- 1 -
No clever theme this time, as I'm using the quick takes for exactly the purpose it's creator intended it for: It's been a crazy week here in DarwinLand, and I find myself at the end of the week with only one real post and an amusing video posted, and lots of fractional posts on the back burner that never got completed. The first half of the week, MrsDarwin took the kids up to visit some old friends who were spending time on a farm in Michigan. I stayed behind, which worked out well because my big project at work blew up and I found myself putting in twenty hours or so between Sunday afternoon and Monday night.
In the back half of the week, MrsD and I were both trying to catch up on rest, while the kids were responding the way kids to do indoor highs in the upper eighties (we have no A/C in the new-old house) and it not becoming fully dark until 9:30 or so.
- 2 -
Leah of Unequally Yoked, who ran the Religious Turing Test (which I still keep meaning to write about), had up a post the other day noting the spat that developed between Jennifer Fulwiler writing at National Catholic Register and PZ Myers, the atheist doyen who fills roughly the same spot in the atheist/science-blogger world as Fred Phelps does in Christianity, except that a surprising number of atheists seem to imagine he's someone worth listening to.
Leah notes that one of the primary complaints of PZ and his followers is that Jenn was clearly never a "real" atheist (and probably No True Scotsman, either) and indeed that complaints that a convert from some belief system to another "was never really a true X" are fairly common and asks, "How do you gauge the validity of someone's abandoned beliefs?"
I don't think it's possible to externally gauge the extent to which someone honestly held the beliefs that they held in the past. Even the former believer himself is usually not very good at that in retrospect. However, it is possible to gauge how well someone is able to express the beliefs which they claim to have formerly held. Thus, for example, as a Catholic if someone tells me, "I used to be a really well educated Catholic, but then I realized that if you break the Eucharist it doesn't bleed, and when you bite it it doesn't taste like flesh, so I knew that all that teaching about transubstantiation was just idiotic," I know that however sincere that person may have been in the past about his Catholic faith, he didn't have a clear understanding of what Eucharistic doctrines actually state.
- 3 -Always eager to find another way to shape public behavior, some people are suggesting that a tax be imposed on soft drinks and other unhealthy foods, and the money used to fund a subsidy for vegetables and other healthy items. From what I know of the price elasticities involved, I'd believe that a high tax on soda (the proposal is to tax at $0.02/oz, thus adding $1.44 to the price of a six pack of 12oz cans) would drive demand down a bit -- or shift more people to diet since the proposal is to tax on the real soft drinks, not the fakes.
However, I'm pretty skeptical that a subsidy on green vegetables would actually result in much higher consumption. While I'm told that the price of arugula at Whole Foods remains pretty rough, the price of romaine and spring mix at the average Kroger or Safeway is really not that bad. Living off fresh vegetables and fruits is arguably cheaper than living off potato ships and soft drinks. The difference is that people really like junk food (for a biologically explainable reason: once upon a time before we got really good at growing food sugars and fats were harder to come by, so our bodies are designed to crave them.) Plus, junk foods are highly portable in a way that most greens aren't. (A salad starts to look a little tired after a day or two, while chips and soda keep for months if not years if unopened.) Often convenience is at least as big a driver of behavior as price -- as shown by the fact that "universal health care" hasn't actually driven down the over-use of emergency rooms, despite their higher cost they're open when people are available to go to the doctor.
- 4 -A few weeks ago, Ross Douthat cited the statistic that in the 70s barely over half of well-educated Americans agreed that adultery is always wrong. This got John Sides thinking, and pulling data from the General Social Survey. It turns out there has in fact been a steady trend of people who have completed grad school or college becoming more disapproving of adultery since the '70s. Razib looks at the same data and separates out male and female attitudes.
- 5 -I've had some back-and-forth with Alex Binder of Christian Economics about the Modern Money Theory and its implications. Hopefully more discussion on that to come in the future.
- 6 -My path in life seems to usually put me in the company of people slightly older than myself -- in great part, I imagine, because I hit a lot of life milestones (marriage, children, career, etc.) at what is considered a young age by mainstream standards. Thus, I often hear people at work talking about the creeping sense that things they had wanted to do while while young, things they'd dreamed of, may not be possible.
As we settle into the new job, income, house, milieu, etc. I find myself starting to look forward to possibilities which seem, to me at least, particularly middle aged. Maybe at some point we won't have a kid nursing and we will have enough money to take a vacation together. For several days. Somewhere nice. Maybe someday we'll go back to Europe -- and have the money to stay in hotels instead of hostels and eat at restaurants instead of subsisting on bread, cheese and wine. (Though that wasn't bad...)
I recall catching up with some friends of my parents a few years ago, whose youngest kid had just moved out, and hearing about how they'd gone to stay in Paris for a week. Somehow that seemed a revelation. My idea of progressing through life had unthinkingly been: Run around and see a few things without spending any money while in college, get a job, get married, have kids, stick to that routine till you get feeble and then die. (Of course, that could happen too.)
- 7 -
It's a good thing our garden is a means of recreation rather than subsistence, because so far all we got out of it was a few rounds of salad before new rounds of lettuce refused to sprout any more. (too hot, perhaps) But soon, very soon, we should be absolutely buried in tomatoes. Big, heavy, tomatoes. Watching these monsters grow larger and larger is certainly a pleasing sight after years of trying to grow tomatoes in Texas and finding that with the heat we could only get one or two full size tomatoes off each plant (though we did get lots of cherry tomatoes.)