Monthly Archive: July 2008

Jul 17 2008

Cloning god

Thanks to this blog, I keep learning interesting new stuff. You may recall that I expressed bewilderment at the possibility that any adult could possibly believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which asserts that when the priest during the communion service consecrates the bread and wine, the bread becomes the actual body of …

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Jul 16 2008

Natural and unnatural lifestyles

I recently had a discussion with someone whom I had known well growing up in Sri Lanka and who was visiting the US. She asked me my opinion about the recent highly publicized raid by the Texas Child Protective Services on the compound where polygamous Mormon families lived. All the children were separated from their …

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Jul 15 2008

Much ado about transubstantiation

In the previous post, I suggested that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which asserts that when the priest during the communion service consecrates the bread and wine, the bread becomes the actual body of Jesus and the wine becomes his actual blood, was a fairly bizarre thing to believe in this day and age …

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Jul 14 2008

Why religions expect you to believe preposterous things

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I visited the mother of an old friend of mine, and the conversation turned to religion. She was a Protestant who had married a Catholic. She had thought about converting to Catholicism but in the end found it impossible to do so. She said that she found she …

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Jul 11 2008

Knowing when to say uncle

One of the advantages of living in more than one country is that one notices interesting differences. One of the differences with Sri Lanka that struck me is that in the US there is no standard system to deal with the question of how one should address elders in the category that can be described …

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Jul 10 2008

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard”

Those words were supposedly spoken by the actor Sir Donald Wolfit on his deathbed. When it comes to acting, comedy is far harder to pull off well than tragedy. With tragedy, earnestness will take you a long way. Not so with humor. The elements of comedy are so ephemeral that it is hard to script. …

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Jul 09 2008

The humor of P. G. Wodehouse

There is something very alluring about comedy and humor. Laughter is wonderful. It puts everyone in a good mood, at ease and lowers their defenses. To be able to make other people laugh and be happy is a wonderful talent and people like people who can make them laugh. It is no accident that public …

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Jul 08 2008

Collective good versus private profit

One of the clichés of academia which even non-academics know is “publish or perish.” In its most common understanding, it implies that those who publish more are perceived as productive scholars, worthy of recruitment and promotion. But there are other reasons for publishing. One is to establish priority for one’s ideas. In academia, ideas are …

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Jul 07 2008

What motivates academics

Some time ago the Cleveland Plain Dealer had an article in the business pages that began by noting that when you visit the faculty parking lot of any college campus, you will find very few expensive cars such as Mercedes Benzes, Cadillacs, Porsches, Hummers, and BMWs. The writer made the inference that college professors, while …

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Jul 04 2008

Independence day thoughts

(For this holiday, I am reposting an amalgam of two posts from two years ago.) Today, being independence day in the US, will see a huge outpouring of patriotic fervor, with parades and bands and flag waving. I thought it might be appropriate to read one of Mark Twain’s lesser known works. I came across …

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