Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Seed Newsvine

Another example of misusing data to fit a theist view of the world. By rejecting scientific evidence and more, Michael Behe is able to convince only the uninitiated, the believer. He is not able to make inroads on well trained biologists or other scientists. The lesson is, it seems to me, is that before one accepts anything at face value one has the obligation to address the appropriate available evidence and then asks the skeptical questions that make that evidence stand up to those questions. It is not good enough to believe in something because you believe in something. That tautology will only run you around in circles causing only severe dizziness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

Michael Behe is one of the most well known ID proponents. However, his arguments must be seen in light of his character and his agenda. This video deals with several problems with Behe’s position:
1. Behe ignores and rejects empirical evidence
2. No major scientific organization, including Behe’s own colleagues, endorse ID
3. In 20 years (some would say a couple of hundred years), ID has failed to make its case to the scientific community
4. Behe rejects the scientific method, and wants to replace it with his own5. Behe’s version of “peer review” is simply dishonest and misleading

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Seed Newsvine

Watch this one and wonder if the ethics of our soldiers match the ethics of the administration that sent them into battle?This MSNBC report is extremely disturbing.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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Seed Newsvine

The most recent Gallup Poll (done before VT) indicates that the majority of Americans favor a combination of new legislation and stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws. The poll also indicates that only a minority of American homes (43%) indicate gun ownership, the majority of those households are in the South or rural areas of the United States. But why should I speak when the clip does a better job…

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Seed Newsvine

clipped from harpers.org
The leading newspaper in the Spanish-speaking world, Madrid’s El Pa’s, puts the blame squarely on the National Rifle Association and reproduces a photograph of Charlton Heston brandishing a rifle. “[C]ontrol measures,“ writes that paper, ”are systematically challenged by an abusive interpretation of the Second Amendment—which was written before there was a National Army or National Guard—says that, ‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep
and bear arms shall not be infringed.’”
In France, Le Monde calls the event a typically American tragedy, highlighting President Bush’s condolence message which incorporated a defense of firearms. “There is no reason to be shocked, since the American chief executive is supported by a party that in 2004 wentas far as refusing to re-approve the prohibition on sales of assault rifles put into place in 1994 by a Congress with a Democratic majority under Bill Clinton.”

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Read these couple of clips from the foreign press is a difficult task. The critique of our national response to the VT shootings, to the gun culture in general is disturbing. And these are our friends. Imagine what the enemies of the United States must think?I think it is shameful that in times of great tragedy our nation becomes the laughing stock for the rest of the world. My dear old grandmother used to mumble the following ethical pronouncement whenever she decided one had done something of which one ought not be proud, “What you did you did yourself and what you did yourself you are responsible for.” This was her translation from Polish and her grasp of English was not so hot, but the meaning was clear even to my ten year old ears when I first heard her speak these words. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTS, FOR YOUR ACTIONS. In my personal life I have honored those sentiments and granny has been gone nearly 30 years. When I read the international response to America as a Cowboy nation obsessed with guns I am ashamed to say that my country’s leaders fail to follow my grandmother’s advice.

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This is an annotation of Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen? – News Bloggers

Dinesh D’Souza exposes his bigotry and, frankly, his stupidity as he slams atheists in this posting. In part he states: “Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning….”

read the annotated post here | digg story

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Seed Newsvine

Writing for the Associated Press (as reported by Yahoo News), Calvin Woodward reports:

Gun control has been treated with a mix of silence and discomfort in the presidential campaign, a stance that may become insupportable once the nation finds its voice in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech mass murder…

Enter the massacre at Blacksburg, Va., an attack so horrific it froze the presidential campaign in place. Candidates called off events and expressed only sorrow, not opinion, in the first hours.

Advocates of any stripe raised their gun agenda at their peril.

“I think that people who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and make it their political hobby horse to ride … I’ve got nothing but loathing for them,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said. “To those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere.”

But the bloodiest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history, with 33 dead, is certain to set off a debate that those who would be president can hardly sit out in the days and weeks ahead.

Read the whole article here. Of course I want to ask Virginia Gov. Kane where else would one take this “little” crusade?

Just a bit more to think about. As the world changes around us, where terror is a reality even in America, and not just from the vilified other coming in the guise of the Muslim fundamentalist…I mean, think of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings, the Columbine High School massacre, and now Virginia Tech…just perhaps it is time to think about the fact that the widespread proliferation of guns in our society has an overall negative effect on the security of our nation. Now that shouldn’t be too hard a thought to wrap one’s brains around.

“I think when a guy walks in and shoots 32 people it’s going to cause there to be a lot of policy debate,”President Bush said. “Now is not the time to do the debate until we’re actually certain about what happened and after we help people get over their grieving.”

If now is not the time for policy debate, Mr. President, then when? You claim it begins when people get over their grieving. Grieving is for the families of the dead, Mr. President, not for the rest of us. For the rest of us there is a significantly different set of emotions–ANGER, SHOCK, DISBELIEF, DISMAY–anything other than grief. It is only now, because that is all that is, that the debates can occur. Don’t run away from this one too, Mr. President.

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Seed Newsvine

Reporting for Reuters, Andrea Hopkins writes:

By all accounts, the prayers started even before the gunshots stopped at Virginia Tech university, and the pleas to God from grief-stricken survivors of the massacre have continued ever since.

“God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, 24, joining about a dozen fellow students in a traveling prayer vigil that rambled across the sprawling campus a day after the worst U.S. shooting spree in modern history.

Carrying placards reading: “Jesus loves you,” “God knows and He cares,” and “Can we pray with you?” the small knot of students worked their way through the university grounds in Blacksburg, a Bible Belt town in the mountains of southwest Virginia.

I suppose turning to God(s) cannot do any serious harm to the individual that does the turning. The evidence, however, does not justify such a move. “God cares about Virginia Tech,” said Megan Martin, is quoted in the article. Is this God so cruel that he (she, it) only cares after the fact? Is this God(s) so indifferent that he (she, it) only takes an interest after the dastardly deed has been accomplished? God knows and He cares, is another after the fact fantasy that may serve to salve heightened emotions but does not address the fundamental issue–was this God who cares so much simply on vacation when Cho Seung-Hui decided to engage on a shooting rampage on the VT campus? Does the evidence point to a God(s) who cares, who knows? I think not. What the evidence points to is a random series of events that occur every so often because Americans are willing to sacrifice security for the right to bear arms for any purpose whatsoever. The evidence does not point to a loving God(s) but, rather, to a heightened probability that because guns are so readily available in the United States tragic events such as the VT shootings are more likely than not to occur.

While turning to God(s) is a defensive move in cases of unthinkable tragedy for many people, it seems to me that it is simply a misplaced use of human energy. Telling one’s self that God(s) really care, while that might have a temporary calming effect, does nothing to solve the problem that lies at the root of the VT shootings. Far more productive an approach is to focus the anger and frustration one feels in moments of unspeakable tragedy into efforts to place meaningful regulation on the ownership of weapons that have no other use than to cause permanent harm to those to whom the guns are directed. Gun nuts that demand no regulation of weapons spouting rights granted under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,) must ask: to what militia did Cho Seung-Hui belong when he began his rampage? Why was Cho Seung-Hui permitted to purchase and own guns? Why do we put up with this cowboy mentality? Is life really imitating the wild west shootout of the movies?

Rather than turning to God(s) how about turning to Congress and demanding that your lawmakers do something to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. If you don’t then, it seems to me, that events like the VT shootings will surely occur over and over, again and again. One Italian journalist wrote that the VT shootings are as American as apple pie. It this the image America and Americans portray to the world? Is this the image we want to portray? It is time to stop the madness.

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I just finished reading Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine. I had a hard time putting this extraordinary work of non-fiction down. Bloom’s scholarship is as solid as his writing style. For anyone wanting to think seriously about the origins of religious belief, about the monotheisms that pervade western thought, for those, like Zizek, who speculate that origins are less important in the development of cultural adhesions than are the actions taken by those who later revise broad social projects into working organizational entities (Marx was not a Marxist until Lenin came along to pragmatically implement his version of Marx’ ideas) simply must read this book.

Below I post several reviews of Bloom’s book:

From Amazon.com

Bloom’s occasional forays into religious criticism are particularly interesting, given his lifelong passion for poetry and his contributions to the study of literature. And while discussions of religion itself are in play here, it is the characters of Jesus and Yahweh that inhabit the pages, and Bloom’s literary critic more than his moonlighting theologian examining them. And what of that analysis? Bloom has an obvious affinity for Yahweh over Jesus (even though Jesus gets first billing in the book’s title.) But to ascribe that preference to his Jewish roots is perhaps too easy. A close reading reveals more. Bloom finds that Yahweh, with his covenants, tempers, resolutions, and even occasional forays into the physical where he fights, eats and walks in the cool of the Garden presents a more interesting character than the rather enigmatic Jesus who only comes truly alive for him in Mark’s gospel, and even more so beyond the canonical scriptures in the Gospel of Thomas. And though in sensibility and identification Bloom hews closer to Yahweh, he acknowledges the place Jesus and his followers have made in the world, through an application of his own theory of the anxiety of influence, noting that “The New Testament frequently is a strong misreading of the Hebrew Bible, and certainly it has persuaded multitudes.” Provocative statements like these abound, but Bloom is no provocateur. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his meditations on the names divine, it is hard not to respect his vigorous intellect and bracing candor as he explores their power.–Ed Dobeas

From Booklist

The most prolific American literary critic maintains a lesser career as a critic of the religious imagination. His most famous product in that capacity, The Book of J (1990), argued that a woman wrote the Torah. The American Religion (1992) descried a specifically American kind of religious creativity, of which the greatest expressions are American Baptism and Mormonism. This book is more personal than argumentative and more literary than religious criticism, unless Bloom’s frequent exasperated disparagements of Christian theology are considered a form of the latter. It is an examination of Yahweh (whom Bloom discriminates from God the Father in the Christian Trinity) in the Hebrew Bible and of Yeshua or Jesus of Nazareth (whom Bloom discriminates from Jesus Christ) in Mark, the one Gospel Bloom finds compelling. Yahweh is an all-too-human deity, says Bloom, and Yeshua is entirely human. Moreover, the two are akin in irascibility, unpredictability, and a penchant for irony. While Yeshua could be Yahweh’s son (but isn’t), Jesus Christ, a creation of Paul, the Gospel of John, and the rest of the New Testament, except the epistles of James, bears no family resemblance Bloom can see. The interest of Bloom’s analysis is undermined, especially for readers knowledgeable about Christian orthodoxy, by his anti-Trinitarian carping and his confused statements about the Incarnation and Atonement, which some may see as symptoms of willful ignorance or even anti-Christian prejudice. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved From Publishers Weekly

Prolific literary critic, Yale professor and professional provocateur Bloom (The Book of J) here tackles the characters of the Jewish and Christian gods: what god do we meet in Hebrew Scripture? Who is the Jesus of the New Testament, and does he bear any relation to the Jesus most Americans worship? Does, for that matter, the Hebrew Yahweh resemble the first person of contemporary Christians’ Trinity? Bloom, as usual, skewers quite a few sacred cows-for example, he dismisses the quest for the historical Jesus as a waste of time, and says that Jewish-Christian dialogue is a “farce.” But in fact Bloom’s major points are somewhat commonplace, including his assertion that the Christian reading of Hebrew Scripture laid the groundwork for Christian anti-Semitism. A fair enough charge, but hardly a new one; theologians have observed, and debated, this point for centuries. Bloom’s real brilliance lies in his smaller, subtler claims, such as his nuanced discussion of the different ways Matthew, Mark and Luke present Jesus, his assertion that Bible translator William Tyndale anticipated Shakespeare, and his observation that, contra Marx, religion is not the opiate of the people but their “poetry, both bad and good.” The book is learned, even erudite, and sure to be controversial. (Oct. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My point–Read This Book.

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Seed Newsvine

Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Read the whole story at Scientific American. Maybe, just maybe, the science will outweigh the mythology.

What is important to remember in this entire non-debate is that scientific investigation is something quite different that belief or faith. In fact, in St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, Aquinas sets forth the a priori that in order to be persuaded by his arguments one must first be a believer, have faith that the word of the Bible is true. If all one intends is to persuade the already persuaded then it seems to me that the argument of intelligent design fails. It persuades only those who believe the literal truth of the Christian bible. For this group of fundamentalists perhaps there is a debate, one that, if evolution is correct, undermines their very belief structure. But for the rest of us, intelligent design is so badly flawed that it is hardly worth the time. Nowhere else but in the United States is there a debate. Nowhere else do people believe that watching The Flintstones is like watching a documentary film. So read on, look at the science; you should find that there is no debate between Darwinian evolutionary science and intelligent design–except among those already persuaded that evolution is the work of Satan himself.

Read the Whole Article | digg story

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NeoCon BS blogged this one

They’re Terrorists, but They’re Our Terrorists…

Based on a story by Michael Ware at CNN.com U.S. Protects Iranian Opposition Group in Iraq

I really want to scream. Not only is this a bungled war (actually the war effort was a great success–it is the peace that is being bungled) but the hypocrisy of the Bush White House is without bounds.

NeoCon points out that lessons learned (or forgotten) that resulted from the US support of the muhajadeen in Afghanistan in the 1980’s have largely been mislaid. Of course, terrorism is okay if the terror supports our own goals in Iraq.

While I support NeoCon’s basic premise, I want to take it a bit further. Here, the double standard of fighting a “war on terror” while, at the same time, supporting groups that engage in terror for political purposes is merely another nail in the coffin of international support for the United States. As Bush insists on forcing democracy on the world (or at least that part of the world rich in oil resources) he behaves as if he were king at home. Secrecy, deliberately hiding the facts of the prosecution of this peace in Iraq from the American people, whose tax dollars are being used to pay for the Bush aggression, is not the act of the leader of the “greatest democracy” in the world. It is, rather, much like that of a Fascist despot believing that if he tells a lie long and often enough that lie becomes the same as the truth.

When will the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, the Iranian terrorist group being supported by the Bush administration, come back to bite us?

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In Baghdad, official control over the news is getting tighter. Journalists used to walk freely into the city’s hospitals and the morgue to keep count of the day’s dead and wounded. Now the hospitals have been declared off-limits and morgue officials turn away reporters who aren’t accompanied by a Coalition escort. Iraqi police refer reporters’ questions to American forces; the Americans refer them back to the Iraqis.” reports Newsweek this week.

So the war to bring democracy to Iraq (because democracy is what the people of Iraq really wanted all along) has created a condition where the press is relegated to being locked out of hospitals and morgues by Coalition (the great coded euphemism meaning United States) forces (forget about the handful of British forces and the few more from several other countries). Some demonstration of democracy, eh! Cover-up the facts by not allowing accurate or truthful reporting of events, atrocities, or what have you as an expression of freedom carries with it an arrogance of power that speaks better to Fascism than it does to freely elected democratic governments.

What is Bush afraid of? That reporters might actually report the growing number of casualties and deaths in the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq? What must the real numbers look like? But, then the administration tells us the lie that the current surge strategy is working in parts of Baghdad. So, it probably isn’t working in other parts, yes? And, then, I was under the impression that Iraq is much larger than merely the city of Baghdad. I don’t think I am mistaken on that one. What is the truth about the surge in the parts of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq where we must assume the policy isn’t working?

Censorship has no place in democratic institutions. While I would not advocate irresponsible journalism such as reporting troop movements or attack plans prior to execution, to report real numbers of casualties and deaths gives no aid and comfort to the enemy. Quite the contrary, what it does is point to the utter failure of the administration strategy (a word Bush loves to slur) in the prosecution of this botched war.

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BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Tests ‘stopping children playing’

Five-year-olds are being prevented from engaging in traditional play as they are under too much pressure from the national tests, teachers have warned.

With lessons geared towards assessment, children are bored from the moment they begin formal schooling, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned.

What is this world coming to? British kids at 5-years of age are already bored with school from the moment they begin formal education. The sad fact is that school policy in Britain and the United States violate the most important maxim of teaching: TO DO NO HARM TO CHILDREN!

Children need to play, need to get their hands dirty, need to explore the world they live in on their terms with guidance from adults that are well educated and understand the relationship of play to learning. To metaphorically strap children to their seats at age 5 is to literally beat curiosity out of them, to make them passive and, in doing so, dull their minds so that an entire generation of children will be lost to intellectual pursuits. This is an egregious breech of faith with younger people, a retreat from adult responsibility to educate our children to be productive citizens of the world. To bore and not to challenge is frightening; a reminder of Orwell’s conception of his future from the point of view of the 1950’s when he wrote 1984. The world, in Orwell’s terms was turned on its head–Peace is War, Love is Hate and so on–so that life no longer made sense.

What will happen to these 5-year-old children as they reach adulthood in a mere 13 years? Will they be so deprived of curiosity, of the ability to think for themselves, of the ability to form responsible opinions, that they will understand the world in Orwellian terms? It is a truly upside down world we inhabit today.

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Pelosi Brings Peace Message to Assad

The Chicago Tribune reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with Syria’s leader Wednesday despite White House objections, saying she pressed President Bashar Assad over his country’s support for militant groups and passed him a peace message from Israel.

Place this along side the Bush remarks that insisted that sending delegations to Syria simply doesn’t work. So here is a question for you. Is it sending delegations that doesn’t work or is it that Assad and any other sane leader in the world knows that talking to Bush is something like talking to a wall. In Bush’s words..You’re either with us or against us. For Bush there is not now nor has there ever been a middle ground. There is no respect paid to cultures outside our own. The insensitivity of Bush and his neocon cronies is barbaric.

Now who the heck knows if Pelosi’s visit to Assad will be productive. In fact, that will be left to time, to the Syrians and the Israelis and other players in the Middle East. But the fact remains that refusal to engage in discourse, in dialog with the other is the surest way to not make any progress at all.

As the isolation of Syria begins to crumble, no thanks to Bush, the hopes for peace in the Middle East are raised. I applaud Pelosi’s courageous stance as she begins to open doors that Bush has kept closed and locked for the past six years.

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World’s Smallest Political Quiz Results

I recently found the site Advocates for Self-Government where I took the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz.” It is worth the two to three minutes to take this quiz and really see where you stand as a thinking citizen. I found the whole thing eye-opening. Perhaps you will too.

read more | digg story

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The link leads you to a post by Treavor on his blog that is absolutely worth the look. The video clip from YouTube poses some interesting and disturbing questions that need to be addressed in the United States but, because of the hegemonic views of the current administration, the diffidence paid to global capitalism, and the blind faith in positivism and the implications attached thereto it seems that we are not even beginning to think about the issues raised.

Are Schools Preparing Children for the Future?

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If you have questions about high-stakes testing mandated by No Child Left Behind then this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer may just help you think about the NCLB mandates in a different way. While it represents anecdotal evidence from one teacher, that evidence is mounting and cannot be overlooked in the overall discussion of NCLB. The author makes the following bold statement:

Tests represent fear-based learning, not desire-based learning.

I can identify with this sentiment completely!

Read the Story | digg story

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I have often argued that engaged teaching and learning must be so much fun that children do not know what they are doing is good for them. This idea turns on the notion that teaching and learning must be ENGAGED. To be engaged teaching and learning must be rigorous, must be of value to students, and must be targeted to a real audience that goes beyond the teacher. Another way of thinking about engagement is to label this teaching and learning in this way as authentic.

In American schools today the emphasis on high-stakes testing resulting from the No Child Left Behind requirement to demonstrate adequate yearly growth (AYG) has placed a damper on engagement. Furthermore, NCLB requirements are causing schools to concentrate on technical aspects of reading and mathematics while abandoning aesthetic reading purposes as well as science, social studies, and the arts. Students are encouraged to follow specific formulas for writing, apply technical language to their acts of learning, and spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for the standardized testing that is required by NCLB.

By abandoning literature, science, social studies and arts integration into the curriculum, American schools are effectively creating an entire generation of Jeopardy players; an entire generation of people who are able to recall isolated facts without the ability to relate those facts to anything meaningful. Americans, sadly, are tolerating, perhaps even encouraging, the dismemberment of intellectual capital among the younger generation.

Integrating the arts into the classroom by introducing models of creative dramatics such as improvisation, choral reading, text to script adaptations (and performances) as well as teaching music, drawing, and the like as these important and engaging activities relate to the content of literature, science, mathematics, the social studies, and the like will restore creativity for sure. Additionally, students will learn to contextualize knowledge rather than understand knowledge as a bunch of facts.

Fear of being less than Number 1, an American obsession, seems to be driving the political and cultural movement toward a standards based curriculum and high stakes testing. Becoming well schooled in a Western hegemonic world view is the goal of some. Reliance on technical aspects of reading and mathematics is on the plates of others. What is missing is a commitment to knowledge as thinking rather than knowledge as a matter of being able to recall facts and structures.

Of course this little rant comes about because it is testing time in Illinois where I live. I have personally witnessed nearly two months of test preparation mostly at the expense of instruction. If I count the time dedicated to test preparation in the schools I visit on a regular basis over 70 instructional days have been dedicated to preparing for the multiple tests being administered to Chicago Public School students. This amounts to better than 50% of the school year so far spent on testing and test preparation.

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