News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 19, 2011 in News

A post I wrote for Less Wrong: Secure Your Beliefs.

Priest and Eckert discuss non-classical logics.

Why Philippa Foot Changed Her Mind (And I Haven’t). This post sums up why I still see morality as a system of hypothetical imperatives. (Both of these posts come from one of my new favorite blogs.)

Here is an interview I did with Seth Yoder about morality, my deconversion, William Lane Craig, and the atheism-theism debate. Props to Seth: this is my favorite interview of those I’ve given.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith J. February 19, 2011 at 5:40 am

I have found after doing a bit of follow up research on Radiolab stories that they often stretch them to make them sound more incredulous. For example, the story about the computer (EMI) that can mimic musical creations of great composers. The actual computer doesn’t seem to do as good of a job as they make it seem it does. Of course that doesn’t mean that This American Life and Radiolab are crap. I love both (I have all of season 4 of radiolab on my ipod right now) and listen to them regularly. It’s just that I tend to take it with a slight grain of salt.


Keith J. February 19, 2011 at 5:53 am

Glenn Beck is basically saying “Do your own homework… as long as you agree with me in the end…” Oh that I ever thought him credible… although I must say that years ago (8 years) when he only had the radio show he didn’t seem as loopy as he does now.


juhou February 19, 2011 at 6:42 am

On the Mubaraks army thing. Here is a good explanation why the army refused to kill the protesters:

It makes a whole lot of sense for them to not to want to kill the people who pay for their products.


Felipe Ramos February 19, 2011 at 8:04 am

Hey Luke,
I hope you will get that girl from “The Perfect Girlfriend” ! I already have a wife WINK.


Luke Muehlhauser February 19, 2011 at 8:47 am


Good link thanks!


Garren February 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Glad you like what I’ve been writing, Luke! I’m content to write just to help myself think through ideas and move on to new things to ponder in the shower. Others finding it useful is pure bonus.

I do plan to write more about religion eventually. In fact, the post I started working on today will contrast religious and scientific epistemology. Part of the problem is that much of what I have to say about religion is not especially ‘philosophical,’ so I’m not sure how to fit it into the current style. For example, I have a lot to say about how Biblical prophecy went from being one of the things which most assured me Christianity is true to one of the things which most assures me Christianity is false.

…regarding the Fox News link, I happened to catch Glenn Beck the other week when I foolishly ran out of podcasts in the car. He said something about how “freedom is on the retreat” in reference to Egypt trying to overthrow their dictator. I peered at my radio and he continued by explaining that Mubarak isn’t a great guy but he brings order to the region (Haidt’s moral foundations theory vindicated) and if the protests succeed, Israel may be threatened and our gas prices may go up!

Topic synthesis time:

As shown in the Maddow clip, Glenn Beck is basing a significant part of his political analysis on ‘antichrist’ related misinterpretations of the Bible. Beck’s failure to “secure his beliefs” is having a significant effect on 21st century American views on foreign policy. This is no different from making changes in U.S. policy toward Europe based on misreadings of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Real people are affected when even noble goals are affected by false beliefs.


JS Allen February 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

The Foot posts were really interesting; I had never heard of her. Categorical imperatives make more sense to me, now. I also agree with Garren that it feels like a debate over terminology. I suspect it boils down to the difference between people who feel that something like life can have intrinsic value, and those who don’t. And that, in turn, seems to be a brute preference.

Regarding Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I would much prefer politicians who are familiar with the great literature and can feel it deeply. Many of these new atheists seem to be stunted, and are unable to fully experience what it means to be human. Dawkins weird attempt at writing about “beauty” is a case in point; I can’t trust a person whose missing major chunks of his humanity like that.

Having said that, I don’t get the impression that Glen Beck or the tea baggers have an appreciation for great literature.


Garren February 19, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I’m all for feeling great literature deeply and drawing lessons from it, so long as this doesn’t mean taking ancient literature out context as a Magic Eight Ball for modern foreign policy.

How should the U.S. treat Turkey? Let’s turn to The Iliad to find out!


Mike Young February 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

And this is why Maddow is a polite Glen Beck :

Doesn’t do research, is exteremly partisan, uses her position for all and only (I mean that in the strict loical sense so what I mean is Maddow makes and uttereance if and only if she has the belief that the utterance advances her political ideology). This is the trifecta of bad reporting.


Mike Young February 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm

That last paragraph should read :
Doesn’t do research, is exteremly partisan, uses her position for all and only political gain. (I mean that in the strict loical sense so what I mean is Maddow makes and uttereance if and only if she has the belief that the utterance advances her political ideology). This is the trifecta of bad reporting
I missed the term “political gain” in the first incarnation of the paragraph


Scott February 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Regarding the defense of the classics, I love these articles:


JS Allen February 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm


I agree. I suppose the distinction is between being truly inspired by the classics, and simply proof-texting like a fundie. I would love it if Obama could quote relevant passages of Iliad when announcing some new policy towards Greece, but would be pretty disturbed if some Greek foreign minister started quoting Iliad to justify aggression against the Turks.


Garren February 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I missed the bit about the LiFT podcast earlier. Thought it went well! Also, I attend Yoder family reunions so I’m wondering just how related I might be to that Seth fellow.

(Also, new post about the nature of science on my blog. Too bad I didn’t have that finished yesterday.)


Jacopo February 20, 2011 at 6:10 am

J.S. Allen,

1) Have you ever read any of Dawkins’ books?
2) If not, why are you making claims about his approach to literature?
3) If so, how have you missed the references to Evelyn Waugh, A.E. Housman, William Wordsworth, H.G. Wells, W.B. Yeats, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Lucretius, C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Lewis Carroll and Douglas Adams? (I could go on much, much longer, but this will suffice.)
I could do something similar for Dennett – he explicitly outlines some of his beginning arguments in Consciousness Explained taking Wordsworth and Camus as a starting point and acknowledging that science and philosophy don’t give us the answers for everything. Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are both incredibly well-read, Harris uses James Joyce as an example in the End of Faith, I could dig up others if you really care.
4) If 3) is not enough for you, and the membership of Dawkins of the Royal Society of Literature is not enough, and the fact that he is responsible for the novel Red Strangers getting back in print (his public appeal for it being reprinted being made the foreword), and the fact he talks about being moved to tears by this and other books – if this is not enough, then I declare you to be unable to experience everything that it fully means to be human, stunted, and missing huge chunks of humanity, on precisely the non-existent grounds you declare the New Atheists to be so.


JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

@Jacopo: Yes, I own most of the books Dawkins has written, and have read all of them. My comments were meant primarily to scorn “Unweaving the Rainbow”, which is an embarrassment to humanity. Proof-texting the classics is not the same as being inspired by them; which is where Garren and I most probably agree.

I’m glad that you mention Dennett, since he’s twice the human that Dawkins could ever aspire to be. Do you really think that Wordsworth is on the same footing as Adams? If so, there is no hope for you.

Here is a classic track about “classics”, from Rakim, Nas, DJ Premier, and a young Kanye.


Jacopo February 21, 2011 at 6:45 am

“Do you really think that Wordsworth is on the same footing as Adams? If so, there is no hope for you.”

Got any reasons for that inference?


Reginald Selkirk February 21, 2011 at 9:33 am


JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 10:15 am

Which inference? The inference that there is no hope for you, or the inference that Adams is no Wordsworth?

I only mean that there is no hope of you ever being someone who properly feels great literature. If someone earnestly lumps together chicken nuggets and foie gras in a conversation about great culinary traditions, you probably won’t try to change his mind — you’ll just conclude that he’s hopeless.

I love Douglas Adams, but I compare him with Hofstadter — he’s clever, but not great. He’ll have a lasting appeal in a niche community of geeks; but doesn’t speak to the human condition in a way that is both unique and universal. And, of course, “Unweaving the Rainbow” doesn’t even raise to the level of “clever”. It’s even worse that Stephen Hawking’s “George’s Secret Key”, and that’s saying something.


Jacopo February 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

“there is no hope of you ever being someone who properly feels great literature.”

I include Wordsworth and Adams in the same list, with many others, to show that Dawkins has an appreciation of literature.

From this, you draw the above about me.

This unbelievable non sequitur from a simple sentence, combined with your caricature of the New Atheists earlier, in the space of only a few comments, makes me suspect you are so hopeless at rational argumentation as not to be worth bothering with. That’s a rather more justified inference than your own. As such, I won’t be responding to any further comments.


JS Allen February 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm


“Unweaving the Rainbow” demonstrates that Dawkins isn’t capable of appreciating great literature, and your mention of Douglas Adams in response to a comment about Ovid suggests that you are unqualified to judge Dawkins appreciation of literature. You might as well have said, “Dawkins loves great literature, because he reads Archie comics”. You may disagree with me, but there is nothing non sequitur or illogical about my inference.


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