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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,885

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I had lunch with Richard Dawkins today.

I sat right across the table from him.

Background: My atheist group, FLASH, hosted Dawkins, and toured the Everglades with him, a couple of years ago. (I couldn't make the 'glades trip. ) He's now on a book tour, and did a major event in Miami. He suggested we have a luncheon with some FLASH members. About thirty people attended.

He was with us about two hours. Lunched and small talked for 45 minutes, and then started a discussion. He had no prepared remarks, but addressed the issue he termed "tokenism." That is, that fighting over slogans, mottoes, and pledges is a distraction. (And he also cited, and acknowledged the opposing views.) He feels the major issue is the notion that children automatically inherit the religion of their parents. As in "these are Jewish children," rather than "these are children of Jewish parents." He pointed out that we don't address republican children, or humanist children, or logical positivist children, so why only religious indoctrination?

Our local group, and some allied groups, have been battling some installations of religious monuments around the state. One of the allied groups is the Satanic Church (an ironic name) and Dawkins expressed some curiosity. He wondered at the PR of calling themselves that, since they are atheists. He suggested we should be after religious tax exemption. And there was consensus on that. Basically, there were two main topics: questions on evolution and genetics, and on ways to improve atheist public relations.

He also reiterated the notion that he can't be absolutely sure there is no creator -- just as he cannot be absolutely sure there are no unicorns and leprechauns.

Bonus! The luncheon was held at a golf club that is literally around the corner from where I live. The food was good. Italian buffet. Weather 70F. and sunny.


When a politician answers with, "I am not a scientist," the follow-up should be:

Is that a recusal?

Maybe abstention?


Hard to see how Benghazi won't be a disaster for the Republicans.

It is destined to become a major punchline and unavoidable cliche. And it will mean this investigation long after people have forgotten what the initial incident was. Look for future faux investigations to be suffixed with "-ghazi" the way we apply "-gate" to any alleged government deception.

I have taken to using it as a greeting.


A mathematical relationship does exist. It's called a correlation.

Since we're not projecting a proof, the level of analysis is incidental to the data. I notice a correlation between umbrellas and water falling from the sky. Is there a causality? It needs to be determined. The same correlation exists between umbrellas and windshield wipers. Causality? The other possible explanations are coincidence and error, which can be revealed by replication.

In the case of CO2 there is some deduction that enters the picture. CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG.) (If you fill a vessel with it, and shine a light on it, it gets warmer than an identical vessel-light combination filled with air. Happens every time.) And then, the incidence of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 40% in the industrial age. That's after a million years of virtually no change. The conclusion implied by those premises is that the atmosphere is warming.

The predictions based on those models were set down 40 years ago. Temperatures, ocean levels, glacial decreases, droughts, storms, etc. It's happening. The warming, its feedbacks, the climate sensitivity -- is pretty much settled, unless you have some revolutionary information. If it's not CO2 behaving as predicted and expected, burden is on you to show how, and what it then might be. Solar cycles, Milankovitch cycles, and obliquity cycles have been proposed, and ruled out. You'll have to think up something new, and a way of detecting it.


The Housemartins are too square for my taste. The Silver Bells rock!

Music (and art) are not religion, or products of it. They are creative works of varied inspiration or motivation, real or imaginary, and for me, it's the final product that counts. I'm quite sure that at least some of the great composers, that collected honoraria for them, were not believers in the doctrines they presented.

I like them if they're good, dislike them if they suck, and subject rarely matters as I pay little attention to what they say. And if anything, I'm more interested in how the lyrics work, than what they mean. How many words would you have to change in a song like Light My Fire, to turn it into a pounding Christian prophesy?

I listen to a lot of music sung in languages that I don't understand. I don't know if what they're saying is anything better than what I think they're saying. It's sung in its way -- and I take inferences from the tone, but sometimes it's hard to tell if someone is extolling his god, or trying to get laid.


On edit: I answer my own question: If, in Light My Fire, you replace "baby" with "Jesus," and "love: with "faith," the prophesy is true!

Why a "full-employment economy?" That's crazy.

With automation, simply speaking, a small minority of people can accomplish all the work that needs to be done. For example, in a few years there won't be human taxi drivers. Individuals perform tasks that occupied huge masses, and that power is growing exponentially.

Moreover, to create unnecessary tasks to employ people, will lead to destruction of resources that we, as a society, will need to preserve.


I just had carotid artery surgery -- indicated by optical symptoms.

My symptoms were a monocular blockage of sight, with translucent transmissions, which I identify as amaurosis fugax. And a zigzag pattern that would develop over my field of vision, called scintillating scotoma. Both have been referred to as optical or ocular migraines, with no headaches. They occurred once a week or so.

These are sometimes signs of blockage of the carotid artery, which can be detected with ultrasound and MRA scans. I had both, and was in surgery the day after, for a carotid endarterectomy -- a reaming out of the artery that delivers blood to the brain.

My surgeon told me I was in line for a major stroke. My artery was almost totally blocked. It's almost four weeks since the surgery, and so far the visuals are gone.

Yes, life is good!


Economist Michael Hudson: "...this is pure, naked class war."

HUDSON: Well, it's sort of like The Hound of the Baskervilles, where Sherlock Holmes said the important thing is that the dogs didn't bark. When the government printed $13 trillion to give to the banks after the 2008 breakdown, nobody complained at all about the fact that the government can simply print the money, pour it into the economy, and do something. Nobody's complaining about the increased war spending that we're doing, the waste that the Pentagon [incompr.] war.

Why is it that all these complaints are only focused on one particular small part of the budget, Social Security and medical care and health care? And the reason is this is pure, naked class war. There's no other word for it. You can't believe that people are being honest when they don't talk about the whole budget or the overall economy when they're singlemindedly tunnel-visioned, focused only on how do we pay retirees less, so that we can give the bankers more when President Obama continues the bank deregulation he's doing. You have the idea that they're cutting back pensioners, cutting back Social Security, in order to be able for the next big bank bailout.


On edit: A link to the video. Quite informative.


Chaos theory. It's called the "Butterfly Effect."

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

My interest though, (beside having spent some student time in Paris,) is sort of with the ironies of language and my recollections of the trends. Dr. King spoke of "Negroes" and Malcolm X talked about "black people" and my father, a WW II vet, a liberal, referenced "colored people," thinking, I'm sure, that it was the most respectful form of address at the time. And "Afro-Americans" was big for a while, as long as the hairstyle anyway.

Writer Stanley Crouch, referred to himself as Negro to emphasize his American ancestry, differentiate from Jamaicans, or Haitians, or Brazilians who are also black.

Never having been black myself, I lament the lost opportunities. What were they thinking? What was I thinking? It's a kind of nostalgia.


How many school massacres are there, anyway?

Yes they get much media, but this is a very rare event. There are many thousands of schools, and very few homicidal maniacs.

Arming teachers for something that will never happen is dumb.

And in those rare instances, there's no guarantee the teacher will prevail. And those teachers who are not Dirty Harry will nevertheless be regarded as primary targets.

As a teacher, I have taught students that made things appear in places they could not have been. I wouldn't want to guard a gun against them. I have also had students with violent criminal records.

By the way, I own a gun. I think bringing it in to a classroom is crazy.

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