Apparently in an attempt to negotiate with the Republicans on health care reform, the Democratic Party has finally decided to rescind its long standing platform of seeking to euthanize grandparents. There are other concessions as well. Read more here.
(Hat tip to Ed).
Birthplace of Vespasian found, ending 2000 year debate over whether he was a Roman citizen or was in fact born in Kenya
And the first comment:
All I want to know is this: why won’t Vespasian release his long-scroll birth parchment?
(Original Vespasian story is here)
Gawker is reporting that
Ben Stein’s TV ads for a scuzzy “free” credit product have finally caught up to him: The New York Times has fired Stein as a Sunday business columnist for violating ethics guidelines.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Stein has been intellectually dishonest for quite some time now.
Dembski has recently been arguing that scientists have too much power (particularly with regards to the issue of global warming). His latest ejaculation ends:
Scientists are not our masters. They are our servants, and they need a lesson in humility. It is up to us — We the People — to hold their feet to the fire. To fail to do so is to be complicit in their sins. God help us to preserve what freedoms we have left.
There’s nothing like a failed philosopher to exhibit science-envy. Ian Musgrave takes him to task.
Update (7/30): Dembski responds and Musgrave kicks him to the curb.
Hilzoy is retiring from blogging at Obsidian Wings. Noting that he started in 2002 with a feeling that “we’ve gone mad” and something has to be done about it, the prognosis has now changed:
[I]t seems to me that the madness is over. There are lots of people I disagree with, and lots of things I really care about, and even some people who seem to me to have misplaced their sanity, but the country as a whole does not seem to me to be crazy any more.
With the Right seeming to be engaged in what amounts to a form of auto-erotic asphyxiation that will either leave a corpse or a vegetable, this may indeed be correct. Is the country “as a whole” less crazy? Are we finally back on track?
The Washington Post is now publishing opinion pieces on energy policy by that noted intellectual, Sarah Palin. Why give a mouthpiece to this know-nothing whose idea of energy policy is to drill the living crap out of the scarce resources we have? For shame.
(via Crooked Timber)
Last week, the House (HCR 131, passed 410-8) and the Senate (snuck into a spending bill) ordered the engraving of “In God We Trust” and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent places in the Capitol Visitor Center. Now the Freedom from Religion Foundation is (rightly) suing over this. The full complaint is available as a pdf, but here’s the gist of the reasons why the engraving should not go ahead:
The history of the motto “In God We Trust” evidences no secular purpose; on the contrary, the motto was first adopted during the Cold War as a reaction to the purported “Godlessness” of Communism.
“In God We Trust” has no secular purpose; the phrase was adopted precisely to emphasize and endorse a supposed link between the United States federal government and Christian religious belief.
The effect of “In God We Trust” is primarily and directly to endorse and promote religion, which endorsement would be unmistakably perceived by a reasonable observer familiar with the history and context of the phrase.
“In God We Trust” is intended to and does convey the message that the United States supposedly is a Christian nation.
The United States Constitution, however, is not premised on a religious or Christian foundation; the Constitution was very purposefully and deliberately written without such a basis.
The phrase “In God We Trust” ultimately was adopted as the result of a religious campaign during the McCarthy-era Congress, intended to create a symbolic unity of “God” with the federal government.
And of course, they point out that the motto excludes those American who do not believe in the Judeo-Christian god. Will FFRF win? Who knows. We can only hope so. It is bad enough that the phrase is on our currency.
“One of the world’s most beautiful and best-loved countries, Ireland has recently become one of the most respected as well: dynamic, go-ahead, modern, civilised – a green and pleasant silicon valley. This preposterous blasphemy law puts all that respect at risk.” He said it would be too kind to call the law a ridiculous anachronism.
“It is a wretched, backward, uncivilised regression to the middle ages. Who was the bright spark who thought to besmirch the revered name of Ireland by proposing anything so stupid?”
I’m currently enjoying Rick Perstein’s Nixonland . In it, Perlstein partially attributes Ronald Reagan’s 1966 victory over Pat Brown to the ability of the former to cast issues as “black and white” versus the grey that Brown saw. Reagan won by a landslide 15% margin because the voters preferred to be offered simplistic formulations and solutions, not because Reagan was “right” in an objective sense.
In my experience as an educator, I have come to see four things: (i) scientific knowledge is generally weak among the public, (ii) scientists are usually not good communicators of science to that public, (iii) educators – and not just science educators – do not seem to be succeeding in their goal of educating the public, and (iv) religion has too influential a place in American public life.
Physioprof has offered a rant regarding the whole “New Atheist” versus “Accomodationist” debate that has reignited following the publication of Mooney & Kirshenbaum’s new book Unscientific America. The claim is that there are two prevalent views concerning the reason why Americans (as a group) do not accept the scientific view of the history of life. The first view holds that scientists and science educators are responsible. If you hold this view, then you will tell these two groups that they need to improve their interaction with the public. The second view holds religion’s position within American culture responsible. If you hold this view exclusively you go after religious believers even if they support improving science education and a clear separation of church and state. (In the words of the original rant, “you implacably debunk patently absurd wackaloon religious bullshit everywhere you see it”). This often takes the form of claims about the “incoherence” of the views of religious supporters of science. The dichotomy offered in the original post is just that sort of simplistic formulation that Reagan used throughout his political career.
Obviously, one could also claim that these two views are non-exclusive and offering such a simplistic dichotomy will not achieve anything beyond scoring rhetorical points. In this view, scientists, educators and the privileged position of religion are at fault. and one has to work on all three of these issues (often with religious believers who decry the influence of belief on public life) to improve the situation. This claim will, no doubt, be seen as “mushy accomodationism” and may thus be safely ignored by some.
Solely removing religion from the public life is not going to miraculously improve science education in this country. Solely improving scientists’ ability to communicate or improving educational practices isn’t going to lead to improvement either. To offer a false dichotomy that neatly divides the apes from the angels is not to offer a workable solution.
Not content with worshipping tree stumps, my fellow citizens of Ireland have allowed their politicians to pass a blasphemy law that is vague, unnecessary, and asinine. In other words, it is the typical actions of the Fianna Fail government.
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
Short version: if you say anything that a believer thinks is “grossly abusive or insulting” be prepared to prove it has “genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value” or you’ll be fined (up to approximately $35,000) and the material seized by force (under section 37 of the legislation). All for offending some believers sensibilities. At least the Government removed an imprisonment clause.
I’m guessing that students in my alma mater (University College Dublin) won’t be watching The Life of Brian as we did in groups in the 1980′s. Bill Maher won’t be touring. Dawkins will be persona non grata. Makes you proud to be Irish, don’t it.
Turns out that the Government lost the first vote (22-21) only to call for a second “walk through” vote which took ten minutes, enough time for the Government to find two more senators and seal their victory.
Brian Kilmeade on FOX & Friends this morning:
We keep marrying other species and other ethnics … The problem is the Swedes have pure genes. They marry other Swedes, that’s the rule. Finns marry other Finns; they have a pure society. In America we marry everybody. We will marry Italians and Irish.
Kilmeade obviously yearns for “a pure society” – you know who else did that?
As an Irishman, I guess I’m a member of the “other species” which – given Kilmeade’s membership – I’m happy to be.
For a number of years (2004-’09) I was the interdisciplinary officer for the Society for Evolutionary Analysis in Law (SEAL), a group of scholars who take seriously the implications that findings in evolutionary and behavioral biology may have for the law. The group has – however – not being without its detractors, one being Brian Leiter who has announced a paper (with philosopher Michael Weisberg) titled “Why evolutionary biology is (so far) irrelevant to legal regulation” to appear in Law and Philosophy later this year. As I have not, as yet, read the paper, suffice that I post the abstract here:
Evolutionary biology – or, more precisely, two (purported) applications of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, namely, evolutionary psychology and what has been called human behavioral biology – is on the cusp of becoming the new rage among legal scholars looking for interdisciplinary insights into the law. We argue that as the actual science stands today, evolutionary biology offers nothing to help with questions about legal regulation of behavior. Only systematic misrepresentations or lack of understanding of the relevant biology, together with far-reaching analytical and philosophical confusions, have led anyone to think otherwise. Evolutionary accounts are etiological accounts of how a trait evolved. We argue that an account of causal etiology could be relevant to law if (1) the account of causal etiology is scientifically well-confirmed, and (2) there is an explanation of how the well-confirmed etiology bears on questions of development (what we call the Environmental Gap Objection). We then show that the accounts of causal etiology that might be relevant are not remotely well-confirmed by scientific standards. We argue, in particular, that (a) evolutionary psychology is not entitled to assume selectionist accounts of human behaviors, (b) the assumptions necessary for the selectionist accounts to be true are not warranted by standard criteria for theory choice, and (c) only confusions about levels of explanation of human behavior create the appearance that understanding the biology of behavior is important. We also note that no response to the Environmental Gap Objection has been proffered. In the concluding section of the article, we turn directly to the work of Owen Jones, a leading proponent of the relevance of evolutionary biology to law, and show that he does not come to terms with any of the fundamental problems identified in this article.
Update: John Wilkins makes some thoughtful comments here.
June 4 1989 was my 21st birthday, the traditional “coming of age” birthday in Ireland. That’s not really why I remember that day though. The events of Tiananmen Square are still etched on my mind and the above image still retains the power to remind me of that turbulent summer twenty years ago.
To recap the year:
- Mississippi – dead in committee
- Oklahoma – dead in committee
- Iowa – dead in committee
- New Mexico – dead in committee
- Florida – dead in committee
- Alabama – dead in committee
- Missouri – dead in committee
- Texas – in committee
The boys over at the Discovery Institute must be a little down this evening. With a record like that, they are the Detroit Lions of anti-evolutionism.
“Biological imperatives trump laws.”
Quick … who said that? Evil Darwinist? Nazi eugenicist? Liberal professor? Nope to all three.
Answer is Orson Scott Card – sci-fi hack, proponent of guiltless genocide, and anti-Darwinist – in a screed against gay marriage. One is left wondering whether rape is OK to Card – after all, spreading your seed is one of those “biological imperatives”.
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.
(Hat-tip to Ed.)