Archive for July, 2011
As of Sunday evening, the White House and leaders of Congress have agreed upon a new deal that would raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government credit default.
But, and that’s a big “but,” the plan still has to pass the House and the Senate. As we know, Tea Party members have been hostile to any plan that increases the debt ceiling, while Democrats have said they would vote against any plan that does not raise the debt ceiling through 2012.
Head over to The Atlantic’s website, where Joshua Green offers a pair of rich analyses of House Speaker John Boehner’s current predicament with the new Tea Party regime which betrayed its own party earlier this month by voting down Boehner’s so-called grand bargain and again Thursday night when another vote failed. See here and here for the analyses.
A seemingly helpless Boehner said this after the vote Thursday:
To the American people, I would say we tried our level best. We tried to do our best for our country, but some people still say no.
So, a co-worker, Blake, and I are competing in a very casual read-off this year where we keep track of every book we read, the page numbers of each, etc. This is what book lovers do to entertain themselves, I guess. Anyway, I’m currently in the lead with 13 books under my belt so far, while he has read 10 thus far. I believe all of his have been non-fiction works, while all but three of mine were in that genre.
I meant to mention this days ago, but it must have gotten lost in the cobwebs upstairs.
Campus Crusade for Christ, which has held that name since 1951, is changing the name to Cru starting in 2012 (See video above). According to Steve Sellers, vice president for the U.S. branch of the organization, the new name will help to more effectively reach people for Christ. I fail to see how that would be the case but whatever.
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Andrew Sullivan, on his blog The Dish, ruminates about the distinction between Christianity and his self-coined word, “Christianism,” in order to defend Christianity from those who use faith for political purposes, as he claims about Anders Breivik:
The core message of Christianism is, in stark contrast, the desperate need to control all the levers of political power to control or guide the lives of others. And so the notion that Breivik is a “Christian fundamentalist” seems unfair to those genuine Christian fundamentalists who seek no power over others (except proselytizing), but merely seek to live their own lives in accord with a literal belief in the words of the Bible.
… Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.
Of course, one can’t ignore the “real religious faith” of the 9/11 attackers, in that they believed they would be rewarded for their efforts in heaven (with a slew of virgins no less).
As for the cosmological argument itself, I make no apology for being dismissive. Depending on what version you are considering, you can expect to find concepts like causality or probability being used in domains where they do not clearly apply, or dubious arguments for why an actual infinity cannot exist, or highly questionable premises about the beginnings of the universe or about how everything that began to exist must have had a cause, or groundless invocations of the principle of sufficient reason. You inevitably come so perilously close to assuming what you are trying to prove that you may as well just assume God exists and be done with it.
As I pointed out more than once in my series on apologetics (Here is part I), believers, even if their arguments are somewhat sophisticated, usually and eventually can’t get away from issuing statements that assume the very claims they are trying to prove, which would be analogous to committing the question begging fallacy.
In the above video, neuroscientist David Eagleman lays out a position he calls “possibilianism,” which is his term for an “active exploration” of the “giant space” of possibilities, rather than getting caught in the “false dichotomy” between the believers and the new atheists, like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, etc. He feels that our knowledge of the universe is still too minimal to become encamped with the new atheists, but also that science has revealed too much to commit to a specific religion. Thus, rather than using the term “agnosticism” to describe his position, he invented a new one, possibilianism.
Maybe one day I too will summon the mental and physical dexterity to pull this off. Basically, Jen McCreight at Blag Hag is currently in the middle of a 24-hour blogathon that began at 7 a.m. PST today and runs through 7 a.m. PST July 24. From what I understand, this is her third year doing the event, which raises money for the Secular Student Alliance. One post every 30 minutes for 24 hours. Shew. Gives me carpal tunnel syndrome just thinking about it.
Just learned about the news from over at Skeptic Money. As I posted yesterday, seven were reported to have been killed in the Oslo attacks this week.
Now, the BBC has reported that 85 are dead from the youth camp attack that also occurred on a nearby island in Norway. The suspect is Anders Behring Breivik, 32, who was apparently a fringe right-winger. He already has a Wikipedia entry. Some of his writings are recorded at this link, which references a site called Document.no, described on Wikipedia as “an Anti-Islam, anti-immigration and pro-Israel citizen journalistic website for political analysis, commentary, essays and reportage.” You will have to use Google and translate the above-linked writings.
According to local deputy police chief Roger Andresen in Norway:
We have no more information than … what has been found on [his] own websites, which is that it goes towards the right and that it is, so to speak, Christian fundamentalist.
If that’s true, religious fanaticism strikes again.
Thanks to Robert Luhn from the National Center for Science Education for passing this bit of news along to me.
This issue has been stewing for quite some time, but the Texas Board of Education voted 8-0 this week to use mainstream science textbooks from established publishers in its classroom materials, rather than use materials from International Databases, LLC., that would have included elements of intelligent design, or at least thrown Darwinism and evolution into some question.
Here’s some examples of material submitted to the Texas BOE from International Databases (I assume it’s no coincidence that the LLC’s initials are “ID”) claiming that “intelligent input is necessary for life’s origin” and “life on Earth is the result of intelligent causes.”
In an article from The Dallas Morning Star, International Databases president Stephen Sample had this to say:
I am not trying to bring the book of Genesis into science classes. One of the reasons I decided to enter the bidding for these books was to give Texas students a fair and honest treatment of evolution. The scientific community is split on Darwin’s theory, and my material reflects that.
The mainstream scientific community is not “split” on evolution, and it has not even been unsure on the matter in a very long time. Likewise, Darwin’s “theory” is no longer a theory in the more common sense of the word, that is, “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.”
See this article for more background on the Texas BOE case.