August 16, 2017

Trump must go

by Neil Rickert

This brief post is quoting a portion of an article in The Washington Post: President Trump must go.  I recommend reading the full article.

There is only one conclusion that any American patriot of either party can draw. Trump must go.

It has been perfectly natural during the first few months of this presidency for commentators and political leaders to treat Trump, his statements and actions like those of his predecessors. But in the past week, the dangers of his reflexive behavior have become even more crystal clear. In a matter of days, the president’s reckless remarks have triggered fears of nuclear war with North Korea, he threatened military action against Venezuela, he continued his quiet war against the environment and the U.S. public health system and then, in response to Charlottesville, he revealed his true colors and that he is not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution as his oath requires. Rather, he is at war with it and its values — from a free press, to an independent judiciary, to equal protection for all under the law.

I fully agree with that assessment.

August 3, 2017

Fundamental Ontology

by Neil Rickert

Coel has a post over at his blog:

I thought of posting a comment there.  But I then decided that it might be worth a full post.

Coel’s view

Coel quotes Feynman, as suggesting the atomic theory of matter as particularly important.  But Coel seems to disagree with this.  The trouble with atoms, is that they are made of subatomic particles.  In turn, quantum mechanics has something to say about those subatomic particles that makes them look less particle-like.

Coel delves down to a number of possibilities.  He even mentions Tegmark’s idea that everything is made of mathematics.  But Coel himself is not so certain that we can give a good answer at this, or perhaps ever.

I do recommend reading his post. Continue reading

April 27, 2017

Platonism, fictionalism and all that

by Neil Rickert

There was recently an interesting discussion of platonism and fictionalism as philosophies of mathematics.  This was at “The Electric Agora” blog.  I added a couple of comments myself.

Yesterday, I went back to take another look.  That was mostly to see if there were any additional comments.  And there were two, both by Robin Herbert.  But comments are now closed for that post.  So I’ll say something here.

First some links:

Both comments add to the discussion and are worth reading.

Is fictionalism true?

In his first comment, Robin says:

So the argument that fictionalism must be true because the axioms are only conventions appears to make the same mistake as saying the truth or falsity of “if A then B” depends on the truth or falsity of A.

To me, this seems weird.  I have said that I am a fictionalist.  I have never said that fictionalism is true.  I’m not at all sure that I know what it would even mean to say that fictionalism is true.

Continue reading

April 27, 2017

Closing comments after 30 days

by Neil Rickert

I’ve changed the settings on this blog, so that comments are automatically closed on a post after 30 days.

I’m making this change for two reasons:

  1. There are too many spam comments, mostly on older posts.
  2. I rarely get comments on old posts anyway.

For the present, I’ll leave all comments open on my other blog (on computer), because I do sometimes get comments on older posts there.

April 18, 2017

Review of “Why I left, Why I stayed”

by Neil Rickert

It’s about a month since I listened to a podcast, featuring a discussion with Bart Campolo.  I found that interesting, so I bought the book that was co-authored by Bart Campolo and his father Tony Campolo.  This post is mainly a review of the book.  However, you might want to start by listening to that podcast.


Tony Campolo is well known as part of Evangelical Christianity, specifically the Evangelical left.  Bart, his son, started off in Evangelical Christianity, but reached a point in his life where he could no longer believe.  How he reached that point is discussed in the podcast and in the book.  Although he rejected Christianity, Bart continued with a humanist mission.  Tony, Bart’s father, regretted Bart’s decision but accepted it nontheless.

The book is mostly a sequence of chapters, alternately written by Tony and by Bart, with a final chapter that was jointly written.

My review

I found the book a bit uneven.  But this is to be expected when it consists of an alternation of chapters with two different authors.

Continue reading

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January 29, 2017

American Conservative Christianity has lost the moral argument

by Neil Rickert

They voted, as a block, to elect a moral monster as president.

They own the actions of that president.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt 25:40).


January 27, 2017

The spectacular failure of Donald J. Trump

by Neil Rickert

Trump has been in office as president for barely one week.  Yet it is already overwhelmingly clear that this is a failed presidency.

Don’t get me wrong.  He is still president, and he can still do considerable damage to the nation.  But his presidency is a failure, nonetheless.  His campaign slogan was “make America great again.”  But it will be up to his successor to attempt to repair the damage that he has done and will continue to do.

A brief look back

In 2000, George W. Bush (“dubya”) became president with a narrow win and a disputed election.  Yet many of those who voted against him (self included) accepted that he was president.  For sure, they criticized him and his decisions.  But they still accepted him as president.

That has not happened with Trump.  I think many were ready to accept him as president, and give him the benefit of the doubt.  I certainly was ready.

Continue reading

January 20, 2017

Thank you, President Obama

by Neil Rickert

Your 8 years as president have come to an end.

It was a good 8 years.  You came into office with the economy failing, and with the nation in two foolish wars.  You end your office with the economy in pretty good shape, and with the wars at least greatly calmed down.  And all of this with an opposition party attempting to sabotage everything you tried to do.

So thank you, president Obama.  You will be missed

January 7, 2017

I am not anti-theist

by Neil Rickert

Recently the Patheos blog site renamed it’s “Atheist channel” to “Nonreligious channel”.  The resulted in some comments and blog posts about the change.  For me, it didn’t matter much.  Since I gave up on religion, I have always preferred to call myself “non-religious” rather than “atheist”.

Here, I mainly want to respond to:

which argues for anti-theism.

In that post, Dan Arel argues:

Religion is dangerous and hurts real people. I strongly believe that when the world is reasoned out of religious faith, the world will be a much better place.

Some people see atheism as dangerous and as hurting real people.  But that’s not my main concern here.  I just don’t see that it would make the world a better place if religion were to disappear.

We already have non-religious people who are in the anti-vax movement.  We already have non-religious people who are climate change deniers.

The things that Dan objects to in religion are human foibles.  Yes, religion manages to concentrate those into a movement.  But there are plenty of other ways that these human foibles can be concentrated into group-think.

So I just do not see that anti-theism provides some kind of solution for problems that arise out of being human.

For myself, I accept that people can have weird beliefs.  And maybe some folk think that I have weird beliefs.  But we should be able to get along in spite of individual wierdness.

December 5, 2016

Are conventions arbitrary?

by Neil Rickert

Well, yes (to the title question).

I chose that title for its brevity.  This post is intended to explain what it means to say that conventions are arbitrary.  But that’s a bit long for a title.

We generally adopt conventions for a reason.  For example, the convention that we drive on the right side of the road was adopted to reduce the likelihood of head-on collisions.  But it would work just as well to drive on the left side of the road (as they do in Britain and Australia).  So there was a choice to be made between the two.  That particular choice was an arbitrary choice — it would not matter which way you chose, at least with respect for the reason that the convention was adopted.

There are all sorts of other options that could have been chosen.  It could have been decided to drive on the right for one mile, then on the left for the next mile.  Or it could have been decided to drive on the right on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and on the left on the other days.  But these kinds of choices would have been confusing and would therefore have been less effective in reducing head-on collisions.  Pragmatically speaking, it boiled down to only the two choices — left or right.

The use of the word “arbitrary” seems confusing at first, because it seems to suggest “random”.  But conventions are not random.  What we mean, when we say that they are arbitrary, is just that they are not fully determined by reality.  Adopting a convention usually means some kind of choice.  But, although not fully determined by reality, that choice is still guided by the goals that have led us to adopting a convention.