News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 9, 2011 in News

Article of the week: Kable & Glimcher, The neurobiology of decision: consensus and controversy (2009).

Luke Barnes on the Craig-Krauss debate.

From Twitter:

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

DZ April 9, 2011 at 5:29 am

Hey, Luke!
I understand that you have changed the main focus of your blog, but would not debate with Craig and Harris deserve to be on the news list, since it is about morality. I thought this topic stil interested you. Are you planning to do a review on the debate?
I personally think Harris lost badly in this debate to Craig, but I would love to hyour thoughts on it.
Cheers

  (Quote)

Keith J. April 9, 2011 at 6:45 am

Amazing report on China’s ghost cities! Wow!

  (Quote)

anon April 9, 2011 at 7:15 am

Agreed, DZ… this blog has gone wayyyyyy downhill in terms of content. Yes, he mentioned a “new direction”, but who knew it would become a reddit.com ripoff or a “hey, check out these hot chicks and funny things!” blog?

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser April 9, 2011 at 7:57 am

anon,

Uh…. I’ve been doing the News Bits section once per week for ages

  (Quote)

MauricXe April 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

I don’t think he is denying that you have done this before. I think he is trying to say that the content selected isn’t that great.

I share the same question wrt those two recent Craig debates. Are you going to review either of them? I suppose it would be nice if you mentioned them in the newsfeed. It might facilitate some discussion. I like reading the comments of the frequent posters here.

  (Quote)

Michael April 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Hey Luke,
I would also echo the call for reviews of the Harris and Krauss debates.
I do find it a bit strange that in both of your news bits for the relevant weeks you have not included any links, info or reviews of the debates despite these two debates being some of the most high profile oral debates in philosophy of religion for a very very long time.
Here is Luke Barnes’ take on the Krauss debate btw, who Luke M has interviewed and who usually only speeaks when he has something of value to say. It is more than worth having on your links news bits.
http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/of-nothing/

  (Quote)

cl April 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm

In no particular order:

Hell, we’ve got ghost districts all over America. Poverty is apparently more global than one might think.

Is it me, or is “neuro” the new “evolutionary?” Neuroeconomics, NeuroPsychoEconomics… anyone? As an aside, I think there is ripe ground for a rebuttal to Luke’s overconfidence in the Libet data within that article–although I must be honest, I haven’t read it all the way to the end yet.

Sarah Silverman breaks up with, then makes out with, a singing unicorn.

Ha! What a perfect metaphor for fundamentalists-turned-fundamaterialists.

…this blog has gone wayyyyyy downhill in terms of content. [anon]

I agree. The abundance of redated posts seems to further testify to this claim. Then again, if Luke’s not feeling it, he’s not feeling it, and I will never fault him for writing when he’s not feeling it. However, the link to Analogy as the Core of Cognition would be evidence against this claim, so it’s hard to say for sure.

Re Craig vs. Harris, why review a debate when the issues are settled? ;)

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser April 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Michael,

Added.

  (Quote)

Lee A.P. April 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Yeah Luke. Are you too busy posting about robots that can give genuine hugs than to post about Craig vs. Harris?

;)

  (Quote)

mopey April 9, 2011 at 7:20 pm

There are lotsa reviews of Craig v. Harris online, I like PhilosophyBro’s review. The Bro claims to never have heard of WLC before the debate w/ Harris.

I admit that debate-wise, Craig really whooped both Krauss and Harris. But, it was somewhat less apparent with Harris because he just went with his book speech and previous canned remarks that we’ve all heard before. Harris didn’t really respond to the philisophical arguments made by Craig. Craig had some new arguments that were specific to Harris’ book, so it would have been really cool if Sam could have responded to those head on.

But still, at the book signing table afterwards, Craig seemed rather lonely, so I guess winning isn’t everything.

I’ve had my fill of Craig debates now, the dude just is uber prepared for these things. No opponent seems to be willing to do the preparatory work it would take to compete.

  (Quote)

MauricXe April 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Dr. Craig is the popular kid in class:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04hlkk10D1A

  (Quote)

Alexh April 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm

My impression of the Harris-Craig debate was that Harris won pretty convincingly. I though Craig pulled some pretty dick moves throughout the debate;

1. Spends most of his first speech attacking ‘The Moral Landscape’. Somehow failing to realize that Sam’s book was (as Craig’s mantra for the night went) ‘not the topic of tonight’s debate’. Worse than that, he was outrageously dishonest about Harris’ views. To take one example he quotes Sam as saying “in neuroscientific terms, no person is more or less responsible than any other for the actions they perform.” In fact he’s quoting Sam quoting Michael Gazzaniga.

2. Takes the opportunity to brownnose to those two ND professors whilst saying Harris suggested they were psychopaths. Classy.

3. Defamed Lady Gaga’s fashion sense. Reprehensible.

Craig dangled the carrot in a big way, but I was impressed that Sam repeatedly refused to take the bait- instead using his time to build his own case. It seemed to me that this caught Craig quite off balance, and he became increasingly flustered as the debate went on.

  (Quote)

Esteban R. (Formerly Steven R.) April 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Cl, any ghost districts in mind when it comes to the U.S.?

  (Quote)

MauricXe April 9, 2011 at 11:21 pm
JS Allen April 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Yes, he mentioned a “new direction”, but who knew it would become a reddit.com ripoff or a “hey, check out these hot chicks and funny things!” blog?

Spoken like a true anon troll.

I got a kick out of the Yelle-inspired “dance like you just don’t care” video. It’s a fun video, but also an object lesson in evolutionary biology and signalling. From my quick assessment, the guy who made that video was exposed to low levels of pre-natal testosterone. Dance moves reveal a lot about a person’s hormone balance. Check out these computer-simulated dance moves (in silhouette; kind of like the Que Veux Tu cover) that women found to be more masculine versus less masculine. Broad, sweeping, complex and coordinated moves that are improvised and not highly symmetrical are subconsciously perceived to be more masculine. The guy in the Yelle video isn’t as bad as the “bad dancer” computer simulation, but not nearly as good as the “good dancer” simulation, and not at all like the moves in this video, which are more typical of what Lovatt has shown to indicate high testosterone.

Once again, the scientists have discretized something that was previously the domain of nature, permitting socially awkward geeks, and eventually robots, to mimic robust young bucks. When the robots take over, we’ll have only scientists to blame.

  (Quote)

cl April 10, 2011 at 12:48 am

Esteban R.

Parts of midtown and downtown Ventura.

  (Quote)

cl April 10, 2011 at 12:49 am

JS Allen,

When the robots take over, we’ll have only scientists to blame.

Science. It works!

  (Quote)

MarkD April 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

WRT Doug H.’s interest in analogy: naive physics is similarly productive as a conceptual grounding. In fact, it is remarkable how many of our metaphors about mental phenomena are spatial and physical (“the back of my head,” “the tip of my tongue,” “in my heart of hearts”). It is fairly easy to represent a subset of these using a propositional calculus constructed around the category definitions, but it has not yet been explained how those capabilities can work across all possible domains. Thus, a warning once again about the lack of good theories concerning artificial intelligence, self-awareness, and highly versatile and “plastic” reasoning.

  (Quote)

Ralph April 10, 2011 at 4:51 am

re: Craig vs Harris debate: Harris won, IMO.

It all went down to whose framing of the debate was most successful. If the topic was limited to moral ontology, then clearly Sam Harris lost because he only lightly touched on it. It seems that he conceded this as early as his first speech. However, the actual topic of the debate was mostly in flux – I don’t believe that the debate was limited merely to moral ontology despite Craig’s insistence. If it had been so, the debate would have been so much more uninteresting. A debate on moral ontology could only appeal to those who have a philosophical background and even for them, it remains to be a highly technical topic. Also, given that both Sam Harris and Craig agree that objective morality exists, questions of grounding become moot and epistemological access become much more significant. That is, unless, Craig was prepared to argue that objective moral values could not exist in the absence of God – something he did not do. By enlarging the scope of the argument and ignoring questions of grounding, Sam Harris was able to sway the audience and even force his opponent to get out of his tightly defended comfort zone. So far from being irrelevant, Sam Harris’ attack on Christian morality was not only germaine but rhetorically effective. In the end, Sam Harris was able to frame the debate to answer this question: Which moral theory could possibly provide an “objective” standard for humans? And by “objective”, he only means that which can be examined free of bias by the scientific method. (if you’re complaining that Sam Harris is not using a definition of “objective” that’s acceptable to moral philosophers, be happy to know that neither is Craig) And on the basis of this yardstick, he was able to build a strong case for his side and deliver powerful criticisms of theistic morality.

  (Quote)

Hansen April 10, 2011 at 6:47 am

I don’t believe much in deciding a winner of debates like the Harris vs Craig one. I will however say that I absolutely loved watching it and I usually don’t like debates where Craig is involved. So fellow atheists: Go watch the debate and enjoy seeing a lucid and interesting Sam Harris reducing Craig to a defensive, almost whining bore. :)

Also, don’t miss the question and answer section after the debate. The audience asked some great question which further put Craig in the defensive while Harris provided great answers. I was almost rolling on the floor laughing at the audience member who tried to embarrass Craig with a question about homosexuality. Although the question was put a little too theatrical, it was still fun to see Craig weasel himself out of answering.

  (Quote)

PDH April 10, 2011 at 7:06 am

Mopey wrote,

But still, at the book signing table afterwards,Craig seemed rather lonely, so I guess winning isn’t everything.

I’ve only briefly dipped into the debate yesterday so I can’t really say anything substantial yet but, still, I thought that was pretty funny!

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser April 10, 2011 at 7:32 am

Lee A.P.,

Nah, it’s on its way.

  (Quote)

ayer April 10, 2011 at 11:20 am

Somehow failing to realize that Sam’s book was (as Craig’s mantra for the night went) ‘not the topic of tonight’s debate’.

The debate organizers said “Harris will prove that science, not religion, should provide the basis for morality.” Isn’t that what Harris’ book is about?

To take one example he quotes Sam as saying “in neuroscientific terms, no person is more or less responsible than any other for the actions they perform.” In fact he’s quoting Sam quoting Michael Gazzaniga.

Here’s the exact quote from Harris: “for Gazzaniga is surely correct to say that ‘in neuroscientific terms, no person is more or less responsible than any other for the actions they perform’” (Moral Landscape, p. 217).

How is that being “outrageously dishonest” about Harris’ views? Are you saying Harris really disagrees with that statement, even though he says it i s ‘surely correct’?

However, the actual topic of the debate was mostly in flux – I don’t believe that the debate was limited merely to moral ontology despite Craig’s insistence.

The debate was titled “Is Good from God?” not “How do we know what Good is.” I think it’s clear that Harris abandoned the topic, even though the central claim of his book is that “…questions about values – about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose – are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.” Isn’t that an ontological claim about the foundation of morality?

Also, given that both Sam Harris and Craig agree that objective morality exists, questions of grounding become moot and epistemological access become much more significant.

Why is it moot if they are grounding their belief in objective morality in incompatible ways? If Craig is right, Harris can only affirm objective morality if God exists–I don’t think that is a “moot” disagreement, but a profound one that should be debated.

That is, unless, Craig was prepared to argue that objective moral values could not exist in the absence of God – something he did not do.

Wait a minute–wasn’t that his second of two primary contentions in the debate? “If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.” He spend half the debate arguing that.

By enlarging the scope of the argument and ignoring questions of grounding, Sam Harris was able to sway the audience and even force his opponent to get out of his tightly defended comfort zone.

I don’t know about the swaying the audience (apparently the local skeptics society had tried to pack the place), but Craig explicitly refused to chase what he said were “red herrings,” so he didn’t get out of his zone, just as he didn’t when debating Hitchens when Hitchens ran out of ammunition and went into his usual rants about “heaven = celestial North Korea”, “Mother Teresa was awful,” etc.

  (Quote)

Ralph April 11, 2011 at 2:32 am

ayer: Wait a minute–wasn’t that his second of two primary contentions in the debate? “If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.” He spend half the debate arguing that.

You are right. He did try to argue it – except that none of his arguments went even close to proving his contention. Sam Harris could have responded to the arguments but what for. He would only be spending time mired in technicalities. Better draw the debate to moral epistemology. At the end of the day, you have two debaters who agree that objective morality exists, they just don’t agree on how it is defined. Both do not present a definition that is congruent to what moral philosophers actually mean when they say “objective morality”. By his framing of the debate, only one was able to attack the bankruptcy of the other’s morality: Sam Harris. By that standard, Sam Harris won hands down.

  (Quote)

ayer April 11, 2011 at 7:58 am

Sam Harris could have responded to the arguments but what for. He would only be spending time mired in technicalities.

Maybe because by not responding he forfeits that issue to Craig? So I guess we can assume that if God exists, objective moral values and duties do exist (with the caveat that that the Old Testament is not a reliable guide as to the details of those objective moral values and duties).

Better draw the debate to moral epistemology.

Since that wasn’t the topic of the debate, why do that? (especially since I don’t believe Craig has ever taken a position in favor of a single moral epistemology)

At the end of the day, you have two debaters who agree that objective morality exists, they just don’t agree on how it is defined.

Well, that has nothing do to with moral epistemology, but with moral semantics (e.g., Harris defining “morally good” as “the well-being of conscious creatures”). That would be a more interesting discussion, but unfortunately Harris did not respond to any of Craig’s arguments on that issue either (the closest anyone came was the questioner who asked him about his analogy to “light” and “dark”, but it appeared that person thought that issue had to do with ontology, not semantics).

By his framing of the debate, only one was able to attack the bankruptcy of the other’s morality: Sam Harris

If by “framing” you mean “changing the subject so he has something he is more comfortable attacking” I guess you are right. But if Old Testament ethics is what he wants to debate why not set up a debate with Paul Copan (maybe he will).

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk April 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }