rohan singh

software engineer. bicyclist & rock climber. craft beer addict.

What I've Been Reading (Dec. 26, 2011)

What follows are the most insightful, interesting, or otherwise noteworthy articles I’ve stumbled across over the past couple weeks.

  • Democracy is not a truth machine. One of the best articles I’ve read all week. In it, a bearded philosopher eloquently demonstrates why democratic processes can’t be trusted to find the truth about objective facts about reality. For example, while a democratic process can be used to decide what we should do about climate change, the underlying scientific reality is not up for debate.

  • Why we invented monsters. Paul Carr start with the idea that monsters grew into the human consciousness in the image of predators, such as felines and snakes. Eventually, as protohumans transformed from a prey species into predators, our imaginations transformed as well.

  • The scandal of the Alabama poor cut off from water. It really kills me that we need a foreign news source to report about the fact that America’s infrastructure is failing and the promises of citizenship aren’t panning out for some of those who have the greatest need. Reading this article, others like it, and watching the documentary Waiting for “Superman” over the weekend has left me with a lot of questions in a place where there are few good answers.

  • Why America’s Death Penalty Just Got Us Sanctioned by Europe. The European Union has decided that it will have no part in the barbarism involved in the methodical killing of human beings by their peers. I completely agree with Ford Vox’s characterization of the situation:

    The death penalty is a blind spot in our democracy, our own peculiar national anosognosia. It probably will take the rest of the world shouting us down in order to recognize our impairment.

  • A tale of two systems. The folks at Remapping Debate contrast a failing labor system in America with a robust, unionized system in Germany.

  • Hitch. Sam Harris, eloquent as always, on Christopher Hitchens’ death:

    Needless to say, he was effortlessly lucid and witty—and taking no prisoners. There should be a name for the peculiar cocktail of emotion I then enjoyed: one part astonishment, one part relief, two parts envy; stir. It would not be the last time I drank it in his honor.

  • Freakonomics: What Went Wrong?. Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung examine many of the conclusions in Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics which have worked themselves into the cultural consciousness and which are now taken for granted. Specifically, they show that many of these conclusions are just plain wrong.