Tag Archives | Psychology

If There Are Gods, They Are Evil

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

Via Reason and Meaning:

Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. 

Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death. The key is the suffering.  If the suffering was not necessary, then it’s wrong to allow it; if the suffering is necessary, the baby’s going to heaven doesn’t explain why it’s necessary.

It doesn’t make sense to say that a baby’s painful death will be good in the long run, and that’s why the gods allow it. For that is to say that whatever happens in the long run is good; since if something happened it was allowed by the gods, and it must therefore be good in the long run.

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The coming food disaster

David Schubert via CNN:

One would expect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the best interests of the public in mind, but its recent decisions have cast serious doubt upon this assumption.

One in particular could have a dramatic impact on the safety of the U.S. food supply: It is the mandate of the EPA to regulate the use of agricultural chemicals like insecticides and herbicides, as well as to determine their allowable limits in food and drinking water.

Herbicides (weed killers) are mixtures of chemicals designed to spray on weeds, where they get inside the plants and inhibit enzymes required for the plant to live. The active ingredient in the most widely used herbicide is glyphosate, while some herbicides contain 2,4D. 2,4D is best known as a component of Agent Orange, a defoliant widely employed during the Vietnam War.

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Co-Creator of “Gray State” Speaks on Deceased Filmmaker; Future of Main Project

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Via Amanda Warren at Activist Post:

Last week, we reported on the tragic and mysterious death of film producer David Crowley, his wife and young daughter who were all found dead in their Apple Valley, MN home, weeks after the incident took place.

A few new details have been reported by the media. Hennepin County Medical Examiners report a murder-suicide saying wife Komel and their five-year-old daughter were shot, and report David’s death as a suicide. No additional marks, injuries or signs of struggle, they say.

Bodies were found close together on the front room floor with a black handgun near David. Date of death not released. Apple Valley police Capt. John Bermel said there were no signs of a scuffle, that the house was intact. Last sign of verified activity was late December. Electronics were taken from the home to be analyzed with investigators saying it could take awhile to make more determinations….

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The Dark Side Of Open Data: It’s Not Only How Much You Publish, But How And Why

Alexey Kljatov (CC BY 2.0)

Alexey Kljatov (CC BY 2.0)

Federico Guerrini via Forbes:

A few days ago, the World Wide Web Foundation established by Sir Tim Berners-Lee released the second edition of the Open Data Barometer, a report on the impact and prevalence of open data initiatives around the world. Turns out the UK government is the “most transparent” in the world, when it comes to public access to official data, with US and Sweden in second and third place respectively.

That’s fantastic, isn’t it? Opening the data (which already belongs to the public, as it is produced with taxpayers’ money) can expose corruption and abuse, provide new insights on sensitive topics, help engage citizens in important debates, improving, in the end, the overall quality of democracies. So, kudos to the British and God forgive the Kenyans, whose country has fallen from to 22nd to 49th in the Barometer’s rankings. Shame on them.

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The Oddly Reassuring Quality of Surrealistic Art

Giorgio de Chirico's 'The Red Tower,' 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Red Tower,’ 1913. (Photo: Public Domain)

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:

A person’s taste in art is generally thought to be unchanging. A lover of Renaissance frescoes, for instance, isn’t likely to suddenly become entranced by the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock.

But recently published research suggests one specific, uncomfortable circumstance can inspire us to appreciate a wider range of work. It finds people are more likely to forge a positive emotional connection with surrealistic art if they have just been reminded of their own mortality.

It has long been argued that, in the face of existential threats, art can evoke a comforting aura of collective meaning and transcendence. That’s a fairly obvious dynamic with sacred works, but it can also be true of secular images that serve as poignant reminders of the beliefs that give one’s life meaning.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, a research team led by psychologist Verena Graupmann of DePaul University reports surrealistic art can serve this same purpose.

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No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

Via Lawrence M. Krauss – The New Yorker:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

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Truth, War Propaganda, CIA and Media Manipulation

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Via Global Research:

Never before has it been so important to have independent, honest voices and sources of information. We are – as a society – inundated and overwhelmed with a flood of information from a wide array of sources, but these sources of information, by and large, serve the powerful interests and individuals that own them. The main sources of information, for both public and official consumption, include the mainstream media, alternative media, academia and think tanks.

The mainstream media is the most obvious in its inherent bias and manipulation. The mainstream media is owned directly by large multinational corporations, and through their boards of directors are connected with a plethora of other major global corporations and elite interests. An example of these connections can be seen through the board of Time Warner.

Time Warner owns Time Magazine, HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN, among many others. The board of directors includes individuals past or presently affiliated with: the Council on Foreign Relations, the IMF, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Warburg Pincus, Phillip Morris, and AMR Corporation, among many others.

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Ranking The States From Most To Least Corrupt

Harry Enten writes at FiveThirtyEight:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara ripped into the political culture in Albany on Thursday during a news conference detailing the arrest of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. Indeed, cynics (including this writer) weren’t surprised that yet another of New York’s public officials landed in hot legal water.

But is Bharara being too tough on the Empire State’s public servants? Is the New York capital really that corrupt? The truth is, there are different ways to measure corruption, and they point in different directions. Here are four measures (I’ll go through each below).

We can look at the absolute number of public officials convicted in federal court on corruption. On that score, New York was No. 1 from 1976 to 2010 with 2,522 convictions. California was No. 2, Illinois No. 3, Florida No. 4 and Pennsylvania No. 5. Yet it’s clear from this list that the most corrupt states are also the states with the biggest populations.

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Friends Know How Long You’ll Live, Study Finds

Gerry Everding writes at Washington University in St. Louis’ Newsroom:

Young lovers walking down the aisle may dream of long and healthy lives together, but close friends in the wedding party may have a better sense of whether those wishes will come true, suggests new research on personality and longevity from Washington University in St. Louis.

“You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

Published Jan. 12 in an advance online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits.

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Building Moral Robots, With Whose Morals?

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants. Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.
Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

I certainly wouldn’t trust the politicians or corporate money-mongers. Heather Goldstone proposes three sources: The Geneva Convention, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, and/or The Ten Commandments. Whose morals would you want AI to model?

Via at WCAI:

Giving robots morals may sound like a good idea, but it’s a pursuit fraught with its own moral dilemmas. Like, whose morals?

Stop and look around you right now. You’re sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. As our devices get more capable, and we become more reliant on them, there’s increasing hand-wringing over whether our relationships with technology have gone awry.

In some circles, the conversation has a particular urgency to it – because they’re talking about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions, and whether such robots could ever be conferred with anything comparable to our morals.

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