Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harris on Meditation:

A short while ago I wrote:

Sam Harris and Robert Wright are an extremely important part of [a theory I am trying to articulate] because they too seem to be "on" to some of these things, but have credibility with hard nosed scientific, skeptically minded folks. Not that "credibility" with anyone matters in terms of truth discovery (that's just another form of the appeal to authority logical fallacy). But I do want to show that these things are compatible with hard nosed scientific skepticism and philosophy 101.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Chews Out End of Worlder:

With polite code.

From Thomas Jefferson to Reverend David Austin, January 21, 1802. The good Presbyterian Reverend convinced a following in New Jersey that Christ would return in May, 1776, the fourth sabbath. After he went bankrupt he "flooded" Jefferson's administration with requests for government jobs (see Lenni Brenner's book, p. 165).

To which TJ responded:

Having daily to read voluminous letters & documents for the dispatch of the public affairs, your letters have condemned a portion of my time which duty forbids me any longer to devote to them. Your talents as a divine I hold in due respect, but of their employment in a political line I must be allowed to judge for myself, bound as I am to select those which I suppose best suited to the public service. Of the special communications to you of his will by the supreme being, I can have no evidence and therefore must ascribe [all of] them to the false perceptions of your mind. It is with real pain that I find myself at length obliged to say in [common] terms what I had hoped you would have inferred from silence. Accept my respects & best wishes.
Mark Silk on Robert George's Platonic View of Marriage:

Here. Quote:

The authors believe that there is a Platonic form of marriage that is independent of any social or legal circumstances, consisting of the union of one man and one woman, sexually exclusive and long-lasting if not eternal. This is a species of natural law myth-making, less entertaining but scarcely more plausible than the tale of primordially conjoined male-male, female-female, and male-female creatures that Plato puts into Aristophanes' mouth in the Symposium. That famous myth imagines a world of heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians, each seeking its original other half.

George & Co. see Nature as authenticating only heterosexual unions. They ground this belief in body parts and functions: Because only one man and woman can engage in coitus at one time, and coitus is the only (natural) way of producing offspring to continue the human race, then "real marriage" can only consist in a male-female duo. Any other marital arrangement is not the real thing.


Societies make their rules according to their own evolving values--based on nature, custom, religious teaching, calculations of social utility, individual rights claims, and the politics involved in sorting out all of the above. Whatever merits the Georgian "conjugal view" of marriage may possess, nothing qualifies it as a timeless truth.

There was an interesting discussion of polygamy in the ellipses. I sympathize more with Silk's view of marriage than George's. George's natural law view does require an "input" (his Platonic myth) to end up with his "output" of conjugal marriage as the exclusive "natural" form of marriage. But an observation of nature just as much validates using what "Plato puts into Aristophanes' mouth in the Symposium" as our input which leads to a gay marriage output.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More on "Judeo-Christian":

At Religion in American History here. See in particular this comment by author Kevin M Schultz here. And this too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


This is something American Creation has yet to really touch. Hat tip First Things to this article. As it notes, the term was not invented until around the 1950s. President Eisenhower summed it up:

“Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

But as a commenter at First Things noted, George Washington and the other "key Founders" anticipated this concept, citing Washington's letter to the Jews. Yet, Washington also believed Muslims and unconverted Native Americans worshipped the same God Jews and Christians did, suggesting the need for a broader, more inclusive term like "theism" or "Providentialism."
Dixie Dregs Medley on the Tonight Show:

From 1993. T. Lavitz RIP.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Thinking Along the Same Track:

This blogger's post appears to have been deleted. The blogger, sadly, passed away. Though, in his final hours he discovered what I consider a very profound truth about life:

It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.

I wrote about this discovery here.

If you have nothing better to do than get caught up in mental rituals and fantasies that involve reliving the past or planning the future, so be it, it's your life and your happiness. But ideally, to get the optimal happiness out of life, the past and the future of you AND your loved ones should be little on your mind in a conscious sense. Rather, your mind should be, as much as possible, in the moment and in the present. You should be responsibly informed about future opportunities and threats to the well being of you and yours. But you should not get caught up in this stuff mentally or worry in an emotional sense. Worry in an emotional sense, as opposed to emotionally detached concern, about stuff, no matter how big or small or how real you perceive the threat, is always irrational and counterproductive.

Nothing should keep you up at night and make you lose sleep. If something, anything does, the problem is with you, not with your external circumstances.

The ideal person should be able to sleep well at night, facing the most tremendous pressures imaginable, like fighting in a war where enemy fire can take your life or where you are charged with potentially taking the lives of others in such a circumstance.

If one attained this ideal psychological state, a soldier could witness unimaginable horror, yet be free from post traumatic stress disorder, and continue to sleep well at night, without being anxious or depressed.

Rather things should work themselves out in an unconscious and subconscious way where you let go and let things happen without being distracted from the present moment. Similar to how a great jazz (or rock for that matter) improviser lets go and lets the music flow out of him without consciously thinking or planning on every note, which would ruin the music if he did.

This is the anti-neurotic way of life. Again, I'm not there yet (not even close); but it is a light at the end of the tunnel for me.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Fea, NYT, and Religion in American History on Barton:

To round out our recent discussions on David Barton. Here is John Fea on Barton on the Daily Show: Part I; Part II; more updates later. Here is Religion in American History. And here is a recent New York Times article on Barton.

Update: Fea Part III.
Update: More from Religion in American History on Barton.
Update: Fea part IV.
Update: Here is something from "Rock Beyond Belief."
Update: Here is Fea part V.
Update: More Ed Brayton on the incident.
Update: Right Wing Watch on the incident.
Update: Fea Part VI.
Update: Chris Beneke and Randall Stephens on the incident.
Update: Religion Dispatches on the incident.
Update: Fea Part VII.
Update: Fea part VIII.
Update: Richard Beeman on Barton on the Daily Show.
Latest From Chris Rodda on David Barton: