March 6th, 2007
In this article from the NY Times, Anthropologist Scott Atran argues that humans are hardwired to believe in the supernatural–a contention I agree with, despite the fact that I’m an atheist myself. But here’s an anecdote Atran cites as proof:
[Atran's] research interests include cognitive science and evolutionary biology, and sometimes he presents students with a wooden box that he pretends is an African relic."If you have negative sentiments toward religion," he tells them, "the box will destroy whatever you put inside it." Many of his students say they doubt the existence of God, but in this demonstration they act as if they believe in something. Put your pencil into the magic box, he tells them, and the nonbelievers do so blithely. Put in your driver's license, he says, and most do, but only after significant hesitation. And when he tells them to put in their hands, few will.
If they don't believe in God, what exactly are they afraid of?
It seems pretty obvious to me what they are afraid of: a painful electric shock and the sudden appearance of Ashton Kutcher bellowing “YOU GOT RELIC’D!!”
Under these circumstances, I, too, would be be wary of the professor’s convoluted reassurances as to the safety of the box. That’s called skepticism, not faith.
The 2008 presidential race is as engrossing as “Mile two” of the Boston Marathon. “Oh my goodness, Giuliani has pulled within 30 feet of McCain. With only 24.1 miles to go, this has turned into a real nail-biter!”
Presidential campaigns are always ridiculous, but, nearly two years before the actual election, this one has already taken absurdity to a whole dumber level. The latest fashion in manufactured outrage is Candidate A demanding that Candidate B apologize for remarks made by Idiot C.
It’s a trap, of course. If Obama apologizes for one of his donor’s remarks, then he’ll have to apologize for the remarks of all of them. If Romney denounces Coulter’s latest comment, he is, in effect, saying “Coulter speaks for me, except in this isolated incident.”
Several prominent bloggers, on both the left and the right, have made careers of reprinting the stupidest thing ever written by someone on the other side (usually the 113th comment, by someone named “TrueAmericanPatriot71,” in a thread on freerepublic.com or democraticunderground.com) and saying “OMG this is what everyone who disagrees with us believes!!!” This practice appears to have percolated upward.
People said that blogging would transform politics. That prediction looks to be coming true.
CRITICS SAY US ATTORNEY FIRINGS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED
I was going to write a Sternly-Worded Email to NPR over a news story they ran last Thursday, but I can’t seem to scare up the audio on their website (apparently “Top of the Hour” newscasts aren’t publicly archived), which means that I have to recreate the offending passage from memory. And as my memory has more holes that 80’s-era acid-washed jeans, my letter would basically come down to “I’d like to call your attention to piece of NPR reporting I have largely fabricated that MADE ME SO ANGRY!!”
Fortunately, I have a place for my wildly inaccurate and unreasonable screeds. It’s called a “weblog,” or, for short, my “eblo.”
Anyway, on a story on the fired attorneys, the reporter said (something to the effect of):
Administration officials claim that that the attorneys were all dismissed for performance-related reasons; Democrats in Congress, however, say that six of the eight fired attorneys had recently received favorable evaluations."
Nnnnnrrrrgh! This drives me crazy!
Dear NPR: Did six of the eight fired attorneys recently receive favorable evaluations, or is this just something the Democrats in Congress "say"? If you don't know, why not do a little research and find out? If you know this to be true, (and you do, if you read the New York Times), why not state this as a fact?
I understand your desire to come across as balanced, but if one side in a debate makes a contention ("they were dismissed for performance-related reasons") and there is evidence that refutes the claim, you can't just ascribe it as an opinion of the other side and call the piece "objective." "Objectivity" doesn't mean "bending over backwards to accommodate both sides," it means "bending over backwards to accommodate reality."
ALSO THE WEEKEND PUZZLE IS WAY TOO HARD PLEASE INCLUDE SOME WORD SEARCHES
Well, nothing new there.
Ohhh, Hillary Clinton …