Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Recovery from vegetative state ...

Here's another case of a recovered "vegetable." Imagine if you knew that people thought you were dead - but you weren't.

By the way, Harvard materialist cognitive scientist Steve Pinker wonders whether
Would it be consistent with our moral principles to give parents the option of euthanizing newborns with birth defects that would consign them to a life of pain and disability?
A friend points me to Life Without Limbs for a reality check. Here's the audio file.

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According to a new theory ... on weight gain

Your friends are to blame for your weight problem.

Imagine that! They ate the blintzes. You gained the weight! Someone better revisit the laws of physics.


Turkey and non-liberal secularism

My Turkish friend and colleague Mustafa Akyol interprets Turkey's tangled politics with a clarity beyond praise.

Turkey deserves close attention because there secularism is not in the least liberal.
Although the AKP has been in power since 2002 and has carried out a very successful program of political and economic liberalism--in the classic sense--Turkey’s staunchly secular establishment never fully trusted the party that had (?) started as a liberal offshoot of a more radical Muslim thinking. Thus while the AKP leaders defined themselves as “conservatives,” Turkey’s secularists continue calling them “Islamist,” a label designed to tarnish their image, at home and abroad, as some Taliban-style Muslim totalitarians. Therefore the political battle in Turkey, which reached its tipping point when Turkish generals issued a harsh “secularism memorandum” on the night of April 27, has commonly been defined as a power struggle between “Islamists” and “secularists.” And for the uninitiated foreigner, it was easy to presume that the former is bigoted and xenophobic, and the latter is open-minded and pro-Western.

Yet the true picture is exactly the opposite. While the AKP is a strong proponent of free markets, civil liberties and Turkey’s European Union bid, the secularist opposition, led by the People’s Republican Party, rejects all these objectives. The secularists actually think that most of the liberal reforms the AKP has spearheaded during the EU process are in fact part of a plot cooked up by Western “imperialists” designed to dilute Turkey’s national sovereignty. A series of recent bestsellers by a die-hard secular conspiracy theorist, Ergun Poyraz, is a good indicator of this zeitgeist. His “investigative” books paranoidly argue that the AKP leaders--and their headscarved wives--are in fact crypto-Jews who collaborate with the “Elders of Zion” to destroy Turkey’s secular system.

The correct way of interpreting Turkey’s power struggle would be in fact to define it as a conflict between liberal Muslims and illiberal secularists.

Of course, it's not really that hard to understand. Secularists are never liberal when they see no advantage to themselves from freedom of thought, or conscience, of markets, of the press, or whatever. If they are materialists, they do not in fact believe that there is even a divine spark in their fellow humans that must not be snuffed out.

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Bumper stickers from the world of militant atheism

At least they are more obvious than the Darwinfish logo.

For many years I assumed that the Darwinfish was - well - ANTI-evolution.

What fish wants feet? What feet want fish attached to them? I assumed that a Christian group had thunk that one up to attack materialist evolution theories.

Actually, too many of the linked slogans suffer from the same problem. They assume you already know and care about the sloganeer's issues. If not, tahellwitcha!

For example, the "Santa will save me" jibe. Hey, at my age, Santa CAN'T save me. I'M Santa, whether I have money or not.

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History files: A materialist's view of science

A friend directs my attention to this:
"Such in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins-all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

- Bertrand Russell, first published in a journal in 1903. Published in
Mysticism and Logic, Chapter 3, of "A Free Man's worship" (1929)

It is strange to think that tens of millions of people lived and died assuming that that vision of life was more or less true, that science's job was to confirm it, and that they somehow had to find love among the ruins.

The actual situation is pretty much the opposite. Whatever is true, that vision is not true. Time to wake up from the nightmare and see what really is true. It's not easy but it's not despair either.