Yet another weird SF fan


I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com


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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Blogblivion
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
EconLog
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Hyscience
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The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
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Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
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Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
RealityCarnival
Respectful Insolence
Sedenion
Seriously Science
Shtetl-Optimized
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
TJIC
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Fourmilab
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress


























Yet another weird SF fan
 

Monday, August 29, 2005

I Have Turned on Word Verification

I just received five comment spams in the course of a few minutes.

A Problem with 250 States

If we adopted Arnold Kling's proposal to divide the U.S. into 250 states, Manhattan would be a separate state under the control of a far-left government unrestrained by a maroon state government or the outer boroughs. They could hold a substantial part of the U.S. economy hostage.

Who Is Really behind the “Re-wilding” of America?

According to Instapundit:

Add to this the new ruralism created by boomers cashing out their urban/suburban homes (via NewsAlert) and you may have the beginnings of a rural renaissance. At least if someone can do something about the mountain lions. That's been a problem before. And I can't recommend David Baron's book, The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America highly enough. And in light of the above, predator control might even turn out to have an important impact on rural economic development. Nobody's going to want to settle in a place where they're worried about kids being eaten.

Blink … Blink … That's it!

It should be obvious that the “re-wilding” of America is a conspiracy by urban real-estate dealers for the purpose of rendering rural and exurban areas uninhabitable. This won't apply in urban areas. Any lion that tried walking around downtown Manhattan would be shot by the drug dealers.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I Greet This with Mixed Feelings …

… of joy and relief:

By a more than 2-to-1 margin, Americans now back the development of nuclear power as an alternative to increasingly expensive energy sources like oil.
The common belief, even among my fellow wingnuts, that increasing nuclear power is “politically impossible” has been one of the more bizarre successes of the environmentalist movement.

I Am Vermin, Hear Me Roar!

The London Zoo has an exhibit of a plague species known as Homo sapiens:

"We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem," London Zoo said.
Some people might be insulted at the comparison. I'm proud of being in the same category as crab grass, rats, and cockroaches. For one thing, it means we benefit from disturbed ecosystems.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

You're Not Telling Us Anything We Didn't Know

Pharyngula (seen via the Tangled Bank hosted by the other Dave Munger) is under the impression that my fellow wingnuts have never heard of anencephaly. We have heard of it. (Warning: The second site has gooey sentimental graphics.)

The following quote from James Lileks may be of interest:

Everyone always thinks they have some armor-piercing argument the other side has never considered, but that’s rarely the case.
I must admit that there was a jury in Texas that might be a counterexample …

Besides, I blogged about anencephaly months ago.

A Gap in the Blogosphere

A technorati search for Merck creationism produced only one relevant hit even despite the fact that the resemblance between the Merck jurors and creationists should be painfully obvious.

We're in danger of being scooped by Usenet!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Potential Problem with Intellectual Property Rights

If intellectual property rights are taken too far, Mark Kurlansky, the author of Salt: A World History, could have a legal right to keep Dubya from reading his book and seems inclined to exercise that right:

What does it mean that George W Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?
What does it mean that he's reading a book by an author with a liking for preposterous cliches and run-on sentences? What does it mean that he's reading a book by an author who's unable to fit contrary evidence into his world view?

Speaking of intellectual property rights …

If a juror's inability to understand something becomes a reason to award a plaintiff $253 million, then how much will be awarded to plaintiffs on the basis of this diagram (seen via Boing Boing)?

Maxwell House Is Next!

A PubMed seach for vioxx arrhythmia produced four hits. A search for caffeine arrhythmia produced 221 hits.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Self-Administered Lobotomy

I can't think of a better term for the mental processes of John Ostrom:

Jurors who voted against Merck said much of the science sailed right over their heads. "Whenever Merck was up there, it was like wah, wah, wah," said juror John Ostrom, imitating the sounds Charlie Brown's teacher makes in the television cartoon. "We didn't know what the heck they were talking about."
So … this clown couldn't be bothered to try thinking, or even ask questions, and yet thought he had the right to make a decision that could help shut down medical research?

Addendum: The original title of this post may have been a bit intemperate.

Addendum 2: digamma has one of the best comments I've seen on this:

I know some of my leftist readers think this isn’t a problem because Merck is an evil corporation. But if this logic holds up in court to convict an evil corporation, there is no reason why it can’t be used against an individual.

You’ve got an alibi? Wah wah wah. DNA exonerates you? Wah wah wah. Your rights were violated? Wah wah wah.

Go to jail, egghead.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Elementary Calculus and Peak Oil

According to Steven Levitt, capitalist civilization should be able to adjust to the predicted decline in oil production. Some of the commenters are dubious on the grounds that any adjustment will take time. If oil production reaches a maximum next decade and if it follows a smooth curve, elementary calculus tells us that it will not change much near the maximum. In other words, the nuclear-power plants and methanol-fueled cars will be produced in a world where oil production is dropping very slowly, not the chaotic world where oil production is plummeting. (The scenario of “unrest in Nigeria or Venezuela” is unlikely to be important. Any war-making capability able to keep the US from taking over in an emergency will have to be paid for oil sales. Why do you think the Gulf Wars had little effect on oil production?)

One of the commenters was dubious about oil shale:

Oil shale is not oil. Oil shale is rock that has a relatively high concentration of organic carbon compounds in it. Geologists call this “source rock”. If you heat this “shale” to 700 degrees F you will turn this organic carbon (kerogen) into the nastiest, stinkiest, gooiest, pile of oil-like crap that you can imagine. Then if you send it through the gnarliest oil refinery on the planet you can make this shit into transportation fuel. In the mean time you have created all kinds of nasty by products, have polluted the air and groundwater of western Colorado, and have created an enormous pile of superheated rock that will take hundreds to thousands of years to cool off.
There's a very simple way to heat large amounts of oil shale to high temperatures. Explode a nuclear bomb underground in oil-shale country. After the oil has been extracted, the nasty gooey by-products can also be used to tar and feather anti-nuclear activists and the superheated rock (a feature, not a bug) can be used for geothermal power.

It won't even be necessary to hire expensive physicists to design the nuke. A boy scout can do it.

I Doubt If This Was Racist

Andrew Sullivan complained about the Jesuits' ban on Jews. I doubt if that was merely a matter of racist antisemitism. It probably had more to do with the explanations that Jews converting to Christianity usually give and how those explanations might have assisted the Protestants.

A typical Jew converting to Christianity will claim that Jesus was the Messiah fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. The only problem with that is there is no hint inside Jewish tradition that the Messiah would be God the Son. It's necessary to read the Bible out of context to come up with that. Similarly, Protestant interpretations of the Eucharist etc. can be obtained by reading the NT out of context but there was no hint inside Christian tradition. The last thing the Catholic Church of that era needed was people in high-profile positions giving sola scriptura explanations.

Come to think of it, maybe we Red-Sea pedestrians should thank the Catholic Church for keeping more people Jewish.

Arkes vs. Gelerntner vs. Dobson vs. Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

Hadley Arkes is highly critical of David Gelerntner's criticism of James Dobson's comparison of embryonic stem-cell research to the Holocaust. As anybody following this blog knows, I'm critical of embryonic stem-cell research (ESR). On the other hand, there are some strong differences between genocide and ESR. First, the intent of the Nazi genocide was ensure that there would no more Jews. The intent of ESR is not to eliminate all embryos. Second, some of the arguments for ESR are part of old traditions. Before embryology was developed in the 19th century, it made some sense to adhere to the belief that early embryos only possessed a vegetable soul. Third, ESR is not necessarily centrally planned. A state government or private foundation can also get involved.

I think slavery is a better analogy on all three counts. First, the intent of slavery was not to eliminate all slaves, but to exploit them. Second, there were defenses of slavery that went back to Aristotle; it wasn't something made up out of whole cloth. Third, slavery was also usually decentralized.

There's another reason to beware of Nazi analogies. They have been overused to such an extent that it makes sense to treat anybody using a Nazi analogy as a crackpot or even as the victim of a brain-eating zombie. You may think you have a valid analogy and I may think you have a partly-valid analogy but anybody else will think you sound like a nut. I don't think slavery analogies have been overused yet.

Advice for Catholics

There's lots of advice I might have for Catholics that they're not going to take (e.g., becoming even more traditional than The Society of St. Pius I), but there's one piece of advice that might make a difference:

Keep clerical celibacy.

Under normal circumstances, a large organization will drift left. That shouldn't surprise anybody. A large, powerful, and prestigious organization is a much bigger prize to people who want to tell others what to do than people who don't.

The Catholic Church has been one of the few exceptions to that rule. I suspect that's largely due to clerical celibacy. In eras when clerical celibacy is taken seriously, it will keep out those more interested in the office than in the duties of the office. (In eras when clerical celibacy was ignored, e.g., the Renaissance, the Catholic Church was more inclined to abuse its power.)

If the Catholic Church gives up clerical celibacy, I recommend that Catholics brace themselves. A two-Pope system may look preferable.

Intelligent Design and Annoying Leftists

One of the most annoying habits of some leftists is their tendency toward ad hominem arguments dressed up in fancy clothing. The Berkeley study of conservatives is probably the best-known example and the Cornell study of “challenged” masculinity is one of the most recent. It is far more respectful to consider the internal logic of someone else's theories instead of considering their personal characteristics. I recently realized that the difference between naturalistic scientific theories and theological scientific theories is that the former are based on the internal logic of the universe instead of God's personal characteristics.

The loons at Berkeley or Cornell should stick to the internal logic of the phenomena they're looking at without considering motives and the loons at the Discovery Institute should do the same. After all, do we really want some clown to start discussing whether or not God's masculinity was challenged?

A Category Error

Using Flying Spaghetti Monsterism as a parody of the Intelligent Design brand of Creationism is a category error. It might be a plausible parody of Young-Earth Creationism since both Flying Spaghetti Monsterism and Young-Earth Creationism are descriptions of how creation occurred. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is vague description of why creation occurred.

I can think of two possible theories that might be plausibly claimed to be alternatives to both Darwin's explanation of evolution and Intelligent Design. First, there's the theory in Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, according to which this universe was intelligently designed to lead up to the Supreme Moment of the Cosmos, when the Cosmical Mind encounters the Star Maker and … finds out that this universe is a mere rough draft of the Ultimate Cosmos, soon to be crumpled up and thrown into Heaven's Wastebasket. Second, there's the New Faith in The Earth Book of Stormgate, according to which this universe is God's game preserve and death and pain are what happens when He goes hunting.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Astounding News

New Yorkers are not bonkers, after all:

New Yorkers support subway bag searches by a 72 – 25 percent margin, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

Republicans favored searches by a margin of 89-9 percent; Democrats, by a 67 – 29 percent margin; and independent voters, by a 71 – 25 percent margin.
This is contrary to what some people thought.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ambitious People

Some people want to achieve a higher state of being … like being dinner:

If a group of US researchers have their way, lions, cheetahs, elephants and camels could soon roam parts of North America, Nature magazine reports.

The plan, which is called Pleistocene re-wilding, is intended to be a proactive approach to conservation.

The initiative would help endangered African animals while creating jobs, the Cornell University scientists say.

Evidence also suggests, they claim, that "megafauna" can help maintain ecosystems and boost biodiversity.

"If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we're nuts," said Harry Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, US.

After an hour, of course, we not only think they're nuts, we know they're nuts. On the other hand they probably don't realize that listeners backing away slowly while making noises of agreement does not necessarily mean anybody has been convinced.

There is a precedent, of course. Bernd-Jurgen Brandes had a similar ambition:

Armin Meiwes, the German jailed for eight-and-a-half years for eating an acquaintance, advised others not to follow his example.

After years of wrangling over its very existence, anthropologists increasingly concur that cannibalism is a tradition which has spanned both cultures and centuries, although the extent to which it has been practised remains an academic battleground.

General repugnance has met the case of Mr Meiwes, who has confessed to killing and eating a man he met after advertising for someone who wanted to be killed and eaten.

………

But what distinguishes Mr Meiwes' self-confessed sexual cannibalism from killers such as Fish and Chikatilo, or acts committed by peoples such as the Aztecs or the Congolese rebels, is the ostensibly consensual nature of his act.

Mr Meiwes met the man he was ultimately to eat, 43-year-old Bernd-Jurgen Brandes, in early 2001, after advertising on websites for "young, well-built men aged 18 to 30 to slaughter".

Mr Meiwes told investigators he took Mr Brandes back to his home, where Mr Brandes agreed to have his penis cut off, which Mr Meiwes then flambeed and served up to eat together.

Mr Meiwes says he then killed Mr Brandes with his consent.

But the allegedly consensual nature of the act has done nothing to pacify German disgust.

Come to think of it, I had already blogged about the Dish of the Day (who wanted to be eaten) and male redback spiders (who act like they want to be eaten).

Maybe we can arrange some game preserves for the complex ecosystems with predators and release environmental wackos inside them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's Been Done, continued

It's hard to parody Creationism. For example, this is a joke:

Our public schools have turned away from the source of Truth, to teach our children that our sacred English language has descended from other languages. The poor impressionable youngsters are taught AS A FACT that English words have certain "root words", even though this is only a theory. The FACT is, God Almighty created all languages complete when he confused mankind's original language as punishment for our transgression at the tower of Babel. But the athiest/lingusts don't want this mentioned in public settings, because it goes against their FAITH, and forces them to face their own accountability. So they have BANNED the teaching of Babelism, because they are afraid that it might expose the weakness of their own linguistic ideas. Is this fair? I don't think so. It goes against all that America stands for.

………

Second, a language is a complex thing. The odds that some first speaker could randomly string together a complex series of sounds, and then multiply this by the odds that someone else would UNDERSTAND him, and the probablity could be calculated to be less than 1 in 10^500. That's a one with five hundred zero's. A statistical impossibility. Obviously, the first language must have a designer: God.

but this isn't:

Everybody who follows the evolution debate knows by now that evolution doesn't work for animals; it turns out that it doesn't work any better for human languages.

………

Naturally, the evolutionist who is left with the question as to how such an immensely complex capability could feasibly evolve, is FUBAR. But then, we KNEW that all along.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It's Been Done

The Onion recently reported:

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

The Intelligent Falling theory is not original. According to science fiction's Holy Book, Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, the movement of stars (explained by Orthodox science as due to gravity), is actually due to the free will of intelligent stars.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Recruiting More Warmongers

According to a recent study by somebody with too much free time at Cornell:

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Threaten a man's masculinity and he will assume more macho attitudes, according to a study by a Cornell University researcher.

"I found that if you made men more insecure about their masculinity, they displayed more homophobic attitudes, tended to support the Iraq War more and would be more willing to purchase an SUV over another type of vehicle," said Robb Willer, a sociology doctoral candidate at Cornell. Willer is presenting his findings Aug. 15 at the American Sociological Association's 100th annual meeting in Philadelphia.

In other words, I should try to threaten masculinity. How to do it …

Ah! I know. I'll put Zoe Brain (formerly known as Alan Brain) back on my permalinks. (That also requires changing the criterion from “Weblogs that aren't on the blogrolls of the Four Horsemen” to “Interesting weblogs.”)

I'd buy an SUV if I weren't waiting for the nuclear-powered version.

Addendum: Hmmmm… a Culture of Emasculation… That's what we need!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This Might Apply to Me

From Conservative Blog Taxonomy:

2. Michelle Malkin - Far-right affirmative action hire who is so bigoted she'd arrest herself for trying to cross a border.
Speaking as a bearded man, I've been tempted to search my own backpack while boarding a bus.

By the way, why haven't I been searched for the past week? Some people aren't doing their jobs!

Addendum: Maybe this is why I don't have to be searched.

The Palestinians Respect Their Fellow Soreheads

According to a CNN report:

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Jewish settlers remaining in Gaza rioted early Monday as the Israeli military began a historic withdrawal from the territory, Israeli police said.

In other parts of Gaza, police reported residents coming under fire from Palestinian militants.

Does that mean the Palestinian only fired on the saner settlers? It might make sense to pretend to be nuts.

If Israel is withdrawing anyway …

… how many bugs or listening devices are left behind? If Gaza isn't wired up and down the coast, Mossad didn't do its job.

That Does It!

Ann Coulter is now my least favorite conservative:

Meanwhile, every time Americans get a gander at these lunatics ranting about the "Great Satan" and the "Zionist entity," we can't believe we're at war with such a comical enemy. No wonder they dream of an afterlife with 72 hot teenage girls. These guys are klutzes. Nerds. Dweebs. In the Las Vegas of life they're at the convention center with the other "Star Trek" fans. Even in Pakistan, Siddique says he is "constantly laughed at & ridiculed."
She's comparing science-fiction fans to terrorists?

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Evolution, Facts, Theories, and Circular Reasoning

We have to distinguish between evolution and Darwin's explanation of it. Evolution is a fact. Darwin's explanation of it is the leading theory.

The really odd phenomenon is that the “reality-based community” (both the barking-moonbat wing and the RINO/neocon wing) is less inclined to make the above distinction than the supposedly-irrational Intelligent-Design advocates. It's common, in response to people advocating teaching the Intelligent-Design theory, for opponents to accuse the proponents of trying to smuggle in the Fundamentalist belief that each species was created separately 6000 years ago. This is sometimes combined with comparing the teaching of the Genesis creation myth to teaching other creation myths.

We might have a case of circular reasoning here. We know the ID advocates are idiots because they believe in a young Earth and we know they believe in a young Earth because they're idiots.

On the other hand, Intelligent-Design advocates usually don't mention that Darwinism is the leading theory to explain evolution and that there is no good reason to doubt it. If they want to teach the controversy, they might recommend courses in the origin of life instead. In that case, there is no clear leading theory.

On the gripping hand (can I use two Motie references in the same week?), there might be a leading theory a century from now.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Are Nerds Extremely Male?

I find the theory that nerds (currently known as people with Asperger's syndrome) have extremely-male brains hard to believe. I thought nerds were almost stereotypically un-macho.

On the other hand, males are over-represented in nerdier professions. Maybe there's a scale with nerds at one extreme and macho men at the other. If this theory is right, women would be rarely either nerdy or macho simply because they have a lower variance on the NM (a term I just made up) scale.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

If You're Planning to Be a Suicide Bomber …

… you'd better explode now. We will soon have ways to detect your intentions:

Teams at University College London and University of California in LA could tell what images people were looking at or what sounds they were listening to.

The US team say their study proves brain scans do relate to brain cell electrical activity.

The UK team say such research might help paralysed people communicate, using a "thought-reading" computer.

I Didn't Take It!

A reader arrived here via the query: where is my pancreas.

On the other hand, a possible reply would be: Turn left at the pylorus.

A Difference between Jewish and Catholic Bioethics

Quicksilver and Hirhurim criticized Eric Cohen's advocacy of a “A Jewish-Catholic Bioethics?” on the grounds there's a difference between Jewish bioethics and Catholic bioethics. Of course, there's a difference. They think there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Natural Family Planning (also known as the “rhythm method”). We disagree.

As for embryonic stem-cell research… There's no more reason to accuse Jews opposed to embryonic stem-cell research of taking orders from Catholics than there was a reason in the early 19th century to accuse Jews opposed to slavery of taking orders from Protestants.

Are Lawsuits Necessary?

April Thompson claimed she was fired because she refused to get an abortion. Aldahlia seems to think this is some kind of contradiction between Free-market conservatives and Pro-Life conservatives. Of course, anybody who actually bothered paying attention to Free-Market conservatives would be aware that we think the market will eventually abolish pointless discrimination.

On the other hand, this may be an attempt at bypassing skepticism. Not every pro-lifer is credulous. We'll have to find out how much actual evidence there is.

On the gripping hand, if this can be proved, potential customers may start wondering what other sleazy things the firm may be up to.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

There's a Disagreement Here

According to John Podhoretz:

The Talmud says any embryo-fetus under the age of 40 days is to be deemed "like water." That sounds harsh, though I believe its initial intention was to limit the emotional involvement of parents in the very early stages of pregnancy, when something like 25 percent of all fetuses naturally abort.
There is a wide variety of opinions in the Talmud on when a human life begins: at conception, 40 days later, 80 days later, at the beginning of labor, at birth, eight days after birth, or thirty days after birth. (In other words, if a pro-lifer left Judaism out of a supposed disagreement on abortion, we should try to get him or her back.)

Even the Union for Reform Judaism is willing to admit there's a Talmudic passage defending the claim that a human life begins at conception:

Antoninus said to Rabbi Judah Hanasi, “Does the soul enter the human being at the moment of conception or at the moment of formation?” The Rabbi answered: “at the moment of formation.” Antoninus said, “Can a piece of meat remain for three days and not putrefy? Obviously, the soul must enter from the moment of conception.” The Rabbi said, “This matter I have learned from Antoninus.”

-Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 91b

Eric Cohen had some additional arguments.

One possible way to reconcile these opinions is to use fuzzy logic.

On the other hand … If subsidies cause a technology to become bloated and overpriced, maybe we do want to subsidize embryonic stem-cell research.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Next Step after Intelligent Design

Red State Rabble has some suggestions, inspired by the Intelligent-Design movement, for teaching both sides. Most of those suggestions make so much sense that I'm beginning to take Intelligent Design more seriously …

The ACLU and Profiling

Did I just hear a representative of the ACLU defend profiling (with respect to the bag searches on New York's mass transit) on CNN?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Teapot Menace Continued

Indonesia is cracking down on teapots.

Misplaced Compassion

One of the commonest pro-abortion arguments is that miscarriages do not normally get funerals. My standard counterargument is that Jewish law does not authorize the shiva mourning period for the deaths of infants under thirty days old. At first sight, that looks like pointless cruelty. We have to consider the effects of holding any kind of ritual over a dead infant who was at the prime age for being offered to Moloch. For example, in the blog Abortion Clinic Days (seen via Dawn Eden), we see:

many years ago i remember a patient telling me that she chose our clinic because she could tell that we respected her and knew that we would therefore respect the life within her. it was very important to her that she have trust in the clinic she chose because she felt that, given her life circumstances, returning her baby to god was the kindest, most maternal thing she could do for it. i assured her that her feeling was correct, that we in fact do all we can to honor the life that women are unable to continue and we encourage them to find their own way to make peace with the pregnancy (whether it be a baby or a "pre-baby" to them), figure out how to forgive themselves and also to continue working through any religious or spiritual issues if they have them. we show all patients the section of the clinic where the brochures and handouts are kept and encourage them to take all they want home with them. in addition to the independently produced brochures, there are the publications of RELIGIOUS COALITION FOR REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE and CATHOLICS FOR FREE CHOICE. a while back, we interviewed many priests, ministers and rabbis to determine how we might refer women for pastoral counseling or, if the women preferred, to share some of the messages of hope that we have collected from various clergy. we are glad to be able to pass on those messages of hope and love that come from god via his clergy from various religions.
I suspect that infant sacrifice (cf. Jeremiah 7:31) started via a ceremony to mourn dead infants, which then turned into a ceremony to let the parents “forgive” themselves. This was followed by turning the ceremony into a celebration of death and it finally became regarded as a commandment from the local gods.

The following advice might sound compassionate, but it can be very dangerous:

Of course you aren't going to get pro-life and pro-choice people to get together and admit, "Yeah, the fetus is somewhat human, somewhat not," and make peace. Nevertheless, I think the Japanese have one answer: they mourn the aborted fetus. Perhaps the perception by some pro-lifers that abortion-rights supporters are callous about life could be mitigated if there was more public acknowledgement and ritualistic mourning, something that indicates that something not quite animal and not quite human was killed, if not in any rationally definable fashion, at least on some instinctive level.
Let's consider the effects of such ceremonies in Japan:

Read your Second Book of Kings, where the Israelites' backslide into degenerate Canaanite cultism is disdainfully described: "On top of every high place and under every big tree, shrines appeared." Then take a drive through the Japanese countryside and see if you can begin to count the shrines. And visit some of them. With their thatched roofs and splintery altars stacked high with citrus, are they not merely modified tiki-huts? These children of the Mikado should not be classed among the major Asian civilizations. They're island-hopping Polynesians who paddled their canoes a little too far north, and wound up over-financed by us.

If you unshade yourself from under the big tree, and traverse the high place, you will probably come to a temple outright, which is to say a fane dedicated to the local third-hand style of Buddhism. If this temple happens to be located in my depopulated and depressed neighborhood, it might very well look at first glance like an abandoned garden, poinsettias drooping over everything. It will be enclosed by four nostril-high walls, wattle and daub, topped by rotting pine bas-reliefs of fox demons scarfing fried tofu.

A greenish carp pond will send small belches of airborne murk to sink in around the graven lineaments of pagan idols, called jizos, nearly featureless under the granite pudge, looking like neonate Buddhas or Gary Bauer. Stacked at their toeless feet will be baby toys, canned food offerings, and mandarin oranges caved in like bottled fetus-heads in high school biology labs.

A dozen questions will pop into your mind about the pink bibs on those jizos: where do they come from, what do they signify, what invisible hands mend and replace them, and why are they the only elements of this scene that receive any kind of maintenance? This temple yard is such an obscure place of devotion that the food offerings have long ago been carted off by crows and mountain-roaming derelicts. But, even so, someone has been by to replace the bibs. They're pink as the bolt in the fabric store.

In answer to your questions, hear now the time-honored words of Japanese grannies preparing their granddaughters for womanhood: "Once you've contrived that he should cease to be, all you need to do is place a little piece of fish, or perhaps a dab of pork gristle, between the lips of the youngster after you expel him, before you burn him. He will not become a Buddha as a result of this dietary indiscretion. He will return to the cycle of metempsychosis, his tiny soul and penis 'recycled,' as your mother says of milk cartons and plastic bags. Perhaps, with any luck at all, he and not some other youngster will return to your household when the time for parenthood is riper. And if you're inclined to feel sentimental, stitch a few cozy pink bibs for the baby-sized jizo figurines in the temple yard."

One last point: Let's look at a quote from the supposedly compassionate abortionist Warren Hern (also seen via Dawn Eden):

In some cases, he has participated in Jewish and American Indian funeral rituals after the abortion, along with the family members.
If “Dr.” Hern participates in allegedly-Jewish mourning practices for aborted fetuses, those practices were probably invented on the spot.

 
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