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The man with two links

man2brains.jpg I’m going to put the poster, if I can find it, for the 80s movies I use as my titles for these links posts, from now on.

Stephan Hartmannand Jonah Schupbach critically review Michael Strevens’ book Depth, on scientific explanation.

Drake Bennet at The Boston Globe, has a piece on how low status individuals can be comforted by knowing their place. [h/t 3QuarksDaily]

Sharon Astyk at Casaubon’s Book has an excellent piece on why gay marriage is right.

Siris takes Massimo Pigliucci to task for disagreeing with his teenaged daughter about burden of proof. It’s called “dialectic”, folks…

Matt Ridley is a corporate shill? Possibly, according to George Monblot at the Guardian.

The magazine Antennae has a piece by Donna Haraway on our relations to animals.

Cosma Shalizi at Three Toed Sloth demolishes, totally demolishes, Colin Martindale’s The Clockwork Muse, in which he misuses data to show that artistic genius is a simple algorithmic process. Read it for a wonderful piece of informed snark. For those who know the references, the title is also wonderful: “In which Dunning-Krueger meets Slutsky-Yule, and they make music together”.

Thony Christie has harsh, but fair, words to say about journalists reporting on the recent Plato Code stuff.

Cardinal Schönborn, the ID proponent from Austria, has been censured by his pope for outing child abuse among priests…

Correlation doesn’t imply causation, Randy.

Finally, read this excellent, measured, and nicely written musing on the agnosticism/atheism debate by Alan Pavlik, at Just Above Sunset, which has found its way into my RSS feed.


  1. Wow, you weren’t kidding about Shalizi’s post. (Perhaps you should link to it!) That was quite a take-down.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      D’oh! It was there in the editor when I wrote it, I promise. God hates me…

  2. Brian Brian

    John, reading the Pavlik blog about agnosticism. The question popped into my head about ‘Why is there something rather than nothing’, as a philosopher, do you find that deep? To me, it seems on the level of Geisler on the agnostic thread.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I always think to myself “If there weren’t, there’d be no problem, so just enunciating the problem is a solution”. I cannot make sense of that question. How could there “be” nothing? Existence is not a predicate that one asserts of this or that object. The object (and the universe) either is, or not. But something has to be, or there’d be no discussion, and I fail to see why there needs to be any cause for that.

      In simpler terms, it’s another word game.

      • Brian Brian

        I agree. It just seems so silly. A prerequisite for asking why there is something is that there is something. Sort of a transcendental argument a la Searle’s that talk about the existence of reality presupposes reality.

  3. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Hey, we might just have a name for our tribe – “Newer Agnostics”. It makes us sound even more up-to-date than New Atheists, a bit like the 4G iPhone superceding the older 3G version.

    There should be a symbol as well, like the the red A for atheism. My suggestion would be a stylized green question mark. The question mark is because agnosticism emphasizes doubt rather than certainty, green because agnosticism is cool, rational – and eco-friendly – rather than the red-in-the-face anger and aggression of New Atheism.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      You mean. like this? I designed this a while back but never posted it. It’s an alpha inside a rough circle, which is a play on the @ symbol (which means, in possible worlds logic, the actual world we are in). The alpha implies that agnosticism comes before claims of knowledge.


  4. Hartmann’s review of Strevens is co-authored with Jonah Schupbach.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Thanks. I missed that.

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