A Hyperactive Productivist Churn

January 11, 2016

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

David Bowie is dead at age 69, and it looks like people are going to have some trouble coping with it today. I get it.

Danielle Teller at Quartz explains that Americans' failure to recall basic scientific facts isn't the core problem with "scientific literacy," it's really about taking a rational approach to questions:

There is no compelling reason to believe that knowledge of the structure of the solar system correlates with a true understanding of science. We learn that earth orbits the sun in the same way we learn that Jesus’ mother was a virgin or that we should never wear white before Memorial Day. We accept it because someone we trust told us that it’s true. I believe that time stops at the speed of light not because I have any understanding of Einstein’s math, but because my physics teacher told me so. If he had told me something straight out of a superhero comic book, like that 95% of the universe is made up of some hypothetical invisible substance called “dark matter,” I probably would have believed that too. 

Robert Sheaffer reviews How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth for Skeptical Inquirer.

The American Dialect Society declares the singular, gender-neutral pronoun "they" to be Word of the Year

A Muslim woman goes to a Trump rally wearing an "I come in peace" T-shirt, and is booed, taunted, and escorted out. 

The American Press Institute highlights a recent Skeptical Inquirer web piece on "Trump-rage" in its "Week in Fact-Checking." 

Ex-pope Benedict's brother says he doesn't know anything about the sexual abuse of children at the German church choir he directed, despite the 72 cases of abuse that have been brought to light. 

Sophia McClennan at Salon says, "Despite being attacked by terrorists, the Hebdo artists are still criticized for their worldviews more than the terrorists themselves."

Mike Huckabee tells an atheist he'd fight for his right to be an atheist, and then, as Hemant puts it, goes "full Huckabee." 

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is feeling pressure to get more into the God thing

A man tires to shoot to death a police officer (who survived), reportedly on behalf of ISIS, because, according to the shooter, police "bend laws that are contrary to the teachings of the Quran."

NBC News belatedly covers the Know Your Neighbor project that CFI is a part of, and there's even a picture of Michael De Dora there. 

At my blog, I really wish I could get into transhumanism, but I can't. 

Quote of the Day:

Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle bemoan the "undoing" of philosophy:
Philosophy has aped the sciences by fostering a culture that might be called “the genius contest.” Philosophic activity devolved into a contest to prove just how clever one can be in creating or destroying arguments. Today, a hyperactive productivist churn of scholarship keeps philosophers chained to their computers. Like the sciences, philosophy has largely become a technical enterprise, the only difference being that we manipulate words rather than genes or chemicals. Lost is the once common-sense notion that philosophers are seeking the good life — that we ought to be (in spite of our failings) model citizens and human beings.  
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#1 Randy on Friday January 15, 2016 at 8:44pm

I had heard of the undoing of philosophy, but it wasn’t folks being chained to their computers using their genius on words, but rather churning out nonsense and dribble, such as the line “a discipline almost entirely fashioned for and by white European men”.  Regardless of its inception, to claim that philosophy is not now “for” a particular group is to insult their intelligence.

What philosophy ought to do, is get some of its physics and math back.

Multiverses are not science (i.e. falsifiable).  Much of the claims of black holes are not science either.  These are natural philosophy.

I dare say any portion of math (except possibly number theory) is philosophy, regardless of its seeming application to the real world.

The whining that a philosopher must be somehow virtuous, and more-so than the average, puts the cart before the horse (and contradicts the claim that philosophy should be “dirty”).  Who decides who is virtuous?  If we all just know already, then what do we need philosophers for?  Might it not be that we’re wrong, and the most virtuous among us are actually those we revile as the least virtuous?  How would we know?

Ultimately, what is universally “good” according to our species is necessarily determined by our biology, and science can demonstrate that, and will no doubt continue to do more of that.

I’m not a philosopher.  But maybe I am.  In any case, I can logic better than these writers.

#2 Randy on Friday January 15, 2016 at 8:57pm

“A Muslim woman goes to a Trump rally”

You conveniently left out the part where she was welcomed there pleasantly, until she stood up to protest what Trump was saying.  She was not a Trump supporter, nor interested in what he had to say.  She was there to make it about her.  Everyone knows what happens when you do that, and it doesn’t matter who you are.

At least they didn’t confiscate her coat, like that other one.

I’m not a Trump supporter, but do we really need to obfuscate the truth to beat him?

#3 Randy on Friday January 15, 2016 at 9:03pm


Finally, it’s English after all!  Now we can put to rest s/he, ey, hu, thon, ze, xe, e, it, and so forth…

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