Sunday, December 28, 2008
The Free Will Argument
But this is a gross mischaracterization. Modern law has at least some basis in the “law of the jungle,” which, aside from rewarding the powerful, also ties cooperation to fairness and reciprocation. Recent studies on both chimpanzees and dogs have shown that they have a strong moral sense. They respond negatively to perceived unfairness as all intelligent life forms do–by refusing to cooperate. Packs, prides, and tribes are all bound together by this same tension between cooperation and competition. Cheaters and free-riders are punished and cooperators rewarded. Behavior, like other traits, has an evolutionary component, and humans only have self-reflection to separate us from animals. For both, it’s a constant tension between short and long-term self-interest, between the good of the one and the good of the many. Any part of this equation that’s not innate is learned socially. Social animals and humans have always been forced by circumstances to learn to work together and reciprocate. Morality is the inevitable outcome of the interplay between individuals and the groups to which they belong.
Prop 8 proponents seek to nullify same-sex marriages
Sponsors of the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage are seeking to nullify thousands of marriages between gay and lesbian couples performed after the state Supreme Court ruled them constitutional.
The sponsors Friday filed responses to three anti-Proposition 8 lawsuits with the state Supreme Court. The briefs also defend Proposition 8 against opponents' legal challenges, including an argument that the amendment needed a constitutional convention to be added to the state's constitution.
US balks at backing condemnation of anti-homosexuality laws
"It's disappointing," said Rama Yade, France's human rights minister, of the U.S. position _ which she described as in contradiction with America's long tradition as a defender of human rights.
According to some of the declaration's backers, U.S. officials expressed concern in private talks that some parts of the declaration might be problematic in committing the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In numerous states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
UN adopts anti-defamation resolution, draws critics’ ire
Washington, 21 December (IranVNC)—The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution against the defamation of religion, ignoring critics who say that it threatens the right to free expression and can be used to silence religious minorities and dissenters.
Let's talk about clean coal
When power plants burn coal to produce energy, the coal doesn't just vanish into the atmosphere to cause global warming. No, there's a substantial amount of left-over sludge called coal ash, a nasty mess that is enriched for toxic heavy metals. It is seriously nasty stuff. This glop has to be stored, somewhere, usually piled up and walled-off, because it's not healthy for anything.
Behold what happens when the containment walls fail.
Timothy Shriver Says Yes on the Warren Choice
We are created by a compassionate God who “fashioned us with care and love in the palm of divine light” - yet has consigned the majority of the world’s inhabitants - those who, for mysterious reasons known only to the deity in question, have not been fortunate enough to be among the Chosen - to eternal condemnation. I continue to be astounded that any religious believer can hold this pair of beliefs in the same mind at the same time. Then again, what do I know? I’m still trying to figure out what the “palm of divine light” is (to be honest, it just sounds like more rhetorical flourishing to me).
Too Little, Too Late?
It took the church about 350 years to finally own up to its stupidity, and now it wants to play nice with Galileo’s memory, by sucking up to science, despite the fact that religion is still the greatest enemy of reason that exists on this Earth. (You know. The one that revolves around the sun? Yeah, that one.) Are we to fall for this? This is the same church, led by the same pope that says, today, that homosexuality is as much of a threat to the survival of the human race as climate change. Are we supposed to trust his analysis?
Who Goes There?
And recently the research team of Michael Persinger had the fortune of capturing a sensed presence event on EEG (which measures the electrical activity of the brain).
The subject is a woman who has had numerous episodes of sensed presence after a head injury. Persinger now presents a case report of her EEG, recorded while she experienced the sense of a man in the room with her when none was present. For some reason as yet unknown, 90% of time a sensed presence is of a member of the opposite sex. The EEG shows a burst of electrical activity in her left temporal lobe during the event, and of note she perceived the presence to be on her right side. (Brain activity corresponds to the contralateral or opposite side of the world.)
Hysteria in Four Acts
Despite many efforts to account for hysterical behavior by tying it to some specific underlying brain disorder, none has succeeded. For this reason, the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz famously claimed in The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) that hysteria was not a “legitimate disease.” But most psychiatrists who accept the reality of hysteria do not regard it as a disease. They see it, rather, as a behavioral disorder. It derives not from an identifiable change within a cell or neural pathway, as in the case of disease, but from provocative events within the uniquely human world of self-consciousness—the world in which one is aware of one’s own individuality and in which one’s perceptions of reality can be powerfully shaped by social structures, language, symbols, and the ideas and assumptions held by people of influence.