For your amusement, here is a New-Age philosopher imputing consciousness to subatomic particles in order to dream up a “scientific” basis for Jedi religion.

There is a profound difficulty at the heart of the science of consciousness: consciousness is unobservable. You can’t look inside an electron to see whether or not it is conscious. But nor can you look inside someone’s head and see their feelings and experiences. We know that consciousness exists not from observation and experiment but by being conscious. The only way we can find out about the consciousness of others is by asking them: I can’t directly perceive your experience, but I can ask you what you’re feeling. And if I’m a neuroscientist, I can do this while I’m scanning your brain to see which bits light up as you tell me what you’re feeling and experiencing. In this way, scientists are able correlate certain kinds of brain activity with certain kinds of experience. We now know which kinds of brain activity are associated with feelings of hunger, with visual experiences, with pleasure, pain, anxiety, et cetera.... [Read More]


TOTD 2018-05-18 The Boundaries of Plausibility

What if I told you that I could travel faster than light?  Or that I am the reincarnation of Theodore Roosevelt?  Or that socialism is the most ethical and rational economic system?  Or that being overweight is good for your health?  How would you respond? Continue reading “TOTD 2018-05-18 The Boundaries of Plausibility”


TOTD 2018-04-13: Adam Smith vs. Robert Heinlein

It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.

-Adam Smith, On the Wealth of Nations

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

When I recently started reading the Wealth of Nations, this comparison came to me quickly, as the very first thing that Smith discusses are the benefits of the division of labor and specialization.  It seems to me that specialization is a benefit to society as a whole, but being a Competent Man is of greater benefit to the individual.  Having useful secondary skills are not usually beneficial to society, but can be quite powerful for the individual if the economy shifts drastically.  There’s also the classic desert island scenario – when there is no civilization, you need to do everything for yourself.
Continue reading “TOTD 2018-04-13: Adam Smith vs. Robert Heinlein”