Maurizio – Omnologos

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Archive for October 2008

Debating 2.0

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(comment to Brian Dunning‘s “A Non-Debate with a Young Earth Creationist” entry in the new skepticblog blog)

[…] He gave me his 17-page tract […] It was the worst of the tired old arguments so poorly framed that even most Young Earthers don’t try to make them any more: […] Obviously, in Bill’s experience, he knows the scientific answers to all the claims in his document. He’s heard them a hundred times and he’s smart enough to understand them. He simply believes differently. There would be no point in having a conversation with me; he would hear the same answers from me that he’s heard a hundred times before. I’ve heard his claims a hundred times […]

How about asking questions like this one: “what kind of evidence would make you change your mind on transitional fossils?”

Methinks old-style debates are good up to a point, because they inevitably become the talking equivalent of medieval jousting.

Belief-changing challenges may provide the additional information that is otherwise likely to be missed, by the audience and perhaps even by some of the debaters.

For example, the fact that some people argue on pure faith. And if that’s the case, it is easy to show what an oxymoron their position is: out there trying to convince others, even if there is absolutely nothing that will ever make them change their own certainties.

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2008/Oct/30 at 20:28:02

Obama Ahead…In Google Too!

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In Google too, Barack Obama appears ahead of John McCain, most of the time…

For example: searching “obama 666” one gets 1,380,000 pages. “mccain 666” returns only 848,000 results.

Or “McCain eats babies” = 1,460. “Obama eats babies” = 3,050. One wonder how much exercise is needed to avoid getting fat after having eaten all those little children.

The only search where McCain is just a bit in front: “McCain is a nazi” = 5,610. “Obama is a nazi“=5,130.

No page had ever mentioned “McCain and Obama are nazis” as a single sentence until I wrote this very blog 😉

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2008/Oct/29 at 23:35:54

Gordon Brown Gone Ga-Ga

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What’s next? The UK Prime Minister speaking about Kate Moss? Hasn’t he got anything else to keep his mind occupied?

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2008/Oct/28 at 23:52:29

The Christian Roots of Marxism (and Secular Thought)

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It turns out, Pope Benedict was not so wrong after all.

Excerpts from “A Rescue of Religion” by John Gray, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 15 · October 9, 2008 – reviewing “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers” by Leszek Kolakowski, Basic Books:

It is part of Kolakowski’s achievement as the greatest living intellectual historian to have tracked the ways in which religion has shaped Western thought. His work is, in effect, a sustained argument for the irreducible presence of religion in intellectual life and in society. In Kolakowski’s view the secular movements of the last century, such as communism, […] deployed categories of thought, including a view of history as a narrative having a consummation or end-point, which are inheritances from Western monotheism. […] Religion was not in truth superseded, either in Marx’s thought or in the movements Marx inspired. Instead, the promise of salvation reemerged as a project of universal emancipation.

The renewal of religious categories of thinking in avowedly secular systems of ideas […] continued in the ideology of neoconservatism. The notion of the end of history […] derives from religious traditions of apocalyptic myth. […] Presupposing as they do a teleological view of history that cannot be stated in empirical terms, all such theories are religious narratives translated into secular language. […]

Religion has had a formative influence on our categories of thought, which it is the task of philosophy to examine. Excavating the archaeology of our concepts is a part of philosophical inquiry. For us, that inescapably involves tracing their debts to Judaism and Christianity. Any way of doing philosophy that neglects these traditions is unhistorical and impoverished.

There are some philosophers for whom the only place for religion in philosophical inquiry is that of a bogey, a specter of irrationality that must be exposed and expelled so that philosophy can be an entirely secular discipline. As Kolakowski has argued, however, a good deal of secular thought has been shaped by Western religion. Exorcising religion is harder than it seems.

Richard Dawkins where art thou?

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2008/Oct/24 at 19:18:17

No Equivalence Between Nazism and Communism

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From “The Most Evil Emperor” by Max Hastings, New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 16 · October 23, 2008, reviewing “Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe” by Mark Mazower, Penguin, 726 pp., $39.95

Mazower’s conclusion is that Hitler’s vision for Europe was doomed by the fact that it offered nothing save subjection to the nations beneath its sway […] In truth, membership in the German empire promised benefits only to Germans. All successful empires in history have exploited the support of at least some of their subject peoples. Berlin did not offer even lip service to international cooperation or mutual benefit.

Hitler offered only servitude to the occupied nations, in most places on the most brutal terms. […[ Hitler missed important opportunities to rouse the Arab world and India against the British, because such a notion clashed with his convictions of racial superiority. […] Berlin made no serious attempt to exploit the aid of occupied peoples hostile to Stalin.

From this point of view, Hitler’s Nazism does look like occupying a special place in history, as having no concern whatsoever on anybody else but the Master Race.

And yet…isn’t that what Europeans did in many of their colonies?

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2008/Oct/23 at 21:35:16

Signs of Hope Among White Supremacists

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who would have guessed…white supremacists (eg Neo-nazis) can be surprisingly self-aware…

There’s a real problem,” [Bill] White [head of the American National Socialist Workers Party] said in the interview last month, “in what’s called the ‘white movement.’ One, there’s a lot of people who are just mentally ill, and we deal with those a lot. No. 2, there are people who have serious sexual problems.

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2008/Oct/22 at 21:37:46

Rocco Morabito, Pulitzer Prize Winner of 1968

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Rocco Morabito, aka “Rocky Morabito”, is nowadays a 87-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Fla.

Forty years ago, Rocco gained everlasting notoriety winning the Pulitzer Prize for this picture, later title “The Kiss of Life”:

Rocco Morabitos Pulitzer Prize winning photo

Rocco Morabito's Pulitzer Prize winning photo

It shows lineman J.D. Thompson resuscitating fellow worker Randall G. Champion. The story behind the picture can be found in this 1997 article on the Florida Times – Union.

The life of Rocco Morabito has recently become the subject of a documentary by the Jacksonville Historical Society. A 5-minute extract is available here.

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There are several pictures of Rocco available on the web, including this 1988 visit to Champion (who died in 2002), together with Thompson:

Rocco Morabito visiting Randall Champion in 1988

Rocco Morabito and J.D. Thompson visiting Randall Champion in 1988

This is Rocco in 2006, pictured with one of his old cameras:

Rocco Morabito in 2006

Rocco Morabito in 2006

And here’s Rocco Morabito just a few months ago, in April 2008, as his picture was included in an interactive exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, DC:

Rocco Morabito in April 2008

Rocco Morabito in April 2008

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2008/Oct/21 at 21:58:47