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Showing posts from 2014

Light at the End of Darkness

It might not be tomorrow; it might not be in ten years; eventually, however, the dawn of secularism will rise. Not to wax utopian, but it is hard to foresee how an interconnected world can fail to embrace the liberal ethos of free speech, the separation of government and religion, and the valuation of human lives over dogma and ideology.
As of late, there have been quite a number of attacks on Enlightenment (I hesitate to say “Western”) values of free debate and reason. Too many demagogues have found it worthwhile to impugn the free exchange of ideas for the sake of protecting this or that group’s sacred values. Freedom from being offended has replaced the freedom to express one’s views in the public sphere. Whether it is the Christian right’s “War on Christmas,” the feminist left’s war on the biological differences between men and women, or the Muslim right’s war on the criticism of Islam (not to mention Islam’s literal war of global Jihad), pluralism has had quite a difficult time su…

Why the Blank Slate Sticks Around: The Confusion Over Levels of Explanation

The best case for consilience, at least as I see it, is the lack of coherent borderlines between levels of explanation. Specifically, if I were to describe why it is that I want water at the moment, I would most likely mention something about my lack of fluid intake over the past two hours. Or, I might defer to a more “ultimate” level explanation and state that, because my circulatory system is dependent on water, a water-seeking-and-imbibing set of processes has evolved which enables me to survive and, ultimately, reproduce. Now, if I were to offer the latter of the two explanations, I would probably be shunned at parties. However, neither of the two explanations is either more or less valid. Likewise, although there is a distinction between the two, the precise ways in which the ultimate level-phenomena are related to the proximate-level phenomena are complicated, and are still part of an ongoing body of research.  
The aforementioned confusion between levels of explanation is what s…