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So, what’s been the exciting news this week?

The European Space Agency managed to land a probe on the surface of a comet.

That’s pretty cool! Must have been loads of people talking about it on Twitter.

Well, one of the scientists also chose to wear a shirt covered in images of half-dressed women. Plus he described the mission as “sexy, but I never said she was easy.” Although most people seem more interested in the shirt than what he said. It’s generated something of a #shirtstorm.
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“There is no such thing as legitimate accomplishment”, is the title of a little post by Fredrik deBoer[1]. I shall briefly discuss his argument before turning to some elements of it that I think deserve consideration.
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Consider the following claim:

X is bad. Y is worse. This does not imply an endorsement of X.

Logically speaking, of course, this is quite true and, as is rather too famous, the starting point for a twitter storm centred on Richard Dawkins[1]. Many things have been said on this subject. Much of it is incoherent or trivial. There is absolutely no guarantee that I shall avoid those two pitfalls, but, for all that, I shall try.
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This post is prompted by a viral image containing a quote from Jason Read, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern Maine. In case the link to the photo breaks at some future time I reproduce the quote:

People who dismiss the unemployed and dependent as “parasites” fail to understand economics and parasitism. A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make its host work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society.

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Will Wilkinson has a post in which he discusses illusions and whether or not it is possible to have the illusion of free will. It is interesting, but, I contend, flawed.

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Modeled Behavior has a little post that is, I confess, somewhat too broadly aimed for it to be really clear what is being said. Indeed, it wouldn’t have been sufficiently interesting to be worth commenting on were it not for one particular claim and a follow up post. The claim is that “The baseline assumption… that obesity results from people eating too much and exercising too little” is “a maddeningly ridiculous non-answer”.

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Terry Christian was on Sunday Morning Live discussing whether or not national service might help reduce crime. For lots of reasons I don’t personally believe that national service is a good idea and I know of no good reason to believe that it would reduce crime, but whatever I think on the subject it is important that proffered arguments and statistics are meaningfully related to the question at hand. It’s incredibly important.

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