Category Archives: The Dice

Brett Kavanaugh, moral luck and the veil of ignorance

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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 »

“Free will” versus “free won’t”

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“I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde One of the best-known series of studies on human volition, or “free will,” was the “marshmallow test,” conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. In one variant of this study, children would be placed alone in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they waited and chose not to eat… Read more »

Rain events, the sand pile effect and climate change

I spent a lot of grandmother-visiting time in my youth, and went to university for a time, in the far-northern Michigan town of Houghton, located on the Keweenaw Peninsula protruding like a thumb into Lake Superior. This place regularly gets over 200 inches of “lake effect” snowfall each winter, but it has rarely been hit with up to seven inches… Read more »

Money is choice

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Several recent posts in this blog have been focused on the idea of human volition (or “choice,” or “free will”). [1] While there is more ground to cover on the biological foundations of this perception, we can say at this point that we all (including the most strict of “determinists” who philosophically deny that free will exists) live our lives… Read more »

Playing Yahtzee® with God

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers, about identical triplets who had been raised separately, only to meet for the first time when they were teenagers. The film first explores the question of why these three men were so similar but ends on asking why their lives turned out so differently. The classic “nature versus… Read more »

Why be ethical?

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I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »

Your moral probability

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When encountering an in-your-face moral dilemma, say the imprisoning of refugee children apart from their parents at the southern U.S. border, you can likely predict which classic ethical justification certain people are going to throw out first. Some people will first speak of the damage done to the children, letting their “empathy flag” fly high. Others will shout, “But the… Read more »