Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

August 26, 2012

Non-whites consistent on “life” issues

Filed under: Data Analysis,Death Penalty,Ethics — Razib Khan @ 11:07 pm

Over at Darwin Catholic a commenter asked whether a pro-choice commenter on this weblog also supported the death penalty. I presume that they were here pointing to the consistent life ethic issue. Many liberals who oppose capital punishment support abortion rights, and many conservatives who support capital punishment oppose abortion rights. These camps both have their viewpoints, which I’m not interested in re-litigating in the comments. But I was curious as to the overall societal support for the combinations of positions.

So I looked at the GSS, using the CAPPUN and ABANY variables (capital punishment, and abortion for any reason). In this post I will show you screenshots of the GSS output. It’s ugly, but it shows you deviation away from the expected proportions. Basically, if two variables are independent you can predict what you’d expect to be the crossed percentages over the four cells. If the results deviate from that you can ascertain particular associations. In the GSS output red means that the cell has a higher value than it should, and blue a lower value. Additionally, the intensity signals the magnitude of the deviation. I limited all results to the year 2000 and later.

First, the general aggregate ...

August 16, 2012

On being a journalist, getting quotes

Filed under: Ethics — Razib Khan @ 7:12 pm

I get a fair number of press releases and contacts from P.R. people. A “fair” number is probably understating it; other bloggers will understand what I’m talking about. Often they’ll be offers to contact researchers and other experts. Generally I ignore these or I demur in some fashion. Why? Because I just have a hard time trusting those who proactively contact me. I’m not impugning their character, as much being skeptical of their enthusiasm (and to be frank, some of them even come out and say they’ll write the blog post for me!). In fact I could easily splash and pepper many of my more policy oriented posts with contemporary relevance with quotes from these people. But I do not make much use of their services (though now and then I’ll become aware of a paper because of a press contact). What exactly would such quotes be adding?  I’d just select the ones which fit my narrative or preconception. On occasion I will quote experts, but these are almost never (actually, probably never, but I don’t recall) cases where I sent out an email asking for a quote. Rather, it starts as a conversation, and it turns out that I ...

February 3, 2011

The Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin

Link to review: The God of Reason

June 21, 2010

Animal Apartheid

Filed under: Environment,Environmentalism,Ethics,Nature — Razib Khan @ 6:46 am

Here’s an article from Canada on the debate about whether hybridization should be discouraged. I understand the impulse toward preserving nature as it is, but the drive for presumed purity seems almost fetishistic. Consider this sentence: ” Or could hybrids actually weaken genetically pure populations of disappearing wildlife?” What does “genetically pure” mean in a deep sense here? We know what it means instrumentally for the purposes of conservation genetics, but the way people talk about pristine lineages makes it seem an almost ethical concern.


When it comes to conservation and environmental policy you’re at the intersection of science, norms, and the messy world of human possibility. Perspective matters a lot in how you value or weight the parameters within your value system. To me the preservation of putatively pure lineages immemorial smacks a bit of pre-Darwinian biology, with its focus on systematic analysis of fixed and eternal kinds as well as a descriptive analysis of anatomy and physiology. At the other end is evolutionary biology which is a process, a phenomenon, understood as a flux of gene frequencies and morphs over time. It is by definition a refutation of a static conception of nature. Of course it takes time…but but not that much time. And then there’s the tendency to see humans as apart and beyond nature, exogenous to the system, destabilizing an eternal equilibrium. This is also arguably a false ideal, humans have been part of the ecosystem of every continent excepting Antarctica for at least 10,000 years, Australia for 50,000 years, Eurasia for a million years, and Africa somewhat longer. Modern H. sapiens sapiens has likely reshaped whole ecosystems through predation and fire even before agriculture and dense societies.

Let’s have a more nuanced and subtle conversion here, and put the focus on what our ultimate values are, or at least the ultimate values of the majority. As it is too often it seems to me that we’re not that far from “king’s wood” whereby we view nature as something to be isolated from the common man, who by his presence sullies and contaminates its purity. And now the fixation on distinct kinds and lineages seems to veer in a similar direction, albeit focusing on the purity of species and sub-species rather than nature as a whole.

March 20, 2010

The origins of morality do not matter | Razib Khan

Filed under: Ethics,Evolution,philosophy,Religion,World news — Razib Khan @ 1:00 am
Mothers will makes sacrifices for their children, whether they believe in God, karma, or a mindless evolutionary process

Is morality meaningless when its natural foundations are exposed? No, unlike the naked emperor there is a clear substance to the genius of human ethical intuitions. Ancient man believed that this vigour must have been imparted by the gods, but modern man has attempted to trace back its origins to our animal past.

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January 19, 2010

Controlling the means of reproduction

Filed under: Ethics — Razib @ 2:22 pm

The title says it all, Should Obese, Smoking and Alcohol Consuming Women Receive Assisted Reproduction Treatment? The press release is based on a position statement from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The link is here (not live yet).

January 7, 2010

The unpredictable darkness | Razib Khan

Filed under: Climate change,Climate change scepticism,Ethics,Religion — Razib Khan @ 1:30 am
In complex and non-linear systems, the only thing we know is that our predictions are unreliable. I fear the reliably unpredictable

I fear the predictable unpredictable. Over the past decade there have been many warnings about Global Warming; precise extrapolations of temperature increases and projections of sea level rise. Such prognostication is understandable, they make the threat concrete to a complacent public. But the reality is that these physical processes are non-linear systems subject to wild fluctuations, with "flips" between alternative equilibrium states. Try to turn that into punchy prose!

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The unpredictable darkness | Razib Khan

Filed under: Climate change,Climate change scepticism,Ethics,Religion — Razib Khan @ 1:30 am
In complex and non-linear systems, the only thing we know is that our predictions are unreliable. I fear the reliably unpredictable

I fear the predictable unpredictable. Over the past decade there have been many warnings about Global Warming; precise extrapolations of temperature increases and projections of sea level rise. Such prognostication is understandable, they make the threat concrete to a complacent public. But the reality is that these physical processes are non-linear systems subject to wild fluctuations, with "flips" between alternative equilibrium states. Try to turn that into punchy prose!

Continue reading...

April 22, 2009

Razib Khan: Unlike Singer, Confucius recognised the natural impulse to impose a heirarchy on the value of human life

Unlike Singer, Confucius recognised the natural impulse to impose a heirarchy on the value of human life – and his ideas endured

No one will deny that Peter Singer can provoke. Most recently, in The Life You Can Save, Singer lays out a utilitarian argument for attacking world poverty, extending ideas from his 1971 essay, Famine, Affluence and Morality. Certainly the facts are indisputable, and the logic crisp.

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