Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Devil and Mr. Jacob

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

As if beating a five-term congressman wasn't hard enough, John Jacob said he has another foe working against him: the devil.
"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."
Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.
Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he was counting on to finance his race.
"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.
Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."
No shit.

Well, John, you know what they say: "You will never get the crowd to cry Hosanna until you ride into town on an ass."

(P.S. If you feel like commenting upon this story, you don't have to do it in cinquain form.) Read more!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Enjoy the weekend . . . (cinquain only edition)

This is an open thread with a difference. Every comment you submit must be in the form of a cinquain. I really must insist upon this rule; and if you find your comment has been edited/removed, it's most likely to be because you haven't observed the rule.

Cinquains come in two varieties. The more traditional variety is known as a word cinquain, and generally follows this pattern:
First line: one word (the subject of the cinquain)
Second line: two words (a description of the subject)
Third line: three words (action describing the subject)
Fourth line: four words (the poet's feelings about the subject)
Fifth line: one word (a synonym for the subject)


More difficult
than it seems.
(Unfortunately, no other comment

The other variety is an American version of the haiku, and is known as a syllable cinquain:
First line: 2 syllables
Second line: 4 syllables
Third line: 6 syllables
Fourth line: 8 syllables
Fifth line: 2 syllables



These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow... the hour
Before the dawn... the mouth of one
Just dead.

--Adelaide Crapsy

Topics . . .

--The Hitler vs. Coulter Quiz (Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)
--Are you a "Bright?"
--Why? Why? Why?
--On the Difficult of Being Realistic in this World (
--Adrian Cahill on taxpayer-funded porn filters (Not Safe For Work)

--Food for thought from the threads at Pharyngula.
--The Snake oil has landed . . .
--Is sexual orientation biologically determined?

not: cinquains and
cinquains only. Here are
some variations you might wish
to try
. Read more!

Navel-gazing: Part Two

Your Career Type: Investigative

You are precise, scientific, and intellectual.
Your talents lie in understanding and solving math and science problems.

You would make an excellent:

Architect - Biologist - Chemist
Dentist - Electrical Technician - Mathematician
Medical Technician - Meteorologist - Pharmacist
Physician - Surveyor - Veterinarian

The worst career options for your are enterprising careers, like lawyer or real estate agent.

Too bad I'm training to be a teacher, then.

Via Life of a Melburnian. Read more!

Navel-gazing: Part One

According to this Myer-Briggs Personality Test (via Infinite Possibilities), my type is INTP.

Strength of the preferences:
Introverted: 56%
Intuitive: 12%
Thinking: 12%
Perceiving: 33%

Qualitative analysis:
I am:

--moderately expressed introvert
--slightly expressed intuituve personality
--slightly expressed thinking personality'
--moderately expressed perceiving personality

INTP type description by D.Keirsey
INTP type description by J. Butt

Now that I've finally taken the silly test, can somebody please tell me what it all means? Read more!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Naturalistic fallacy

At Iain's* blog, he writes:

It is not tradition that defines marriages primary purpose but our biology.
Human beings like all of the great apes give birth to young that are incredibly dependant upon their mothers for a very long time. To successfully raise their young Human beings rely upon a pair bond between the mother and father of that child to share the care and nurture. It makes biological sense that a male should want an exclusive relationship with the female because then he can have some level of certainty that the offspring he helps nurture will be those to which he has contributed his DNA. As a human female is ready to produce more young before the first is mature it makes biological sense that subsequent offspring should be by the same father as this will extend the duration of the child rearing bargain between them.
It takes no stretch of the imagination to realise that formalising this arrangement with rituals and cultural practice and we call that formalisation marriage.
There fore if marriage is the formalisation of a biologically defined activity(reproduction) then the biological activity(reproduction) is the primary purpose of marriage.
Brigid Gread responds:
Actually, Iain, since you choose to base your argument on the premise that marriage is formalisation of the biological need to procreate, you certainly are advocating polygamy. According to psychologists, anthropologists and zoologists the world over, polygamy is nature's way of ensuring genetic survival; very few species are naturally monogamous because the male procreates and moves on in order to increase the likelihood that his progeny will survive. Dr Robert Winston's BBC series was very big on the idea that human monogamy is highly artificial and runs contrary to instinct. So, suggesting that marriage is primarily biological is rather paradoxical; sociologically it's little more than a social ritual, and on that basis the gender of its participants really shouldn't matter.

None of this is to suggest that I support polygamy, mind you. But if you want to play the 'biological necessity' card, then be careful where it might lead you.
Quite. Many animals (lions, for example) will practice infanticide in the interests of gene preservation.

Anyway, Iain's reasoning here is faulty on several other counts:

1. He gets the biology wrong when he asserts: "It makes biological sense that a male should want an exclusive relationship with the female because then he can have some level of certainty that the offspring he helps nurture will be those to which he has contributed his DNA." It's the gene that is "selfish," remember, not the organism. From that point of view, as Brigid correctly argues, polygamy is a far more efficient method of gene preservation than monogamy. (Besides, prior to the 1950s, no-one knew they were contributing DNA to anything!)

2. He is begging the question: insofar as in order to prove a link between marriage and biology, he presupposes it.

3. Given that the same-sex marriage debate is concerned with marriage laws (and whether and how they should be altered), the "primary," "secondary," "tertiary" and even "quaternary" purposes of those laws are whatever the drafters and interpreters of those laws happen to think they might be. It has nothing to do with biology (which is to say, the purposes of marriage laws, whatever they may be, are not biologically determined). And laws can be changed (just as they withe respect to the legality of homosexuality.

4. Even if we were to accept that the "primary purpose of marriage is reproduction," and I for one don't, wouldn't this be at least an argument in favour of allowing lesbians to marry--given the reproductive technology now available to them (e.g. sperm donation, IVF, etc.)?

(*In spite of the fact that this is the second of two consecutive posts taking issue with Iain's remarks at his blog, I am not waging a "bash Iain Hall" campaign!) Read more!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Come again?

From Boltwatchwatch:

all that I say is that if you are having unprotected sex with a woman there is a possibility that you may become a father even if you believe you are infertile. I have a good friend who after having four children decided to have a vasectomy the following year his very faithful wife was expecting their fifth child his vasectomy had reversed its self .Like wise there have been verified accounts of women who have had their uteruses removed that have become pregnant and become pregnant and had a child . [emphasis added]
And just this morning, I saw the Virgin Mary herself in my cheese toastie . . .


The Book of Lego

The Brick Testament.

(Via Panda's Thumb) Read more!

Back to Kant?

Much has been made over the two most recent terms of the Howard Government of the need for Australian schools to teach "values"--one of the legacies of Brendan Nelson's tenure as Education Minister (alongside blackmailing schools to fly the flag) was a $29.7 million push to make "Values Education," a bullet-point approach to the teaching of ethics, a core element of the curriculum. Conservative columnist Christopher Pearson cites approvingly a piece written by the University of South Australia's Sue Knight and Carol Collins, in which they question the prominence of "tolerance" in the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools and emphasise the importance of teaching kids how to engage in "reasoned moral decision-making." (Pearson's approval quickly turns to scorn, however, when it is suggested that students might use their capacity for moral decision-making to make judgements about Howard government policies he happens to agree with, such as locking up children in desert camps.)

I wonder, then, if the need to make the teaching of critical thinking a core component (or at least, a component) of the curriculum is not equally as pressing? Bruce raised a similar point in comments on an earlier thread regarding same-sex marriage--a debate mired, by and large on the "anti" side, it must be said, in tortured rhetoric and fallacious reasoning aplenty. One only has to look at Andrew Bolt's* recent ill-considered venture into the gay marriage debate, in which he wields the time-honoured slippery slope fallacy--for which he has been repeatedly torn a new one by Mr Lefty--by suggesting that legalising same-sex marriages will lead to legalised polygamy, to come to the conclusion that we should perhaps forget Simpson and his donkey, and brush up on our Kant!

An in-depth overview of the place of critical thinking within education can be found here.

*This is surely a jump-the-shark moment for Mr Bolt, recalling Ann Coulter's similar jumping-of-the-shark in her equally ill-considered venture into the evolution "debate." Then again, many will say that both of them jumped the shark long ago.

UPDATE: Ann Coulter has been torn a new one herself by columnist Mike Argento. Read more!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Vale Liberal Democracy

"There is not going to be a decimation of living standards, there's not going to be a destruction of the democratic rights of the Australian people, there's not going to be an abuse of power by this Government." (PM John Howard, 2004)

"It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy … I love the Republic. The power you give me I will lay down once this crisis has abated." (Sen. Palpatine, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away)

Cue Imperial March . . .

Read more!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Land of my fathers . . .

Call for papers:

If things are 'un-Australian' it must be because they come from UNAUSTRALIA.
Where is it?
Who lives there?
How does it come to be?
What is its past and what is its future?

While raising some very local questions of critique and desire, the theme is open to international perspectives and interpretations.
Do other places have their own unplaces? What goes on there?

UNTHEMED papers are also welcome.

More details here.

Read more!

A new front in the abortion debate?

Rhythm method criticised as a killer of embryos (New Scientist)

Read more!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dogfight at the Water Fountain

According to saint, when heterosexuals marry they enter into a "multidimensional relationship which strengthens and supports harmonious relationships throughout society and supports the raising of children."

Bring any two gay people within ten feet of an altar or registry office, however, and what you have is "a unidimensional self centred relationship which undermines and reduces the value of every other marriage and promotes the commodification of children."

Gay civil unions "devalue" hetero marriages, you say? How so?

In the same way that the water in this fountain would somehow be tainted if we let Negroes drink from it?

Saint prompts us to

Notice the usual reaction (to the Howard government's decision to block the ACT civil union Bill):

"This is a homophobic decision ... it is arrogant and undemocratic," Mr Corbell told reporters.

Corbell's right, of course. And saint has just proved him right--by implying, in the comparison he makes between hetero marriage and gay marriage, that homosexual relationships themselves are "unidimensional" and "self-centred," and that a child is "commodified" if the people who raise him are in a same-sex relationship. (No evidence forthcoming, or even an explanation of why this is the case, but this is the anti-same-sex-marriage crowd we're dealing with.) Anyone who asserts the above, and at the same time professes "But I'm not anti-gay" is . . . well . . . perhaps we should defer to Hanlon's Razor on that one.

And get this:
Like I said, activists and advocates for gay marriage - particularly on the Labor side of politics - are their own worst enemy.

But then, hardly surprising given that they don't think about anyone but themselves

Right. Because the more noble and "selfless" move would be to desire continued discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage law. This guy should be writing editorials for The Australian!

UPDATE: THE GAY AGENDA OUTED!!!! (thanks to Mr Lefty) Read more!

Master morality?

"The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life. Certainly it cannot have gone unnoticed that their membership is recruited, in the overwhelming main, from the lower orders - that no man of any education or other human dignity belongs to them. What they propose to do, at bottom and in brief, is to make the superior man infamous - by mere abuse if it is sufficient, and if it is not, then by law.

"Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob's hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil."

-- H. L. Mencken
Read more!

Monday, June 12, 2006

With apologies to Mr Lefty

A Case Of Murder

Vernon Scannell

They should not have left him there alone,
Alone that is except for the cat.
He was only nine, not old enough
To be left alone in a basement flat,
Alone, that is, except for the cat.
A dog would have been a different thing,
A big gruff dog with slashing jaws,
But a cat with round eyes mad as gold,
Plump as a cushion with tucked-in paws---
Better have left him with a fair-sized rat!
But what they did was leave him with a cat.
He hated that cat; he watched it sit,
A buzzing machine of soft black stuff,
He sat and watched and he hated it,
Snug in its fur, hot blood in a muff,
And its mad gold stare and the way it sat
Crooning dark warmth: he loathed all that.
So he took Daddy's stick and he hit the cat.
Then quick as a sudden crack in glass
It hissed, black flash, to a hiding place
In the dust and dark beneath the couch,
And he followed the grin on his new-made face,
A wide-eyed, frightened snarl of a grin,
And he took the stick and he thrust it in,
Hard and quick in the furry dark.
The black fur squealed and he felt his skin
Prickle with sparks of dry delight.
Then the cat again came into sight,
Shot for the door that wasn't quite shut,
But the boy, quick too, slammed fast the door:
The cat, half-through, was cracked like a nut
And the soft black thud was dumped on the floor.
Then the boy was suddenly terrified
And he bit his knuckles and cried and cried;
But he had to do something with the dead thing there.
His eyes squeezed beads of salty prayer
But the wound of fear gaped wide and raw;
He dared not touch the thing with his hands
So he fetched a spade and shovelled it
And dumped the load of heavy fur
In the spidery cupboard under the stair
Where it's been for years, and though it died
It's grown in that cupboard and its hot low purr
Grows slowly louder year by year:
There'll not be a corner for the boy to hide
When the cupboard swells and all sides split
And the huge black cat pads out of it.

Read more!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Enjoy the weekend . . .

*Darwin Award nominee, via

*Perhaps the second worst argument against same-sex marriage--the argumentum ad antiquitatem--courtesy of saint.

*Austin Cline's post on the relationship between atheism and agnosticism does seem, as Gerry argues, to have neatly killed agnosticism as a distinct third category. And rightly so.

*More Christian materialism, via Pandagon.

*Seed Magazine on "The Gay Animal Kingdom."

*Australian philosopher of science John Wilkins offers a species description of creationists. Read more!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Today's Text

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

-- Epicurus

(c/o Positive Atheism) Read more!

Bleg: How influential is the Christian Right in Australia?

Homophobe and Australian Christian Lobby spokesman Jim Wallace has come out in support of the Federal Government's decision to overturn the ACT's civil union laws, boasting "We do not believe that such a minority of the population should be able to force their world view of . . . how marriage should be structured (on the majority)." Two years ago, he issued the following press release:

The securing of the institution of marriage by the amendments to the Marriage Act has been a great victory for Christian values in the nation. However it has also been a real sign that the Church is arising from its long sleep in a very positive and active way.

There is no doubt that the weight of emails that flowed into the Parliament over the weekend before the decision by Government to go ahead with this, had a very timely and strategic effect. In the end it was the courage and commitment of people like Senator Guy Barnett carrying the initiative, of Kevin Andrews, John Anderson, Bob Baldwin, Peter Dutton, Kerry Bartlett, Alan Cadman, and Chris Pierce that carried the day, but your emails galvanised people and set the environment.

What we must do now is ensure that we keep up the pressure to see Christian values maintained and strengthened in the nation. In this we must keep ourselves focused on the real issues, the war, not the little battles along the way. Some will be disappointed that superannuation was allowed to flow on to homosexuals. I do not share this concern and in fact it is my desire that as Christians we not elevate this sin of homosexuality to some super level that God doesn't use in the considering our wanderings. We need to respond to the activism and determination to tear down Christian values so evident in the most high profile homosexual activists with equal commitment, but we should not allow this to cloud our responsibility to love homosexuals as people. Loving people includes wanting to see them cared for.

The amendments to the Act are not as water tight as we would have liked, but we believe that the context has been so clearly set in the debate, PM's announcement and the exclusion of overseas homosexual marriages, that it would be difficult for even the most activist of judges to mischievously interpret it. We will however remain vigilant.

In the meantime well done. This is evidence that the good fight can be won. That in the end those who oppose Christian values are well and truly in the minority and only have their disproportionate influence through the false perceptions they have been allowed to create because of our absence from the fight. They now know we are back!
We've heard it all before, particularly the sickening "hate the sin, love the sinner" hypocrisy. But compared with the United States, Australians have long had an image of being laid-back to the point of apathy as far as their religiosity is concerned. (Remember Kevin "Bloody" Wilson's "Festival of Light?") How much is this changing, and to what extent is it shaping public and political life in this country?

Last year, the Religion Report (on ABC Radio National) had a segment on "Politics and the Australian Religious Right," in which they spoke to NSW Liberal Upper House Member and Opus Dei "Co-operator" David Clarke, who made the following observation about the place of religion in Australian politics:
I’m not seeking to drive anybody out through preselections, but I do believe it is the responsibility of Christians to involve themselves in public affairs, and the political process, and that’s something that I encourage. I see Australia as a Christian nation in the Western tradition, and I believe we have nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that Christian values are at the foundation of our nation and I encourage Christians of all denominations to join the political party of their choice.
Finally, I've blogged about the Exclusive Brethren before, and there is some scuttlebutt, c/o the ACT Greens, regarding the sect's influence upon the Howard government's decision to quash the ACT civil union laws (see the Age article on Jim Wallace linked to earlier). (UPDATE: Green Senator Bob Brown will be introducing a motion for the Senate to investigate the group.)

So what are we looking at, here? As of the 2004 election we know there is a "Hillsong vote" in Western Sydney. We know that over 100 private schools teach intelligent design in their science classes, and that former Education Minister Brendan Nelson thought it would be a good idea if it was taught in the science classrooms of government schools, too, "if that's what parents wanted." We've recently witnessed the "Bibles in hospitals" debacle. Are we witnessing the rise of US Republican-style, "Janet-Jackson's-nipple-is-the-Number-of-the-Beast" religio-politics in Australia? Or is it too soon to tell?

UPDATE: Or is there another explanation entirely, as suggested by this Alternet article on Straussian neoconservatism?

According to Drury, Strauss had a "huge contempt" for secular democracy. Nazism, he believed, was a nihilistic reaction to the irreligious and liberal nature of the Weimar Republic. Among other neoconservatives, Irving Kristol has long argued for a much greater role for religion in the public sphere, even suggesting that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic made a major mistake by insisting on the separation of church and state. And why? Because Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control.

At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud." As Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine points out, "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing,'' Drury says, because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. Bailey argues that it is this firm belief in the political utility of religion as an "opiate of the masses" that helps explain why secular Jews like Kristol in 'Commentary' magazine and other neoconservative journals have allied themselves with the Christian Right and even taken on Darwin's theory of evolution.

Read more!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Argument Clinic

In view of all the fun and games on the Atheism thread, here's some light relief from Python. Read more!

Alice though the Looking Glass of socially-acceptable homophobia

Remember how I called this the worst argument against same-sex marriage ever?

Maggie Gallagher, who heads the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, says opponents of gay marriage will be treated like racists if it is declared a civil right.
It appears Dispatches from the Culture Wars agrees (and that the "if you legalise it we'll look like the bigots we are" meme is spreading):
Imagine this argument being used against interracial marriage - "If interracial marriage is legalized, individuals who believe in traditional marriage could be treated as bigots and their religous views subject to attack." And? This is a bad thing? If your religious beliefs include the belief that the races should not marry, your religious views should be attacked and you should be treated as a bigot.
Dispatches also links to an article debunking Stanley Kurtz, the "Paul Cameron" of the anti-same-sex-marriage crowd, who repeatedly claims to have "proven" that the "same-sex marriage" Pokemon destroys the "traditional marriage" Pokemon.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Australia.

UPDATE II: Sheer gold from Mr Lefty.
Read more!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

In defence of (weak) atheism

Gerry (diogenesian discourse) claims that agnosticism is the only reasonable position one can adopt, and . . . well . . . I really must take issue.

On the subject of the existence or non-existence of god (or gods), I argue that there can only be three philosophical positions (as defined by me) which a person can adopt:
  1. Theism: The belief that it is true that there is a god (or gods).
  2. Agnosticism: The belief that we do not know, in any scientifically or logically acceptable way, whether or not there is a god (or gods).
  3. Atheism: The belief that it is true that there is no god (or gods).
I think there's something missing from this typology, but we'll get to that later.
Knowing: Being able to demonstrate, either scientifically (via the laws of physics), or logically (beware the fallacies of logic), that something is true.

Believing: Holding something to be true, but being unable to demonstrate such truth either scientifically (via the laws of physics), or logically (beware the Fallacies of Logic).

And hence I argue that the only reasonable position a person can adopt is that of agnosticism.
Knowing is not the opposite of believing. If you "know" something, according to the stated definition, this implies that you believe it, too. The definition of "believing" should therefore be altered to read: "Holding something to be true, regardless of whether one is able to demonstrate such truth either scientifically (via the laws of physics), or logically (beware the Fallacies of Logic)." In any case, Gerry qualifies his definitions of "knowing" and "believing" by proposing that "we are all believers in the sense of this discourse," by which I take him to mean that since we can never demonstrate the truth of anything absolutely, we can never be in the position of "knowing" anything.

His conclusion? Of the three positions one can adopt re: the existence of god, atheism is the most contemptible. While theism is at least honest about its relationship to knowledge, atheists are "hypocrites, equivocators, sophists and/or obfuscators."
They claim to have a problem with True Believers whilst using all of the above tricks of the trade to confuse their interlocutors into believing that they (the atheists) know that there is no god (or gods).

I put it to you, dear reader, that an atheist is nothing more than a pig-ignorant lying bigot. Atheists steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they are really agnostics. And please don't blur the boundary between atheism and agnosticism, that's another pet obfuscation atheists peddle.
I shall be peddling something very like this pet obfuscation, but we'll get there soon.
And thusly I now propose a new way of categorising philosophical positions regarding the existence, or otherwise, of a god or gods:
  1. Agnostics i.e. claiming to have not enough knowledge regarding the existence (or non-existence) of a god or gods in order to form a scientificaly or logically consistent opinion on the subject
  2. True Believers in the existence (or non-existence) of a god or gods - also known as Bigots.
  3. Idiots and Liars.
As you can clearly see, dear reader, you are either an agnostic, a bigot, an idiot, or a liar.
If theism, agnosticism and atheism--as Gerry has defined them--were indeed the only options available to us, I might agree with his argument. But once we recognise that atheism can be divided into "strong" and "weak" camps, a fourth option emerges. Gerry's definition refers to atheism in the "strong" sense; the "weak" position holds that in the absence of evidence, there is no reason to believe in the existence of God. The burden of proof, "weak" atheists hold, lies with those who hold that it is true that God exists, not with those who don't hold that it is true.

That "weak" atheism is at least as reasonable a position to adopt as agnosticism, if not more, can be demonstrated easily if we replace "God" in Gerry's formulation with "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy." We have no evidence for the existence of either of these characters: it is therefore at least as reasonable--if not more--to say that, based on the evidence, we have no reason to believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy (weak atheism), as it is to assert that we cannot know whether there is a Santa or a Tooth Fairy (agnosticism).

See: "Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism" (

UPDATE: Bruce's thoughts.

“There's nothing an agnostic can't do if he doesn't know whether he believes in anything or not”

--Monty Python.

UPDATE II: It appears my contribution to this debate has won me an enemy. Not quite what I intended: I guess I didn't realise that agnostics could be so fanatical about their agnosticism. I know better now.

UPDATE III: Austin Cline at has weighed into the debate. (Thanks go to Gerry--who continues to send me his love--for the heads-up.)
Read more!

Friday, June 02, 2006

The thinking person's Big Brother blog

Eye on Big Brother's take on Jade:

I feel sorry for Jade. Later, the boys are caught getting their doonas back (breaking the rules by going into the girls’ quarters), and are made to stand on the deck outside while Jamie tells them a (not very funny) joke 100 times. This amuses the house immensely, but we see Jade cleaning the kitchen, whisper to herself (or really to us); “I don’t get it. I can be fun. I’m fun. But that’s just not my kind of fun.”

She is displaced in a group of young adults with the minds of 14 year olds, and I can’t help but empathise. She’ll be gone this weekend, I imagine, and she will be left wounded by her inability to integrate into a group who she is no doubt much smarter than. But this is BB, and we are in the realms of the kind of mainstream who find Rove eating ice-cream and tomato sauce amusing. Smart people beware.
Indeed. Now I'm off to get my weekly dose of Fryzie's ocker drawl on "Froordee Nooort Loorve." Read more!

What is the deal with the Christian culture industry?

First, there was Christian rock. Then Christian rap. Christian death metal. Christian Monopoly. Christian chocolate bars. Christian fashion. Christian designer fashion. Christian maths. Christian porn (still probably not safe enough to open at work, fellas!). Christian Jews. Christian Muslims. And now . . .

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, where you learn in the comments of the existence of a game that is in even poorer taste: Super Columbine Massacre.) Read more!