Pascal's Wager, Thought Experiment , Letter-writing, Evolution, Consciousness

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Pascal’s Wager Is Eminently Modern

Ed Simon | Nautilus | 27th January 2017

Pascal’s celebrated “wager” is an argument not for the rationality of God nor for the existence of God but for the rationality of believing that God exists. It contends that the downside risk of believing is modest, whereas the upside potential is infinite, and vice-versa. Pascal thus places luck at the centre of Christian apologetics, and addresses the possibility that one might not believe in God at all — an option not generally entertained in Western philosophy until a century later (1,200 words)

It Could Happen To You

Adam Kotsko | An Und Für Sich | 26th January 2017

Thought experiment about torture. “And then it hit me: This was what the whole setup was for! He had kidnapped my baby — which again, I totally have and am just desperate to get back and unbomb — and then let himself fall into my clutches specifically to tempt me into contradicting my stated opposition to torture. That was literally the only reason that anyone would do anything remotely this convoluted. I had to hand it to the terroristic bastard: he had really put me in a spot” (980 words)

How Poets Write Letters

Nancy Campbell | Times Literary Supplement | 25th January 2017

For at least the past century letter-writers have bemoaned the decline of letter-writing. The final collapse seems now to have occurred. But at least we are conscious of what we have lost: We have entered a golden age of nostalgia for letter-writing. Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note is a museum and a circus of the genre. It triumphs by placing letters firmly among the performing arts — some clearly designed for public show, others a private performance for the intended recipient (2,500 words)

Life, Death And Disorder

Philip Ball | Quanta | 26th January 2017

Is biology governed by the same laws that govern physics? If you were to drop a golf ball and a live pigeon off a tower you might assume otherwise. But at a fundamental level, living things are material, so the laws of thermodynamics must govern them and must govern the workings of evolution too. “Natural selection has been hugely concerned with minimising the thermodynamic cost of computation. It will do all it can to reduce the total amount of computation a cell must perform” (3,800 words)

The Ice Cream Problem

Riccardo Manzotti & Tim Parks | New York Review Of Books | 26th January 2017

Writer and scientist discuss the relationship between mind and body: “Consciousness, the neuroscientists claim, is inside the brain but eludes our observation. They see neural activity that correlates with consciousness, but acknowledge that this is not consciousness itself and don’t even try literally to observe consciousness itself. Since everything that is physical is detectable, this is akin to claiming that consciousness is not physical. And so we go back to Descartes and to dualism” (2,900 words)

Video of the day: The Power Of Big Data

What to expect:

Cambridge Analytica CEO explains how his firm promoted Ted Cruz — before it switched to work for Trump (11′)

Thought for the day

I like a friend better for having faults one can talk about
William Hazlitt

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