Archive for November 4th, 2009



November 4, 2009

I started this post intending to type the word “Fireworks” as the title, but somehow my dirty, little id got the better of me and I hit a “d” instead of a “k.” Turns out, my new title is much better.

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus at the Breakthrough Institute have thrown down the gauntlet on Joe Romm. Tom Yulsman picks up the thread. Both are must-reads.

I predict a flame war in 3…2…1…

Stay tuned.


Holy Hippopotamus, Batman

November 4, 2009

Looks like Tim Nicholson has won his lawsuit in which he argues that belief in climate change is philosophically akin to a religion. Roger intimated at the potential fallout of such a case a few weeks back, and I picked up the thread too. Of related interest, Leo Hickman pushes the obvious line in his column yesterday.

In my earlier thread, I argued that belief in climate change is not like a religion. In that post, I wanted to take up the philosophical question relevant to the legal claim that a belief in climate change is like other religious beliefs. I proposed that the difference between a religious belief and a non-religious belief lies in the former’s appeal to the supernatural. Many respondents, including philosophy grad student Richard Chappell, pointed out that “when people ask ‘is belief in X a religion?’ they are typically not asking whether X is supernatural.” Richard said that the focus of the claim is not on the content of the belief, but on the psychology of the believer. This is an important observation, but one that seems to me tangential to the legal question.

On this psychological account, if one believes anything fervently enough, then that fervently held belief might qualify not just as religion-like, but as a religion. Fervent belief in Objectivism might qualify as a religion, even though Rand (and presumably her acolytes) fervently condemn religion. More damningly for this view, if one does not believe in the supernatural fervently enough, then that belief is presumably not a religion, even though it may be, according to most people, a religion. So I might believe in God, say, but not have a religious belief in God (whatever that means).

I’d be curious to hear the legal reasoning behind this ruling, as it strikes me as strange. I suspect it has something to do with the UK’s “2003 Religion and Belief Regulations,” which I know nothing about.


Is Justice Good for Your Sleep?

November 4, 2009

A paper I co-authored with my dear sister (a demographer at the State University of New York at Stony Brook) on the social determinants of sleep is now out in the journal Social Theory and Health.

Here’s the abstract:

Is justice good for your sleep?
(And therefore, good for your health?)

Authors: Benjamin Hale and Lauren Hale

In this paper, we present an argument strengthening the view of Norman Daniels, Bruce Kennedy and Ichiro Kawachi that justice is good for one’s health. We argue that the pathways through which social factors produce inequalities in sleep more strongly imply a unidirectional and non-voluntary causality than with most other public health issues. Specifically, we argue against the ‘voluntarism objection’ – an objection that suggests that adverse public health outcomes can be traced back to the free and voluntary choices of individual actors. Our argument proceeds along two lines: an empirical line and a conceptual line. We first show that much of the empirical research on sleep supports the view that those with fewer opportunities are those who have poorer sleep habits. We then argue that sleep-related decisions are not of the same nature as most other lifestyle choices, and therefore are not as easily susceptible to the voluntarism objection.


U.S.-China Collaboration

November 4, 2009

Friend and fellow philosopher Andrew Light has released a co-authored report from the Center for American Progress carving a path for collaboration between the U.S. and China on CCS. In the run-up to Copenhagen, it’s worth a read. Andrew worked with John Podesta and Julian L. Wong to write the report, the full version of which can be found here. In effect, the report argues that collaborating with China will:

  1. Accelerate U.S. technology development.
  2. Create U.S. jobs.
  3. Lower U.S. electricity costs.
  4. Reduce emissions rapidly.
  5. Save on direct costs.

But you should read it for yourself.


Procedural Suckage

November 4, 2009

This article at Grist is worth a read. It’s not really about why the climate bill is going to suck, even though it is titled “The Real Reason the Climate Bill is Going to Suck.” It’s about the supermajority and procedural obstructionism, which I discussed here. Neat graph too.

cloture votes over time