Title Excerpt Author Date Total Comments Recent Comment
(Imagine There’s) No Country for Old Gods I once tried to correct someone who really should have known better, but who claimed that the law was “the only civilized means” of dispute resolution. (Of course, the claim is demonstrably false, as everyone knows some civilized adults who manage to work through issues without dragging each other into… David R. Koepsell 07/01/15 0
Letter to my Daughter, who is not a “distraction” Dear Amelia,  It broke my heart last week when we were talking as I drove you to school. You saw the poster for the Avengers movie and asked who “the girl” was. When I explained she is Black Widow, and that she is an Avenger, you laughed and said “how… David R. Koepsell 06/17/15 1 06/17/15
The Brutalist Style in Academia Many buildings on my campus when I was a graduate student looked a great deal like this one:   The term “Brutalism,” that describes this architectural style, evolved out of the French term for “bare concrete,” as many such buildings are undecorated, often oversized, and dominate the natural environment. The… David R. Koepsell 05/21/15 0
On the (potential) Morality of Crowds I reposted a video on my Facebook page the other day that shows a busy intersection without traffic signals in which the traffic somehow manages to flow, albeit in a way that to most of us seems haphazard and frightening. There are many such examples one can see, coming mostly from what we think… David R. Koepsell 05/11/15 8 05/17/15
Don’t Worry: Be Unhappy Happiness is the god of a modern cult. Its worshippers are lined up to sell us the secrets to its attainment, and a slew of willing consumers will hand over their money, time, and worshipful admiration to those who would teach them its secrets. It isn’t a new belief system,… David R. Koepsell 04/20/15 0
Against Engineerism For six year I lived in The Netherlands, which is home to some of the world’s best engineers. For a culture that survives as it does only by virtue of massive engineering of its landscape, by the draining, essentially, of a vast swamp so that millions can live on dry… David R. Koepsell 04/07/15 10 04/09/15
The Nieuw Universiteit: reclaiming the academy In early March, students at the University of Amsterdam occupied the Maagdenhuis and proclaimed a movement they called Nieuw Universiteit, which is pretty easy to translate into English and you’ve probably guessed it. Their complaints were outlined in a letter to the governing board of the university, and included the following demands:   “An… David R. Koepsell 03/27/15 0
Existential(ish) Threats Mankind probably developed nuclear technology before it became sufficiently morally capable of handling it. It is rather remarkable that we made it this far, close as we have been to annihilating the planet, capable as we were, and politically childish as well. Anyone who has read accounts of the Cuban… David R. Koepsell 03/10/15 1 04/03/15
Conflicts of Interest: the appearance of impropriety The nature of modern research has been changing slowly for the past thirty years. After World War II, when the emergence of big, government-funded science and scientific funding institutions propelled modern science and technology forward suddenly, the modern model of blue-sky, government-financed research beckoned a new generation of scientists to… David R. Koepsell 03/03/15 0
Because the Stakes are So Small: Enlightenment Beyond the Ivory Tower? It’s been a pretty bad year for the image of academia. In my own profession of Philosophy, news about its “gatekeepers” behaving badly, inherent and damaging sexism, threats of lawsuits, and the standard form of infighting that underlie Kissinger’s famous quote (of which the title of this piece is an extract), have undermined philosophy’s public… David R. Koepsell 02/18/15 0
Babbling Brooks David Brooks today attempts to aid the secular world with a screed entitled condescendingly “Building Better Secularists.” In doing so, he betrays almost complete ignorance about how many of us live, and who we are. As far as I can tell, Brooks isn’t grievously wrong so long as he summarizes the… David R. Koepsell 02/03/15 2 02/06/15
Ideas Just Want to be Free Last blog post I suggested that the best approach to speech is an absolutist one, moderated only by Mill’s harm principle. What if I told you that for about the past two hundred years, we have routinely succumbed to laws that limit our speech well beyond instances where there may be some… David R. Koepsell 01/28/15 0
Free Speech Absolutism: “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant”   Just a week after the horrors in France, it seems clear that many of us have much to learn. France is punishing comedians for expressing points of view with which the government disagrees, and Pope Francis is defending the notion that speech which criticises religion should not be allowed . This is sad… David R. Koepsell 01/15/15 5 01/19/15
Why I’m Kirk Cameron’s Worst Nightmare   Apologies to my friend Tom Flynn, the Anti-Claus, but my family and I are a worse threat to Kirk Cameron’s and Bill O’Reilly’s overblown fears of Christmas Future than Tom is. My wife and I are second generation atheists who grew up never having had any religious or supernatural… David R. Koepsell 12/23/14 2 12/29/14
Social Justice and Humanism: Embracing Pluralism in Value Theory There is some disagreement as to whether “we” as humanists ought to take stands regarding social justice, as a group, with some vocal opponents correctly pointing out that atheism provides no basis for making moral judgments. Indeed, even humanism provides no one, solid, scientific basis for making moral judgments. It… David R. Koepsell 12/08/14 2 12/12/14
On Fads and Funding in Science The current model for funding of “Research and Development” (R&D) descends largely from the experience of the Second World War and its successful employment of “big science” through the Manhattan Project. Building from that success, the current National Science Foundation and eventually the National Institutes of Health began to account… David R. Koepsell 12/04/14 0
On Philosophy, Science, and Fiction Much of my humanistic self was built by a steady diet of stories, specifically through massive consumption of science fiction as a child. I credit my parents who had a large library of sci-fi paperbacks, including especially Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury, my favorites at an early age and still. I… David R. Koepsell 11/13/14 2 11/16/14
Civility, Tone, and Emotions in Debates Lately, there has been a great deal of internet banter and vociferous debate about the ways that people make their arguments online by using terms of derision, and generally acting in ways that seem to some of us to be uncivil or downright mean. Whether it is among the “new… David R. Koepsell 10/28/14 3 11/04/14
After Work: the good life and post-industrial society Since the beginning of industrialized society, we have grown used to a certain form of life, a more rigid structure of day divided into work, family, and if we’re lucky, a bit of play. Industrialization and the growth of capitalism changed the way we had lived significantly, altering the typical… David R. Koepsell 10/14/14 3 10/18/14
Ideas, not Idols When various philosophical movements become too closely connected with particular personas, the results can be disastrous for fruitful areas of inquiry. Recently, Martin Heidegger’s “black notebooks” have been released, and the New York Times just published an excellent review which renews questions regarding his student Hannah Arendt’s view that we should separate… David R. Koepsell 09/29/14 3 10/07/14
Skepticism is a Humble Project, Not a Bold Stance Twenty one years ago this week I walked into my very first teaching assignment: full responsibility for the undergraduate course “Critical Thinking.” I was barely older than my students, just 24 years old, a graduate student in Philosophy in my second year of studies. Down the hall from my student… David R. Koepsell 09/02/14 1 09/11/14
Oh, the Humanity! The existentialists recognized that “existence precedes essence” and moved past the method employed by philosophers for eons: namely, the attempt to describe essences as though they could somehow be divorced from ourselves. At its worst, this tendency leads to a sort of Platonic idealism where nothing is real except essences.… David R. Koepsell 08/01/14 6 08/05/14
Science is not a Crime Recently, a Colombian masters student named Diego Gomez became the target of criminal charges. His crime: putting an academic article he did not author online at a site called Scribd. This case brings to mind the tragic death of Aaron Swartz last year. Swartz downloaded tens of thousands of academic articles from behind an… David R. Koepsell 07/25/14 2 07/25/14
In Defense of Academic Philosophy Ten years ago, when I was Executive Director for Secular Humanism at the Center for Inquiry, I was also involved with classroom teaching on a regular basis, though I was not a full time “academic.” Indeed, like many, I believed that academia was too cloistered, too uninvolved in matters of… David R. Koepsell 07/15/14 0
Has American Secularism Succeeded or Failed? I have, over the past 10 years, lived in radically different places governed by differing forms of secularism. In the U.S., where I grew up, secularism is purportedly enshrined in the Constitution—emanating from the First Amendment guarantee regarding the non-establishment of a state religion. Yet as we know, the U.S.… David R. Koepsell 07/09/14 12 07/12/14