A Warm Friday Afternoon

For today, several links and comments, and only one quote. About:

  • The Ten Commandments in Texas;
  • The ambitions of powerful men;
  • The potential loss of literacy;
  • Simon Winchester’s book about the transmission of knowledge;
  • Jerry Coyne on Jesus ‘n’ Mo and trying to make sense of the ‘sacrifice-and-resurrect-Jesus story’

Today, noting several interesting articles without having fully read them; just commenting on their apparent premises.


Vox, Fabiola Cineas, 28 Apr 2023: The Ten Commandments could be in every Texas classroom next fall, subtitled “Will the Texas GOP’s push to bring Christianity back into the classroom succeed?”

The latest example in my book for how the religious — at least the Christians — are both self-entitled and not very bright. Half of these are not enshrined into law, as they like to think; so what is their point? (And the one about ‘coveting’ what others have is what drives our capitalist economy.) That their ‘values’ should prevail over everyone, civil law or not?


The Atlantic, Elizabeth Bruenig, 28 Apr 2023: Why Won’t Powerful Men Learn?, subtitled “No law and no regulation yet has been ambitious enough to solve the problem of rich and unaccountable men.”

Again, I’m not quoting and I haven’t read the article. Think of this as a link for future reference. My initial reaction is to think, again, that this kind of behavior may be an inescapable aspect of human nature. On the other hand, I wonder if this article takes any kind of perspective. Yes this may always be happening, but is it happening less among democratic societies that have resisted rule by authoritarians? One would hope so.


OnlySky, Tom Krattenmaker, 26 Apr 2023: Accepting the reality of a less literate age

Here’s a mind-boggling idea. Humanity is millennia old, but only in the past six hundred years or so have printing presses spread information to ordinary people through books and newspapers. Suppose that, in our age of screens, that were all to pass?


NY Times Books, Peter Sagal, 26 Apr 2023: What Do You Know?, subtitled “In his latest work, Simon Winchester devotes his anecdotal powers to why, how and how often we know what we do.”

First of all, the reviewer Peter Sagal is the host of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, a humorous NPR news/quiz show (on Sunday mornings in our area) that we’ve listened to for years.

Second, this is a review of a book by the prolific Simon Winchester, called Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge: From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic, which was just published and which I have bought.

Sagal quibbles in his review, leading me to suspect I might not find answers, or speculations, into issues here that pertain to our current state: how is it the accumulated wisdom (science) of the ages is so easily dismissed by modern numbskulls and conspiracy theorists?


So there’s this weekly comic called Jesus and Mo, and its posts are routinely included in the posts on Jerry Coyne’s website (he doesn’t like it called a blog).

Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, 26 Apr 2023: Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ hate speech

OK, in this case I will quote. This strikes me as yet another take on how this famous story doesn’t actually make much sense, if you think about it.

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “hybrid”, once again raises the extreme craziness of the sacrifice-and-resurrect-Jesus story—a story I’ve never understood. Yes, I know theologians can twist it into something that sort of makes sense—they get paid to do that—but I don’t really get why God has to turn part of himself into a specimen of H. sapiens who then has to undergo torture and killing, and then resurrection, as the only way to save humanity.

But wait! There’s more! This gory scenario doesn’t guarantee that YOU get saved: you have to accept Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior to get past St. Peter. So there’s a combination of an act, and then a requirement not for your acceptance of the act itself, but of Jesus as your savior. If someone can put all this into words that would make sense to, say, a ten year old, I’d appreciate it.

I have a bubbling ‘provisional conclusion’ that people who grow up with religious ‘faith’, including the ability to believe such stories despite their implausibilities and contradictions, thus have a crippled sense of reasoning. The relationship between conclusions and evidence. Thus flat-earthers and climate change deniers and the anti-vaxxers and so much else. I’ve gone on about this before, and will again.

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