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The Evolution of Religion – or Vice Versa?

first_imgA Harvard professor has evolutionized religion again.  Marc Hauser, the one who trains his little boy to adore Darwin (07/03/2007) and wrote a book on how natural selection created morality (10/27/2006), is now saying that religion is a by-product of our evolution.  “These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions,” he wrote in Trends in Cognitive Sciences,1 “but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.” Science Daily, published this “suggestion” uncritically based on a press release from Cell Press.  Their headline reads, “Morality Research Sheds Light on the Origins of Religion.”  A key element in Hauser’s “suggestion” was that the moral sense seems uniform across cultures.  No one in these articles entertained a different suggestion: that this moral sense came from design, not evolution.  Nor did they indicate how morality could be defined or characterized apart from a religious perspective.     Phillip Ball at Nature News announced, based on this study, “Morals don’t come from God.”  At first, this sounded like an endorsement of Hauser’s thesis, but Ball only met him halfway.  “The finding that religion scarcely influences moral intuition undermines the idea that a godless society will be immoral, says Philip Ball,” the subtitle reads.  “Whether it ‘explains’ religion is another matter.”  Ball appeared to agree that irreligion does not necessarily lead to an amoral society.  Moral dilemma tests show that people from all walks of life have a basic moral intuition – an innate ‘moral grammar’ that guides their ideas of right and wrong.  He doubted, though, that moral instinct is the place to look for the origin of religion itself.  “It seems hard to credit the idea that the immense cultural investment in religion was made merely to strengthen and fine-tune existing neural circuits related to morality,” he ended.  “Some people place more emphasis on the adaptive rationale for religious symbols and mystical beliefs, rather than morals.”  Ball just indicated that he denies propositional truths have any bearing on religious beliefs.  Any explanation must be sought in evolutionary adaptation.  He seems to admit, though, even that kind of reductionism falls short of explaining religion.  “Yet attempting to explain the origins of such a rich cultural phenomenon as religion is doomed to some extent to be a thankless task,” Ball concluded.  “For to ‘explain’ Chartres Cathedral or Bach’s Mass in B Minor in terms of non-kin cooperation is obviously to have explained nothing.”     For earlier discussions on the evolution of religion, see 11/09/2009 and 05/27/2008. 1.  Ilkka Pyysiinen and Marc Hauser, “The origins of religion: evolved adaptation or by-product?” Trends in Cognitive Sciences Cell Press, 08 February 2010, doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.007. Hauser is just as religious as his lab rats; he just doesn’t advertise it.  He attends the Church of Darwin – a bigoted hate group (12/12/2009, 05/09/2006, 02/11/2006 commentary) with its own Monday School curriculum (12/21/2005), where he plays the role of High Priest Yoda (09/26/2006 commentary), accompanied by the other bishops Pascal Boyer (10/26/2008) and Daniel Dennett (02/02/2006).  James Dow accompanies on the organ (05/27/2008).     The way to make Hauser’s belief implode and refute itself is to write a satire on The Evolution of Darwinian Storytelling.  That is what Cornelius Hunter has done on his blog Darwin’s God.  It appears that Hunter turned out the Hahvahd professor’s lights (assuming there were any to begin with). Update 07/19/2011: It appears Hauser’s undermining of traditional morality has caught up with him.  New Scientist announced, “Disgraced cognition researcher resigns from Harvard.”  Apparently some people who still think morality matters didn’t appreciate Hauser’s scientific misconduct.(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

3 Ways to Host Your Own Delicious Alternative

first_imgScrumptious is a CouchDB based Delicious-clone by Jan-Piet Mens. It supports importing Delicious bookmarks. It doesn’t have the sort of radical decentralization of Twebz (Update: that’s actually an inherent feature of CouchDB’s replication) – , but it’s a start. You can grab the code from GitHub.Bonus: Ma.gnolia?Update: Here’s the gnolia / magnolia code on Github. Thanks Adam!Ill-fated Delicious competitor Ma.gnolia released its code back in 2008. The company closed its doors this year and now its open source home seems to be down. Is the code still floating around anywhere? Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Yesterday we all thought Delicious was about to go the way of Ma.gnolia. For those that don’t remember, Ma.gnolia was a Delicious competitor that suffered a massive data loss and eventually shut down entirely. It now looks like Delicious will live on, but it remains uncertain where or in what form.The uncertainty about Delicious’s future has lead to many looking for alternatives, and several blogs have posted lists of various hosted alternatives like Diigo and Pinboard. But there’s another alternative: host your own Web-based bookmarking service. Here are three open source projects that you can install on your own server or cloud provider. Keep local backups, and you don’t have ever have to worry about a service being shutdown again. Please feel free to list other self-hosted alternatives in the comments.Scuttle Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Selficious is a new Python-based personal web bookmarking application very similar to Delicious. It’s designed for just one person to stash their bookmarks on a web server.Scrumptious Tags:#cloud#saas Related Posts A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Scuttle is an open source PHP and MySQL based Delicious-clone that’s been in development since 2005. It supports multiple users, so you could host a copy of it and let all your friends or co-workers use it.Selficious klint finley 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Energy Tax Credits and the Fiscal Cliff

first_imgRenewable energy production tax creditDuring the past few months, developers of utility-scale wind projects have been operating in a climate of uncertainly. Most utility-scale wind projects in the U.S. only make economic sense if developers can claim the renewable energy production tax credit. This tax credit — equal to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour generated by utility-scale wind, biomass, and geothermal projects — was set to expire at the end of December 2012.Wind industry lobbyists were relieved to hear that the renewable energy production tax credit has been extended. Under the original enabling legislation for the tax credit, wind projects had to be placed in service by the end of 2012. The “placed in service” language has been replaced in the new legislation by language that makes a project eligible for the tax credit as long as construction was begun by January 1, 2014.The tax credit applies to wind projects, geothermal projects, landfill gas projects, waste-to-energy projects, and tidal energy projects. According to a blog by Peter Lehner, who works for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “The wind energy industry has expanded rapidly in the past decade, and employs about 75,000 Americans, many of them in manufacturing. But at the end of 2012, new job announcements in the wind industry fell off the jobs cliff, largely because of uncertainty in the marketplace about the tax credit.” An article published on the Clean Energy Authority website notes, “With doubts that the credit would be extended for 2013, the wind industry in the U.S. had already started to shutter manufacturing and developers and utilities stopped pursuing wind projects.”With this legislation, the wind industry has received a reprieve. As the fiscal cliff loomed last month, Washington lobbyists fretted over the future of three energy tax credit programs: the renewable energy production tax credit, the energy-efficiency tax credit for homeowners, and the tax credit for builders of new energy-efficient homes.The renewable energy production tax credit — the program that makes the development of utility-scale wind projects profitable — was set to expire at the end of 2012.While the energy-efficiency tax credit for homeowners and the tax credit for builders of new energy-efficient homes have both been dead for a year — the tax credits expired at the end of 2011 — lobbyists never gave up hope that they might use the fiscal cliff negotiations as an opportunity to revive the two tax credits.At the last minute, lobbyists for all three of these tax credits got their wishes granted. The tax credit for builders of new energy-efficient homesLike the energy-efficiency tax credit for homeowners, the tax credit for builders of new energy-efficient homes expired at the end of 2011.The fiscal cliff legislation extends the calendar for the tax credit for builders of new energy-efficient homes (also known as the Business Tax Credit for New and Renovated Energy Efficient Residences) in two directions: retroactively back to January 1, 2012, and forward to the end of 2013. Because of this new legislation, the tax credit can be applied to homes built in 2012 as well as homes built in 2013.For more information on this tax credit, see a report on the Mondaq website or the relevant page on the DSIRE website. The energy-efficiency tax credit for homeownersThis tax credit applies to certain types of residential HVAC equipment, water heaters, windows, doors, roofing, insulation, and air sealing equipment. Originally enacted in February 17, 2009 as part of President Obama’s stimulus bill, the energy-efficiency tax credit expired at the end of 2011. The credits apply to improvements made to an existing home; new homes are not eligible.As part of the deal to avert our national plunge over the fiscal cliff, the Congress agreed to extend the calendar for the energy-efficiency tax credit (also known as the 25C tax credit) in two directions: retroactively back to January 1, 2012, and forward to the end of 2013. Because of this new legislation, the tax credit can be applied to qualified equipment installed at any time after December 31, 2011.The tax credit is limited to $500; a taxpayer is ineligible for the credit if the credit has already been claimed by the taxpayer in an amount of $500 in any previous year.The following equipment is eligible for this tax credit:heat pump water heaters with a minimum EF of 2.0;gas-fired or oil-fired water heaters with a minimum EF of 0.82;gas-fired or oil-fired furnaces or boilers with a minimum AFUE of 95;certain energy-efficient air conditioners and energy-efficient air-source heat pumps;some types of windows and doors;certain air-sealing materials and insulation materials; andEnergy Star roofing materials.For more information on the residential energy efficiency tax credit, see complete details on the DSIRE website. What about homeowner tax credits for residential solar equipment?A fourth tax credit program — one that provides homeowners with a tax credit of 30% of the cost of residential wind turbines, photovoltaic (PV) systems, solar hot water systems, and ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs) — was at no risk of expiring last month. Established in 2006, that tax credit program isn’t set to expire until the last day of 2016.last_img read more