Category Archives: The Dice

Making the exception

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“Every rule has an exception, including this one.” (Anonymous) There is an old joke among tax accountants that there is really only one rule in the entire Internal Revenue Service Code: “Everything is taxable unless we say it isn’t.” The rest of the thousands of pages of code and revenue rulings consists of detailed exceptions to that one rule. That… Read more »

Book review: “The Human Instinct” by Kenneth Miller

I have long had a habit of looking in used bookstores for copies of a 1999 book by biologist and best-selling textbook author Kenneth Miller entitled Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, which I then give to friends. Miller’s book is one of the few scientifically-competent books about evolution that is written with the sensitive… Read more »

The Ten-ish Commandments

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Despite their iconic status in Christian and Jewish theology, it is unlikely that even the most Bible-literate person you encounter could easily and accurately name all ten of the commandments from chapter 20 in the Old Testament book of Exodus. [1] Bring up your computer’s notepad and try it yourself before looking at the source below. You shouldn’t be too… Read more »

King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain”

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For many people, especially the most religious of a fundamentalist bent, the whole idea of ethics and morality is only about rules. In this continuing exploration of our four “ethical brains” (see this earlier post for an introduction to that concept), it is practical to start with “rules and exceptions,” not because they are the earliest or dominant ethical modes, but… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 2

In Part One of this series of posts, I demonstrated the non-linear “natural logarithmic” relationship between the frequency of a sound and our perception of it. Likewise, our perception of the volume of sound has this same “proportion-based” relationship, and I noted that this is true for our other senses as well. These are manifestations of what is called the… Read more »

Your four (or more) ethical brains

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The organizing thread of these observations on ethics and morality is that we have historically mis-ordered the sequence of human ethical reasoning. My assertion is that first multiple parts of the human brain are evaluating the alternative survival strategies which they have evolved to address. Only second do the human languages of theology and philosophy attempt to “map” the conflicting… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 1

The fret spacing on a guitar can give us a a very important insight into how human volition (i.e., choice or free will) works biologically, at the deepest level of our brain neurons. The insight is that the biochemistry of our nerve cells has a natural logarithmic, rather than linear, mathematics built into it, which is crucial to how we… Read more »

Ethics from the bottom up

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I have studied ethics for many years now, including formal academic work. I started from the usual place, which was an assumption that you will find some higher-order “correct ethical decision” for every dilemma if you can analyze it properly “top-down” and apply the correct philosophical or theological model. Over the years I have more often preferred to turn this… Read more »

Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal

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In a recent post I wrote about the split among neuroscientists between the “determinists” and the “compatibilists.” The former see choice/free will/volition as an illusion created by our brains, while the latter see an active role for our “minds” in determining our future actions, although not necessarily as the “master decision-maker” that our personal “homunculus” often perceives. In that post… Read more »