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Showing posts from December, 2010

Philosophy grads smarter than other graduates (incl. sciences)?

If you are wondering what kind of degree programme is likely to boost your general smarts, consider these figures. Go here . This is one of several graphs from the above article. Based on GRE test performance ( Graduate Record Examination ) of graduate programme applicants. Quantitative (math) skills on the vertical axis, verbal skills on the horizontal (other graphs include the third component - "analytical writing", at which philosophers also excel, dramatically outperforming all others). Philosophy graduates are pretty damn smart, the various figures suggest, compared to graduates with other degrees, including most - perhaps even all - sciences (though were they smarter to begin with, or did their degree programme make them smarter, compared to other degrees?). Check the article. Here 's the original table of GRE scores of US students completing a variety of degrees. Notice religion also does very well. This data suggests (but falls a long way short of establishin


See some of you there, I hope... Centre for Inquiry UK and South Place Ethical Society present The Root Causes of The Holocaust What caused the Holocaust? What was the role of the Enlightenment? What role did religion play in causing, or trying to halt, the Holocaust? Prof. A.C. Grayling Prof. Jonathan Glover (King’s College) Dr David Ranan (author of Double Cross) 11am-2pm, Sat. December 18th, 2010 Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL – Main Hall 10.30-11.00 Registration 11.00-12.00 Jonathan Glover 12.00-1.00 David Ranan 1.00-2.00 A.C. Grayling Just £10 on the door. Free to Friends of CFI UK, PLUS GLHA, SPES, BHA, AHS, CAMP QUEST, NEW HUMANIST SUBSCRIBERS. Tickets on the door. Bring a friend.

Cogito dialogue

A short dialogue on the Cogito: inference or performance? MARY: ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – I think therefore I am – Descartes’ famous proof that he exists! JOHN: I don’t see that Descartes has proved anything. MARY: Why not? JOHN: Well, before Descartes arrives at his ‘proof’, he sets about trying to subject all his beliefs to doubt, right? MARY: Yes. That’s his famous ‘method of doubt’. He decides to set aside all of those beliefs which he can doubt, to see if he find any indubitable certainties. He wants to identify which of his beliefs are utterly secure, so that he can then rebuild knowledge upon them. They will provide him with a firm foundation. And the cogito is his starting point – Descartes cannot doubt that he exists because, by doubting he exists, he proves that he does. It’s a self-defeating doubt. JOHN: Hmm. I am not so sure. Look, Descartes supposes at one point that there might be an evil demon intent on deceiving him – correct? MARY: Yes. Descartes doesn't actually believ

Captain Ska

Obviously it would send a powerful message if this was number 1 at Xmas. 79p from itunes and profit goes to charity. Search "Liar liar" ska. [P.S. I don't endorse every line of the song btw - it is a bit of hyperbole, obviously.]

University Fees: Cui bono? (Who benefits?)

Who are the real winners re the new University fees and funding arrangements, compared to, say, an income-tax based system of funding on which graduates are funded from general taxation (like we used to have)? As the Ancient Romans used to ask: " Cui bono ?" or "Who benefits?" Here's Cicero: The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, 'To whose benefit?' My suggestions, in this case, are: (1) The banks who will be administering the complex loan system and making money from the huge debts graduates will accumulate at the start of their careers. These banks will have been talking behind the scenes with Govt. Ministers about how precisely they'll do this and what profits they might expect to make. (ii) The very rich. When things are funded by general taxation, the rich pay more. When they are funded by fees and loans, they pay very much less. The bulk

You now face a net lifetime financial loss if you do an arts or humanities degree, and quite possibly if you do a science degree too

"The Research Report: The economic benefits of a degree published by Universities UK in February 2007, reports the average lifetime earnings of a graduate as £160,000 more than those of a non-graduate with two A-levels. Within this average there is a range from £340,315 for medical and dental graduates to £51,549 for a humanities degree and £34,949 for an arts degree." Doing a degree in humanities or arts now involves a net lifetime financial loss , assuming students graduate with fees/costs of £30,000 and interest to be added over decades. But of course, the actual fee+cost will be rather more than that. So why bother? Of course, if people do science degrees instead , that won't increase the pool of science jobs, so the same number will now be taking those poorer paid non-science grad jobs previously taken by arts and humanities grads (but with their more expensive and largely irrelevant science degrees). Society needs people to do those graduate jobs. But it seems w

Why should a postman pay for your university education?

Proponents of graduate fees and loans justify loading, say, teachers with £50k of debt at the beginning of their careers as fair because the alternative - an income tax funded system - is unfair: "Why should a postman pay for your university education?" Paxman asked this question of a student on Newsnight. Perhaps he was expecting a good answer but he didn't get one. A good response is to say: "Why should a postman pay for the cancer treatment of this middle class woman?" Unless you are free market libertarian of the most extreme sort, you can surely see there's a good answer to this question. In fact, unlike that middle class woman's cancer treatment, the postman does get an obvious direct benefit from living in a society in which people are university educated, such as the qualified teachers who teach his children, for example. And, more importantly, his own children will have the opportunity to go to university without being saddled with huge d

Tutition fees, the rich and Labour - red Steve rants.

My wife was in London yesterday and saw the demonstration. She mentioned that one of the main cries was "tax the rich". Weirdly, the Labour party are failing to cash in on the growing, widespread resentment against big business and the very wealthy. Tory policies, while being dressed up as "progressive", are often only progressive re. the less well off, not the very rich. Take child benefit. That's cut for families earning over a certain amount. This is "progressive" we're told, but of course it's a way of directing cuts onto the middle classes, not the rich, who will lose the exact same amount whether they are on £42k or £2 or £20 million a year. It's a poll tax on everyone over a certain threshold. Ditto the fees policy. The poor, for the time being, receive some help, and no one pays the loan back till they earn £21k, so it's "progressive" we are told. But only re. the less well off. The rich will just pay up front, will

CFI UK events in April

In partnership with The Oxford Literary festival CFI UK has the following events lined up in April 2011 (held at Christ Church College, University of Oxford). A.C. GRAYLING - THE GOOD BOOK: A SECULAR BIBLE Grayling launches his latest book in the glorious Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford University on Sunday 3rd April, 12pm. NATHAN PENLINGTON – URI AND ME Magician/skeptic/entertainer/poet Penlington presents his Edinburgh Festival show Uri and Me for CFI UK. About Uri Geller….. Sunday 3rd April 10am. Venue TBA. PROF JUSTIN BARRETT – BORN BELIEVERS Justin Barret, Prof. of Psychology at University of Oxford, explains we he believes we have an innate tendency to religious belief (he is religious himself). He’ll be presenting some fascinating experimental results. 4pm Wed. April 6th. venue TBA. DOES GOD EXIST? Stephen Law (author, a Very Short Introduction to Humanism, The Philosophy Gym) debates with Prof Alister McGrath (author of The Dawkins Delusion and A Fine-Tuned Universe – The Qu

Matt Tee communicates

I find this 30 minute talk by Matt Tee unbelievably irritating, and have been wondering whether my adverse reaction is really warranted, and whether it actually says more about me than about him. What do you think? The talk is here . It is a 30 minute talk by Matt Tee, the current Permanent Secretary for Government Communications. Tee earns in excess of £160,000 per year. He is a communications professional who seems to have had a very successful career. My problem with this talk is, I think: 1. Tee reminds me of David Brent. This is not his fault, and not a legitimate reason to criticise what he says. 2. He has little to say, surely? Strip out the “successful behavioural outcomes”, “partnership”, "stakeholder”, “co-creation”, “we’re on a journey” jargon and rhetoric, and his message boils down to: • The public used to be seen by Government as passive recipients of information, not as customers to engage with, which they now are, ‘cos of the internet, twitter, etc. Citizens

The Plank and Double Effect

Doctrine of Double effect It is morally permissible to perform an action with bad effects (e.g. killing one person to save another) iff:  1. The act itself, considered in independently of its effect, is not wrong.  2. Only the good effect is directly intended (the bad is merely foreseen).  3. The bad effect is not a means for achieving the good.  4. The good effect outweighs the bad In a nutshell: An act is not permissible if the intention is to do a bad thing to achieve a good consequence of that bad thing. But an act is permissible if the intention is to do a good thing that simply has bad consequences (outweighed by the good). Double effect in action Consider: 1. Dropping a bomb on a military base, knowing it will result in hundreds of civilian deaths. But the destruction of the base will end the war, resulting in many more lives saved. 2. Dropping a bomb on civilians, resulting in hundreds of deaths, the resulting terror leading to surrender and many more lives saved.

Tory leaders intellectual lightweights and student yobs?

Wikileaks: We discover Obama sees the Tory team as "lightweights" and that Mervyn King said about Cameron and Osborne that they had a "lack of experience and tendency to see issues only in terms of politics". Osborne had also been identified by Labour as the "weak link" in a supposedly already intellectually dubious team. Incidentally, George Osborne did not just change his name from Gideon. It's a very little know fact that Osborne also changed degree part way through. He switched to Modern History while at Oxford (from PPE, I believe - Politics, Philosophy and Economics). Switching degrees after the first year is a fairly unusual thing to do, usually prevented or at least strongly discouraged by colleges and universities unless there are very good reasons for doing so. But who knows the actual reason for George's switch? So far I have only heard a very interesting as yet unsubstantiated report from a contemporary of his that he switched bec

Michael Behe talk{42F345D1-A875-41AD-8591-71515CB69803} Above link: Intelligent design proponent Michael Behe talks rubbish (that's not my view, that's the view of the Christian Kenneth R. Miller and many other religious scientists). Her's Miller, who is an excellent and highly knowledgeable speaker. If you're tempted to think that there's maybe something to all this ID stuff, listen to Miller. Notice he starts with a prayer.... PS fine-tuning arguments are anther matter entirely. They, at least, are not a joke.