Archive for March, 2012

Posting delays …

March 30, 2012

I apologize for not posting much this week; things have been busier than usual. I’ll try to get something up over the weekend.

Kitcher on Scientism …

March 26, 2012

Via Edward Feser’s site, I came across this review of Alex Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality” by Philip Kitcher. He spends a lot of it talking about scientism, and says this right at the end:

Scientism rejects dialogue: the sciences provide the answers; the lesser provinces of the intellectual and cultural world should take instruction. To be sure, well-supported messages from the sciences are sometimes foolishly ignored — think of the warnings from climate scientists about our planet’s future. Yet scientism can easily prove counterproductive. However worthy the impulse to trumpet urgent news, smugness, arrogance and delight in shattering entrenched beliefs are as apt to alienate as to convert. The challenge is not to decide who has the Most Important Insights, but to comprehend the knowledge we have, finite, fallible and fragmentary as it is. We should make the most of it.

I think that all of the forms of scientism I talked about in the series all follow from that first sentence, meaning that if you accept that attitude you either have to argue that only things that are scientific are useful or are answers or alternatively you have to broaden science so that it does, in fact, provide all the answers. And I think the last sentence is important as well; we need to decide what is the best approach to use for a particular question, not try to decide what — if any — method is the best for all questions.

Save us Chuck Woolery …

March 26, 2012

… you’re our only hope.

After doing some browsing that’s probably best not described in detail, I came across this site.

Chuck Woolery, of course, is a well-known former game show host. The videos here are short commentaries on the state of things in the U.S., and despite not being American I find them funny. Even if you don’t agree with them — and many won’t — they’re entertaining, and often do have some interesting content (the one on democracy was interesting, although the references to Greece made for a bad argument).

Check it out. I haven’t watched all of them yet, so I’ll be doing that over the next little while.

Brand New Game, Same as the Old Game

March 25, 2012

The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

The column is so irregular because it starts with me having to write one, and anyone who regularly reads this blog knows how my schedule can impact my writing anything. But then since I’m terrible at anything having to do with visual aesthetics, the button and article images are done by another editor there, John. So, when he’s busy, it takes him a bit to get around to it. So you’ve got the busy schedules of two people having to come together to get these articles out. And, of course, our schedules hardly ever match up so that I’m not busy when he’s not busy, which just adds to the fun.

That being said, he does a great job finding and sometimes even creating the images and buttons, and I’m very appreciative of his efforts, and hope you are, too.

Examining Reason

March 23, 2012

So, reason has been a topic of discussion lately. Obviously, the so-called Reason Rally has opened up a lot of discussion on when someone or something counts as rational, and also about what it would mean to support and use reason. In addition, in the comments on this thread I’ve been engaged in a lot of discussions over what it means to be rational. In the past, I’ve talked about Dan Ariely’s work and challenged our presumptions about what it means to be rational.

So what I’m going to do over the next little while is … talk about and examine reason, what it means, why it means it, and all sorts of other things. Which means that you’re going to get a second frequently used tag! You’re honoured, I know [grin].

This will be run the same way that the Scientism 101 series was run: I’ll add posts as I feel like adding posts. I expect this one to go on a lot longer and so I might actually have to organize it by writing something down instead of simply remember it in my head. This could get serious …

Blazing Blu …

March 21, 2012

So, Blazblu Contiuum Shift arrived, and I started playing it yesterday because I had to update the PS3 to play it. I started as Miss Litchi because, well, she has long dark hair and wears glasses. Anyway, I tried out the Arcade mode for a bit and …

… it has story/cutscenes. In the Arcade mode. Not the Story mode. The Arcade mode. Cool.

As usual, I put it on Beginner and managed to get to the last battle with her, where I kept losing. I don’t know most of her moves, so that’s not a surprise, and my timing was off. Throughout the whole game I was able to win but it wasn’t always easy, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it isn’t a walk-over once you learn a simple move like Street Fighter is so it’s more interesting to play. It’s bad because it means that I actually have to put in an effort to see the stories and endings, which is the only reason I play them.

So far, the game is good, and the soundtrack is okay. It’s a little bouncy to play at work.

The Secular State Has Arrived …

March 21, 2012

… or, at least, Russell Blackford’s book on the subject has. I’d say that complaining works wonders, except that I’m sure that it’s all coincidence [grin].

Now, I have some games to play, but I intend to start reading this and when I finish it I will post some comments on what I think of it. What I’m really hoping to get out of it is a clear definition of what it means to have a secular state, and what things I can and can’t do based on religious beliefs in one. At this point, it hasn’t been clear to me what most people mean by that, and a lot of what they say they mean worries me.

Do you or do you not support reason?

March 20, 2012

I found myself quite amused about the so-called Reason Rally that’s coming up this weekend, mostly because it claims to be supporting reason … or secularism … or atheism, depending on who you believe. This, to me, simply carries on the rather odd and amusingly invalid claim by the New Gnu Horsemen of the Apocalypse New Atheists that they are “rationalists”, defenders and respecters of reason despite the fact that the most prominent and well-known advocate of reason — Descartes, whose work philosophical rationalism was pretty much based on — would make them all wanna trow up. And now they’re fighting amongst themselves over what it really means to support rationalism … or skepticism … or atheism … or whatever as Adam Lee talks about with copious links to major players. The short version is that there are some people that are saying things at the Reason Rally who some of these paragons of reason think are irrational, and so they shouldn’t be there. The other side is basically answering that everyone has their own irrationalities and so saying that someone should be excluded from the Reason Rally for some irrational beliefs is going too far. The reply is that these people are irrational in really bad ways, which in my view translates to “They are irrational about things that I really, really care about!”, which to me sounds emotional, which with apologies to Hume, Damasio and Prinz seems pretty irrational to me. But it’s more than a dog’s breakfast; these paragons of reason can’t act reasonably enough long enough to get what they all considered a landmark, showcase event off the ground.

What’s most amusing about all of this, though, is that it nicely illustrates the problem with those that I’ll call the New Rationalists (to distinguish them from people like Descartes):

1) They are co-opting what it means to be reasonable, and so defining themselves as rational and therefore their opponents as necessarily irrational.
2) Their definition of rational seems to be “You agree with me”.

For the first, they tend to consider things like atheism in some sense more rational than theism, ranging from the idea that atheism is always rational to the more measured argument that based on the evidence atheism is the more rational despite while acknowledging that some atheists might be atheistic irrationally. The problem, of course, is that using the old definition of rational it’s hard to say that, say, someone who uses the Ontological or Cosmological argument to justify a belief in God is irrational since those are arguments based, in fact, on pure reason. The main criticism against them is that those arguments aren’t empirical, but of course being empirical doesn’t mean that you’re rational. So what do they mean by reason, then? It seems that it’s loosely based on critical thinking, but critical thinking itself can be a bit shady when it comes to what it means to be rational; the evidence doesn’t always line up nicely. So without engaging the specific arguments and reasons someone holds, you can’t say that they’re irrational. No, you can only do that in general if …

… you define the rational position on a topic as being the one that you hold. And this seems to be what’s happening here. The biggest objections to Senator Tom Harkin speaking are:

1) He’s Catholic.
2) He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which can only be voted for for religious reasons, and so he doesn’t support the separation of Church and State.

Considering the massive amounts of theology that the Catholic Church engages in, that it reveres rationality is hard to argue. While faith is important, reason has certainly played a key role in that religion for ages, and the main reason that it gets considered heartless in cases like abortion is because it follows an exceptionally strongly reason-based morality, that puts aside things like empathy and emotion and forces people to act on the basis of strict reason. They are, in fact, very similar to the Stoics, and if anyone wants to claim the Stoics didn’t support reason, well … you’ll have to excuse me laughing hysterically for a while, along with everyone who knows anything about Stoic philosophy. As for DOMA, the assumption is that he could only have voted for it for religious reasons, without bothering to ask, as far as I have seen, actually why he voted for it. Maybe he thought that his job was to represent his constituency, and he noted that most of the people in his constituency wanted that passed. Maybe he thought that there were secular reasons for it. Maybe his definition of secular isn’t theirs. But the presumption is on both counts “We’re right; he’s wrong; we’re rational; he’s irrational”.

But the most irrational thing one can do is conflate being wrong with being irrational. One can be rationally wrong and irrationally right. It’s the on-board resources one has and the reasoning that one uses that determines rationality, not correctness. To ignore this defines reason by its product and not by its process, which defeats the whole purpose of reason which is about process primarily. We strive to be rational because its process is desirable, not because it always leads to correct results. Sure, it leads to correct answers more often than not, at least in this world, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Co-opting reason to describe those who are on your side leads to exactly the sort of problems we are seeing with the Reason Rally. As they discover that some of the people that they thought were on the same side and agreed with them aren’t on the same side, then you have to count them as irrational as well, and then you splinter into all sides screaming that the other side is irrational. For my part, I always prefer to simply call them wrong; it’s more accurate and leads to discussions of the arguments, not the qualities of my opponents. Thus, my opponents are wrong … all of them [grin].

As for me, I’m always right. Unless, of course, I’m wrong. Then I’m not right. But any other time, I’m right.[grin]

The Sledge Hammer Theme Song …

March 19, 2012

Whenever I hear this song, I always think about the old Sledge Hammer! TV series and think that this really is Sledge’s theme. Add in that he did the Elvis dancing episode and I get even more associations.

Trigger Happy – Weird Al Yankovic

Got an AK47 well you know it makes me feel alright
Got an Uzi by my pillow, helps me sleep a little better at night
There’s no feeling any greater
Than to shoot first and ask questions later
Now I’m trigger happy,(wooooooo) trigger happy every day

Well, you can’t take my guns away, I got a constitutional right
Yeah, I gotta be ready if the Commies attack us tonight
Ba Ba Ba
I’ll blow their brains out with my Smith and Wesson
That ought to teach them all a darn good lesson
Now I’m trigger happy,(wooooooo) trigger happy every day

(Oh yeah, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh baby, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh I’m so)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away

Oh, I accidently shot daddy last night in the den (Shot daddy in the den)
I mistook him in the dark for a drug-crazed Nazi again
(drug-crazed Nazi again)
Now why’d you have to get so mad?
It was just a lousy flesh wound, Dad
You know, I’m trigger happy,(woooooooo) trigger happy every day

Oh, I still haven’t figured out the safety on my rifle yet
Little Fluffy took a round, better take him to the vet
I filled that kitty cat so full of lead
We’ll have to use him for a pencil instead
Well, I’m trigger happy, trigger happy every day

(Oh yeah, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh baby, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh I’m so)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away

Come on and grab your ammo
What have you got to lose?
We’ll get all liquored up
And shoot at anything that moves

Got a brand new semi-automatic weapon with a laser sight
(shoot to kill now shoot to kill)
Oh, I’m prayin’ somebody tries to break in here tonight
(shoot to kill now shoot to kill)
I always keep a Magnum in my trunk
You better ask yourself, do you feel lucky, punk?
Because I’m trigger happy, trigger happy every day

(Oh yeah, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh baby, I’m)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
(Oh I’m so)trigger, trigger happy
Yes I’m trigger, trigger happy
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away
Better watch out, punk, or I’m gonna have to blow you away

(And if you were expecting something special for my 400th post … well, are you happy [grin]?)

I’m sorry, Record of Agarest War Zero …

March 19, 2012

… but I think I’m going to have to pull you from the line-up. Without even loading you up for about the month that I said that I’d play you.

BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend Limited has arrived, and is just waiting for me to go home, pick up, and play it. I still want to finish Oblivion — I’m running as Angel through the Shivering Isles right now, and once I finish that main quest line I’m going to hop back and finish off a few quests there — and so it will demand some of my time. And the hockey playoffs are about to start so I think I’ll try slotting a PS2 game in there since it’s easy for me to play on the PS2 and watch TV at the same time, which isn’t true of the PS3 or the PC. So you just don’t fit into my plans at the moment.


(BTW, I ordered the game along with Russell Blackford’s book “Freedom of Religion and the Secular State”. The game’s arrived in about two weeks. The book hasn’t shipped yet. Come on, Russell … get some better service in Canada, would ya? [grin])