Life of Brian graffiti scene

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Human morality is evolving

Open Parachute

I want to give some of my final thoughts on   Jonathan Haidt‘s book – The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. In Morality and the “worship” of reason my interim judgement (after reading one third of the book) was favourable – but I had concerns. Now, having finished the book, my judgement overall is very critical. I don’t think it’s a book I can truly recommend (except for the first third).

Partly because I feel Haidt really uses the later parts of the book to promote his own hobby horses – prejudices about atheism (or the “New Atheists” – whoever they are), political ideology and the role of religion in morality and society. But also because his scientific analysis of human morality was too reductionist – in a bad way.

Why badly reductionist?

Throughout the book I was acutely aware Haidt’s analysis was…

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Because Protecting the Environment Is Important, Capitalism Should Play a Bigger Role

International Liberty

Over the years, I’ve had fun mocking the silly extremism of the environmental movement.

That being said, protecting the environment is a worthy and important goal.

And that’s why some of us want to give the private sector a bigger role.

John Stossel, for instance, has a must-watch video on how capitalism can save endangered rhinos.

Professor Philip Booth expands…

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Right, Left, Facts, and Values

International Liberty

Since my job is to proselytize on behalf of economic liberty, I’m always trying to figure out what motivates people. To be blunt, I’ll hopefully be more effective if I understand how they decide what policies to support. That’s a challenge when dealing with my friends on the left since some of them seem to be motivated by envy.

Unsurprisingly, there are people on the other side who also contemplate how to convert their opponents.

Harvard Professor Maximilian Kasy wrote a column for the Washington Post that advises folks on the left how they can be more effective when arguing with folks on the right. He starts with an assertion that conservatives are basically impervious to facts.

Worries about…our “post-factual era” impeding political debate in our society have become commonplace. Liberals…are often astonished at the seeming indifference of their opponents toward facts and toward the likely consequences of…

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The Million Dollar Quartet

Why Evolution Is True

In one of my rare forays into the real world, I went to a musical last night: “The Million Dollar Quartet,” which has been playing in Chicago for several years. You may know the backstory, which is detailed in Wikipedia:

“Million Dollar Quartet” is a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash made on Tuesday December 4, 1956 in the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. An article about the session was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title “Million Dollar Quartet”. The recording was first released in Europe in 1981 as The Million Dollar Quartet with seventeen tracks. A few years later more tracks were discovered and released as The Complete Million Dollar Session. In 1990 the recordings were released in the US titled, Elvis Presley – The Million Dollar Quartet.

The jam session seems…

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Debating housing

The Labour Party is not mentioning its plan to abolish the Auckland Metropolitan boundary is much as they used to in this campaign, if at all

croaking cassandra

The centrepieces of the two weekend TV current affairs shows were political debates: The Nation had Phil Twyford and Amy Adams on housing, and Q&A had Grant Robertson and Steven Joyce on the economy more generally (but with a large chunk on housing).   I only saw the Q&A debate, but I have glanced through the transcript of Twyford/Adams.

In the course of his debate, Phil Twyford was asked how much house prices should be relative to income.    His response was excellent

Twyford: Ideally, they should be three times. If we had a housing market that was working properly, your housing would be— the median price would be about three to four times the median household income.

Grant Robertson repeated those sorts of numbers in his exchange with Steven Joyce.  It was good, clear, encouraging stuff.    A reminder of just how totally out of whack things are…

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Green energy dream backfires for historic German town

Tallbloke's Talkshop

Image credit: The Local
It’s not the only place in the region to suffer but as The Local says ‘Staufen has really become a byword for failed geothermal drilling.’

A German town’s decision to invest in geothermal energy backfired badly after underground drilling went wrong and hundred of buildings began to fall apart.

Staufen, a town of 8,100 inhabitants on the edge of the Black Forest, envisioned a blissful new green energy future when work on the project began in 2007.

But when the drills hit groundwater, the pretty Baden Württenburg hamlet instead found itself in a battle for survival. More than 270 buildings have suffered fractures since the drills penetrated a layer of earth and struck groundwater in a yard right behind the town hall. 

“We’ve been in crisis mode for ten years,” Mayor Michael Benitz told news agency DPA. “It’s a slow-motion catastrophe.” A red banner that hangs…

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Cypriot colonial citizenship and UK immigration controls, 1920s-1950s

Hatful of History

This week, the citizenship of Cypriots as part of the British Empire/Commonwealth (prior to Cypriot independence in 1960) has been the subject of debate in the Australian media, thanks to the controversy surrounding Senator Nick Xenophon. My colleague Andrekos Varnava and I have worked on the question of Cypriot citizenship during the colonial era and the subsequent control of Cypriot migration to Britain between the 1920s and the 1950s. The following is based on a much longer article forthcoming with English Historical Review.

The British saw the Cypriot community as a particular problem because of their perceived criminal activities as well as their links to communism and anti-colonialism. The British authorities sought to monitor and control the Cypriot community in London and restrict further numbers from immigrating to Britain through a number of measures in Cyprus, despite the fact that Cypriots were British subjects. At this time, no other…

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