Content of Character

When Martin Luther King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” (in his I have a dream speech), he was, of course, referring specifically to racial disparities. Unfortunately, racial disparities haven’t disappeared, and perhaps even more unfortunately, our culture has added a variety of other disparities by which we judge people. Like skin color, they are all superficial in nature and say nothing about the content of their character.

The first thing that occurs to me is the bias many hold . . . → Read More: Content of Character

What Did You Get for Christmas?

On a cold and frosty late-December morning, when I lived in a previous neighborhood, I was out walking my dog. It was so long ago that in the years between then and now, not only has that dog died of old age, but my next two dogs have also died of old age. Even so, on that late-December morning I said something that still haunts me. A boy who lived in a nearby house, ran up to me holding up a new pair of gloves, saying excitedly, “See what I got! New gloves!” My reply: “They are really neat. Did . . . → Read More: What Did You Get for Christmas?

The Reality of Beliefs

According to a top Saudi cleric, driving damages women’s ovaries. Does the fact (reality) that some people believe that make it true, if only for them? What—exactly—is the relationship between reality and what we believe? You may know people who believe that their beliefs accurately reflect reality. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know that one of my recurrent themes is the need for an evidence procedure that allows individuals to base their beliefs on reality to the degree that it’s possible.

It was, for example, perfectly logical for our ancient ancestors to believe that . . . → Read More: The Reality of Beliefs

Selling Fear in the New Year

One of the things I’ve been paying increasing attention to (perhaps because of the ongoing political debate in the U.S.) is fear marketing. I find it amazing at how pervasive “fear appeals” are and the various ways they are used to sell “stuff,” including politicians and political “talking points.” The basic concept is that we really need to be afraid of X, and, if we want to be safe, we need to stock up on (or vote for) the anti-X.

The world has a lot of risky stuff in it, of course, and we are undoubtedly safer when we . . . → Read More: Selling Fear in the New Year