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Monthly Archives: January 2007

29-1-07 Links

do facts exists? Facts do exist

Discussing philosophical skepticism in his new book, Freedom & Neurobiology, John Searle:

Go to any university bookstore and look at the section on, for example, molecular biology or mechanical engineering, and you will find an accumulation of knowledge, the sheer volume of which would have taken Descartes´┐Ż breath away. It is hard to send men to the moon and bring them back and then take seriously the problem, for example, whether the external world really exists. This is not to say that there is no room for skeptical epistemology in philosophy, but I regard the epistemic puzzles as I regard Zeno’s paradoxes about space and time. It is an interesting paradox how it is possible for me to move across the room. First I have to go half way, and then prior to that, half of that half, and prior to that half of that half, and so on. And similarly, it is an interesting puzzle how I can have certain, objective, and universal knowledge given the various skeptical possibilities that one can raise. But, all the same, we do not seriously think that Zeno’s paradoxes show that space and time do not exist, nor do most of us suppose that the skeptical paradoxes cast any doubt on the existence of knowledge.

there is no war on terror


London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, ‘soldiers’. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a ‘war on terror’, just as there can be no such thing as a ‘war on drugs’.

Director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, as quoted in the Guardian

2007-01-13 Links

Unspeak, by Steven Poole

I have just finished Steven Poole’s Unspeak, which is an excellent, impassioned, bitingly funny review of the way words are used to promote particular views of the world.

“Words have consequences in the world”, argues Poole in the epilogue, “…Unspeak itself does violence to meaning. It seeks to annihilate distinctions”. He explicitly distances himself from Lakoff’s ‘language frames’ view, where “the framing of the debate determines who will win the debate” (Howard Dean) and the only defense is prmote an alternate frame (to reframe). This, says Poole, will only lead to a clash of Unspeaks, rather than fostering any kind of sober dialogue. Poole quotes Ranko Bugarski: “What is needed [is the] judicious use of normal language, allowing for fine-grained selection and discrimination, for urbanity and finesse”. An admirable aim in hysterical times!

Steven Poole’s Upspeak website

John Quiggin review of Unspeak at Crooked Timber

truth in science

The British Centre for Science Education is a single issue pressure group dedicated solely to keeping creationism and intelligent design out of the science classroom in publicly-funded schools in the United Kingdom.

Truth is Science is a Creationist front that recently sent power point presentations and DVDs to every secondary school in the country, in attempt to promote teaching Creationism as part of the national science curriculum.

Richard Buggs, of Truth in Science, had a piece in today’s Guardian saying that Intelligent Design (i.e Creationism) is science. He is wrong, and the online comments to the article here explain why

donate to wikipedia

For those who know me:

On thursday I am going to work out how to donate some money to wikipedia (it may have to be in dollars) and then i’m going to bung them some cash. If you’ve got an urge to donate, all you have to do it let me know how much you’d like to donate and i’ll add it to what i send them and you can owe me

Update: This morning i gave wikipedia