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  1. Mr. Losick includes in his post the link to his website, www.viclosick.com. I found it worth the browse, and recommend it: ...resumes as a documentarian -- director & photographer; short sample video clips; biography (a product of NJ public schools, BTW). I think you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence of a hatchet-man or ideologue -- more an artist and someone with the skilled documentarian's eye for humanity. Maybe that's the real story in Kearny, after all.
  2. oneellama

    Pascal's Wager

    Guest appears to me to be stating a version of the common rebuttal to the Wager that it appears to bet that God simply rewards belief, regardless of the motivation or manifestation of that belief. See this link. If Guest does not understand the Wager, he is in good company, including Voltaire (click link and search on Voltaire), who was repulsed by the concept of Pascal wagering and calculating self-interest as a basis for declaring faith.
  3. oneellama

    Pascal's Wager

    That isn't part of Pascal's Wager, from what I can tell, though clearly he does not give time to universalism. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> It is part of Pascal's justification for the Wager. From Pensees (Trotter translation), at the Oregon State site linked here. Section III: Of the Necessity of the Wager 239. Who has most reason to fear hell: he who is in ignorance whether there is a hell, and who is certain of damnation if there is; or he who certainly believes there is a hell and hopes to be saved if there is?
  4. oneellama

    Pascal's Wager

    Are you quite certain of that? Why did he not frame the wager explicitly in terms of Christianity, then, IYO? <{POST_SNAPBACK}> As noted in this article on the Wager from Wikipedia, "In his other works, Pascal hoped to prove that the Christian faith (and not for example, Judaism or Paganism, which Pascal himself mentions in his Pensees) is correct."
  5. oneellama

    Pascal's Wager

    I think that Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood. I'd be curious why people think Pascal's Wager is "retarded" or "thoroughly destroyed" long ago. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> This is classic Bryan. I thought as soon as I saw it that he would simply wait for a few posters to take the bait, then bring out his Post Vegomatic and have at it, paring off the pieces that would serve his purpose and ignoring the rest. If he thinks others are doing this, even if his perspective is debatable, he calls it...lying. If he honestly intended to inform the discussion, he is smart enough to reference easily-accessable materials on Pascal's Wager. He is smart enough to know and then acknowledge the numerous arguments against the Wager (as well as, I'm sure, the counterarguments to those arguments). If you want to anticipate where Bryan might head, but also get the broader picture, consider the Wikipedia entry on the Wager, at this link. For another discussion, more purely from the philosophical bent, try the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at this link. Both of these links have additional resource links. I think that theists love to throw out the Wager in contexts like the PBS program, where exploring it's meaning and complexity is very difficult, and the viewer is left with a soundbite rationale for a fundamental personal and moral question. At minimum, some of the rebuttal soundbites need to make it into the conversation: like the assumption that Christianity -- as opposed to other faiths with similar claims -- is the answer to the wager, that God rewards faith-by-wager (as opposed to faith by true belief), the assumption that the mathematics of faith-by-wager includes infinite utility for belief in God... One can't expect on NPR to respond to the gauntlet of the wager with a statement like, "So, then, would you agree that the expected utility of belief in God, being infinite, would still have the same infinite cardinality of Aleph One, regardless of whether the wager was booked at the time it is posed, rather than at some later time in one's life? Is the mixed strategy of wagering equally justified?" I just don't think it would stick quite as well. So, Bryan, are we going to have to endure another round of your Melanocetus johnsonii strategy? Have you made your own Wager yet? If so, with whom did you make it? How did you reconcile the arguments pro and con on the seven or so most common rebuttals to the Wager?
  6. Ah, but cherry-picking truth (or morality, or what to believe) out of the Bible is a time-honored Judeo-Christian tradition. Why not join in? (Well of course, you have.) Regardless, you leave open the pathway that either (1) you might not really be a very moral person, or (2) something outside the Bible allows you to make valid, supportable moral choices. If (1), then you better make the time and get to reading, for your eternal fate hangs in the balance. If (2), then maybe some of those atheists out there might be more than the reprobates you portray them to be. If your "faith" extends to accepting contradiction without questioning, than you are simply practicing self deception...as you are if you really believe atheism is equivalent to viewing the Bible as "all a fraud" and atheism itself as a replacement faith in "Mother Nature." As noted elsewhere, so much for "intelligent design."
  7. "Evolution" as employed by Darwin (or Darwiniacs, if you prefer) is the term applied to changes in the species composition of the Earth over time, driven by the decidedly non-random process of natural selection. It is a foundational principle of biology, not cosmology. Life has not (at least up to this point) been confirmed outside of Earth. Even you must admit that there is much more to the universe than Earth, so "evolution" is hardly the term you should be using to chastize atheists for explaining changes in the universe over time. Unfortunately, our current president and several of the Republican presidential candidates can't seem to get that one straight, either. If they (and you) continue to try to legitimize pseudoscience like intelligent design, the least you could do is start the discussion with some evidence of basic scientific intelligence. Otherwise, you are just "designed" to look foolish. Extra credit question: How do you pronounce "nuclear"? (Just don't ask Mr. Bush.)
  8. "Dude", The teacher is a hero for standing up to the moronic separation of church and state "rules". These are the same "rules" that the ACLU tries to use to force the removal of crosses from war memorials of our christian veterans. While the radical left meekly follow the "rules", the heros of our society stand up to be heard. <{POST_SNAPBACK}> ..and it's precisely because of people like you that I'm awefully glad we have a Constitution, and a Supreme Court, and the historicial documents that support the precedents and tests that accompany the Establishment Clause. You are no less frightening than fundamentalists of any religious persuasion, and no less a danger to the fabric of our democracy. When you call Paskiewicz a hero and the separation of church and state "moronic," you illustrate perfectly why it was so risky a thing and so important a thing that Matt LaClair chose the path he did. Constant vigilance against your ilk is the only choice.
  9. oneellama

    The Assault on Reason

    Are you a military expert? If you are, try reading the following article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/28/world/mi...15d9&ei=5087%0A Put yourself in the boots of Staff Sgt. Safstrom. Then give us the benefit of your expert opinion.
  10. oneellama

    We have a settlement

    Dad and Lad, as you call them, are registered, and have put plenty out there for others to think about, trigger conversations, arguments, prompt an insult or hand grenade, and more. The "Guest" I responded to has not, that I can tell, anyway, because he is not registered and his comments can't be searched or compiled. His response regarding Paul is hypocritical. You did not address that. Perhaps Paul and Matthew have posted anonymously under Guest. Does that make me naive? I don't mind being naive, sometimes; it often brings out the best in people rather than the worst. You were, apparently, an exception. Typing, by the way, takes me an extremely long time. I have a manual Parkinsonianism, which multiplies my mistakes many times over what you probably make. I routinely go back through my posts multiple times before hitting the "send", just fixing the goofs, and KTOW would tell you that I've asked him more than once to call back a message that got away with gibberish in it due to shakey keyboard or mousework. (This message took me 45 minutes to type! Stay tuned, Bryan, I will rise to your last challenge to me one of these evenings.) That doesn't mean I'm an idiot, even if my typo was on Kearny this time (how many other times have I misspelled it, 2S?). It just makes me human.
  11. oneellama


    The item BushBacker has posted is an urban legend, promoted by a false chain letter than has been circulating in various forms, for several years. There are websites devoted to exploding these myths. Here is one related to the ACLU gravestone claim: http://www.breakthechain.org/exclusives/aclucross.html An ACLU press release on the same issue (in PDF format) may be found here: http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file399_26244.pdf A quote from this statement includes the following: "The ACLU vigorously defends people’s freedom to choose their religion under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the ACLU would defend thefirst amendment rights of all veteran Americans and service members to display the religious symbol of their choosing on their grave. Therefore, the vehement attacks on the ACLU claiming that gravestones and markers at federal cemeteries, including Arlington Cemetery, are in danger is patently false and misleading..."
  12. oneellama

    We have a settlement

    Can't you see the outright hypocrisy of making such an accusation, safe behind your Guest sign-on, not registered, with no way to compare your comments for their consistency or credibility? Do you wish to claim credit for any of the other thousands of such Guest quotes on this blog, in the process of using your one-post wonder-slam-by-innuendo on Matthew? Do you have the guts that Matthew had, to stand up to the inevitable abuse, flowing from the "Christians" of Kearny through the community and through this blog? How would you like it if someone said this post bore obvious resemblance to some other specific, truly foul Guest hand grenade thrown in Matthew or Paul's direction, and therefore "you" must be "they?" I'm disgusted.
  13. oneellama

    Defending science

    I was surprised, and then not surprised, at this post by Bryan. Surprised that someone who is clearly intelligent would muddy an important issue at the same time he is accusing Strife of being uninformed or misled on that same issue. Surprised because he challenges the geography of someone else's "moral map" at the same time he does not show willingness to honestly navigate his own. Not surprised? Because this is not the first time Bryan has gone down this kind of path. It is fine to say that stem cell research receives "plenty of federal funding," but "plenty" seems intended to presume "satisfactory" or "sufficing." Bryan knows full well that MANY scientists working on stem cell research, and particularly those working on embryonic stem cell research, have been highly critical of the Bush Administration's decisions regarding federal funding of such research. (I won't say "most" scientists, because I'm not a pollster, and I don't want to be accused by Bryan of overstepping the data, which I don't have the time to compile at this writing.) Bryan correctly acknowledges "stem cell research outside of the existing stem cell lines specified early in Bush's presidency cannot receive federal funds." But he seems to use this funding of a very limited, dead-end line of samples to bolster his argument that there is "plenty" of federal funding for stem cell research, even embryonic stem cell research. Yet he does NOT acknowledge the obvious uproar that this decision created, due to scientific concerns about the viability and limitations of the approved lines, the degree to which the Bush policy decision has actually affected progress in embryonic stem cell research, and the scientific adequacy of non-embryonic pathways. Bryan's response apparently assumes that the viability of research pathways beyond the embryonic stem cell approach will suffice as a tradeoff for the restricted research options in embryonic stem cell lines. He apparently ignores issues of the breadth of outcomes, their effectiveness, timeliness, and cost, trumped by his own moral map. Bryan says it doesn't occur to Strife that "harvesting living human embryos for their stem cells is itself shocking and abhorrent." He didn't say "might be," or "could be considered to be" or "some might find it that." He says "is." The implication is that the stated position is his own, and that he is obviously right. (Please don't get into a dissection of the definition of "is.") The obvious problem with his simplistic summary is that Bryan is assuming the definition of "living," in order to play the "shock and abhor" strategy, and thus claim the high road when comparing his moral map to Strife's. So, Bryan, what is your definition of life? Does it begin at conception? Or even before? Is an unfertilized egg "living" How to you feel about "living sperm?" If any case, is your definition based on science? Religion? Ethics? Do you believe that a one-minute-old fertilized egg experiences pain when it is destroyed, or has a consciousness that disappears? Do you believe that a soul enters a fertilized egg at the moment of conception, and that is why it is shocking and abhorrent to "harvest" an embryo for research -- because it destroys a soul? If so, as Sam Harris speculates, what is the mathematics of souls when it comes to identical twins and chimeras, which diverge after fertilization? Thank goodness the Catholic Church may have recently resolved for us the issue of whether unbaptized embryos go to Limbo or not! There must be a special place in heaven for embryos from fertilization clinics. And what about all those unused embryos, from precisely the processes that are now off the federal support list, that get destroyed as a matter of course? What about miscarriages -- grounds for "shock and abhor"? Is your "shock and abhor" strategy based on unfulfilled human potential of that set of cells? For many (you???) the answer is the dictates of their faith. And that's the link to the whole LaClair situation, after all. Sam Harris put it this way in Letter to a Christian Nation (p.25): "One of the most pernicious effects of religion is that it tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering. Religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are not -- that is, when they have nothing to do with suffering or its alleviation. Indeed, religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are highly immoral -- that is, when pressing these concerns inflicts unnecessary and appalling suffering on innocent human beings. This explains why Christians like yourself expend more "moral" energy opposing abortion than fighting genocide. It explains why you are more concerned about human embryos than about the lifesaving promise of stem-cell research. (Emphasis mine.)And it explains why you can preach against condom use in sub-Saharan Africa while millions die from AIDS there each year." So -- others can be shocked by, and abhor YOUR position, Bryan. Are you willing to consider the unexplored portions of your own moral map, as you accuse others of blinders? The closest you come in this post is admitting that the issue of abortion is a "complex ethical situation." But even that is in a qualified bone you throw to Paul, where you presume that he would extrapolate the ethical complexity of abortion to the issue of embryonic stem cell research, something I do not recall him doing. As I go back and read Strife's post, I don't conclude s/he is either misinformed, or misled by the site to which Paul referred. One can substantially understand the reality of current federal stem cell research funding and still rationally land in a continent of one's moral map that finds the Bush policy to be far from "plenty," far from wise, and far from moral. If you cannot see that, it is you that is adrift, not Strife. You have made a similar error in your "2 minute" response to Paul's post, but that is for another time. Instead, I think you are too smart not to see it, so I suspect you are intentionally obfuscating the issue. --oneellama
  14. oneellama

    "Don't buy it."

    In the interests of apologies and erasures/corrections, I must apologize to Richard Bolles for incorrectly citing his work, in my earlier post today in response to "Guest," as the SEVEN Boxes of Life, when it was, in fact, the THREE Boxes of Life. "Boxes? What's the matter with boxes? I LOVE boxes!" -- Pandora
  15. oneellama

    "Don't buy it."

    Dare away. I'm very glad you asked that question. Perhaps I can clarify a couple things for you. First, I'm a public school teacher, so the issues of responsibility, freedom of speech, ethics, and legal boundaries raised on this blog are right at the top of my priority list. In my school, it is commonplace for me to have parents, my principal, board members, and teachers from my own and other districts present in my room while I am teaching. Sometimes, they come unannounced. It is not at all a "gotcha" test; they simply know I welcome them. Most know they run the risk of being enlisted in the learning process, and often that is precisely why they are there. My teaching is enhanced by their presence and participation. My door is always propped open, except when the hallway's too noisy. I guarantee you that there is absolutely no connection between the possibility of my being taped and the possibility of my "slipping up." I do the latter, just like any other human being, with frustrating regularity. Teaching is a profound lesson in the art of communication and opportunities for miscommunication, between all the participants (student-parent-teacher-administrator...). That's why, as teachers say, there are apologies and erasers. I offer my apologies freely, from my heart, and I erase my mistakes, insert corrections, and pursue improvement in the future. This is one of many points where Mr. P and I apparently part paths; he has shunned the apology, and his erasures have been of the facts, not the fallacies. Rose Mary Woods is not a good role model for Mr. P to metaphorically follow in this regard. [50 point Extra Point Question #1 for Mr. P's U.S. History studens: identify the person cited, the historical situation, and why Mr. P might wish he had Ms. Woods on retainer at the moment.] On the other hand, I do not teach in fear of being taped for my slip-ups, any more than I live in fear of going to hell. To paraphrase Sam Harris, the fact that this does not worry me in the slightest should suggest to you just how inadequate I find the threat of either being taped, or going to hell. The obvious positive feedback loop here is that the less you fear true misconduct or immorality, the more you have homed in on the ethical and moral internal compass that make the fear itself moot. Consequently, I have absolutely no concern that someone will reveal a tape, overtly or covertly recorded, that might land me afoul of the Establishment Clause or any other significant policy governing my teaching ethics. Mr. P obviously can't say that now, and I would suggest it's been many years, if ever, that he could. Instead, he chose to construct his world view based on a stark choice between the fear of immeasurable punishment and a false certainty of eternal glory, and project that fear onto his own teaching choices, then his students. It is that world view itself that seems to offer only one path: slam the one who made the tape, when the more rational choice is to apologize, correct the errors -- and take a true quantum leap forward as a teacher and as a human being. The exact same phenomenon reveals the legitimacy of the truly moral atheist human beings living in our midst, completely devoid of religiously-motivated, fear-modulated belief systems. Many Christians (including those responsible for a plethora of posts on this blog) base much of their world view on the belief that this last statement is inherently self-contradictory. If you simply reread these last two paragraphs, you will see that it is a straightforward matter to show empirically that they are wrong. This is an example of allowing rational thinking to trump irrational faith. You, like many other posters on this blog, have demeaned or even slandered Mr. L and his son for their motives, claiming the effect is to "discredit someone making a living" or threaten a family man's ability to provide for his children. I'm still trying to convince myself that your attempt to glue the LaClair's motives to a Congressional bid by Paul was intentional yet misplaced preemption, rather than a breathtakingly inane mix-up between Paul LaClair and Paul Aronson. [50-point extra credit question for Mr. P's KHS students: identify the historical connection (albeit recent), of the phrase I just borrowed; submit answers to oneellama@comcast.net.] But even if I can somehow work past that aspect, I'm astounded that you, and to my knowledge none of Mr. P's supporters, has asked the much more pertinent question: if you can criticize Mr. L and Matthew for raising the issue in the way they did, how can you not wonder why on earth Mr. P, knowing he was the breadwinner for his family, would take such an obvious and continuous risk by going way over the top presenting his own religious viewpoints in the classroom, as explicitly revealed on the tapes? I think it was in The Seven Boxes of Life that Richard Bolles told the story of a religious group a few decades back that was so convinced that the second coming was inevitable on a certain day that they stopped paying their mortgages, quit their jobs, and gathered together awaiting the Rapture. Bottom line: no Rapture. Also no "Plan B," so they lost their homes, jobs, and more. Faith blinded them to reality. Those who enable Mr. P to persist in the self-deception that his choice was either correct or rational are, themselves, blinded to reality by their faith. The man is so certain of his own righteousness that he was willing to put everything of real earthly value on the line, convincing himself it was Sunday at the church, not Monday in his public school classroom. This should be a very sobering reality check for Mr. P and those rallying around him. There is another path, both for Mr. P and the enforcement/policy arms of the administration. Recognize your mistakes. Acknowledge them openly. Apologize for them. Correct them. If you do not do that, you had better be working on a good Plan B. --oneellama P.S.: Dear Guest: from my earlier posts, you could learn that I just recently escaped from a hospital, where I gave up some of my innards, and my stock of spare parts was sorely (yes, a pun) depleted. Thus, forgive me if I am not anxious to let them have another go at me quite so soon, even if it were to be in the kind of hospital you were implying rather than the scalpal and suture kind. Also, it wasn't that I was specifically worried about getting killed myself (my religious paranoia only goes so far); I was actually suggesting that there are a few too many religious fanatics of different persuasions out there who view blinding violence on earth as a sign of their own imminent ascension to heaven. It's your butt, too, or even instead. My mention of the sword was supposed to be an ironic reference to Westerners readying themselves for the Crusades. I normally am not big on explicating my attempts at irony, but under the circumstances you really seemed to have been pretty oblique, so I'm cutting you a K-mart special on pithy analysis. P.P.S.: I think if you re-read my original post that prompted your comments, you may see quite clearly that I was not missing the distinction between six-year-olds and seventeen-year-olds. In fact it was precisely my point -- to emphasize that distinction by contrasting the "Praise Jesus" children's BOE roadshow with Matt LaClair's demonstrated (if not mainstream Christian) rationality. To review (borrowing from Richard Dawkins): six-year-olds CANNOT be Christian children (or Moslem children, or whatever other similar label you might wish to impose). They are children of CHRISTIAN PARENTS, parents who routinely seek to epoxy the religiosity of their offspring, based on indoctrination, during childhood, using palpable fear as the motivator. Matthew LaClair, whatever indoctrination he may have undergone when younger, is of a developmental age where he can increasingly make reasoned choices on his own. I submit his parents have given him a toolbox to do that in a thoughtful and rational manner, rather than based on an anxiety closet of childhood fear, prompted by an infinitely loving and wonderfully all-knowing god who just happens to doom children to eternal torture for such Biblical capital crimes as being disrespectful to their parents or working on the Sabbath (if we are to believe the Old Testament), or having never known Jesus because they were born in the backwoods of Borneo (if we work off the New). All the righteous indignation in the world by the mom of the "Jesus Saves" artistes doesn't change the real source of the beliefs or their maturity level in the child. Hell, I've taught second-graders who were all convinced because of their parents' teachings and their playground discussions that the OTHER kids on the playground were headed for the Inferno, and all they had to do was say a few words and pretend to eat a cracker and they would skate. It's a great motivator for team collaboration.
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