Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro

Some make us look foolish,

and some make us look wise.

We are imperfect mirrors

for each other’s lives.

It’s not about belief or existence; it’s about faith

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Although I am not a theist, I think I can understand the thinking of many theists well enough to write a brief summary of it that might make it better understood by atheists.

Ardent monotheists often assert that they know in the depths of their soul that there is a God. They do not require proof or even confirmation of that, although they experience confirmations in their daily lives. They have faith in God even if they are provided with contrary arguments or experience.

Faith is an unshakable feeling of profound…

It’s not about (non)belief or (non)existence; it’s about (non)fiction

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Fictional characters can be very interesting and inspiring. We can come to love our favorite ones and use them as literal role models to guide our own behavior. Writers can give them any combination of characteristics imaginable. Unlike real people, their behavior is controlled by the writer.

After we die and are no longer in control of our own behavior, writers can fictionalize us however they like. Even before then, biographers may attempt to begin that process. …

Reasons for acceptance and even appreciation of many of them

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The expression “Ye suffer fools gladly” is attributed to the Christian Saint Paul — See . The larger quotation from the King James version of the Bible is “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” (2 Corinthians 11:19). Some interpret that statement as having been intended sarcastically.

Sometimes, most often in eulogies, I hear a person described as one who “didn’t suffer fools gladly.” I think that is intended as a compliment. The phrase suggests someone who was not, of course, themself a fool, had strong…

And it may also tell us about prospects for self-driving vehicles

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If you drive a car, you and I can probably fit you into one of the following categories, although we may disagree a bit on which one, or whether you might straddle two of them:

  • Aggressive driver
  • Impatient driver
  • Considerate driver
  • Cautious driver
  • Nervous driver

The kind of driver you are certainly depends on the amount of experience you have at driving and whether you are, by nature, bold or cautious. Aggressive drivers are bold and usually experienced. Nervous drivers are cautious and usually inexperienced. …

The paradox of prevention

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Prevention is making sure that something does not happen. The paradox is that if something does not happen, we can’t know that our preventive actions were what caused it not to happen. Events have causes, but non-events don’t have causes.

Often we can only assess the efficacy of preventive measures by probabilities derived from experience. But sometimes, if we examine preventive actions more closely, we can understand how they can cause actual events, other than the one they are designed to prevent, that themselves make it unlikely that the event to be prevented can occur. …

On Manias and Enthusiasms

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Most of us have been caught up in enthusiasms at some times in our lives, sometimes just personal or, often, social ones. Whether it’s support for a sports team, dedication to a hobby, pursuit of a specific career, or following a political or religious leader, we can temporarily devote ourselves single-mindedly to one idea and a set of behaviors associated with that idea.

Sometimes that enthusiasm can be beneficial to us, helping us to focus our mental energy toward a specific goal that turns out to have been worthwhile. …

Where lies Consciousness?

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Paul Thomas Zenki’s article, “Five Popular Lies You Hear About Consciousness” (, is an excellent one. I just want to add a few thoughts of my own, from a decades-long study of language and cognition including attempts to build computational models of cognition and language use.

Before we get to “consciousness”, I think we need to agree on some other terms, whose meanings we may find less mysterious.

Things that interact with each other may be said to “experience” those interactions. Even a stone, when struck, can be said to experience that strike in the sense that…

We can all prepare for our own

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I was with my father the night he died. He had been ill for a long time, but hospitalized only a few days earlier. That night he was asleep, and from quiet murmurs that he made and subtle movements of his face, it seemed that he was dreaming. After a while he stopped breathing. He had not wished to be resuscitated.

I have wondered since then about his final dream. What was he dreaming? Of course I will never know, but it seemed gentle, and I hope it was pleasant. He had lived…

Jim Mason

Studies language, cognition, and humans as social animals. Also does wordworking and sells no-cost insurance for lucky accidents.

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