Monday, May 23, 2011

Free Speech for Our Side, but Not for Yours

This video would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. Dozens (judging from the number of signatures) of college students and adults signed a faux petition to have conservatives banned from television and radio even as they affirmed their unwavering support of the principles of the First Amendment:
"I'm for free speech," these signers are saying, "except for speech that I don't like."

It's sad enough that college students who are supposed to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Bill of Rights and the freedoms upon which America was founded would not see the absurdity of signing the petition, but they are, after all, young and perhaps we shouldn't expect too much intellectual rigor from them.

What was really distressing about the video was the number of adults who blithely assented to sign. Presumably these people are faculty and administrators on a campus which is supposed to be a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas, and for them to sign a petition that effectively called for the elimination of the speech of people with whom they disagree is deplorable.

Is there not something hypocritical (or stupid) in educated people affirming their belief in free speech even as they happily sign a petition to ban it?

Computers and Brains

Stephen Hawking recently made the much commented upon remark that he regards the brain as a computer "which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Vjtorley has an interesting post at Uncommon Descent where, inter alia, he discusses eleven fundamental differences between brains and computers. According to vjtorley brains don't differ from computers merely in terms of the matter from which they're made, they're a completely different kind of entity altogether.

The discussion might not mean much except to those with some background knowledge of how computers work, but it's worth reading if you're interested in the debate over whether human beings are just biological machines or whether they're something unique.