Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Against ‘Pro-Israel’ - Opinionator Blog -

Against ‘Pro-Israel’ - Opinionator Blog - "Foxman said the perspective attributed to Biden and Petraeus “smacks of blaming Jews for everything.”

Foxman’s claim may seem hyperbolic, but look at it this way: If he can convince us that blaming any Israeli policy for anything is akin to blaming Jews in general for everything, then anyone who criticizes an Israeli policy will be deemed anti-Semitic — and fear of that label will keep everyone from criticizing Israel. And by virtue of never criticizing Israel, we’ll all be “pro-Israel.” And that’s a good thing, right?"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tear down the wall of silence in the Roman Catholic Church. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

Tear down the wall of silence in the Roman Catholic Church. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine: "Almost every week, I go and debate with spokesmen of religious faith. Invariably and without exception, they inform me that without a belief in supernatural authority I would have no basis for my morality. Yet here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked. Yet let the subject be the rape and torture of defenseless children, and at once every kind of wiggle room and excuse-making is invoked. What can one say of a church that finds so much latitude for a crime so ghastly that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

book notes

Demonic Males by Richard W. Wrangham

Eating roots may have been the adaptation that allowed hominids to transition from woodland to savannah, also explaining the thicker tooth enamel humans have compared to other apes.

Primitive humans today are very similar to chimps in size of communities, size and behavior of raids, and patri-lineal organization.

The hominid antecedent was probably were chimp-like in its behavior, including war. (which begs the question of whether its uniquely war-like behavior was what made it the only species to jump into self-aware intelligence_

"The motivation of a male chimpanzee who challenges another's rank is that he forseesmore matings, better food or a longer life. . .The temperamental goal is to intimidate the opposition, to beat them to a pulp, to erode their ability to challenge. Winning has become an end in itself."

Discussion of sexual mimicry among female hyenas -- females may mimic males as an adaptation to avoid conflict with other famales.

Spotted hyenas are always born as twins -- with the stronger twin killing the weaker or more vulnerable one because of limited mother's milk. As an adaption, infants emerge from the womb with fully formed teeth and strong jaws.

"Demonic males gather in small, self-perpetuating, self-aggrandizing bands. They sight or invent an enemy "over there" . . . The nature of the divide hardly seems to matter. What matters is the opportunity to engage in the vast and compelling drama of belonging to the gang, identifying the enemy, going on the patrol, participating in the attack."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The New Commandments | Culture | Vanity Fair

The New Commandments | Culture | Vanity Fair:
Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color.
Do not ever use people as private property.
Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations.
Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
Do not condemn people for their inborn nature—why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them?
Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly.
Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife.
Turn off that fucking cell phone—you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us.
Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions.
Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

book notes

The Big Questions

Mathematics is irreducibly complex but cannot be the product of intelligent design (since design requires choice)

Monday, March 08, 2010

A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook. - By Vaughan Bell - Slate Magazine

A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook. - By Vaughan Bell - Slate Magazine: "A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both 'confusing and harmful' to the mind. The media now echo his concerns with reports on the unprecedented risks of living in an 'always on' digital environment. It's worth noting that Gessner, for his part, never once used e-mail and was completely ignorant about computers. That's not because he was a technophobe but because he died in 1565. His warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press."