Sunday, June 19, 2022

What can Virtue Ethics Teach Us About Modern Ethical Problems?

The complexity of modern life makes ethics even more difficult. From new technologies like genome editing and artificial intelligence, to political turmoil and cultural conflict, knowing how to do the right thing is incredibly hard. Could it be that an ancient – indeed, arguably the very first – approach to ethics offers us a solution? This article will explore virtue ethics, its history, several of its key thinkers and its applicability to modern moral problems. Whether or not one becomes a virtue ethicist and believes in this way of doing ethics as a whole, virtue ethics offers a reconsideration of the implications of our character and the importance of developing it in the context of ethical theory.

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Praying for Scientists and the Science of Prayer

The methods of science are not well-equipped to study prayer, but that doesn't mean that scientists don't pray or that prayer doesn't work. Ciara Reyes-Ton offers a short reflection on the challenges of studying prayer scientifically, followed by Dr. David Anderson's invitation to pray for scientists, healthcare workers, and researchers.

Prayer is a vital part of a Christian's life. It's one of the ways we communicate with God. Sometimes it might be saying a simple prayer of thanks before a meal, or praying with a friend. Other times it can be a more guttural and cathartic experience one on one with God, where we release our deepest pains and heaviest burdens. There's something about prayer that gives me peace when I'm anxious, and comfort when I'm troubled. Even when everything seems the same after I finish praying, I often feel relief after verbalizing my thoughts to a God who already knows them.

I admit that prayer is not always easy. It can take courage to buckle down and pray, especially when we feel disconnected from God, or feel like God isn't listening to us, because things aren't changing fast enough, or unfolding exactly the way we think they should. I think the words of Andrew Peterson's song, The Silence of God, captures these feelings best.

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Saturday, June 04, 2022

The paradox of choice

Barry Schwartz the economic Psychologist found that having the freedom to choose between a variety of choices in the modern world was actually causing people to be less happy with their decisions. 

Consequently, instead of increasing decision satisfaction, having too many options made people less likely

to be satisfied that they had made the best decision. In the face of too many options,

you may be paralyzed making you feel worse.

He used the words " MAXIMIZER" and "SATISFICER" to explain these.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The absurdity and necessity of rules during war


During the invasion of Ukraine, we have heard frequently terms like ‘war crime’ and ‘just war’. In a fight to the death, when your aim is the taking of the life of another human being, the idea of there even being such a thing as a ‘crime’ or ‘justice’ in that context is seemingly absurd. Furthermore, institutions like NATO are endlessly discussing the ‘rules of conflict’, while in the UN Security Council Russia absurdly has a veto ruling out action against its own aggression. Seeming absurdity on top of seeming absurdity. But the rules of war are necessary. Defining terms like ‘war crime’ and ‘just war’ do have a clear and important role to play, even in the face of the chaos, the heartache and the bloody killing of war.

Ukraine’s heroic struggle against Russia’s wanton aggression has elicited a lot of talk about the possibility of a ‘morally just’ war. At first, the very idea of such a war might seem absurd. After all, wars are horrific. They represent humanity at its worst, in which all our ingenuity, our energies, our capacities, are aimed at killing one another. “War is cruelty,” William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “and you cannot refine it”. Any attempt to unearth moral principles for war seems not just foredoomed to failure but also morally perverse. On this view, there can no more be rules for war than there can be rules for murder or rape. Worse still, it might seem that ethicists and legal theorists, in discussing the very possibility of a just or legal war, or wars fought justly, serve only to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the politicians and plutocrats who, in their vaulting ambition, drive the machine of war at the expense of countless innocents ground up underneath. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Why Do We Argue?


From Eve’s exchange with the serpent, to Martin Luther King Jr.’s soaring ultimatums, and the throes of Twitter, the desire to prevail with words has been not just a moral, but an existential compulsion. In Why Argument Matters, Professor Lee Siegel, who teaches in the writing program at the School of the Arts, says that the art of argument is the supreme expression of humanity’s longing for a better life, full of empathy and care for the world and those who inhabit it. 

Siegel plumbs the emotional and psychological sources of clashing words, weaving through his exploration the story of the role argument has played in societies throughout history. Each life, he believes, is an argument for that particular way of living. Argument is at the core of human existence, and language, at its most expressive, bends toward argument.

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Saturday, February 05, 2022

What is walking meditation?

For Thich Nhat Hanh, the late Vietnamese monk who popularized mindfulness in the West, walking was not simply a way to get from one place to another, or an activity to be reserved for a perfect forest path. It could be a profound contemplative practice putting people in touch with their breath, their bodies, the Earth – and an awareness of what he called "interbeing."

Friday, July 30, 2021


Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did another podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, "where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism." Among other things, Egnor talked about why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. A partial transcript follows, taking us down to 15 minutes, with notes (more in a further installment)

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Is Buddhism science?

One of the greatest twists in the recent history of nonfiction came at the end of Sam Harris's The End of Faith (2004). The book gave physical form to the message-board atheism of the early internet and launched a publishing boom for religious skeptics, but its final chapter struck a different note. Harris, it turned out, is a self-described mystical seeker with a long history of pilgrimages and discipleships under various Eastern gurus. He concluded the book by evangelizing on behalf of a scientifically filtered Buddhism that can awaken us to "the intrinsic freedom of consciousness" and help us grapple with "almost every problem we have" as a species.

Despite his infidel reputation, Harris belongs to the religious current that David McMahan calls "Buddhist modernism." This is a global assortment of Buddhist movements formed under creative pressure from the dominant Western trends of the past few centuries, such as rationalism, Protestant anti-clericalism, and Romanticism. All of them sought to counter the judgment of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that Buddhism is fundamentally pessimistic. At the same time, they accepted Schopenhauer's claim that Buddhism is "the finest of all religions," exceptional for its intellectual acuity and faithfulness to the human experience. In fact, a major strand of Buddhist modernism argues that Buddhism, properly understood, isn't even a religion but a uniquely empirical way of life based on meditation — "a first-person science," as Harris once phrased it.

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