My beloved Sophie is 14 years old today. That's old for a dog, and she shows it. She sleeps most of the time and has a hard time getting around the house. I have to get up at least twice each night to let her out, since she can't hold her urine as long as she once did. I give her the canine equivalent of Tylenol (Rimadyl) for her aches and pains. But she has a good appetite and plays with Shelbie every now and then. Her eyes are still bright. It's sad to see her get old, because for most of her life she was full of energy. Here is my post of three years ago, when Sophie was 11. Here is my post of two years ago, when she was 12. Here is my post of a year ago, when she was 13. I love you, Sophie.
[A] conservative should be wise enough to know the difference between philosophical agreement and political alliance and to appreciate the value of both. Let our enemies break up over a premise here or an inference there; we have no need.
I get a kick out of Linda Greenhouse's New York Times reports about oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court. See here, for example. She thinks that what is said by the justices during oral argument provides a clue as to how they will vote. That's risible. First, some justices don't ask questions during oral argument. Second, some justices play devil's advocate during oral argument. Third, some justices like to put attorneys through their paces. Fourth, some justices haven't made up their minds by the time of oral argument, so they're merely exploring issues. I'm not saying there's no point to reports such as these, but trying to predict how the justices will vote based on what they say during oral argument is silly, like trying to predict the future by consulting tea leaves.
I’m one of those atheists who Richard A. Shweder says is up in arms these days. Is it because my confidence in Enlightenment thinking is waning, as Mr. Shweder suggests? Actually, it’s the opposite: I’m alarmed that the Enlightenment principles embodied in our Constitution are being compromised, distorted and weakened.
We have a president who is reported to believe that a god is personally talking to him. President Bush wants to operate as a “unitary executive,” with the power to do whatever he wants despite what the law says.
Conservative politicians, including the president, use code words to send signals to their fundamentalist Christian base. Evangelicals are trying to rewrite American history, telling us that there is no such thing as separation of church and state and that we live in a Christian nation.
The same forces have tried to hijack science classrooms with creationist dogma and place religious commandments in courtrooms.
For more than 225 years, through divisive and painful fits and starts, our nation has been advancing individual and economic freedom. Atheists like me are up in arms because we don’t want to see our republic become a theocracy.
New York, Nov. 27, 2006
Note from AnalPhilosopher: Oh no! Jeffrey Zack has broken the code!
It's snowing at my house in Fort Worth—and it's sticking. I rose at 6:15 A.M. to prepare for today's classes. Knowing that Texans are weather weenies, I called UTA's weather line. It said the university is closed for the day. I laughed and went back to bed. It was 32.9º and raining. In Michigan, where I was raised, this would be considered unremarkable. It wouldn't stop anyone from doing anything, and it certainly wouldn't cause schools to close. I used my fireplace this morning for the first time this fall, which shows you how warm it's been in these parts. Right now, it's 29.8º. The temperature has been falling since I got up. It's supposed to be 25º by morning. If the precipitation continues, we could have several inches of snow by then. Shelbie will love it. She's seen snow only once, a couple of years ago. I hope it melts by Friday evening, however, because I have a 10K race Saturday morning.
Addendum: The topic in today's Philosophy of Religion course was going to be miracles. My students probably think we had one!
11-29-86 Saturday. I’m writing this on Sunday morning, the day after riding 100.5 miles on my bike. I feel good. Here is a synopsis of yesterday’s events. I left the apartment at 8:40 A.M., determined to ride at least a hundred miles on the El Tour de Tucson route. The weather was expected to be warm and sunny, and it was. In fact, the temperature reached eighty degrees [Fahrenheit] and the relative humidity was only ten percent. That explains why I had the impression of not sweating. I did sweat, I’m sure, but it evaporated so fast into the dry air that I didn’t notice it. For a novice biker, this could be trouble. But I knew about it and kept the fluids circulating through my body. That staves off dehydration and fatigue.
As before, I headed for Sabino Canyon before turning west on Sunrise Drive. This is hilly, so I tried to both make good time and preserve my legs for the remainder of the ride. I just missed the forty-minute mark for the first ten miles (40:27), and that depressed me; but my goal was a fifteen-mile-per-hour average for the entire day, not for every ten-mile interval. I loved the northernmost ride, on Tangerine and Thornydale Roads. At the fifty-mile mark I was averaging well over fifteen miles per hour. And I felt great. But the ride south near the Tucson Mountains wore me out. It has lots of small hills, and the wind happened to be against me at that point, so I settled in for a grueling two hours of pedalling [sic; should be “pedaling”]. Music helped me get through it, as usual. Finally, I turned eastward and passed the San Xavier Mission. The wind was with me on the northward stretches, and that boosted my spirits. I turned northward on Harrison Road and headed for Speedway [Boulevard]. From there I pedalled [sic] home. As I neared the apartment, however, I noticed that I was close to a fifteen-mile-per-hour average for the last ten-mile interval. I sprinted at over twenty miles per hour for two miles, finishing with only seconds to spare. That took some of the sting out of not hitting fifteen miles per hour on the first ten miles.
Statistically, this was my forty-eighth consecutive [weekly] ride and seventy-sixth of the past eighty. It was also my sixth hundred-miler. Of the six, this was my second-best in terms of gross-average speed (14.38 [miles per hour]). I missed my mark of fifteen [miles per hour] by some nineteen minutes, about ten of which I “wasted” eating a chocolate pie and drinking orange juice near the midway point. But I’m happy with the outcome. (The best gross-average speed for a hundred-miler is 14.88 miles per hour, set on 9 March 1986. On that day, I never got off the bike.) This has also been my second-best month ever, in terms of average daily miles. I rode an average of 11.37 miles per day this month, beating the month in which I rode from Tucson to Jacob Lake (July 1984). The all-time record is 26.64 miles per day, set in August 1982 when I rode around Michigan. It has been a fantastic month for biking, despite my bout with hypothermia early on. I hit the century mark twice this month.
Here are some more statistics. (1) I’ve ridden 2646.3 miles this year. With three weeks to go before leaving for Michigan, I need an extra 33.7 miles to reach the 2800-mile mark. That’s a significant figure. I’ll reach it by either riding an extra cave route or riding to Picacho Peak instead of to the cave. (2) I’ve ridden a phenomenal 301.3 miles in the past three weeks (twenty-two days). And yet, I feel plump. Could it be that I’m eating too much? Certainly I’m not eating too much rich food, so perhaps I eat too much of what I do eat: bread, potatoes, eggs, and rice. (3) I like the Tour de Tucson route. I now have a specific goal in mind: completing a hundred miles of the route in six hours, forty minutes. That would give me a fifteen-mile-per-hour day. I’ll have to do it by myself, of course, for others slow me down. I have no friends who are better riders than I, although Brad Gibson has the potential. He doesn’t ride much.
Weber's essay on "science as a vocation" is perhaps the best starting point for understanding the limits of scientific aspiration in our time. Weber praised scientists for living in the world of facts and criticized those who sought salvation by pretending that the old gods still exist. But he also reminded scientists that they have nothing privileged to say about the realm of value, the realm that matters most to human beings seeking knowledge of how to live. Like everyone else, the scientist must decide which ends to pursue, which gods to serve, which demon will "hold the very fibers of his life." And these are exactly the questions that the scientific method cannot answer. Divine salvation may be an illusion but so is believing that science can tell us how to live in the world it dissects and describes, and how to live well in a world where scientific power is so readily, so seductively, so dangerously, at our disposal.
The 2007 Hall of Fame ballot has been released. See here. There are 32 candidates, of whom 17 are new. In order to be inducted (not to be confused with indicted), a candidate must appear on 75% of the ballots cast. If I'm not mistaken, a voter can vote for as many candidates as he or she deems worthy. If a voter thinks nobody deserves induction, then he or she may vote for nobody. If a voter thinks 20 players deserve induction, then he or she may vote for all 20. I will "vote" in a few minutes, as an addendum to this post. Feel free to do the same.
The Beliefnet.com poll cited in “Putting Faith Before Politics,” by David Kuo (Op-Ed, Nov. 16), indicating “that nearly 60 percent of non-evangelicals have a more negative view of Jesus because of Christian political involvement” should give pause to those who seek to use government to promote a religious agenda.
One of the lessons here is that using religion as a wedge issue and trying to translate religious belief into law can backfire, doing deep damage to the moral and prophetic voice of religion.
Our founders understood this and insisted that religion and government remain separate. As the recent election shows, they were right.
You've got to love North Texas weather. Here are the official high temperatures (in Dallas/Fort Worth) for the past week, in degrees Fahrenheit: 67, 72, 77, 76, 73, 73, and 71. Right now, at 7:00 P.M., it's 71.4º outside. I will walk Shelbie in a T-shirt in an hour or so. But guess what's coming? Winter! According to today's Dallas Morning News, it will be 75º with showers and storms tomorrow. The day after (Thursday), it's supposed to be 35º—that's the high for the day!—with freezing rain. The low will be a frigid 25º. (I hope my 17-year-old car starts Thursday morning. I teach at eight o'clock.) The newspaper's weather map shows a cold front bearing down on us from the northwest. It's like a grizzly bear coming at you, slowly but surely. I can't wait to use the fireplace!
Addendum: According to this site, "Texas" comes from "Tejas," which comes from "the Hasinai Indian word which translates into friends and allies." Texans are nothing if not friendly. Y'all should come and see for yourself.