Category Archives: The Dice

Your “existential” birth lottery ticket revisited

What if I were never born? This is one of the “big questions” in life that can lead to unresolvable human angst. Some recent articles in the New York Times on the subjects of abortion rights and in vitro fertilization (IVF), resulted in a published selection of letters to the editor in which this theme bubbles up a repeatedly, including… Read more »

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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A long-standing battle between two different philosophies of “doing statistics” appears to play itself out in trying to understand how the human brain exercises volition (or “choice”, or “free will”), and it appears that our brains have decided to stand with the “Bayesians.” All life on this planet naturally seeks to “change the odds” of its own survival and procreation…. Read more »

Left-brain versus right-brain ethics

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NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam hosts an excellent podcast entitled Hidden Brain, focusing on the science of human behavior. A recent episode features brain researcher and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, author of a book that tries to sort the myths from the science regarding the differences between our “left brain” and “right brain.” The two brain hemispheres sometimes appear complementary or mirrors… Read more »

Posts that the internet missed – part 2

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In the prior post I brought back some of 2018’s posts from this blog that should have had more internet traction. In case you missed them, here are a few more: Government budgets are moral documents It looks like a real U.S. budget from the dysfunctional Congress will not be a Paul Ryan legacy. He should have read this post… Read more »

Posts that the internet missed – part 1

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In this prior post I reviewed a few of this year’s posts from this blog that “broke through” past my subscriber base into a larger internet audience. In this post I’ll take another look at some posts that I think should have seen a broader audience. Constantine, Putin, Trump and the co-opting of religion The complete rolling over to supporting… Read more »

A year of rolling the dice

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I started this blog in early 2018 as a place to post some pieces I had developed over several years looking at how probabilistic randomness and other mathematical realities affect everything from the way we vote to our scientific and religious understandings of the “human condition.” Some blog posts achieved more web penetration than others, and so this post is… Read more »

The anniversary of a big experiment in randomness

December 1, 2018 is the 49th anniversary of a major sociological experiment in randomness conducted by the United States government, and it is one that changed the fates of hundreds of thousands of young men and their families. On December 1, 1969, the first televised Selective Service draft, also the first nationwide randomized draft since World War II, was conducted… Read more »

Brett Kavanaugh, moral luck and the veil of ignorance

In this blog I have visited several times the intersection of mathematical probability with what we often call “divine justice” (also known as theodicy). For instance, the odds being diagnosed with any of several types of cancer resemble statistically the winning of a cruel lottery, with statistical annual diagnosis rates per 100,000 people eerily unchanged from year to year. Or take… Read more »

The “values voter” – Whose values?

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In a post a while back I wrote about the concept of “Big Picture” ethics, or meta-ethics, where making moral decisions determined by either by “the rules” or “the goals” become secondary behind a larger, generalized conception of principles or virtues that attempt to reconcile conflicting ideas and filter out the worst choices. One of the primary vectors of meta-ethics… Read more »