Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quotes of the day

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.--F.A. Hayek

History is increasingly seen as nothing more than victims and villains, especially by liberals. Conservatives see the future as a sort of dystopian nightmare, at least if the residents of future worlds have the temerity to discard our value system. We have obviously achieved perfection, even though every previous generation before us was morally flawed. I don’t know whether future citizens will embrace designer babies, or cryonics, but that’s their decision, isn’t it? Our ancestors would be shocked by gay marriage, or the fact that we routinely wager on the death of our spouse, where a “win” occurs if the spouse dies. [For those who don't know, our ancestors understood that life insurance was morally revolting.]--Scott Sumner

What hard liquor, cigarettes, heroin, and crack have in common is that they're all more concentrated forms of less addictive predecessors. Most if not all the things we describe as addictive are. And the scary thing is, the process that created them is accelerating. ... But if I'm right about the acceleration of addictiveness, then this kind of lonely squirming to avoid it will increasingly be the fate of anyone who wants to get things done. We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.--Paul Graham

When an academic starts pushing the tenure model for anywhere outside academia, I will find their defense of its use in academia more convincing.--Megan McArdle

I was surprised to read that "White House economists believe that taxes have little effect on growth." Just a few days ago I received the June 2010 issue of the American Economic Review, the flagship journal of academic economics. The current issue contains an article by CEA Chair Christina Romer and her husband David Romer on the macroeconomic effects of tax changes. Their paper examines "all major postwar tax policy actions" and concludes that "tax increases are highly contractionary." For emphasis, the authors add that this finding is both "strongly significant" and "highly robust."--E. Frank Stephenson

... courage is only a virtue if there are moral absolutes. Yet the contributor to The Christian Delusion who wrote the chapter on secular ethics denies moral realism. And other contributors also subscribe to moral relativism or–which comes to the same thing–cultural relativism. So, in that case, why be courageous? If there‘s no such thing as objective morality, then there‘s no moral duty to be courageous–or epistemic duty to avoid wrong conclusions.--Steve Hays

For [David] Eller to pretend his cultural claims about Christianity affect the positive epistemic status a Christian may have for her beliefs, while not bothering to let his readers know about the double-edged nature of this criticism, is simply an exercise in confirmation bi-as. For the sociology of science in the latter part of the twentieth century [has] tended to suggest an unusual picture of science. This is a picture in which science is controlled entirely by human collective choices and social interests (Godfrey-Smith, 134). I would never think of devaluing science merely because of the wasteland of divergent beliefs many atheistic scientists hold to regarding the nature of science. Yet the implications of Eller‘s post are devastating to science, while this Christian defends science against those very unsettling implications. That has to sting. An unfortunate conclusion that can be inferred from the above is that Eller‘s co-writers must either accept the evisceration of their esteemed trust in science, or they can hide Eller away in the closet, ashamed of his critique of Christianity. Or a third option: they can engage in confirmation bias and laud the epistemic vice of treating opposing beliefs to a double standard.--Paul Manata

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