16 December, 2005

Libertarian Credentials?

Results from a Quizilla quiz:

Libertarian - You believe that the main use for
government is for some people to lord it over
others at their expense. You maintain that the
government should be as small as possible, and
that civil liberties, "victimless
crimes", and gun ownership should be basic
rights. You probably are OK with capitalism.
Your historical role model is Thomas Jefferson.


Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Although the questions are quite broad and lend themselves easily to misinterpretation, the quiz is amusing and won't take long.

08 November, 2005

Humor...ha, ha.

Over at Hit and Run (Reason magazine's blog), a humorous take on Benjamin Franklin's famous bon mot: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

04 November, 2005

A basic problem with "originalism"

I love Positive Liberty. It's one of those rare blogs that I can always depend on to be interesting and informative.

Jason Sandefur posts an article today wherein he examines a critical assumption underlying much of the "originalist" concern about "activist judges". To whit, that words have absolute meanings that don't or can't change over time. Although this may sound ridiculous on it's face, there's simply no other way to parse their objections in light of the context of reality.

Sandefur forms his critique by examining remarks made by one of our most prominent, if not the most prominent, originalists: Antonin Scalia. Specifically, a review of a popular legal work that Scalia wrote for the conservative Catholic journal First Things (an excellent if often infuriating publication). In his article, Jason lays out the basic metaphysical error being committed by Scalia and others like him. It's well worth the read.

Don Colxote, the Lord of PFMancha

Writing in the Prison Fellowship newsletter, BreakPoint, Charles Colson (former Nixon administration felon turned born-again Christian) attempts to enlist the aid of the HH Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in his quest to confound the evils of "scientific materialism" (Fundamentalist code-speak for "evolution"). Unfortunately for him, while the Dalai Lama may indeed be a fellow spiritualist, Colson's attempt to twist his words to align with his own goals falls far short of the mark.

Colson begins by noting that the Dalai Lama, writing in his most recent book The Universe In A Single Atom, rejects the metaphysical stance known as materialism. For Colson, this indicates some degree of consonance with his own, Christian, views. So far as it goes, this is true enough if unsurprising.

However, from this single point of similarity he goes on to make the following simply staggering non sequitur:
If this sounds familiar, it ought to: These are the very arguments that we have made here at “BreakPoint” and that other proponents of intelligent design make. In view of the profound differences between Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity, it simply isn’t credible to dismiss intelligent design as simply “a repackaging of [Christian] creationism.”
The logical implication of this statement is that a rejection of materialism equals an acceptance of ID. Aside from the fact that neo-Darwinism does not depend upon a materialist metaphysic, the fact that many Christians (non-materialists by definition) accept evoluion absolutely falsifies Colson's abortive argument. What's worse for Colson in this instance is that the Buddhist doctrine of "dependent origination" explicitly rules out any first cause and the Buddhist teachings on causality rule out any intelligent direction on the course of the development of life. We are left with the reality that although Buddhists share the Christian denial of materialism, they cannot be supporters of ID.

So what does the Dalai Lama have to say about evolution in his book? Well, nothing specific that I can find, however he does have the following to say about science:
My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
In this he's certainly different from the main class of creationists, Colson no doubt included.
Buddhism must accept the facts — whether found by science or found by contemplative insights. If, when we investigate something, we find there is reason and proof for it, we must acknowledge that as reality — even if it is in contradiction with a literal scriptural explanation that has held sway for many centuries or with a deeply held opinion or view.
Again, no creationism here, and a very high opinion of science.
As my comprehension of science has grown, it has gradually become evident to me that, insofar as understanding the physical world is concerned, there are many areas of traditional Buddhist thought where our explanations and theories are rudimentary when compared with those of modern science.
Well, it doesn't seem like much of a leap to posit that the Dalai Lama very likely has no problem with evolution, contrary to Colson's attempt to paint him as a fellow traveler.

Clearly Colson is way off the mark in using the Dalai Lama as an example to attempt to demonstrate that ID isn't just a "repackaging of Christian creationism". In reality, of course, ID is just that.

Colson closes his article by portraying the pro-evo crowd as academic bullies, attempting to silence scientific dissent:
It is the close-minded academics who are being dogmatic, foreclosing scientific inquiry. They call even the merest mention of scientific evidence suggesting that life couldn’t have arisen as a result of an unplanned, random process as “religion,” and they throw it out.
There are a few problems with this:

1) The biological theory of evolution has nothing to do with how life arose, but how current forms have arisen from a common ancestor.

2) Evolution isn't random; this is a common creationist error. Mutations are random, but natural selection is anything but.

3) There simply is no credible scientific evidence that calls the neo-Darwinian paradigm into serious question. This "evidence" to which Colson refers is based on religious belief and speculation arising from that belief. Anyone who doubts this has merely to look at the amount of real scientific research being done into ID: none. Contrast that with the vast amounts of PR and political sleight-of-hand being employed and the reality becomes quite clear: ID is nothing but our old friend, creationism, in some spiffy new clothes.

30 September, 2005

Where's the outrage?!?

Jason Kuznicki of Positive Liberty has an excellent, must-read article on the travesty of justice that is the current administration's treatment of Jose Padilla. Anyone interested in the state of liberty in "the home of the free" would do well to take heed.

Bookworms of the World, Unite!

From Majikthise via Pharyngula comes the notion of the "Most Challenged Books Meme". How many of the American Library Association's 100 most-frequently-challenged books have you read? (Mine in Bold)

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

That's 24 by my count. I used to think I was well-read...

29 September, 2005

Living Fossils!

This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Ten years ago, an Australian forestry worker was hiking in the outback and came across a pine tree that was unlike any he'd seen before in the area. He took a fallen branch home with him and it eventually found its way to botanists who were able to identify it as a species believed to be extinct for about 2 million years. Amazing huh? Sort of like the coelacanth.

The best news, however, is that seedlings are being grown and will be offered for sale sometime around April 2006! The site indicates that they'll make good patio or potted plants or "feature trees" in a large park or garden. Now I've just got to find the right place for it...

13 July, 2005

Rant 'o the day...

I love my iPod. Really, I do. I've ripped about 50% of my CD collection (about 250 or so) and carry it around with me on that tiny, but incredibly useful device. I also love the way that iTunes automatically puts in the track titles, disc title, composer, etc. when a CD is ripped, but why, oh why, can't it do this consistently on multi-CD collections?

It's terribly annoying to be copying a 3 or 4 disc recording of an opera or audiobook and have each disc come up with a different format. For example, the first track on the first disc will be "Act I, Scene I" or "Chapter 1" but the first track on the second disc will be the title of the song, or the name of the book, or some other inconsistent label. If I leave them like that, it makes it more difficult to find the correct tracks when listening, so I have to edit each track's title separately so they'll match.

Why does this happen? It happens whether I use iTunes, Media Player, or RealPlayer, so I know it's not the software. I'm betting it's the discs themselves, but why wouldn't the recording companies want the tracks to be consistently labeled?


11 July, 2005

The Case of the Constrained Pharmacist

Independent, local newspapers are great. With so much of the media today swallowed up by huge corporations, it's good to get more of a "grassroots" sort of voice.

I read Greensboro's Rhino Times on a more or less regular basis. Although I'm not quite in lockstep with the overly (and openly) conservative bias, it's coverage of local issues is usually quite good. But I do have to take issue with them now and again.

Like this exchange between a reader and the editor (John Hammer) dealing with the brouhaha over pharmacists refusing to fulfill certain perscriptions due to alleged moral issues:

John, come out of your pervasive vegetative state for just a moment. You do not hire a pharmacist to dispense religious dogma. You hire him to dispense drugs.

Editor’s Note: No one is asking a pharmacist to dispense religious dogma, but a pharmacist should not be forced to dispense drugs that violate his own religious beliefs, just like a restaurant owner should not be forced to serve alcohol.
Ummm...a particularly inapt analogy. Very few pharmacists actually own the pharmacies at which they work. A better analogy might be, "a pharmacist should not be forced to dispense drugs that violate his own religious beliefs, just like a waiter or waitress should not be forced to serve alcohol." But, of course, that doesn't serve John's purpose

But at a restaurant that does serve alcohol, I daresay any waiter or waitress who refuses to serve it to a paying customer on alleged "moral grounds" would likely be in danger of losing his/her job. I know that if I owned the restaurant, they surely would be.

The point is, no person should be forced into doing something that is against their religious or moral beliefs. However, particular job functions do unfortunately require particular actions. "Pharmacist" requires the dispensing of prescription drugs based upon a doctor's specifications and subject to state and national law and the procedures of the particular pharmacy. If the owner of the pharmacy has determined that birth control or other medications are to be dispensed at the pharmacy, then the pharmacist is in dereliction of his/her job responsibilities to refuse to dispense them.

Pharmacists who find themselves unable to dispense certain medications would be well advised to seek alternate employment, commensurate with their high moral standards.

Ah, the start of a delightful new blogging enterprise. One can only hope that it will end better than my last one (with the same title, but now defunct).

It's my intention to provide not only the (ultimately) boring and commonplace thoughts that occupy my mind from day to (variable) day, but insightful and witty (yeah, right!) commentary on current events, both local and otherwise.

Occasionally I may link to some of my other online writings, as well (oh woe betide my ill-fated readers!)...

And all from the comfort of my desk!