Monday, January 25, 2010

Links and Notes

* In Boston a cat was recently summoned to jury duty -- by accident, of course. I think some people might be offended at the idea that a jury of their peers could include someone's pet cat, but others might like it.

* Garet Garrett on Belloc's The Servile State

* John Farrell interviews J. Scott Turner about his recent book, The Tinkerer's Apprentice.

* Jim S. reviews Mijuskovic's The Achilles of Rationalist Arguments.

* Here and there people leave links in my comment boxes. Usually they aren't interesting, but someone recently left a link to an article by Ken Hamrick arguing against Turretin's argument against traducianism. There are some key points at which I disagree, and if I ever have time again this term I might discuss some things about it; but it is a genuinely interesting discussion.

* Alex Roman's The Third & the Seventh is really quite amazing: 12 minutes of CGI, most of which looks vividly real.

* Many, many people have been laughing at this paper by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule arguing that the government should debunk conspiracy theories about government by "cognitive infiltration designed to break up the crippled epistemology of conspiracy-minded groups and informationally isolated social networks." As Jesse Walker sarcastically says, "It's a peculiar worldview that thinks even skepticism needs to be centrally planned." And there are indeed some odd features to the argument. For instance, Sunstein and Vermeule never properly consider the possibility that there might be a third alternative between debunking a conspiracy theory and ignoring it, and thus they seem repeatedly to conflate 'minimizing the social harm of conspiracy theories' with 'directly debunking conspiracy theories'. Likewise (related to Walker's point) they never seriously consider whether government is the most efficient agent for diversifying the information-sources of conspiracy theorists, nor do they tell us what mechanisms could be put into place that would allow the government to do this while at the same time letting us keep track of it enough to make sure that this approach didn't become subverted to propagandistic ends.


* With regard to the recent Supreme Court decision on the right to free speech for corporations, I think it was disappointing (I think Lee is in the ballpark on expressing why), although this was probably inevitable given the massive broadening of what counts as 'speech' in the past few decades. I have seen a number of bloggers criticize it, largely incompetently, since their particular arguments against free speech for corporations would generally problematize freedom of press or freedom of religion if actually taken seriously. If you want to see someone making this argument the right way, see Paul Gowder.

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