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Friday, May 13, 2005

"[Abstract art is] a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered." - Al Capp

Random Playlist Song: Psychic Lover - Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger


"A brassiere of elemental summoning. Yes, that's real blue flames, the sort you get from complete combustion on a bunsen burner."

(from Patch)


There's finally a YourSay focus group I can go for (all individuals aged 18-40) and it has to be when I'm in the States. Gah.


Moralistic objections to evolution

"Evolution is a hugely controversial theory in some circles. In part this is because it seems to go against certain interpretations of some religious doctrines. However, people also object to the Theory of Evolution or find it distasteful because of the implications they feel it has for morality. There are 5 objections that are most often heard: If humans evolved from animals, and aren’t radically different from them qualitatively, why do we need morality? If selfishness is good for you, as evolution seems to imply, why should we be altruistic towards others? If the concept of memes, which follows from evolution, proposes that morality too, evolves, does that not cheapen morality? Since evolution is based on the theory of the survival of the fittest, why should we help those who lose out? And finally, doesn’t accepting evolution also endorse Social Darwinism? In reality, these concerns are misplaced and arise either from a misunderstanding of evolution or an idealisation of morality...

If humans were descended from animals and aren’t significantly qualitatively different from them, why then do we need morals? After all, animals lack knowledge of what is right and wrong - if we aren’t very different from them, why should we behave morally? That animals do not have complex moral systems is not in doubt, but then they do not have complex culture or brains as well, so it would be hard for complex morals to take root or persist. However, simple rules analogous to morals are observable in our primate relatives, especially in chimpanzees, the closest living relatives of humans. When chimpanzees are aware that they are related to each other, they do not mate – this is a chimpanzee version of the incest taboo in humans.

Similar rules of right and wrong can be found in other primates. Dominant macaque monkeys were found to have some respect for the property rights of subordinate ones, and Rhesus monkeys on Gayo Santiago who did not alert the rest of their troupe to the discovery of food stashes were attacked by other members of the troupe. Of course, many counter examples to these could be found, but then the same applies in human cultures – most morals are not universal, and vary from society to society and time period to time period. It might also be asked if these animals really are following notions of right and wrong; could they just be following their natural instincts? We cannot peer into animal minds to find the true answer, but then the same question might be asked of humans: from whence comes our morality? Is our sense of what is right and what is wrong just an instinct, like in animals? Whatever the answer might be, it is clear that one cannot blandly state that animals are amoral while humans have morals."


Questions & Answers: From whence

"From Marty Robinson: “Last week you quoted Sir Christopher Wren as referring to ‘The Ailes, from whence arise Bows or Flying Buttresses to the Walls of the Navis.’ I’m sorry to learn that Sir Christopher used the redundancy from whence.”

This is another of those grammatical shibboleths, like avoiding a plural verb with none or not splitting one’s infinitives, that are open to linguistic debate, to put it mildly. The argument against this form is that whence already includes the idea of coming from some place, so that including from makes it tautological...

And even a brief look at historical sources shows that from whence has been common since the thirteenth century. It has been used by Shakespeare, Defoe (in the opening of Robinson Crusoe: “He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York; from whence he had married my mother”), Smollett, Dickens (in A Christmas Carol: “He began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine”), Dryden, Gibbon, Twain (in Innocents Abroad: “He traveled all around, till at last he came to the place from whence he started”), and Trollope, and it appears 27 times in the King James Bible (including Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help”).

Though Dr Johnson objected to it in his Dictionary of 1755, calling it “A vicious mode of speech” (he meant it was reprehensible, not depraved or savage), most objections to it are no earlier than the twentieth century. One reason may be that its critics are unaware of its long pedigree."


Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics - "International surveys reveal wide differences between the views held in different countries concerning the causes of wealth or poverty and the extent to which people are responsible for their own fate. At the same time, social ethnographies and experiments by psychologists demonstrate individuals' recurrent struggle with cognitive dissonance as they seek to maintain, and pass on to their children, a view of the world where effort ultimately pays off and everyone gets their just deserts. This paper offers a model that helps explain: i) why most people feel such a need to believe in a "just world"; ii) why this need, and therefore the prevalence of the belief, varies considerably across countries; iii) the implications of this phenomenon for international differences in political ideology, levels of redistribution, labor supply, aggregate income, and popular perceptions of the poor. The model shows in particular how complementarities arise endogenously between individuals' desired beliefs or ideological choices, resulting in two equilibria. A first, "American" equilibrium is characterized by a high prevalence of just-world beliefs among the population and relatively laissez-faire policies. The other, "European" equilibrium is characterized by more pessimism about the role of effort in economic outcomes and a more extensive welfare state. More generally, the paper develops a theory of collective beliefs and motivated cognitions, including those concerning "money" (consumption) and happiness, as well as religion."
Apparently this can be downloaded free of charge by people with IPs from 'Developing Nations'. So Singapore is considered a 'Developing Nation', it seems :)

Altruistic Punishment May Explain Political Behavior - "A new UC Davis study about the origin of cooperation may shed light on why nations punish other countries for human rights violations or why people sanction those who do not vote. Political scientist James Fowler has created a mathematical model of human behavior that suggests that "moralists" who voluntarily pay a cost to punish "misbehavers" can come to dominate a population and ensure cooperation among its members."

The Right's Bitter Pill - "The surreal situation then, at the 40th anniversary of the Griswold decision, is that a potent force in American politics wishes to deny women basic contraception. Such egregious policies give the embattled reproductive freedom movement an excellent political opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the contemporary anti-abortion movement. As is becoming clearer and clearer, the reproductive freedom movement—while believing in legal abortion—works to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The anti-abortion movement—while opposing abortion—promotes anti-contraceptive policies that virtually assure there will be more unwanted pregnancies and therefore, more abortions."

SCIgen - An Automatic CS Paper Generator - "SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers. Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence. One useful purpose for such a program is to auto-generate submissions to conferences that you suspect might have very low submission standards. A prime example, which you may recognize from spam in your inbox, is SCI/IIIS and its dozens of co-located conferences (check out the very broad conference description on the WMSCI 2005 website). Using SCIgen to generate submissions for conferences like this gives us pleasure to no end. In fact, one of our papers was accepted to SCI 2005! See Examples for more details."

Fairy tales may end in horror - "Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says. A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults."

God names next 'Chosen People'; It's Jews Again. 'Oh shit,' say Jews - ""According to the Bible, God promised to bless Abraham and those who came after him," said Contreau. "Who knows, maybe that sounded good at the time, or maybe 'blessed' meant something different back then, like 'Short periods of prosperity interrupted by insufferable friggin' chaos.' Whatever, I think it's safe to say that people didn't know what they were agreeing to."... In Jerusalem, Jewish leaders said they will propose an amendment to God's Law prohibiting a people from having to serve more than two consecutive terms. "Hopefully, G-d will hear our prayer," said Meyerson. "No, wait, that's what got us into this.""

Misfortune Cookie: Philip Yeo is a fucking lanjiao - "Hey, don't blame me for the title of this post. Philip Yeo say himself one. Philip wants to allow ad hominem attacks but not allow criticism of his work."

Download the Internet


Number of variations on "Descartes" I've heard this last semester:

1) Day'car
2) Days'cart
3) Discuss
4) Dee cart

Hmm. I thought it was more.
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