News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 27, 2010 in News

Hell yes. Pixar joins the “It gets better” bandwagon.

Triablogue Caught in Web of Deception.

Remember that paper that supposedly showed positive evidence for psi powers? Well, it doesn’t anymore when you check the statistical work with Bayes. Behold, the power of Bayes!

One person posts What I’ve Learned from Less Wrong. But somebody else says that Less Wrong is not actually that useful for helping you achieve your goals (instrumental rationality). For that, Less Wrong could learn from lessons from the seduction community. The response comes: Goals for Which Less Wrong Is and Isn’t Useful.

Paper of the day: Kaposy, “Will Neuroscientific Discoveries about Free Will and Selfhood Change our Ethical Practices?

Happy discovery: Lecture transcript (and slides) of “The Art and Science of Causality” by Judea Pearl. Also see this video lecture.

Pope finally says condom use may sometimes be justified to stop the spread of AIDS.

Video: If America Became a Religious Nation.

I like it and I cannot help it.

Just discovered: John Cleese on extremism.

Lol: 71 definitions of “intelligence.”

The cold hard truth: Already, this 8-year-old is better at something than I may ever be at anything.

Finally: For the heck of it, below are some (emotionally) favorite philosophers of mine (listed chronologically). I don’t necessarily mean that I like their writing, but that I like their new ideas:

  • Hume
  • Dewey
  • Quine
  • Dennett
  • Yudkowsky

Which philosophers are your (emotionally) favorite philosophers?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jordan Peacock November 27, 2010 at 6:11 am


Would be my three favorite, even though I generally dislike their writing.

I would add:

de Landa

except that I like their ideas *and* their writing.


Robert Gressis November 27, 2010 at 6:54 am

John Hick


Robert Gressis November 27, 2010 at 6:57 am

I should also add: William James.


Luke Muehlhauser November 27, 2010 at 7:14 am


Lol, we are so opposite!


josef johann November 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

merleau-ponty (reading merleau-ponty is utterly exhilarating; reading him is like watching a thriller movie where the main characters are ideas)
paul thagard


josef johann November 27, 2010 at 7:55 am

And Dennet, of course!


Reginald Selkirk November 27, 2010 at 8:01 am

Triablogue Caught in Web of Deception.

I suppose that would mean more to me if I had ever heard of Triablogue. I gather that it’s a Christian apologetics site, but I have no idea who runs it or why I should care.

Paper of the day: Kaposy, “Will Neuroscientific Discoveries about Free Will and Selfhood Change our Ethical Practices?”

Will they, or should they?


Scott November 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

The philosophers that shook me were Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Camus. Even when I don’t agree with them, the sheer power and originality always get to me.

Is there a way to explain Bayes for the less mathematically-inclined. I know it’s a way to determine the probability of an outcome given certain conditions, but that’s it.


Patrick November 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

Scott- Do you know the fallacy of affirming the consequent?

Its where you reason,

If A, then B.
B is true.
Therefore A is true.

Well, that’s a fallacy. It might be that B is true under many circumstances, not just when A is true. But we can fix it up.

If A, then B.
We just learned that B is true.
Therefore A is more likely than we thought it was before we knew anything about B.

The actual formula gives you a bunch of mathematical tools for taking that insight and making it much more robust. For example, it can tell you how much more likely A is, if you can fill in all the mathematical variables in the formula.

To give an example,

If it is raining, then it will be wet outside my window.
I just looked out the window, and it was wet.
Therefore I should think it to be more likely that it is raining than I thought it was before I looked outside the window.

Do you want more detail than that, such as details on how the actual formula works? If so, let me know.


Leomar November 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

Well this is a new bit for me: Split brain person, with one HALF ATHEIST and one HALF THEIST



Cody November 27, 2010 at 10:52 am

Here’s an interesting development…could potentially turn out to cause (no pun intended) some problems for Bill Craig and the Kalam argument…

Far from confirmed, but still very interesting!


Camus Dude November 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Camus (obviously!), Nietzsche, Hume, Epicurus/Lucretius, Martha Nussbaum, Brian Leiter, Josh Greene – emotionally and intellectually.


Mastema November 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

With much deliberation and in no particular order:


Robert’s list is interesting, and I’m very much in agreement with Luke. I have a strong aversion to Plato after spending what I thought was an insane amount of time on his forms and the allegory of the cave in my intro to philosophy and ethics class. My ethics teacher (the same one in both courses) made us study Plato for 3 weeks, and there was not a single mention of Hume or the Is/Ought problem throughout the entire course.


Bill Maher November 27, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I would have to say Dennett, Rowe, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Leibniz are (emotionally) my favorite.


juhou November 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Hume, Spinoza, Descartes, Wittgenstein, Leibniz, Ayer, Russel, Aristotle. From a purely emotional perspective :)


Jeff H November 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

That’s an interesting paper about Bem’s studies. I read Bem’s paper when it came out a little while ago, and have just been waiting for the criticism to begin. I have previously come across a blog article critiquing it, but it looks like it’s been updated with Bem’s own response to it:

Luke, has that Wagenmakers paper been published? Or is it currently in press or something?

As far as the breakdancing 8-year-old…I’ll just look forward to when he goes through the awkward phase of puberty.


Camus Dude November 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

For some reason my comment from several hours ago seems not to have posted. I have an emotional attachment to the thinkers I find most correct. My philosophers list would be: Camus, Nietzsche, Hume, Martha Nussbaum, Brian Leiter, and Josh Greene. I like the writing AND the idea of all of them.


juhou November 27, 2010 at 5:53 pm

BTW, Nassim Taleb says investors should sue Sweden’s central bank for giving Nobel prices to bad finance theories.

I think they should just go all the way and cancel the Nobel prices on economics, peace and literature, so as to not to confuse those with exact sciences. Maybe new prices should be awarded for biology and mathematics :)


Scott November 27, 2010 at 7:36 pm

>I think they should just go all the way and cancel the Nobel prices on economics, peace and literature, so as to not to confuse those with exact sciences. Maybe new prices should be awarded for biology and mathematics :)  

The problem with the Literature prize is that it’s so obviously biased. The committee openly refuses to award it to American writers, saying we’re too insular and outdated.

Peace is given not as an award, per se, but to inspire. Obama was awarded it to motivate him to come through on his promises and have the rest of the world follow his ideal.

Economics, well, I don’t know enough to comment about it intelligently.

Biology would be cool, though I think most of those could be shoe-horned in under medicine & physiology.

Mathematics is also cool. I’d love to see one for philosophy, too, but the awards were stipulated by Nobel’s will. May I recommend the Ig Nobels?


Reidish November 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Thomas Reid
Roderick Chisholm
Sun Tzu


Chris November 27, 2010 at 8:38 pm

The Stoics. Those guys were real.


TaiChi November 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm

More results have come out for the PhilPapers Surveys.


Luke Muehlhauser November 28, 2010 at 1:36 am


Finally! Thanks.


juhou November 28, 2010 at 5:47 am


I think both peace and literature are too biased. On the economics it’s pretty easy to see what’s wrong. If you look at two economists looking at empirical data in 2007 and deciding what should be done about the financial crisis. Nassim Taleb said there is a systematic problem. We should let banks fail or the crisis will happen again. Paul Krugman said no we should make a huge bailout package, much bigger than was actually made, and pump up the economy in the time of crisis. A good question to ask is who is right? Nassim Taleb predicted the crisis kind of but so did Krugman (Taleb is much better at self marketing).

The point is the question of who to listen to was at coerced by Sweden’s central bank announcement to conveniently give a Nobel to Krugman for his early work on new trade theory. Krugman now was a Nobel price winner and speaking with that authority while Taleb could be labeled as just another self promoting doomsday caller. Now I really don’t like Taleb much as a person but he got it right at least partially since 2003 (Krugman predicted the crisis at 2006) and should have been listened to more carefully by politicians.

I think economics is too important in political decision making to give one economist that kind of advantage over the views of other economists.


Rashbam November 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Another nice interview, Luke. You both come across as engaging and clear-thinking. For a brief answer to all these issues, see


Hermes November 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm

For what it’s worth, the Secular Student Alliance at UMBC has posted the first parts of a panel discussion;

The panel consisted of Gregory Paul, John Shook (CFI, U. Buffalo), Matt Dillahunty (ACA), and Robert Anderson (UMBC).

Gregory Paul stands out for me as he is gathering statistical data on the influence and trends of religion. Paul writes;

Unlike science, which goes where the evidence and analysis indicate and is anti-mythical in nature, religion is inherently dogmatic and opinion based, with myths being integral to the system. One of these myths, widely held by nearly all theists as well as many skeptics of the supernatural, is that science cannot be used to address and answer many core issues of religious belief. In this view rational, objective science and faith-based religion are separate magisteria that are equally legitimate thought systems, and that cannot profoundly comment upon one another. As popular as this view is – in part because it offers a politically correct means of avoiding awkward conflict between the scientific and religious realms – it is demonstrably false.


(Note: While I think that myths have to be addressed openly and their biases identified, I personally am not dismissive of myths as not useful for societies. For the most part, humans generate myths as shorthand methods of understanding reality. They tend to operate like extended idioms, software macros, or learned memes; they work even if the user is not overtly aware that they are using a myth or if the user thinks they are being literal and not speaking in or dealing with myth.)


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