Friday, September 23, 2011

Links to Think About

Being deeply and happily absorbed in editing, I find it impossible to post. I know -- excuses, excuses. But there are a few things I've read recently that deserve mention.

The blog, Rationally Speaking, by Massimo Pigliucci is one I check daily. Here are three recent posts that are well worth consideration.

First, the final installment of his series on Ethics. The series is an easily accessible introduction to the question of ethics, and how we interpret and devise ethical systems.

Next, his Seven Questions on Skepticism. As I have written before, being skeptical is work. It is not being a toddler snarking "prove it" with clock-like predictability. It is attempting to see around, inside, and outside a question, trying to understand origins and ramifications, and, above all, recognizing that imposing limitations on yourself, on others, or on ideas is a very serious thing to do. It must be done, but we owe it to ourselves and our society to do so with kindness and understanding, not dogmatic decree. Massimo offers some very good suggestions on how believers and nonbelievers can learn to discuss reasonably even if they can't agree.

Today's post also relates to ethics. Are we innately evil or good? Can we create a society that encourages respect and tolerance? An intriguing read.

Also today, NPR's Adam Frank offers a thought provoking look at time. I have often wondered what it would be like to live in the past, when time was a generality, not an absolute. Where I could say, "this afternoon" to a friend, and not be at all disturbed if they showed up right after lunch or right before dinner, because all that span was, indeed, afternoon. No more specific reference point was available. Of course, the church did have time keeping rituals that defined the day more precisely. And I recall reading that in ancient Rome the day was divided according to sunlight, so a day in summer would be broken into longer units than a day in winter. But still, none of these have the urgent and impelling tenseness of "on the dot' modern time keeping mentality. Life was more relaxed. Was it better? What do you think?

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