Category Archives: Philosophy

Replacement Fertility and Eternity

In today’s Wall Street Journal, “The Fertility Gap” between Democrats and Republicans is analyzed:

According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated, politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That’s a “fertility gap” of 41%. Given the fact that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections.

For a less politically correct treatment, here’s an earlier article with stark graphs (that’s free):

The white people in Republican-voting regions consistently have more children than the white people in Democratic-voting regions.

But that’s just the facts. The philosophy question is more interesting.

Continue reading Replacement Fertility and Eternity

What Am I?

Ramesh Ponnuru asks an interesting question:

…what’s the best term to refer both to agnostics and atheists? “Faithless” seems too negative, “bright” too propagandistic. Do agnostics and atheists consider “unbeliever” better than “non-believer,” or vice-versa? When I was agnostic, I didn’t take my own unbelief seriously enough to consider this question.

I’ve never given much thought to the matter, but if one insists on lumping both into the same category, I’d say that “non-theists” seems both accurate and non-pejorative (other than to those to whom not believing in God is an intrinsically bad thing…).

But I think that the distinction between atheists and skeptics is important. The former (based on my experience with them) are as devout, or (actually) more devout, than most theists. They fervently believe (unprovably) that there is no God, and will proselytize endlessly to convert others to their belief. I have no belief, one way or the other, and it would never occur to me to (futilely) attempt to persuade a believer, of either faith, one way or the other.

In Looking At Comments

…in this post, I see that I need to write an essay titled “Why Diogenes‘ Search Is Futile, And Why It Doesn’t Matter.”

So much to do, so little time. And I should note, that the man himself knew that his search was futile. Of course, some will inevitably argue that this fable is more about human nature than about whether or not truth exists. And they may be right.

Is There An Objective Truth?

Jonah wants to know:

There are more persuasive games to be played in order demonstrate that there is truth out there (think science, math, Irish whiskey). But Matt isn’t saying (I assume) that there isn’t any such thing as truth, he’s saying he doesn’t believe in moral truth.

Well, actually, the science and math aren’t examples of truth, either (I can’t speak to Irish whiskey, though I suspect that Goedel would shoot that one down as well). No, sorry, there is no absolute truth of any kind, moral or otherwise, sad to say. Scientific truth is so only in the context of science. If you don’t accept the premises of science, or the postulates of math, then there’s no truth to be found there, either. It’s a cruel world for conservatives.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t defend our civilization from barbarous misogynistic Islamonutballs, though.

Rutan and Safety

Rutan said anyone offering spacecraft for commercial service should demonstrate their confidence in the system’s safety by having their children be among the first fliers, as Branson has said he will do.

Spaceship guru roasts his rivals,” Alan Boyle,

Should cigarette makers force their children to smoke or withdraw their product? Should parachute makers force their children to skydive or withdraw their product?

This does not follow. People afraid of heights should be allowed to sell bungee jumping supplies without personally testing them. The deathly afraid maker might design better equipment than a fearless one. Makers of hazardous products do not have to partake and may be sending a clearer message if they don’t. That does not mean their product should be shunned.

It is ironic that Virgin Galactic will be required to disclose its product is quite risky. It will require flying thousands of times before showing a spacecraft is as safe as a military jet. Very little is learned from a single draw on a distribution. 98% of shuttle astronauts returned. All that Branson and his family flying prove by flying is that they are risk takers, not that his craft is safe. It is a greater disservice to create a false impression of safety than to put a product on the market where hazards are fully disclosed and no effort is made to express false confidence.

Rutan’s sentiment is a throwback to medieval food testers to test for poison. He is not alone–Transportation Safety Administration required people to take a drink of liquids they were carrying (at least in Austin). Weird.

We will have a choice of vendors for spaceflight. Some of them will fly the owners first. Some of them will fly with a pilot and others will be remotely operated from the ground.

Would customers like me to raise the price of an entry so I can fly personally before the first winner?

Mazel Tov

For those lacking patience, I give you the two-minute Haggadah.

Speaking of children: We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

The story of Passover: It’s a long time ago. We’re slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren’t so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

Happy Passover.

[via Joe Katzman]