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Survival rates, a quick comparison

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — shifting fashions in “some are more equal than others” ]

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Further, we believe the equality therein described applies also to women and children.

Accordingly, we note:

or bring forth this comparison:

Angels considered as an Air Force

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — when not dancing innumerably on the heads of pins ]

I responded to a question from David Ronfeldt today by saying I don’t know of a book that offers a “a sustained, point-for-point, systematic, thorough comparison” between earlier Christian and contemporary Islamist religious violence.

I do share his concern for point-for-point comparisons, however, and this one popped up as I was working on my response to David:

SPEC angels rank clairvaux

These two quotes are abstract, indeed metaphysical, I know, and don’t deal with human-on-human violence as such — but the DoubleQuote they form is nevertheless a point-for-point comparison, and the very exactness of its counterpoint gives it the sort of power the best haiku have, I believe, offering us wit in brevity, multum in parvo, small is beautiful.

Recent hacks and the King James Version

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the OMB and Ashley Madison hacks — and some verses to consider alongside them ]


Given my interest in apocalyptic, which Wikipedia describes thus

An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: apokalypsis, from apo and kalypto meaning “uncovering”), translated literally from Greek, is a disclosure of knowledge, i.e., a lifting of the veil or revelation. In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden.

— it is only natural that the revelation of secrets should provide a sometime theologian such as myself with scriptural memories..

SPEC Ashley Madison hack


It has long seemed to me that “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7. 1-2) offers an extraordinarily non-vengeful, non-violent option within the tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye scriptural formulation of justice.

Considering “the proper study of mankind”

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — I am reminded also of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s great and simple book, The Sabbath ]

Two very different styles of thinking came to my attention today. The first style (upper panel, below) is that now commonly found within the effective altruism movement:

SPEC two ways of thinking

The second (lower panel, above) comes from Oliver Sacks, physician.

Between them lies the difference between quantitative and qualitative modes of thinking — which is to say between quantity and quality as the two great vectors aloing which we align our lives and futures.



  • Dylan Matthews, I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity..
  • Oliver Sacks, Sabbath
  • **

    Rabbi Heschel‘s book, The Sabbath, opens with the words:

    He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil.

    The quantity of mercy is not strain’d?

    Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

    [by Charles Cameron — some remedial philosophy at age 71 ]

    I seem to be doing remedial political philosophy this week. As it happens, I read a Chinese comedian in my youth and was admonished against “sitting down while running round in circles” and have been aerating my brain with too much conscious breathing ever since — neither leaving me much time or interest for what in Oxford in my day was known, somewhat dismissively, PPE — Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

    Which brings me today, and to grabbing lectures in just that sort of thing from Harvard’s Michael Sandel, courtesy of YouTube:

    The video shows Sandel’s lectures, “Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life”, and “How to Measure Pleasure” — salted with some dark humor:

    Back in ancient Rome, they threw Christians to the lions in the Coliseum for sport. If you think how the utilitarian calculus would go, yes, the Christian thrown to the lion suffers enormous, excruciating pain, but look at the collective ecstasy of the Romans. .. you have to admit that if there were enough Romans delirious with happiness, it would outweigh even the most excruciating pain of a handful of Christians thrown to the lion.

    I enjoyed the two lectures immensely — maybe I should rewind fifty years, and try PPE at Harcard?.


    All of which caused me to wonder:

    SPEC pinto and lincoln continental


  • Mark Dowie, Pinto Madness
  • W Michael Hoffman, Case Study: The Ford Pinto
  • See also:

  • ES Grush and CS Saunby, Fatalities Associated with Crash-Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires
  • **

    I mean, all of which made me wonder about Jeremy Bentham, I suppose.

    We had Locke at Christ Church, staring disdainfully from his portrait during dinners in the Great Hall — but Bentham? I don’t think I saw any utility in utilitarianism.


    But then I also wondered:

    SPEC trolley problem torture

    I wondered: how close is the analogy between the trolly problem and the ticking bomb torture questionn? Do we start from numbers of likely victims in each case and decide from there, or should we instead start by contemplating torture — and recognize the abyss staring back at us?


  • Wikipedia, Trolly problem
  • Michael Sandel, Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life & How to Measure Pleasure
  • See also:

  • Kyle York, Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations
  • **

    What Shakespeare said, though — getting back to my title — was “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” — not the quantity, the quality — unquantifiable.

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