Suggested readings, #96

Genetics research.

Here it is, a rundown of interesting articles I’ve come across recently, to consider for your weekend readings:

How religion shaped modern economics. In the 18th century, a new Protestant belief that people have control over their destinies fostered the rise of free-market ideas. (Wall Street Journal) A bit too upbeat, in my opinion, about the connection between religion and economics. But food for thought.

In science we trust? Twenty-country Pew survey shows trust in scientists—with major caveats. (Skeptical Inquirer) Major caveats indeed. Despite the title of the piece, there doesn’t seem to be much trust in science. Also, some surprising results…

What if (almost) every gene affects (almost) everything? Three Stanford scientists have a provocative way of thinking about genetic variants, and how they affect people’s bodies and health. (The Atlantic) That was my position for many years as a biologist. Doesn’t look good for prospects of precision human genetic engineering.

Marcus Aurelius in therapy. How to do psychotherapy with a Roman Emperor. (Medium)

Intellectual sins. The longer the Hume racism debate goes on, the more I’m convinced his name should not be removed from The University of Edinburgh’s tallest tower. (Medium) Yet another well balanced piece by Julian Baggini.

Self esteem is overrated. (Skeptical Inquirer) It really is.

Plato, a short guide to all the dialogues. (Britannica)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

5 thoughts on “Suggested readings, #96”

    1. And, the Sir Tom Devine Baggini quotes as claiming there was “no organized abolition” in Scotland? Directly undercut by facts. The first “freedom suit,” which surely required some degree of organized action? Launched in 1755. Some of the first freedom suits, court cases in Britain to challenge the legality of slavery, took place in Scotland in 1755 and 1769. >>The cases were Montgomery v. Sheddan (1755) and Spens v. Dalrymple (1769). Each of the slaves had been baptised in Scotland and challenged the legality of slavery. They set the precedent of legal procedure in British courts that would later lead to success for the plaintiffs. In these cases, deaths of the plaintiff and defendant, respectively, brought an end to the action before a court decision could be rendered.[8]<<

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  1. Socratic, the point is that Hume – in this respect – was typical of his time, and therefore not especially blameworthy.

    Moreover, he – like Kant – accepted what did, at the time, look like the “scientific” evidence of the inferiority of other “races.” Given his general character and attitude, I bet that if he were alive today he would strongly disavow racism on the grounds that it is not supported by the evidence.

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  2. Thanks for the suggested readings Massimo. I agree that the trust in scientists revealed in the article is not as high as the title would indicate. Most people trust scientists to do what is right for the public at least “some” of the time?! That is pretty bleak. In addition to the other reasons you’ve discussed in the past for distrust of science/scientists which has usually placed the fault on the public, I think that your anti-scientism instinct along with the obvious politicization of science in recent years is also to blame. Maybe it is only 20% the fault of the scientific community (e.g., the deleterious effects of scientism as well as, for example, the rush to criticize hydroxychloroquine merely because Trump liked it, the rush to dismiss any possibility that the virus escaped from a lab merely because it would let Trump off the hook a bit, etc.; of, if you like, Trump’s own politicization of science–can science be blindly trusted if a game-show host President can affect everything from funding to what is legal to study, etc.? Whichever side of the aisle one is on, it’s obvious that science is political, and has been since the dominant political faction of the day (the Catholic Church) held Galileo in such contempt). Maybe the other 80% is the fault of the public, but I’d like to shore up that 20% before I criticize the public. Recent podcasts by Weinstein and Heying (on Darkhorse, especially Jan. 30) are very interesting on this topic, including the distinction between following science and following “the” science.

    Socraticgadfly, your essay that you link is not about the question of presentism, it is just about Hume’s guilt, right? Even if we were to concede that Hume was guilty of some egregious offense, the question of whether he should be judged by modern standards and wiped from history is the relevant one. I wonder, if you think that Hume’s name should be removed from the building (in some sort of Orwellian or Stalinesque attempt to whitewash history), do you think it is appropriate for you to glorify Socrates as your namesake given his sexual appetites, most of which would make him orders of magnitude worse than Jeffry Dahlmer if judged by today’s standards? I doubt that anyone in the modern world has as many underage victims as Socrates did.

    The Dec. 16 Coleman Hughes podcast has some very interesting discussion of this (we all live our lives in a fog of uncertainty, but when we look back in history all we see is the decisions someone made, not the fog; it’s very Hegelian). Coleman’s Jan. 16 discussion with Noam Chomsky is also interesting and might be a bit more in your wheelhouse ;-)

    I really enjoy seeing where I fit in relation to you Massimo, and also you Socraticfgadfly. All the best.

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  3. Re: Socrates. What is this ridiculous nonsense about “sexual appetites” and underage ” victims “?


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