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For Big Thinkers January 14, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy.
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Big Think launched its Beta version a few days ago. It apparently sees itself as an interactive platform to connect the global public with academics, pundits, and politicians on practical as well as more abstract questions.

It is an intriguing idea; it will be interesting to see it develop.


Getting Vertical: A Threat to Democracy? January 8, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Philosophy.

On the campaign trail Mike Huckabee makes repeated references to “vertical politics”. (See here)

Lots of people have been wondering what that means. David Domke, co-author of The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon in America, has one hypothesis:

“This is definitely dog-whistle politics — that is, a message delivered in coded terminology and targeted to a particular subcultural group.  Conservative evangelicals often talk about the need to prioritize their vertical relationships with God first and foremost before worrying about horizontal relationships among people. It’s the individualized “get right with God” approach of conservative Protestantism.”

I don’t know if Domke is right about this but, if he is, it perfectly illustrates the dangers of a Huckabee presidency.

People who are willing to sacrifice their moral obligations to other persons are morally compromised. Morality is inherently interpersonal, inherently horizontal.

It is especially important to acknowledge the moral authority of other persons in democratic political relationships. Citizenship expresses the mutual obligations citizens have toward each other. We are accountable to each other, and democratically elected leaders are part of that system of mutual accountability.

As private persons in a liberal democracy we have a variety of other interpersonal commitments as well that may conflict with our role as citizens. But when we elect a President we expect that person to put the nation first, to give priority to his or her horizontal relationship with fellow citizens.

A candidate who admits he can’t adopt such a priority is disqualified from holding the office.

Is Evolution Speeding Up? January 7, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.
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A new report suggests human evolution accelerated as human beings moved into new environments with different selection pressures.

“The increase in human population from millions to billions in the last 10,000 years accelerated the rate of evolution because “we were in new environments to which we needed to adapt,” Harpending adds. “And with a larger population, more mutations occurred.'”

 I wonder how globalization will effect this as human beings become less confined to particular environmental niches.

Changing Minds January 5, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy, Science.

The Edge (an online magazine devoted to the intersection of culture and science) has a fascinating series of brief articles from 118 scientists, social scientists, and philosophers on what they have changed their minds about.

“When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.


Check it out here.

Real Family Values January 3, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Political Philosophy.

As the election season begins, we are likely to hear a lot about family values from the Republicans, which usually means preventing gays and lesbians from forming them.

Throughout much of Europe, “family values”  means actually helping families flourish.

Ingrid Robeyns at Crooked Timber has an interesting discussion of paid family leave for fathers.

And So It Begins January 3, 2008

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.

The process of nominating candidates for president begins tonight with the Iowa caucus, a strange bird that is not really a primary election.

For information about how the caucus works see this.

Caucus voters are not representative of registered voters and Iowa is not a representative state. So its not clear what we will learn about actual voter preferences from this exercise.

But the press invariably treats it as important so it creates momentum going into the actual primaries that begin later this month.