in a Fantastical Universe

So, to return to the promise I made you on Thursday, here’s a quick meditation on the exceedingly blurry line between Fantasy and Science Fiction.There are two main genres of division I hear frequently. The first separates fantasy from scifi on primarily aesthetic grounds. Both involve fantastical settings, but one tends to be all blinking lights and brushed chrome, while the other is all thatch and dragons. This probably isn’t the definition we want to embrace, but I do want to give it cre … [Read more...]

Greedy Self-Denial

  Sorry for the delay in Sunday's Good Book posts!  A Song of Ice and Fire is at least partly to blame, but, now that I'm done with A Dance with Dragons, presumably that particular distraction won't be a problem for--shall we guess--another eight years.  I know this is technically going up Monday, but I was gone this weekend seeing my brother at the conclusion of his Shakespeare intensive and it seemed silly to hold the post for a week now that it's written.A little while ago, Eve lent me a … [Read more...]

Who Gets to Use Lewis’s Excuse?

Now that college is over, and I'm wrapping up my guest stint at Daylight Atheism, I finally have time to get back to reading and blogging about books (or more precisely, books about atheism and philosophy, since if I were blogging through all the YA fantasy I've been reading, this would be a very different blog).  I've just finished C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain, but I'm not that interested in discussing the main thesis of the book since, as I've said before, I don't think theodicy is a … [Read more...]

Good Fantasy Makes Good Philosophy

Over spring break, during some of the time I should have spent on my senior essay, I was reading books by Robin McKinley.  I've read and liked a number of her books, so I was tracking down and reading the ones I'd missed.  Some were good, some were so-so, none were as good as Spindle's End and only Chalice was terrible.Plenty of authors have trouble with exposition, dropping long, clunky bits of backstory into the plot or forcing characters to spend time explaining things they both know to ea … [Read more...]

Trying to Will Your Beliefs (A Case Study)

There's been a fair amount of discussion on this blog lately about whether people can choose their beliefs or whether beliefs are compelled by evidence (and then some more about what this all means for free will).  Good news for me, because that was all the excuse I needed to post the following excerpt from Harry Potter  and the Methods of Rationality, a fanfiction story written by AI research Eliezer Yudkowsky.In Yudkowsky's story, Harry was raised by a science professor instead of the D … [Read more...]

David Brooks and the Social Automaton

After reading my slam on David Brooks's The Social Animal, Dylan had some objections: "Other than the fact that it's terribly, terribly written and completely expository (it makes the Emile, on which it is clearly modeled, look like an actual novel by comparison), what's so "yikes" about the exact passage you excerpted? Can you really be such a HP&TMoR fan/transhumanist and also think that treating so-called "cognitive biases" as limitations to be overcome is tantamount to "unweaving the … [Read more...]