In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street.
A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.
Photographs appearing to show a blindfolded man having his fingers severed by the mechanical amputation device have been published by an official Iranian press agency.
According to the INSA news service, the prisoner used to demonstrate the brutal contraption had been convicted of theft and adultery by a court in Shiraz last Wednesday.
A series of pictures show three masked officials, clad entirely in black, holding the man’s right hand in a vice while one turns a wheel operating the guillotine in the manner of a rotary saw.
In none of the four closely cropped images does the bearded prisoner’s expression register pain, suggesting that he may have been drugged.
Following the public amputation, Ali Alghasi, the Shiraz district’s public prosecutor, announced sentences against criminals are to become increasingly severe.
This warning, issued without explanation, may be an attempt by authorities to deter public protest ahead of June’s general elections.
The Iranian government’s deplorable human rights record has been well documented.
Public execution, including death by stoning, and torture, including flogging and amputation, are routine.
Amnesty International led international outcry over the execution of 21 year-old Ali Naderi earlier this month for the alleged murder of an elderly woman killed during the course of a burglary – a crime he committed when he was 17.
It is illegal under international law to execute anyone for a crime committed as a minor.
Ironically, they still have plenty of crime, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of severe punishment in deterring crime.
See on Scoop.it - Philosophy everywhere everywhenOne of the greatest feats of the human brain is its ability to filter a vast amount of information into a manageable stream of relevant information.
Aldous Huxley describes this as a ‘reducing valve’ – our brains funnel the enormous amount of information in the environment in whichever way proved to be most adaptive to our ancestors.
This means two things; we have sampled an excruciatingly tiny portion of the buffet of potential experiences our neural hardware is capable of, and we are insensitive to certain environmental information that didn’t confer an adaptive advantage in the ancestral environment. Developing sensitivity to this information is crucial for rational and ethical behaviour in the modern world.
Cognitive biases can lead the most empathic and conscientious people to behave in ways that could appear as sheer callousness.
The source of this seemingly selfish behaviour is not malice or indifference, but more that our brains are not equipped to apprehend reality as it really is. By recognizing our cognitive limitations we can understand why people act in inconsistent and unethical ways and how we can avoid falling into the same trap ourselves.
If people acted in accordance with their espoused egalitarian preferences, they would treat the value of every human life equally. In practice this is not the case. Despite endorsing egalitarian norms studies have shown unconscious cognitive biases can lead to valuation functions that decrease in absolute value as the number of victims increases!
See on ieet.org