Category Archives: Volition

Donald Trump and the moral conversation – part 2

The moral conversation

In Part One of this post I looked at the first two “vectors” of the moral conversation that “walks our brain” through its different moral and ethical decision-making sub-parts as we contemplate the moral state of the Trump Presidency. In this last part I will “complete the circle” by looking at two more ethical vectors, empathy and meta-ethics.

Donald Trump and the moral conversation – part 1

The moral conversation

In a post last year I proposed a method with some decent theological, philosophical and scientific bases for conducting moral conversations about those difficult issues on which “good people disagree.” It is time to attempt to have that conversation about the state of the U.S. Presidency.

Schlemiels, schlimazels, probability and free will

Laverne & Shirley

“The brain is a machine that remembers the past in order to predict the future.” — Dean Buonomano [1] Schlemiel and schlimazel are two Yiddish words known to many only by their mention in the theme song to the old television show Laverne and Shirley. In the classic definition, the schlemiel is the bungler who is always spilling soup on… Read more »

The three languages of right and wrong

      2 Comments on The three languages of right and wrong

You likely don’t realize it, but whenever you talk about issues of “right” and “wrong,” you are at least “bi-lingual,” and often “tri-lingual.” Just as many Americans unconsciously and fluidly slip between speaking English and Spanish in a linguistic hybrid, most of us intermix at least three “cultural languages” when expressing our views on morality and the law. [1] I… Read more »

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

      2 Comments on Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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

      No Comments on Left-brain versus right-brain ethics

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 »

Can self-driving cars be moral?

      2 Comments on Can self-driving cars be moral?

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll presents one of the best science podcasts, called Mindscape, and a recent episode featured philosopher Derek Leben. Leben has been researching how self-driving vehicles might be programmed when faced with what we would typically call a moral dilemma if faced by a human. For instance, if there were no choice but to swerve the car into a brick… Read more »

What’s past is prologue – vectors into the future

We all were sea-swallow’d, though some cast again, And by that destiny to perform an act Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come In yours and my discharge. — Antonio, in The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1 (William Shakespeare, 1610) A freshman college course in Analytic Geometry helped to land me, several years later, onto a project team in… Read more »

A year of rolling the dice

      1 Comment on A year of rolling the dice

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 »