Monday, December 27, 2010

Some Links for Reading

* Stephen Carlson looks at the meaning of kalyma, usually translated as 'inn', in Luke's birth narrative (PDF).

* A fascinating post on the history of thought about how glaciers relate to climate change.

* Getting science education in the classroom right.

* Tom at "Chronicon" discusses misconceptions about the dating of Christmas.

* I found Dawkins's fuming over original sin a bit funny. What's funniest about it is that he immediately breaks down into so much sputtering he can't even get coherent enough to say why; a rather serious failing given that he explicitly says that belief in it is nastier than anti-Semitism and conniving at the rape of children. But it highlights how much of Dawkins's anti-Catholicism -- which has led him to break down into wild fulmination and then incoherence before -- is driven by his melodramatic emotionalism rather than any serious reasoning or objective assessment. One finds very quickly that it's a common failing; Catholics are always, apparently, in the wrong, but the reasons given for thinking so are usually extremely vague appeals to gut reaction. One always has to wade through a vast and thick miasma before one gets to any arguments. In honesty, though, I'm inclined to be less hard on Dawkins on this point than on anti-Catholics from other cultures; the vein of British Protestant anti-Catholicism runs very, very deep, and people genuinely do find it hard to shake. And there is no question that British atheists tend to be very discernibly Protestant even long after they have ceased being Christian. That's something of a thought, actually: Dawkins as a sort of British Comte. But one has to say, if one is to be fair to Comte, that Comte put more effort into these things.

* Thony C discusses Newton's obsession with chronology -- an obsession that was common among the great minds of his day. I suspect that later generations will look at our generation's interest in evolutionary psychology in much the same way; small assumptions, apparently reasonable, made in the beginning can easily throw ambitious projects well out of whack if they are wrong, or involve equivocations, or overlook qualifications. What is important is precisely what Thony is trying to insist upon (with most people to no avail, I think): rational systems built on false assumptions are still rational systems, and can at times exhibit the power, and even progress, of human reason as much as rational systems that just happened to be built on true assumptions.

* Terry Teachout on Jack Benny. He's too pessimistic: I listen to Jack Benny's radio programs quite regularly, for instance, and I don't think he quite appreciates the degree to which satellite radio and the internet can bring back radio classics. But it's true that most people's sole acquaintance with Jack Benny comes from missing the joke in Back to the Future:

Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, "Future Boy", who's President in the United States in 1985?
Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor? Then who's Vice-President? Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady!
Marty McFly: Whoa! Wait! Doc!
Dr. Emmett Brown: And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury!

Which is actually hilariously funny if you know anything about Jack Benny. But even though most people might not know much about Benny, the serious options for niche interest in him (and other radio classic greats) have massively expanded in the past decade.

1 comment:

  1. ebdesales10:13 PM

    <p><span>"... Dawkins as a sort of British Comte. But one has to say, if one is to be fair to Comte, that Comte put more effort into these things."</span>
    </p><p> 
    </p><p>Quite! 
    </p>

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