I'm not religious. I don't think morality comes from God, gods, or any religious precept. But often, when I see debates on whether or not morality can only come from God or religion, an atheist philosopher will mention the Euthyphro dilemma, state or imply that the question was conclusively handled over 2300 years by this Plato … Continue reading Does the Euthyphro dilemma actually prove anything?
(Click through for full sized version and for the red button caption.) via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Of course, as we discussed on the Selfish Gene post, even if we are acting completely altruistically at a conscious level, our impulse to do so is broadly tied up with evolutionary survival advantages.
When I first saw this article by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden, my skeptical reflex kicked and I was, well, skeptical. Often when quantum mechanics gets mentioned with biology, it's questionable material. But I've seen enough of Al-Khalili's other work, and as President of the British Humanist Association, I'm not inclined to think he's subject to being … Continue reading Biology uses quantum effects.
I don't usually read old science books. After a decade or so, I find that their content tends to have too much dated material. But 'The Selfish Gene' keeps coming up in conversations, not just because its author, Richard Dawkins, is the world's most famous atheist, but also because of its core message, that genes are … Continue reading ‘The Selfish Gene’: Classic science worth checking out
Since I started this blog last November, I've occasionally done book reviews. Some of them have been fictional books, but many have been non-fiction. I find book reviews difficult to write. I have this urge to make sure they're done right, to be fair to the author, and to give a useful comprehensive summary of what's in the book, … Continue reading I’m not doing book reviews anymore.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw61gCe2oqI This weekend, I watched the movie, 'Edge of Tomorrow', also known as 'Live. Die. Repeat.' It's the latest in a common motif in science fiction and fantasy, the time loop story, where the hero repeats the same events over and over until they find a way to break out. It's a concept that's been … Continue reading The mind / body dualism of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’
The philosophical problem of identity is epitomized by the paradox known as the “Ship of Theseus.” Suppose a ship is rebuilt by removing one plank at a time, and replacing it with a new plank of the same shape and material. Is it still the same ship? Most people would say so. But suppose all the planks that were removed are brought together and used to construct a new ship of identical form. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that is the same ship as the original, and the one with new planks is a duplicate? There is no easy answer. Every possible reply seems to lead into a morass.
The Ship of Theseus and several related paradoxes have been tangling philosophers in knots for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Greeks and continuing with Locke, Hume, Kant, etc. It is easy to get a…
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Sten Odenwald, an astronomer with the National Institute of Aerospace, has an article up at HuffPost that many will find disheartening: The Dismal Future of Interstellar Travel | Dr. Sten Odenwald. I have been an avid science fiction reader all my life, but as an astronomer for over half my life, the essential paradox of my fantasy world can … Continue reading Reaching the stars will require serious out-of-the-box thinking
The intermixing of modern humans and Neanderthals is back in the news: BBC News - DNA yields secrets of human pioneer. DNA analysis of a 45,000-year-old human has helped scientists pinpoint when our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals. The genome sequence from a thigh bone found in Siberia shows the first episode of mixing occurred between 50,000 … Continue reading Maybe we’ve found Neanderthals, and they are us.
Massimo Pigliucci wrote a paper on his skepticism of the possibility of mind uploading, the idea that our minds are information which it might be possible someday to copy into a computer virtual reality system or some other type of technology. His paper appears to be one chapter in a broader book, 'Intelligence Unbound: The Future … Continue reading Massimo Pigliucci’s pessimistic view of mind uploading