5 January 2010

Workout notes I’ll probably wait until the temperature gets into the 40s before I swim outdoors (1-2 miles?)

(via Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub)

Along these lines:

David Brooks notes the Rise of the Tea Bag Movement:

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

A year ago, the Obama supporters were the passionate ones. Now the tea party brigades have all the intensity.

The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy — with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation.

The tea party movement is mostly famous for its flamboyant fringe. But it is now more popular than either major party. According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 41 percent of Americans have a positive view of the tea party movement. Only 35 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Democrats and only 28 percent have a positive view of the Republican Party.

(hat tip: fellow USNA alum Lee)

The interesting thing is that the tea bag types benefit from stuff that the educated class comes up with (medicine, computers, feats of engineering, even the internet). I’d love to let them have their own country just to see how they would do.

New Atheism (via Recursivity)

Yesterday I talked about an article that spoke of being polite while “not giving an inch” on the ideas. I agree with that sentiment. I’ll use an analogy: many parents gush on and on about their kids (they are “smart”, “amazing”, “wonderful”, etc.) But on statistical grounds, most of their kids are, well, rather average in most everything that they do. After all, those students that I get who struggle with, say, watered down calculus have parents. 🙂

But it would be very rude to tell these gushing parents that to their face, UNLESS they asked a question like “does my little darling X have what it takes to get a Ph. D. in mathematics”, or should “my little darling Y go all out to make the Olympic 10K team” in which case I should answer honestly.

But at the same time, I am not going to start believing their inflated claims about their kids.

The same goes for religion: I am not going to troll my facebook friends “gushing with religion” posts, nor am I going to picket a church service. That doesn’t mean I am going to swallow their religious ideas and it doesn’t going to mean I won’t write about such ideas here and elsewhere. Of course, when it comes to policy decisions, I’ll openly denounce proclamations such as “teach creationism in science class” or “don’t worry about global warming because god is in charge” as complete nonsense.

So, in this vein, I still see that there is a need for “new atheism” even if the ideas of “new atheism” aren’t really new:

But it might appear that scrutiny of religion’s claims is not an urgent task, at least not if the scrutiny is conducted in public, and especially not in modern, apparently secular, Western democracies. Hasn’t religiosity become rather unobtrusive since the bad old days when heretics were burned? So why is there any need to engage in strong, publicly prominent criticism of religious teachings, the organisations that promote them, or the leaders of those organisations? Perhaps rational critiques of religion should be available somewhere – maybe in peer-reviewed philosophy journals – but no great effort should be made to debunk religion in popular books, magazine or newspaper articles, media appearances, and so on. Or so it might be argued. In that case, it might be said, the New Atheism is unnecessary, and perhaps even undesirable. Why offend people, why stir up distrust and division, as the Four Horsemen seem to do?

I disagree. In the 1970s, or even the 1990s, it was possible to think religion had been declawed, and that further challenges to religious philosophies, institutions, and leaders were unnecessary. On this view, all the hard work had been done, and religion was withering away after the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, Darwin, and the social iconoclasm of the 1960s. Against that background, it became taboo to criticise religion in the public sphere; it was widely assumed that religion was retreating, in any event, and didn’t need to be fought anymore. Attacks on people’s “deeply-held beliefs” even smacked a little of cultural imperialism.

Atheists and sceptics should, no doubt, defend secularism. But if we are realistic, we will understand that the idea of secularism has little traction in societies where the authority of religion is considered legitimate and taken for granted. For many religious groups, moreover, secularism is not an attractive ideal. Advocating secularism and directly challenging the authority of religion should not be viewed as two alternative strategies for atheists and sceptics who wish to resist the political influence of religion. Rather, these strategies are mutually supportive and ought to be pursued in tandem. That is the lesson that we need to learn.

In short, there is plenty of reason to challenge religions and contest their doctrinal claims, not just as an academic exercise, but as a matter of real urgency. Atheists and sceptics should deny the authority of religious organisations and leaders to pronounce on matters of ultimate truth and correct morality. This will require persistent, cool argument, but also moments of outright denunciation or even unashamed mockery of religion’s most absurd actions and truth-claims.

We should never flinch from expressing the view that no religion has any rational warrant – that these Emperors really have no clothes – and that many churches and sects promote cruelty, misery, ignorance, and human rights abuses. Yes, there are liberal forms of religion, but whatever good will we might feel towards them should not make us hesitate to speak uncomfortable truths. In particular, we ought to insist that religious leaders are not our moral leaders, despite their affectations.

Surf to the article to read all of it.


January 5, 2010 - Posted by | atheism, politics, politics/social, religion, travel

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