Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jesus Was Married, Probably not Gay, But Might Not Have Existed

[UPDATE: At her own blog, Valerie Tarico has now added "(most likely a forgery)" to the sentence I mention below, but the article on hasn't changed.  She has the inaccurate "2014" date both places.  Doesn't Salon have editors?]

...and a few other dumb things from's Valerie Tarico. Actually, for a Salon article, it's not half bad; the author is able to stumble upon some truths in spite of herself and in spite of statements like these:
We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter.
Mostly true, but this is clearly stated to get the reader into skeptical mode; yet it's a red-herring, and an obvious one at that.  One needn't have writings by eyewitnesses to have knowledge of historical facts.  One needn't have documents written within less than decades of an event to have knowledge of the events.  Furthermore, one could say the same thing as our author in spades for virtually everyone in antiquity who we claim to know anything about.  In fact, we have more historical documents written within a close proximity of the time of Jesus (and about Jesus) than we do for anyone else in the ancient world.
Nonetheless, based on archeological digs and artifacts, ancient texts and art, and even forensic science, we know a good deal about the time and culture in which the New Testament is set. This evidence points to some startling conclusions about who Jesus likely was—and wasn’t.
So, let's basically ignore the massive amount of textual evidence available from the authors' writings which have been collected into the Bible, and let's speculate on what Jesus might have been like mostly from other evidence.  In other words, if the evidence counts in favor of Christian belief, we'll basically ignore it.  I'm not liking where we're headed...
1. Married, not single. When an ancient papyrus scrap was found in 2014 [sic] referring to the wife of Jesus, some Catholics and Evangelicals were scandalized. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practicing Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. A rabbi being celibate would have been so unusual that some modern writers have argued Jesus must have been gay. But a number of ancient texts, including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip says, “[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”
It's never good when you begin your "facts" with evidence from an "ancient papyrus scrap [that] was found in 2014 [2012!] referring to the wife of Jesus" that is probably a forgerybut if not, still proves nothing since it would date to the EIGHTH century and have its origins in Gnosticism. Valerie must be getting her news from The Huffington Post.

Okay, read the rest if you want to learn a few things ("or laugh").  I'll end by letting Ms. Tarico speak for herself:
That leaves each of us, from the privileged vantage of the 21st century, with both a right and a responsibility to consider the evidence and make our own best guesses about what is real and how we should then live. A good starting place might be a little more recognition that we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like to think, and a lot of what we know for sure is probably wrong.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Do Black Lives Really Matter?

"Do black lives really matter, or does it matter only if you are shot by a white person or a white policeman?"

That's from the testimony of Jamiel Shaw whose son was slain by, as he says, an "illegal alien," or what the Obama administration might prefer to refer to as "an American-in-Waiting."   I'll bet Al Sharpton is on his way to the Arizona border as we speak.  (This is all we're going to be hearing about on NPR for the next month).

Heartbreaking testimony:

Mr. Spock the Logic Man

"I find your arguments strewn with gaping defects in logic."

The Dress

What two colors do you see on the dress?

Serendipitous that I should come across this today.  We were talking about Descartes' skeptical arguments in Intro to Phil, and a student came up to me after class and presented me with an inverted qualia argument she had been thinking about. [I should add that "The Dress" doesn't seem designed to raise the inverted qualia argument in particular, though it certainly brings to mind issues about qualia more generally].

For what it's worth, the dress appears to me as gold and white (a bluish white to be exact and brownish gold).  In better lighting conditions it would appear to be white and gold.  Definitely not blue and black.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I have a high threshold for great movies.  Predestination is not a great movie.  But it's interesting, well-acted, well-written, and technically proficient.  As J.F. remarked, "It is what Looper should have been."  I agree.  The film is based on a short story which I now have in my possession but have yet to finish reading.

More thoughts (and spoilers!) below the fold:

Obama to Ban AR-15 5.56 mm Ammo With Executive Action

Here and here.
But now [The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] says that since the bullets can be used in semi-automatic handguns they pose a threat to police and must be banned from production, sale and use...Federal agencies will still be allowed to buy the ammo.
Well, uh, that is sort of the point.  The Second Amendment wasn't put in place to make sure that hunters can still have guns for hunting--no 18th Century fool would have thought otherwise.  It was put in place because the Founders put the brakes on governments' tyranny and complete monopoly on the use of force.  The well regulated militia ain't the National Guard.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Son Samuel & Augustine: Evil as Privation

Sam (6-yr-old): Daddy, why does Johno go up to your room in the middle of the night?

Me: Because he's a chicken.

Sam: Why is he a chicken?

Me: Because he's afraid of the dark.

Sam:  Why is he afraid of the dark?

Me:  I don't know, but I do know that you need to go to sleep.

Sam: OK.  I used to be afraid of the dark, but not anymore.  The dark is nothing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now Playing: The Best Band of All Time

Jack Black:

Historical Adam and Eve

An interesting fifteen minute podcast (as well as a transcript) with Bill Craig on science and the historical Adam and Eve here.

Of particular note:

Craig: This is the so-called Chromosomal Adam, again playing on the biblical figures. So the claim is that the Chromosomal Adam – the Adam from whom all persons are descended today – lived around 60,000-90,000 years ago, but the woman lived around 140,000 years ago. That doesn’t match up, right? Well, I am no geneticist, but recently Michael Murray, who is involved in the BioLogos movement and with the Templeton Foundation, sent me an email in which he said some recent studies have just reestimated the dates of the Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam and they’ve determined that they were roughly contemporaneous.
Kevin Harris: Really?
Craig: Yes! Which, if that is correct, that is just astonishing. This could be Adam and Eve. It could be the original human pair that we are talking about.

Politics, Government Dependency, and Western Exceptionalism

Myron Magnet:

In his famed Farewell Address, George Washington exhorted Americans never to let their culture of liberty and self-reliance weaken. The Constitution, over whose framing he presided, was a remarkable achievement, he acknowledged; but in the end, it is just a parchment barrier against tyranny, a dead letter if the spirit that animates it gutters out. The real Constitution—the one that safeguards the written one against the schemes of omnipresent, power-hungry demagogues—lives in the hearts and minds of the citizens; and parents, teachers, and preachers must never forget their duty to nourish it and keep it vibrant. That is what makes Americans Americans.

Vain words. For decades, those who shape our culture, from grammar-school teachers to newspaper editors, from professors to presidents, have striven to inculcate precisely the opposite lesson. Their main points: this is not a free country but rather one that has oppressed along race, class, and gender lines from its birth to this very moment. There is nothing exceptional or admirable about it or the tradition of Western civilization it rests upon, but rather it is a force for worldwide exploitation and oppression. Individuals can’t be self-reliant because only government is powerful enough to protect them from the devouring power of corporations. Nor are individuals the engines of progress: Thomas Edison didn’t build that; Jonas Salk didn’t build that; Steve Jobs didn’t build that—it took a village. Nor did their efforts create wealth that wouldn’t exist but for them, for wealth creation is a natural occurrence, like Old Faithful, while only poverty is anomalous and requires an explanation. Government functionaries aren’t power-hungry, self-interested people like everyone else but rather benevolent experts, dedicated to turning the most up-to-date knowledge into programs for the public good. Government exists not to protect our God-given liberty but to make us equal through redistribution—to bring about equality of condition rather than to ensure equality of opportunity. Moreover, it can do the job that families used to do better than the traditional family ever could, from raising children to caring for Grandma, from womb to tomb. Merit is really a disguised by-product of privilege, from career success down to high scores on school tests, which result from expensive tutoring, high-priced private education, and costly test coaching.

Though George Washington was too clear-sighted about the perversity of human nature to cherish any sentimental fantasy about the perfectibility of man, he nevertheless shared the humanist and Enlightenment view that individuals, through reason, ingenuity, creativity, effort, and knowledge (from experience and study), could make themselves into good citizens who could better their own condition and contribute to the welfare of all. He believed, with most of the Founding Fathers, that nature had endowed man with freedom for just this purpose and that using this freedom for self-improvement and for the good of the community gave life its meaning. Today’s official culture is more a culture of dependency rather than of freedom. It sees individuals as something like gerbils in the government’s cage, depending on allotments of state-supplied kibble (bought with the tax dollars of the productive) while they copulate, reproduce, and die, occasionally running pointlessly on a wheel with no thought of a higher purpose.

Many people mouth the platitudes of this new culture, more European social-democratic than American in spirit. But only a portion of Americans really live by it. The great task of politics at this moment is to change the American mind back to a full-throated, rather than embarrassed, belief in enterprise, creativity, freedom of thought, and individualism and its concomitant stress on self-reliance, self-control, and self-improvement. Policies are important, to be sure; but ideas and beliefs ultimately drive politics, and they can’t be left to take care of themselves. They have to be articulated and battled for—a job too important to be left to the schoolteachers and professors. It is a job for citizens, and doing it is what citizenship means.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The God of Christianity and the God of Islam: Same God?

Interesting Thoughts from the Maverick. Here is an excerpt:

One morning an irate C-Span viewer called in to say that he prayed to the living God, not to the mythical being, Allah, to whom Muslims pray. The C-Span guest made a standard response, which is correct as far as it goes, namely, that Allah is Arabic for God, just as Gott is German for God. He suggested that adherents of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) worship the same God under different names. No doubt this is a politically correct thing to say, but is it true?
Our question, then, is precisely this:  Does the normative Christian and the normative Muslim worship numerically the same God, or numerically different Gods?  (By 'normative Christian/Muslim' I mean an orthodox adherent of his faith who understands its content, without subtraction of essential tenets, and without addition of private opinions.)  Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic.  So if Christian and Muslim worship different Gods, and a monotheistic God exists, then one is worshipping  a nonexistent God, or, if you prefer, is failing to worship the true God.
1. Let's start with the obvious: 'Allah' is Arabic for God.  So if an Arabic-speaking Coptic Christian refers to God, he uses 'Allah.'   And if an Arabic-speaking Muslim refers to God, he too uses 'Allah.'  From the fact that both Copt and Muslim use 'Allah' it does not follow that they are referring to the same God, but it also does not follow that they are referring to numerically different Gods.  So we will not make any progress with our question if we remain at the level of words.  We must advance to concepts.
2. We need to distinguish between our word for God, the concept (conception) of God, and God.  God is not a concept, but there are concepts of God and, apart from mystical intuition and religious feelings such as the Kreatur-Gefuehl that Rudolf Otto speaks of, we have no access to God except via our concepts of God.  Now it is undeniable that the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God partially overlap.  The following is a partial list of what is common to both conceptions:
a. There is exactly one God.
b. God is the creator of everything distinct from himself.
c. God is transcendent: he is radically different from everything distinct from himself.
d. God is good.
Now if the Christian and Muslim conceptions of God were identical, then we would have no reason to think that Christian and Muslim worship different Gods.  But of course the conceptions, despite partial overlap, are not identical. Christians believe in a triune God who became man in Jesus of Nazareth.  Or to put it precisely, they believe in a triune God the second person of which became man in Jesus of Nazareth.  This is the central and indeed crucial (from the Latin, crux, crucis, meaning cross) difference between the two faiths.  The crux of the matter is the cross. 
So while the God-concepts overlap, they are different concepts.  (The overlap is partial, not complete.) And let's not forget that God is not, and cannot be, a concept (as I am using 'concept').  No concept is worship-worthy or anyone's highest good.  No concept created the world.  Whether or not God exists, it is a conceptual truth that God cannot be a concept.  For the concept of God contains the subconcept, being that exists apart from any finite mind.  It is built into the very concept of God that God cannot be a concept.
It is clear then, that what the Christian and the Muslim worship or purport to worship cannot be that which is common to their respective God-conceptions, for what is common its itself a concept.
We could say that if God exists, then God is the object of our God-concept or the referent of our God-concept, but also the referent of the word 'God.' 
3. Now comes the hard part, which is to choose between two competing views:
V1: Christian and Muslim can worship the same God, even though one of them must have a false belief about God, whether it be the belief that God is unitarian or the belief that God is trinitarian.
V2:  Christian and Muslim must worship different Gods precisely because they have different conceptions of God.  So it is not that one of them has a false belief about the one God they both worship; it is rather that one of them does not worship the true God at all.
There is no easy way to decide rationally between these two views.  We have to delve into the philosophy of language and ask how reference is achieved.
Read the rest and learn something.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Daughter Vs. Lawrence M. Krauss

My daughter (Malea) and I were listening to Michael Feldman's What'dya Know? show on NPR yesterday, and Feldman had on physicist Lawrence Krauss to discuss his book, A Universe from Nothing (the show might have been a repeat). I mentioned Krauss's book and his atheism recently.

So we're listening to his views on the universe, and I hadn't commented on anything except  briefly to say a few things about the curvature of space-time in response to Malea's question concerning whether it was true that the universe is curved.  Krauss is going on and on about "nothing" and apparently Malea had finally had enough:

Krauss [I'm paraphrasing]: "One of the great mysteries is that if we remove all the matter, radiation, energy, and so forth from a region of space so that there's nothing there, the nothing still weighs something."

Malea: "That's because there's SOMETHING there!!"

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Radical Feminist Movement and Institutions of Higher Indoctrination

What to do when you're a feminist and women can vote, go to the university (in greater numbers than men), hold political offices, run for President, find gainful employment, marry and divorce, and so forth?  Now what?  Here's what:

The video below is 34 minutes long.  Please watch it all.  For those of us who have spent a considerable amount of time in higher education the video is not surprising.  To those of you who have not, you need to be shocked to your senses.  The woman who speaks throughout, Janice Fiamengo, is truly courageous.  [The guy's facial expression at 21:22: "When dogmatic ideology is smacked in the face with reason."]

First Trailer "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"

Here I reviewed the book that on which the film is based.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Son's Prayer Tonight

Johno (4-year-old):

Dear God,

Thank you for mommy and daddy, my brothers and sisters, my nanas and papas, my uncles, aunts, and cousins.  Please help me to be a good boy and to listen to mommy and daddy.  Thank you for my toys, my Angry Birds, my bed and pillows, and thank you for...
... and thank you for Saturn and Pluto and everything in the world.


Mysterious Are God's Ways

A nice illustration from Alexander Pruss followed by interesting comments.  I reproduce the illustration:

Imagine an ordinary decent person who is omniscient. Her actions are going to be rather different from what we expect. She would take what would to us be big risks for the sake of small gains, simply because for her there is no risk at all. Her stock portfolio is apt to be undiversified and quite strange. If we live in a chaotic world, then she might from time to time be doing some really odd things, like hopping on one leg in order to prevent an earthquake a thousand years hence. There would be bad things she would refrain from preventing because she saw further than we into the consequences, and good things she would avoid for similar reasons.
Now add to this that the person is omnipotent. And morally perfect. These additions would presumably only make the person stranger to us in behavior.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beware of Economists Bearing Advice

Below is an excerpt from a very short, sensible article (from a philosopher and an economist) which points out some underlying assumptions often glossed over by economists:
The sensible policy maker needs to understand the limitations of welfare economics and to regard its policy recommendations with skepticism. Welfare economics vulgarizes the problems of policy making by its limited concern with only one moral objective -- the enhancement of well-being [TB: "well-being" narrowly construed]-- and by its distorted identification of well-being with the satisfaction of preferences. The pronouncements of welfare economics must therefore be treated with caution. The recommendations -- like providing cash in favor of in-kind benefits -- seem so straightforward, and the arguments -- like the one we have examined -- so watertight. But what makes welfare economics so clear cut is that so much has been left out and that what has been left in has been distorted. Sometimes the omissions and distortions may not matter, but policy makers had better understand the limitations of the framework economists employ.
The whole thing is worth reading.

Now Playing

"[J]oy wants eternity."  Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

                                                                     Forever Young

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stripping a Professor of Tenure Over a Blog Post

Here is a frightening story about a situation at one of my alma maters (I know some of the principle players involved).

Another example of the fact that universities are becoming indoctrination mills, open to diversity of anything but diversity of ideas and ideology.

How Biased is the Media? A Freakonomics Interview

Tim Groseclose answers questions about his research on media bias here.  By my lights what he says below is plausible and interesting.


Q. Why does liberal media bias exist in the first place? What would you suggest as a way that a) journalists could be more aware of their own bias and limit it in their reporting; or b) the profession of journalism could attract a more unbiased (or merely more representative) cohort? –Jack
A. The main reason why bias exists, I believe, is simply that newsrooms are filled overwhelmingly with liberals. Here’s the most important fact to know, if you want to understand media bias: If you poll Washington correspondents and ask “Who’d you vote for last election?”, about 93% will say the Democrat.
Why are newsrooms so liberal? I don’t know, except that I suspect that it’s mainly self-selection. I believe that there is something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to pursue careers like journalism, academia, and the arts.
A manager or owner of a media outlet could try to counteract this by trying to hire more conservatives, but he will have a hard time trying to find conservatives who want to be journalists. He’ll either have to pay conservative journalists more or be willing to hire conservative journalists who are not as good at reporting as liberal journalists. It’s a hard problem for a news-outlet manager to solve. I basically believe we’re in an equilibrium  – that liberal bias is basically here to stay.
How can journalists be aware of their own biases?  One way is to read Chapter 11 of my book, “The Anti-Newsroom, Washington, County, Utah.”  In the chapter I search for a place that votes the opposite of a newsroom – 93-7 for the Republican. It’s basically impossible to find such a county, but one that comes close is Washington County. I interview lots of people in the county to give the reader a sense of what political views in the anti-newsroom are like.  If journalists think about how conservative, and maybe even strange, views are in the anti-newsroom, they may begin to realize how liberal, and maybe even strange, views are in actual newsrooms.
And if a journalist is really serious about understanding his or her own biases, he or she could visit Washington County, Utah.  One of its residents, Tom Seegmiller, has agreed to host such journalists.  Seegmiller is the owner of Dixie Gun and Fish and the Locker Room, an athletic supply store. If such journalists are interested, they should contact Seegmiller at one of his two businesses. Seegmiller is even willing to take such journalists to church with him. And if they desire, Seegmiller is willing to take such journalists hunting with him.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Tree Down

Gone Girl

I finally watched it.  Two thumbs up.  It's a dark psychological thriller with a surprising amount of humor.  Very well done.  Long, but there's never a dull moment.  It's almost two movies seamlessly tied together.  Congratulations are in order to Affleck for learning how to act over the last few years.

A few critical remarks and spoilers below:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

More on Obama's Mendacity...

Buffoon-in-Chief Taking a "Selfie" ("But he's just like us!!!")
"As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets.  Not because I believe in bigger government--I don't."  --Barack Hussein Obama, 02/12/2009.  
"Freedom is slavery." "Ignorance is strength."

JCI retorts on Facebook with the following comments & questions (I put what I'll be responding to in bold):

1) Is it fair to call someone a liar because you are supposing the inner workings of his mind? I think he doesn't really believe this report, therefore he is lying... 2) I really just wanted to know if you listened to the remarks after the mention of the statistics, and what you thought of that content. Are you so busy looking for faults in anything Obama says that you blindly gloss over legitimate pleas to address sexual violence in our culture? I understand that you have an issue with verbage [sic] Obama used, and with the CDC report from which the statistics were derived (which I don't agree adds up to the hyperbole of a "Grammy award winning lie"), but that withstanding, was the message from Obama really deserving of the ire it produced in you? Other instances, I can understand, but this? 3) Fair enough. Comments like those below may not be lies, but I won't say that they are true either. And I would be interested in proof that you have to support these claims. "Obama has no qualms about lying." "But the President has no concern with being truthful." 4) To be honest, I think I have lumped you in with the remarks and attitudes of many conservatives, who regularly reference Obama with undisguised hate and venom. True, Obama is a public official and well-deserving of criticism, however I refuse to believe that means he should be dehumanized. I recognize that hatred of political leaders is nothing new in human history, and that some do commit hideous atrocities. I just don't agree with the way that many on the right look for the tiniest excuse to attack Obama, even an accurate quoting of a report in a message against rape.

Now, I don't know JCI's political views or who she voted for in the last elections.  In responding to this I am not presuming anything about JCI.  I will respond to this as if it were put to me by a throne and altar Democrat who twice voted for Obama.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Leftists and Civility


The Right has not cornered the market on civility, not by a long shot.  But in my experience, liberals and leftists are worse in the civility department than conservatives. If you don’t agree with me on this, then this post is not for you. To try to prove my assertion to libs and lefties would be like trying to prove to them that such major media outlets as the New York Times tilt leftward. To achieve either goal, I would have to possess the longevity of a Methuselah, the energy of a Hercules, and the dogged persistence of a Sisyphus – and I still would not succeed.

So, given that conservatives are more civil than libs and lefties, why is this the case? One guess is that conservatives, for whom there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional ways of doing things, are more civil due to a natural piety with respect to received modes of human interaction. Civility works, and conservatives are chary about discarding what works. They were brought up to be civil by parents and teacher who were themselves civil, and they see no reason to reject as phony or ‘precious’ something that is conducive to good living. They understand that since we live in a world of appearances, a certain amount of concern with them is reasonable. They also understand that by faking it a bit, one brings oneself to actually feel the emotions that one began by faking. For example, by saying ‘Good Morning’ when I don’t quite feel like it, I contribute to my own perception of the morning as good.

But leftists, many of whom are of a rebellious and adolescent cast of mind, have a problem with what they perceive to be phoniness. They are always out to unmask things, to cut through the false consciousness and the bourgeois ideology. Connected with this hatred of phoniness is a keen sensitivity to hypocrisy. So when Bill (William J.) Bennett was caught wasting money on the slot machines in Las Vegas a while back, the libs and lefties pounced and denounced: "Hypocrite!" they cried.

So pouncing and denouncing, they proved that they do not know what hypocrisy is. Although Mr. Bennett’s behavior was suboptimal, it was neither illegal nor immoral: he’s got the dough to blow if that’s his pleasure. Given his considerable accomplishments, is he not entitled to a bit of R & R?

A hypocrite is not someone who is morally perfect or who fails to engage in supererogatory acts. Nor is a hypocrite one who preaches high ideals but falls short. Otherwise, we would all be hypocrites. For if everyone is, then no one is. A hypocrite is someone who preaches high ideals but makes no attempt at living up to them. The difference is between failing to do what one believes one ought to do and not even trying to do what one says one ought to do.

The leftist obsession with perceived phoniness and perceived hypocrisy stems from an innate hatred of moral judgment, a hatred which itself seems fueled by a confusion of moral judgment with judgmentalism.

So perhaps the answer is this. Leftists are less civil than conservatives because they do not see civility as a value. They don't see it as a value because it smacks of a bourgeois moral ideology that to them is nothing but a sham. Adroit unmaskers and psychologizers that they are, incapable of taking things at face value, they think that none of us who preach civility’s value really believe what we are preaching. It really has to be something else, just as the desire for democracy in Iraq really has to be something else: a desire for economic and military hegemony.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Is a Lie That Helps People Morally Wrong?

That is the question my friend Justin asks in the previous post.  It's a broad question.  I won't be able to fully address it in a single blog post.  So I'll make a few general remarks about lying and end with a brief remark or two about the question applied to Obama.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Follow-Up to the Previous Post on the Misleading CDC Report

I now fisk the Facebook friend comments.

I'll start with this one:
Mr. French Thank you, [JS]. Now we're getting somewhere. And you're absolutely right, my language in my comment last night was nowhere near as precise as it should have been. I was not implying that dr. Borland did not think those situations where rape. I was saying that he presented I miss construction of holders definition that clearly included the things he said it did not include. I attribute the lack of clarity interface booking on an outdated phone right before bed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One in Five Women Murdered in the U.S. According to CDC

One in five women are murdered or are victims of attempted murder.  That is the latest report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Say WHAT????"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Media Bias Aids Democrats by About 8-10% Points

That is the claim in a book by political science and economics professor Tim Groseclose.  To non-liberals it is obvious that there is a liberal slant in the mainstream media--the titles of stories, the stories chosen to be reported on, the questions asked (and not asked), and so on belies the fact that there is significant bias (not to mention polls of journalists on which party they favor).  Liberals will often go to great lengths to deny the bias, since for many of them it's hard to see bias in a piece of journalism about which they wholeheartedly agree.

Groseclose not only supports the view that there is such bias with his research but goes on to make the claim (about which he says he was initially skeptical) that the evidence suggests the bias significantly skews voter results to the left by almost 8-10% (which is enough to tip most elections).  If the bias were eliminated, he says, the U.S. would look like Texas (on the PQ scale which he explains below).  As he remarks, "If you want to change elections, become a journalist not a professor."

He discusses his methodology in this video (he talks for about 35 minutes and then answers questions):

Obama's Grammy Award Winning Lies

Obama is a demonstrable liar.  To lie is to assert something as true which one believes to be false with the intention to deceive.  Obama has no qualms about lying.  And yet what we still continue to hear is the "Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction" moral-equivalence-meme which I have never once seen an argument come close to demonstrating as true.  

Here is Obama, at it again at the Grammys:

"Nearly one in five American women are the victims of rape or attempted rape."  20% of American women have been the victims of attempted rape. That is demonstrably false (as is the claim that one in five females in college have been the victims of rape).  No one in his right mind should believe it and yet here is our President on national TV disrespecting the nation with callous falsehoods. The President is not so stupid as to believe it.  As we're reminded anytime the President brazenly violates the Constitution, "he is a Constitutional lawyer."  He lies.  His ends justify his means.

Here is a good example of why affirmative action undermines its own goals.  According to many, we need affirmative action because blacks (etc.) need role models who look like them in positions of power and authority.  So it's OK to overlook certain qualifications to get people into those positions since the end justifies the mean.  Numerous Americans (whites, blacks, etc.) overlooked Obama's qualifications and voted for him because he is black.  And now we have the role-model-in-Chief, a serial liar.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Suggestions on How to Study


A great deal could be said on this topic. Here are a few thoughts that may be helpful. Test them against your own experience.
Gratry1.   Make good use of the morning, which is an excellent time for such  activities  as reading, writing, study, and meditation.  But to put the morning to good use, one must arise early.  I get up at 2:00, but you needn't be so monkish.  Try arising one or two hours earlier than you presently do. That will provide you with a block of quiet time.  Fruitful mornings are of course impossible if one's evenings are spent dissipating.  But it is not enough to avoid dissipation.  One ought to organize one's evening so as to set oneself up for a fruitful morning's work.  Alphonse Gratry makes some excellent suggestions in section V of his "The Sources of Intellectual Light" (1862), the last book of his Logic (trs. Helen and Milton Singer, Open Court, 1944).  One of them is, "Set yourself questions in the evening; very often you will find them resolved when you awaken in the morning." (532) Gratry has in mind theoretical problems.  His advice is compatible with Schopenhauer's: One should never think about personal problems, money woes, and other such troubles at night and certainly not before bed. 
2.  Abstain from all mass media dreck in the morning.  Read no newspapers.  "Read not The Times, read the eternities." (Thoreau)   No electronics. No computer use, telephony, TV, e-mail, etc.  Just as you wouldn't pollute your body with whisky and cigarettes upon arising, so too you ought not pollute your pristine morning mind with the irritant dust of useless facts, the palaver of groundless opinions, the bad writing of contemporary scribblers, and every manner of distraction.    There is time for that stuff later in the day if you must have it.  The mornings should be kept free and clear for study that promises long-term profit.
3. Although desultory reading is enjoyable, it is best to have a plan.  Pick one or a small number of topics that strike you as interesting and important and focus on them.  I distinguish between bed reading and desk reading.  Such lighter reading as biography and history can be done in bed, but hard-core materials require a desk and such other accessories as pens of various colors for different sorts of annotations and underlinings, notebooks, a cup of coffee, a pot of coffee . . . .
4.  If you read books of lasting value, you ought to study what you read, and if you study, you ought to take notes. And if you take notes, you owe it to yourself to assemble them into some sort of coherent commentary. What is the point of studious reading if not to evaluate critically what you read, assimilating the good while rejecting the bad? The forming of the mind is the name of the game.  This won't occur from passive reading, but only by an active engagement with the material.  The best way to do this is by writing up your own take on it.  Here is where blogging can be useful.  Since blog posts are made public, your self-respect will give you an incentive to work at saying something intelligent.
5.  An illustration.  Right now I have about a half-dozen projects going.  One is an article for publication in a professional journal on the philosophy of Milton K. Munitz.  What I have been doing very early in the morning is studying and taking notes on four of his books that are relevant to my project.  I write these notes and quotations and criticisms into a journal the old-fashioned way.  Like I said, no electronics early in the morning.  Computer is off and internet connection as well.  This eliminates the temptation to check e-mail, follow hyperlinks, and waste time.  Later in the day I incorporate these hand-written notes into a long blog post I am writing.  When that post is finished and published and I receive some comments, I will then write up the post as a formal article and send it to a journal.
The beauty of this is that one has something to show for the hours spent studying.  One has a finished product in which one's thoughts are organized and preserved and to which one can refer later.
6.  How keep track of a vast amount of resources?  A weblog can be useful as an on-line filing cabinet.  I also keep a daily journal.

Colbert Destroys Atheist Physicist Lawrence Krauss

Somehow I had never seen this Colbert interview from a few years ago, so this is a belated post.  Krauss has written a book wherein he tries to defend the view that the universe literally came from nothing.  The trouble is, as numerous people have pointed out, his nothing is really a something (quantum vacuum states), so he hasn't really defended the claim that the universe came from nothing.

The funniest part is towards the end.  After baiting Krauss into admitting that he thinks there is no God, we can extract the following argument from the astute (and clever) Mr. Colbert:

1. The universe came from nothing. [Krauss premise]
2. God does not exist. [Krauss premise]
3. If God does not exist, then God is nothing. [Implied]
4. Thus the universe came from God.

Colbert is a comic genius. (He studied mostly philosophy in college until his theater career began to take off).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Son: Sliding Down Mt. Everest

Sam (6-year-old): Dad can you burn your hand off?

Me: Yes. You can burn it off if it gets in a fire for very long.  You can even "burn it off" in the COLD by getting frost"burned".

Sam: Really?  You can burn it off by getting it too cold?

Me: Yeah, basically.

Sam: Has anyone ever done that?

Me. Yeah.  In fact, I was just listening to a story of someone who climbed Mt. Everest--the tallest mountain--who got injured, could not climb down, had to stay on the mountain for days to be rescued, and lost both of his hands and part of his face due to exposure to the cold.  He lost his hands while he was sleeping for days in the cold.

Sam: Why didn't he just go ZOOM and slide down?

Me: Well, buddy, you can't just slide down.  It is a long way down.

Sam: Why can't you just slide down?

Me: Because it is MILES and MILES down and it takes weeks to go up or down.  Some of it is very steep, too, and you will get hurt if you try to slide rather than climb.  There are cliffs.

Sam: Could I slide down Mt. Everest on my bum if I were asleep?

Me:  Are you asking whether you could survive the cold by sliding down Mt. Everest on your bum WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING??

Sam: Yes.

Me: Maybe.  I don't think anyone has ever tried it.

Jondo [4-year-old]: I would wear a spiky hat and a spiky suit and the cold would just bounce off me because I have tons of spikes.

Me: [...]

Friday, February 6, 2015

Atheist Jerry Coyne on Plantinga's, "Is Atheism Irrational?": The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Read Alvin Plantinga's interview at the New York Times.  It's the good.  Now read Jerry Coyne's remarks about it at his blog.  It's the bad and the ugly.

Coyne is a biologist who likes to dabble in philosophy...a LOT.  And dabbling is about as far as it gets. Coyne's remarks are dripping with disdain for Plantinga.  It's difficult weeding through all the ad hominems to get to the arguments (if there are arguments to be found).  Coyne is truly out of his league but one wouldn't know that unless one read Plantinga's works AND understood them. I'll just comment on what Coyne says about atheism; everything else is just as bad:
  • [Plantinga]: “But lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism. No one thinks there is good evidence for the proposition that there are an even number of stars; but also, no one thinks the right conclusion to draw is that there are an uneven number of stars. The right conclusion would instead be agnosticism.In the same way, the failure of the theistic arguments, if indeed they do fail, might conceivably be good grounds for agnosticism, but not for atheism. Atheism, like even-star-ism, would presumably be the sort of belief you can hold rationally only if you have strong arguments or evidence.”
CoyneTo most of us, I think atheism is simply the refusal to believe in gods, not the absolute denial that there are any.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "atheism" is the disbelief in, or the denial of the existence of God.  That sounds about right.  Coyne is a huge advocate of atheism but doesn't even know what atheism is!  Coyne is confused on two counts:  First in defining atheism in terms of a "refusal" it results in atheism being defined too narrowly.  It would rule out there being atheists who want to believe in God and don't refuse, and it would rule out there being atheists who disbelieve in God simply on the basis of what they take the evidence to be.  But perhaps Coyne is a type of atheist who is an atheist not due to the evidence but because he refuses to believe.  Second, Coyne confuses atheism with naturalism.  A naturalist neither believes in God nor anything "spooky" like God (ghosts, gods, angels, etc.)  A naturalist thinks that all mental life supervenes on what is natural, or on only what the best science tells us there is.  But one can be an atheist while still believing in supernatural entities.

Coyne also calls Plantinga's remarks on the Problem of Evil a "theodicy."  Uh, no.  Perhaps if you would actually READ some of the literature on the problem of evil (say, Plantinga's book on the topic) you would know that Plantinga is explicitly not giving a theodicy.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism

Here is a very good talk on a bit of C.S. Lewis's political philosophy.  I recommend listening to the whole thing:

I recommend reading everything by Lewis that you can get your hands on (though the Pilgrim's Regress was, to me, a bit of a stinker).  I should blog more about Lewis.  Maybe I will.  A brilliant writer with a rare ability to combine philosophy and theology with a clear literary style.  And he was certainly no progressive.

Is the "old man" haircut the solution for misbehaving kids?

This barber is a genius!  If you live in a place where you can no longer spank your kids, this might be the next best thing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Now Playing

The Weight by The Band (it never wears out)

Three Views on Hell and Hermeneutical Principles

Here are three views on hell:

1. Everlasting punishment.  Some people are punished forever.
2. Annihilationism: No one is punished forever but some are annihilated.
3. Universalism: (it comes in different varieties but here is the most plausible view by my lights) Some people are punished in hell for a finite time, then are saved and go to heaven.

My study of what the Scriptures say on the issue (and Biblical scholarship) suggests to me that 1 and 3 have perhaps a slight edge over 2 but that 1 and 3 have equally strong cases to be made.  By a study of "what the Scriptures say on the issue" I mean what they say fairly explicitly on the matter without taking everything said in the Bible and drawing lots of inferences (e.g. that God is loving, loving in the Scriptures entails this and that, etc.)

So what to think?  Well one could be agnostic on the matter.  The Bible just isn't clear so, who knows. But perhaps we can do better.

Here are some alternative ways one might come down on one side of the issue:
1. As I previously alluded to, consider what the Bible says as a whole about other things (love, justice, God's nature, etc.) and derive some probabilistic conclusions from premises from what else we know from Scripture.
2. Take into account what we know about God through personal experience.
3. Consider philosophical arguments about the nature of God, perfect justice, perfect love, punishment, etc.  In short, invoke perfect being theology.
4. Consider the weight of tradition and the fact that the Church is the "pillar and ground of truth" [this might be a species of 1 and 3 so for this post I'll ignore it]

It appears that options 2 and 3 are off the table (and perhaps 1 as well) for my friend Preston Sprinkle.  In a recent series of posts on the issue of hell he says:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Professor SLAMS Lying Student Over "Dead" Granny

[HT: J.W.] 

A professor wrote the following to a student who said, 'grandma died' to get out of an assignment.  You can find it here.

Dear Student:
So here’s the thing: Your granny is going to die. She’s most likely going to go quietly into the dark night, in her sleep, of old age. However, there is the slight chance that the high blood pressure she’s had for years might catch up with her or, worse, she might have a heart attack or stroke. Then there’s that pesky hip surgery she had last year and the insidious, undiscovered infection that has been festering in her body, coursing through her blood stream, slowly shutting down the functioning of her organs one by one. Of course, she could also just be walking along a street, minding her own business, and out of nowhere a city bus jumps a curb and runs her and her dog, Laura, over.
Appalled yet? Devastated? I hope so.
I sincerely hope you find my entirely-too-vivid description of all the ways your precious grandmother can and might die just as appalling and inexcusable as I find your faking her death in order to escape being accountable for the work you chose not to do. I hope you see how it would take a soulless, life-suck of a person who lacked both character and integrity to say such horrifying things without an ounce of compassion or—wait for it—truth.
Then I hope you make another choice. One that includes taking the “L” (and my “F”) and owning this tragic, yet totally predictable, mistake. In the meantime, let Granny live to die another day.
Come again.
P.S. You’re 19. Your granny is 57. Stop it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Now Playing

Good night, folks. The night calls.

Now Playing

The Carolinian {HT: JI}:

My Son Samuel, the Moon, and Heavenly Bodies

Talking about seeing the moon, sunlight, the earth's relation to the sun and moon....

Samuel [6-yr-old]: Dad, suppose that you are at the edge of the earth and...

Me: There is no edge of the earth, Buddy.

Sam: Well, if you are at the edge...

Me: There's isn't any edge, Sam, well, depending on what you mean by 'edge.'  The Earth is round.  It's a sphere like a basketball. 

Sam: Like a basketball?

Me: Yeah, the Earth is shaped like a basketball, so there is no edge.  There's just a surface like on a basketball but that surface has no edge.

Sam: Is EVERYTHING shaped like a basketball???

Me: You mean in space?

Sam: Yeah, in space.

Me: More or less.

Sam.  Wow, everything is shaped like a basketball.  Wow.  What about the moon?  Why is it in pieces?

Me:  Huh?

Sam: Why is it in pieces?

Me: What do you mean it's in pieces??

Sam: Well, sometimes its shaped like a "C".  It's sometimes a piece of a ball.