Monday, November 29, 2010

Quotes of the day

... the principle of noncontradiction has been high orthodoxy in Western philosophy since Aristotle mounted a spirited defense of it in his “Metaphysics” — so orthodox that no one seems to have felt the need to mount a sustained defense of it ever since. So the paradox must be of the second kind: there must be something wrong with the argument. Or must there? Not according to a contentious new theory that’s currently doing the rounds. According to this theory, some contradictions are actually true, and the conclusion of the Liar Paradox is a paradigm example of one such contradiction. The theory calls a true contradiction a dialetheia (Greek: “di” = two (way); “aletheia” = truth), and the view itself is called dialetheism. ... Revolutions in logic (of various kinds) have certainly occurred in the past. Arguably, the greatest of these was around the turn of the 20th century, when traditional Aristotelian logic was overthrown, and the mathematical techniques of contemporary logic were ushered in. Perhaps we are on the brink of another.--Graham Priest

Predominantly Catholic countries in Europe and elsewhere, such as Ireland, Spain, or Mexico, had larger families than did predominantly Protestant countries, like Sweden or Norway, even after adjusting for the effects on fertility of differences among countries in their average incomes, education, importance of cities, and other variables. Again, the explanation given for this result was that Catholic families were more reluctant to use contraception to reduce the number of children they had. Demographers even used the situation in Ireland to define a class of behavior called “Irish family patterns”, which meant that men and women married late-in their late twenties and early thirties- and that after marriage women gave birth at frequent intervals because couples made little effort to control their births once married. These findings of a strong Catholic “effect” on fertility changed radically during the past 40 years or so. Studies for the United States now show that Catholic families have, if anything, fewer rather than a greater, number of children compared to Protestant families who have similar incomes and education. A similar reversal has occurred in international comparisons. Catholic countries like Spain, Italy, and Poland now have total fertility rates-the number of children born to the average woman over her lifetime- of only 1.4, 1.4, and 1.2, respectively, far below these rates in the predominantly Protestant countries of Northern Europe. Even “Irish” family patterns no longer hold in Ireland, where the typical woman has a little less than two children over her lifetime instead of four or five, even though she is not marrying any later than the typical Irish woman did in the past.--Gary Becker

For the most part, however, what we see here [with the latest Wikileaks dispatches] is diplomats doing their proper job: finding out what is happening in the places to which they are posted, working to advance their nation's interests and their government's policies. In fact, my personal opinion of the state department has gone up several notches. In recent years, I have found the American foreign service to be somewhat underwhelming, reach-me-down, dandruffy, especially when compared with other, more confident arms of US government, such as the Pentagon and the treasury. But what we find here is often first rate.--Timothy Garton Ash

Some experts, however, questioned WHO's calls for more health donations. "How do you make an impassioned plea for spending more money when we're wasting so much?" asked William Easterly, a foreign aid expert at New York University. He said much of the problem in developing countries is that while donors have spent billions on things like drugs, vaccines and malaria bednets, little has been spent on the health workers needed to distribute them. "Medicines and vaccines don't administer themselves," Easterly said. He also criticized U.N. agencies and major donors like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who have mostly avoided investing in health systems, preferring instead to build separate programs for illnesses like malaria, polio and AIDS. "That is like doing aerial bombing at 35,000 feet without knowing what you're hitting on the ground," Easterly said. "But investing in medicines for AIDS and malaria makes for much better publicity than investing in health systems."--Maria Cheng

So here goes for what Aid Watch is sincerely thankful for: For the largest reduction in world poverty in human history, which has already happened in our generation. For the largest improvement in health and life expectancy in human history, which has already happened in our generation.--Aid Watch

Most people operate in an environment of such low risk that both action and inaction have very few consequences. So although we may be attracted to the tiger on the terrace, we prefer to live with the kitty in the kitchen. The tiger on the terrace is operating in a high-risk environment so the consequences of his actions are significant. He is keeping everything stirred up and everyone around him on their toes. He is tireless, always in perpetual motion, relentless, obsessed and fills every room with energy the moment he enters. He has a twinkle in both eyes and all in his path are standing on their toes. While he is on the terrace no one is whining, complaining or sick. They are all running for their lives. That is entertaining for most people to watch, but not to live. The tiger is all things to excess and nothing to moderation. As a consequence, the masses choose to trade the tiger for a kitty in the kitchen and lower risk tolerance. The daily risk appetite of the tiger is just too exhausting even though the thrill quotient is significantly higher. Most people want mediocrity, security, safety and repetition. The kitchens are then filled with whining, sickness, complaints and boredom. That is why there are few tigers left in the world and millions of kitties. Leaders are tigers!--Tom Barrack

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