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Go to: This happened, but how does one explain it?

sir_russ's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by sir_russ

My high-school aged daughter is quite an accomplished flute player. I often find myself "hearing" her play when she is not. This is especially the case when she works the same piece for hours on end several days in a row preparing for a competition, performance, recital and the like. Her music is part of my mind. Her music is part of me.

Sometimes when I'm alone I hum or vocalize parts of her repertoire. It can be one of her solo pieces or one of where she's first flute in an 80 piece orchestra. Not infrequently the music takes over my mind and I actually hear an auditory hallucination quality playback of the music. It's a nice experience.

I've also had the "playlist experience" of her music. I have several thousand musical numbers in the playlist on my computer providing regular background listening. Among my playlist selections are a few dozen of my daughters flute pieces. For the most part, the playlist is background, but from time to time my expectation to hear my daughter's regular practice coincides with one of her pieces coming up as the current random selection in the playlist. If I'm off away from the speakers at that time, then, I, at least for a short bit, have a confused understanding of my little corner of the world, thinking my daughter to be in her practice room playing. There have been times when she has been standing next to me, yet, for an instant, my mind was convinced she was in some other part of the house practicing.

My daughter is alive and well, but I have no doubts that if she were to die, in my mind, her music would play on, and, just as I am sometimes convinced today of her being where she is not, I would be sure, at least for brief moments, it was my deceased daughter filling my heart with music.

Sun, 29 Aug 2010 12:55:58 UTC | #507401

Go to: The New Atheist Movement is destructive

sir_russ's Avatar Jump to comment 215 by sir_russ

Baggini is being grossly dishonest with us about why he has not read any of the books he cites, and why he is taking the stance he asserts here.

He asks the question,

"Why on earth would I devote precious reading hours to books which largely tell me what I already believe?"


which he must think reflexively and satisfactorily answers itself.

But, in the "References and further reading" section of his own book, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction under the first entry, "What is atheism?" no less, he says,

I avoided reading Daniel Harbour's An Intelligent Person's Guide to Atheism (London, Duckworth, 2001) so I wouldn't be writing this book in its shadow. However, I have heard many good things about it and shall be picking it up as soon as I finally put down my mouse.

[emphasis added]

Why, indeed, would he devote precious reading hours to books which largely tell him what he already believes? Yet, he states here that he intended to do exactly that.

Beyond that the section titles from that same "References and further reading" section in his book constitute more than adquate justification for why he himself finds value in devoting precious reading hours to books which largely tell him what he already believes: they look at the same topic from differing perspectives. Some of those section titles are "What is atheism," "The case for atheism," "Atheist ethics," "Meaning and purpose," "Atheism in history," and "Against religion." That's right. We often read many different books addressing a specific subject, exactly because the author considers the topic in a way distinct from how we have previously considered it ourselves.

But, wait! There's more! He actually used Dawkins and Dennett as sources for his book! In the "Against religion" section he says, "Anyone still impressed by the argument from design should read Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker." And, in his "Conclusion" he states, "For a look at how science challenges many of our long-standing beliefs, try Daniel C. Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea." So, he's read some of their previous work and notes that they call belief into question, but he's decided that their work concerning religion can justifiably be ignored as "books which largely tell me what I already believe."

Now, put your mind around this. In writing his book he used as sources many books which largely tell him what he already believes. Each chapter of his book provides great reasons why someone would want to read books telling them what they already believe. He even uses as sources a couple of the authors whose newer works he refuses to read. This is such blatant dishonesty that you might think that it couldn't be made any more obvious, but it surely can!

On page 99 of Baggini's book, in the chapter titled "Against religion?," he says, concerning believers who are absolutely certain,

I personally have little interest in trying to destroy these convictions, except when the holding of them leads to unpleasant and bigoted actions and proclamations, as can be the case with fundamentalist believers of all religions.


If we parse this out a bit, this author, the same man who wrote the article above criticizing these New Atheists, actually has "interest in trying to destroy these [religious] convictions" "when the holding of them leads to unpleasant and bigoted actions and proclamations, as can be the case with fundamentalist believers of all religions." Baggini is so dishonest.

Anyone who has read these New Atheist's books - I myself have read all four of them, as well as Baggini's - knows very well that the primary focus and concern for the four authors was the same: the unpleasant and bigoted actions and proclamations, espoused by the fundamentalist believers of all religions. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens are the public face of "trying to destroy these convictions" "when the holding of them leads to unpleasant and bigoted actions and proclamations." These four authors, the object of his ire, his disdain, are doing his bidding. He should be enthusiastically urging them on or, at very least, offering a positive constructive critique of their methods.

Whereas these four writers have courageously put a much-needed public face on trying to destroy, or at least restrain, the dangerous convictions of fundamentalists, this man, Julian Baggini, reveals himself a coward; a turncoat who denounces his allies; a traitor to a cause he himself succinctly delineated with one sentence in his book; a father disowning the child who does not fulfill his dreams.

Baggini wrote a book on atheism, which, by itself, to many religious people, deserves a death sentence. While writing it he read many books about atheism, another offense to many believers worthy of a death sentence. Undoubtedly, he has spoken to others about atheism, another trangression which many a religious person would also gladly punish with death. Does this man not understand that his very right to express these ideas are, right this very minute, under harsh attack?

At this very moment many members of the UN want to pass a resolution suggesting that every member nation outlaw the offending of religion in any way. This is extremist religious fanaticism writ large. This is precisely Mr. Baggini's convictions the holding of which leads to unpleasant and bigoted actions and proclamations. Religion is observably not an inherent good, and I, for one, join, support and endorse the efforts of the likes of Dawkins and company in openly and, when necessary, stridently proclaiming our right to say just that.

Does Baggini not see that whatever form it takes, atheists must have a public voice? If he doesn't like the sound it currently has, he could augment the choir by adding a harmony part of his own, instead of making a caustic distracting whine from offstage. If he likes to write, he could write "positive atheism" articles that complement what he denigrates with this piece. Especially now, this choir needs help up and down the scales from bass through soprano.

The current higher profile of atheists serves a important function distinct from that of religious secularists. It informs the public that not being a religious believer is acceptable and that there lots of other non-believers too. Despite their clamoring against secularism and separation of church and state, the religious know that to give religion a hand in governing would lead to the relatively quick demise of almost all religions.

If Mr. Baggini has any real concerns in this atheist uprising, the New Atheists, this army of four - count 'em, 1..2..3..4 - individual persons, have lots of influencial, loud, well-connected and well-financed critics. In Oklahoma, the state legislature put up a resolution to condemn Professor Dawkins and now wants to in some way punish the University of Oklahoma for having him there at all. This governing body used state resources and put their time and effort into maligning one man, and are now out to censure his host, a public university. Mr. Baggini's priorities regarding liberty and the right to free expression have been severely compromised.

For some reason in this article Julian Baggini is being dishonest. Perhaps he does not see past the margins of the material that he does choose to read to the wider world beyond. There are intellectuals like that. Perhaps he harbors the notion that all persons religious are good, so he can't conceive of their posing a threat. A glimpse at the daily news should dispel that idea, but he may be among those who are psychologically bound to the notion that religious inhumanity will always reside in places far away. Perhaps he is simply a "make nice" type of person who will continually give ground until so much has been ceded that he becomes irrelevant. Some feel good by doing so.

Regardless of what those reasons might be, he is not being open with us about his interests or motives regarding this outburst. There is clearly some factor of which we are not being made aware playing into why this article has the stance and tone that it does. I hope that those who read this might see Baggini's article in a new light.

Fri, 20 Mar 2009 14:05:00 UTC | #337742

Go to: Richard Dawkins' US Dates begin Monday

sir_russ's Avatar Jump to comment 75 by sir_russ

Just saw Professor Dawkins at Wharton Center on the campus of Michigan State University. It was wonderful to experience his talk in person. What was even more significant to me was that both my children loved the presentation. The questions following his talk were quite standard fare, but enjoyable nonetheless.

I had a marvelous prelude to the professor's lecture tonight. Last night my sixteen year old daughter asked me if I knew what was the most recent common ancestor we humans share with pigs. I didn't remember it right off, but I did know where to get the answer: The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. If you were thinking it was the laurasiatheres, you were right.

A nice coincidence that happened before tonight's lecture was that I met rod_the_farmer who had driven about three hours to be there.

Mon, 02 Mar 2009 19:19:00 UTC | #332258

Go to: Richard Dawkins' US Dates begin Monday

sir_russ's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by sir_russ

rod-the-farmer said,

The Lansing session (at which I will be present with my son, 18) is titled "The Purpose of Purpose". I believe he has given this particular talk before.

The East Lansing session is at the University of Michigan. Get 'em while they are young, I suspect. This pattern may hold true for the other locations as well.


Rod, I hope to see you there.

Richard's Lansing/East Lansing talk is at the Wharton Center on Michigan State University's campus in East Lansing. Me, my wife, and both kids, ages 16 and 18, are all quite excited about seeing Professor Dawkins next Monday.

For future reference, Rod, recall that the University of Michigan is in the Third World Country called Ann Arbor, and its students and faculty are almost exclusively palm readers, phrenologists, and astrologers. UoM can be characterized as an occult wasteland. At the UoM their highest ideal for innovation, research and development is making their cotton candy purple instead of pink. And, for the entire sad lot of them, the loftiest goal to which they aspire is making their way to East Lansing, finding the magnificent MSU mascot, Sparty, and painting his tallywacker, maize, one of their loathsome school colors.

Enjoy your evening with the Professor.

Sat, 28 Feb 2009 06:50:00 UTC | #331566

Go to: Teresa, Bright and Dark

sir_russ's Avatar Jump to comment 58 by sir_russ

Many of the comments here have concerned Mr. Hitchens' position on abortion. From my perspective, Hitchens' take on abortion, pro or con, does not impact how I look at the issue. If Hitchens were to clearly lay out his thinking about abortion, I would be interested in reading it regardless of his specific stance as even when I disagree with him I find him insightful, but it is one of those issues that I have researched over many decades, pondered heavily and arrived at my conclusions. While I am open to new argument and new evidence in all areas of thought, my views about abortion are unlikely to be significantly swayed, regardless of a writers' insightfulness, since, in order to convince me to alter my thinking about abortion, the writer would first need to change my mind about a pregnant woman's right to self-determination.

Fundamentally, I see every person as having a right to make what they consider to be the best decisions for themselves. To me, no one has the right to interfere with another's actions taken in support of their self-interest. I'm a man. I don't get pregnant. That is a natural consequence over which I have no control. I will never be confronted with the decision to terminate a pregnancy for myself and I don't see that anyone has the right to coercively intervene in someone else's personal decision-making in that regard.

Thu, 30 Aug 2007 13:44:00 UTC | #63203

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