Philosophers and physicists duke it out

Update: omigod – tricked again. I so nearly missed it…you just can’t ever be careful enough.

I nearly missed it, and didn’t because one of the comments on An Explanation From Nothing? quoted Krauss saying “the nasty review in the Times by the templeton funded philosopher is bringing more people out of the woodwork…”

Oh? thought I, so naturally I googled, and yes David Albert is Templeton funded, and furthermore, the Explanation From Nothing blog is part of the project, so it too is Templeton funded. I had no clue. I thought it was just a blog like any other blog.

I’m not saying the people in the project are corrupted by Templeton, but I do think the Templeton role should be very visible. It shows if you get there via the project but it doesn’t if you don’t. That’s…dubious.

Naïve pre-update post

Here’s a change of pace for you – the relationship between physics and philosophy. Something you can get your teeth into.

It’s a follow-up to An Explanation From Nothing? which was about David Albert’s review of Laurence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something rather than Nothing and drew comments from David Albert himself and from Sean Carroll and Lee Smolin.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Krauss said in an interview that philosophers are big poopyheads who don’t know squat, and a number of philosophers disputed that claim, including Massimo Pigliucci and Brian Leiter.

I’ll give Leiter the last word, because I can.

My best guess is that the culture so celebrates physics, that physicists have come to believe the “PR” about them. Very good physicists tend to be very good at physics, and I, at least, am inclined to the view that if you want to know what really exists, it’s better to ask a scientist than a philosopher. But it’s not obvious that even talented physicsts are very smart about other matters, such as those that require conceptual clarity, subtle distinctions, reflectiveness about presuppositions, and the appreciation of logical and inferential entailments of particular propositions. More than anything, I hope Krauss’s tantrum and its aftermath will help disabuse the culture of the myth that being good at physics means being good at thought.

Loose morals

Udate: note this is from the Washington Times, a very dubious source.

Good old liberation struggles, like the liberation struggle of Chechnya from the brutal embrace of Russia.

Chechnya’s government is openly approving of families that kill female relatives who violate their sense of honor, as this Russian republic embraces a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam after decades of religious suppression under Soviet rule.

In the past five years, the bodies of dozens of young Chechen women have been found dumped in woods, abandoned in alleys and left along roads in the capital, Grozny, and neighboring villages.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly announced that the dead women had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives. He went on to describe women as the property of their husbands, and said their main role is to bear children.

Hmm. That’s nice. Imagine living in a country where the head of state announces that women who have Incorrect sex deserve to be murdered by their male relatives.

“You hear about these cases almost every day,” said a local human rights defender, who asked that her name not be used out of fear for her safety. “It is hard for me to investigate this topic, yet I worked on it with [human rights activist] Natasha [Estemirova] for a while. But, I can’t anymore. I am too scared now. I’ve almost given up, really.”

Estemirova, who angered Chechen authorities with reports of torture, abductions and extrajudicial killings, was found in the woods in 2009 in the neighboring region of Ingushetia with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Her killer or killers have not been found.

Has anyone looked?

The pansy ass exodus

Watching the Dan Savage video again.

The first student walks out after Savage says let’s talk about the bible for a second, because people point out “that they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans…that being gay is wrong.” Boom, she’s up.

That’s very quick. That’s very quick.

Why so quick?

It’s true that people say that. Why is she leaving just because Savage says people say that? Why is she leaving so fast when he hasn’t even said “bullshit” yet? [Read more…]

Regina Martínez Pérez

Another journalist in Mexico murdered apparently for doing her job too well.

New York, April 30, 2012–Authorities must immediately investigate the murder of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez Pérez, determine the motive, and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The body of Martínez was found in her home on Saturday evening in Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, according to news reports. She had been badly beaten around the face and ribs and had been strangled to death, news reports said. The state attorney general, Amadeo Flores Espinoza, said in a news briefing that it appeared her TV, cellphones, and computer had been stolen.

Martínez had worked for the national magazine Proceso for more than 10 years and was known for her in-depth reporting on drug cartels and the links between organized crime and government officials. In the week before her murder, she covered the arrest of an allegedly high-ranking leader of the Zetas; the arrests of nine police officers charged with working for a cartel; and the story of a local mayor who was arrested with other alleged cartel gunmen after a shootout with the Mexican Army, according to news reports.

Well she won’t be doing that any more.

When you disagree, be sure to march right out

About those high school students walking out on Dan Savage when he started talking about anti-gay bullshit in the bible.

They were there for a conference on journalism, a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Journalists need to be able to listen to things they don’t agree with in order to do their jobs.

That’s one thing. Another thing is that walking out sends a message. What message were these students sending? That harsh criticism of the bible is a bad thing, bad enough to be worth the disruption and message-sending of walking out on a speaker. [Read more…]

The self-righteous exit

And I’ve been meaning to post Dan Savage telling high school students how the bible got some things wrong.

We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.

What’s interesting is that a whole bunch of kids got up and stalked out. What’s your point, kids? That it’s good to persecute gay people because it’s in the bible? Or as Savage said –

It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible how pansy ass some people react when you push back.

Catholicism v Freedom

Eric does a really thorough job on Bill Donohue and the Catholic League.

A sample:

This explains, for instance, the insistence, by Catholic bishops, archbishops and cardinals, that the law of marriage not be changed to accommodate the relationships of homosexual persons. Although according to canon 1059, “the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of the same marriage,” (my italics) it is clear that, by insisting that civil authorities cannot unilaterally declare the validity of marriages between homosexuals, Catholic bishops are holding canon law to be, in effect, superior to, and determinative of, what can be licitly determined by civil law. We should not be under any illusions about the scope of canon law in terms of the church’s own self-understanding. Canon law is, in crucial respects, prescriptive for civil law.

This is particularly evident with respect to laws governing abortion and assisted dying. The very existence of legal abortion or assisted dying is offensive to obedient Catholics. (The qualification is necessary, though, in general, the church holds that dissidents have effectively excommunicated themselves by their beliefs and actions. Only those Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium are considered to be Catholic in the true sense of that word.) In a short paper entitled “Response to Our Critics,” (The Review of Politics, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Winter 2000) 43-48) the Catholics Gary Glenn (I believe the linked Gary Glenn is the co-author of this paper) and John Stack inveigh against what they call the “civil liberties” regime in the United States, which they hold to be a great danger to Catholics.

Read on.

A pretty story out of Pakistan

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion. (Karen Armstrong)

That’s good, because if it weren’t, religious zealots might do some really horrible things now and then.

A British aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan in January has been found dead, the Foreign Office has said.

Khalil Dale, 60, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in Quetta, south-west Pakistan.

The body of the Muslim convert was found in an orchard in Quetta with a note saying he had been killed by the Taliban, local police said…It is understood the militants holding Mr Dale had asked for a very large ransom which could not be paid.

The BBC doesn’t say so, but other headlines I saw said he was beheaded.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “He had many friends around the world and regularly travelled back to Dumfries where he was well known and loved.”

He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years, carrying out assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young said Khalil first worked overseas for the Red Cross in 1981 in Kenya, where he distributed food and helped improve the health of people affected by severe drought.

He also worked in Sudan before his posting to Pakistan.

Sir Nick added: “He was a gentle, kind person, who devoted his life to helping others, including some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

So, to be perfectly honest, really the last kind of person who should be kidnapped and then murdered when the money wasn’t forthcoming. Most of us aren’t like that; I’m certainly not; people who are like that shouldn’t be murdered.

Shiela Howatt, who worked with Mr Dale when he was a staff nurse at Dumfries Infirmary in the 1990s, said he was “no stranger to danger”, and had previously been captured in Mogadishu.

“He was an absolutely lovely person devoted to caring for others less fortunate than himself,” she told the BBC.

“He spent his time in war-torn countries where help was needed, where people were desperate and that was Ken’s role in life.”

Mrs Howat, who knew Mr Dale for 25 years, said his fiancee Anne, who is also a nurse, lives in Australia.

The MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Russell Brown, said he also counted Mr Dale as a friend.

“We were all hoping for a somewhat more satisfactory end, but dare I say my thoughts are also tinged with a degree of anger,” he said.

“He went out to do good work in a foreign land, helping people out there as he’s done for many years in different parts of the world, and he gets captured, kidnapped, and meets a horrific death.”

Bad. Very bad.





Shermer and Stenger say

As promised, from Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods (Prometheus 2009).

First, from the Foreword by Michael Shermer. On a book tour in the spring of 2004 he met the producers of the documentary (although I would call it a “documentary”) What the Bleep Do We Know?

What the Bleep Do We Know? went on to become one of the highest grossing documentary films of all time…The explanation is to be found in the fact that the film is not really about quantum physics. The documentary’s central motif is that we create our own reality through will, thought, and consciousness, which, according to the “experts” who appear as talking heads throughout the film (most of whom are not scientists, let alone quantum physicists), depends on quantum mechanics, that branch of physics so befuddling even to those who do it for a living that it can be invoked whenever something supernatural or paranormal is desired. [p 7] [Read more…]

Finding quantum consciousness

A commenter on The golden tree of bullshit said some things about Quantum Consciousness which I don’t understand.

All my life I’ve lived in both the physical and spiritual world leaving me a bit spacey. I’ve always known I was part of something bigger than my own self but had to call the feeling God or Goddess even though the names didn’t fit. After much research I found Quantum Physics which calls what I feel the Quantum Consciousness. At last a scientific explanation for what I do and who I am.

I don’t understand any of that, to tell the truth. As I said in reply, I too know I’m part of something bigger than my own self, in fact many things –

The human species, the animal kingdom, the layer of life on this planet, the galaxy, the cosmos…History; the loose community of people who like to read and think and talk about stuff; nature…and more. [Read more…]