Whose death would stun the Western World?

A month ago I asked readers What is the most misunderstood idea of all time?Image

My next big (slightly morbid) question is Whose death would stun the Western World?

A few years ago when Michael Jackson unexpectedly died, it felt like the world sort of skipped a few beats. I was in South Korea at the time. I tended to go to foreigner bars that catered to Canadians, Americans, Brits, Aussies and New Zealanders. My main bar was essentially running a several day long Michael Jackson marathon. He may well have been the most famous person in the world. Continue reading

ACN Inc Recruiting Hard in Kelowna: Do YOUR Research

ACN, a multilevel marketing (aka, pyramid) organization recruiting in Kelowna, across Canada, the US, and around the world.

ACN, a multilevel marketing (aka, pyramid) organization recruiting in Kelowna, across Canada, the US, and around the world.

ACNAmerican Communications Network – is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company dealing in telecommunications technology and plans, television, energy, and other services. As per Wikipedia,

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople that they recruit. This recruited sales force is referred to as the participant’s “downline”, and can provide multiple levels of compensation.[1] Other terms for MLM include pyramid selling,[2][3][4][5][6] network marketing,[7][8][9] and referral marketing.[10]

I have redded Pyramid as it is the concept by which this general sort of business model is best known. We’ve all heard of “pyramid schemes” and “pyramid scams”. The precise legality of MLMs and pyramid selling appears to be at least somewhat murky. The reasons for widespread skepticism regarding this sort of business structure, however, is crystal clear. From Wikipedia,

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states “Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They’re actually illegal pyramid schemes. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people – except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid – end up empty-handed.”[34]

Not all pyramid selling organizations are the same. I’m not going to comment as to whether ACN has engaged in illegal activities. However, putting legality/illegality aside, I do think there is reason for caution.

Why?

Well, for starters, take a look at this Fox News piece on them (this is probably the first time I’ve ever covered something from Fox News in a sympathetic manner):

Continue reading

Help Me Better Understand The Big Bang Theory

My understanding of the Big Bang Theory (BBT) is that approximately 13.77 billion years Imageago a certain singularity came into existence “with a bang”. It was incredibly – infinitely? – dense and small, and it exploded into existence. The explosion was the beginning of the expansion.

The Big Bang (BB) has been held to be the beginning of everything. It doesn’t even make sense to say “what happened before the BB” because there was no before the BB. Time began “with a bang”. It doesn’t even make sense to say “where there was nothing, there arrived something” because there was no was. Regarding the question, why and how could something (and in this case, everything) come from nothing, some physicists (e.g., Victor Stenger, author of God: The Failed Hypothesis; Lawrence Krauss, author of A Universe From Nothing – reviewed here) have discussed research from quantum physics indicating that Nothing is very unstable. That is, true nothingness – the complete absence of anything – is physically unstable. It doesn’t last long. Nothingness will quickly flip into somethingness, perhaps metaphorically similar to zero flipping into -1 and +1. In this case, there is still a sum total of nothing, but it has split into 2 parallel anti-universes.

Here’s My Laundry List of Metaphysical Questions:

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How are Psychology PhDs doing on the job market?

psychcogsI am a reformed and rehabilitated ex-academic. In my previous life, I aspired to be a professor of Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science. I described my experiences in the academic stream in a series entitled The Grad School Gospels.  In The Grad School Gospels I have been pessimistic about the value of most Psychology graduate degrees. I argued that the tenure-track job market for Psychology PhDs is devastatingly competitive and that for most Psychology sub-fields non-academic career paths are limited. That is, there often aren’t many jobs to go around that reflect one’s training and interests and that offer an income that duly compensates the massive investment that goes into earning a PhD.

A friend of mine, David Barner, who is a tenure track professor of cognitive psychology at the University of California at San Diego was sympathetic to the perspective I was offering, but provided credible evidence that Psychology PhDs were actually doing better than I thought. Most notably, he cited a blog post by Patrick Schnarrenberger Forscher (who, out of laziness, I will refer to as PSF), a Psychology PhD student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. PSF reviewed National Science Foundation (NSF) science, technology, engineering and mathematics PhD employment statistics from 2006.

The numbers for Psychology PhDs looked better than I would have guessed. The unemployment rate among Psych PhDs was a mere 1% – much lower than the national average which, at the time, was 4.6%. What is more, only 1.3% of Psych PhDs reported being involuntarily employed outside of the field. Not bad at all. And the average income for Psychology PhDs across employment settings was $75,000. So. There’s that… Nevertheless,

I Remain Pessimistic on the Value of Research-Only Psychology PhDs

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Why many professors are atheists: Academe as a secular religious community

Atheists. Agnostics. Freethinkers. Nonbelievers. Nontheists. Humanists.Whatever you want to call them and whatever they

Famous atheists, including several career academics.

Famous atheists, including many career academics.

want to call themselves. People who do not believe in God. I describe myself as an agnostic atheist and a secular humanist. For the sake of this article, I will use the term “atheist” (i.e., one who lacks a belief in God(s) or definitely rejects the existence of God(s)) to refer to the collective non-believing community.

It is no secret that atheists enjoy greater numbers in university communities than in the population at large. Their/our numbers aren’t quite as high as I thought, but the proportion of nonbelievers among professional academics is nevertheless several multiples of their proportion in the general population. They are particularly well represented in the sciences and among more elite research universities.

Why? Continue reading

What does it mean to be openminded?

saganbrainmindA few weeks ago I was considering going to a dinner party called “Conscious Collective Gatherings: Non-Denominational Conversation”. It sounded pretty new age hippie-esque, which is totally not me, but I figured “hey, I might meet a few people there that are intellectually curious and not necessarily the left-wing equivalents of young earth creationists”.

Since the organizers didn’t know me – I knew one of the people they knew – one of the organizers wanted to chat with me first before formally inviting me. Perfectly sensible as it is at their house. So, in our Facebook chat conversation, she asked me why I was interested in attending. I responded something to the effect that I am very interested in philosophy, values, and mindfulness and such and I’d be interested in meeting others who may be similarly interested. What happened next was somewhat interesting. She told me that the people who would be attending would mostly be a bunch of “young namaste hippies”, and that as long as I can “keep an open mind” everything is good. I assume that she must have been tipped off to my strong orientation toward scientific rationalism by cues peppered throughout my Facebook profile, because I’m pretty sure that I didn’t say anything that would suggest that I’m a member of the Richard Dawkins fan club (I am, by the way).

I am quite confident that the person who wanted to make sure that I could keep an open mind wasn’t actually concerned about my openmindedness. Rather, she was concerned that I may stir the pot. Rock the boat. Challenge cherished beliefs of other attendees who just want to “go with the flow”, “connect with their spirit-soul”, and other such laid back ethereal activities. Continue reading

Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought

philosophyinthefleshI am currently reading Philosophy in the Flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. Authored by Cognitive Scientists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, this book asks 1) What do major lines of Western philosophical thought assume about the mind? 2) What has cognitive science learned about the mind through rigorous research? 3) Are there discrepancies between Western philosophical assumptions about the mind and leading cognitive scientific theories of the mind? and 4) What implications do these discrepancies have for various streams of Western philosophy that build upon what now appear to be shaky premises regarding the mind? Continue reading

Credit to Lupe Fiasco for Obama Criticisms

Praise to rapper Lupe Fiasco, who let loose on President Barack Obama during an invited appearance at a Washington DC pre-inauguration celebration yesterday. As per Australian website News.Com.Au, Fiasco spoke against war for 30 minutes, with some criticism directed specifically at the President. Later, in a song, he rapped

“Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist, Gaza Strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say sh*t, That’s why I ain’t vote for him, Next one either, I’m part of the problem, My problem is I’m peaceful”

Good for Lupe.

Signed,

A rationalist progressive who at one time believed in Obama.

PS: Every President leaves a legacy in their wake. Alongside being the first Black President and converting what were previously extreme right wing “War on Terror” policies into bipartisan Washington standard operating procedures,  I predict that Obama will be remembered as the President who turned more than half of a generation of Americans into lifelong political cynics. Congratulations..

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Reasons I hate hockey

Aesthetics. What is beautiful? What defines beauty, quality and goodness? What distinguishes different levels of quality? For example, why are Oasis’ Wonderwall or Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit iconic songs of an era, whereas Swirl 360’s Hey Now Now fell out of our collective consciousness in months? These questions teeter on the edge of intractability.

Sometimes we try to offer accounts of why we like this or that. I suspect that most of the time the explanations we give are just after-the-fact stabs in the dark about value judgments that were made largely out of our conscious awareness within our unconscious minds. Please indulge me as I take a few stabs in the dark at why I utterly loathe hockey and wish the lockout would live on and on without end – or at least until I die or lose my mind. Continue reading