Tuesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Inability to express something in words, alas, doesn’t mean it’s incoherent. You can’t, for example, use words to describe how you even ride a bike.
  2. Talking about the Coptic situation.
  3. Mr Wilders.
  4. Stupid economics tricks … a prime example to counter the notion that skepticism and IQ don’t go hand in hand.
  5. Stealth drone. More fun tech toys here.
  6. And it won’t be sold in the US.
  7. 2/14 geek giftery.
  8. On Mr Christie and the trains and that tunnel thing.
  9. Some suggestions on how to find happiness.
  10. Religious freedom and blasphemy laws.
  11. One “shocking” ad banned from the Superbowl in most markets.
  12. Heh.
  13. A long piece on suggesting anti-semitism and (some) new atheists.
  14. A “cool” contest noted.
  15. Hmm. My first impulse is not to side with the injured party
  16. Maths and the world.

23 Responses to Tuesday Highlights

  1. Stupid economics tricks … a prime example to counter the notion that skepticism and IQ don’t go hand in hand.

    A prime example of not reading the person you’re criticizing well. Krugman asserted that we are getting a taste of what disruption *will* look like in a warming world. That’s not the same thing as saying the current drought impacting food prices is a result of warming, several times Krugman specifically gives the standard ‘fair balance’ that any one specific weather event cannot really be tied to global warming.

    This is an important concept since the purposeful misunderstanding of this is being used to shut down debate. Let’s make it a bit crisper. Imagine absent global warming the odds of a massive drought in a particular area are 10%. Say with global warming they become 30%. In year X, this particular area has a massive drought. A commentator can truthfully say “this is a taste of what things will look like with warming” even though that particular drought might have happened even in the 10% non-warming world. Trying to center the debate on whether or not one particular drought was caused by global warming thereby distracts from the issue.

  2. a prime example to counter the notion that skepticism and IQ don’t go hand in hand.

    I think IQ is correlated with skepticism, but it doesn’t invariably lead to it. There are other traits as well — particularly curiosity, openness, and courage. Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits associated with liberalism and I suspect curiosity is related, perhaps even a subset of it. Palin and Bush lacked curiosity and social conservatives in general lack openness.

    A long piece on suggesting anti-semitism and (some) new atheists.

    Pure bullshit, based on the ridiculous conflation of Jews and Orthodox/Talmudic/Biblical/historical Judaism. Newsflash: the overwhelming majority of Jews don’t believe that stuff.

    For the billionth time, to the extent that I can speak for Jews, please, right-wing Christians, stop pretending to give a shit about anti-semitism when you’re just using the charge to slander liberals or atheists or both. We don’t need your faux-sympathy. Especially when we can see how you talk about Muslims and gays and “illegals” and liberals — it’s pretty damn obvious your shallow philo-semitism is based on the perceived utility of an alliance or some religious bullshit centered around Israel rather than on a recognition of a common humanity between yourselves and people who aren’t just like you.

  3. The crux of the argument seems to be that Hitchens is flirting with anti-semitism because he doesn’t buy a literal reading of Exodous…..because he doesn’t buy that might not someone else decide that they don’t buy that the Holocaust happened…. Sloppy reasoning but a good long post on Judaism.

    I did appreciate the issue of anti-Judism versus anti-semitism. Hitchens is anti-Jewish in the sense that he’s an atheist and since Judism is at the core of the world’s dominant set of theistic religions he has to be pretty critical of Judism for the same reason an anti-communist would have to be critical of Karl Marx. I think it’s overreaching, though, to describe the two as being two sides ‘of the same coin’. Taken to its conclusion you might as well say anyone who decides not to be Jewish is an anti-semite.

  4. Seriously, if you believe this guy, then I must be an antisemite. It’d be funny if it weren’t so mean-spirited and slanderous.

  5. Boonton,
    Krugman remains full of it. Kinda of like he did over and over and over again during the AZ shooter affair and the accusations of the cause being conservative military metaphor in their rhetoric. He cites no evidence that climate of any type of or even food prices were a trigger for the current Coptic unrest. Why not.

    What debate is being shut down? Climate people will tell you that hurricanes and big storms will be more frequent because of global warming. Yet this shuts down the salient part of the debate which counters that in the last decade (in which they will tell us warming as compared to 50 years ago) has occurred. Yet in the last day the statistical occurance of such storms is the same as in the past. Seems to me storms are kind like droughts in this setting. Or to restate what you wrote, “Imagine absent global warming the odds of a massive drought in a particular area are 10%. Say with global warming they become 10%. In year X, this particular area has a massive drought. A commentator can truthfully say “this is a taste of what things will look like with warming” even though that particular drought might have happened even in the 10% non-warming world.” A commenter can truthfully say what you note, but … it would be errant nonsense. Kind like Krugman’s assertion.

  6. JA,

    Palin and Bush lacked curiosity

    A claim for which you lack any evidence at all. Oh, wait, “openness” means that you like to cast aspersions without substance. Which is kind of the liberal version of openness. You cast aspersions at social conservatives but don’t actually meet and talk to any in any number.

    Regarding the Hitchens piece … I don’t think you read the same article. You write

    Pure bullshit, based on the ridiculous conflation of Jews and Orthodox/Talmudic/Biblical/historical Judaism. Newsflash: the overwhelming majority of Jews don’t believe that stuff.

    Uhm. No. The author is noting that the very term Jew is a fiction. The overwhelming majority of Jews think the word Jew has real meaning and history.

    Especially when we can see how you talk about Muslims and gays and “illegals” and liberals — it’s pretty damn obvious your shallow philo-semitism is based on the perceived utility of an alliance or some religious bullshit centered around Israel rather than on a recognition of a common humanity between yourselves and people who aren’t just like you.

    I can barely parse this. I wiki’d philo-semitism and I’m not studying or “gaining an appreciation” for Jewish culture. If anything I’m mostly looking at 2-6th century Byzantium … the relevance of that I can’t find. How do I talk about Muslims and gays and illegals and liberals. Let’s see, I praise Muslims when they do things like protect Coptic Christian worship and move against extremism in their midst, I rarely if ever talk about gays at all (for example when asked directly if homosexuality is a sin, I’ve taken a pass … and note that my sins are the important thing and whether or not homosexuality is or isn’t a sin happens not to be a question I need to confront), … on illegal aliens I’ve made two main points, that open borders is an untenable stupid position and that breaking any law is to be condemned. Finally, as to my remarks about liberals … I’ll put them alongside your body of contemptuous remarks about conservatives any time.

    Alliance? Huh? People just like me? Huh? What the heck are you going on about? I’m at a loss.

  7. Boonton,
    I think, based on the article that coining Mr Hitchens position on Israel and the notion that the word Jew is essentially a fiction is to whitewash his position. I don’t ascribe to a literal reading of the Old Testament but I’d still claim that the word Jew has meaning.

  8. “You can’t, for example, use words to describe how you even ride a bike.”

    Um, yes you can? http://www.wikihow.com/Ride-a-Bicycle

  9. My comments weren’t addressed to you specifically, Mark, but to the right-wing Christians who have adopted Jews as the minority they like.

    As for the article, bleh. He’s slandering someone as an antisemite for no reason.

  10. If Hitchens doesn’t think the word “Jew” has any meaning then how can he be ‘anti-Jewish’?

  11. Talking about the Coptic situation.

    As opposed to being ‘realistic’, this piece seems deeply unrealistic. Coptic Christians in Egypt should live in peace and security, however siding with dictatorship is only swapping some tentative short term peace at the price of fueling long term resentment. When you’re hitching your security to a dictator whose spend 30 years abusing his power and is now in his 80′s you’re really building your house on sand.

    Egypt has to a become democratic, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a legitimate political party there, and Egyptians have to learn about building coalitions and governing. There’s really no other way past the problem than that.

  12. Anyway I just finished The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. If you guys have time I think it would be a fascinating book for both of you to read. JA because it’s not quite what you’d think (Ohhh humans are prone to delusions by evolution and religion is just a delusion) and Mark because it seems to move along the lines that you take of not taking many of the historical accounts in the Bible literally (although I’d be interested to hear your take on the ‘historical Jesus’)

    Some parts you can skip over. He retreds his ‘Nonzero’ book enough for me to know I don’t have to read it now since I get the idea. He doens’t really address Eastern religions, some snippets about Buddhism but it would have been interesting to contrast the evolution of Jewish monotheism with Hindu polytheism.

  13. Boonton,

    I’ll keep an eye out for it — I have been interested at the way religions “evolve” — but I don’t think evolution is quite the right model, since it’s not religion itself that’s evolving, it’s society. As society evolves, the religious people “reinterpret” their religions and invent new ones to fit the new societies. In other words, religion follows society, not vice-versa.

    Watch it happening right now with gay rights. Traditional religion opposes it, but in a generation or two, religion will be tripping over itself to prove how non-homophobic and pro-gay-love it is.

    On the flip side, look how the hawks use Christianity as a way to rationalize their warlike ways or how the free marketers have created the prosperity gospel — hysterical if you think about where and how Christianity started.

    Religion is mostly people telling themselves and everybody else that God agrees with them.

  14. JA,
    See Boonton’s question.

    I think the author is contending that dismissing the term Jew as meaningless is anti-semitic (in the meaning of the word anti-semite to mean anti-jewish not about the Middle Eastern Semetic people in general all of whom are not Jewish). You identifiy as the Jewish Atheist not the People who are merely a Fictional Figment Atheist and to paint you as such might be termed anti-semitic.

    Boonton,
    See the above question.

    Let me ask you this. If one were to believe and promote historical beliefs that the notion of “an American” was a fiction, our founding stories and founders where mythical and not real and none of the events leading to our nations founding were based in reality. That the notion of being American is based in lies and fiction and there really is no such thing. Is that an anti-American idea or not?

  15. Boonton,
    OK. I’ll look at it. The Amazon review is not very positive, btw.

    I’d come back at you and suggest N.T. Wright “The New Testament and the People of God”, which although it is the first book in a unfinished series is interesting in this context in that it spends the first half of the book talking about modern methods of practicing history in a way that surprised me. It was my impression that much of modern scholarship had gone down a unfruitful path with post-modernist linguistic (Derrida/Foucault influenced) ideas. This book by Mr Wright surprised me in that it discussed modern notions of how to do history that made sense.

  16. Boonton,
    Copt just means Egypt in Greek, btw.

  17. Mark, this is what he says Hitchens believes:

    Hitchens posits that Judaism –both the people and the religion—arose gradually over the centuries. He believes that many of its foundational structures are pure fantasy. Somehow, individual people and tribes who happened to live in Canaan chose somehow to coalesce into a people that retroactively created an Abrahamic ancestor and all the accoutrements associated with him, including the sagas associated with his descendants, the Exodus from Egypt, and of course the Mosaic Covenant.

    I agree with that 100%! So if Hitchens is antisemitic, am I?

  18. Eli,
    That’s a description of one way of learning to ride, not how riding is done. For example, how do you turn? Did you know that you countersteer to turn, that is press down on the right handlebar (which turns it to the left a bit) to turn right. I didn’t see a description of how you balance, just “practice it for 30-40 minutes.” Tell me, how do you maintain your balance?

  19. Eli,
    The point is there is no description there of how one rides a bike, in fact the “learning to bike” processes as given is only a series of steps to allow one to learn for oneself those things you need to do while riding which cannot alas be described.

  20. JA,
    And David?

    BTW, on the Exodus/Coptic story. Was that entirely fabrication? No Canaanites/Jewish people were in Egypt? If there no historical basis for that, then you need to ask why there are records of a good number of Coptic names for Canaanite children the Kingdom’s period?

  21. And David?

    Much more likely. I think the scholars tend to agree he probably was real.

    BTW, on the Exodus/Coptic story. Was that entirely fabrication? No Canaanites/Jewish people were in Egypt?

    That’s my understanding of the state of secular historians’ current understanding of things, yes. Obviously the story in the Bible is at the very, very least wildly exaggerated, with completely implausible numbers (not to mention the miracles, etc.) I’m not saying it’s impossible that there is a tiny kernal of truth (a small semitic tribe was once enslaved in Egypt) but I don’t see any reason to believe it based on current evidence and scholarship.

    If there no historical basis for that, then you need to ask why there are records of a good number of Coptic names for Canaanite children the Kingdom’s period?

    Link/reference? Which Kingdom?

  22. You identifiy as the Jewish Atheist not the People who are merely a Fictional Figment Atheist and to paint you as such might be termed anti-semitic.

    What exactly does this mean? King Arthur probably never existed and if he did he was nothing like the myth. That doesn’t make British people a fiction. I don’t think that asserting that the Jews were never captive in Egypt, for example, negates the fact that there are a people who have lived together with a common culture and language for at least two thousand years. I don’t think that Christopher Hitchens believes that Jews are a fiction, he may feel that their mythology is founded on a fiction but I’m sure he feels that about almost all peoples who have more than a few decades worth of history behind them. In fact, one could even assert that a ‘people’ shouldn’t even be considered real until they’ve been around long enough to have a whole set of fictional beliefs about their origins.

    OK. I’ll look at it. The Amazon review is not very positive, btw.

    I suggest both giving it a shot. It seems to be placed at an inbetween spot, more JAish than you are and more Markish than JA is.

  23. JA,

    … with completely implausible numbers

    numbers in most of the Bible don’t mean what you pretend they do. They’re more like chord progressions in music. They have symbolic not numerical meaning.

    A reference for the Coptic names in Canaan, this book is on that topic, talking about modern historical scholarship and the Old Testament Who Wrote the Bible? And yes, in that book it pointed all of the peoples who became Israel and Judah weren’t part of the Coptic enslavement and release.

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