From The Volokh Conspiracy: Multiculturalism As A Traditional American Value

Full post here.

I’ve got two questions:

1. Can you separate multi-culturalism from cultural relativism…or are there deeper ideas to which multiculturalism can appeal outside of “value” speak?

2. Doesn’t multiculturalism reward tribal/separatist tendencies within a dangerous idealism?

I had an emailer suggest that many of the tendencies you typically might find outside of multiculturalism i.e. racist, nationalist, totalitarian impulses…lie waiting to be expressed within multiculturalism…we’re humans after all.

Do you find Volokh’s utilitarian argument compelling…have we been multicultural all along?

Monument to Multiculturalism at Union Station

…in Toronto

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Christopher Hedges Criticizes The New Atheists

Chris Hedges is the son of a Presbyterian minister who takes the new Atheists to task (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins) for engaging in modern day utopianism.  For Hedges, their fallacy lies in simply believing in a kind of rationalism or “Science,” and not providing sufficient justification for that belief. 

“Science” is leading us foward they claim, technology is making human progress possible. From such a position they write books with hyperbolic titles, claiming that religion is bad and is poisoning everything etc…

For Hedges, they are engaging in precisely what they criticize religion for doing: over-simpifying complex matters within an ideological doctrine.  In rallying around their cause, they are engaging in one of the oldest human games…

I’d say Hedges takes a refreshing view on these new atheists.  I especially like his individualistic view of all institutions, especially the church (institutions are not capable of the depth of moral sacrifice that individuals make, and so the good they do comes at the cost of the individual…).    

One problem I might have with Hedges is in making such arguments as he does, he falls back into the metaphysical thinking of Christian theology (the importance of orginal sin, for example).   I would suggest the works of Immanuel Kant as a possible response.  Here I am thinking of his title as “Der Alleszammer” or all destroyer.

Kant’s metaphysics pretty much invalidate the arguments for God, though perhaps not an existence of that which lies beyond us.

Thanks for reading.

See Also: Hedges’ interview on KUOW, the local Seattle NPR station.  Also, my post “A Brief Defense Of Agnosticism,” 

Addition:  A brief excerpt of a debate between Hedges and Hitchens.

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George Smoot and Sean Carroll: Cosmic Inflation

If you’re interested in some ideas about the current state of cosmic inflation and Big Bang theory, check out recent Sean Carroll’s bloggingheads turn (~12 min). Recommended.

Also, George Smoot’s book, Wrinkles in Time is very readable and fun (like listening to a really interesting, smart friend) and gives a background to his COBE research and contributions to Big Bang theory.  He had quite an adventure.

It’s a good way for novices to prevent from becoming cranks.  Thanks to Mr. Carroll for sharing.

See Also:  Riemannian space, Alan Guth, Gravity and space-time.

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Tornadoes In Major Cities: Atlanta

This was yesterday, March 14th, 2008, in Atlanta where the Weather Channel is located.  Here’s a good report, with links to video.  I hope everyone is OK.

1.  Don’t forget about Brooklyn, August 9th, 2007, article here.  A reported F2.   

2.  Miami, May 12th 1997 (minor damage, F1).  It’s not often you see a tornado among office buildings. 

3.  And I guess if you live in Oklahoma City, you get used to it.

Here’s the (F)ujita Scale.  A really cool photo, the Atlanta tornado shrouded enough to inspire mystery.

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Christina Hoff Sommers: Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like A Man?

Here is the article. Recommended.

I agree with Sommers (wikipedia) that it’s worthwhile to uncover and challenge the arguments being made in favor of gender equality in universities. These arguments seek to gobble up all in their path.

For example, when research by a psychologist is used to argue how science should be taught, then there may be a problem.

It would seem this ambitious psychologist may be seeking to influence all of science without the understanding to do so. The success such an effort has is in lowering the standard of debate, silencing criticism, inciting the passions, and appealing to politics and current sentiment where one’s own thinking fails.

While her work is welcome, it seems Sommers is fighting fire with fire, and I question what will likely be the outcome of her arguments as well.  There are limits to her ideas.

As I’ve posted before, others are responding to the current equity idealogues. These responses are refreshing and often useful, but I’m reminded of this quote:

“Choose your enemies carefully, for you will become like them.

by Been.

Please don’t associate the photo with the quote.

Alas, this is not a dead horse, and I’m not still beating it.

Addition: Of course, I’m not really sure that men are inherently any better than women at mathematics.  I’ll leave that to someone wiser.  As for some of the arguments driving gender equality…

The Economist on Moral Thinking: David Sloan Wilson’s Research

The Economist (full article here) asks a deep question:  Whence morality?

“two and a half millenia of [philosophical] debate, have…failed to produce a satisfactory answer.”

It goes on to mention the work of two researchers (evolutionary biologists) who examined two groups of self-identifying liberal and conservative teenagers, monitoring them often.  Their interpretation of the evidence suggests that the liberal teens often pride indivualism and confrontation, while the conservative teens valued collectivism and conformity.

“Dr Wilson suspects that the liberal package of individualism and confrontation is the appropriate response to survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection, and the consequences for a group’s stability of such dissent are low. The conservative package of collectivism and conformity, by contrast, works in an unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium.”

As an insight into politics, human social structure, and an introduction to Wilson’s ideas of evolutionary biology, it’s a good start.

Of course, the philsophical arguments are still there (I’ll call the Economist once an intellectually satisfying answer is provided for moral thinking)…and it also seems foolhardy on Wilson’s part to apply the intellectual fruits of evolutionary biology directly to current politics…but interesting nonetheless.

See Also:  David Sloan Wilson’s page and Blog Posts At Huffington, Evolutionary Biology (wikipedia). The Trolley problem (wikipedia) often used to argue a non-rational (perhaps emotional) base for morality. 

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Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset

Like many people, I’ve been disappointed with the Weather Channel’s format lately; the focus on personality and an ideological portrayal of green issues, especially global warming.

They have placed a bet on global warming’s truth and seemed to have abandoned scientific inquiry and the doubt necessary to sustain it in the process.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel feels much the same way as he watches from the sidelines.   Now that the Weather Channel has changed hands, he wants the matter to be settled by lawyers, claiming in part:

If the lawyers will take the case – sue the people who sell carbon credits. That includes Al Gore. That lawsuit would get so much publicity, so much media attention…I feel like that could become the vehicle to finally put some light on the fraud of global warming.”

Sue Al Gore?  That sounds a little intense.  I’m not sure global warming arguments are entirely false or fraudulent either.

As for Gore, I’d be happier if he’d sit down and think about what use he still has for the rest of us.

As for the Weather Channel, like you, I just want the weather.  I’m sure many people at the Weather Channel feel the same way.  Maybe it’s just bad management.

See Also:  The Weather Channel’s Green Blog:  A Little Too Green, Climate Debate Daily, and also Stu Ostro’s posts, which shows how useful, intelligent and fascinating weather can be when it doesn’t come in ideological packaging.