Category Archives: Philosophy

No Surprise

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don’t enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Moya (Farscape)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

There’s a problem with the quiz, though (as there often are with these things).

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer the very first question:

“Peace is achieved through large single government rule (agree, disagree).

Well, I agree that this is certainly a way to achieve peace, but there seems to be a presumption to this (or at least an implication) that peace is an unalloyed good. As some anti-war types are fond of pointing out, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was largely at peace (if you don’t count the random murders and torture that he occasioned on his own people), but it was hardly a desirable state. So I answered yes, but I’m not sure how that answer was interpreted by the test creators.

Also, interestingly, I see that when I go back to look at the quiz, the order of the questions is different. They must randomize it.

[Via Alan Henderson]

[Late morning update]

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the “peace” question lowered my Firefly score. I think that whoever wrote the question did assume that a) peace is a desirable thing, per se and b) everyone would agree with that–the only issue is how it’s best achieved. What’s the flip side of that question? “Peace is achieved through multiple government rule?” “Peace is achieved through minimalist government?” “Peace is achieved through a well-armed citizenry?” This was a really unuseful question, as posed.

If Current Trends Continue

In researching The Tragedy of the Commons, reading Freeman Dyson’s autobiography Disturbing the Universe, and checking out today’s NY Times (subscription required–at least intermittently), I reached the following epiphany. If current trends continue, the world will either be empty or full. We will each live forever or die out because our life expectancy will go to zero. The Tragedy of the Commons was coined back in 1833 by Malthusians. Dyson quipped, “we all thought that energy was going to run out in 1937” and today’s Friedman column worries that social security and medicare will eat up all the budget.

I think that it is good to have social security eat up the budget. As people start to live forever, the only way to get them to cede the good jobs is to offer them a life of leisure. Inflation will take care of any pesky budget infinities. With the right subsidies, the federal budget can be hundreds of percent of GDP. You have to recycle the subsidy dollar and tax it back multiple times per year. That brings up another thing. Taxes will either go to infinity or zero (or maybe negative infinity).

In Joe Haldeman’s Late Twentieth, society has to deal with immortality. I think that there won’t be a radical shift like he extrapolates. If you think of age as a percent of life expectancy, long lives are the same as short ones. Even with clinical immortality, there are always accidents and violence (as he proves in Forever Peace). But suppose we achieve RAID integrity and deaths could hit zero for a good length of time. If trends continued, to update Keynes, in the long run, we will all be dead–or alive.


A “knee-jerk militant agnostic“?

If someone is of sufficiently strong opinion on a matter to be militant or knee jerk about it, it’s hard to imagine that they’re “agnostic.”

In any event, as a skeptic, I can’t imagine being upset about Narnia (which I’d actually like to see, based on reviews). Or the Passion of the Christ, for that matter, though I’ve no intention of seeing it. I wasn’t even bothered by the gay shepherd movie, though I’ve no intention of seeing that, either. I was simply amused by the utterly predictable media reaction to it, in which if it isn’t a box-office success, it’s because we’re all homophobes, and if it is, it means that the nation is now all-accepting of gays, and ready to metaphorically walk down the aisle with them, sexuality notwithstanding.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Considering it’s a “shall-issue” state, I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot less looting in Texas than there was in New Orleans. Assuming that both hurricanes are equally destructive, this provides an opportunity for a controlled social experiment.

A Head Scratcher

Mark Daniels has some good marriage advice, even for non-Christians (or even non-theists) like me. But I don’t get this:

Sex is great. God invented it, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. He only makes good things.

Really? So are (for instance) smallpox, sleeping sickness, mosquitos and tsetse flies, anthrax, Osama and Adolf Hitler good things? Or did someone else make them?

I mean, it’s a nice sentiment, but is it really a theologically (or logically at all) sound statement?

[Update at 11:30 AM EDT]

Some in comments are defining the problem away, by saying that we don’t really know what “good” is.

Sorry, but that doesn’t wash for someone who doesn’t necessarily believe in God, and particularly doesn’t believe in a God whose every action is good, by definition, which is what seems to be the point here. Once you define “good” in that way, the word really has no useful meaning at all for normal conversation (again, from the standpoint of someone who thinks logically, and likes words to have some kind of commonly-understood meaning, without which it’s impossible to communicate effectively).

Torture = good
Suffering = good
Death = good
Bad = good

Either these statements are all true, which renders the word “good” meaningless, or God isn’t the author of any of them, in which case, who is?

Can’t have it both ways.

[One more update]

I think that some people are missing my point here. I’ve often heard that we can’t know God’s purposes, but that all things have a purpose. Not believing that there is a God, or that everything has a purpose, I obviously don’t agree with that, but it’s a philosophically defensible and at least logically consistent position (though, I think, a trivial one, and one that does indeed rely on faith).

But that’s a different thing than saying that everything that God does is good by most peoples’ understanding of the meaning of that word. That just seems like junior Sunday-school stuff to me, for people unable to grasp deeper concepts, and to defend it by redefining “good” is to engage in sophistry, rather than theology.

Can You Rape A Dog?

Well, not you. Hopefully, few of my readers would be capable of doing that.

I mean, can a person, any person, rape a dog?

What I really mean is, is the word “rape” really applicable here? It just looks strange to me. Obviously, of course, it’s possible to forcibly penetrate a dog (well, not for me–I wouldn’t be able to get, or keep it up for such an act), but the word “rape” has connotations that don’t, or at least shouldn’t, apply. To me, the word rape means non-consensual penetration (of either gender), but can there be any other kind of penetration of an (non-human) animal? It seems like a category error to me.

How does a dog issue consent? I don’t have any personal experience, but I’m given to understand that this is not an uncommon activity on farms, and that the animals don’t always necessarily fight back or complain (and generally aren’t even injured), but that’s not the same thing as granting permission.

Now clearly, this was a brutal crime, but it seems to me that the crime is animal cruelty, not rape. The fact that the instrument of torture and injury was the young man’s male member doesn’t change that.