smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
Fun movie.  Believable, in the sense that if you spend much time in the martial arts it's not hard to meet (or become) guys like the ones portrayed in the movie. Not believable, in the sense that I just can't buy Ewan MacGregor as a nebbish twit---he always looks like he's on the verge of shagging your sister.  Sweet, in a Hollywood kind of way.

Flawed, in a Hollywood kind of way. )

Here's what's not so fun. The Iraqi army has been using fake equipment to search for explosives at security checkpoints. They're basically dowsing for bombs, and it doesn't work. Is it just me, or is dowsing for bombs an awful lot like remote-viewing for terrorists?

Anyway, here's a nice interview with Jon Ronson, who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats. It sounds like the book is more serious than the movie, and it might be worth a read.

smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
Normally I'm "rah rah rah" for atheism, but today I think I'll post links to a pair of thoughtful essays that look critically at the state of atheist culture.

First is "You Don't Have to Be a Skeptic to be an Atheist" by Amy at the blog Skepchick.  Amy reports on her experience at the recent Atheist Alliance International convention, where she's surprised by the number of people so committed to railing against religion that they're unaware of a broader skeptical movement.

Second is "Culture and Barbarism: Metaphysics in a Time of Terrorism", by Terry Eagleton.  This is an essay that feels a bit quaint in its willingness to indulge in sweeping generalizations about the nature of civilization and culture.  I think Eagleton makes a mistake in equating what he calls liberal humanism with something that would better be called technocratic utopianism, and I think he's also mistaken in thinking that people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are the standard-bearers for that utopianism -- they both strike me as people resigned to an understanding that human nature is far too intrinsically shifty to be the object of mass scientific reformation.  (They just don't think this is an excuse for excusing superstition.)

I'm going to want to think about the second essay some more.  I can feel myself reacting defensively to it, and that would be contrary to the spirit of skepticism, after all.



smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
The Wall Street Journal commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to write short essays to answer the question, "Where does evolution leave God?"

Ooo, watch him blather! )

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June 2012

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