Quick hits

1) While everybody has been complaining about the silliness of the dress being black/blue or gold/white, the truth is, this really is a fascinating case of the ambiguities of human color perception.  David Pogue’s take was my favorite.  And a good one in Wired, too.

The really crazy part for me is that on Friday morning this was totally white and I could not even imagine how it could be blue.  Then Friday afternoon when I showed my kids, it was blue.  Friday night, it was white again.  As of this later Friday night writing, it’s back to blue again.  Try as I might, I cannot see it as the dingy white I did just two hours ago.  Argh!  Crazy and awesome.

2) Not generally a big fan of Maureen Dowd, but she’s exactly right to question Jeb’s decision-making in relying on all his brother’s worst advisers.  Paul Wolfowitz– seriously?!

3) Our nation’s way over-reliance on solitary confinement truly is a national shame.

4) Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members is literally one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.  I read it in a day (can’t remember the last time I did that) and laughed out loud a bunch while I was reading it.

5) Really liked this take on David Carr’s death and the stigma of lung cancer.

6) I so hate the twitter guardians of decency who seem to take such pleasure in ruining lives.  Absolute worst part of the Lindsey Stone case was how the morons basically had no sense of humor or context.  Horrible and pathetic.

7) How twin studies show that whether you believe in God or not, is significantly genetic.

8) Enjoyed this story on Dianne Rehm’s advocacy in the Right to Die movement.

9) I think Scott Walker’s moronic comments that he’s ready to face down ISIS because he faced down public employee unions mostly just show that he’s not ready for primetime (of which we’ve had ample evidence of late).  Plus, there’s something about the set of his eyes that just seems wrong to me.

10) Will Saletan on how Obama should more forthrightly call out Republicans.  Not going to happen, but it’s nice to think about:

Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.

11) Found this NYT story utterly fascinating about two French babies switched at birth and how they stayed with their non-biological families when the error was learned many years later.

12) St Louis is a great example of what goes wrong when a metropolitan area has too many local governments.

13) I’ve only watched three episodes of House of Cards and that’s all it will likely ever be.  As Alyssa Rosenberg writes, it insults our intelligence.  Also, from what I’ve seen it has basically no sense of humor (which is decidedly not the case from other great dramas of recent times).

14) If the Supreme Court actually makes the transparently political and nakedly partisan decision to strike down Obamacare subsidies, this could actually put Republicans in a real jam.

15) Our system of elected judges is truly one of the worst parts of the American system of government.  Easy pickings, of course, for John Oliver.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

6 Responses to Quick hits

  1. Mika says:

    #2, you’re not a big fan of Maureen Dowd? I even own two of her books, “Are men necessary” and “Bushworld”. I can’t remember when was the last time that I read her column though.

    #7, that believing in God or not is significantly genetic is truly mindboggling. Think of all those proud atheists who think that they are so darn rational that they have deliberated the thing through and through and they are so full of themselves, “Gee, how clever I am”. Then you go over them and say, “Actually, you being an atheist has probably more to do with your serotonin 5-HT(1A) receptor density than anything else.” “No, it’s because of my superior intellect and rationality!” “I’m afraid it’s basically your genes…”


    #9, maybe Scott Walker thinks he is Walker, Texas?

    #13, so I don’t have to worry about not seeing House of Cards? Cool.

    • Irving Finkel says:

      #7 That’s an interesting way to twist what the article says. But that isn’t what it said.

      What it says is: “faith is influenced by genes.”

      The study does not reveal mechanisms. The study doesn’t say atheists do no use reason or rationalism to determine their decision.
      There is no doubt that some atheists do not.
      There is no doubt that the vast majority of believers do not reason their way into belief. Most are born into belief, indoctrinated from almost the time they are born, into the beliefs of the parents and family.

      In other words, not believing in a deity can still be a perfectly rational choice. Your missing the very real possibility that there is a genetic disposition that makes people believe, or prevents people from being rational when it comes to faith.

      Considering there are tens of thousands of belief systems, tens of thousands of Christian sects alone, tens of thousands of proposed gods, set against the simple proposition that “There is insufficient evidence to accept any of those tens of thousands of assertions, almost all of which conflict with each other in some way”, between belief and not belief, one is indeed a more rational choice.
      It’s not believing in assertions made without evidence.
      Faith is the opposite of reason.

      Especially when not one single believer ever has managed to give any evidence for their assertion that there is a God or gods.

      If I say there is a magical being who watches over me, is all powerful, all knowing who listens to my prayers, knows what I am thinking, will judge me when I die and reward me with heaven or punish me with hell, no one can see him or give evidence he is there and his name is Irving Finkel and he lives over my garage, people rightly think I’m nuts.

      But tell them it’s name is Jesus, and your Sunday cracker and wine turn into Jesus’s flesh and blood in your stomach, and that’s perfectly sane.

      Although somehow I doubt I’ll convince.

      That predisposition goes for Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Bahá’í, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Slavic neopaganism, Celtic polytheism, Heathenism (German paganism), Semitic neopaganism, Wicca, Kemetism (Egyptian paganism), Hellenism, Italo-Roman neopaganism and many, many more.
      Almost all of who believe they have the “One True Religion”.

      They can’t all be right. In fact, there is nothing to show any of them are right.
      Nothing but feelings, warm spots, and faith.

      • Mika says:

        You say:
        ‘What it says is: “faith is influenced by genes.”’

        The article says:
        “For many, the idea that there is a genetic component to our faith–or lack of it–is a stretch too far and damages the concept of self-determination that we hold so dear.”

    • Irving Finkel says:

      Mika wrote
      The article says:
      “For many, the idea that there is a genetic component to our faith–or lack of it–is a stretch too far and damages the concept of self-determination that we hold so dear.”

      It’s a shame that it doesn’t actually follow, as I pointed out in the earlier comment.

      BTW, mine was also a quote from the article. And I’ll stand by everything else I wrote as well.
      Perhaps you believe snake handling, flopping about on the floor of a church while babbling incoherently, having male congregation neuter themselves, or have mohalim Rabbi’s cut off a male babies foreskin and suck his penis is all perfectly rational, admirable and socially preferable behavior. There is also the new anti dinosaur Christian clubs, who are lobbying to have mention or teaching of dinosaurs removed from public schools. Or having some 41 US states that allow parents to let their children die of preventable diseases, accidents or deliberate abuse, in the name of faith. Just a very small sampling of religious activities that are oh so rational.

      “Think of all those proud atheists who think that they are so darn rational that they have deliberated the thing through and through and they are so full of themselves,”

      Yes, all those proud atheists who are so darn rational and full of themselves, unlike the smug egotistical Christians who are desperately holding onto their position of privilege, and whine incessantly when they are prevented from abusing others and cry of being persecuted when judges dump laws that prevent gay people from getting married. Or when religious teachers in public schools force atheist children to pray in schools, or single them out for ridicule when they say they don’t want to pray to the invisible sky daddy.

      Rational? Certainly not all the time. There are more than a few times when I’d dearly love to smash in all the teeth of some pompous Christian with a baseball bat or ball peen hammer after they’ve let their child suffer a long and painful death that could have been easily cured with modern medical science. And then the politician or judge who lets them off scot-free because “They’ve suffered enough with the loss of a child.”
      When the second child died a year later, I wasn’t any more rational after reading about the trial. But at least that time the parents got a few months probation, although they did get to keep their remaining three children.

      It’s interesting that you take something from another study, which is summed up in a one sentence “This finding in normal male subjects indicated that the serotonin system may serve as a biological basis for spiritual experiences.” and you assert it to apply to atheism, which, again, is a response to a proposal of a claim of Gods, and has nothing to do with spiritualism. I guess since they both had the word spiritual in them, you thought they must go together?

      It’s also interesting that the number of atheists continue to climb in static populations, or even in the USA even as generally highly religious immigrants continue, and people change their beliefs mid life or late in life. I wonder how that could relate to being genetically programmed to faith or atheism? Did their genetic makeup change halfway through their life?

      Perhaps the issue is a little more complex than what we might read in a one and a half page article.

      As for your quote: “For many, the idea that there is a genetic component to our faith–or lack of it–is a stretch too far and damages the concept of self-determination that we hold so dear.”

      Many atheists hold that humans do not have self-determination, that there is no such thing, that we are entirely the product of our genetic programming and environmental influences and the definition of free will that many religious, especially Christian use, is simply not possible.
      Other atheists disagree.

      I could also point out that almost everyone is atheist to some God. I doubt you believe in Jupiter, or Ceres, Ra, Zeus, or many of the hundreds and hundreds of gods proposed by humans. Atheists just go one god further. And in most cases, it’s not a disbelief, it’s a statement of “I don’t accept the assertion that X God exists.” Just as it’s likely you probably don’t accept the assertion that the God Poseidon exists.

      • Mika says:

        I must have really hurt your feelings, I apologize. I might have made my point with a little milder choice of words.

        You might be surprised to learn that this sums up my attitude pretty well:

        “And in most cases, it’s not a disbelief, it’s a statement of “I don’t accept the assertion that X God exists.””

        Where we differ is that I don’t think that my lack of faith has anything to do with rationality. I don’t know why I’m not a believer but that doesn’t bother me. Genes might have something to do with it, but I don’t know. This is just the way I am.

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