Browsed by
Tag: Society

No, you are not of ‘greater moral value’

No, you are not of ‘greater moral value’

I loathe the expression ‘check your privilege’ – it serves entirely to silence debate and foster division – but I did have an occasion yesterday when I truly understood the temptation to use it. I had been delivering a talk on how scientists can have a greater impact on public policy at one of the UK’s leading science institutions (which I shall not name, as in all other respects it is a truly fantastic place). During the Q&A, one of…

Read More Read More

Human fallibility and robust institutions

Human fallibility and robust institutions

Note: I began writing this post before the election; I finished it after. I’ve indicated where the break is. It’s amazing that a system of a billion weasels trying to hose each other, i.e. capitalism, works as well as it does. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. Many human institutions are not optimised for perfection. They’re optimised for robustness. Capitalism is a case in point. Certainly, a huge amount of human endeavour is wasted in an arms-race of advertising, or in…

Read More Read More

On Luxury Beliefs

On Luxury Beliefs

I read a fascinating article recently comparing so-called ‘luxury beliefs’ to Veblen goods. The definition is as follows: ” Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class.” I’d always considered that luxury beliefs were adopted simply because they sounded nice, allowing the rich (here including the middle classes) to adopt unrealistic ideas that salved their conscience while ignoring the heavy cost that was paid…

Read More Read More

Guest Blog: The different flavours of conservatives

Guest Blog: The different flavours of conservatives

A guest blog by Josh Monteiro, Pastor of Emmanuel Church, Northstowe, and written in a personal capacity. The views expressed are the author‘s alone. In biblical studies over the last 50 years, there has been a growing recognition that there was not a single simple thing called “Judaism” in the 1st century AD but a variety of different Judaisms, with some commonalties, but some important differences as well. Historical study requires an understanding of the different movements within Judaism just…

Read More Read More

On Communists

On Communists

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And…

Read More Read More

Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Defining influence is tricky. We have all undoubtedly been influenced by many people; in particular parents, teachers, friends and others we spend time with. Yet when talking with others about about those views are insightful, ‘hang around with my friends’ is not particularly useful, and parents or teachers are even less accessible. So we think of public figures. In coming up with this list, I’ve focused on those who’ve helped to bring particular issues into focus, or to shed light…

Read More Read More

Signal-boosting: Free Speech

Signal-boosting: Free Speech

A short, eloquent and powerful explanation of why, ‘But free speech only means the government can’t arrest you,’ is a terrible defence for those who seek to defend silencing others. Laws, Principles and Social Norms I agree with it completely.

Dawkins, Haidt and Harari on Religion

Dawkins, Haidt and Harari on Religion

It’s fascinating to compare the different views of Dawkins, Haidt and Harari on religion. All three approach it from a sociological/evolutionary perspective but small differences in assumptions lead to quite large differences in conclusions. Dawkins, as is well known, sees religion as a parasitic meme. It’s common across humanity simply because it’s good at spreading and we should examine how different religions grow purely on the basis of how optimised they are for growth, not on any impact they might…

Read More Read More

Harvard descends to new lows in the war on academic freedom

Harvard descends to new lows in the war on academic freedom

It’s a fundamental of our system of justice that anyone accused of a crime, however vile, deserves a fair trial and the right to a defence. This applies to everyone: murderers, rapists, terrorists, racists, paedophiles – and even Harvey Weinstein. Defence lawyers who take on these unpalatable cases are understood to be fulfilling an essential role in the justice system, not to be personally supporting murder or terrorism. The students and authorities at Harvard University clearly think otherwise. This weekend,…

Read More Read More

Twelve posts from my first year of blogging

Twelve posts from my first year of blogging

A year after this blog (re)started, I thought I’d share a dozen of my favourite posts. A mixture of those that were most read and most commented on at the time (on here or on Facebook/Twitter) as well as a few of my personal favourites. In chronological order: “Have had enough of experts…”: An attempt to find common ground A look at why Leave voters may legitimately share a sceptisism in some cases of experts who have very different backgrounds…

Read More Read More

%d bloggers like this: