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The Pythagorean theorem made a big impression on me when I first saw it in middle school. It was probably the first genuinely non-trivial theorem that I learned. The theorem is simple to state and to understand, but it is not at all obvious. I have a clear memory of my sixth grade math teacher,…

I’m sure we all remember Pascal’s Wager. Though it is often wrongly presented as an argument for God’s existence, it was really intended as an argument for why we should act as though we believe in God. Roughly, the idea was that if you believe in God and you’re wrong then, well, no big deal.…

More on Charlie Hebdo

Lots of responses to the terrorist attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Some of it reasonable, some of it not. Matthew Yglesias said almost the same thing I did: Viewed in a vacuum, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons (or the Danish ones that preceded it) are hardly worthy of a stirring defense. They offer…

Charlie Hebdo

You’ve probably already heard about what happened in France today: Masked gunmen attacked the Paris offices of satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing 12 people before fleeing. French security forces launched a major manhunt in the capital after the gunmen fled the scene of the attack, The Guardian reported. Police are searching for…

Sunday Chess Problem

When I started this series, one of the first topics I highlighted was the idea of a logical problem. The idea is this: White has a main plan for achieving his objective. However, if he tries to play it immediately black has a defense that will defeat him. So white must first play a foreplan,…

Cuomo on Church and State

Mario Cuomo, governor of New York from 1983-1994, died on New Year’s day. He is a throwback to a time when Democrats weren’t cowards, and were actually capable of articulating a compelling and humane vision of how society should be. Consider this speech, delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 1984. Cuomo was a…

Sunday Chess Problem

Well, it’s taken me longer to get back to this than I originally planned, but how about a second look at the Babson Task? The problem below was composed by Leonid Yarosh, in 1983. It’s white to move and mate in four: Remember that white is always moving up the board and black is always…

Cops

I was all set to do a big post about the police, but then Kevin Drum went and said exactly what I was thinking: It shouldn’t be too hard to hold two thoughts in our minds at once. Thought #1: Police officers have an intrinsically tough and violent job. Split-second decisions about the use of…

Adam and Eve, Continued

Let’s continue with the discussion I started in yesterday’s post. We are considering whether it is reasonable to persist in believing in the reality of Adam and Eve given the findings of modern science. The problem is that the Bible seems clear that at the time of their creation, Adam and Eve were the only…

Adam and Eve

A common theme at this blog is that I don’t like blanket statements to the effect that science and religion are incompatible. The main problem I have is that “religion” means so many different things to different people that it is pointless to paint with such a broad brush. A secondary point is that science…

Intelligent Design: Still Dead

Actually, I wrote that last post partly because I wanted to comment on this one, from David Klinghoffer. He likens the plight of TNRs former staff to the situation of ID proponents: I identify with TNR’s ex-staff, too, in a more fundamental way. In the evolution controversy, it’s supporters of intelligent design who stand for…

The Demise Of The New Republic

While it’s hardly the most important thing going on in the world right now, we should take a moment to note the effective demise of The New Republic. There was a time when TNR was one of the best liberal journals of opinion to be found. In the late seventies and eighties, when the magazine…

One More Post For the Endless Discussion

Well, it seems the big discussion is still going strong, even after six weeks. Incredibly, the comments still seem to be substantive and interesting. So here’s another post to continue the discussion. Plus with my own ongoing blog lethargy, it’s nice that there’s any activity going on around here at all! So feel free to…

A Quick Note About Comments

I’m currently working out of my New Jersey office, which is to say I am home for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to mention, though, that I have my settings adjusted so that comments are automatically cut off on any post that is more than three weeks old. Comment threads that remain open too long tend…

To Baltimore!

On Thursday I’ll be heading up to Baltimore to give a talk at Johns Hopkins University. I’ll be discussing an old favorite: The Monty Hall Problem! Actually, it’s been about two years since I’ve given a talk on that particular subject, so it will be nice to have an excuse to revisit it. From there…