Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another Captivating Map

I suggest hitting play and enjoying the ride.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thinking Milgram, Once Again

We have discussed it before. It should be discussed again, and often. But here are a couple of videos without further comment. One is disturbingly serious, the other disturbingly funny. Both recall the famous Milgram experiments.

Historical Perspective

Martin will be studying in Granada, Spain for his last semester at college. After getting our dates correct, Bill and I started to appreciate a more grand sense of history. These dates and events will be familiar to you, but I’ll refresh. In October 732, the Frankish and Burgundian forces of western Europe fought the Muslim army of the Umayyad Caliphate (the Moors) near Tours and Poitiers. The famous Battle of Tours (or Battle of Poitiers) pitted the forces of Charles Martel against those of ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. The Frankish army has been estimated at between 15,000-80,000, the Moors at a similar number. Both sides have accounts of the enemy at 400,000.

What is undisputed is that the Christians crushed the Moors and stemmed a 21 year advance of Islam through Europe. Charles was given the name Martellus (“The Hammer”), and the battle became a landmark in history preserving a Christian Europe.

Now we fast forward to where Martin will be studying. On January 2, 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada (King Boabdil) surrendered the City of Granada to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. If Martin gets there by January 2, he can participate in the annual celebration. After the battle of Granada, all Muslims had to convert to Christianity, become slaves, or be exiled. This was the end of the conquering Moors in Europe.

So, Bill and I finally saw our history in a little better perspective. It took 760 years for the native Europeans to expel the invading Moors after the famous Battle of Tours (about 800 years after the first invasion). This country is only a few hundred years old since the European invasion. Native Americans still have three or four hundred years to drive out the invaders and reclaim their country, and history will record this brief foreign occupation state as only just that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Secularists and Fundamentalists Agree, Part Deux

I've already blogged on this before, see when secularists and fundamentalists agree, so I hope not to detain you too long here.  But this latest kerfluffle between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck over Islam really has me in swivet.  Not that either of these two really know much about religion or that they deserved to to be listened to at all (although Affleck presumably has gained familiarity with the subject from his role as Bartleby, the fallen angel, in Dogma).
But, we find once again this unholy alliance between Christian defenders of the faith and the  militant atheists joined in the common mission of denouncing Islam.  Here, as Exhibit 1 (and the only exhibit) is an article from (a website self-described as "the leading source for conservative news and political commentary and analysis"), in which Dennis Prager in essence defends Bill Maher, along with Sam Harris, in their wholesale attack on Islam.  See Bill Maher, Ben Affleck and Islam.  Of course, the article is nonsense.   For one, because it invokes the Nazis -- right off the bat we can invoke Godwin's Law and discount it. 

But the depth of Prager's ingorance is revealed in his question: "Where, sir, are the Christian and Jewish jihadists?"  While I confess that, because Judaism is a relativist and not a triumphalist religion, it doesn't have a tradition of killing heretics.  It accepts that not everyone believes as Jews do.  But, like Islam, Christianity is a triumphalist religion and it would be interesting to conduct an historical study on which religion has more blood on its hands.  Although, it's not really fair because Christianity had a 600 year head start.

In any event, the violence of Chritianity is well-documented.  Even thoughtful Thomas Aquinas believed in the execution of heretics:
With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.
And, any student of history is well aquainted with a many examples of Christians putting this principle into practice.  For a quick review, see European wars of religion.  As late as 1899, Pope Leo XII issued an encyclical condemning the Heresy of "Americanism," a term used to describe the American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of religion.  It was not until Vatican II (1965) in the publication of Dignitatis Humanae, that the Church officially came out in support of the idea of religious freedom.

Anyway, now we get to the real reason for this post: here is a much more thoughtful approach to the issue of Islam and violence, and worth reading.  Bill Maher's Dangerous Critique of Islam, written by Peter Beinart.  I can't really improve on this, so here it is.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Would a Black America Look Like

The Atlantic Monthly recently posed the question, If black America were a nation-state, how would it stack up against other countries?   See What If Black America Were a Country?    It does not compare well, I'm afraid.  Despite electing a Black president, we have not solved our race problem.  


Thursday, October 9, 2014

SAT: Student Affluence Test?

Sure, we like to brag about how smart we are and have SAT scores to back it up. Not so fast. Those scores, in general, are also a reflection of how wealthy our parents are. 

The Wall Street Journal has an article, "SAT and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher." The article was statistically interesting but not all that enlightening. Of course money is used to make our lives better, which includes better schools and homes for children so they can continue the same cycle. It’s not news that a free enterprise system rewards the rich—even in the area of SAT scores. 

What I did find enlightening were the comments to the article. They are insane! The WSJ writer was vilified for being ignorant, having a politically correct agenda, trying to dumb down education, and, in general, writing an un-American "ridiculous article." 

“IQ is at least 50% inheritable.”
(I’ll make allowances for the unreferenced stat, but IQ is a test just like SAT.)

“The concept of income inequality, it self (sic) is a fake issue. Are you saying if the income was equal you would have an equal SAT score?”
(Well, yes! If income was equal it would not affect SAT scores!)

“All this article shows me is that poor people give less of a sht (sic) about the value that education provides, and are therefore less likely to pursue every avenue possible to maximize that value and demand excellence from their offspring. Pure and simple.”
(Pure and simple, that’s the problem all right. Of course “every avenue possible” may be limited.)

Finally I found a comment by an intelligent person:

“I came from a family who did not graduate from high school. Their vocabulary was poor and they could not help me with my homework. I lived 10 miles out of town and if there had been tutoring I had no transportation to get there. My verbal score on the SAT while above average was not near the top. It was same for the math. I did much better on the ACT being in the upper percentile. I graduated from Cornell University. If Cornell had gone by my SAT scores instead of my ACT scores I would have never gotten in.”
(And this, in my mind, is what the article was all about. Colleges must recognize the wealthy bias in the SAT and correct it when admitting students. This is also pointed out by Harvard Prof. Michael Sandel in his “Justice” course.)