I’ve always been annoyed by the idiocy of some philosophers. Not by the idiocy of philosophy, like some scientists I know—without Popperian epistemics, the whole of science would be incapable of any claim to truth beyond a fallacious appeal to consequences—but the incapacity of certain philosophers to consider the implications of empirical science.
I note this because of a discussion I found in Greta Christina’s archives about why atheism doesn’t make sense. Someone asked why Greta didn’t mention the cosmological argument for a creator god. (The cosmological argument basically states that everything in existence has a cause; the universe exists; therefore the universe has a cause; therefore god.) She mentioned the obvious complaint, that positing a god only shifts the question one step back: if everything has a cause, what caused god?
Aside: I’m mildly upset that until this week I’d never read anything by Greta Christina. The woman is a skeptical goddess. </hero worship>
But I think that there’s a more sound response to be made against the cosmological argument. Greta’s response punctures the argument for god, but doesn’t address the hole that the cosmological argument seems to put in naturalistic explanations of the universe: what made everything exist in the first place?
I wanted to share a bit about what I’m working on right now. (Other than my thesis and imaginative writing project, the things I’m supposed to be doing.) I’ve discovered two wonderful tools for data exploration. First is Google Public Data Explorer, which has been around for a while. It’s really cool and has some nice data sets. I wish it had a better map visualization, though. If I want to compare, say STD rates by state, I’d rather shade the states than have different colored dots on them. Normally, you can embed your graphics, but WordPress is picky about embedding anything so I can’t, and have to settle for a permalink to a graph showing that the number of students in California whose parents did not graduate high school has decreased dramatically since 2005.
The other tool, and I think the better, is IBM’s Many Eyes. For one thing, you can upload your own data. For another, you can get image files of your visualizations. This is nice for people like me, who can’t edit their blog’s html, but still want to show you a map of “bigfoot” “sightings” since 1870.
Why am I playing with these tools when I could be getting drunk on Southern Comfort, cinnamon whiskey, and Kahlua? Well, for one I like data better than hangovers. But I’m also working on a post about secession and the many cultural and political divides in the US. Data is necessary for any argument, but to convince anyone it must be presented clearly, accurately, and in an interesting manner.
Sometimes people confuse me. I just got a comment on an article I wrote for the Collegian last year about vaccinations and autism.
Vaccines are POISON. The only one[s] who benefit from vaccines are PHARMACEUTICALS. Lots of Vitamin D will protect you from the flu and many other diseases. DON’T be fooled by paid off media hype. STOP the sickening assault on humanity.
The LA Times reported yesterday on a study that found that religious patients are more likely to consent to, demand, and recieve aggressive treatment toward the end of their lives. This includes such things as bone marrow transplants for breast cancer (which sounds extremely aggressive, but doesn’t work), life support, and ICU admission. They were also less likely to have living wills, powers of attorney, or DNRs. Given the preoccupation that many religions have with death and the afterlife, this seems a little contradictory; shouldn’t those who expect rewards in the afterlife be most eager to get there?
Originally published in the Collegian on March 17, 2009 as “Why you should vaccinate your kids.”
This year has not been good to those who oppose vaccination: first one of the most commonly cited (and one of the only existing) papers claiming to find evidence that vaccination causes autism was revealed to be a complete fraud by The Times1, and then the federal “vaccine court” ruled that parents who brought a lawsuit “failed to demonstrate that … vaccines can contribute to … causing either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction.”2 I hope their year gets a lot worse.