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Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash

“A preoccupation with pursuing growth — or some modified version of the growth ideal — therefore means a preoccupation with ideas, a preoccupation with cultivating human reason, and a preoccupation with the notion that man should realize, perfect, and extend his nature as a generator of powerful ideas that can change the world.” — Tyler Cowen, Stubborn Attachments

Powerful ideas are the wellspring of progress, and an understanding of how to nurture such ideas should be at the center of our moral and intellectual engagements. Economist Tyler Cowen has spearheaded the launch of numerous websites, podcasts, and other projects


Greetings Readers and Writers,

Our longer articles now have embedded audio for easy listening, including Ray Percival’s three-part series on fake news and Adam Tomas’s brilliant piece on breaking out of infinite regress.

We are hoping these audio versions make it easier to share articles. As always, please feel encouraged to share articles and reach out to contacts who may be interested to write for us.

From elsewhere on the web, check out The Oxford Karl Popper Society’s series of talks, including their upcoming event with Bjorn Lomborg.

Here are our articles from January, with some commentary on the month…


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But once the naked truth stands revealed before our eyes, we have the power to see it, to distinguish it from falsehood, and to know that it is truth. Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, Rutledge, 2nd ed. page 7

Popper thinks the idea that the truth is manifest, that we can read the book of nature or, is a bad idea that nonetheless contributed to a lot of good.

The brief story is that the doctrine of the manifest truth was used by Renaissance thinkers to reject authority, and hence liberate humanity from the yoke of dogma and superstition. Take…


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I think I was seven years old, in 1986, when my father mused that it was unclear if the world was getting better or worse. He invoked the metaphor of humanity attempting a backflip, and figured we’re at the perilous halfway point in the maneuver. If we complete the flip, we’ll indeed be much better off, but we might be in the process of landing on our head.

This question hung with me throughout my childhood. Are we doomed? Is a utopian future possible? Are things right now overall good or bad? As I grew up, the context to think…


“But Aaron, we do live in uniquely dangerous times, with nuclear weapons and climate change and all the rest.”

My nutshell version of David Deutsch’s optimism:

As I sit in my house, fed and warm, I am not worried about securing future meals and future warmth because I have the knowledge to do so at my disposal (including the knowledge instantiated in physical forms such as the car I use to get food from the store and the thermostat on my wall that I turn to the desired temperature). I am always on the verge of starvation and hypothermia unless…


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A Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Lots of spoilers)

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to be a cynic, only a skeptic. If you enjoyed this movie, I’m happy for you and certainly don’t want to diminish your experience by criticising it. I also want to make clear that feigning seriousness is part of the fun of Star Wars, perhaps an adult version of a childhood passion. But the seriousness is only feigned and nothing more.

This review is based on a review-preview coauthored with Gregory Meghani that can be found here (and pasted below for convenience). In that preview…


By Aaron Stupple and Gregory Meghani

Like all experiences, the viewing of Star Wars Episode VIII will be heavily influenced by expectations. For a typical movie, we try to temper expectations as much as possible because we simply want to maximize my viewing pleasure, and get the most bang for the many bucks spent. However, as a Star Wars fan, the ninth movie in a fraught succession of films inevitably carries expectations.

Rather than sweep these expectations aside, we are instead posting them ahead of time. Our hope is to achieve an honest review, one that provides an objective accounting…


I really wanted La La Land to be good. The trailer literally swept me off my feet, and lying in its hazy afterglow, I thought to myself there was just no way a trailer that good could belie a weak movie. Plus, I really like Ryan Gosling.

In fairness, the movie wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t a waste of money. It was very nice to look at, and the music was entertaining. …


We must ask ourselves three questions (at least) when analyzing Rogue One.

Question 1: Is Rogue One, on it’s own, a good movie?

Assume that you just walked into a theater one evening and decided to watch a sci fi adventure, you weren’t familiar with Star Wars, and you weren’t influenced by the hype.

Would you be entertained? Yes. The movie was visually appealing with an interesting, fast paced plot and supported by strong acting across the board. …


I’ve heard the phrase “we’re at a unique moment in human history” so often that I’ve come to expect to hear about a self-serving crackpot agenda.

I have an agenda that is also likely crackpot, but I think worth considering.

Trump’s election horrifies liberal democrats because, for among other things*, it is a wholesale rejection of that approach to the world.

There were struggles, but the US was moving in that direction: marriage equality became law, people at least talking about climate change, improving women’s rights, the scope of inequality and social disparities. …

Aaron Stupple

Father, physician, organizer. Optimist. aaron@conjecturemagazine.com Twitter: @astupple

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