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kottke.org posts about jimholt

Jim Holt reports on a pair of

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 03, 2006

Jim Holt reports on a pair of books that argue that string theory is hurting theoretical physics. The article contains a good overview of the history and current status of the theory. For those looking to discover which book is better, Holt recommends Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics.

Jim Holt ponders the US population’s ignorance

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2005

Jim Holt ponders the US population’s ignorance of (and hostility toward) science “at a moment when three of the nation’s most contentious political issues - global warming, stem-cell research and the teaching of intelligent design - are scientific in character”.

Jim Holt asks Freeman Dyson, Lawrence Krauss,

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 31, 2005

Jim Holt asks Freeman Dyson, Lawrence Krauss, Ed Witten and other in trying to figure out how the universe will end. Further reading: Time Without End by Freeman Dyson, Frank Tipler’s Omega Point theory, and The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations by Michio Kaku.

Bullshit parallels

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2005

In Jim Holt’s review of three recent books about bullshit, he writes:

The essence of bullshit, Frankfurt decides, is that it is produced without any concern for the truth. Bullshit needn’t be false: “The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.” The bullshitter’s fakery consists not in misrepresenting a state of affairs but in concealing his own indifference to the truth of what he says. The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion: he wants to lead us away from it. As Frankfurt sees it, the liar and the truthteller are playing on opposite sides of the same game, a game defined by the authority of truth. The bullshitter opts out of this game altogether. Unlike the liar and the truthteller, he is not guided in what he says by his beliefs about the way things are. And that, Frankfurt says, is what makes bullshit so dangerous: it unfits a person for telling the truth.

In thinking about Judeo-Christian religion, atheism is a bit like bullshitting in this respect. If you believe in God, you also necessarily believe in the existence of Satan. So too for Satanists…like the liar, they are concerned with the counterpart to their main interest (i.e. God) as something to defend against. But atheists opt out and don’t believe in the existence of either.

Update: There’s been a bit of confusion as to what I’m actually trying to say here. My fault. I’m definitely not trying to say that atheists are bullshitters. Or that Satanists are liars. Or that Christians believe in Satan (as opposed to believing in the existence of Satan). What I’m saying that as both truth-tellers and liars are concerned with the true and false, so too are Christians and Satanists both concerned with God and Satan. But the bullshitter cares little for the true or false, just as an atheist is little concerned with God or Satan.

Also, someone pointed out that Satanists often don’t worship Satan. Sez the Wikipedia entry on Satanism:

Many Satanists do not worship a deity called Satan or any other deity. Unlike many religions and philosophies, Satanism generally focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes.

So my whole point is shot anyway. (thx, kevin)