Wednesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Not a charter 77, but “they” do want this recognized … so much for “they want our silence”.
  2. Here and there, back then.
  3. Theology of the Iranian kerfuffle.
  4. Rock your tunes … on the bike.
  5. Math factory?
  6. The left’s blind spot.
  7. Heh.
  8. An old bug.
  9. Media bias? Say it ain’t so.
  10. Krugman’s advice.
  11. Ok, right. Re-read this realizing that “private insurance” is what you pay for not some magical “other” agency.
  12. Justice, China style.
  13. Christian fantasy noted.
  14. Mining the globe for talent.
  15. Pro-choice roots.
  16. Verse.
  17. To keep in mind when Mr Obama talks religion.
  18. What Mr Obama means when he says he wants healthy debate, i.e., he’s lying. Others take up that tack too.

19 Responses to Wednesday Highlights

  1. The left’s blind spot.

    Wait, so you’re admitting that the Republicans have been outright lying about our place on the Laffer curve for a generation? Or are we supposed to only follow the second half of the argument?

    To keep in mind when Mr Obama talks religion.

    To keep in mind when politicians talk religion. One more reason politicians should be roundly mocked when they talk about religion. You want to believe in an imaginary friend? Do it in the privacy of your home and/or church/synagogue/mosque/temple. Quit yammering about it. It’s not something to be proud of.

  2. JA,

    You want to believe in an imaginary friend? Do it in the privacy of your home and/or church/synagogue/mosque/temple. Quit yammering about it. It’s not something to be proud of.

    You took your bitter angry pills today. You know you have make some inroads toward making more convincing case on the Habermas/Ratzinger debate topic before you can say things like that, Mr free-rider. ;)

    Can’t you read? “Blind spot” != “Outright lying” duh.

  3. You took your bitter angry pills today.

    Yeah, sorry. :) Sometimes it seems you bear the brunt of my anger whenever I’m in an irritable mood. Hope you don’t take it personally.

    You know you have make some inroads toward making more convincing case on the Habermas/Ratzinger debate topic before you can say things like that, Mr free-rider. ;)

    I’ll take Twain over either of those men any day of the week:

    The world has corrected the Bible. The church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession — and take the credit of the correction. During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. the Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry… There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.

    Morality has transferred from enlightenment societies to religions, not vice-versa.

    Can’t you read? “Blind spot” != “Outright lying” duh.

    The Republicans are outright lying, because they are discussing events which already happened. The Dems are making predictions about results of future actions.

  4. JA,
    Mr Twain has a skewed view, but your quote doesn’t approach an answer to the question, which if you recall is:

    Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence, it also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature.

    Morality has transferred from enlightenment societies to religions, not vice-versa

    So the march driving enlightenment which began as a religious movement is the key. So Wilberforce was secularly inspired. So care for the poor and hospitals provided for the indigent and poor driven by Churches starting in the 4th century …. all secularly inspired.

    You know if you don’t look at history at all you can believe anything. Gotcha.

    Lying means you know the truth but are deceiving. There is some confusion here as well. One doesn’t have to continue to press for lowered taxes as a way of ultimately increasing revenue and depend on the “empirical” flexion point in the Laffer curve. If you think that increased taxes will decrease growth then due to the exponential nature of growth … you will be correct that more growth over time leads to increased revenue. The only claim that I have ever made with regard to the flexion point is that I don’t know where it is.

    And the points on healthcare costs don’t regard predictions but empirical evidence (search for that in Ms McArdle’s essay. You’ll find it.).

  5. Mark,

    So the march driving enlightenment which began as a religious movement is the key. So Wilberforce was secularly inspired. So care for the poor and hospitals provided for the indigent and poor driven by Churches starting in the 4th century …. all secularly inspired.

    I agree with the idea that the church (and Judaism before it) inspired a lot of charitable and otherwise altruistic behaviors. I was wrong to say “not vice-versa.” However, it’s certainly true that secular society has more than returned the favor, mostly by convincing adherents to abandon the immoral parts of their religions (slavery, women’s subservience, killing for violating the Sabbath, etc.)

  6. JA,
    I’m not convinced slavery removal was secularly driven although you could in part make that argument in this country if you cite the Emerson/Transcendentalist movement in the Northeast as key, and in fact it shouldn’t be regarded as “won.”

    I also think that Genesis in particular is a interestingly subversive document undermining patriarchal assumptions and practices especially given when it was written.

    I’m not sure to what “killing for violating the Sabbath” refers. It’s not a practice that I’d ever read of being at all widespread or common anywhere.

    Speaking of which, what was your take on this?

  7. I’m not convinced slavery removal was secularly driven although you could in part make that argument in this country if you cite the Emerson/Transcendentalist movement in the Northeast as key, and in fact it shouldn’t be regarded as “won.”

    Here I’ll add my idea of the economics of beliefs. Beliefs will tend to be adopted that represent the least economic cost for the population. (Individual exceptions exist of course). When a logical conclusion contradicts a person’s economic interests, they will invest more resources in trying to find a way out of the conclusion rather than adjust their wallets. Given that humans already have a weakness for shoddy reasoning and wishful thinking this allows all sorts of silliness to remain in the system a long time.

    I lost the quote (have the book at home though) but after a long survey of opinions on slavery the chapter concluded with a nice paragraph which essentially said positions were all over the map. There were atheists pro and against slavery. There were religious authorities both pro and con on slavery as well. Simply being religious, therefore, didn’t seem to have any predictive impact on whether a person would take the moral stand on slavery. Likewise being secular was also no guarantee of holding more advanced positions.

  8. I’m not convinced slavery removal was secularly driven

    I guess it depends on what you mean by “secular” and by “driven.” :) Certainly many or most of the abolitionists were religious themselves, but I tend to think it was the humanism that grew and coexisted with religion within societies and within people that led to abolitionism.

    I also think that Genesis in particular is a interestingly subversive document undermining patriarchal assumptions and practices especially given when it was written.

    Subversive to what? Polygamy okay, polyandry not. Adulterous woman = death, adulterous man = … wait, no such thing. Daughters can be sold into slavery, etc. etc.

    I’m not sure to what “killing for violating the Sabbath” refers.

    Read your bible. :) Numbers 15:32-36

    Speaking of which, what was your take on this?

    Seems plausible in part, although I think it misses a key point in order to be more positive about religion. There are many factors which might cause a religion to become successful — he mentions group cohesion and the inhibition of self-indulgence, but obviously other factors are even more important. Penalties for nonbelievers, encouragements to have more children and to spread one’s religion and to kill members of other religions and to take and rape their women, etc. are far more important from the standpoint of natural selection.

    If religion did nothing but make a tribe more successful at war — and what has worked better for more than a generation? — we’d expect it to be massively successful.

  9. JA,
    Look into the transcendentalist movement a bit. That was where your secular humanism was in a large part located in the mid 1800s. It wasn’t exactly “not religious”.

    Subversive to what? Polygamy okay, polyandry not. Adulterous woman = death, adulterous man = … wait, no such thing. Daughters can be sold into slavery, etc. etc.

    That was the norm dude. Citing the social norm is not a way of locating subversion. Subversion is subtext. Putting those in a history or story from that era is not surprising. What is subversive is that Rebekkah is (de facto) the 2nd patriarch (she chooses him for marriage, she chooses the successor and so on). That the 4th patriarch, Judah, has his line extended via another strong willed girl (Tamar) who bests him and is judged righteous. That the creation story lines up “flesh of my flesh” and intimations of equality into the relationship between husband and wife. And so on … this is subversion. Subtext that undermines the norm.

    Numbers 15:32-36

    And your point on that?

    Penalties for nonbelievers, encouragements to have more children and to spread one’s religion and to kill members of other religions and to take and rape their women, etc.

    None of these are phenotypical elements common to the major dominant religions today, oddly enough … except perhaps the second and third.

    A dominant meme of the secular society being “not have children” is likely to doom that to extinction just as the Shaker sect over a century ago.

    Boonton,
    I’m wary of your economics notion, but that may more because I see myself as not at all motivated (or even anti-motivated) by economic concerns. Plus it seems to me that Christianity for example as one which has a lot more costs economically than payoff.

  10. I don’t mean it to be a Marxist type of ‘economics is destiny’….it’s a warning. Economics is very powerful and it influences you and others in ways you don’t even realize. Rather than dismiss it as something that you are above you should see it as a warning.

    As for costs of Christianity….just consider two things. The first is the observation from the book The Metaphysical Club on slavery. It appears religion had no trouble at all adapting itself to a slave holding culture and inventing Bible passages and arguments (logical or otherwise) to justify it. Likewise religion also did a good job defending the views of abolitionists. The second is much more mundane in terms of ethics. whatever happened to usuery? Lending for money for interest was against most religions rules for hundreds of years. Notice how the topic isn’t even discussed anymore?

  11. Look into the transcendentalist movement a bit. That was where your secular humanism was in a large part located in the mid 1800s. It wasn’t exactly “not religious”.

    I think Shakespeare (for example) was there before the 1800s.

    That was the norm dude. Citing the social norm is not a way of locating subversion.

    If a text supports a norm, it’s not subverting it, right?

    What is subversive is that Rebekkah is (de facto) the 2nd patriarch (she chooses him for marriage, she chooses the successor and so on). That the 4th patriarch, Judah, has his line extended via another strong willed girl (Tamar) who bests him and is judged righteous.

    There were stories with strong women — goddesses even — before the Torah. The Torah in fact stripped YHWH of his mistress, Asherah.

    That the creation story lines up “flesh of my flesh” and intimations of equality into the relationship between husband and wife. And so on … this is subversion. Subtext that undermines the norm.

    Wasn’t that the same story that blamed women for the fall of man?

    And your point on that?

    ?? You didn’t know what I was referring to when I mentioned killing Sabbath violators.

    Penalties for nonbelievers, encouragements to have more children and to spread one’s religion and to kill members of other religions and to take and rape their women, etc.

    None of these are phenotypical elements common to the major dominant religions today, oddly enough … except perhaps the second and third.

    The first still exists explicitly in Islam and exists implicitly in the other religions. Try being an atheist teenager with religious parents and see if there are no penalties. I think the second is obviously true of Islam and to only a slightly lesser extent Christianity. Religious Jews also form the hawkish base in Israel — and even in America the Orthodox go pro-war and the other 97% or whatever go anti-. (At least for the last war. And probably Vietnam.)

    A dominant meme of the secular society being “not have children” is likely to doom that to extinction just as the Shaker sect over a century ago.

    Any specific secular society, perhaps. But nonbelief differs from belief in that it doesn’t have to be passed down or spread laterally. Without being taught by others, no person would come up with Judaism or Christianity from scratch, whereas there have always been and always will be atheists.

  12. JA,
    On subversion: look there is a syntactic distinction here between subversion and opposition. A document stating bronze age/early iron age middle east that women are equal to men would be in opposition to the culture. A document which on the surface appears to support the norms but contains important subtextual messages that undermine that same message, which when the message itself is accepted can then begin working to undermine said norms is subversive. I never claimed that Genesis was in opposition to the patriarchal norms of the time but that it was subverting them.

    Wasn’t that the same story that blamed women for the fall of man?

    And yes, woman was blamed for the fall … that “happy fall” as Augustine coins it which in many ways served to distinguish man from an non-self aware man … all spurred by woman. Sneakily subversive is Genesis in its relationship to patriarchy.

    On killing non-Sabbath observance.

    You didn’t know what I was referring to when I mentioned killing Sabbath violators.

    No, I’m asking what relevance that has to the discussion. Witches I get. Slavery I dispute. Patriarchy I’m discussing. Killing for non-Sabbath? Where? Why is this relevant?

    The first still exists explicitly in Islam and exists implicitly in the other religions.

    How do you implicitly include killing those who leave your religion. What modern Christian or Hindu or Buddhist cult practices that?

    Try being an atheist teenager with religious parents and see if there are no penalties.

    That’s not relevant. Children are not autonomous they are raised and instructed for a long time.

    Boonton,

    It appears religion had no trouble at all adapting itself to a slave holding culture and inventing Bible passages and arguments (logical or otherwise) to justify it.

    That is a chicken/egg matter. Christianity appeared in a world in which slavery was and had always been integral. To pose an analogy, bears don’t adapt or justify the forest.

    I haven’t studies usury in depth, but I think that it the following of the injunctions against were a Medieval European Christian tradition and not universal followed … and the follow/non-follow isn’t necessarily driven by economic considerations. But I don’t know the history of that well enough to dispute (or agree) with your claim.

    Explain the long standing monastic tradition in an economic light.

  13. Mark,

    On subversion: look there is a syntactic distinction here between subversion and opposition.

    Yes. “Subversion” you can read into any text if you want to. You see “subtextual” messages, I see “seeing what you want to see.”

    And yes, woman was blamed for the fall … that “happy fall” as Augustine coins it which in many ways served to distinguish man from an non-self aware man … all spurred by woman. Sneakily subversive is Genesis in its relationship to patriarchy.

    Isn’t that just wonderful about religion? The Fall is the worst thing ever or the best thing ever, depending on your mood. It’s all about “interpretation!” It can mean whatever you want it to mean.

    No, I’m asking what relevance that has to the discussion. Witches I get. Slavery I dispute. Patriarchy I’m discussing. Killing for non-Sabbath? Where? Why is this relevant?

    It’s just an older example of something the text endorses but modern/secular morality rejects. Witches were more recently killed than Sabbath violaters is the only difference.

    Of course in Israel even today, you have ultra-Orthodox Jews (literally) throwing stones at Sabbath violators.

    How do you implicitly include killing those who leave your religion. What modern Christian or Hindu or Buddhist cult practices that?

    No idea where you’re finding that “implication.” I just said “penalties.” Social ostracization, being disowned, having material support (e.g. tuition) withdrawn, etc., are all things thousands of teenagers go through every year when they don’t buy into their parents religion. In America. (No, I don’t have studies, I’m just extrapolating from cases I know.)

    That’s not relevant. Children are not autonomous they are raised and instructed for a long time.

    How is that not relevant? It’s one of religion’s primary transmission vectors, completely dwarfing any potential evolutionary benefits of teaching kids self-discipline. Isn’t that what we’re talking about here?

  14. That is a chicken/egg matter. Christianity appeared in a world in which slavery was and had always been integral. To pose an analogy, bears don’t adapt or justify the forest.

    Ahhh but bears evolved with the forest and are part of it. Religion, at least from most Christian POVs, is supposed to be revealed…coming from *outside* the local cultural aspects of society.

    Explain the long standing monastic tradition in an economic light.

    You don’t think that monastaries experience power plays, internal politics, josstling for status? My point is not that all beliefs reduce to whatever is economically advantageous for the individual. My point is that a purely rational person would not take into account the cost of a belief. They would calmly deduce their beliefs in a reasonable manner following the rules of logic from whatever premises they begin with (such as “The Bible is the Word of God and should be followed exactly”). But this is not how people behave. They consider the ‘cost’ of adopting a belief as if that impacts on the question of whether or not the belief follows logically. The Bible may or may not allow you to collect interest on your savings account. The fact, though, that it would make your life very difficult if you had to avoid all interest does not impact on whether or not the Bible permits it. Yet people ‘reason’ as though this was a factor.

  15. JA,
    You’re missing Mr Love’s point badly. You cite ways in which religions or cultures continue to exist. That animals reproduce or defend their young, or themselves has little bearing on phenotypic similarities and reasons why those similarities arise. His point was that religions that do survive exhibit common traits, self-sacrifice, self-denial, charity, and so on which (a) don’t exist as strongly in a secular setting and (b) which might be common via social evolution, i.e., they benefit the society in which they exist.

    It’s like your citing (to borrow his example) flamingos and whales defend their young as a reason why mouth/filter baleen structures are similarly found in both is unimportant.

    All religions have many if not most of the features you suggest including the ones which disappeared. The fact that religions encourage their children to follow the same path isn’t a differential item. All religions self-denying or pleasure seeking encourage that.

    Boonton,

    Religion, at least from most Christian POVs, is supposed to be revealed…coming from *outside* the local cultural aspects of society.

    What planet are you from? Who says revelation doesn’t occur within culture?

    And as for monastic tradition, I’m asking what is the economic justification for the tradition to exist at all?

  16. Of course revelation occurs within a culture but it is about something outside a culture. If you have a forest that suddenly has a group of people drop down from the air and construct a city, that is happening within a forest but it did not come *from* the forest. Revalation is supposed to be about something being revealed….something that is not just a product of cultural meme shifting but something from *outside* showing itself. If religion is just a cultural phenom. then what exactly is the point? Why should Christinaity have any claim to our attention except as a cultural artifact for those who enjoy studying such things?

  17. Boonton,
    OK. So you are a ordinary fellow in an ordinary Middle Eastern bronze age herding clan. You have a profound Theophany, God visits you and grants you a clear and profound vision of His truth. This then is filtered though the symbols and understanding you have of the world before it occurred as you struggle to make sense of it. Then you put it into narrative and words to explain and make others understand. By the time it gets out it is cluttered, dimmed, having seen though a glass darkly it is heard second hand. It is filled with cultural referents and assumptions when it is told. It cannot be anything other.

    Consider slavery. Your Theophany might give you a true glimpse of the truth but, if you cannot imagine a world without slavery and the wrong of slavery isn’t even a question on your horizon but just a inescapable fact and facet of life around you … then it isn’t going to be prominent in your narrative. It may be hidden in subtextual clues. It may be a subversive message that you don’t even grok then, but that those who are inspired and follow that vision you have find it a consequence perhaps even many generations later.

  18. Is a world without slavery really so impossible to imagine even if you’re a ME bronze age fellow? Usually when we think of such difficult to communicate mysteries in regards to religion it is about concepts like the Trinity or Buddhist Englightenment. Here you’re telling me that pop science fiction does a better job communicating new ideas than the creator of the universe?!

  19. Boonton,
    Is slavery the burning issue in 1000 BC in the Middle East? Is it even a question? Again, inasmuch as this is addressed by the recipient of the Theophany is reflected in how this question is transmitted though him to his peers. Again that isn’t to say new ideas can’t be transmitted via that person but that they will likely be subtext.

    Trinity is a good example, Mr Polkinghorne compares the development of Trinity in the fourth century to the development of quantum mechanics in the 20th. Where the quantum mechanics development was inspired by a shifting view of the reality in a scientific tradition, Trinity was a shifting of the view of theology in a religious tradition. Trinitarian theological development so far as I know was believed to be inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit … but not directly driven by Theophanic encounter, e.g., Gregory of Nazainzen was not defending Trinity based on his personal Theophany but on Scripture and previous theology.

    Pop sci-fiction doesn’t answer or address questions our culture is not asking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>