Archive for the ‘Opinion’ category

Generation Warfare, or Mr. Rogers is Evil.

April 13, 2009

At some point I have to stick up for my generation, especially following my TED talk post where it was pointed out most of science research is really being carried out by people of my generation.

However Fox News, catering to the beliefs of a +50 generation, would have you know my generation is lazy and full of entitlement because, trumpets please: we watched Mr. Rogers! They spent 3 hours dedicated to this recurring theme:

What Fox won’t tell you is the reason they are so embittered over our generation is we took them to the cleaners during the election, because of course we are so lazy having watched Mr. Rogers. Lazy people always do the best job rallying people to support their cause and vote in record numbers.

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Brooks on Morality

April 7, 2009

David Brooks is one of my  favorite columnists.   He wrote a column today entitled The End of Philosophy where he discusses where humans get morality.

He points out that philosophers back to Socrates assumed morality came from good reasoning.  However, more and more it doesn’t seem like reason is what gives people their morals; emotions do.  As Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia puts it, “The emotions are, in fact, in charge of the temple of morality, and … moral reasoning is really just a servant masquerading as a high priest.”

Many people are convinced they have some code of ethics that through reason spells out their morality.(Like religious or philosophical beliefs.) Though this may be true to a degree, most people make moral decisions based on the immediate emotions they feel, not logic flowing from some moral axioms they subscribe to.

Of course evolution is mostly responsible for all this.  Interestingly, as Brook’s points out, the more we learn of evolution the more we see that it has led humans to be “cooperative, empathetic and altruistic,” not just competitive.

I agree.  No matter what philosophy or religion or lack of both, most humans make very similar moral decisions in similar circumstances.  Evolution has bred humans to be very moral creatures by compelling us to follow the aesthetic paths our emotions are suggesting we go.

The Responsibility of Intellectuals

March 23, 2009

I don’t consider myself an intellectual, but perhaps for moral reasons I should.  First, I am interested in many intellectual things.  Second, I have a unique ability to do some intellectual things. (Otherwise, I would not have successfully been admitted to a PhD program for physics.) Third I came across an interesting article named The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Noam Chomsky which has got me thinking.

The article is an anti-war article, but that’s not what is on my mind.  What interests me is the larger image he seems to paint when you read it.

First, I’ll grossly paraphrase the article then “liken it” 🙂 to my own situation.  He, and Albert Einstein says the same thing, points out the one major reason it is so easy for countries to go to war is that governments spread propaganda and intellectuals who know better or should know better remain silent due to political pressure, personal gain, or just being lazy.  He expresses his opinion that if intellectuals would  stick up for the truth there would be much less bloodshed.  Again, Einstein was emphatic about the same point which I saw on a Science Channel documentary the other day.   Einstein saw intellectuals all over Germany fueling the government war fire even though they knew better.  It was all about reaping personal gain.

Now, as I already stated, this isn’t trying to be an anti-war post.  It is more to point out the obvious: atrocities of many sorts can happen if intellectuals remain silent for personal gain, political pressure, or because they are lazy. Intellectuals are in a unique position to bring many truths to the forefront that would prevent many tragedies.  Chomsky feels it is the responsibility of intellectuals to use their talents to enlighten the world so as  to prevent these atrocities.

I agree, and to what extent I can, I will do better.  (Especially in the “promoting good science” realm.)