Monday, July 10, 2006

Links and Notes

* "A Blog Around the Clock" has the ultimate linklist for celebrating Nikola Tesla's 150th birthday.

* I always find the Carnival of the Godless to be an enjoyable read, although the posts are rarely worth taking seriously. However, in the recent edition I came across Betting Against Blaise at "Confessions of an Anonymous Coward." It's straightforward, balanced, and thoughtful. My only two caveats are: (1) on a minor point, that Pascal does address the question of not having anything serious to lose. Since the Pensées are only a set of fragmentary notes, we don't get much development, but he appeals to things like friendship, inducement to inquiry, etc. that are beneficial in the here-and-now. Thus, he'd deny that religious meetings can be considered a pointless loss of time, because social interaction, of which religious meetings are a form, aren't a pointless loss of time -- the chance to forge friendships and expand yourself by interacting with people of different characters and backgrounds than you can't be seen in that light. Of course, there is nothing that says that a non-Christian, or even the non-religious, can't have this here-and-now benefit, too; but all Pascal needs is the recognition that bringing people together socially isn't pointless, and it isn't a waste of time, but a very good thing (even if you think there are better ways to do it). And so it goes with some of the other 'losses' that might be proposed. (2) While this has gotten completely lost in many of the apologetic uses of Pascal's wager, Pascal himself doesn't see the wager as freestanding. In the notes we have, the wager appears to have been intended as a part of a dialogue, one in which the wager was not simply sprung on any atheist who happens to come along, but was instead a response to a certain type of agnostic that Pascal thought was common in his society. But, these two things aside, I liked the post.

* I don't remember if I've already linked to it, but there is an interesting presentation on scientific method at "Galactic Interactions".

* A fascinating discussion of stare decisis at the Supreme Court level by Lawrence Solum at "Legal Theory Blog".

* "Booker Rising" has some links on the recent controversial "White" ads by Sony. It's hard to make sense of this advertising campaign. Either Sony is saying White is better than Black, or they are not; if they are not, there doesn't seem much point to advertising White in this White-on-Black way. It's vague enough that it can't be treated as racist without support; but the more you try to interpret the campaign in terms that wouldn't be racist, the less sense it seems to make. One wonders what they were thinking.

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