Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"There’s nothing reasonable about faith based beliefs," the anonymous trendy atheist said. "Faith is the antithesis to reason...."

No, it is not.  Irrationality is the antithesis to reason.  Faith is not the lack of capacity for logic or the willful rejection of rational thought and behavior.  That is not only not the whole of faith, it has nothing to with faith at all, and not even the most science-paranoid fundamentalist would insist that good Christians should always act contrary to natural thought.

Faith can be described as believing in something without having proof--and it need not be anything so thoughtless as insisting on invisible pink unicorns being the cause of rain or wind, but just something as simple as not exercising positive skepticism in the face of something that, while you may not have hard empirical data to support it, the means by which you have acquired the evidence you do have, have already demonstrated themselves to be reliable and consistent.

Unless it is logical to absolutely reject out of hand everything you personally lack compelling empirical evidence for then our friend will have to admit a closer familiarity with faith than his criticism would lead us to believe. But it's not logical to do so; we can't afford to verify everything for ourselves, and despite assertions that anyone who wanted to could teach himself quantum chromodynamics or cellular biology or Urdu or medieval law (the line implicitly being drawn at Aquinas's Summa), for some people a lot of that stuff remains every bit as impenetrable as metaphysical topics do to people who people who have no interest in studying them.

Paul said faith is proof of things unseen--the faithful act on evidence they have that is not outwardly apparent.  This is, understandably, hard to swallow for empiricists and skeptics, but what one should consider is whether this faith in the supernatural or comfortable self-delusion or psychosis, whichever it may be, what kind of effect does it have on their lives?

"Is your god supposedly omnipresent? Yes. Therefore, your god must be part of everything, else he would not be present everywhere."

Not at all.  For someone interested in logic, I'm not impressed with this one's grasp of definitions and meaning.  God being present everywhere and in all things is panentheism.  God being part of all things is pantheism.  The distinction between occupying space (all or none of it) and having mass (a little or none of it)?  Not that obscure.  It would be less inaccurate to say creation was a part of God, but it's still got a lot to be desired.

"As to choosing between animal and spiritual, there is no evidence for the spiritual. By what basis do you determine what is spiritual? Thru [sic] blind faith, beliefs without evidence. It is that kind of thinking that has led people to fly planes into buildings.
On the other hand, there have been atheists who have worked for the betterment of humanity."

Whoa, slow down.  Spirituality and faith are not the same thing, and it's a long way from "There's more to life than what I can directly sense and measure" or "I'm willing to accept some things I haven't personally verified" to "Those other guys are the enemy and we need to teach them a lesson written in their own blood."  I wouldn't even call having faith or a spiritual life to be a "kind of thinking" at all--category error.  Maybe it's too fine a point to be criticizing for sloppy thinking.

A philosopher might say that your ability to reason abstractly makes you metaphysically superior to animals, defines a chasm between you and them that they cannot cross. A Christian would say this is because you have a rational soul rather than an animal soul (which you can take for whatever natural phenomenon it is that makes something not-dead as opposed to inanimate, for the sake of the argument).  A historian would say that it wasn't theists who set off humanity's worst genocides all in the last eighty years.

But by all means, remind us that "there have been atheists who have worked for the betterment of humanity."  I don't doubt it, but that's mighty faint praise, that can be applied to unchurched charity workers and dictatorial mass murderers alike.

When you say "blind faith," you seem to mean "arbitrary and random designation."  That's not the same thing as having no interior experience to guide or motivate us to do or believe something, and it certainly isn't the same thing as having evidence that does not meet your standards for veracity.  I'm not saying you shouldn't have standards--holding evidence up to standards is part of peer review--but they help discern what data are evidence for, as well as whether data are reliable or not.  Anecdotal evidence may have vanishing utility for a physical application, but that should not lead to dismissing anecdotal evidence out of hand for all cases.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Unfortunately," said the progressive I crossed paths with who thinks the Church has to learn from the world as much as modern parents apparently need to learn from their modern children, "Latin America was too brainwashed by JP2 to realize his true mission:  to stamp out liberation theology."

I didn't realize JP2 made a secret out of it.  Communism didn't work well in Europe and it wouldn't really work well in the New World, either.  Priests are not bourgeois, salvation history is supernatural and not simply political, and individuals still possess culpability for their own sins.  What's not in need of correction?

This kind of condescending behalfism against easy, high-profile targets rather irks me.  I say it's condescending because it materially accuses the whole of Latin America of being too stupid to see what's actually going on around them.  Boy, good thing we have these socialists to aid the proletariat out of contempt, instead of some other kind of demographic or philosophical school that allegedly only wants to keep them down out of spite.

Look:  a clergyman wants to do charity work?  Great.  But a clergyman he is first.  If you feel you missed your calling, address your concerns and weigh your options against the commitments you already made.  You can't take it in halves; it's up to the Church to administrate itself. JP2 didn't chasten  Ernesto Cardenal behind closed doors, and didn't do it for some obscure reason.  If someone didn't take a hint from that event at his 1983 visit to Nicaragua, then someone's listening to the wrong rhetoric.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mitch Daniels helped defund PP in his state. Protests included sob stories about victims of rape and incest.

I sympathize with them as much as with their unborn children. Let's not get sidetracked; abortions for such reasons are the exception rather than the norm.

Can't afford to give abortions to poor victims, Planned Parenthood?  Are you a business or a charity?  You really want to help your poor clientele?  Give them abortions for free and raise the price on cosmetic abortions by a dollar. You should still break even.

Still can't make money?  Are you a charity or a business?  Take a note from GM and Chrysler:  they got one-time bailouts in exchange for federal meddling in what theyre expected to do in return.  Are you willing to accept a little regulation like every other industry in the country?  Everybody's doing it these days!  Don't be the last one to fascist up!

On the other hand....

The Indiana state government giveth, and the Indiana state government taketh away.
On the one hand:  PP is no longer funded there--great.  A company that performs ethically dubious medical procedures doesn't need to be rewarded for pretending to be a sort of charity that needs government support on top of donations, investment returns, and service fees to provide a necessary service.  Plenty of worthwhile charities get by without charging for services because they get donations and volunteers; I would never volunteer for or donate to any for-profit entity (the way for-profit and nonprofit entities are currently defined in the tax code) except as a college intern.  The Roe decision even says states can regulate abortion, so people shouldn't be taking it personally.  Detroit may as well complain about Lansing regulating speed limits but not giving kickbacks to the automakers.

On the other hand:  IN supreme court ruled that Indiana residents are not allowed to defend themselves against unlawful entry by police because there can be justifiable reasons for officers to enter a domicile without a warrant.  This is a non sequitir.  It has always been the case that officers of the law have been empowered to act without a court order when there is probable cause.  Would it have been appropriate to remind people of this fact?  Would it have been commendable to clarify for residents and for police departments what some of the more poorly defined criteria are that delineate unlawful entry from justifiable forced entry in pursuit of police business?  Yes to both.  Is that what happened?  Doesn't sound like it.

I await a happy correction.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Slightly belated, a more whimsical topic than the heavy one permeating the blogosphere this week....

...although I will point out that Osama bin Laden died on Divine Mercy Sunday (depending on your time zone, anyway).

But anyway, Thursday being the day it has been, I got to talking with some coworkers about a certain creamy condiment, and about a certain similar creamy condiment that claims to be a different food product.

Surprisingly, my coworkers were strident in Miracle Whip's defense.  "It's got a certain...tang to it."

Really?  Put me in a taste test and I think I could tell the difference, maybe even see the difference, but I don't know that I could tell you which one was which.

Maybe I've just never had particularly bland mayonnaise, or despite breathing in corrosive fumes all day long I'm still sensitive enough to spices that the allegedly tamer of the two does not strike me as decisively milder.

Yeah, yeah, maybe it's possible my nose is so burned out I can't taste Miracle Whip either, but it's always been this way for me, before going into industry, before leaving the home of my childhood that was entirely populated by nonsmokers, so I'm shunting that to the bottom of the list of excuses.

I'm thinking maybe it's just a brand loyalty thing, the way some people prefer Pepsi or Coke or RC, but at least none of those brands has the pretense to say "we're not some mere cola!"  They're all colas that merely differ by secondary ingredients, just like how Cherry Coke is still a Coca-Cola and Pepsi Blue is still a Pepsi-Cola.

I've seen and experienced so much variation in mayonnaise that it's really going to take more than branding to tell me a spade ain't a spade.  Ever try aioli?  Farther out than Miracle Whip.

Not that I have anything against Miracle Whip.  I've yet to meet an egg emulsion I haven't liked.

But anyway, just for the record, here's a basic list of the ingredients that mayonnaise and Miracle Whip have in common:

  • water
  • sugar
  • eggs (whole and/or processed yolks>
  • soybean oil
  • vinegar

Dude, that's mayonnaise.  The recipe I use doesn't call for added water, and I leave out the sugar, and I've been using predominantly or exclusively olive oil since before it was hot, but that's your baseline:  egg, oil, vinegar.  The proportions I use are generally 2 eggs to 1 cup of oil to 1 tablespoon of vinegar, plus whatever else I feel like.  Maybe mustard or sesame oil, maybe balsamic or malt vinegar.

Okay, what kind of vinegar do they use?  Probably white, if it's not specified, but whatever.

Here's where list of ingredients starts to diverge.  First, the "unique" ingredients to Miracle Whip, sans some irrelevant processing items:

  • mustard flour
  • paprika
  • dried garlic
  • spice
  • natural flavor

Keep in mind those last two.

Now, the differing (cough) ingredients in an official mayonnaise--I looked up Hellmann's because it's well known:

  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • natural flavors

"Natural flavors?"  "Spice?"   Okay, lemon juice--it's still a fairly strong acid for a food, but it'll be fruitier than most vinegars.  Garlic?  Maybe, but I wouldn't call it tangier than lemon juice.  Everything else?  It's all sausage to me.  Paprika, mustard (powdered or the condiment that also contains vinegar and turmeric), chile paste, garlic (dried or oil), it's all good.

But to me, it's all mayo.  All different kinds, but it's mayo.

Oh, before I go, a cooking tip:  instead of using butter on the outside of grilled cheese sandwiches or cooking spray for panini, spread a little mayo on the bread.  The oil will keep it from sticking and the egg will crust up nicely, and it can add a little zing to the flavor (or tang, if you choose Miracle Whip instead).

Seriously, it works.  It'll come out looking almost like French toast but you won't regret it.