Links this week 2
“Playboy: Hasn’t religious faith just as often served as a civilizing influence?
Sinatra: Remember that leering, cursing lynch mob in Little Rock reviling a meek, innocent little 12-year-old Negro girl as she tried to enroll in public school? Weren’t they — or most of them — devout churchgoers? I detest the two-faced who pretend liberality but are practiced bigots in their own mean little spheres. I didn’t tell my daughter whom to marry, but I’d have broken her back if she had had big eyes for a bigot. As I see it, man is a product of his conditioning, and the social forces which mold his morality and conduct — including racial prejudice — are influenced more by material things like food and economic necessities than by the fear and awe and bigotry generated by the high priests of commercialized superstition. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m for decency — period. I’m for anything and everything that bodes love and consideration for my fellow man. But when lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday — cash me out.”
(Sinatra – possibly the greatest white male vocalist in the swing/jazz idiom. A lot of his stuff is just well made pop; but some of it is astonishingly on target.)
[Alexander Schmidt-Lebuhn August 22, 2014 • 11:37 pm]: “Well no, mathematics is anything but studying physical objects. It is the study of abstract concepts.”
(I’ve got comments there; the author of the article has a very slippery argumentative style that he seems unaware of.)
“This is one of the very biggest things about Christianity that bothers me: the selfishness it inspires. People believe that when things work out well for them, god has smiled on them, god has granted them favor because they are worthy. The problem with this thinking is that, logically, it would follow that when things don’t work out well for people, god has deemed them unworthy. So this God of Goodness plays favorites. Or at least he plays head games.”
(A personal narration of salvation without god.)
“Demons may be out to steal your soul, but they are obviously sticklers for good grammar, regardless of the language the xenoglossolalia manifests in. While I’ve long suspected my sixth grade English teacher was in league with the forces of darkness, I had no concrete evidence until researching the subject. Just remember that the next time some insufferable clod points out your incorrect usage of the Oxford comma, they are simply trying to display a superior command of grammar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t pure evil, and remind them, as Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne said, “The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”. Plus, if you sign a pact with the Devil, make sure you copy edit. That’s not the sort of thing you want returned to you covered in proofreading marks.”
(Once again, a problem with with grammar.)
“It’s an unanswerable question, by design, and my response was often to answer with another flippant question, “Why would there be nothing?” Victor Stenger has pointed out that the question inherently assumes that “nothing” is more natural than “something”. Maybe nothing is inherently unstable.”
(I’m working out this problem with nothing, but maybe it’s just nothing very important.)
“So whether we are confronting poverty and racism or education, we all must begin with who is complicit.”
(All right, then what to do about it?)
“No, I think that the genetic program of brain development has evolved to help free the frontal cortex from the straightjacket of genes. If the frontal cortex is the last part of the brain to fully mature, it is by definition the brain region least shaped by that genome and most sculpted by experience. With each passing day, the frontal cortex is more the creation of what life has thrown at you, and thus who you become.”
(We were just doomed to be stupid in our youth – but that might be a good thing?)
“Certainly we should treat those malefactors who are mentally ill, irrational, or incapable of persuasion differently from those who can be persuaded to reform via rational argument. No determinist says otherwise. But that rehabilitation and punishment must be determined by three things: a.) the liability of an offender to be rehabilitated, and the best means of doing so; b.) the likelihood of recidivism (pedophiles, for instance, are more likely to relapse than are other criminals); and c.) the deterrent effect of punishment on others. And of course it can be useful to persuade people to be rational, for it’s possible to reprogram someone’s brain by that form of environmental input. (It’s a common misconception that determinists don’t believe that their behavior can be changed by others.) But I see no rationale for claiming that rationality somehow makes me less of a biochemical puppet.”
( Bloom’s reply: )
(Clarification of the free will vs determinism issue from Jerry Coyne.)


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