Friday, February 08, 2008

Dream Team in 08 Not Likely

No Clinton-Obama team:

Would you want to be Vice-President if Bill is in the White House all day and sleeping with the President at night? Naah! At the prospect BO would remember Cactus Jack Nance Garner's -- FDR's Vice-President --1933-41 -- statement that being VP is "not worth a bucket of warm spit." (The New Yorker,
March 22, 2004, claims that he actually said "warm p*ss.")

Garner's dictum did not hold with Bush-Cheny and some other recent occupants, of course, but, if it were Clinton-Obama, it might become true again -- in fact if not in outward appearance.

But, on the other hand, politics makes for strange bedfellows, so Hillary-Barack in bed could happen (we refer here to "political" bedfellows, of course -- a clarification necessary whenever Bill is in the vicinity, since he has had some strange "non-political" bedfellows).

An Obama-Clinton team?

Hill and Bill playing second fiddle to Barack? Naah!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Theological Question

News Report: February 7, 2008
At least 55 killed in tornadoes in the South

Write an essay on one of the following:

1. Show how this event illustrates intelligent, benevolent design.
2. Show how this event expresses the love of God without appealing to ignorance, mystery, or eschatology.

Multiple Choice Test:

1. God caused.
2. God did not cause but permitted.
3. God neither caused nor permitted, in fact had nothing to do with it.
4. God could have prevented it but didn't.
5. God would have prevented it but couldn't.
6. None of the above.
7. I don't know. It's a mystery. (The coward's answer, permitted in my classes only on the first day.)

For the correct answer send $1.23 in a plain brown package containing a stamped, self-addressed envelope. For express service, send $1.79. For a 30 second personal lecture on the subject, park a 2008 BMW (any model) in my driveway and hand me the keys and title.

Monday, February 04, 2008

One Final Time: the God-Critics

Recent best-sellers by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have urged the thesis that religion is bad and should be eliminated. I have had my say about this before, but today I administer the coup de grace.

Their intellectual sin is that, in the words of Alfred North Whitehead, they commit the "fallacy of misplaced concretion." They mistake an abstraction about religion for the whole of the concrete reality. They look at history and the present and find many reprehensible ideas and practices associated with religion and attribute them to religion. They take what they and many of us would regard as untrue and wrong, i. e., bad, and take that to be the essence of religion, its reality.

This neglects the fact that religion is always embedded in a cultural context and inexplicable apart from that setting. To abstract religion from its cultural setting is to mistake what is abstracted for the reality itself, i. e., "to commit the fallacy of misplaced concretion."

Remember Paul Tillich, "Religion is the substance of culture; culture is the form of religion."

In short, religion is more complex and ambiguous than the simplistic representations of the God-deniers.


Too Often the Media Lack Self-criticism and Are Ignorant of Their Ignorance

A free press is essential to a democracy -- to expose corruption in high places, to inform the public about important matters, and so on. Our press frequently fulfills its role well and is to be commended. But journalists tend to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think. (Like some preachers?) It is impossible to be totally fair and balanced since reporters and commentators are human beings with finite perspectives even when they try their damnedest to be competent and impartial. By the very choice of the topics they cover, they make judgments about what is important and what is not.

Two criticisms in particular:

1. They lack sufficient self-criticism. For example, long ago the major reporting agencies decided that the Democratic race was between Clinton and Obama. Edwards was not given the attention he deserved. They will, of course cry, "Don't shoot the messenger," but they forget that the media can shoot the candidate by their lack of attention. They don't just report reality, they participate in determining what people think is reality.

2. They are sometimes ignorant of their ignorance. Most would not attempt to say much about string theory in physics because they know how little they know about it. But they do not hesitate to speak freely about religion, politics, faith, separation of church and state, and the like. They lack sophistication but don't realize it. They lack depth of understanding and don't recognize the shallowness in themselves and others.

On religion and politics, e. g., they apparently can conceive of only two options: political decisions based explicitly on a particular set religious beliefs and a total relegation of religion to the private sphere totally divorced from political choice. They are apparently innocent of other "live options" (W. James) between and beyond this simplistic dichotomy. Note their typical approval of John Kennedy's statement to the Houston Baptist preachers in 1960, which actually is superificial and leaves unanswered what his "conscience" -- his guide -- is guided by. If it is not guided in any sense by his religious faith, then one wonders how broad and deep this faith is.

Mario Cuomo is a much better guide here.

My advice is to journalists is this: Heed Socrates, who said, "Know thyself."

Question of the Day

Do we really want the Billary Clintons to be president of the United States again?

If Hillary does become president, maybe Bill, the ex-boyfriend of Monica Lewis, could teach a class on ethics to the female interns. He could make the point that shaking a finger vigorously for emphasis when lying does not work. Perhaps he could also give them some tips on how to get stubborn stains off a dress.