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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-10-11 11:07
Subject: [links] Link salad for a Saturday
Security: Public
Tags:books, links, mainspring, personal, politics, religion, reviews, science

A video review of Mainspring [ Powell's | Amazon thb | Audible ]

Don’t forget the Tourbillon tuckerization contest. [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

profbrotherton asks what is the matter with science — Why are there no more Einsteins?

Goldmine bug DNA may be key to alien life — My favorite bit: “Chivian’s analysis shows that D. audaxviator gets its energy from the radioactive decay of uranium in the surrounding rocks. It has genes to extract carbon from dissolved carbon dioxide and other genes to fix nitrogen, which comes from the surrounding rocks.” (Thanks to lt260.)

pharyngula references Dan Savage on dying with dignity — I am very much with this perspective.

Palin’s religious certitude — “I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.” How can someone who literally believes this be trusted with stewardship of our nation, our people and our resources? Her long-term thinking hits an endpoint beyond which nothing else matters. That has extremely serious implications for every branch of Federal policy.

The Palin Fallout — Canadian columnist Heather Mallick on how American conservatives reacted to her column about Palin. And conservatives wonder why liberal-progressives think they’re crazy. You guys have the “kill all the traitors” vote sewed up, not us. (Nicked from james-nicoll.)

Anger Is Crowd’s Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally — Will McCain and the GOP own up to the results of this kind of deliberately divisive politicking? This is where bullets come from. Every conservative in America should be examining their conscience right now. Are you really behind win-at-any-cost politics? (And yes, I’m aware he’s starting to reverse his rhetoric. Have you seen the video? McCain looks like a 6 year old being forced to apologize — his tone and body language make it abundantly clear he does not intend his conciliatory words.)

The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind — Back during the Clinton administration, we were told incessantly that “character counts”, and the state of the Clintons’ marriage was widely discussed in the media across the ideological spectrum. Memo to conservative America: where are those voices now? (Nicked from spencimusprime.)

More liberal media bias — A comparison of the media’s discussion of Obama’s relationship to Ayers and McCain’s relationship to Liddy. (Hint: those liberal bastards have covered the Obama side — a much thinner story on the bare facts — 18x more often than the McCain side.) Your Liberal Media at work!


10/11/08
Body movement: 2 hour, 10 minute suburban walk
Last night’s weigh-out: n/a
This morning’s weigh-in: 230.2
Currently reading: Back issues of Fortean Times

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Post A Comment | 17 Comments | | Flag | Link






Josh English
User: joshenglish
Date: 2008-10-11 18:55 (UTC)
Subject: No More Einsteins?
Of course we have brilliant scientists pushing the borders of our knowledge out, but we're not going to hear much because a) few people understand that level of science, b) There are only slightly more people who could explain it to us, c) At least in Amerika, science is considered an evil thing to avoid.

I think the shear deluge of information available now makes it hard to look into the details of any subject in the media, there is too much to talk about, so we get a veneer of news pimpled with factiods.
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 04:43 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
> Palin’s religious certitude — “I will see Jesus come back to
> earth in my lifetime.”

Looks like you left out some ellipses. The actual quote from the article is: "Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime." But I guess that lacks some of the certitude you wanted to accuse her of, doesn't it?
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2008-10-12 06:15 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
Keyword:quo vadis
(I think) there is not a significant difference in the sentences nor in the belief expressed nor in its implications for her long-term policy attitudes.

(I think) it's kind of disingenuous to say that adding "I think" in front of a startling fringe statement makes it less startling or fringe. (I think) that's picking nits and missing the point.

Pick any comment by Obama that outrages you (I don't know on what specifically you disagree with Obama, let's say for the sake of argument something like "We should not have invaded Iraq"), and ask yourself sincerely if it would make any real difference if he'd prefaced it by "I think" as in "I think we should not have invaded Iraq." What's the real difference?
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 07:14 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
None of your examples are statements about future events. Compare these two statements about the future:

1. Obama will win the election.
2. I think Obama will win the election.

Which has more certitude? Obviously #1. The phrase "I think" is an expression of the possibility that the speaker may be wrong.

The reason I bothered to follow the link (Sorry, Jay, but I don't always click on everything you link to) was because the statement "I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime" seemed to be an astonishingly prideful statement, ignoring (among other things) the possibility that she might die tomorrow with Jesus still uncome. The words "I think" add the necessary element of humility.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-12 13:06 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
The words "I think" add the necessary element of humility.

They may add humility, but they don't subtract certitude, which was what I was trying to point out.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-12 12:52 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
I read "I think" in the sense of "I know", as in "I think Friday will be last workday this week", rather than "I think" in the sense of "maybe", as in "I think Friday will be the last day for this project." Given that the context of the article (and many of her own public statements on a wide range of matters) is about her certitude, this does not strike me an unreasonable reading.

(And frankly, literally believing that as even a serious possibility doesn't seem to me to be much of an improvement, in terms of relying on her for clear thinking. As for that belief in general, some in every generation since Jesus' ministry here on Earth have believed in His imminent and literal return, and they've all been wrong for 2,000 years. What makes Palin's generation of Christians special? I've never understood that thinking. I don't quarrel with the idea as metaphor -- it would seem to be a good, strong motivator for Christian thought and deed, for example -- but even flirting with taking it literally really baffles me.)
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 16:45 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
> "I think Friday will be last workday this week."

Why would anyone put the words "I think" there unless there was some doubt? Someone might say that if there was the possibility of having to come in on Saturday to get a project finished.

I'm not saying Palin is not certain that Christ will return, as I'm sure that's an article of faith for her, as it is for me. What I'm saying is that given the scripture that no man knows the day Christ will return, most Christians -- even those who believe the return is imminent -- tend to avoid certainty as to when that return will occur. (Yes, there have been plenty of failed predictions of a certain date.)

I can understand you having a problem with the concept of Christ returning, and I can understand why you might object to Palin on the basis of her belief that it will happen in this generation (or at all). But you are letting your negative beliefs about Palin blind you to the most probable function of the words "I think" in that sentence, which is to reduce the certitude of the statement.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-12 13:04 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
One more thing:

As a political observer (without regard to your partisanship or mine) do you think that her base doesn't take her literally? I have never suspected the Evangelical community of speaking in metaphor on this topic. In other words, I find it difficult to credit anything other than that she means it literally when she says it, and the people she's talking to hear it as if she meant it literally.

What I think about it is irrelevant to Palin or the GOP, I'm not a likely Republican voter anyway.
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 16:52 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
I'm sure that she meant it literally, as it's something I literally believe, too. (Or close enough -- I would say I believe it likely that Christ will return within my lifetime, which will probably mostly intersect with Palin's lifetime. However, it's possible the Second Coming will be at some point in the future after my death.)
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russ: zen
User: goulo
Date: 2008-10-12 18:43 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
Keyword:zen
I am quite surprised. Why do you think it's likely this will happen in your lifetime, instead of any of the many generations before you or after you? What's special about now? The Bible itself certainly doesn't state any concrete estimate on when this will happen, right? (Otherwise why would so many people throughout history think that there time was the time of Christ's return?)
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 21:34 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
Since the official name of the Mormon Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we tend to believe we're living fairly close to the Second Coming of Christ. Mormons have other books of scripture beyond the Bible, so I can't speak for Christians who only have the Bible as scripture, although some of what follows is implied in the Bible.

From the time of Adam to the time of Christ was about four thousand years. From the time of Christ to now is about two thousand years. Mormon scripture strongly suggests (and the Bible to a lesser extent) that six periods of about a thousand years each will be followed by Christ returning to rule for a thousand years (which would be sort of like a sabbath millennium).

Thus, from a Mormon perspective, Christ's return fairly close to the year 2000 seems likely, but given that we're talking a time span of millennia, the margin for error is fairly large. There were Mormons in the 1800s who believed it would happen in the 1800s, so that particular interpretation of scripture probably remains viable into the 2100s.

Let me make it clear, however, that none of this means I am certain that Christ will return within my lifetime. I may die long before reaching the 99 years one of my grandfathers did. Or my interpretation of the scriptures may be wrong.
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russ
User: goulo
Date: 2008-10-13 05:46 (UTC)
Subject: Re: No More Einsteins?
Ah, OK, I didn't know you were Mormon. It is amusing how often one can exchange comments with another person in Jay's journal, but not know a lot about the other person. :) Thanks for the reply.
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-12 11:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
How can someone who literally believes this be trusted with stewardship of our nation, our people and our resources? Her long-term thinking hits an endpoint beyond which nothing else matters. That has extremely serious implications for every branch of Federal policy.

It depends on how she compartmentalizes her religious beliefs and political actions. There isn't as quite a clear path from belief to action as many people seem to think.

What kind of policy do you think this belief will cause? Can you show evidence where this belief has affected her policy making?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-12 12:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What kind of policy do you think this belief will cause?

For example, if there is no long term in "long term planning", then both environmental conservation and extractive energy policies can be managed with immediate goals as primary concerns. This would seem to be the case with Palin's lawsuit seeking to overturn the Bush administration's classification of polar bears as an endangered species. A lawsuit in which the governor (through her AG's office) flat-out lied about Alaska state scientists' own research on the matter and politically distorted state reports to meet her own goals. Likewise North Slope and offshore drilling policy. If the state of the Beaufort Sea in 50 years is irrelevant to her, then her position on rapid exploration makes sense. Those are both an example of the kind of policy, and evidence of it's application.

While this kind of short term benefit with disregard for long term consequences is very typical of conservative thought in general (many non-Evangelical conservatives hold exactly these same positions), when it's reinforced by the certainty of religious conviction, there's no opportunity to introduce new data or considerations into the thinking.

Other examples where an absolutist short-term view is very damaging: Bush-like spending policies, where "there's no tomorrow" seems to be almost literally the guiding principal, as well as foreign policy, where multi-decade concerns normally drive trade agreements, treaty making and conflict resolution, social policy involving ageing issues where a policymaker in their mid-40s doesn't expect herself or her children to require social services in their declining years, educational policy aimed at long-term outcomes such as endowment building and enrollment trends. Etc. etc. etc.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-12 13:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And, of course Global Warming. That one's a two-pronged fork. If the world will change soon through the agency of Christ's return, acting on Global Warming is irrelevant and even a waste of resources. (Not words I've heard from her, but this is certainly consistent with her statements on the subject.) Even if Christ's return is further delayed, God's plan for the world must include Global Warming for a reason (and she has talked many times about God's plan for things as detailed as pipeline building), which would be a strong disincentive for fighting it.
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-10-12 17:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The belief in a literal return of Christ within the lifetime of people now living does not necessarily lead to conservative policy choices.

For example, it could easily be argued that when Christ returns, he will ask for an accounting of our stewardship over the earth and its resources -- including what we did to fight global warming. I hear that sort of thing from Mormon Democrats.

If Evangelical Christians hadn't been forced away from the Democratic Party by its embrace of abortion rights, today there would probably be plenty of Democrats using the same basic religious beliefs Palin has to justify liberal policies.
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2008-10-12 19:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A new genre for ya, Jay: Weedpunk: Like Steampunk, but with weed. The writer claims it has the following characteristics:
  • Weed as a form of currency
  • Weed powered vehicles
  • Clothes made of weed
  • Laughing at things that most people fear
  • Themes of loss or forgetfulness
  • Deep introspection
  • World hunger
  • A common array of heroes who were prominent during the drug culture such as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
  • Weed bars - areas of relative safety for rebellious weed smokers, due to the fact that the establishments are protected by contracts which must be signed by all entrants which has a “no law enforcement” clause
Sadly, not something I could write because I don't have much attachment to the cause... The writing, however, is so bad that I strongly suspect mockery. Or Poe's Law, but with weed.
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