North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Some links and a joke

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I have been hanging on to a few links in the hope of finding time to say something brilliant about them. Since that hasn’t happened yet, am going to entrust them to you in unvarnished form. Oh, and there’s a joke at the end but no fair jumping ahead.

Links, as promised:

  • Philosophical Powers – readers interested in philosophy will find these entries amusing. Others will probably be puzzled. I particularly like the bit about the Plato action figure including a book titled “Plato’s Guide to Shadow Puppets: step-by-step instructions on how to make fun and convincing animal shapes with nothing more than your hands and a bright light!”
  • American Conservative has a number of writers asking what conservatism is. Hint: it’s not the same thing as neoconservatism. I liked this bit from John Lukacs: “Let us face it: the isms are becoming wasms. Conservatives should be better off than liberals because while liberalism is an ism, conservatism is something of an oxymoron, since a conservative ought to be opposed to any kind of ideology. Meanwhile, Original Sin—a conservative, not a liberal, recognition—continues to exist. The real enemy is now the (outdated) idea of Progress, together with the (thoughtless) belief in Technology. Conservatives should be the first to recognize that. If they don’t, their demise will be worse than that of the liberals who, after all, had won—though only on one level and too late. A conservative who fails to protect and to conserve is nothing but a radical loudmouth of a bad sort.
  • Robert Novak has an excellent response to Heather MacDonald’s American Conservative entry. MacDonald is a terrific writer and I had no idea that she was an atheist until I read her entry today. Novak, a Catholic Christan like myself, responds much as I have tried to do with many Atheists I have met on this blog over the years.
  • This entry by Mark Shea was thought provoking. What year are you? I suspect that I am both 1919 and 2006.

These two links are about the relationship between science and religion, and argue, as I do, that the two are neither opposite or identical. They are intertwined and the main reason we fail to see this because of an ongoing factional dispute in our academic society.

The Toronto Star story is about the use of analogy in mathematics:

“Mathematicians don’t talk a lot about analogy in mathematics,” says Simon Kochen, Henry Burchard Fine professor of mathematics at Princeton. “Not because it isn’t there, but just the opposite. It permeates all mathematics. It is pervasive. It’s a powerful engine for new mathematical advances.”

Mathematics, which I have the highest respect for, is often the bulwark on which those who oppose religion and science rest their case. But if there is an creative, interpretive element here, then their case looks shaky indeed.

Most people can be forgiven confusion on difficult subjects of religion, science and epistemology, however. Such subjects are difficult and time consuming, and unless you are willing to crack open some books, it’s unlikley the popular press will be of much help.

KC Cole writes in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Every science writer I know has had the experience of readers coming up to them and saying: “Gee, that was fascinating; I didn’t understand it, but I’ve been thinking about it all day.” Readers often inquire about books where they can read further on a subject, or even primary sources.

Editors, however, seem to absorb difficulty differently. If they don’t understand something, they often think it can’t be right — or that it’s not worth writing about. Either the writers aren’t being clear (which, of course, may be the case), or the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about (in some cases, a given).

Why the difference? My theory is that editors of newspapers and other major periodicals are not just ordinary folk. They tend to be very accomplished people. They’re used to being the smartest guys in the room. So science makes them squirm. And because they can’t bear to feel dumb, science coverage suffers.

Ok, as your reward for reading this far, here is the joke I promised:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what?” “Well… are you religious?” He said yes. I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?” “Christian.” “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant ? “Protestant.” “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God!” “Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off. (Emo Philips)

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Written by Curt

August 16, 2006 at 6:51 pm

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