Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Uof C Professor Embarasses Self

From the online edition of the Calgary Herald:

It's no wonder evangelical atheists need to shout so loud

Every faith, the dogmatic atheists say, contains a seed of violence and torment

Barry Cooper,
U of C Prof of Political Science
For The Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The shining example of free thinking said to characterize the French Enlightenment was Voltaire. In the face of dogmatic clerics, both Protestant and Catholic, he urged reasonable people everywhere to "crush the infamous thing."

His argument was as obvious then as it is today: organized religion not only divides humanity into believers and infidels, it authorizes the former, with a beatific smile, to extinguish the latter. Often religion claims to be doing so for the good of the infidel.

That Voltaire had Christianity in mind is indicated by a rather more vulgar expression from his pen: "the people will not be free until the last king is strangled in the guts of the last priest."

Modern would-be Voltaires such as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins are just as strident in their hatred of religion in general and revealed religion in particular. "

For one thing, the quotation comes from Deiderot, not Voltaire. For another thing, the article is chock-full of strawmen fallacies, prejudicial broad-stroke discrimination, misrepresentation and plain ignorance.

Welcome to the wonderful world of a PhD gone wrong.
Makes me ashamed of our University here in Calgary.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Birth of Truth

A parable:

When Truth was born, three good fairies came to her crib, and each one gave her a gift:

- The first gift would make her absolute.
- The second gift would make her objective.
- The third gift would make her deal with reality.

By an oversight, the wicked fairy was not invited, and did what wicked fairies do in such circumstances: she cursed Truth. By her curse, Truth would never enjoy more than two gifts simultaneously.

And thus Truth developed a personality split - into three parts:

As Mathematical/Formal Truth, she is absolute and objective, but does not deal with reality.

As Theologic Truth (where she underwent a further split into many sub-persons), she is absolute and deals with reality, but is not objective. Islamic Truth is different from Christian Truth, which is in turn split into Catholic and Protestant Truth ....

As Scientific Truth, she is objective and deals with the real world, but not absolute. Scientific statements are always approximations to nature.

Borrowed from an online discussion forum, authour's pseudonym: HRG

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Oldest Humans (yet found)

From National Geographic

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
August 14, 2008

Dinosaur hunters have stumbled across the largest and oldest Stone Age cemetery in the Sahara desert.

Paleontologist Paul Sereno and his team were scouring the rocks between harsh dunefields in northern Niger for dinosaur bones in 2000 when they stumbled across the graveyard, on the shores of a long-gone lake.

The scientists eventually uncovered 200 burials of two vastly different cultures that span five thousand years—the first time such a site has been found at a single site.

Called Gobero, the area is a uniquely preserved record of human habitation and burials from the Kiffian (7700 to 6200 B.C.) and the Tenerian (5200 to 2500 B.C.) cultures, says a new study led by Sereno of the University of Chicago.

Bones that are almost 10,000 years old. And complex burial rights indicating reverence for the departed through the presence of pollen that may indicate flowers used in the burial ceremony.
This is just cool.