Thursday, April 4, 2013
I just came across this PEW survey in preparation for some of my class lectures. There are a lot of interesting details here that deserve thought. Poll: Are Science and Religion Compatible?
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
"Religious affiliation in the United States is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s, according to analysis of newly released survey data by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University. Last year, one in five Americans claimed they had no religious preference, more than double the number reported in 1990." http://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/uoc--aar031213.php
Friday, March 1, 2013
There are lots of interesting articles here:
Singularity AI Research
But the first article, Intelligence Explosion and Machine Ethics, is embarrassing it's so fun. It's by Luke Muehlhauser and Louie Helm. Muelhlhauser ran the remarkable blog CommonSenseAtheism.com for years before moving over into artificial intelligence research.
The abstract (makes it sound dryer than it is):
Many researchers have argued that a self-improving artificial intelligence (AI) could become so vastly more powerful than humans that we would not be able to stop it from achieving its goals. If so, and if the AI’s goals differ from ours, then this could be disastrous for humans. One proposed solution is to program the AI’s goal system to want what we want before the AI self-improves beyond our capacity to control it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to specify what we want. After clarifying what we mean by “intelligence,” we offer a series of “intuition pumps” from the field of moral philosophy for our conclusion that human values are complex and difficult to specify. We then survey the evidence from the psychology of motivation, moral psychology, and neuroeconomics that supports our position. We conclude by recommending ideal preference theories of value as a promising approach for developing a machine ethics suitable for navigating
an intelligence explosion or “technological singularity.”
And a choice passage:
5. Cognitive Science and Human Values
5.1. The Psychology of Motivation
People don’t seem to know their own desires and values. In one study, researchers showed male participants two female faces for a few seconds and asked them to point at the face they found more attractive. Researchers then laid the photos face down and handed subjects the face they had chosen, asking them to explain the reasons for their choice. Sometimes, researchers used a sleight-of-hand trick to swap the photos, showing subjects the face they had not chosen. Very few subjects noticed that the face they were
given was not the one they had chosen. Moreover, the subjects who failed to notice the switch were happy to explain why they preferred the face they had actually rejected moments ago, confabulating reasons like “I like her smile” even though they had originally chosen the photo of a solemn-faced woman (Johansson et al. 2005).
Similar results were obtained from split-brain studies that identified an “interpreter” in the left brain hemisphere that invents reasons for one’s beliefs and actions. For example, when the command “walk” was presented visually to the patient (and therefore processed by the his brain’s right hemisphere), he got up from his chair and walked away. When asked why he suddenly started walking away, he replied (using his left
hemisphere, which was disconnected from his right hemisphere) that it was because he wanted a beverage from the fridge (Gazzaniga 1992, 124–126).
Common sense suggests that we infer others’ desires from their appearance and behavior, but have direct introspective access to our own desires. Cognitive science suggests instead that our knowledge of our own desires is just like our knowledge of others’ desires: inferred and often wrong (Laird 2007). Many of our motivations operate unconsciously. We do not have direct access to them (Wilson 2002; Ferguson, Hassin, and Bargh 2007; Moskowitz, Li, and Kirk 2004), and thus they are difficult to specify.
5.2. Moral Psychology
Our lack of introspective access applies not only to our everyday motivations but also to our moral values. Just as the split-brain patient unknowingly invented false reasons for his decision to stand up and walk away, experimental subjects are often unable to correctly identify the causes of their moral judgments. For example, many people believe—as Immanuel Kant did—that rule-based moral thinking is a “rational” process. In contrast, the available neuroscientific and behavioral evidence instead suggests that rule-based moral thinking is a largely emotional process (Cushman, Young, and Greene 2010), and may in most cases amount to little more than a post-hoc rationalization of our emotional reactions to situations (Greene 2008).
We also tend to underestimate the degree to which our moral judgments are context sensitive. For example, our moral judgments are significantly affected by whether we are in the presence of freshly baked bread, whether the room we’re in contains a concentration of novelty fart spray so low that only the subconscious mind can detect it, and whether or not we feel clean (Schnall et al. 2008; Baron and Thomley 1994; Zhong,
Strejcek, and Sivanathan 2010).
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Nick Bostrom has some very interesting things to say about reasonable agnosticism here. I agree with a lot of it, but I'd add a few points about theistic belief at critical junctures that, I think, tip the scales in the overall probability estimation (in favor of atheism.) He's being too epistemically cautious, as I see it, and not acknowledge some of the most salient features of the epistemology, sociology, history, and psychology of religious belief. The vast majority of human religious belief is much more adequately explained by a number of natural, not supernatural accounts. So the fact that so many people believe, and that disagreement persists, should not pull our probability assessment so far into the agnostic zone.
Transhumanist Nick Bostrom on Agnosticism
Thursday, February 14, 2013
The ideas first drafted here as The Basics has been evolving in my head for a while. I've adapted the post and incorporated it into my Philosophy of Religion courses as some background material for discussions about God. I've been adding to it as time permits. So here's the latest version of what I take to be the basics about cosmology, evolution, and the history of humanity that we must take as our starting point in discussions about the existence of God. That is, any reasonable person who believes in God needs, at a minimum, to give some account of how the existence of that being fits in with these facts:
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Monday, January 7, 2013
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Epiphenom is a great blog. This post is is fascinating: Atheist countries more peaceful.
It's well established that education and religiousness are inversely correlated. The trick, of course, is figuring out what the cause is. Does education cause religiousness to fall off?
And this is my 300th post!
Friday, December 21, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Some random, but connected info about mental illness and religion. Given what we know about mental illness and about the best arguments that advocates have been able to muster for God, our first thought when we encounter someone with intense religious convictions should not be to take his/her arguments or reasonings too seriously but to ask, "What are the symptoms of mental illness that she is exhibiting?" The behaviors of the most religious among us: hyper-religiousity, hyper-moralism, evangelism, hypergraphia, visions, voices, circumstantiality, disassociated states, states of religious ecstasy, euphoria, and moral elevation. And when otherwise serious academics get involved in protracted and complicated defenses of religious belief, how is that not comparable to infamous Harvard psychiatrist John Mack getting swept up by the UFO abduction testimonies of his patients?
|Classification and external resources|
- Blumer D (1999). "Evidence supporting the temporal lobe epilepsy personality syndrome". Neurology 53 (5 Suppl 2): S9–12. PMID 10496229.
- Devinsky O, Najjar S (1999). "Evidence against the existence of a temporal lobe epilepsy personality syndrome". Neurology 53 (5 Suppl 2): S13–25. PMID 10496230.
- eMedicine - Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Epilepsy : Article by William J Nowack
- Waxman SG, Geschwind N (December 1975). "The interictal behavior syndrome of temporal lobe epilepsy". Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 32 (12): 1580–6. PMID 1200777.
And some more serious research from Advances in Neurology:
"The Geschwind syndrome," Benson DF.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
"It might be in that America one of the two political parties seems to defiantly oppose the world science view. But I suspect that isn't the best way of understanding it, because they still look for oil using the assumptions about the age of the Earth that we all believe in; when they get sick they go to a doctor and they worry about the evolution of drug resistance just as we do. They're not Amish, they don't return to the land. So in a sense they have already bought into the scientific world, but there are just a few highly symbolic issues that define your moral and political identity that they stake out a position on, and I think that is very different from scientific ignorance. In fact, one study done by a former graduate student at my department at Harvard showed that people who endorse the theory of evolution don't understand it any better than those that deny it. We shouldn't confuse the moralisation of a small number of hot-button issues with hostility with the scientific world view in general."
There are those things that we say we believe, there are those things that we think we believe, and there are those things that we believe in believing in. And then there is what we really believe. When it comes down to one's real life, you don't really believe in Young Earth Creationism, most likely, no matter what you say you believe.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
When we indulge the religious urge, contrary to arguments and evidence, we foster irresponsible, unreliable, and problematic believing overall. We foster silly beliefs and set ourselves and others up for harm. Religious beliefs are not a private or harmless matter:
Scamming Elderly Asians on the Rise