Category Archives: philosophy

Failed Replications and “Emptiness”

philosophy, science 1 Reply

Recently, a Jason Mitchell of no less than Harvard University published a piece of writing entitled “On the emptiness of failed replications“, within which Mitchell decries the focus on replications within Social Psychology, and (to, I hope, a lesser degree) within science as a whole. I found it an interesting read, and an excellent example of how references/citations can serve the purpose of signalling (i.e. name-dropping) rather than adding anything substantive to a paper. Invoking Quine and Kuhn certainly signals that one has a passing familiarity with Philosophy of Science, but the rest of the essay quickly highlights how mistaken that impression is.

While I think it’s important for popular science sites to highlight this kind of thing, as Annalee Newitz at io9 did, the article just abuses Mitchell: there’s no explanation of how he’s wrong. This is, I think, a common problem within skeptic/atheist/science-enthusiast circles whereby “let’s point and laugh” is often substituted for understanding the problems. Here’s my breakdown of Mitchell’s article.

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Langara College and the Bullshit it Peddles

culture, Education, ethics, philosophy, science, skepticism 2 Replies

When I first came to Vancouver from Ireland, I found out about the student loan program that was available in Canada and discovered that I could actually afford to go to University. I’d just missed the enrollment deadline for the University of British Columbia, but a helpful advisor there suggested a number of avenues I could take. One of which was Langara College.

My two-ish years there were well-spent, studying a variety of topics, learning how much I sucked at mathematics, how much I hated chemistry, and how interesting I found philosophy. Twas a good period, and I believe that the academic faculty there, in most all disciplines, are great teachers.

But then there’s the “Health and Human Services” bullshit that it peddles…

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Rhetoric and Context

Atheism, freethought community, philosophy, psychology, Rhetoric Leave a reply

How we argue with people sends signals to those around us. We are socially signalling the kind of person we are, and giving them cues as to whether or not they want to engage with us. This is, I think, an important point in rhetoric and persuasion, and can determine how we approach an argument. We can, of course, choose to remain ignorant of the signals that we send (thus sending the signal that we hold the people around us in contempt), or we can go too far and focus too much on ‘how’ the argument is presented such that the content is diluted to nothing.

An example of the former is a tweet by Secular Outpost (@SecularOutpost):

This is, frankly, sending up a flare that displays to all and sundry “I am a giant asshole, and I am not here for constructive conversation, but to have fun at the expense of those around me”. Disagree? Alright, let me walk you through it. Continue reading

Unpaid Internships Need to Go

civil rights, economics, ethics, liberalism, philosophy, politics Leave a reply

As the job market becomes more and more competitive (i.e. there are more and more people in the world), people in the recruiting world seek quick and easy ways to distinguish candidates from one another. If you’ve got a stack of 500 resumes in front of you, and the bulk are simply people who have graduated from University, how do you even begin to create a short-list? You can’t (legally) discriminate on the basis of the candidates age, ethnicity, gender, or religion, so… what now?

As a candidate for a position, you want to present the best possible picture to a prospective employer. Getting a job while at school, however, isn’t really an option: the kinds of jobs that will allow part-time work that doesn’t interfere with your classes during the day are not really all that useful when applying for the kind of work that a university graduate has the education for.

The solution to both problems is: internships. And this is deeply problematic.

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A “Personal Relationship” with Jesus

Atheism, culture, philosophy, theology 2 Replies

I’d like to go back to the most excellent example of terrible writing, 7 Things That Prove God Is Real, to focus on the last two points that the author (J. Lee Grady) makes. I want to focus on them as they appear to be pretty common within the arguments for [insert religion here], and they’re not only terrible, but run contrary to how we typically reason about things.

They basically come down to having a “personal relationship” with Jesus (and/or a god), and I’d like to discuss why this, in itself, does not warrant the claim that the god (or Jesus, here and now) is real.

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A Short Overview of Free Will

Atheism, culture, Education, philosophy, religion, theology Leave a reply

Last night, I gave a short presentation on Free Will in order to kick off some discussion between mixed groups of atheists and theists. It went quite well, I feel, and the discussions that I was involved with went pretty well. The notes I used are included below. It’s a really just a rough overview, and I wouldn’t consider it a compelling argument for the compatibilist position in and of itself, but… Well, people have written books on that, and this was only a 15-min presentation, so bear that in mind if you think that I think you should be convinced by this.

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Free Will: Illusion or Real? A Theist and Atheist View

Atheism, personal, philosophy, theology Leave a reply

I will be presenting one half of a discussion on Free Will tomorrow evening (in Vancouver, BC, for non-local readers). I (and the other presenter) will be giving a short 15-min introduction to the topic, and then everyone will be breaking up into smaller discussion groups.

If you’re interested in having positive (I hope) discussions with people of differing viewpoints, this could be worth a look. It’s not free, but it’s pretty low-cost. None of the funds from this go to me (disclaimer: I’ve been promised a beer, so I’m getting something out of it), nor do I know how the payments breakdown if that’s a concern.

 

Could be worth a look. Details (and registration) are through Eventbrite. (And no, I will not be endorsing Harris’s position on this)

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Brute Facts are not Reasons

Education, philosophy Leave a reply

Unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t find articles written by Christians to be completely stupid, or ignorant, or “unscientific”. The problems with them are those of basic reasoning, and this problems are not limited to Christians. In any case, I find them to be extremely useful to explaining reasoning, and how to articulate arguments, usually by pointing out how the article in question has failed.

In this case, I’d like to point you at “7 Things That Prove God is Real“. Take a moment to read over it, and I’ll meet ye beneath the fold.

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Anti-Abortion Arguments, Including the Secular Ones, are Uninformed Drivel.

Atheism, civil rights, culture, Education, ethics, feminism, philosophy 32 Replies

I’ve had something of a writing block for the last month or so, so I’m thankful to Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist for providing me with some fodder to dissect. I’ve always figured that there had to be some folk out there whose anti-abortion stance wasn’t built on a foundation of religion, as the latter simply isn’t logically necessary for the former. Plenty of people hold ignorant and poorly thought-out positions, appeals to god are simply gap fillers: people can also either fill in the gaps with a non-religious non-explanation, or just ignore them.

Such is the case in the guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them“. An alternative title would be “I’m unaware of how shallow my arguments are, but here they are anyway”. That is, perhaps, unfair: it’s possible that Kruszelnicki is aware of how shallow these arguments are, but she claims that they are compelling….

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To The Stone: Please Pull Out of Your Nose-Dive

Atheism, philosophy, theology 6 Replies

The Stone is part of The New York Times, an outlet for Philosophy and public discussion of philosophical issues. Generally speaking, I think it’s an excellent idea: philosophy needs more public engagement, and the public needs to engage with more philosophy.

Its most recent article (“Is Atheism Irrational“), however, is pure, unadulterated dross. Under the pretense of being “an interview”, Alvin Plantinga misrepresents the arguments against theism, and engages in nothing more than sophistry and rhetoric. This is, to some degree, par for the course when it comes to Plantinga, who has long backed entirely vapid defenses of theism by engaging in Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). My criticism here is aimed mainly at Gary Gutting, allegedly a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, and an editor of the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. He entirely fails to engage with Plantinga’s questions, fails to point out where Plantinga has clearly dodged the question, and fails to underline where Plantinga has inserted doubt as a substitute for an answer. My remarks here will take the form of criticism of Plantinga’s answers, but they are intended as a rebuke to Gutting: this is critical thinking 101 stuff, something Gutting should have been more than capable of, and (given the position of The Stone as a vehicle for public engagement in philosophy) more than willing to do.

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