Wednesday, September 29, 2010


How news websites write about scientific papers. Even if Robbins were way off base (he isn't), his choice of graphics truly is optimized for his key target demographic, or at least for some demographic to which I happen to belong.

H/T: The Panda's Thumb.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dawkins against the Pope

Video footage of a Dawkins speech to a crowd of around 10,000 at the Protest the Pope rally in London:

H/T: Why Evolution is True

Cross-posted to The Secular Outpost.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No more IRR

One notable item in my personal life: my Individual Ready Reserve status with the Marine Corps expired on the 2nd of this month. For some reason, I thought it was supposed to expire in November, but I checked my DD-214, and, sure enough, the four-year commitment to IRR that was tacked on to my four-year active duty enlistment expired on the 2nd.

I have not yet quite managed to wrap my mind around this. Although the probability of my being recalled went effectively to zero a year ago, I have not felt like a proper civilian since the moment I stepped aboard the bus to MCRD San Diego. I had a jolt of pure "former Marine" sensation today, and it felt good, but it was fleeting. I think it will take quite some time for it to really sink in that this part of my life is over.

Not dead

I apologize for my lowered blogging frequency. Classes are just placing a heavy demand on my time. You may be assured that I am not, at the time of this writing, dead.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keith Parsons on the [aborted] Qur'an burning

Keith Parsons gets everything right in his post on the planned Qur'an burning in Florida, now called off: it should have been a contemptible non-event, unworthy of more than a moment's attention. Instead, it has been built up into some weird national scandal. Of course, there is a scandal here—the fact that freedom once again has lost out to fear of terror. I have nothing nice to say about Terry Jones, but when it comes down to a choice between bigots who want to exercise their constitutional rights and murderous bigots who threaten mayhem and death in response, I know damn well where I stand.

The last word, as so often happens, goes to Jesus and Mo:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arizona often feels like a wasteland

But not all the time. Put clouds in the sky, keep the temperature below 100°, and it's a match for nearly anywhere.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Schopenhauer being, well, Schopenhauer, Part III

Final installment. The only thing more enjoyable than a passage in which Schopenhauer goes on the attack, is one in which his attack is coupled with disarmingly frank praise for the virtues of his own work. Once again, from On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (E.J.F. Payne tr., LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1974):

Exhibit A:
I have shown all this so irrefutably and clearly that no one with a spark of judgement can any longer believe in that fiction after he has read it. “Well, they probably have done this!” Oh no! They will take good care not to venture on slippery ground! Maintaining silence and keeping the mouth shut; these constitute their whole talent and sole means against intellect, mental powers, seriousness, and truth. In none of the products of their useless scribblings that have appeared since 1841 has a single word been said about my ethics, although it is unquestionably the most important ethical work that has appeared in the last sixty years. Indeed, so great is their fear of me and my truth, that the book has not even been announced in any of the literary journals that are issued by universities or academies. Zitto, zitto, lest the public should notice anything; this is and remains their whole policy. Of course, the instinct of self-preservation may be at the bottom of this crafty conduct. For is not a philosophy that is directed to truth and has no other consideration bound to play the role of the iron pot among the earthen ones, when it makes its appearance among the the petty systems that are framed under the influence of a thousand regards and motives by men thus qualified on account of their way of thinking? (73-74)
Exhibit B:
On the other hand, the professors of philosophy have taken no more notice of this truth than they have of the other great and important truths whose exposition has been the task and toil of my whole life in order that they may become the permanent possession of mankind. This is not to their taste; it does not serve their purpose at all or lead to theology. It is certainly not suited to the proper training of students for the highest State posts. In short, professors do not want to learn anything from me; they do not see how much they would have to learn, namely all that their children and their children’s children will learn from me. Instead of this, each sits down to enrich the public with his original ideas in a long spun-out system of metaphysics. If for this fingers are a qualification, then he is qualified. (75- 76)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Discovery Channel gunman

Here's my two cents on James Lee.

First, I'm not at all sad that he's dead. Good riddance.

Second, naturally he has become, in the eyes of the right, the poster-child for the left. That's unfair, and the people who push that view know its unfair, but naturally they press on anyway, because fairness doesn't come into the picture when one is fighting evil, right? Thus, we are witness to the same kind of logic that holds up the one example of Baruch Goldstein as a counterweight to the collected mass of all of the suicide bombers sent forth by Hamas. The right still is much more dangerous than the left. And, again, this is something that even everyone on the right knows; it is not without reason that the left is stereotyped as the wishy-washy, Kumbaya-singing, love-and-roses, side—characteristics which do not lend themselves so readily to violence.

Third, though,—and this stands completely irrespective of whether or not Lee was mentally ill—Lee's motivations were shaped by left-wing ideology. I do not think this can simply be dismissed, any more than one can simply dismiss the ideological motivations of sundry people on the right, mentally ill or not, who have taken up arms against targets identified by right-wing pundits. Fact is, a non-negligible segment of the left does spew hateful, apocalyptic rhetoric that can set the right kind of person on a path of violence. That rhetoric is as vile as the stuff pumped through the air by Fox News and friends; mercifully, it is not as widespread or effectively communicated, and hence not as dangerous, but that does not change what it is, and what it can do, and what it can become.

Clean house, people.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Schopenhauer being, well, Schopenhauer, Part II

There is a remarkable, long, searing passage in On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (E.J.F. Payne tr., LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1974) in which Schopenhauer pretends to record the reassuring words German professors say to the besieged cosmological argument, about how they will save it simply by assuming an air of superiority, invoking the "Absolute," and banging their fists on tables. I can't quote the section in full, because it goes on for about three pages, but here are some of the highlights:
The Germans are accustomed to accept words instead of ideas. Are they not trained by us for this purpose from early youth? Just look at Hegelry; what is it but empty, hollow, and even nauseous verbiage? And yet how brilliant was the career of this philosophical creature of the ministry! It needed only a few mercenary fellows to sing the praises of the bad, and their voices found an echo in the hollow emptiness of a thousand numbskulls, an echo resounding and spreading even at the present time. See how soon a great philosopher was made from a common head, indeed from a common charlatan!


If you feel nervous, always bear in mind that we are in Germany where man have been able to do what would have been impossible elsewhere. I refer to the fact that in Germany men procalim as a great mind and profound thinker a dull, ignorant philosophaster, a scribbler of nonsense, who by his ineffably hollow verbiage thoroughly and permanently disorganizes their brains; I refer to our dearly beloved Hegel. Not only have they been able to so this with impunity and without incurring ridicule, but they have believed it for the last thirty years, and believe it to this day! (60-61)