In the News 01.02.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Wednesday 1st February, 2017
Bad Things Happen for a Reason, and Other Idiocies of Theodicy
The problem of evil is a classic dilemma in the philosophy of religion. The relative ease with which the problem can be stated belies the depth of the challenge that it presents to traditional monotheism. Roughly, it can be summarised as follows:
If God is omnipotent, then He has the power to create a world without evil.
If God is omniscient, then no moment of evil goes divinely unnoticed.
If God is omnibenevolent, then He has the desire to rid the world of evil.
Therefore, the world should be perfect, or at least free of undeserved suffering. Yet, a cursory glance reveals a world that clearly is not inherently just or free from undeserved suffering.
Hence, the problem of evil: how can a perfect deity allow such injustice and rampant evil in the world that He created?
Read the rest of this article at aeon
Henry Denard, the hero of Anthony Bourdain’s second novel, Gone Bamboo, is a hit man with a heart of maybe 14-karat gold. He’s halfway botched a contract killing, and now must pay the price. He’s holed up at the Oyster Pond Yacht Club in Saint Martin with his gorgeous, daring, gun-slingin’ wife, Frances, as their mortal enemies begin to arrive on the island, one by one. It’s a very violent mob novel, fair to middlin’ in quality, but with a lot of touching marital scenes between a sexy, outlaw version of Nick and Nora Charles.
When they got to the long section of loose dirt and gravel that curved around the high windward bluff over Baie Embouchure [sic], they were still laughing… Henry was driving too fast, and he felt Frances digging her knuckles into his ribs so he’d slow down. They sped around the ungraded turn, rear wheel sliding a little, past the sign marked only with an exclamation point. Still drunk from dinner and feeling mischievous, Henry ignored the knuckles in his side and opened up the throttle even more.
Read the rest of this article at Eater
How to Build an Autocracy
It’s 2021, and president donald trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.
Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic
Why Hollywood As We Know It Is Already Over
A few months ago, the vision of Hollywood’s economic future came into terrifyingly full and rare clarity. I was standing on the set of a relatively small production, in Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, talking to a screenwriter about how inefficient the film-and-TV business appeared to have become. Before us, after all, stood some 200 members of the crew, who were milling about in various capacities, checking on lighting or setting up tents, but mainly futzing with their smartphones, passing time, or nibbling on snacks from the craft-service tents. When I commented to the screenwriter that such a scene might give a Silicon Valley venture capitalist a stroke on account of the apparent unused labor and excessive cost involved in staging such a production—which itself was statistically uncertain of success—he merely laughed and rolled his eyes. “You have no idea,” he told me.
Read the rest of this article at Vanity Fair
The Hi-Tech War on Science Fraud
The problem of fake data may go far deeper than scientists admit. Now a team of researchers has a controversial plan to root out the perpetrators
One morning last summer, a German psychologist named Mathias Kauff woke up to find that he had been reprimanded by a robot. In an email, a computer program named Statcheck informed him that a 2013 paper he had published on multiculturalism and prejudice appeared to contain a number of incorrect calculations – which the program had catalogued and then posted on the internet for anyone to see. The problems turned out to be minor – just a few rounding errors – but the experience left Kauff feeling rattled. “At first I was a bit frightened,” he said. “I felt a bit exposed.”
Kauff wasn’t alone. Statcheck had read some 50,000 published psychology papers and checked the maths behind every statistical result it encountered. In the space of 24 hours, virtually every academic active in the field in the past two decades had received an email from the program, informing them that their work had been reviewed. Nothing like this had ever been seen before: a massive, open, retroactive evaluation of scientific literature, conducted entirely by computer.
Statcheck’s method was relatively simple, more like the mathematical equivalent of a spellchecker than a thoughtful review, but some scientists saw it as a new form of scrutiny and suspicion, portending a future in which the objective authority of peer review would be undermined by unaccountable and uncredentialed critics.
Susan Fiske, the former head of the Association for Psychological Science, wrote an op-ed accusing “self-appointed data police” of pioneering a new “form of harassment”. The German Psychological Society issued a statement condemning the unauthorised use of Statcheck. The intensity of the reaction suggested that many were afraid that the program was not just attributing mere statistical errors, but some impropriety, to the scientists.
Read the rest of this article at The Guardian