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Comment Re:It's so very odd..... (Score 1) 1376

I find it useful to think in terms of two axes, atheism-theism and agnosticism-gnosticism.

The theism axis addresses the question of whether god (however defined) exists, as if that question were answerable as a matter of objective fact.

The gnosticism axis addresses the question of whether it is possible for a human being to *know* definitively that god either does or does not exist.

So, for example, Richard Dawkins is a gnostic atheist, while C. S. Lewis was an agnostic theist.

Comment Re:the blackout was a good idea (Score 1) 414

How is keeping a journalist alive "political ends"?

How is it not? You're using policy tools (choosing to conceal the truth) to influence decision-making and behavior by others (the kidnappers and allied groups). Hard to imagine a more political end.

Political decisions often (perhaps more often than not, at the national level) end up resulting in life-or-death outcomes. Even something as mundane as highway funding is a life-or-death issue. Lower funding leads to more dangerous roads, marginally increasing the rate of fatal accidents. Politicians and the public see it as a 0.7% increase in a statistic on a chart, but a lot of real people very much like you died horribly to make that little bump happen.

In the end, everything in politics comes down to relative-value judgments. Is it worth spending a billion dollars to improve the highways, or should we spend that billion on early education? Should we value freedom of expression on Wikipedia more highly than increased risk to an individual reporter, or vice versa? These are hard ethical problems. People of good intent can honestly arrive at differing solutions to them.

Comment Re:Yeah well. (Score 1) 247

I'm as wildly supportive of space exploration and colonization as anyone, but it's quite true that both economics and logistics argue against offworld human activities as a solution for any of Earth's major problems. Beamed power from extremely large solar power satellites is one possible exception; building these would almost certainly require a human-supported infrastructure for lunar or asteroid mining and orbital construction.

As someone rather depressingly pointed out, until we're building cities in Antarctica, cities on the Moon or Mars will not make economic sense. Antarctica is orders of magnitude easier to reach and to live in.

So, if we end up with significant offworld colonies in the foreseeable future, it will be for reasons which are not purely economic. Many have speculated on what might provide the motivation to make this happen. So far, nothing in the real world has come close to providing such motivation.

Comment Re:Piece meal application of the Constitution? (Score 2, Insightful) 1240

I hate this situation as much as anyone, but please understand that the school administrators aren't doing this maliciously, or "refusing to think". Rather, our insanely litigious society has made it impossible to give bureaucrats any freedom to exercise judgment; every time they do so, they create an opportunity for a lawsuit. The only safe course is to exercise all rules with absolute, robotic consistency, compassion or rationality be damned.

Comment Re:Do we want to be found? (Score 1) 774

That's Greg Bear's solution to the Fermi Paradox in The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars. Turns out the galaxy is filled with intelligent species engaged in a ruthless Darwinian struggle for survival. New intelligent species are seen as potential rivals and destroyed. And we're naively announcing ourselves to an ever-widening sphere of space. Not smart.

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