News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 29, 2010 in News

I must say the latest Kindle finally looks awesome. I have thousands of papers and books in PDF to read, and I’d rather do it at the beach. And it’s only $140.

Oxford University Press blog, The Gender Neutral Pronoun: 150 Years Later, Still an Epic Fail. (This irks every writer.)

Are Secularists Less Generous?

Two delightful articles from Julia Galef, on when and why skeptics should accept or reject expert consensus, and on Relabeling Our Ignorance.

Very cool laser show in Ukraine; watch in 480p and fullscreen.

I teach logic, motherfucker.” Professor Eric Scerri vs. street evangelist. Note that the evangelist says Scerri has committed the ad hominem fallacy, apparently oblivious to the fact that a logical fallacy is a flawed type of argument, and Scerri had not given any arguments! Lots of people like this like to learn logic-sounding words without understanding the first thing about logic, just like they try to learn science-sounding words without understanding the first thing about science.

Philosophy Talk episode on (secular) Humanism.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Haecceitas August 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I’m glad to be a Finn. The Finnish pronoun “hän” is gender-neutral, which also explains why quite many Finns occasionally tend to make mistakes on this when speaking in English (probably using “he” when referring to a woman rather than vice versa, being the chauvinist pigs that we are).

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lukeprog August 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Haecceitas,

I’m so jealous!

Also, for the part about you living in the best country in the world, and all that. :)

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mojo.rhythm August 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Ha! Scerri PWNED that evangelical clown.

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Charles August 30, 2010 at 12:02 am

Wow. Julia’s second essay is brilliant. That penultimate paragraph just comes out of nowhere and hits you right between the eyes.

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G'DIsraeli August 30, 2010 at 12:32 am

I wonder if the chick on the beach comes with the kindle…
The guy in the feature video sounds a little like you!

Also in Russia, about 100 Neo-Nazi Russians attacked (for no apparent reason) a rock concert, injuring dozens and killing a 14 year old girl.

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Gavin Kirby August 30, 2010 at 1:58 am

Perhaps pedantic, but I should point out that Kharkhiv is in Ukraine, not Russia ;)

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lukeprog August 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

Gavin,

Ah, thanks! I just read somewhere else it was ‘Russia.’

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Reginald Selkirk August 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

“I teach logic, motherfucker.”

Intriguing. Unfortunately it was not staged, and so suffers from poor miking, etc. I also have the impression the most interesting part probably happened just before the camera was turned on.

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al friedlander August 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

HAHA, LOVE IT.

Professor Scerri was my chemistry prof. He’s an excellent guitarist (no really; kickass); he taught me the blues after dissing me for playing pop-punk!

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stamati August 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

You know… don’t be a dick.

Scherri’s display was as childish as anything the preacher was proclaiming. The evangelist is saying “Believe my irrational rantings!” and the professor is saying, “Steal shit from people with whom you disagree!” Those are both pretty unreasonable and unproductive ideas, because now the preacher is most likely going to have a wonderful persecution to talk about on Sunday, and the professor has… a briefcase?

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Mazen Abdallah August 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Scerri, if you’re reading this, GIVE THE MAN BACK HIS BRIEFCASE!

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Lorkas August 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Yea the professor comes off as childish to me as well.

Oh well, it’s hard to make good decisions in tense situations sometimes.

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cl August 31, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Scherri’s display was as childish as anything the preacher was proclaiming.

Yeah, I avoided clicking that link the first few times I passed over it, but when I did, my thoughts were, “Why in the world did Luke think this worthy of linking to?” Is it because Luke, like some of the others here, thinks Scerri PWNED the evangelist? If so, that’s silly. Scerri just reinforced the stereotype that skeptics are arrogant jerkoffs. Apparently Luke thinks an evangelist partially misusing ad hominem needs to be called out, but a skeptic – not just a skeptic but a professor at a presumably taxpayer funded institution – calling an evangelist a “motherfucker” doesn’t. Odd.

It disturbs me that some of the onlookers somehow thought Scerri had accomplished something noteworthy. Scerri was coming across as such a jerk I actually thought he was the evangelist for the first few seconds of the tape. Then again, the onlookers were basically young males, and the context was a fight, not intellectual discourse. In a culture raised on Beavis and Butthead and Southpark, I guess the guy with the smartest mouth wins, but I think it was Scerri who lost dignity on that one.

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stamati September 1, 2010 at 4:14 am

Well said.

Luke, if you want to hold accountability to both believers and skeptics, proudly displaying Scerri’s rant may be deleterious to your cause.

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al friedlander September 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I humbly disagree with all those that claim Scerri was being a jerk and/or that his behavior was unwarranted.

Prof Scerri isn’t an expert in philosophy, he’s a chemist. More importantly, the focus of the video isn’t so much about the material in their ‘debates’. This isn’t a philosophical debate -at all-, it’s a ‘showdown’. And the reason why it’s permitted in this case, in my opinion, is the context. Scerri is on Bruinwalk, a strip down the center of UCLA. 93% of the time, these street preachers are downright -looking- for trouble. They aren’t interested in debates at all, they’re trying to annoy the students/faculty. I was a student there, and I assure you that I’m being completely honest. It’s all fire and brimstone / sign-holding (you’re going to hell)/ you’re lesser than me even though you’re in college (passive aggressive)/ you’re all sinners, and I’m saved.

Scerri, in this instance, is being the anti-bully; usually, students have to endure these “preachers’” rantings while passively walking by. That’s why most of the students (Christians included) were either neutral/supportive of his actions.

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stamati September 2, 2010 at 5:53 am

Do you suppose neutrality has to imply complicity? Or is passivity different than neutrality?

I’ve encountered these guys on campus too, and if they were looking for a fight, I would not give it to them. Once you get them talking calmly, you can actually get them to think rationally. I pointed out some other views on a subject one guy was thinking about, and it really made him pause.

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al friedlander September 2, 2010 at 10:23 am

“I’ve encountered these guys on campus too, and if they were looking for a fight, I would not give it to them. Once you get them talking calmly, you can actually get them to think rationally.”

I understand where you’re coming from. With that said, are you a Bruin-alumni? Though I may be wrong, I suspect that you aren’t because I was completely honest when I insinuated that these individuals couldn’t be reasoned with.

When I say looking for a fight, I don’t mean a rational argument. The ‘hecklers’ on Bruinwalk aren’t interested in having a fair discussion, nor are they open to reasoning. I was actually part of the Campus Ministry at this point of my life, and my fellow Christians would try and tell these individuals to ‘back off’, because they were giving Christianity a negative impression. We were more than kind; they could care less (which really made me doubt if they were ‘doing this for Christ’ to begin with)

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cl September 6, 2010 at 1:31 am

al friedlander,

I totally agree with you that a significantly annoying subset of Christians comprise, “fire and brimstone / sign-holding (you’re going to hell)/ you’re lesser than me even though you’re in college (passive aggressive)/ you’re all sinners, and I’m saved.” That said,

Prof Scerri isn’t an expert in philosophy, he’s a chemist.

Then, does he actually teach logic, or not? If you don’t mind me asking, what do you think Scerri accomplished? Surely you’re not implying that two bully’s make a right?

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