Questionable Motives

October 27, 2009

How can something come from nothing?

astronomyWonderful video that captures some of the excitement and wonder that comes through studying physics.


Monsters Real and Imagined and the Moral Imagination

Filed under: Culture,Education,Entertainment,Philosophy — tildeb @ 12:25 pm

cookie monsterMonsters (okay, maybe not Cookie Monster) can stand as symbols of human vulnerability and crisis, and as such they play imaginative foils for thinking about our own responses to menace. Part of our fascination with serial-killer monsters is that we (and our loved ones) are potentially vulnerable to sadistic violence—never mind that statistical probability renders such an attack almost laughable. Irrational fears are decidedly unfunny. We are vulnerable to both the inner and the outer forces. Monster stories and films only draw us in when we identify with the persons who are being chased, and we tacitly ask ourselves: Would I board up the windows to keep the zombies out or seek the open water? Would I go down to the basement after I hear the thump, and if so, would I bring the butcher knife or the fireplace poker? What will I do when I am vulnerable?

The monster concept is still extremely useful, and it’s a permanent player in the moral imagination because human vulnerability is permanent. The monster is a beneficial foe, helping us to virtually represent the obstacles that real life will surely send our way. As long as there are real enemies in the world, there will be useful dramatic versions of them in our heads.

Read the entire article from The Chronicle of Higher Education here.

Recommendations for gender segregation on public transport from the ‘Rabbis Committee on Transport’? Why isn’t this a joke?

Filed under: civil rights,Law,Politics — tildeb @ 12:04 pm

flying rabbisSegregated seating by gender on public transportation is actually a ‘controversial’ issue in Israel. Not satisfied to sit on their laurels after pretending to protect the Holy Land from H1N1 by blowing on ram horns, beating on drums, chanting prayers and shaking noise sticks from an airplane, thank goodness the real experts – of the religious kind, of course, and in this case rabbis – are once again ready, able, and willing to apply their expertise on all things as interpreters of God’s will, where discrimination on the basis of gender must be ratified as being pious. What folly. When will be people grow up, put aside their childish beliefs, and treat others as they themselves would like to be treated?

Read the article here.

October 26, 2009

Teach the ‘controversy’? No, not Stork Theory for human babies but something even more ridiculous…

sadpuppy5More than half of British adults think that intelligent design and creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school science lessons – a proportion higher than in the US.

In the US, of 991 adults responding to the survey, which was organised by the British Council, 51% agreed that evolution should be on the curriculum alongside other theories, like intelligent design.

Across the 10 countries, 43% agreed with this statement. Read the article here.

Our education system is failing, people. Why not include all the other controversies like Stork Theory… as long as enough people want it? If what is probably true, probably correct, probably accurate doesn’t really matter to a majority of of citizens as this poll seems to indicate, then why bother ‘teaching’ anything at all? What role can knowledge from honest inquiry really have when unjustified belief is held to the same degree of respect within our our education system as justified beliefs? This makes me a sad puppy.

Religious editor of Newsweek smack down

Filed under: Atheism,Criticism,Entertainment,Media,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 3:29 am

Atheist ALisa Miller at Newsweek thinks she has raised a legitimate point in her article Two white guys walk into a bar… criticizing the approach to religion by New Atheists. It’s late, I’m tired, and maybe she has a point. But then comes a response by Jerry Coyne to wake me up and remind us atheists what’s really at stake here. For a thoroughly enjoyable smack down, go here.

What does ‘right to marriage’ mean? Why?

gay rightsBut the opinions, I believe, should convince a reasonable person that constitutional law, and therefore courts, have a legitimate role to play in this divisive area, at least sometimes, standing up for minorities who are at risk in the majoritarian political process.

The future of marriage looks, in one way, a lot like its past. People will continue to unite, form families, have children, and, sometimes, split up. What the Constitution dictates, however, is that whatever the state decides to do in this area will be done on a basis of equality. Government cannot exclude any group of citizens from the civil benefits or the expressive dignities of marriage without a compelling public interest. The full inclusion of same-sex couples is in one sense a large change, just as official recognition of interracial marriage was a large change, and just as the full inclusion of women and African Americans as voters and citizens was a large change. On the other hand, those changes are best seen as a true realization of the promise contained in our constitutional guarantees. We should view this change in the same way. The politics of humanity asks us to stop viewing same-sex marriage as a source of taint or defilement to traditional marriage but, instead, to understand the human purposes of those who seek marriage and the similarity of what they seek to that which straight people seek. When we think this way, the issue ought to look like the miscegenation issue: as an exclusion we can no longer tolerate in a society pursuing equal respect and justice for all.

A long but excellent critique by Martha Nussbaum of the legal rights involved in marriage and how the state plays such a pivotal role here.

Tax the Church like we would any other good corporate citizen

Filed under: civil rights,Education,Human Rights,Media,Medicine,Religion — tildeb @ 12:50 am

popeAbortion is illegal in the Philippines, though birth control and related health services have long been available to those who can afford to pay for them through the private medical system. But 70 percent of the population is too poor and depends on heavily subsidized care through the public health system. In 1991, prime responsibility for delivering public health services shifted from the central government to the local authorities, who have broad discretion over which services are dispensed. Many communities responded by making birth control unavailable.

More recently, however, family planning advocates have been making headway in their campaign to change this. Legislation before the Philippine Congress, called the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services — from condoms and birth control pills to tubal ligation and vasectomy. It would also mandate sex education in all schools, public and private, from fifth grade through high school.

So who is against this? Yup. You guessed it: the Roman Catholic Church is once again getting involved in secular democracy’s business.

The main opposition in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country has come from the church and affiliated lay organizations, which say the proposed law would legalize abortion.

Read the article here.

If the Church is okay with getting involved in local politics and funding campaigns to affect public policies – and it obviously is more than just okay with the notion – then isn’t it high time the Church and all it properties – like any other business that funds lobby group to act on its behalf – be taxed?

October 25, 2009

Is atheism scientific?

Filed under: Atheism,Criticism,Philosophy,Science — tildeb @ 12:11 am

skepticismMassimo Pigliucci of Rationally Speaking thinks not and offers criticism of those who do in his post On the Scope of Skeptical Reasoning. Jerry Coyne of Why Evolution Is True, and one of those accused of thinking atheism is scientific offers this rebuttal.

October 24, 2009

What’s wrong with Human Rights Watch?

Filed under: Criticism,Human Rights,Middle East — tildeb @ 11:49 pm

Human rights watchAS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

A timely and thoughtful opinion piece from Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, who was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998.m

This week in swine flu…

Filed under: Biology,Medicine,Science,vaccination — tildeb @ 8:45 pm

medicineStill not sure if the swine flu vaccine is a good idea? An excellent compilation of swine flu articles through Discover magazine here.

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