Joe Rogan, the comedian, podcaster, and UFC commentator, has been getting into hot water lately. It started with his views on COVID vaccines and other measures. Now he’s being accused of being racist. Here are some thoughts.
Picture your stereotypical incel, doomer, or shitpost internet commenter. This is probably a youngish white male who is a quiet, awkward nerd in real life. Maybe he dons a neckbeard and wiles away his time playing video games and listening to black metal. When deigning to interact with fellow human beings offline, he only manages to contribute the occasional cynical edgelord quip to the conversation only to bask in the discomfort he’s caused. Online this person becomes a know-it-all on reddit and comment sections, interjecting with snarky non-sequiturs and unsolicited contrarianism in order to cultivate a self-identity as some brand of “agent of chaos.” He declares his atheism and libertarianism at every opportunity all the while belittling others for their own sincerely held beliefs. Yet, these charming underachievers are baffled by their inevitable dearth of friends and potential romantic partners.
A few years ago I made a lengthy post on the philosophical arguments against the existence of God. I stated that it was the first in a series. This one is the second in that series. Here I will go through the scientific arguments for why I do not believe in the existence of God. Just like with my philosophical arguments, this will end up being a fairly long post and one which I will revise and add to periodically. As such, what you see may not be the final version of this post.
A common refrain in the news media during these COVID years has been to “trust the science.” This is also a popular mantra when it comes to climate science. Yet, in the United States at least, trust in experts and institutions is at an all time low. The political right is skeptical of climate science, COVID vaccines, and scientific institutions like the NIH and CDC, seeing them as a means for the government to take away rights and for liberals to impose their will. The political left views science as a white colonialist means of subjugating those with other “ways of knowing” and upholding white, male privilege. So the question is: should we trust the science?
Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker; Viking (September 28, 2021); 432 pages
Philosophy, unlike science, does not have a reliable method for answering questions. As a result, there are longstanding philosophical questions that have no good answer. Or, perhaps, that have too many answers and no good criteria for determining which is the right one. So, what are the 6 biggest questions in philsophy?
I have spoken on this blog numerous times about both the illiberal woke left and the illiberal integralist right. Both sides critique liberalism (used in the classical sense, not in the sense of the U.S. left). Some of these critiques are valid. Indeed, I am not above critiquing liberalism. My position, however, is that although liberalism is not good, it is the least bad of the available options. Now, though, the illiberal right is becoming the friend of the center left in the enemy of my enemy sort of way.
A number of conservative thinkers are coming to the conclusion that liberalism, in the classical sense (the way it will be used hereafter), ought to be jettisoned. Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen published Why Liberalism Failed in 2018 where he argued that liberalism is an ideology in the same sense that fascism or communism are. It is not the natural order of things of which human history has been blundering about for millennia in its quest to achieve. What is happening in the world today is not in spite of liberalism, but a result of it.
I have made no secret about the fact that I am a philosophical pessimist. Hell, my blog, the one you are reading right now, is called the cynical philosopher. My general disposition is one of nihilism and general misanthropy. This grim view of things is often considered one for the weak. For those who can’t hack it and have given up. I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. But I think there is a case to be made that giving up is a sensible position to take.
In science, objectivity is the greatest virtue. In an ideal world, a scientist would be impartial, disinterested in the outcomes, never desiring one result over another. They would run the experiment, gather the data, and report the findings, even if the data showed something that refuted the scientists’ hypothesis or gave an uninteresting negative result. Experiments would be replicated by multiple different people to more rigorously determine the veracity of the results. Negative results would get published as often as positive results. Topics for study would be determined by a mixture of intellectual curiosity and potential for improving society in some measurable way. Science, to say the least, does not live up to this ideal. But is science redeemable?
I wrote before on the Sohrab Ahmari vs David French antagonism seen in U.S. conservatism. A new theater in this growing schism between the postliberal and liberal (in a classical liberal sense) wings of the U.S. conservative movement has opened up between Catholic Integralist Sohrab Ahmari and Orthodox (post)liberal Rod Dreher.
The popular, even ubiquitous metaphor used in cognitive neuroscience is that the brain can be likened to a computer. The similarities seem obvious: neuronal activity is binary (a neuron is either depolarized (ON) during an action potential or polarized (OFF) when inactive); our vision and hearing has many aesthetic similarities to a computer display (indeed, the monitor is made exactly to fit the human experience of colors, shapes, etc.); humans process information (we can sit down and think through a math problem, for instance). So on and so forth. But is the “brains are computers” metaphor accurate? And if not, then is adherence to this metaphor slowing down progress in neuroscience?
Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter, Portfolio (October 26, 2021), 224 Pages.
Nihilism, I contend, broadly comes in two different flavors. There is the nihilism of hopelessness and existential dread, whereby the meaninglessness of everything is more contemplative, yet psychologically paralyzing. I tend to fall more into this camp. The second flavor is selfishness and greed. A person concludes there is no meaning to anything, so why not just enjoy myself?
I just finished watching Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special “The Closer” after hearing about the backlash against his alleged transphobic jokes. I have some thoughts. Here they are.
The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, has become a big story in the news lately. I think most people are not really surprised about the revelations that Instagram makes people anxious and depressed and that Facebook cares about money more than people’s well being. The question, though, is where to go from here.
Philosophy is broadly concerned with two questions: what is there (i.e. what exists)? And what is the good life? The former still holds a prominent place in philosophy. The latter has undergone an evolution. If it is asked now days, it is usually rephrased something more like: how can I maximize pleasure and reduce suffering? But is this the question we ought to be asking?
One of the main issues that proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT) have with the liberal status quo is the idea of meritocracy. Ideally, meritocracy means that the persons who are best qualified for some position in the economy (or even society at large) will be the ones who obtain those positions. The CRT proponent will say that meritocracy is not only bad in practice, but also bad in principle. Thus, some other criteria – such as ones status in a particular group, such as race or sex – ought to be used when determining who fills different positions.
I have not made a post here about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan not because I don’t have opinions about it, but because I don’t really have a hot take on it. The war was misguided from very early on, strategically inept, and the withdrawal was a complete boondoggle. I think one would be hard pressed to find many differing opinions on that third point, though possibly for different reasons.