Monday, April 27, 2009

Also worth preserving......

Here's a little thought experiment for Ann to try on for size. Imagine two scenario's.
An omnipotent supreme being with unlimited capability decides one day to create intelligent living creatures and impart into them not only intelligence but also free agency and a strong sense of right from wrong.
Or a vast universe comes into being through a poorly understood physical process and across vast lightyears of space and across billions of stars in another poorly understood but incredibly rare physical process self-replicating molecules form and start a long and treacharous journey down a path wherin they form cooperative structures and across eons of time grow into forms that eventually become intelligent living creatures that not only possess intelligence but also free agency and a strong sense of right from wrong.
In which scenario are such life forms to be considered more precious and in which scenario is the prospect of destruction of the creature's habitat and planet more dire?
Certainly the belief in an omnipotent Creator that can declare "do-over" at any moment leads to a more cavalier and LESS moral attitude than faith in a self-discovering physically realized Universe that our current scientific understanding portrays.
Your conviction that science operates in a realm free from moral or ethical inquiry is not only factually incorrect but it is also deeply offensive.

Amy Sullivan inadvertantly steps in it.

The Kids Are Alright

In an otherwise unremarkable post celebrating a teenager who aced the SAT and ACT's she throws in this line:

is surprising is that by all accounts Willa is no vocab-memorizing automatron but rather a normal, down-to-earth kid with a playful sense of humor.

For reasons that are obvious only to those who know me, this raised my hackles.

Here are my two responses:
I'm going to look at this as an opportunity to examine prejudice as a general phenomenon. Amy writes this:

What is surprising is that by all accounts Willa is no vocab-memorizing automatron but rather a normal, down-to-earth kid with a playful sense of humor..

And no one seems to notice that she's no less guilty of trying to pigeonhole people than someone would be if they made blanket assumptions about hip-hop fans or Muslims.

There's a smart kid who's otherwise just like kids everywhere. The only thing surprising is that anyone finds that surprising.

There is a great deal of cultural pressure in this country to NOT succeed academically. Without even delving into how such forces can disproportionately impact minority students, anti-intellectualism is a potent and exceedingly harmful force in this country. Don't believe it? Let us relive those heady weeks of 'bittergate' and remember how much backlash there was against Obama for the crime of being 'elitist'

Friday, April 10, 2009

Just so I know where to find them:

Links of evil:

Monday, April 06, 2009

More religion

In response to this

Beginning with the first of the Ten commandments, it's an unfortunate fact that much of the Religious intolerance that exists in the World is a direct result of the contents of the Religious tenets themselves. If you, like me, believe that there can be only one Creator of the Universe, then the notion of different versions of God competing for loyalty is easily recognized as absurd. That doesn't prevent millions of people from nevertheless falling into just that trap. This is where the Gospel teachings come in so handy. Certainly Loving your enemy, Refraining from judging lest you be judged and Tending to the log in your own eye rather than the speck in your neighbors is inconsistent with religious intolerance let alone seeking to harm those who don't share your specific beliefs.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Posted for easy linkage

Originally from a Swampland thread:

There is nothing at all surprising about the inability of capitalism to produce a private, free-market health insurance plan that works in favor of the people subscribing to it..

Can we get that engraved somewhere? A big problem with our debates nowadays is that people have had 'free markets' preached to them for so long that they treat it like some kind of magical deity instead of a simple mechanism to allow for the pricing of goods and reasonably efficient way to allocate resources.
There are many problems that markets are unable to solve because no participants have a financial stakes in the solution. I still think that Hog Manure Odor Abatement represents a perfect example but there are many others. Pig farmers don't mind the smell and their neighbors have no recourse but to use government to hold the farmers accountable for the problem. So we can either shut down the hog farms thus directly interfering in the 'market' or create incentives or spend public funds to deal with the problem.
There are way too many people who aren't willing to think such problems through and way too many others who have a strong discentive to even talk about it.
Of course hogsh!^ isn't the only example but ever since John McCain decided to make fun of it, its remained one of the most accessible.