Harrison Bergeron-ing a Too-Exceptional Sprinter

different-body-types-olympic-athletes-howard-schatz-5

There's an article in the NYT today covering one of my philosophy of the body hobbyhorses.  Dutee Chand, an 18-year old champion sprinter, has been told she must have surgery or start a drug regimen in order to be allowed to compete in official races.  The problem? Her body naturally produces more testosterone than usual, and administrators worry it gives her an unfair advantage: Arne Ljungqvist, the longtime chairman of the I.O.C.’s medical commission, said a hyperandrogenism policy was nece … [Read more...]

“Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

frankenstein googly eyes

Frankenstein is at least the great-uncle of the zombie story. The alternate title of Shelley’s book is The Modern Prometheus and we can’t quite decide, when it comes to necromancy, whether it’s more frightening to have Prometheus, Frankenstein, Faust and all the rest fail in their quest or succeed.  Somewhere along the way, our Frankenstein’s creatures acquired a lot more hardware than the bolts in the neck. Today, Shelley’s story has more in common with HAL and cyborgs than it does with the simp … [Read more...]

Bob, can I interest you in Transhumanism?

Bob Seidensticker has looked over my recent post on objective morality and hard to get at truths, and he's got some more questions.  Let me pull out a couple quotes from Bob's post: I'll agree that there’s nothing absolute for the consensus to be truth about. When we say, “Capital punishment is wrong,” there is no absolute truth (the yardstick) for us to compare our claim against. Is capital punishment wrong? We can wrestle with this issue the only way we ever have, by studying the issue and arg … [Read more...]

Scared of Darwin for All the Wrong Reasons

UPDATE: I've expanded a response to a commenter in a new post: "Have Humans 'Won' Evolution?"Over at Patheos's group blog on science and religion, Connor Wood is trying to explain why people have a visceral discomfort with evolution.  He sees natural selection as the ultimate example of "nature red in tooth and claw" -- a rigged game that pits us all against each other and suppresses the better angels of our nature.  He writes: Once you start looking at evolutionary reasons for human beh … [Read more...]

Irrational with Respect to What?

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman draws on a lot of empirical studies where subjects make clearly irrational decisions.  A choice throws an exception in an otherwise functional heuristic, and the subject takes an action that doesn't promote his or her stated goal.  But one of the studies Kahneman cites doesn't seem to fit into this model.In the experiment, subjects placed a hand into painfully cold water and had to keep it there for 60 seconds.  After a break, they put their ot … [Read more...]

Quasi-Transhumanist Charismatic Christians

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge.This was a fascinating book to read right on the heels of Thinking Fast and Slow, because both books seemed to be mostly about changing our intuitions and heuristics. Luhrmann is embedded in a charismatic sect of Christianity.  No snake-handling, but plenty of two-way dialogue with Jesus and what Luhrmann calls … [Read more...]

When Do You Reject Your Intuitions?

knee reflex

A while ago, a commenter emailed me to ask if I could recommend any books to read on human cognitive bias, and now that I've finished Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I can, with great enthusiasm.  When we study flaws in human reasoning, we usually start with glaring ones, and find out that they're just the most obvious examples of a broader problem (and the subtler errors are the more pernicious ones).  In the book, Kahneman has a really interesting riff on the Müller-Lyer il … [Read more...]


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