Calming The Crowd

In Ferguson, police are trying to control a situation. On twitter, you can see footage that is simply chilling (here, for instance, pay attention to the trivial detail of where the gun is pointed). More here.

On TV, Robin Williams has died.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, cops are telling people to go home. “We live here!” is the response. “This is our home!”

CNN and Fox are both looking at Robin Williams’s film career.

In Ferguson, according to twitter, police are firing rubber bullets to calm the crowd. To calm the crowd. Gee, and here I thought I’d never have another opportunity to post this lullaby… from a couple of years ago in Oakland[Read more…]

And To Think That I Saw It On National News

On the tube or the net, the distraction I choose
Is to sample a bit of the national news
I look for the stories that tug at my brain—
The ones that are tricky, or hard to explain
But the story today? Well, we’ve seen it before;
Just another sad death in a long, bloody war;
A conflict that seemingly never will stop…
Just another black kid who’s been killed by a cop.
[Read more…]

False Flag Impeachment?

This talk of impeachment is scattered—it mattered
To very few people—near no one at all!
No major political figure so big you’re
Expected to answer the phone if they call!
No media darling whose speech meant impeachment
Was favored by some in the party of No
A sign that the don’t-tread-on-me-ers, the TEA-ers
Insist that it’s time for Obama to go!

Oh, no, it’s the Democrats, really, who feel he’s
A useful distraction and fundraising tool
Your typical voter won’t notice the POTUS
Is pulling their strings—cos a voter’s a fool!
Impeachment’s about raising money—it’s funny,
A truth they won’t tell on the idiot box.
Republicans don’t want distractions, but actions!
Just trust us—remember, you heard it on Fox! [Read more…]

“Protestant Work Ethic” Vs. “Atheist Work Ethic”

The “protestant work ethic”
Was, we assumed,
Underlying the gains we had made.
A secular ethic, it’s
Clear, left us doomed—
And an atheist one, much afraid!

Our country was built on the
Fear of a God
Who would smite us for sloth (it’s a sin)
We have to believe, or
It’s all a façade—
And the atheist communists win!

The theories assume that a
Godly belief
Is so useful, we don’t need a test—
The thing is, they tested it:
Here’s the motif—
The atheist way is the best!

Statistical evidence
Must be dismissed
Or, at least, we must say that it’s fraud!
Or else, it is false, what
Believers insist…
Productivity hinges on God!

A recent article in the Journal of Institutional Economics explores the assumption that the protestant work ethic should be credited with… well, with all the warm fuzzies it is always credited with. And the answer is… no. Hemant has a version, too. This particular study focuses at the interstate US level; one cannot extrapolate to either an international level, nor an interpersonal level.

At the interstate level, though, religion is not predictive of entrepreneurial activity.

Mind you, there are partial answers at other levels. At an international level, for instance, an earlier article in the same journal suggests that some predictors of socioeconomic success (in particular, property rights and the rule of law) are negatively associated with religiosity.

The truth is, everything about us is complex. Nothing is simple–not even the relationship of god-belief to any given measure of culture. If anyone tries to tell you that the answer to everything is simple… the cool thing is, the answer to their proposition actually is simple.

No.

Well, unless it’s me. Me, you can believe. No, really.

Trust me.

Edit… I just looked at the recent FTB posts… if you have not yet, read this and/or this, either of which are far more important than the post you are currently reading.

Medical Miracle In Mississippi! (or, I am one cynical bastard)

The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly
Such conclusions are best left unsaid
There’s a time and a place for such words, though,
Like the man who came back from the dead!
They’d detected no pulse, and no breathing
So they’d fitted his toe with a tag
And they sent him away for embalming…
But his “corpse” started kicking the bag!
Now the doctors are using the “M” word
And I guess we can give them a break:
The word “miracle” isn’t used lightly…
But they’d rather use that, than “mistake”.

CNN: Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says.

Even in the Bible Belt, coroners don’t use the word “miracle” lightly.
But Holmes County, Mississippi, Coroner Dexter Howard has no qualms using the word for the resurrection, as it were, of Walter Williams, who was declared dead Wednesday night.

Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

What’s that?

Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The coroner completed his paperwork, placed Williams in a body bag and transported him to the funeral home, he said. There, something strange happened: The body bag moved.
“We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking,” Howard said. “He also began to do a little breathing.”

I am very happy for this man, and for his family (who seem understandably overjoyed). And hey, isn’t it much nicer to be the beneficiary of a miracle than the victim of a mistake?

Arguing God In The New York Times

We can’t disprove a God, you know,
Cos God can’t be defined.
The God you claim cannot exist
Exists within my mind

My God cannot be fathomed, and
Will never be undone
Each heart perceives Him differently
But God is only One.

We disagree on details, like
His numbers, or His name,
But clearly, all believers know,
Their Gods are all the same

(What’s more, divine diversity
Is clearly heaven-sent:
Whatever God you just disproved
Is not the one I meant!)

A Godly game of whack-a-mole;
Forever un-disproved;
Each time you bring the hammer down
Too late! Cos God just moved!

A question, though, occurs to me—
I find it rather odd—
Why label this cacophony
“A shared belief in God”?

Ah. The horrendous interview with Plantinga was only the first in a series. Gary Gutting’s second interview is with Louise Antony, one of that large majority of philosophers who are atheists. This one was much easier to stomach, although I must say I was not nearly as impressed by Gutting in this interview. I guess he stood out in comparison to Plantinga, but here he seems determined to push Antony into Gutting’s own comfort zone that appears to prefer agnosticism to atheism.

But I do like the way Antony delimits her answers–her atheism is because theism has been proven false to her satisfaction, and she is perfectly comfortable with the notion that someone might disagree. She takes issue with a question about disagreement regarding the existence of God, wondering why that is any more significant a question than the myriad disagreements among theists regarding the characteristics of God (I have often pondered the extent to which different denominations can be said to be in agreement–here, here, and here, for example), which are certainly big enough disagreements to form schisms.

G.G.: Yes, I do think it’s relevant to ask believers why they prefer their particular brand of theism to other brands. It seems to me that, at some point of specificity, most people don’t have reasons beyond being comfortable with one community rather than another. I think it’s at least sometimes important for believers to have a sense of what that point is. But people with many different specific beliefs share a belief in God — a supreme being who made and rules the world. You’ve taken a strong stand against that fundamental view, which is why I’m asking you about that.

L.A.: Well I’m challenging the idea that there’s one fundamental view here. Even if I could be convinced that supernatural beings exist, there’d be a whole separate issue about how many such beings there are and what those beings are like. Many theists think they’re home free with something like the argument from design: that there is empirical evidence of a purposeful design in nature. But it’s one thing to argue that the universe must be the product of some kind of intelligent agent; it’s quite something else to argue that this designer was all-knowing and omnipotent. Why is that a better hypothesis than that the designer was pretty smart but made a few mistakes? Maybe (I’m just cribbing from Hume here) there was a committee of intelligent creators, who didn’t quite agree on everything. Maybe the creator was a student god, and only got a B- on this project.

In any case though, I don’t see that claiming to know that there is no God requires me to say that no one could have good reasons to believe in God. I don’t think there’s some general answer to the question, “Why do theists believe in God?” I expect that the explanation for theists’ beliefs varies from theist to theist. So I’d have to take things on a case-by-case basis.

The common ground that different religions share, that allows us to say they “share a belief in God”, is nowhere near what defines their different faiths.

Gutting, though, misses the bit where something that defies evidence and still gives rise to people who are absolutely certain about minute details (and who will fight over disagreements about those details), and presses Antony for a certainty that she does not feel the need to deliver:

G.G.: O.K., on your view we don’t have any way to judge the relative reliability of people’s judgments about whether God exists. But the question still remains, why are you so certain that God doesn’t exist?

L.A.: Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

So… yeah. This interview leaves me really liking Antony, really frustrated with Gutting, and all the more convinced that Plantinga can’t think his way out of a wet paper bag.

And the contrast in comments is interesting as well–the comments to the Plantinga interview ran strongly against him, and were frankly more intelligent than the interview. Today’s comments are still coming in, but it looks like evidence of an overall tendency of people to write in more often in complaint and disagreement than in concurrence. My favorite so far makes the argument that Antony can be disproven simply by defining God as “that which we cannot, and never will be able to, fathom”. Or as I have heard it before, “reality beyond the material“. Defining God that way pretty much means that any faith asserting any particular details about God must necessarily be false.

Hey, wait… maybe she’s onto something there.