Archives for December, 2011

To Boston!

Tomorrow I will observe New Year’s Day by hopping into the Jasonmobile and driving to my New Jersey office. Which is to say, I will be visiting my parents. Then on Tuesday I shall hop on a train and sally forth to Boston, which is hosting the annual math extravaganza knows as the Joint Mathematics…

Another Round on Morality

Michael Ruse has written another post about morality. Sadly, he hasn’t really clarified much of anything. Throughout this discussion his position has been that there are moral facts that we come to know through non-scientific means. I have been trying to understand how he justifies either part of that, but I’m afraid I still have…

Euler’s Identity, Part Two

Time to show you the dramatic conclusion to the story I began yesterday. Our problem was to define the complex exponential function in a way that was consistent with everything we knew about real exponential functions. We noticed that one of the standard rules for exponents implies \[ e^{x+iy}=e^xe^{iy}. \] Since we already know how…

Euler’s Identity, Part One

Euler’s identity is the equation: \[ e^{i \pi} +1=0. \] If you have any taste for mathematics at all, it is hard not to smile at this. In one equation we have each of five “special” numbers (e, i, pi, 1 and 0), along with one instance of each of three basic arithmetic operations (addition,…

A Follow-Up Post About Scientism

My earlier post on this subject was entitled “What is Scientism?” because, while I have seen the term thrown around in a number of venues, I have never been entirely sure what it means. Having had a chance now to digest some of the arguments raised in the comments, as well as the thoughts expressed…

Now Available!

The BSB (that’s the big Sudoku book, for those not up on the local slang) is now available! It’s both a math book and a puzzle book. As math book it contains a survey of some of the mathematical aspects of Sudoku puzzles. For those familiar with the BMHB, the present book is considerably less…

Emily’s Big Day

This is Emily: She sure does look comfortable, doesn’t she? And why shouldn’t she be? In a tour de force of inductive reasoning she figured that today would be like the previous 364 consecutive days, at least to the extent that I wouldn’t even consider stuffing her into a box and bringing her out to…

Pierce Spanks Douthat

You should read Ross Douthat’s obnoxious eulogy for Christopher Hitchens just so you can enjoy this magnificent takedown from Charles Pierce, over at Esquire. Pierce writes: For the sheer magnitude of its horsepucky, this column may well stand forever. Generations yet unborn will come and read it, just to stare out of the magnificent vista…

The Basis for Morality

Michael Ruse has now written a second post on the subject of scientism. He gets down to business in the second paragraph: My three examples of nonscientific truths were mathematics, morality, and answers to those kinds of philosophical meta-questions, like – “What is the truth status of claims that only scientific claims are knowledge claims?”…

Religious Experience

In a HuffPo essay entitled “Why I Love Religion,” Rabbi Alan Lurie writes: I love the holy texts, the rituals, the art, the histories, the practices, the mystical teachings and the sacred spaces. I love religion, while very aware of its obvious dangers and limitations, because for the last 15 years religion has provided insight,…

What is Scientism?

If you spend much time involved in science/religion discussions, you will inevitably hear the term “scientism” thrown around. Usually it is hurled as an epithet. In practical terms, to be accused of scientism is usually to be accused of being insufficiently respectful of religion. But I’ve never entirely understood what scientism actually is. The usual…

Christopher Hitchens Has Died

By now I’m sure everyone has heard that Christopher Hitchens has died. I don’t have much to add to what everyone else has said, so I’ll keep this short. I regard God is Not Great as a masterpiece, and if that had been the only thing he ever wrote, then, as we like to say…

A Big Day For American Chess

It occurs to me that I haven’t done a chess post in a while. It’s possible that I’m the only one unhappy about that, but there’s actually a big chess story in the news. You see, for the first time in nearly twenty years, an American chess player has defeated a sitting World Champion. The…

Politics and Nonbelief

Blogger R. Joseph Hoffmann recently posted a stunningly idiotic essay lamenting the present state of atheist discourse. It’s standard fare for him, this time expressed in especially pretentious and contentless prose. For example, I defy you to discern anything sensible in these two paragraphs: Atheism has become a very little idea because it is now…

Since it now seems that Newt Gingrich has a decent shot at becoming the Republican nominee for President, let me encourage you to have a look at this post, by Sarah Posner. She provides an impressive rundown of Gingrich’s many jaw-dropping statements about church and state. If you’re currently drinking any water, I recommend swallowing…