Long Quotes and Tweets

Secularization theory is a term that was used in the fifties and sixties by a number of social scientists and historians.

Basically, it had a very simple proposition. It could be stated in one sentence. Modernity inevitably produces a decline of religion. When I started out doing sociology of religion—like two hundred years ago—everyone else had the same idea. And I more or less assumed that it was correct. It wasn’t a completely crazy assumption; there were many reasons why people said that. But it took me about twenty years to come to the conclusion that the data doesn’t support this, and other people came to the same conclusion. I would say there are now some holdouts who I respect. I like people who say something else from what the majority has to say in the field. It shows character, but most ­people came to the same conclusion as I did. The world today is not heavily secularized, with two interesting exceptions that have to be explained. One is geographical, it’s Western and Central Europe, and the other is an international intellectual class that is heavily secularized. Why? This is something that can be studied. It has been studied, but I won’t go into this. The rest of the world is massively religious. In some areas of the world, more religious than ever. The theory is wrong. Now, to conclude that the theory is wrong is the beginning of a new process of thinking. I came to the conclusion some years ago that to replace secularization theory—to explain religion in the modern world—we need the theory of ­pluralism. Modernity does not necessarily produce secularity. It necessarily produces pluralism, by which I mean the coexistence in the same society of different worldviews and value systems.
Peter Berger, How My Views Have Changed, September, 2013

Key Elements of the Party (Republican) Brand

Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the “liberal media” didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand.    Paul Krugman, NYT, December 22, 2015

Muslims in France, and Muslims in India

In both countries Muslim minorities complain about discrimination — and with reason. But while many French Muslims, who make up about 7.5 percent of the population, feel targeted by “laïcité,” Indian Muslims see secularism as their best protection.
One important difference is that radicalization is an almost nonexistent phenomenon in Indian Islam, while it is a dangerous (but limited) trend among European Muslims. Only 30 Indian citizens are known to have joined the Islamic State so far, out of 176 million Muslims; in France, the number of home-grown jihadists is close to 2,000, out of 4 to 5 million. So while in France, fundamentalism comes from the Muslim minority, in India it comes from the Hindu majority.
(From India, France, and Secularism, by Sylvie Kauffmann, NYTimes, 10/28/15)

The smartest people aren’t the ones that solve the problem the first time. The smartest people are the ones that have failed so many times to solve it that they understand exactly how it works.

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said he would “love” to see Roe vs. Wade overturned and make abortion illegal nationwide with almost no exemptions.

“I’m a reasonable person and if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.”

Non-knowledge is that which we do not know at the moment, do not acknowledge that we do not know, or which is unknowable.

Armand M. Nicholi, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, while speaking on C.S.Lewis and Sigmund Freud had this to say: ”In the 17th century, people turned to the discoveries of astronomy to demonstrate what they considered the irreconcilable conflict between science and faith; in the 18th century, [they turned] to Newtonian physics; in the 19th century, to Darwin; and in the 20th century, to Freud.

It is  possible,” he said, “that Freud and Lewis represent conflicting parts of ourselves

a part … that yearns for a relationship with a source of love, joy, hope, and happiness, and another part that raises its fist in defiance and rebelliousness and says with Freud, `I will not surrender.”’

Elon Musk on AI:
Last fall Tesla’s chief executive suggested we might need to regulate the development of artificial intelligence “just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

From Emile, Le Livre Quatre

Les hommes ne sont naturellement ni rois, ni grands, ni courtisans, ni riches;  tous sont nés nus et pauvres, tous sujets aux misères de la vie, aux chagrins, aux maux, aux besoins, aux douleurs de toute espèce; enfin, tous sont condamnés à la mort.  Voilà ce qui est vraiment de l’homme; voilà de quoi nul mortel n’est exempt.  Commencez donc par étudier de la nature humaine ce qui en est le plus inséparable, ce qui constitue le mieux l’humanité.

Here’s a neat view of reading the newspaper

to start one’s day, something I do, although no more hard copy but onliine. Has anyone ever written about an after life equipped with internet access to the news and a Starbucks? That might be even more persuasive than the72 virgins awaiting the bomber in Paradise.

From Marcel Proust. Could be speaking today, is in fact writing this about 100 years ago:


“That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty-thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don’t even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait.”

Kazin writes: “I am a Jew and an atheist, whose only spiritual moments occur when musing about the size and age of the universe.”

(Well, I think, that’s me too.  I am a human being whose deepest spiritual moments occur when musing about evolution, the cosmos, just life itself, all of it, in all its variety on this earth.)

Kazin tries to uncover a faith-based left.  He would point out that belief can be at the heart of social improvement and reform, and that Katha Pollitt in The New York Times might better not have said: “that religion is a farrago of authoritarian nonsense, misogyny and humble pie, the eternal enemy of human happiness and freedom.”
(The Politics of Devotion by Michael Kazin in the Nation, 4/6/98)

“The longest distance in the world is between an official state curriculum policy paper and what goes on in a child’s mind.”   Peter Schrag in the American Prospect, March/April 1998

I take this Long tweet from the recent Economist Science Brief Series, from “Life Story,” the first one of the series, How did biology begin? 

In the first of a series of six briefs looking at unsolved scientific mysteries we ask how living things got going and whether they exist elsewhere than Earth,…

Alien hunters might, though, have better luck elsewhere in the solar system, at places that still have water in abundance. Two such are Europa and Enceladus, moons of Jupiter and Saturn respectively. Both are icy worlds that seem to have vast underground oceans, kept warm by heat generated as they are kneaded by the gravity of their parent planets.

Enceladus sports plumes of water that spray out into space. In 2008 Cassini, a probe belonging to NASA, flew through those jets and reported that they contained carbon-based molecules (the sort known to chemists as “organic”, regardless of whether their origin is biological). Enceladus, then, has all the basic building blocks of life—water, organic chemicals and energy. Various robotic missions are now being discussed, that might take a closer look.

Even if the solar system does prove barren, though, it may soon be possible to detect life—or at least, heavy hints of it—in other solar systems altogether. Most planets in such systems are spotted by looking for the tiny dimming of a star’s light that happens as one of its planets moves between it and Earth. When this occurs an even tinier fraction of starlight passes through the planet’s atmosphere. The gases therein will absorb specific parts of the starlight, leaving holes (which show up as black lines) in its spectrum. That pattern of lines would reveal the atmosphere’s composition.


Just 2 Russian Bros Working Out, Grilling Steak And Drinking Tea

Newly released pictures of President Vladimir Putin show him hanging out with his prime minister. It may be part of a government effort to boost Putin’s approval ratings.

Science says that you can become smarter, and especially if you do these seven things, or as Science says, have these seven hobbies:

1. Play a musical instrument.
2. Read anything.
3. Exercise regularly.
4. Learn a new language.
5. Test your cumulative learning.
6. Work out your brain.
7. Meditate.

Great hobbies, all great things to do, perhaps they’ll even make you live longer, but make you smarter???  I don’t think so.
We can all learn new things, to do new things, but we’ll go on meeting the very same difficulties in our learning. I’ve been “learning” calculus for most of my adult life, granted it’s been off and on, but I do think that I was smarter when I first began. Math and Chess have always been difficult for me, and while I’ve been able to learn the languages to some extent of both, they go on being mostly of insuperable difficulty for me.

Quora will ask questions, often science questions, and then publish a selection by experts of the answers, usually with the one voted best answer up top.
Anyway, just yesterday, I think it was, I encountered this question, “What is the next number in the following series (or rather sequence?), 9, 27, 81?
Well the answer is a simple one, or so I thought, why it’s 243, or 3 raised to the 5th. power, But of course as I suspected that was not the case. And in fact as I learned there are an infinite number of answers.

Best answer coming from Allen Zhang, this answer being 0. And here’s what he writes:

If you look at the numbers for long enough, you’ll find that the function is not powers of three, but this:

F(n) = -3/2 * (n-2) (n-3) (n-4)  +
27/2 * (n-1) (n-3) (n-4)  +
-81/2 * (n-1) (n-2) (n-4)

F(4) = 0+0+0 = 0

Well I thought I would have had to look at the number for probably an infinite amount of time to have come up with this particular answer. That being also true for the other answers given.

But seriously, for any given finite sequence there exist an infinite number of functions that can map numbers to the sequence. There isn’t one specific answer to what comes next.

So becoming “smarter”? I don’t think so. What we’re born with, if we’re successful in this life, we learn to make full use of it. That’s what learning is, using better and better what we have been given. Not acquiring something else that was not there to begin with.

Thomas Friedman, August 26, from Bonfire of the Assets, With Trump Lighting Matches — “We’re now in a world where all top-down authority structures are being challenged. It’s most obvious in the Arab world where you have pluralistic countries that lack pluralism and so could be held together from the top-down only by an iron fist — and when that iron fist got removed they spun apart.”

America’s greatest advantage is its pluralism: It can govern itself horizontally by its people of all colors and creeds forging social contracts to live together as equal citizens.

Roger Cohen, August 22, from California Dreaming   “But I’ve been wondering. The more things change, say the French, the more they stay the same. Or as a similar idea is put in “The Leopard,’ one of the greatest of Italian novels: ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.’”

(Murong Xuecun is the pen name of Chinese author Hao Qun, one of China’s first Internet-based writers. A prominent social critic, he is known for his defense of freedom of expression.)
In the fall of 2011, a friend and I got on to discussing Tibet. “Do you know,” he said, “that Tibetans are setting fire to themselves?”  I had spent from 2005 to 2008 in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, but I had never heard of acts of self-immolation. My friend filled me in on the ghastly details, and then added, “Everyone beyond the wall knows this. A writer who cares about China, but who doesn’t go over the wall, suffers from a moral deficiency. You shouldn’t let a wall decide what you know.”   Murong Xuecun   8/17/2015

At the top of the pile of “killers” you’d have to put the lion killer and the various police officers who shot unarmed Black youths. But I told myself, several times during the past 24 hours, that I wouldn’t join the outcry against Cecil the lion killer. PBW

Peter Singer says that:   A minimally acceptable ethical life involves using a substantial part of one’s spare resources to make the world a better place.

I am not an Orientalist. Nor am I a racist, although like most critics of Islam, I have been accused of that, too. I do not believe in the innate backwardness of Arabs or Africans. I do not believe that the Middle East and North Africa are somehow doomed to a perpetual cycle of violence. I am a universalist. I believe that each human being possesses the power of reason, as well as a conscience. That includes all Muslims. At present, some Muslims ignore both reason and conscience by joining groups such as Boko Haram or the Islamic State, citing textual prescriptions and religious dogma to justify murder and enslavement. But their crimes are already forcing a reexamination of Islamic Scripture, doctrine, and law. This process cannot be stopped, no matter how much violence is used against would-be reformers.   Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Netanyahu, of course, does not view himself as Richard Nixon. In his imagination, he is Winston Churchill, the valorous protector of his nation, the singular leader of clear, unerring vision. Nearly two hundred former Israeli military and security chiefs, none of them naïve about the multiple dangers of the Middle East, have declared that further brinkmanship threatens the long-term stability of the nation. But Netanyahu is sure that he knows better. The tragedy is that the likely price of his vainglory is the increasing isolation of a country founded as a democratic refuge for a despised and decimated people. He will soon surpass David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest consecutively serving Prime Minister. Unfortunately, this has given Netanyahu plenty of time to erode the tone of his country’s political discourse. And so now, as he forms an unabashedly right-wing and religious government, he stands in opposition not only to the founding aspirations of his nation but also to those Israelis—Jews and Arabs—who stand for tolerance, equality, democratic ideals, and a just, secure peace.
David Remmick,  March 30, 2015

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité

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