Monday, December 24, 2007

Linkables and Notables

* A course in Chaldean Catholic theology, and a good one, although the accents and the occasional casual introduction of Aramaic phrases sometimes require close listening.

* I've been doing some reading on theories of cultural evolution:

Henrich and McElreath, The Evolution of Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Henrich and Gil-White, The Evolution of Prestige (PDF)

Henrich, Boyd, and Richerson, Five Misunderstandings about Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Nicolas Claudière and Dan Sperber, The Role of Attraction in Cultural Evolution (PDF)

Kim Sterelny, The Evolution and Evolvability of Culture (PDF)

István Czachesz, The Emergence of Early Christian Religion: Toward a Naturalistic Approach (PDF)

* Danny Garland discusses the development of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

* The science fiction path to luxury: instead of oppressing human beings, create a class of society that exists to be oppressed. Here's the rub: the more human-like robots become, the less ethical it becomes to treat them as mere instruments, precisely to the extent that they are human-like, because otherwise you are devaluing human life, even if only by proxy. (A portrait, for instance, is not a human being; it doesn't even act like one. But precisely because it pictures one there are serious ethical issues with my deliberate acts toward it as a portrait of a human being. Writing 'Die Die Die' in red ink over someone's portrait, or making child pornography of children that don't actually exist by creating composites, are ethically problematic. So with any human simulacrum, and the better the simulacrum, the more serious the problems.)

* Alexander Pruss has a good post on humanity, personhood, and the Incarnation.

* Apolonio Latar has a post on the Incarnation and hospitality.

* This is a bit older, but I just came across it; Minnesota Atheists published a series of rebuttals to "34 Unconvincing Arguments for God," which PZ Myers put up at his site at the beginning of December. It gives one some idea of what sort of reasoning about religion passes as good among many people; the shallow analysis and weak reasoning of a number of the rebuttals should go without saying, but in a number of cases they are saved from being useless by the shallow analysis and weak reasoning of the arguments to which they are the stated responses. Perhaps it should be called 34 Unconvincing Atheist Responses to Unconvincing Arguments for God. I had started to do what I often end up doing with atheists, namely, pointing out places where they can find the arguments they should be making to be as much of a rational challenge as they think they are; but given that it's Christmas, I have more pressing priorities.

* This is rather interesting: a face-averaging demo. Studies have shown that we have some sort of preference for averaged faces, although this is apparently not the only factor.

* I always like this song around Christmas.

* This and this are good ones too, for those who like their songs in a rather different style.

* A Norwegian Christmas carol.

* Stephen Law on atheists and Christmas services (ht).