Monday, October 21, 2013

Seymour Hersh about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda's Afghanistan Escapes

Interesting youtube video that includes a 2002 TV interview of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh describing an airlift of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan, apparently with the blessing of the U.S.

Seymour Hersh about Osama and Al Qaeda's Afghanistan Escapes

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jerry Coyne's Test for Being an Accommodationist: Infallible?

Jerry Coyne has presented his "infallible" test for knowing whether an atheist is really a "hidebound accommodationist":

Faitheists, accommodationists, and theists will invariably say that religion played a trivial, or even no, role in that [Galileo] affair.

The problem is that Nick Matzke has already offered a counter-example to Coyne's test.  As he says in the comments section:

Hugo Holbling’s essay is much, much better. And he’s definitely no science-religion-warfare guy — he’s a very determined anti-demarcationist, for instance. His conclusions?

Matzke then goes on to quote Holbling at length, showing that he thinks religion played the major role in the Galileo affair.  So here we have one accommodationist - Nick Matzke - quoting another accommodationist - Hugo Holbling - as saying that religion was the main culprit in the Galileo affair.

I think it's fair to conclude that Coyne's test isn't infallible after all.  Sorry Jerry, but better luck next time at becoming the first Jewish pope since Peter. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Peter Enns on "The Best Way of Getting out of the Whole Canaanite Genocide Thing"

Peter Enns offers what he calls The Best Way of Getting out of the Whole Canaanite Genocide Thing, and It Comes Right from the Bible, but You may not Like it. I'll quote the core of his argument:

In Exodus 23, it looks like a pestilence of some sort (famine? locusts?) by God’s hand is what will drive out the Canaanites: it will throw them into confusion and so they will turn their backs on the Israelites. This process, we are told, will happen gradually. But note there is no word of annihilating the Canaanites by war.
In Leviticus, we see another side to all this. Note the use of the past tense in these passages. Even though these words from God are spoken on Mt. Sinai, i.e., before Israel entered Canaan 40 years later, the expulsion of the inhabitants of Canaan is something God did. The Canaanites are vomited out of the land already.
These passages present an alternate view on how the Canaanites were ousted from the land (expulsion, either already or in the future) than what we find on Deuteronomy and Joshua (annihilation). The Bible carries with it multiple traditions of how the Israelites came into the land. (see also Numbers 33:50-56, which speaks only of “displacing” the Canaanites, not annihilating them).
Note, too, that the gradual displacement of the Canaanites in Exodus 23 coheres somewhat with the picture given in Judges as opposed to the rapid Blitzkrieg victory tour depicted in Joshua 7-12 (e.g., Joshua 11:23, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.”).
On the one hand, this is good news if you want to think of Israel’s settlement of Canaan in biblical terms that also takes the edge of [sic] the violence. On the other hand, this is bad news if you want to follow the Bible, since the Bible explains how the Canaanites ceased living in their land in two mutually exclusive ways–i.e., the Bible does not speak with “one voice,” which I know for some is more troubling than the thought of God killing off a population.
You can’t have everything.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NSA Spying and Lying does Relate to 9/11

9/11 whistleblower Kevin Ryan uncovers some interesting connections between recent lying by NSA and the events of 9/11 here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Paul Krugman on the Value of Bloggers

Paul Krugman has some kind words for bloggers:

...But academic credentials are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for having your ideas taken seriously. If a famous professor repeatedly says stupid things, then tries to claim he never said them, there’s no rule against calling him a mendacious idiot — and no special qualifications required to make that pronouncement other than doing your own homework.

Conversely, if someone without formal credentials consistently makes trenchant, insightful observations, he or she has earned the right to be taken seriously, regardless of background.
One of the great things about the blogosphere is that it has made it possible for a number of people meeting that second condition to gain an audience. I don’t care whether they’re PhDs, professors, or just some guy with a blog — it’s the work that matters....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

No Global Warming Catastrophes on the Horizon?

If I understand  the IPCC table at Watt's Up With That?'s website, there don't seem to be any imminent catastrophes from global warming on the horizon. Someone be sure to let me know if I misunderstood something.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Guardian Corrects Seymour Hersh Interview: Hersh not suggesting that Osama bin Laden was not killed in Pakistan

The Guardian offered a correction to its interview of Seymour Hersh:

This article was amended on 1 October 2013. The original text stated that Hersh sold a story about the My Lai massacre to the New York Times for $5,000 when in fact it was the Times of London. Hersh has pointed out that he was in no way suggesting that Osama bin Laden was not killed in Pakistan, as reported, upon the president's authority: he was saying that it was in the aftermath that the lying began. Finally, the interview took place in the month of July, 2013.

So now one wonders what Hersh was suggesting?

UPDATE:  Given JDB's comment that essentially says that Hersh's suggestion was rather innocuous, I thought I should reprint the relevant part of the interview:

Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011 [see footnote].
Now perhaps all Hersh was saying was that the execution of bin Laden was unlawful, but that certainly was a very strange way to say it. 

HT: Huffington Post.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rabbi Sacks: "To be human is to ask 'Why?'"

I'm continuing to read and enjoy Rabbi Sacks's book, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning. The latest snippet:

     There will be those who say, beyond the facts and the explanation of the facts, there is no meaning.  There will be others who say there is.  The universe does not come emblazoned with its purpose.  To fathom it has taken much wisdom and humility and the experience of humankind over many centuries.  to express it may take music and art, ritual and celebration.  But to say, 'What is, is, for no other reason than it is,' is to halt prematurely the human tendency to ask and never rest satisfied with the answer, 'It just is.'  Curiosity leads to science, but it also leads to questions unanswerable by science.
     The search for God is the search for meaning.  The discovery of God is the discovery of meaning.  And that is no small thing, for we are meaning-seeking animals.  It is what makes us unique.  To be human is to ask the question, 'Why?'

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What Matters When Criticizing Darwinian Theory: Location, location, location?

Interesting post by Rabbi Klinghoffer suggests that when criticizing Darwinian theory, it doesn't matter who you are but where you are:

The University of Iowa and Ball State are perfectly respectable places to hang your hat as a professor, but there's only one Harvard. If you're a tenured professor there, obviously, you've made it. You need not feel threatened by something a little bit outré that the guy in the office down the hall says or writes somewhere.

This may explain why Harvard geneticist George Church, who gave a warm approbation to Darwin's Doubt, has not, as far as I know, suffered a public condemnation by his own colleagues. It's also one reason why Darwinism makes so fascinating a sociological study, as much as it does a scientific one.