Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
What is democracy? I was brought up to think it meant that people got to elect their leaders. But we don't live in that kind of dreamworld. There are so many assumptions that get broken down in the real world.
First of all, who votes? Not everyone. Therefore there is a selection effect. The poorest, which coincides at all times with the racial minority, get left out of the decision making. Furthermore, it is not our vote that determines the most important political position (the president). We vote for members of the electoral college, who then verbally promise that they will vote for who we told them to. And the primaries really mess with the idea of a pure democracy as well.
Second of all, what does your vote DO? The idea is to vote for a leader who will make decisions representative of the people's best interest. But WHICH people--not all the population has the same best interests. And who gets to decide what actions will serve our best interests? The leader determines how to act, and therefore determines WHICH peoples' interests to serve, and HOW to serve them. But these things can seriously diverge from the public's view of their own best interest. George Bush's 27% approval rating is indicative of this. "History will vindicate me" he says. What if it doesn't?? Mugabe in Zimbabwe only legitimizes the votes of the people that are in line with his own best interests--whatever doesn't do that is due to the "influence of the west." How do we draw the line?
Third of all, who do we vote FOR? It's not the president, as I said, it's the electoral college. But for whom do they vote? Not the president, because its not the president who makes all the decisions and policies. It's the presidential cabinet--his advisors such--that really make the policies. The further away from the vote these people are, the more they can diverge from the people's best interests.
Fourth of all, WHY do we vote for them? It's not really their policies and beliefs. It's their name. It's their appearance. It's their soundbites. It's their verbal miscues. There is data to back this all up. Are these really indicators of the best interests of the people?
No, voting does not mean democracy. Voting is one way of getting at the greater principle at stake here, which is the coupling between the voiced needs of the people and the actions of their leaders. Voting is supposed to do this in two ways. (1) it selects leaders that are pre-aligned with the perspectives of the majority of the people, and (2) it puts pressure on the leaders to keep listening and acting for the interests of the people. This latter point is an often-overlooked component these days. In Iraq, for example, the U.S. only paid attention to (1).
We have to ask if voting is the only way of implementing (1) and (2). The answer is no. (1) can be fulfilled by a revolution, for example (see U.S., France, Cuba). Therefore, the U.S. should not consider a country to be a part of the "axis of evil" just because their leader was not elected. China, for example, has elections and they have no regard for the interests of the people. The reason is largely the lack of free press. A free press can carry out (2) more effectively than even voting can in certain circumstances. The lack of free press undermines the principle of democracy in very serious ways. For one, it convinces the people of what their best interests are. One way it does that is it selects and therefore distorts the facts by only presenting one point-of-view; that of the government who are trying to preserve their own best interests. This prevents the public from having the proper grounding in the present to determine for themselves what their best interests are.
Voting and free press I'm sure are not the only aspects of democracy, I'm thinking justice system, educational system, and army and such, but I'll have to come back to those because I am hungry and late for school.
Friday, August 21, 2009
There is a program that has gained access to my computer without me knowing or wanting it, regularly disrupts my computer's normal functioning, eats up tons of memory, and resists being erased. It could happen to you, too, so I want to warn you to watch out for this horrible, senseless malware. Its name? Norton AntiVirus.
Ironically, Norton AntiVirus was designed to find and destroy programs with just these qualities. I believe the cliché applies here, that you become what you hate.
If Norton AntiVirus now wants to save its own credibility, it must remove itself from my computer.
I'm not holding my breath.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
…not if you want to avoid some severe epistemological conundrums, that is.
Some things can't be true
Many people claim to take the Bible "literally," but besides the problem of defining just what "literally" means, there are many reasons to believe that this is not possible—let alone desirable—even for the deeply religious. Here I will lay out a few of the problems you have to grapple with if you claim to take the Bible literally.Epimenides was a Cretan philosopher whose claim to fame was his declaration that "Cretans are always liars." For centuries, scholars have wondered whether Epimenides, himself a Cretan, was telling the truth when he said that. Paul, in his epistle to Titus, did not seem affected by the paradox since he simply stated that Epimenides' statement is true:
10For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." 13This testimony is true. (Titus 1:10-1:12)This is a problem. For if it is true that Cretans are always liars, then Epimenides is always a liar, and so he must have been lying. In sum, if Epimenides' statement is true, then he must have been lying and so it must be false...which makes it true again because he said they always lie, which makes it a lie, etc. etc. etc.
So, is it true or not? Philosophers tend to say it is neither, preferring instead to call such paradoxical statements "undecidable."
Paul's statement adds another layer to this problem. Is everything in the Bible literally true? Well, if so, then Paul's statements also have to be true. If Paul's statements are true, then his statement "This testimony is true" is true. If this testimony (i.e. that Cretans are always liars) is true, then Epimenides was always a liar. If Epimenides was always a liar, then he lied when he said Cretans are always liars.
So then Paul is wrong. So then the Bible contains things that are not literally true. Even if you concede that "Cretans are always liars" is not false—it's just undecidable—then Paul is still wrong to say it is true.
Some things aren't supposed to be true (literally)Maybe you're worried at this point, but don't be. It's okay. The Bible literally says not to take the Bible literally. For example, Jesus admittedly taught much of his important messages metaphorically, in parables. He would explain the meanings of these parables more straightforwardly to his 12 apostles:
And His disciples asked Him, saying, "What might this parable mean?" And He said, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; but to others in parables, that `seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.' " (Luke 8:9-10, 21st Century King James Version)So, if you want to take the Bible literally, it seems you are going against what the Bible literally says to do.
Monday, April 27, 2009
This week's contestants, Destro and Cobra Commander, consider whether there can be any critical experiments in science. That is, until their boss catches them.