30 June 2015

How Does Complexity Evolve From Simple Beginnings?

Just in case the previous video I shared about evolution didn't make it clear enough, here's another one explaining how different species come into existence over time.

See Also: 
How Evolution Works

28 June 2015

Our Evangelical Neighbors

A few years ago, Rev. Marlin Lavanhar of All Souls Unitarian Church had Bruce Hoppe, an evangelical pastor, speak to his church. They sort of tag-teamed it, which was interesting. It was a friendly conversation from the pulpit, and Hoppe for his part expressed regret at the divide between evangelicals and people in the liberal religious tradition. What I see in this is how people can see each other as human beings worthy of respect.

We need to see more of this sort of thing.

See Also:

26 June 2015

A Guide to the Good Life (Book Review)

When I was a teenager I got a copy of Marcus Aurelius' 'Meditations.'  That was my introduction to Stoicism. While I found something compelling about much of what that little book says, I wasn't ready to adopt a Stoic lifestyle, and had little idea even what that would entail. Earlier this year I heard Massimo Piglucci speak on Stoicism to Sunday Assembly NYC, and when I heard more recently about a Stoic meetup in the city, I knew I had to take part. The book that this meetup was finishing up is entitled 'A Guide to the Good Life,' by William Irvine

As an introduction to Stoicism for modern practitioners, this book serves its purpose. Irvine takes the reader through the basic history of Stoicism in Greek and Roman thought, and then provides guidance on some specific practices. Namely, negative visualization, the trichotomy of control and fatalism.

Negative visualization consists of taking time to consider how much worse things could be without people and things we value in our life, or even our own senses (sight, hearing, etc). The idea is that this gives us both a greater appreciation for what we do have, and also helps us build resilience for when we are faced with loss.

The ancient Stoics spoke of a dichotomy of control, in which we evaluate what we have control over (our thoughts, values, etc) and what we do not control (the weather, other people, our own success). Irvine adapts this, seeing it as do general and limited. Instead, he proposes the trichotomy of control, consisting of those things over which we have control, those over which we have some but not total control, and those that we do not control at all. I tend to prefer this trichotomy.

Another aspect of Stoicism is fatalism, although this does not necessarily mean giving up or not planning/trying. Fatalism in the Stoic sense as presented by Irvine entails accepting that the past and the present are beyond our control, and that we have some control over the future. We need to come to terms with the fact that the past cannot change, and this present moment is the result of that past.

While this book had a lot of great information, it was short on practical tips. The writer also gave a lot of personal anecdotes that didn't seem terribly helpful to me, and he also mentioned a few times that people would be mocked for practicing Stoicism. On this latter point, it's hard for me to imagine most people in my life really caring either way.

Another weak spot for me was the lack of emphasis on virtue. Irvine mentions that virtue was important to Greek Stoics, and then proceed to expound on tranquility through the rest of the book, adopting more of a Roman slant. I think building virtue could be key to solid Stoic practice.

As I said above, this is a great first book on Stoicism for anyone interested in the topic to read, despite any drawbacks.

See Also:
Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations