This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comments by JTMcDaniel

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 179 by JTMcDaniel

If you really want to understand the context of the Adam and Eve story, you need to read it in the original language. Beautiful as it may be, the KJB is still only a translation, which inevitably means an approximation. Not, mind you, that it actually makes any more sense in Hebrew.

Also, keep in mind that, from a Jewish perspective, the written Bible is just the notes. The four words, "...as I directed you," are considered to include the entire content of the Jewish kosher slaughter laws, which take up a couple hundred pages when written out. This is one reason Jews tend to find Christian interpretations a bit lacking.

When it says "god created," does it really mean "god" or "gods?" Elohim is the standard Hebrew plural form, and used in exactly that sense in references to pagan gods. But other times it's taken to be a proper name, whenever there's a monotheistic reason to do so. As the Genesis creation myths were almost certainly taken from older pagan sources, one might be excused for thinking the proper name interpretation is a later gloss.

Adam and Eve? An allegory, to be sure, but one attesting to human interrelatedness, not fruit eating, talking snakes, or original sin (something else Jews never believed in). The "punishment" for that culinary crime was that we would have to work for our food, and childbirth would be painful. I don't think that's changed, so I guess Jesus didn't accomplish anything after all.

Fri, 25 May 2012 05:11:36 UTC | #943424

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by JTMcDaniel

I always translated it as "futility," so I'd have to say that "vanity" is a perfectly good, if slightly archaic, translation as well. We do miss some of the nuances today, if only because the intimate form has almost completely disappeared from English (though it never actually existed in Hebrew).

The Bible has it all. You find exemplary fiction (Job, the only book no one ever really claimed to represent actual events and included for its philosophical content), a couple of romance novels (Esther, Ruth), a song book (Psalms), all sorts of adventure stories, and even some attempts at history. You also get a bit of pornish poetry (Canticles/Song of Songs). It has also been claimed to contain the basic plots used by every work of fiction written since.

I believe the Authorized Version is also the oldest work still under copyright.

You can also see the adaptation of polytheistic texts into monotheism, as in the reinterpretation of the Genesis creation story by the expedient of simply deciding that, in certain contexts, the Hebrew plural elohim (gods) would be declared to be a proper name instead. The effect was somewhat weakened by leaving too much of the "internal" dialogue in the plural form.

It truly is a vitally important literary treasure, and certainly a very powerful source of anti-religious inspiration if you're actually paying attention. The problem is that Christians generally are not paying attention, or simply block out the contradictions (such as Joseph apparently having two different fathers). It reminds me of a fellow I know who sincerely believes that Adam, Eve, and Noah were all genuine historic individuals, and at the same time constantly complains that children today are not being taught critical thinking.

Sun, 20 May 2012 07:31:21 UTC | #942359

Go to: In defence of obscure words

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by JTMcDaniel

Comment 4 by Cartomancer :

While it is my perennial and familiar idiom, idiolect if you will, to favour a species of pretentious, verbose loquacity in such communicative perambulations as I figure to essay, the logorrhoic evulsions that this modus operandi repeatedly leads me to confect can arrogate to themselves a humdrum, nay, quotidian aspect redolent of the tritest and most somniferous of Francophone fin de siecle ennui. Such undisciplined periphrasis is sophomoric in extremis. It is Antediluvian in its pretentiousness. Deleterious. Anathema to clarity and productive only of fatuous and extended lucubrations to the realisation of no objectively enriching telos whatsoever. The insertion of lexical items drawn, mutatis mutandis or otherwise, from the vocabularies of exotic, prestigious and pre-modern tongues is particularly extraneous, egregious and conducive to a mien of that most dolorous Weltschmerz characteristic of the teutonic gentes. We must be manumitted from its incarceration with all decent celerity, pursuant to the recognition of contradistinctions inherent in the conceptual haeresis between the logos and the simulacrum - the essential division it behoves us to predicate juxtaposing that which facilitates the liberal uptake of fundamental essence and cognition against that which merely beautifies, adorns, ornaments or distracts from such a salutarily alembic cranial endeavour.

Nonsense. Everyone knows the flood was just a myth.

Actually, this sort of reminds me of the way Nixon used to send Spiro Agnew out to beat the Washington press corps over the head with his dictionary. "Nattering nabobs of negativity" and the like.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 05:46:46 UTC | #936923

Go to: Monster-Sized Rabbits Discovered; Sadly, They Can't Hop

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by JTMcDaniel

A lovely article, complete with references to a pair of my favorite old movies, Harvey and Night of the Lepus. I don't think Harvey really counts, as he was invisible to everyone but Elwood, and wasn't actually a rabbit, but a pooka who appeared as one (and an apt subject here, being supernatural and imaginary, at least outside the realm of drama). Elwood's painting of Harvey suggested a rather humanoid rabbit, complete with trousers and a bow tie.

I believe I'd give the giant rabbits in Night of the Lepus the benefit of the doubt as to form, too. The giant size was artificially induced in a single generation, and I'd think changes in conformation would take a number of generations to begin to appear. What I really found curious about the movie was the way the rabbits not only got so much bigger, but turned carnivorous in the process. It was a really horrible old horror movie, with Janet Leigh frequently looking as if she'd rather be back in the shower than dealing with this nonsense. The rabbits were marginally more believable than the house-sized insects and arthropods that had been turning up on the screen, though.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 23:05:06 UTC | #936134

Go to: Chaplain Demands Atheists Canceled At Fort Bragg - Chaplain Thinks Organizers Want to Set Fire to Churches

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by JTMcDaniel

I believe the Latin for antenna is antenna.

Evangelicals were rare in the chaplain's corps at the time I got out of the Army 42 years ago. It was said that this was at least partly because they disliked the requirement for "inclusive" language in any non-denominational functions. Chaplains were allowed to say, "In thy name," leaving it to the listener to supply the name, but not "in Jesus' name," unless it was during an actual service. There was also the issue that most evangelicals graduated from non-accredited schools, while the mainline types were much more likely to have actual degrees.

Most of them seemed rather unconcerned with their own officer status. I can remember several who absolutely hated being saluted.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 03:32:52 UTC | #929184

Go to: Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by JTMcDaniel

No, we're not all idiots. Some of us actually understand the first amendment and everything. It's really annoying to have no good choices. My personal belief is that we were much better off when there were only a handful of primaries and the candidates were picked at the conventions. To win in the primaries a candidate has to appeal to the most radical voters, because they're the ones who vote in primaries. This is how you end up with a choice between a Democrat who looks upon the people as sharecroppers whose primary function is to pay for his programs and a Republican field who mostly have their heads stuck up their butts. Barry Goldwater would disown the lot of them.

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 04:04:36 UTC | #927318

Go to: Chaplain Demands Atheists Canceled At Fort Bragg - Chaplain Thinks Organizers Want to Set Fire to Churches

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by JTMcDaniel

Madison was right. There's no valid reason for the government to be paying chaplains. If they want to minister to the military, let their denomination pay their salaries, or let their "congregants" pay them through the collection plate.

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 23:07:22 UTC | #927144

Go to: Refute This, Hoax Lovers: More Proof Men Totally Walked on the Moon

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by JTMcDaniel

Didn't Popular Mechanix completely debunk just about all of the usual hoax theories back about 1970? Some people just won't allow themselves to see reality.

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 05:42:15 UTC | #925550

Go to: Atheist group targets Muslims, Jews with ‘myth’ billboards in Arabic and Hebrew

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by JTMcDaniel

I do hope these will be the modern electronic billboards. I really wouldn't want to turn on the news and discover that a billboard company crew had just been murdered as they were pasting up one of those.

Fri, 02 Mar 2012 04:51:55 UTC | #923687

Go to: Vatican told to pay taxes as Italy tackles budget crisis

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by JTMcDaniel

Vatican City is an independent state, and no more subject to Italian taxes than Ulster is to Republic taxes. The writer made a poor choice of words, using "Vatican" where "Roman Catholic Church" was meant, and "Rome" rather than "Italian government." The number of institutions mentioned make it obvious that it was church property everywhere in Italy outside Vatican City that would be taxed. I have to think that the U.S. could also go a long way toward balancing the budget if we started taxing churches, both property taxes and religious corporation income taxes.

Of course, the trade off to eliminating religious tax exemptions would be that clergy could start preaching political sermons again.

Sun, 26 Feb 2012 21:37:41 UTC | #922208

Go to: Grovel for the sake of it

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by JTMcDaniel

This can really be viewed only as a further subsidy for religion, this time government mandated but privately financed. It was framed as a Catholic issue, because the RC church has the most stringent objections to any form of birth control. It will benefit all denominations, including those that have no particular objection to most forms of birth control, may have already been providing contraception coverage, but will now get free coverage for their employees. Put simply, we've been conned again. You can bet the insurance companies will find a way to make up for the revenue loss. If they can't raise health insurance rates, they'll just find a way to make it up on life insurance or auto coverage, or write it off as a mandated expense and cut dividends to stockholders.

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 04:43:22 UTC | #916793

Go to: Application for Secular Club Rejected at Notre Dame - 2 years in a row

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by JTMcDaniel

Makes about as much sense as requiring a sign off from the local Vegan Coalition to hold a barbeque.

Fri, 10 Feb 2012 13:37:33 UTC | #916193

Go to: In Defense of Richard Dawkins

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by JTMcDaniel

I think perhaps Prof. Dawkins may "read" a bit more strident than what you get if you can hear and see him speaking. Not really a fault of the writer so much as the perceptions or expectations of the reader. I remember hearing van den Haag on the radio about 1971 relating his "Jews are smarter because the smartest Christians all became priests and had no children, and the smartest Jews became rabbis and had a lot of children" idea and it just sounded like he was playing around with something silly, but it sounded far more serious (and raised a lot of ire) when people read it in his book. You tend to perceive things to be as you expect, and if you're mad at someone's ideas (or feel threatened by them), you're much more likely to perceive them as angry, confrontational, or, well, strident.

Sat, 04 Feb 2012 02:43:27 UTC | #914401

Go to: The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 98 by JTMcDaniel

Jewish boys are circumcised at the age of eight days, not eight years. And the procedure is really only cruel if you're foolish enough to let a doctor do it, in which case it becomes a ten minute ordeal, as opposed to the 20 to 30 seconds an experienced mohel requires (including removing the diaper and bandaging the cut). In World War II, the Army did it to any men being sent to the Pacific, for health reasons, though even then the majority of American men were circumcised as infants (for reasons perhaps even sillier than ancient myth, I might add). My father remembered that mostly because he got to spend the first week on the troop ship on KP because so many of the other men were confined to their berths groaning and holding their crotches.

Islamic law and Jewish law do have similar punishments for certain offenses, though Jewish law never allowed mutilation as a punishment. The difference is that Jewish law also included some very strict procedural rules that made it very nearly impossible to actually impose a death sentence for anything other than murder. It had to do mostly with the still obvious problem that you can't undo an execution if it turns out you were wrong, and a rabbinic and proto-rabbinic preoccupation with nit picking the law to make sure absolutely nothing could possibly be misinterpreted. Islam never bothered with the safeguards.

Sat, 04 Feb 2012 00:53:45 UTC | #914386

Go to: Blasphemy law: I can stand it no longer

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by JTMcDaniel

Blasphemy is the crime of informing the mark that he's been conned. Frequently, the mark finds getting angry an easier choice than admitting he was a fool.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 09:17:00 UTC | #912440

Go to: News flash: American Protestant ministers overwhelmingly reject evolution, are split on Earth’s age

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by JTMcDaniel

Definitely a badly worded question, but possibly intentionally so? The key to polling is often wording the questions to get the answers you want. In this case, you have to strongly disagree if you don't believe in evolution, or if you believe in evolution, but don't believe in god. Leaving out evolution without supernatural direction as a possible belief certainly skews the potential results (and prevents having to report something they don't want to report, just in case any of the preachers was willing to admit to this).

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 01:32:20 UTC | #911571

Go to: A Universe From Nothing - Review

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by JTMcDaniel

Excellent book, and despite the reviewer's suggestion, not really that hard to understand if you paid attention. I did wonder if there was some subtle bias in referring to Dr. Krauss as a "veteran science writer," which makes him sound more like a reporter than one of the developers of the theories being explained. Of course, if the reviewer would care to look at something that's really difficult to understand, there's always Stenger's The Fallacy of Fine Tuning. 1960s high school algebra really wasn't adequate for that one, though the point still made it through.

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 23:21:33 UTC | #911532

Go to: South African church billboard banned following atheist complaint

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by JTMcDaniel

I do think I'm here because of an accident. With the odds of me being conceived, instead of a brother, a sister, or no one at all, on that particular evening(?) being something like 20-40 million/1 against (lots of competition there), existing just isn't something you can reliably predict. (Of course, the religious chappies who put up the billboard probably figure that Jesus personally singled out their particular sperm to insure the "right" people were born and the billboard would go up according to the master plan.)

Thu, 19 Jan 2012 23:41:23 UTC | #910010

Go to: The end of the world

JTMcDaniel's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by JTMcDaniel

Personally, I'm rather hoping Betelgeuse exploded sometime in the late 14th century so I can see it in my lifetime.

I just think that many people aren't happy unless something is threatening them. If nothing is, they'll think of something. The end of the world has been reliably predicted to occur (by someone) every year since there were people around to predict it. It hasn't happened yet, and probably won't until the sun starts to run out of hydrogen. We are not Vulcans; logic is something we try to avoid, illogic being a lot more exciting.

Also, I tend to think that external threats, such as mystical end-of-the-world scenarios, or rogue planets (evidently made of tachyons if they can manage 63 million light years by December), or an over-heating core making the earth's crust slide around like an ice skater and causing important people to build giant arks, actually make people feel better. They want to feel they're in charge of their lives, but know that in too many way they're not, so when they can pin destruction on some factor that's knowable but out of their control it removes the burden. It's the same thinking that requires a vast conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination. That was much too important to just be a matter of one lone nut having the sheer luck to work in a building overlooking the motorcade route and taking what were, after all, fairly easy shots with a scoped rifle.

If something is trying to destroy us, well, it makes us feel important. It also reinforces the notion that ancient people knew things we've forgotten. Maybe this is left over from childhood, when all those stories suggested magic used to work, even if it no longer does. If it used to work, they must have known something we don't, right?

Thu, 19 Jan 2012 23:33:59 UTC | #910007