Monthly Archives: June 2018

Update: The gun violence lottery

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The most-viewed post in the short history of this blog was a February post entitled “The gun violence lottery”. In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting, I posited a rather cold math question: What if there is no single “cause” of mass shootings in the U.S. beyond “an unsecured gun was available, and we have millions of unsecured guns… Read more »

A moral conversation about immigration

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The debate about immigration and asylum, especially on the southern border of the United States, has reached a fever pitch, and is even on the cusp of civil disturbance. In the language of a previous post, the moral conversation is NOT happening here, either between people or even, I would argue, inside the heads of most people. In that post… Read more »

The moral conversation

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I have been writing a continuing series about morality and ethics, which I summarize as being about “Why good people disagree,” since March, beginning with this post about the “first ethical dilemma,” as encountered very early in homo sapiens’ existence as a species. My basic position is that our theological and philosophical languages have evolved, over the centuries, as words for… Read more »

The math of changing your mind – part 2

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A recent post looked at the concept of Markov chains to help us see the process by which people change allegiance from one restaurant to another, or one political position to another. This post follows up with some of the math behind Markov chains and gives you access to a spreadsheet to let you experiment with the concept. If any… Read more »

Faith, hope, charity and Roy Rogers

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One of my earliest memories as a small child in the 1950s is listening to a favorite 78 RPM record. On this little piece of yellow vinyl, husband-and-wife cowboy stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang: Have faith, hope and charity, That’s the way to live successfully. How do I know? The Bible tells me so! Faith, hope and charity… Read more »

The math of changing your mind – part 1

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Markov Change

In a recent post I explored the idea of collective delusion, where our self-concept of things like our susceptibility to advertising or the under-estimates of our gambling losses are betrayed by the total size of the advertising and gambling markets. In this post, I will look at how collective delusion can extend to our most fervently-held political convictions and the… Read more »

The Big Question: Who ought I be?

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I introduced the idea of “Big Picture” meta-ethics in an earlier post. In Western philosophy, the Greek philosopher Aristotle (approx. 384–322 BCE) is usually seen as the first to go down this route (or the earliest whose ideas survive). Rather than seeing morality as being about a bunch of rules or propositions, he suggested that it is more about the “Big… Read more »

Las Vegas, internet advertising and collective delusions

This blog started out looking at how fragile probabilistic randomness often affects our collective and individual fates as a society. The next few posts work toward exploring some of the mathematics behind how half of America found itself embracing a collective political delusion which is objectively 180 degrees from its own long-held conservative religious and political norms. That math may… Read more »

“Big picture” ethics

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The prior post in this series about “empathy-based ethics” confronted its “fatal flaw” in standing alone as a way to deal with moral dilemmas. The reality is that we can’t save every person who needs our help. And so, at some point, even the most empathetic among us have to start thinking in terms of the “bigger picture.” I can’t… Read more »

“Wink and a nod” contract consideration – part 2

The first part of this series of posts looked at the growing inability to prosecute political bribery because the courts and legislatures have enabled layers of opaque legal entities to hide the delivery of the political favors from the receipt of the “consideration.” As I noted in that part, no official “contract” exists other than a “wink and a nod”… Read more »