Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cool term: sui generis

"constituting a class of its own; unique"

qo, on USAT F&R forum (link):

I think we would have to come to a common understanding of the meaning of "spirituality."  To me, it's a brain state; an enjoyable one at that.  It's quite possible for two people to experience similar brain states and take from them entirely different "meanings."  Our experiences are, prima facie, sui generis.  They are completely unique because we are the sum total of our individual histories.

We've each developed synaptic structures which are poles apart, one from the other, based on stimuli and experience only we can know.  Frankly, it's a wonder we find common ground at all :-)


Monday, October 11, 2010

DT Archive: "Supreme Judge of the world"

(Why I think the Declaration of Independence reference to "Supreme Judge of the world" isn't a deistic reference.)

It's not an obscure reference to God, but a reference to other nations.

Within the Declaration itself:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


... To prove [the tyranny of the English Crown], let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States ...

This is supported by Paine's Common Sense (Of The Present Ability of America, with Some Miscellaneous Reflexions):
TO CONCLUDE, however strange it may appear to some, or however unwilling they may be to think so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons may be given, to shew, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independence. Some of which are,

FIRST -- It is the custom of nations, when any two are at war, for some other powers, not engaged in the quarrel, to step in as mediators, and bring about the preliminaries of a peace: but while America calls herself the Subject of Great Britian, no power, however well disposed she may be, can offer her mediation. ...

SECOND -- It is unreasonable to suppose, that France or Spain will give us any kind of assistance, if we mean only, to make use of that assistance for the purpose of repairing the breach, and strenthening the connection between Britain and America; because those powers would be sufferers by the consequences.

THIRDLY -- While we profess ourselved the subjects of Britain, we must, in the eye of foreign nations, be considered as rebels. ...

FOURTHLY -- Were a manifesto to be published, and despatched to foreign courts, setting forth the miseries we have endured, and the peacable methods we have ineffectually used for redress; declaring, at the same time, that not being able, any longer, to live happily or safely under the cruel disposition of the British court, we had been driven to the necessity of breaking off all connections with her; at the same time, assuring all such courts of our peacable disposition towards them, and of our desire of entering into trade with them: Such a memorial would produce more good effects to this Continent, than if a ship were freighted with petitions ot Britian.

Under our present denomination of British subjects, we can neither be received nor heard abroad: The custom of all courts is against us, and will be so, until, by an independance, we tak rank with other nations.

Clearly, the concern is to convince other nations to accept the united States of America as an independent nation, and not as a part of Great Britain.

"Supreme Judge of the world" isn't a reference to God, but to other nations.


DT Archive: Sandra Day O'Connor on Constitution, Rights, Majoritarianism

("DT" is Desultory Tao, my profile blog on USAToday's site. This is a quote I use moderately often when someone talks about the Constitution and "majority rule".)

Most Americans think of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as going hand in hand. But the more appropriate analogy is ball and chain. The Bill of Rights was a restraint imposed on the new federal government to keep it from running out of control. [...] [W]hile the Constitution is the cornerstone of our nation's commitment to principles of representative government and majority rule, the Bill of Rights is a decidedly antimajoritarian document. In the Bill of Rights, the Framers built a wall around certain fundamental individual freedoms, forever limiting the majority's ability to intrude upon them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The United States ... cherishes its democracy and lauds the majoritarian "will of the people." But it also accepts -- indeed, enshrines -- the right of its unelected Supreme Court to use the Bill of Rights to declare illegal the actions of the democratically elected legislature or executive.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
The Majesty of the Law - Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice


Thursday, September 30, 2010

International Blasphemy Rights Day 2010

Center for Inquiry's International Blasphemy Rights Day

"The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind. The focus on 'blasphemy' is simply because it is such a salient issue, and one for which a lot of consciousness-raising is necessary."


Speaking freely is such a pain
when one is forc-ed to constrain
the words that print upon the page
to keep the crowd in temperate rage.

To type the words upon a screen,
so that, by others, they may be seen,
and think about a little thought
what every person ought be taught:
That your ideas may be your own,
but they should not be all alone
for fear of death or harm to you
from sticks and stones they throw or threw
when passions' riot doth take control,
of voice and pen and freedom stole!

The Holy Ghost, I'm not so sure,
would make Mohammed's caricature
a crime to punish via death,
yet blaspheme once, and brimstone's breath
will in your throat and nostrils fill
a taste so bad it might well kill!
Or so say Christians whose trinity
is three-in-one and one-in-three,
and that just makes no sense to me.

So blaspheme, me, this Holy Ghost,
as it's never seen on toast,
And surely that's the sign of fiction.
Now I can't be accused of dereliction!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Melancholy State

Due to yet another online "discussion" regarding creationism vs evolution. One of the posters, "sheep1", seems like someone who might be able to learn evolution, but due to long experience, I doubt he or she would bother taking the time, so I hesitate to waste the time.

Melancholy State

Pensive thoughts oft come to mind,
when see I dialogues of this kind.
It tears me up that some don't see,
The beauty: How we came to be!

The chemistry is hard, 'tis true,
what evolution plainly do:
the evidence that's in the rocks,
our genes, our skulls, and even locks!
The birds doth show similarity
with dinosaurs! Oh my, Oh me!
And who'd have thought that whales would stride,
on ancient lands so near to tide,
that they would one day swim full time,
to eat on fish and shrimp in brine!

This beauty, how we came to be,
it tears me up that some don't see!
For dialogues oft of this kind,
Yield pensive thoughts: My sad, sad mind.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

PZ Myers, Sunday Sacrilege

Shoot, might as well make this the first official post.

PZ Myers, Sunday Sacrilege (Link):
I will not respect a book of lies. I will not tolerate intolerance.

Lately, there has been considerable angst and fury over a bad book, the Koran. Terry Jones, a fundamentalist lackwit, gets called out by the American president, not for being a professional fool taking advantage of our lax laws that encourage the promulgation of religious inanity, but for being insufficiently sensitive and deferential to another gang of fools promoting a different brand of religious idiocy. Then six British racists got arrested, not for real crimes against their neighbors of a different ethnicity, but, again, for the sin of disrespect for a holy book. In both of these acts, the culprits are people for whom I have no respect, who I would not normally support, but they are guilty of 'crimes' that are not crimes. What we are witnessing are efforts by authorities to confer special secular and legal privilege on the intangible aura of sacredness — a figment of the imagination of deluded believers, which they insist all we non-believers must honor.

I refuse.

The insistence by the faithful that we all must treat their precioussses as magical and inviolable has convinced me to re-evaluate the books on my shelves, and I've decided that no, they aren't worth keeping. These holy books have been influential, that's for sure, but it's been a pernicious kind of importance — that we hold these awful, terrible, ridiculous books aloft as the guiding ancient wisdom of our civilization doesn't so much exalt the books as it demeans our culture....
More, and a video, at the link.

How do I feel about this? I think PZed has good ways of making points on these issues. Not as inflamed as, e.g., Terry Jones of the I'll Burn the Koran - But Now I Won't (For Now) fame, but still disrespectful irreverent to make a point.

Would I myself do this, with books given to me? I don't know. I have a Book of Mormon given to me by a co-worker from decades past, and I don't really feel any animosity to him, so I don't think I'd burn that. If I were in PZed's shoes, though, with random people giving me Bibles or Korans or BoMs to try to show me the light, I think I might. Under the right circumstances, and, like Myers, to make a point relevant to the issue.