Science Works (When It’s Not Failing)

Posted in Medicine, Science, Skepticism on  | 7 minutes | 9 Comments →

DISCLAIMER—to say a claim is “inaccurate” is not the same as saying the claim is “false.” I fear that if I don’t include this disclaimer, those prone to twisting things around will show up in droves, accusing me of denigrating science. Should you be tempted to respond, please keep things in scope and pay attention to what I actually say, not your reaction to what I actually say!


The inaccurate polemic that “science works” has reared it’s ugly, cherrypicked head again, this time, in a most expected place. As one might reasonably infer whenever somebody uses the pejorative “bitch” in their argument, I feel fairly safe in my assumption that the juvenile maker of this remark hasn’t seen this article from Scientific American, or any other pertinent articles for that matter.

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Your Opinions Requested: On Is/Ought

Posted in Ethics, Morality, Philosophy, Quickies on  | 2 minutes | 6 Comments →

A buddy of mine often reminds me of how much he likes short posts, so here's a quick one on a philosophical classic: the Is/Ought distinction.

In my experience, the person who says, "You ought to do X" in response to some desire Y is saying something that reduces to, "I believe that if you do X, you shall fulfill desire Y." Example: your desire is to go surfing, and your neighbor offers you a ride to the beach. If you take the ride (X), you'll likely fulfill the desire to go surfing (Y). One might say you ought to take the ride. This is ought in the pragmatic sense.

What would make "you ought to take the ride" true? In my opinion, it is the juxtaposition of 1) the fact of a desire to go surfing, and 2) the means of fulfilling that desire.

However, in my experience, the person who says, "You ought not X" in response to some desire Y is saying something that reduces to, "Even though it would fulfill your desire Y, X is not the right thing to do." Example: you desire your neighbor's goat, and when your mother discovers your intentions, she uses the tool of condemnation to plant within you an aversion to stealing. IOW, she says some variant of, "you ought not X." This is ought in the moral sense.

In your opinion, what would make "you ought not steal your neighbor's goat" true?