Thursday, January 1, 2009

Our Incredible World

Check out this beautiful time-lapse video of various skies. Even a hardened cynic like me has trouble being too cynical after viewing something like this. We live in a beautiful world and it's too easy to forget it, getting caught up in the sturm und drang of day-to-day life.

H/T: GeekDad

The Uneducated Masses

In a complete non-surprise, more Americans believe in Hell, the Devil, and angels than evolution.

-- 80% of adult Americans believe in God - unchanged since the last time we asked the question in 2005. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%), the Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).

-- Slightly more people - but both are minorities - believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%).

-- Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (44%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%), and reincarnation (24%).

My favorite bit was this part, though.
Slender majorities of all adults believe that all or most of the Old Testament (55%) and the New Testament (54%) are the "Word of God." However, only about a third of all adults (37% and 36%) believe that all of these texts are the word of God.

Interestingly, only 26% of all adults believe that the Torah is the word of God, even though it is the same as the first five books of the Old Testament. Presumably many people do not know this.

I think this speaks to the problems we have in education today. I don't think it's a problem for people to believe in angels and devils and such; that's a matter of faith. I do think it's a problem when a majority of Americans do not believe in scientific theories that are constantly accumulating more evidence to back them up. The problem is that most of these people do not understand what evolution is. "It means we came from monkeys," someone will say. Unfortunately that is not true; that is emphatically not what evolutionary theory says. This is not the post to get into the ins and outs of Darwin's theories, but Wikipedia has a good mostly non-technical article on the subject.

We Americans tend not to respect scientists and experts much anymore, though. We let people who know nothing on a topic tell us how to think. It's the truthiness problem. Facts get in the way of things, so it's easier to ignore them. It's more convenient to feel what the truth is than to confront reality. Now, that's not to say that we should blindly accept everything scientists tell us, but isn't it absurd to say, "I don't care that this person has devoted their entire life to studying this topic. This other person I know who has never studied the subject other than what he read on told me something different and I believe him"? When we have trouble with our cars, do we ask our neighbor who is clueless about cars or do we take it to a car mechanic who has devoted his time to learning how cars work? Of course we take it to a mechanic. I'm sure, though, that if someone found some religious/metaphysical aspect to cars, we'd all stop believing mechanics and asking our pastor or clueless neighbor what the problem was.

We need to get back to at least respectfully listening to experts instead of so easily dismissing them out of hand because some non-expert told us so.

Rice's View of the Bush Legacy

Condoleezza Rice thinks that people are going to "thank" Bush for what he has done.

That sound you hear? That's the crickets chirping.

Let's see, he presided over...

the worst foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor,
the failure to catch the primary culprit for said attack,
the authorization to defy the Geneva Conventions and permit torture,
the botched invasion of Iraq on trumped up evidence of non-existent WMDs,
the comically inept response to Hurricane Katrina,
and the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

But, I'm sure that other than these minor things, people will be thanking Bush. I'm not sure for what, but no doubt they will.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel vs. the Palestinians, cont.

Related to my post from yesterday, Aaron David Miller offers some smart suggestions to the Obama administration for handling the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dating Advice

My sister, Shawna, tells me that I really should ask her advice on matters concerning dating and relationships. I don't think she realizes that I already have a plan.

That's style right there. No, better than that - panache. That guy has panache.

Shut Up!

I hate people who talk during movies as much as the next guy, so on a certain level I do sympathize with this guy.

A man angry that a family was talking during a movie threw popcorn at the son and then shot the father in the arm, according to police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I think the best bit is definitely the throwing of popcorn at the kid. From that to shooting the dad. That is some serious escalation of force.

"Those bastards won't shut up. Maybe if I throw popcorn, that'll shut 'em up."

Throws popcorn.

"Damn it. That didn't work. I guess I'm just gonna have to shoot Pops. In the arm, of course. Wouldn't want to hurt him too badly. Just enough to tell him to shut the hell up."

Proceeds to shoot dad in arm.

Ha! That'll learn him, he thinks too himself. "Oh, quit yer cryin'! It's only a flesh wound."

Returns to movie. A few minutes pass.

"Oh, hullo officer. What's the problem?"

My Sentiments Exactly

There has been lots of snow here lately and more is to come. I don't know where this pic originally came from but it sums up my feelings about winter rather succinctly.

Israel vs. the Palestinians

While much of the world condemns Israel's recent attacks on Palestinians, some, like Rod Dreher, though fervently defend Israel's move.

How can Israel be expected to make peace with devils like that? Why should Israel tolerate rockets being sent by Hamas against Israeli villages? It is terrible that Palestinian civilians are dying today by Israeli bombs. But their blood is on the hands of the jihadi terrorists of Hamas.

Of course Israel should not tolerate terrorism against their citizens. And, of course, Israel should take steps to defend itself. The problem is that Israel is not taking the hard political action they need to in order to make progress on this issue. Why have they not completely their illegal settlements? Why have they not been more willing to work out a two-state solution? Why do they not realize that there is no military solution for terrorism?

Let me stress that none of Israel's actions excuse the terrorist actions against them. However, isn't it understandable on a certain level what the Palestinians feel? They were forced out of their homes, forced from their land and they watched it all given to the Jews. Wouldn't that make anyone mad? Not just mad, but furious? Especially when no suitable compensation was offered in return. The Palestinians were not offered an equal political say. They were not given anything in return.

This post is not to debate the morality of the creation of the modern state of Israel, but I do believe that the circumstances of it place a greater moral burden on the Israelis. They should not compromise their safety, but if they need to go more than half-way, then they should. By occupying land that was not theirs, that someone else was forced out of to make way, the Jews took on the burden of having to be the ones with the greater imperative to make the new situation work. The Holocaust was horrific, but that does not give the Israelis an excuse to treat others poorly.

The Captain Returns

Alright, it's about time I got back to writing here. I've been bookmarking articles and flagging stuff in Google Reader like crazy, but with everything that has been going on, I have struggled to find the time or even the will, really, to get on here and post. However, now that things are looking up, I want to get back into the swing of things. So, without further ado...