Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Sullivan summarises how I subconsciously think of conservatism:

When you use the c-word among the next generation, they no longer associate it with small government, individual freedom, humble faith, balanced budgets, respect for tradition or a strong but prudent foreign policy. They think of religious fanaticism, big spending, massive debt, and social intolerance.

My emphasis. Sullivan’s assessment about my feelings on the c-word is bang on. I kind of like that first part (not the faith or tradition part, but you can’t have everything…). But conservatism hasn’t been about the first part for as long as I’ve been following politics (for about 15 years now, and I’m 28).


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Sean Carroll over at Cosmic Variance has succintly explained why it is reasonable to believe in dark matter, in spite of the spate of recent modified gravity-inspired publications that purport to explain the Bullet Cluster result and the emergence of a relativisic verison of modified gravity over the past few years. Quoth the article:

The dark matter hypothesis provides a simple and elegant fit to the Bullet Cluster, and for that matter fits a huge variety of other data. That doesn’t mean that it’s been proven within metaphysical certainty; but it does mean that there is a tremendous presumption that it is on the right track. The Bullet Cluster (and for that matter the microwave background) behave just as they should if there is dark matter, and not at all as you would expect if gravity were modified. Any theory of modified gravity must have the feature that essentially all of its predictions are exactly what dark matter would predict. So if you want to convince anyone to read your long and complicated paper arguing in favor of modified gravity, you have a barrier to overcome. These folks aren’t crackpots, but they still face the challenge laid out in the alternative science respectability checklist: “Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.” Tell me right up front exactly how your theory explains how a force can point somewhere other than in the direction of its source, and why your theory miraculously reproduces all of the predictions of the dark matter idea (which is, at heart, extraordinarily simple: there is some collisionless non-relativistic particle with a certain density).

And people just don’t do that. They want to believe in modified gravity, and are willing to jump through all sorts of hoops and bend into uncomfortable contortions to make it work. You might say that more mainstream people want to believe in dark matter, and are therefore just as prejudiced. But you’d be laboring under the handicap of being incorrect. Any of us would love to discover a modification of Einstein’s equations, and we talk about it all the time. As a personal preference, I think it would be immeasurably more interesting if cosmological dynamics could be explained by modifying gravity rather than inventing some dumb old particle.

But the data say otherwise….

The basic probelm is that, while modified gravity proponents tend to argue that dark matter is a kludge designed to fit the data even though there is no indication of what it might actually be composed of (and until recently hadn’t even been directly detected), modified gravity itself proposes an ad hoc modification to the law of gravity without any theoretical motivation. Why should modified gravity then be considered more realistic hypothesis than dark matter?

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Here’s an interesting read I found last night.

‘Forgive me if it takes me a little time to get up to speed here, but it’s not everyday I get to question a deity’

The Deity’ he interrupted.

ooh. Touchy!’ I thought.

Not really – just correcting the image

Now That takes some getting used to!

I tried to get a grip on my thoughts, with an internal command – ‘Discipline Harry. You’ve always wanted to be in a situation like this, now you’re actually in it, you mustn’t go to pieces and waste the opportunity of a lifetime

You won’t’ he said.

Tell you! That’s the bit that made it feel unreal more than anything else – this guy sitting across the table and very obviously accurately reading my every thought. It’s like finding someone else’s hand inside your trouser pocket!

Nevertheless, something made me inclined to accept the invasion, I had obviously begun to have some confidence in his perception or abilities, so I distinctly remember the effect of his words was that I suddenly felt deeply reassured and completely relaxed. As he had no doubt intended. Man must have an amazing seduction technique!

So then we got down to business…

Maybe we can get to level two…

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Eugene Volokh points to a nifty article on Slate offering an alternate perspective about Ebenezer Scrooge’s generosity:

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that’s a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens might not have recognized it, the primary moral of A Christmas Carol is that there should be no limit on IRA contributions.

That’s the holiday spirit, I think.

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Not only do we need no God to explain the universe and life. God stands out in the universe as the most glaring of all superfluous sore thumbs. We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can’t disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can’t disprove, we can say that God is …

read more | digg story

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Here’s some interesting philosophizing: Web 2.0 as post-modernism…or something like that. Link.

Today’s quote of the day comes from that very article: ‘The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.’ – G.K. Chesterton

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