Archives for March, 2013

Your Weekend Reading

Let me wrap up the week’s blogging by directing you to two essays related to things we’ve been discussing this week. The first is Mohan Matthen’s review of Thomas Nagel’s book in The Philosopher’s Magazine. I refer you to it partly because it’s an interesting essay in its own right, but also because he seizes…

Animal Consciousness

Over at Lapham’s Quarterly, John Jeremiah Sullivan has an excellent article on the subject of animal consciousness. Here’s the opening: These are stimulating times for anyone interested in questions of animal consciousness. On what seems like a monthly basis, scientific teams announce the results of new experiments, adding to a preponderance of evidence that we’ve…

Your Daily Dose of Schadenfreude

It has not been a good week for those who oppose same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court heard two relevant cases this week, and to judge from the questioning they seem likely to render a decision far more favorable to same sex marriage advocates. Of course, the questioning is not always a reliable guide. After all,…

Another Cool Math Video

I only have time for a quick post tonight, so let me direct you to one of my favorite math videos. It’s of Arthur Benjamin, a mathematician at Harvey Mudd College in California. Art is also a professional magician, and is especially well known for his skill as a lightning calculator. The video is fifteen…

How to Write About Mathematics

Occasionally I rant about the general awfulness of mathematics textbooks. If I were to express my major objection in the most charitable possible way, it is that most textbooks are written like reference books. They are usually very good at recording the basic facts of a subject and proving them with admirable rigor. If you…

A Reply to Edward Feser

Edward Feser has replied to my earlier post about some of the responses to Thomas Nagel’s new book. Feser took exception to my remarks. Let’s have a look. EvolutionBlog’s Jason Rosenhouse tells us in a recent post that he hasn’t read philosopher Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos. And it seems obvious enough from his remarks…

The Opposite of Booyah

Sadly, the big basketball game went the way everyone expected. Which is to say that we lost. Badly. Indiana 83 — JMU 62. Ouch! As it happens, my former academic home, Kansas State University, also lost. This one was a big upset, since, despite being the 4th seed, they lost to 13th seed La Salle.…

Booyah!

Check it out! Of course, now we have to play Indiana. Considering that it was a minor miracle that JMU made it to the tournament at all, while Indiana is among the favorites to win the whole thing, I’m not optimistic about our chances. History is against us, since no 16th seed has ever beaten…

Some Brainteasers

The math department here at JMU has a Problem of the Week competition, and it just so happens that, this semester, I am running it. Every week I choose a problem for the consideration of all who choose to participate. (Well, I actually bribe my students to participate by offering them a bonus point for…

Thomas Nagel Needs Better Defenders

Philosopher Thomas Nagel recently published a book called Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. The general consensus was that the book delivered considerably less than it promised. H. Allen Orr’s negative review from The New York Review of Books was pretty typical of the response, if somewhat…

AtC Reviewed in PSCF

I’ve recently had it called to my attention that Among the Creationists has been reviewed in Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith. That’s the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of Christian scientists. They are generally sympathetic to evolution and mostly have little patience for ID and creationism. On the other hand,…

The Horror of PEMDAS

Slate has an interesting article, by Tara Haelle, discussing a math problem that recently received some attention on Facebook. The problem is to evaluate this expression: Obviously, the challenge here is not the arithmetic itself. It is to figure out the order in which to do the operations. I suspect most people would naturally do…

The New Pope

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that we have a new Pope. He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, form Argentina, but from now on he will be known as Pope Francis. It appears he is a doctrinaire right-winger on issues related to homosexuality, abortion and conctraception, which is no surprise. Andrew Sullivan provides other reasons for…

Writing at The New Republic, Paul Berman has an interesting, if rather lengthy, article about Les Miserables, the book. I like his opening: The most famous and revealing scenes in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables get underway fairly late in the novel—on page 1,280 in the Pléiade edition—at the moment when the physically powerful Jean Valjean…

Must Atheists Be Nihilists?

Writing in The Week, Damon Linker has a strange essay arguing that atheists who are honest about the consequences of their beliefs ought to be sad and mopey. The subtitle of his essay is, “That godlessness might be both true and terrible is something that the new atheists refuse to entertain.” This is a trope…