27 October 2010

On not being a dick

Skeptics and critical thinkers everywhere have recently been engaged in a sort of family quarrel. The issue: how should one go about correcting the falsehoods, poor reasoning and wrong beliefs of others? With tact and sensitivity, or with righteous anger? The answer seems obvious, but some in the skeptic community think that too many of their fellow nonsense-debunkers are choosing the latter option, with predictable results.

25 October 2010

“It’s got to do with intention”: The photography of Robert Frank and Elliott Erwitt

Quality doesn't mean deep blacks and whatever tonal range. That's not quality, that's a kind of quality. The pictures of Robert Frank might strike someone as being sloppy - the tone range isn't right and things like that - but they're far superior to the pictures of Ansel Adams with regard to quality, because the quality of Ansel Adams, if I may say so, is essentially the quality of a postcard. But the quality of Robert Frank is a quality that has something to do with what he's doing, what his mind is. It's not balancing out the sky to the sand and so forth. It's got to do with intention.

- Elliott Erwitt

Stumbling across Erwitt’s comments on his fellow photographer’s work was a moving moment for me. They reaffirmed my own thoughts on photography and its values, and reassured me that I wasn’t alone in having such thoughts. When it comes to technical knowledge I’m still an ignoramus who has trouble telling his f-stops from his film speeds. But Erwitt’s words give form to an attitude that I embrace. They hint at a manifesto that I would gladly be a signatory of.

16 October 2010

Is ignorance bliss? Not when it harms others

Recently a friend and I were discussing an online debate on the motion 'This house believes that religion is a force for good'. Our talk on the subject of religion naturally segued into the subject of values, and whether objective, universal values exist or not. I believe that they do, and that such values can be derived from a naturalist source without recourse to divine authority. In the aforementioned debate, the writer and neuroscientist Sam Harris was against the motion, succinctly arguing that "religion gives people bad reasons for being good where good reasons are available."