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Showing posts from November 21, 2004
“Attempts to reconcile science and religion are usually doomed to failure … because nearly all religions make claims about the real world - the domain of science - that don't stand up to scientific scrutiny. Faced with these difficulties, advocates resort to circumlocution, sophistry or absurd speculations that offend both scientists and believers.” -- Coyne Saturday – time for a backlog selection. On May 16, 2002, LI wrote about a conference at Yale concerning the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The NYT reported on the conference with the faux infantile credulity that newspapers always give to the religious (as long, that is, as they aren’t Moslem). LI, at the time, obviously found the mental pap being purveyed in this conference a little hard to stomach. We talked, this week, with a friend of ours who teaches at a well known university in Dixie. She complained about the young-earthers in her class, a term that was new to us. She explained: young-earthers ac
LI has just listened to the lovely propaganda minute on NPR in which various voices tell us how thankful they are to live in the land of freedom and tinkerbell, the good old U.S.A. Oddly, there was no expression of thanks that one didn’t live in a city that freedom and tinkerbell had resolved to have disgorge its women and children and retain its young men in order to slaughter the latter, bomb its buildings into rubble, and leave behind a desert of disease, stray sniper fire, and chaos. LI has been pondering the strategy in Iraq the last couple of days. Blowing up Fallujah, breaking into Baghdad’s most famous mosque and shooting randomly, clamping down in Mosul – what this amounts to, we think, is the American response to the dilemma it faces in the elections. The dilemma is this: given the state of opinion imperfectly revealed by even those polls conducted by biased American agencies, Allawi is not the most popular Iraqi politician. In fact, Sadr could easily give him a run f
A.J. Liebling, in the Sweet Science, his collection of boxing pieces from the early fifties, complained that the onset of tv had ruined boxing. In those distant days the camera, hungry for anything, filmed a plenitude of bouts. This had the odd effect of culling the sport, since tv viewers naturally wanted spectacles and stars. The old fashioned code of pugilism, the beerhall flavor of ambitious nobodies slugging it out on the circuit until some nobody made that magic transition into celebrity, was impossibly speeded up. According to a story in Monday’s Independent, the same thing, improbably enough, is happening to Egyptology. The article is about the controversy surrounding the proposal of two French amateurs to sink a small hole in the floor of the great pyramid, send down a small camera, and look at a chamber under the floor that radar has revealed. The French guys claim that Cheops himself, in mummy attire, is stashed down there somewhere. The head of Egypt’s department of arc
November is flood season in Austin. This year the rain has bucketed down with the startling abandonment the skies took to in Noah’s day. Punishment for electing Darth Vader president – or at least v.p. – of a highly armed and dangerous hyperpower? You decide. LI went for a walk, the day before yesterday, around the Lake, and discovered the water was well above the pedestrian path in many instances. The radio and newspapers go on with a professional air about low water crossings, a term you never hear except in flood season, and one which the newcomer to town, trucking around in his Ford Explorer, is probably going to have no familiarity with. If this were a Live Journal, I’d have one of the gloom icons turned on next to mood. However, we at LI have found that gloom has a limit. Really. A monetary limit. According to Slate’s review of Richard Posner’s new book, the upper limit for gloom is priced at 600 trillion dollars. Posner’s book is about massive catastrophes, like
Voltaire’s history of the reign of Louis XV begins with a study of the system of John Law, seen from the point of view of the civilizing process – or at least the domesticating process. Voltaire is at pains to put Law’s bubble in the context of the “habit of obedience” ingrained in the French under the reign of Louis XIV, comparing the troubles that the latter Louis faced, in his regency, from an upstart aristocracy, with the mildness faced by the regent, the Duc D’Orleans, even in the exercise of truly autocratic power. We wanted to discuss this partly because of the neo-con meme about the supposed merits of the English enlightenment as opposed to the French enlightenment. There’s been a bit of a splash gathered around Gertrude Himmelfarb’s last book, which designs an intellectual history of the 18th century, absurdly enough, to reflect the an ti-Gallic bias of the neo-con cabal. We thought the review of the book by Alan Ryan was oddly deficient. For one thing, Ryan confuses the
"Believe me, we thought a magic thing would happen" with the fall of Hussein and the start of the U.S.-led occupation, said an administrator at Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics. "So we're surprised that nothing has been done. And people talk now about how the days of Saddam were very nice," the official said.” Pangloss enseignait la métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie. Il prouvait admirablement qu'il n'y a point d'effet sans cause, et que, dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles, le château de monseigneur le baron était le plus beau des châteaux et madame la meilleure des baronnes possibles. « Il est démontré, disait-il, que les choses ne peuvent être autrement : car, tout étant fait pour une fin, tout est nécessairement pour la meilleure fin. Remarquez bien que les nez ont été faits pour porter des lunettes, aussi avons-nous des lunettes. Les jambes sont visiblement instituées pour être chaussées, et nous avons des ch