Monday, May 30, 2011

"Oh, Lord, Please Don't Burn Us"

It must be something like survivors' guilt, combined wth vestigial superstition, that makes people (like those in Joplin MO) come out of a tornado offering prayers to God for not destroying them too. 
"Parishioners turned to scripture to comprehend the destruction and praised God for the lives not lost." New York Times 

Oh Lord please don't burn us
don't kill or toast your flock
Don't put us on the barbecue
or simmer us in stock,
Don't bake or baste or boil us
or stir-fry us in a wok.

Oh, please don't lightly poach us
Or baste us with hot fat.
Don't fricassee or roast us
Or boil us in a vat,
And please don't stick thy servants, Lord,
In a Rotissomat"

--Composed by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, authored by Graham Chapman and John Cleese

Thursday, May 26, 2011


As Oprah departs one of her many platforms, here's an homage in the form of Richard Powers' parody in Generosity. I think he hits the nail more-or-less squarely.

"The Church of Oprah" (nyt):
She helped launch Rhonda Byrne, creator of the DVD and book “The Secret,” who teaches that just thinking about wealth can make you rich. She invited the “psychic medium” John Edward to help mourners in her audience talk to their dead relatives.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” made viewers feel that they constantly had to “sculpt their best lives,” Dr. Lofton writes. Yet in her religious exuberance Ms. Winfrey gave people some badly broken tools. Ms. Winfrey nodded along to the psychics and healers and intuitives. She rarely asked tough questions, and because she believed, millions of others did, too. 

Monday, May 23, 2011


I pass this one every day on I-40 in Nashville:

This one has mysteriously disappeared:

This one is coming:

Friday, May 20, 2011


The world's supposed to be ending tomorrow. How will you spend the rest of eternity?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sapere aude, freethinkers!

Dale McGowan says raising children capable of following Kant's injunction to take courage and dare to think requires rejecting a hellishly bad definition of "sacred," as something "inviolable, unquestionable, immune from challenge."

Monday, May 16, 2011

the best thing about education

Vanderbilt's Chancellor quoted John Dewey in his commencement address Friday. Here's the text, from Dewey's Reconstruction in Philosophy:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Don't Say Gay" in Tennessee

I've been watching a lot of softball lately. Jon Stewart played hardball last night with Tennessee's latest ridiculous piece of unironically-self-mocking legislation, Stacey Campfield's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill... coupled with creationism and Gloria Allred's family values. "Just so proud to be here," I was saying?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

gone fishin'

Grades posted, another semester in the books. I don't fish, but if I did I'd go fishin' now.

This is dedicated to the student who slipped me a gratuitous note on final exam day: "I forgive you." Funny thing is, his theological "Father" probably wouldn't.

Father forgive us for what we must do

You forgive us we'll forgive you
We'll forgive each other till we both turn blue
Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven...

Fish and whistle, whistle and fish
Eat everything that they put on your dish
And when we get through we'll make a big wish
That we never have to do this again again

 By the way, folks: it was the guy on the bicycle who said the important thing is not to stop asking questions. It's the last thing I said on the last day of class, but most of you missed it. I forgive you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

double-slit, redux

We finished the semester this afternoon with several interesting reports, including Warren's on the infamous double-slit electron experiment, which I now recall was featured in the film "What the [Bleep] Do We Know" and came up in an old class discussion last Fall, too. (It'll probably come up again next Fall in "Happiness and the Secret of Life.")

One implication seemed to be that, because observations at the quantum level alter experimental results, "we're not supposed to know" reality. Or "magic is real," or "God exists," or... I'm not quite sure what. [bleeping banality...e-Skeptic review... debunked...Secret... Shermervs. Chopra]

 Steven Novella thinks this particular example of quantum weirdness is a species of a broader pattern of misunderstanding, often perpetrated by the likes of Deepak Chopra In the wave-particle duality of matter, illustrated by the double-slit experiment, "the collapse to a particle is not dependent on any observer – just interaction with other stuff. No observer is necessary." Chopra has interpreted this experiment as showing that the future can mysteriously alter the past. Novella says nonsense. "Physicists do not pretend to understand the fundamental nature of quantum entanglement."

Well, me neither. But Novella's observation rings true to me:

Chopra is using a common trick of the pseudoscientist – exploiting cutting edge science, which the public is not likely to understand, and pretend as if there is proof where there is uncertainty. Take some interesting experiments, then leap way ahead to conclusions that serve their metaphysical purposes, but which are not settled science.
In short – beware of anyone pretending to understand the ultimate implications of Quantum Mechanics  and that it supports their far out philosophy.
Don't get tangled up in woo: solid advice. And, reservations aside, a good provocative report, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"education is life itself"

Enjoyed our last round of NW reports this afternoon: Jason on the "gods" and other tricksters of native American mythology (especially the unpronouncable Creator Mom A'akuluujjusi), Josh on Green Catholicism (will solar panels lift Benedict past the priest scandals to beatitude?), Willie on "Gasland," Paul on "Permaculture," & Brandon on modular thorium-based nuclear energy. I wish our course could just keep on keepin' on. It'll come around again Spring after next, send me your suggestions. Meanwhile, keep it clean, native, & green.

Just to reiterate Paul's Dewey quote, which is really a good note to end every semester on:

"Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself."

We don't have to meet, to continue learning and educating one another. Meeting is always nice, though. Keep in touch, folks. I'll buy you a beer when you come around.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"It's all gardening"

This was a good walk on a brilliant Spring morning, while waiting for an oil-change at nearby Crown Ford... worth 1,000+ words, easily. They speak of missed opportunity.

Nashville, TN
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