Posted on October 1, 2013
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A pair of interesting posts from The Audacious Epigone. The first notes that certainty of God’s existence is now a minority view among young whites. That’s not really surprising given that the young have been trending towards less religiosity for quite some time. The surprising feature is that atheism in the GSS is nearly flat. Agnosticism has been increasing but the biggest change is the uncertain theist. They believe but doubt.
The other post is related noting how certain different denominations are. Perhaps unsurprisingly Mormons are most certain about God with a staggering 88.1% of self-identified Mormons saying they know God exists. That’s lower than what the Pew survey suggests — but as I’ve noted I find the Pew statistics pretty hard to think are correct.1
One has to be somewhat careful since when I’ve tried to use the GSS to get statistics on Mormons the sample size is small enough as to make the results meaningless. I don’t know the sample size for Mormons in the certainty score.
- They don’t ask that question but they do have 94% saying they believe God has a body and 98% believe in the resurrection of Christ. ↩
Accountability is a weird concept. It’s one of those that seems pretty straightforward at best but complex when you think about it. It’s complex because accountability seems so wrapped up in how you view meta-ethics as well as counterfactuals. Consider an example to see this. Most people deem George Bush hugely accountable for the deaths in Iraq during the Iraq war. He’s regularly condemned for this. One reason people judge George Bush accountable is that many people warned of a civil war in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was out of power and tribal groups battled for power. As these people forecast a quasi-civil war erupted leading to hundreds of thousands dead1
However consider the following. By nearly any measure the civil war in Syria has killed many times more people per capita than the Iraq war did. Further it seems difficult if not impossible to imagine Syria reaching a semi-stable government akin to what now exists in Iraq.2 If the experts were right and a civil war was being held back by Sadaam then wouldn’t any Arab Spring that put Sadaam out of power led to fighting at least as bad as we see in Syria?
I don’t consider myself well enough versed in Object Oriented Philosophy (sometimes called Object Oriented Ontology or OOO) to really say much about it. I get the general gist of the movement which arose out of a weird mixture of speculative realism among certain philosophers of science and people experienced in Heidegger but put off by thinking through the thinking agent too much. (i.e. still part of the epistemological trajectory started with Descartes) One can dispute how correctly this gets Derrida or Heidegger but certainly it’s an understandable reaction to how Continental and even most Analytic Philosophy is typically conducted.
As I said I’m not versed enough in OOO to say much about it. I wonder though if the backlash has begun. Here’s an interesting criticism of the Speculative Realism movement. Now OOO isn’t the same as Speculative Realism. The latter is a much broader category. But OOO originated out of the SR movement and still has its roots there. A lot of the criticism seems less about SR proper than simply how its been appropriated by sociologists.
Posted on August 28, 2013
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If you have an iPhone or something similar you listen to lectures on and also use iTunes Match1 you probably have grumbled about the problem getting your lectures onto your iPhone. It’s not a problem if you have them all as podcasts. Here’s a tip from my other blog about how to manage the problem.
- Match basically keeps your songs in the cloud and lets you listen to them anywhere you want — although usually you limit it to when on WiFi. You can download them to any device you have. It’s probably the ideal syncing solution. It just ignores files under 128 kbps which is how most lectures are recorded. ↩
This is a followup to my post last week that mentioned the podcast between Jim McLachlan and Dennis Potter over whether the Mormon concept of God is a being worthy of worship. Now I should note in advance that while Dennis and I used to chat philosophy a lot, I’ve largely lost contact with him. I know his philosophical views have changed quite a bit. I honestly no longer know his current philosophical commitments. Back in the 90′s he verged on being a classic positivist of the Vienna school. I know he did a lot of research on the Vienna Circle. It sounds, from the podcast, that he’s moving more in a Hegelian direction.1
In any case his commitments don’t ultimately matter. I just want to address the podcast.
- There was always a Hegelian aspect to Dennis’ thought given his view of Marx and Engles – he used to call himself a former communist. Now it’s almost as if he’s moved to an Emerson position. ↩
Over at Mormon Matters they have a podcast of Jim McLachlan and Dan Wotherspoon debating Dennis Potter over the clarity of the Mormon view of God and whether he’s worthy of worship. I’ve not listened to it yet but I’ve known all the involved people and am intrigued with where they take things. I’m downloading the MP3 to listen to at the gym. (The philosophy nerd version)
In the past, my disagreements with Dennis have largely come down to the Continental – Analytic divide in both style and substance. I like to think of myself as straddling that divide but appreciate aspects of both traditions. Of late I’ve preferred people make Continental points with more analytical clarity and analysis. That is I’ve pretty well become annoyed at excessive style in Continental Philosophy. However I also appreciate that the Continental style is significantly related to its substance. If many of the phenomena and “concepts” we discuss in philosophy are unfinished and perhaps slightly off should we discuss in terms of what is present to our minds or in terms of what will be their final state.
Well I’ve been doing my darndest to write at least once a week, even if most of the posts have been political. I’m hoping to up that to twice a week and get back into the groove of things better. In the meantime I’m also dramatically trying to get caught back up with my philosophy reading which got rather neglected the past few years. Here’s what I’m reading (and what should spark posts here).
Interesting piece at Foreign Policy about whether globalization is leading to more restrictions on religion. 1 It notes that in a Pew report last year the number of countries restricting religious belief or practice rose from 31% to 37%. It then notes a paper in Political Studies that this is a byproduct of globalization. With the rise in “interpersonal contact between individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds” this leads to the perception of a “threat to a hegemonic religion, which leads to more restrictions on religious freedom.”
I’m not a Libertarian. I just don’t buy the ethical grounds for the movement nor the way private property is prioritized the way most Libertarians do. Of course there’s not a single kind of Libertarian. I’ve seen Marxist communitarian Libertarians and there’s a small but vocal minority of Libertarians who are anarcho-capitalists. In general though while I’m extremely sympathetic to the aim of having a small but effective government Libertarians always seem to go too far. A common rejoinder to Libertarians is to ask, “if Libertarianism is so great, why haven’t there been any Libertarian nations?” The naive Libertarian is apt to claim that the US was Libertarian during some era. This is just bad history but sadly a common ignorance about history. The better response is to say that Libertarianism isn’t just yet an other unworkable Utopian scheme but depends upon a particular set of social and technological conditions. To critique Libertarianism for not running a country is akin to saying Democracy is unworkable because it wasn’t present during the dark ages.
If you’re interested in those sorts of discussions, you probably will enjoy last week’s EconTalk. It’s a discussion between Michael Lind and Russ Roberts on Libertarianism. While Roberts is a Libertarian he’s quite open to the discussion by Lind criticizing Libertarianism. I thought it was an excellent sort of discussion I wish we got to hear more of. And if you don’t listen to EconTalk you really should.
Last week BCC had a provocative post suggesting that the LDS church should reduce or eliminate its subsidy for BYU. I think the suggestion is misplaced although it is true that BYU is an incredible deal for college. The real problem is less how cheap BYU is relative to most schools than the often artificial increase in tuition across the country. Today the NYT had an interesting article about college recruitment of poor students lagging at many colleges. The associated info graphic listed colleges with 22% to 7% receiving Pell Grants. The made me wonder where BYU fit in. The BCC post noted that only 31% of BYU students carry debt and 66% receive financial aid of some sort. Looking at the paper from the Century Foundation on Pell Grants that I think the NYT story was inspired by, I found that BYU had a surprising 30.8% of students receiving Pell Grants.1 Combined with LDS subsidies to the college2 BYU is a great deal for the poor. One place they might do better is helping more non-Americans come to BYU. Right now only 6% are non-American. Since that probably includes a reasonable number of Canadians one might wish it were higher.
Interesting piece by Reihan Salam today on the relationship of economic mobility and economic inequality. (HT: TightWind) You may remember the New York Times story on economic mobility from last week. It had a great interactive graphic for seeing movement by geographic region. While the mobility of some regions, like North Dakota, make sense, a big surprise was how well the Salt Lake area did. The big question is if Utah is as mobile as Denmark or Norway but appear to have so much greater inequity. Paul Krugman has suggested that the deindustrialization of America, especially cities, is the cause. Salam piece tries to go through the evidence and analyze it. One thing he brings up that isn’t discussed enough is how well integrated a community is as being key to mobility.
I’ve long thought that not enough politicians focus in on integration in our country. It was discussed relative to schools during the civil rights era but I think for an egalitarian society to flourish people have to mix with everyone else. That’s something that just isn’t being incentivized enough with our structures. Anyway, read the article. It’s fairly short.
A lot of people are talking about the recent NYTs story on members leaving the church. I found it a pretty poor story. Not because I don’t think there isn’t a story there. Just that this seemed extremely superficial — largely taking a single anecdote and drawing a pattern from it. Clearly there are people leaving the Church. However as I noted a couple of years ago in my retention series here there seems to be a broader social trend. I’m extremely skeptical that the internet contributes much to it. David Knowlton wrote a blog post yesterday that seems to agree.
I am skeptical of the internet as the primary cause of this change. From Tahrir Square to this loss of faith the internet is blamed for all kinds of social movement and breakdowns in authority. While it undoubtedly plays a role, as scholar after scholar points out, it is more hyped that an adequate cause.
I think this is quite right. I think John Dehlin, who features prominently in the NYT story, has successfully reframed the issue for most intellectual Mormons. However while he certainly has been good about finding anecdotes about how people lose their faith I’m far from convinced they are representative of the aggregate.
There’s an interesting post over at BCC asking whether the Church should reduce its subsidy to BYU. Unfortunately the author didn’t quantify how much it is subsidized beyond a “tuition is low thanks to tithing.”1 Like many others I think the real issue is the ridiculous increase in tuitions across the country not tied to any necessary increased costs. That’s not to say there aren’t increased costs, just that for most universities they are unnecessary growth in administration and research rather than teaching.
Now I with the huge building boom around BYU campus the past 6 years I wouldn’t be at all shocked to find out that the Church has been spending an awful lot of money. Whether this is countercyclical Keynesian spending to keep the Utah economy thriving or just anticipating future needs I can’t say.
Posted on July 22, 2013
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OK, I was a bit optimistic about my claims last month. Sorry about that. But this time I’m really back. I’ve got lots of stories ready to go. I probably won’t be quite as prolific as I was back in the day. Too many kids I need to put to bed at night. But I’ll be having at least one story a day. Also check out the sideblog where I’ll be including a lot of stories that are relevant. Not just heavy philosophy or theology but also some others.
Posted on June 5, 2013
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I’ve not had time to read as much on current events or politics as I’d have liked the past few years. In many ways the past few years have seen a lot of political upheaval. We have a Democratic president who has largely taken foreign policy as an issue away from Republics.1 This has led to some odd coalitions on the Democratic side as well as certain parts of those coalitions remaining surprisingly silent on many issues. On the Republican side there has been great upheaval but a political body that seems more concerned with tone, rhetoric than actual policy. They are defined more by what, or more accurately, who they oppose rather than solutions to problems.
To me as a self-identified conservative it has been rather disappointing and depressing. The loud populist wings of the party have really dominated it. What’s surprising isn’t that the party has lost important elections but that it hasn’t lost more.
What’s interesting to me though is that there has arisen a self-described Reform Conservative movement. It’s a general label and not everyone agrees on all issues. I think it does capture well some general trends and positions. One of the better writings on it is Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s “A Reform Conservative Manifesto” at Forbes. Ross Douthat’s “What Is Reform Conservatism” at the New York Times is also worth reading. To the degree I dare say I understand the movement, I’d probably say it best describes my own views. Douthat does a nice job listing the main agenda for the movement. I’ll add in a little for each point.2
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