From the year 2010

metaphysics on a napkin
in Personal Stuff, Philosophy

At a holiday family gathering, I found myself in drunken dialogue with my significant other’s mother’s best friend’s daughter’s husband, trying to explain my philosophy of the universe. I did a pretty good job. Since it is so rare that I successfully explain my metaphysics in a way that can fit between re-fills of Veuve […]

types of tolerance and respect
in Philosophy, Politics, Religion

It is easy for me to advocate religious respect and tolerance, because I am not a religious man. When I try to imagine political tolerance, I begin to understand how difficult religious tolerance really is for people of faith. As an atheist, questions of faith and religion are abstract and intellectual, much like questions of […]

the empirical argument against compromise
in Politics

Polls suggest that more than 2/3 of the country is worried about the national debt and spending. Let’s see how that translated into policy today.   What Democrats wanted: Extend unemployment benefits Adds to the deficit Increase taxes on the wealthy Subtracts from the deficit What Republicans wanted: Stop unemployment benefits Subtracts from the deficit […]

privacy and nakedness
in Politics

If the government wants to look at my naked body, let them. Who cares? When I say this, people get all red in the face. They use abstract ideas like “privacy” and “violation”. But when all of the bluster is done, nobody seems able to explain what the actual problem is. Some people say: “It’s […]

a mini-lesson in tax statistics
in Politics

You might have heard that the top 50% of wage earners pay 96% of the taxes. That is ridiculously unfair. They should be paying much more. And if you don’t instantly see why that is the case, then you have been bamboozled by statistics. Since big numbers confuse people, let’s look at a “toy” example […]

in Culture

Today I am obsessed with a squirrel named Ratatoskr. I identify with him. In a way, I think we all are a squirrel named Ratatoskr. Northern Germanic, Icelandic, and Swedish cultures had their own collections of gods and myths, quite separate from the more well-known Greek mythology. Collectively known as “Norse” mythology, these stories consist […]

regulation is not the problem
in Politics

Some people say regulations are bad because they hurt businesses. This is a stupid argument. And I’d like to take a moment to explain why. Let’s start by reflecting for a moment on some of the things out there that “hurt businesses”: Minimum wage. Minimum wage hurts businesses because it increases costs. Every year, there […]

speaker Böhner’s Recession
in Politics

Mr. Böhner, where are the jobs? We were told that the Republican tide would be the cure for all of our problems. People are hurting, Mr. Böhner. Why isn’t it fixed yet? In case you don’t remember, President Obama was declared to be President Elect on November 4th, 2008. On November 6, 2008, Rush Limbaugh […]

the little picture
in Politics

Political discourse this campaign cycle is stuck in “big picture” rhetoric and I’m sick of it. The problems in this country will absolutely not be solved by a competition between “liberty” and “fairness”. I recently saw a perfect example of this kind of argument, from the conservative point of view, on the topic of health […]

being a fundamentalist
in Philosophy, Religion

Consider this: “A fundamentalist is someone who believes that the only way a person can disagree with him is if that person is stupid, crazy, or just doesn’t understand.” This isn’t the dictionary definition of fundamentalism, but I’d like you to entertain it just for a moment. It means that being a fundamentalist isn’t just […]

hate crimes and probability theory
in Politics

I have heard the argument that hate crime legislation is wrong because we should not legislate what goes on in a person’s mind. We should only legislate behavior, because behavior is what impacts society. This argument, however, is wrong. The purpose of imprisonment is to protect society from harm. When a person has killed once, […]

Party Politics circa 1000
in History, Politics

You hear people talk about how crazy politics “has become”, or how “these days” things are so divisive, or how crazy and dramatic our political personalities are “lately.” Is it really a recent thing? Let’s take a look. The place is Germany, the year is 1065. Politics is controlled by three centers of power: the […]

the purpose of insurance
in Personal Stuff, Politics

Today I paid about $85 out of pocket for things that could have been insured, but that I didn’t have coverage for. It was my choice, and I am glad to do it. Let me explain. This morning I had a doctor’s appointment. I paid $60 for the visit, because I have not yet met […]

what Aristotle taught me
in History, Science

The winning team has momentum going into the playoffs. The political candidate is trailing in the polls, but has the momentum. The momentum of the stock market can make people worried or hopeful. Everything we think about in the world, from gambling to politics, is affected by the metaphor of momentum. But the idea of […]

about war
in Politics

someone said:“Islam has been, and still is, at war with the civilized world for 15 centuries, spreading its religion with the fire and sword. It is for this reason that people despise Islam, and its continuing war against the rest of the world.” my thought:I think it would be a worthwhile enterprise for us to […]

before the pogrom
in History, Politics

The 22-year-old King cried, “Kill them! Kill them all!” The Jesuits locked the gates to the city so that nobody could leave, and the Catholic soldiers let loose on the city. The year was 1572. Five thousand Protestants had been in Paris, and fewer than five hundred survived. They were stabbed, clubbed, drowned, thrown from […]

Islamic Community Centers and Lesbian Daughters
in Politics, Religion

When talking to people who are against the building of an Islamic Community Center in New York City, the number one rationale I hear is that it will hurt the feelings of a great number of people who have experienced great loss. It will offend them and it will upset them. Therefore, in order to […]

Morality and the Free Market
in History, Politics

It is fashionable among free-market capitalists today to use personal choice and responsibility as the only yardsticks by which they measure the soundness of a policy. For example, if you sign up with a bank and get gauged by the fees, it is your responsibility: you signed up of your own free will and you […]

The Anthropologist and the Physicist
in Culture, Science

Back in 1998 I attended a meeting that was intended to kick off a discussion group exploring the interdisciplinary connections between the hard sciences and the social sciences. Many fields were represented, including physics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, chemistry, and mathematics. Prominent names already doing interdisciplinary work were there: Robert Axelrod (mathematical game theory […]

the rapture and the environment
in Politics, Religion

someone said:“When people take the idea of the rapture seriously, and think it could happen any day, it makes them not care about the environment. Why care about the environment when God is going to destroy the world soon, anyway?” my thought:I believe that the types of people who use the coming of the rapture […]

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