News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 30, 2010 in News

Video from the future, when the USA has collapsed like Rome and China leads the world.

John Danaher has written an excellent summary of skeptical theism, the “we shouldn’t expect to know God’s reasons for allowing suffering” response to the problem of evil.

Bill McKibben surveys the influence of programs like All Things Considered, This American Life, and Radiolab, and lists a ton of their imitators.

Uganda: Debating God in a God-Fearing Country.

Greyson Chance is cooler than Justin Bieber. Let the battle begin.

Michael Coogan at CNN: Bible has some shocking ‘family values.’ No shit.

Indie Skeptics is for skeptics and naturalists who want to post an article on something but don’t have time to setup a blog or maintain it.

Nima Arkani-Hamed gives 5 excellent lectures on current and upcoming fundamental physics.

I was previously unaware of Hobo Code.

Quick! Until Nov. 30th, Spinger is offering free article downloads for several major philosophy journals, like Philosophical Studies, Synthese, Erkenntnis, Biology and Philosophy, and others. Also, Springer’s new Exemplar is pretty cool.

A most excellent interview with Andrew Sullivan …which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve yet linked to Charlie Rose: The Brain Series.

Paulos: Stories vs. Statistics.

Awesome people being awesome.

Sam Harris talks for two hours about how morality is a science.

Huge index of reviews of free jazz albums.

There is an entire blog called Debunking William Lane Craig.

For Philosophy TVRoger Crisp and Daniel Star discuss normative reasons, and then David Enoch and Mark Schroeder discuss moral realism.

Dawkins sues Timonen for embezzlement. Timonen responds.

I LOL’d.

Recent books that may be of interest:

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

mopey October 30, 2010 at 5:14 am

Also, on YouTube, “Dr. John Shook – The God Debates: Why Be Skeptical Towards Religion?”, in 9 parts;


Reginald Selkirk October 30, 2010 at 6:27 am
AlexG October 30, 2010 at 6:28 am

Does anyone else find it ironic that the China video portrays America as having been taken over by the Chinese because of rampant socialism, yet the propaganda on the wall is all communist?


Reginald Selkirk October 30, 2010 at 6:33 am

Douglas Sharp says Mormons are not Christians

The Rev. Douglas Sharp
Dean of the Academy, Protestants for the Common Good
(commentary on the recent Pew survey showing that atheists know more about religion than the religious)

And yes, on a scale where 60% is passing, only atheists/agnostics, Jews, and Mormons pass, while all types of Christians fail.

It’s always fun to stand back and watch them fight over who are the “true” believers.


Reginald Selkirk October 30, 2010 at 6:42 am

Greg Graffin, Anarchy Evolution. Biologist and ‘Bad Religion’ rocker Greg Graffin discusses naturalism, evolution, and punk rock.

Been there, read that. I don’t especially recommend it.

This is both an autobiographical memoir and commentary on issues such as atheism, evolution, naturalism and environmentalism. Graffin attempts to tie the personal history to the broader issues, but it’s quite a stretch. For example, in the chapter on environmentalism, he starts out with a story about how he didn’t spend all night having sex with Brazilian groupies because he had to get up early to visit a rain forest. When he is on the issues, he doesn’t say anything I haven’t read better-expressed from someone else.


Hermes October 30, 2010 at 7:04 am

Note that at a minimum one of the clips in the “people are awesome” video were faked (ex: walking on water @ 00:45).


Hermes October 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

Re: End of Skeptical Theism

It strikes me that the ‘three basic forms of skeptical theism’ are all unskeptical points of view, not skeptical ones. They take the form of;

* Because of some limitation, a conclusion for theism is more likely.

I see this in some of the more patient and informed theists who come here as well. For example, the emphasis on tearing down ideas that threaten a theistic conclusion while less effort is put into justifying a theistic conclusion directly. That is, the whole Kissing Hank’s Ass defense about the moon being made of green cheese; “But they don’t know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese.”[video]


Rob October 30, 2010 at 8:43 am

Radiolab is the best show of any kind in the history of the world.


juhou October 30, 2010 at 8:44 am

Does anyone else find it ironic that the China video portrays America as having been taken over by the Chinese because of rampant socialism, yet the propaganda on the wall is all communist?  

Yeah, the video is well done but the economics in it is absolute rubbish. China is still going strong mostly because its economy is controlled, while still not being socialist, and USA is doing bad due to lack of control on the financial sector and bad monetary policy since the dotcom boom.


Patrick October 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

That China video is terrible. If you want to claim that stimulus efforts are bad policy, and that taxing and spending cannot boost the economy, you should be doing your best to ignore China since its a massive counter example to your thesis. Highlighting them just contradicts you and makes you look ignorant.


Hermes October 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Re: Bible has some shocking ‘family values’ – Michael Coogan @ Harvard Divinity School

After citing the Bible as advocating various wrongs from slavery of various types (including selling your own daughter) and criticizing the cherry picking of various verses (good and bad) as a mistake, he concludes with this;

So, I suggest, the essence of the Bible — its ultimate authority — is not in its individual pronouncements, but in its underlying message: equal, even loving, treatment of all persons, regardless of their age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Nonsense. At best, large chunks of the Bible could be used as a moral aptitude test where the individual has to argue for their own narrow judgment of the moral story or admit when it falls apart entirely as in the case of the Genesis flood story. At worst, it’s the worst kind of relativism applied to the tribal nasty bits of some long dead culture that is simultaneously re-written as it is embraced as morally wise when clearly it was not; for slavery or against, against homosexuals or for gay marriage, … .


Keith J. October 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I have liked “This American Life” and listened to it for a couple of years now. I didn’t know it was so popular. It definitely is one of my favorites to listen to. I wonder if listening to it influenced my decision to become an atheist. After all, it is oooh so liberal, yikes! I’m still more of a conservative but a lot less than I used to be (I actually check-up on what Hannity and Limbaugh say now… imagine that).


Hermes October 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm

re: Charlie Rose: The Brain Series

Good for the basics and a few specific details. If you want a primer, it’s a start.


Thin-ice October 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm

The video is made by Citizens Against Government Waste, who Wikipedia says has run campaigns FOR the tobacco companies, FOR Microsoft, and AGAINST Open source software. I noticed that their home page is littered with FOX News video clips.

I think I will take this video with a grain of salt.


Michael October 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

What’s “great” about America being usurped by China? Or did you mean: great video but I hope it doesn’t come true?


Scott October 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Mark Twain is the Man, no matter how long he’s been dead.


Jon Hanson October 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Uggh, I love you Luke but how can you say that China video is great? It’s xenophobic neo-con fear mongering at it’s worst.

“Stop voting for liberals or the evil yellow communists will turn us into their slaves!”



JS Allen October 30, 2010 at 10:11 pm

The Timonen situation is rough. I’ve seen similar fallings-out before firsthand, and it’s always way more complicated than you can assess from the news reports and court filings. Both men appear to be very personally engaged; beyond just a simple business dispute. I hope they both can resolve the matter quickly and move on with their lives.


Hermes October 30, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I haven’t seen the China video, though from what I gather the reasons for China being proposed to take the top slot from the USA are invalid. That said, China’s intentional devaluing of it’s currency so as to build it’s infrastructure is a smart long-term move. When their trade partners become trade customers only with the exception of necessary raw materials, China will be in the cat seat. Conversely, the strength of less restrained capitalism (as opposed to China’s state-run quasi-capitalism) is being zapped by the short term demands of stock holders. Because long term health and reasonable growth are not satisfactory to stock holders, the stock companies make changes that yield monetary gains that are not necessarily good in the long-term. This is compounded by the short-term interests of management in both stock and private companies; ‘if things fall apart after I move on to the next company, it sucks to be them’.

If stock and private companies — in the USA or elsewhere — take long term improvements into account in the compensation schemes then they will start to work towards being competitive.

Right now, many companies in the west are acting like the former soviet block privatized companies. They buy Chinese (or elsewhere) because they don’t want to deal with the short term loss of working with anyone but the cheapest bidder. As was posed to me personally by a former soviet; ‘If you don’t buy from others like you, why should your peers buy from you?’ A collapse is inevitable if China’s currency devaluation and long term goals are both ignored. Eventually, things will level out, but it will take decades and only when salaries — and associated costs such as property and daily goods — normalize.

The US federal government should consider these issues when budgeting. That means no more trillion+ dollar wars, or ignoring infrastructure including education as a loss-leader. There’s no reason why the US should be paying a premium when the US is not in a premium position at the moment. Be cocky, but not wasteful. It’s going to be a rough ride.


lukeprog October 31, 2010 at 8:28 am

People seem to think my opinion is that the China video had a good message, or something. I removed the word “great” to avoid the confusion.


Reginald Selkirk October 31, 2010 at 9:07 am
Reginald Selkirk October 31, 2010 at 9:48 am
Keith J. November 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Love news bits! I am listening my way through the Nima Arkani-Hamed lectures and they are really good. I found it interesting that he mentioned at the 18 min mark in the fourth lecture that if only IDer’s knew about the fine tuning they would really seem to have something… don’t they know though? I guess they’ll leave it to others to go with that argument…


Reginald Selkirk November 4, 2010 at 7:47 am

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