little fun bit

I was perus­ing the inter­net, and stum­bled upon a new Google tool: Google Sets. You enter in a few items from a set, and Google will gen­er­ate a larg­er set. So, for exam­ple, you enter “red,” “blue” and “pur­ple” — and it will gen­er­ate a larg­er list of col­ors. To test the intel­li­gence of this thing, I entered “Kant,” “Mill,” and “Ben­tham,” and I got a set with “Hobbes,” “Descartes,” “Rawls,” “Pla­to,” “Hume,” and oth­ers. Neat! I don’t know yet what the use of such a tool is, but I’m sure the pos­si­bil­i­ties are endless!

atheism and irrationality

I sit here try­ing to get work on my prospec­tus and allow myself to get dis­tract­ed by ran­dom day­dream­ing, and by this wretched com­put­er that tempts me by whis­per­ing: “just play on me for five min­utes, then you can get back to work”. Of course five min­utes eas­i­ly turns into 30 or 40, and eas­i­ly my day is wh ittled away…but, now I play via a philo­soph­i­cal ramble. 

I have a keen­ly clever friend who has attempt­ed, at var­i­ous times, to con­vince me of athe­ism (I’m cur­rent­ly an agnos­tic). He con­vinced me of it once, and I have since for­got­ten the bulk of his argu­ment and have sub­se­quent­ly backed down from athe­ism and set­tled in the much more com­fort­able agnos­tic posi­tion. Dis­s­a­point­ed in my rever­sion, my friend has tried to re-con­vert me, and while I rec­og­nize that his argu­ments are very com­pelling, I nonethe­less don’t FEEL convinced. 

Now, our beliefs aren’t some­thing we vol­un­tar­i­ly choose (e.g., I can’t just choose to believe that there is a pink ele­phant sit­ting in my lap, as much as I may like to, unless I actu­al­ly have rea­son to believe it). Thus, I can’t sim­ply choose to believe that God does­n’t exist, and for what­ev­er rea­son, the belief isn’t there…despite the fact that I have good rea­son to believe it. So, it seems as if my beliefs con­cern­ing this mat­ter are down­right irra­tional: I rec­og­nize that my friend has giv­en me good rea­son to believe that God does­n’t exist, and yet I don’t feel con­vinced. So, what gives? 

I’ve thought of var­i­ous rea­sons that explain my seem­ing irra­tional­i­ty, and have decid­ed to cite them in the rest of this entry.
Con­tin­ue read­ing athe­ism and irrationality

write to your future self

I stum­bled upon this web­page that allows you to write an e‑mail that will be deliv­ered to you at some spec­i­fied future date, thus enabling you to write an e‑mail to your future self. So, I could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly write an e‑mail to myself that will deliv­ered five years from now, ask­ing me if I’ve fin­ished my dis­ser­ta­tion yet. (ha!) Well, I don’t know the prac­ti­cal use of such a site, but it seemed eclec­tic and inter­est­ing enough that I thought I might pass it on! So, check it out: futureme.org

acting locally

Here’s a nice arti­cle about local vs. nation­al news — and how the voice of the com­mon vot­er is bet­ter rep­re­sent­ed in our local news­pa­pers, rather than by nation­al news (which tends to reduce the pop­u­lus to mind­less stereo­types). Any­way, a nice reminder of the impor­tance of stay­ing in tune with one’s com­mu­ni­ty (which I, unfor­tu­nate­ly, am still strug­gling to do)…and it ties in beau­ti­ful­ly with a book I’ve just read — 50 Ways to Love Your Coun­try — which recounts some inspir­ing sto­ries of peo­ple who have tak­en polit­i­cal action at the local lev­el (which, in the end, often made a dif­fer­ence at the national).

At any rate, a refresh­ing news sto­ry dur­ing a time in which the behav­ior of many of many of our politi­cians leaves me a bit jaded. 

Star trek ramble

Not that any of my fine live­jour­nal friends are at all inter­est­ed in Star Trek, but I thought I’d vent nonethe­less. I used to be a big fan of the Next Gen­er­a­tion (well, I still am, I just haven’t watched it much since the series end­ed). I loved it because it was intel­li­gent and philo­soph­i­cal­ly thougtful…and I think that, at least in some ways, it helped mold my moral sensibilities.

I haven’t real­ly got­ten into any of the oth­er Star Trek spin-offs — there was noth­ing it par­tic­u­lar that I did­n’t like about them, but I just could nev­er muster much of an inter­est in them. So, if you did­n’t know about it, there’s a new series called Enter­prise — about the FIRST Enter­prise ship (stars Scott Baku­la as the cap­tain). I had watched part of one episode a while back, but was turned off by the gra­tu­itous T & A.

So, I watched an episode the oth­er night (I was bored)…and found myself deeply dis­turbed by it. The basic sto­ry was: there was one of the crewmem­bers in a coma or some such thing, in need of a trans­plant organ or some­thing, so they decide to clone this per­son so that they oper­ate on the clone and get the need­ed organ. This clone sup­pos­ed­ly is giv­en some sort of rapid aging abil­i­ty, so that it becomes an adult in a mat­ter of days, and while the oper­a­tion sup­pos­ed­ly won’t kill him, he will nonethe­less only have a lifes­pan of about 10 days. They briefly explore the eth­i­cal impli­ca­tions of bring­ing a per­son into the world for the express util­i­tar­i­an pur­pose of using its organs, but dis­miss this moral con­se­quence because they are in dire need of this comatose crew member.

So, they clone this guy, and the lit­tle baby quick­ly becomes an adult (and strange­ly has the mem­o­ries of the per­son he is a clone of). They inform the clone of his pur­pose, and he gra­cious­ly accepts it, until they learn that the trans­plant will end up killing the clone after all. And then he wants to live, and tries to con­vince the cap­tain to attempt a pro­ce­dure that will stop his rapid aging process, so that he can live out a nor­mal life-span. The cap­tain refus­es, and ORDERS the clone-guy to go through with the trans­plant (even though it will kill him). The clone-guy ends up going through with the pro­ce­dure (vol­un­tar­i­ly?), which of course kills him…and they have this nice lit­tle funer­al for him at the end (sniff sniff).

Okay, so that’s the sto­ry — and I find it very dis­turb­ing because of the eth­i­cal posi­tion it seems to be tout­ing: that is, that it is jus­ti­fi­able to treat humans as mere means to a util­i­tar­i­an end…that it is okay to bring a per­son into the world for the sole pur­pose of using them as means. It turned my stom­ach. Picard would nev­er have endorsed such principles.

Kudos to them for explor­ing the cloning controversy…but tsk tsk for tak­ing a stand that does­n’t respect the intrin­sic integri­ty of per­sons. It turned my stomach…they should read some Kant, for christ’s sake…or at least watch some TNG.