Seriously -- the man was at his best when ranting from his soapbox.
(Why soapbox? Why not any other kind of box you can get up on? Were soapboxes inordinately abundant at some time? I don't think I've ever even seen one. I use shower gel, mostly.)
Some time ago I came across a Penguin Classics edition combining "Twilight of the Idols" and "The Anti-Christ", and I must admit that what caught my eye was the subtitle "How to philosophize with a hammer". Sounds fun, right?
I don't see it, myself, but there seems to be a consensus out there...
The first time my thesis supervisor told me that I argued like a Jesuit, I really didn't know how to take it, and I must have looked vaguely offended because he rushed to explain that he meant it in a nice way. Since then, various other people have made similar comments over the years,and just this morning, a collaborator writes me in an email: "Thanks for your comments, a very jesuit-like approach of the problem."
There's a big Darwin festival going on this week at Cambridge (the Old World one, hence the "at" instead of "in"). Philosopher of science Daniel "I debunk the kooks so you don't have to" Dennett reports on a controversial Templeton-sponsored session that featured such exciting highlights as "kenotic (a.k.a. self-emptying) theology" and "evolutionary Christology", whatever that may be.
Dennett calls it "wonderfully awful"; here's my favorite bit of his account.
"I had an epiphany at the end of the session, but I kept it to myself:
The Eucharist is actually a Recapitulation of the Eukaryotic
Revolution. When Christians ingest the Body of Christ, without
digesting it, but keep it whole (holistier-than-thou whole), they are
re-enacting the miracle of endosymbiosis that paved the way for
eventual multi-cellularity. And so, dearly beloved brethren, we can see
that by keeping Christ intact in our bodies we are keeping His Power
intact in our embodied Minds, or Souls, just the way the first
Eukaryote was vouchsafed a double blessing of earthly competence that
enabled its descendants to join forces in Higher Organizations.
Evolutionary theology. . . . I think I get it! I can do it! It truly is
intellectual tennis without a net." Addendum: This comes as I've just received word (hi Popeye!) of a creationist conference at my alma mater, organized by the local baptist church (we have those in Belgium too? who knew?). Sounds like it was a hoot (complete with baby dinosaurs on Noah's Ark) but I find myself wishing that, in the absence of rigorous intellectual scrutiny, the university's catholicism at least had come out a bit more strongly. Perhaps in the form of a little display of religious intolerance? I mean, seriously, I'm all for freedom of speech -- let them rent out any other public space for all I care -- but I don't think the university should be lending respectability to these nutjobs.
(I guess there is something positive that can be said about having an officially Catholic society after all. Yay for quiet Belgian Sundays.)
Also, leaf blowers are the gas-guzzling tools of Satan. Where's the Christian Right when you need them?
Addendum: on the flipside, these
worship-deficient heathens here have the wonderfully good taste to not
sound off their church bells every other minute and a half. Whereas
that problem plagued me all my years in Louvain-la-Neuve, I've not
heard a peep from church bells here, and it's definitely not for lack
of churches since every god-bothering denomination/ congregation/ sect
apparently has to have its own.
Hypothesis: religion is a byproduct of ancient evolutionary adaptations that resulted in some crucial cognitive mechanisms of humans mind, like decoupled cognition (being able to conduct a conversation in your head with someone while listening to someone else) and hyperactive agency detection (assigning movement of objects or shadows to an unseen person).
Here's a very didactic conference talk by psychiatrist Andy Thomson on the topic. He starts from the admittedly very astute observation that people crave Big Macs more than they crave broccoli, then goes on to detail the hypothesis above and present evidence to support it.
It's actually interesting beyond the religion angle, because he discusses some classic as well as recent research in neuropsycholoy about how the human mind processes social interactions.
I don't know how well covered this is in Europe, but for the record, the US election hasn't been all good news.
Some context information: USAmericans (my boss is from Guatemala, so I'm learning to be more specific than just saying "Americans" because apparently it's annoying for all the other non-US populations of the Americas) are a practical people. When they're holding a big election that's likely to have lots of people out and voting, they'll use the occasion to collect votes on a few other issues as well, because who knows when's the next time that people will consent to get off their butts to exercise their civil rights. So during the presidential election, many states (not all - it's not organized at the Federal level) also take the opportunity to renew their elected representatives for Senate, for example, and hold a popular vote on specific points of state legislation (note that the results are turned into law, it's not a harmless referendum). As I understand it, it's all on the same piece of paper.
How surprising, religious tension in Jerusalem. Although for once it's not the usual suspects; here we've got Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks duking it out for the right to hang out at their invisible friend's place. A different kind of guys in funny costumes fighting over peanuts.
Well, I guess variety is the spice of life for Israeli police.
"Kvetch" is basically the Yiddish word for complaint, but as author Michael Wex explains, its meaning goes much further than that, and ties in with the underlying philosophy of Yiddish-speaking culture and religious aspects of Judaism, which the book explores in detail.