Fortnightly Book, February 7
47 minutes ago
1. Each claim is independently assessed. You make a Thor or a YHWH claim, and I will take each one separately.Maybe I'm unduly narrow in what I tend to consider "empirical" (indeed, it seems to me essential to science to be pretty restrictive with the term) but I can certainly see why (for all of Wilkins' rigor as a thinking) this is not an appealing worldview to most people. Indeed, I can't help wondering if it's even a livable worldview for life as a whole (as opposed for one's specifically scientific activities).
2. For each claim my first question is: is there a factual claim here that is empirically decideable?
3. If so, has that claim been empirically disconfirmed? [Does that god require belief in something false?]
4. If so, be atheist about that claim.
5. If not, be agnostic about that claim.
The lengthy finale of Fox's "American Idol" dominated the final night of the television season despite coming in down about 20% vs. a year ago, while ABC's season-ender of "Lost" was also down vs. its close of a year ago but was a strong No. 2 for the night.According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, "American Idol" is expected to average roughly an 11.5 rating/31 share in adults 18-49 and 30.4 million viewers overall for its finale from 8 to 10:09 p.m., down from the 14.2/35 in the demo and 36.4 million viewers overall when the finale was contained to 124 minutes.Of course, what's telling is that with a viewership of 30.7 million viewers, the number of votes for this year's finale of AI was 74 million. That's a high turnout even by Chicago standards.
In my view, this is utter nonsense. Indeed, it is not merely utter nonsense, it is literally nonsense, and it is not something that I think any intelligent person can reasonably endorse.
Three non-fiction books everyone should read:
1. Confessions by St. Augustine - (I thought of putting the Bible, but that seemed too smart-ass somehow.)
2. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - A book calculated to bring mist (if not a tear) to the eyes of any book lover.
3. Euthyphro by Plato - There are deeper and longer dialogues, but that's the one that really made things "click" for me and was something of a watershed work.
Three books of fiction everyone should read
1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - The best Catholic novel, and one of my favorite novels of any sort.
2. The Divine Comedy by Dante - Though I do feel a little odd putting it under "fiction".
3. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - There is no funnier book.
Three authors everyone should read
1. Fyodor Dostoevsky (perhaps the world's most brilliant novelist)
2. Anthony Trollope (because what is life without charm -- that "great English blight")
3. J.R.R.Tolkien (who somehow answered the 20th century's questions by never writing about the 20th century)
Three books no one should read
I'm always hesitant to saying that no one should read something (I have a feeling it's good for my soul that The Index doesn't exist any more, as I'd be more inclined to read things because they were on it it.)
1.Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin - Having known some people who thought it was a wonderful book...
2. Anything by Danielle Steele (because if you want to kill brain cells there are better ways to do it)
3. Anything by L. Ron Hubbard (need one say more?)
And adding my own section because I didn't want to have to decide between them and prose authors:
Three Poets Everyone Should Read:
(Okay, so my poetry reading is very conventional -- but at least it's good.)
Using neurology patients to probe moral reasoning, the researchers for the first time drew a direct link between the neuroanatomy of emotion and moral judgment.This is really interesting stuff, but I think where some caution needs to be kept is in announcing that this is the "source of" morality. After all, I imagine that neuroscientists have or soon will have identified that part of the brain that registers color. If that part of the brain were injured or removed, someone might be reduced to seeing the world in shades of grey rather than in color, but this would not in turn mean that color is a creation of that part of the brain. Color would still exist, the person in question would simply be unable to discern color without outside aid.
Knock out certain brain cells with an aneurysm or a tumor, they discovered, and while everything else may appear normal, the ability to think straight about some issues of right and wrong has been permanently skewed. "It tells us there is some neurobiological basis for morality," said Harvard philosophy student Liane Young, who helped to conceive the experiment.
In particular, these people had injured an area that links emotion to cognition, located in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex several inches behind the brow. The experiment underscores the pivotal part played by unconscious empathy and emotion in guiding decisions. "When that influence is missing," said USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, "pure reason is set free."...
At the University of Iowa Hospital, the researchers singled out six middle-age men and women who had injured the same neural network in the prefrontal cortex. On neuropsychological tests, they seemed normal. They were healthy, intelligent, talkative, yet also unkempt, not so easily embarrassed or so likely to feel guilty, explained lead study scientist Michael Koenigs at the National Institutes of Health. They had lived with the brain damage for years but seemed unaware that anything about them had changed.
To analyze their moral abilities, Dr. Koenigs and his colleagues used a diagnostic probe as old as Socrates -- leading questions: To save yourself and others, would you throw someone out of a lifeboat? Would you push someone off a bridge, smother a crying baby, or kill a hostage?
All told, they considered 50 hypothetical moral dilemmas. Their responses were essentially identical to those of neurology patients who had different brain injuries and to healthy volunteers, except when a situation demanded they take one life to save others. For most, the thought of killing an innocent prompts a visceral revulsion, no matter how many other lives weigh in the balance. But if your prefrontal cortex has been impaired in the same small way by stroke or surgery, you would feel no such compunction in sacrificing one life for the good of all. The six patients certainly felt none. Any moral inhibition, whether learned or hereditary, had lost its influence.
To these obvious points, I add that the "Golden Rule" is much older than any monotheism, and that no human society would have been possible or even thinkable without elementary solidarity (which also allows for self-interest) between its members. Though it is not strictly relevant to the ethical dimension, I would further say that neither the fable of Moses nor the wildly discrepant Gospel accounts of Jesus of Nazareth may claim the virtue of being historically true. I am aware that many Christians also doubt the literal truth of the tales but this seems to me to be a problem for them rather than a difficulty for me. Even if I accepted that Jesus—like almost every other prophet on record—was born of a virgin, I cannot think that this proves the divinity of his father or the truth of his teachings. The same would be true if I accepted that he had been resurrected. There are too many resurrections in the New Testament for me to put my trust in any one of them, let alone to employ them as a basis for something as integral to me as my morality.One is tempted to echo the two word review of Spinal Tap's "Shark Sandwich" album, but instead allow me to indulge in the "write in haste, be fisked at leisure" trope.
Paul Henry Smith, a conductor who studied as a teen under Leonard Bernstein, hopes to pull off an ambitious performance next year: conducting three Beethoven symphonies back-to-back in a live concert. "Doing Beethoven's symphonies is how you prove your mettle," he says.You can test your ear by listening four samples, three of which are real orchestra, and one of which is entirely computerized.
But Mr. Smith's proof comes with the help of a computerized baton. He will use it to lead an "orchestra" with no musicians -- the product of a computer program designed by a former Vienna Philharmonic cellist and comprised of over a million recorded notes played by top musicians.
Amid all the troubles facing the classical music world in recent years -- from declining attendance to budget cuts -- none has mobilized musicians more than the emergence of computers that can stand in for performers. Musicians have battled with mixed success to keep them out of orchestra pits in theaters, ballets and opera houses. Now, a new alliance of conductors, musicians and engineers is taking a counterintuitive stance: that embracing the science is actually the best hope for keeping the art form vital and relevant. They say recent technological advances mean the music now sounds good enough to be played outside the touring musicals and Cirque du Soleil shows it is typically associated with.
Among their arguments: Aspiring composers who couldn't otherwise afford to have their creations performed by an orchestra can now commission a high-quality computer-generated recording for a fraction of the price. For communities facing the loss of their orchestra, it could be a way to keep performances in town -- even if it means a computer stands in for half the players.
There by Captain Ferrers meeting with an opportunity of my Lord’s coach, to carry us to the Parke anon, we directed it to come to the play-house door; and so we walked, my wife and I and Madamoiselle. I paid for her going in, and there saw “The Labyrinth,” the poorest play, methinks, that ever I saw, there being nothing in it but the odd accidents that fell out, by a lady’s being bred up in man’s apparel, and a man in a woman’s. Here was Mrs. Stewart, who is indeed very pretty, but not like my Lady Castlemayne, for all that.Which for whatever reason reminds me of Chaucer's interview with a young 'lady' who is also not all that...
"If you're up to it, I'd like to see a list of your favorite non-atheist, brilliant writers and artist of this 'atheist age'. It seems like this fella never picked up anything by JPII or Benedict if he thinks that there are no more mighty scholars today. I'm sure you can name many more excellent non-atheist writers, but are there any current, non-atheist composers or artists that are worth checking out?"Well call me on it why don't you...