Thursday, March 06, 2008

School Shooting in South Holland

Apparently, there's been a school shooting (in a loose sense) about 1/2 mile from where I used to live in South Holland.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Moses was on drugs?

Well, that's what one Israeli cognitive psychologist claims regarding the events on Mount Sinai. Why is a psychologist trying to analyze Biblical events? Why not leave that to historians, linguists, theologians, or spiritual leaders? Probably because he knew it would get him into Yahoo! News.

This seems like just another example of an academic ranting about a subject in which he is unqualified, until we get to the money quote:

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," [Benny] Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

It's a perfect example of the scientific pitfall of naturalism. One of the bedrock tenets of modern science is that science deals with the natural, not the supernatural. Thus, when performing scientific analysis, a researcher usually assumes that there is no supernatural cause for observed events. That's all well and good, and the assumption is usually understood and factored (explicitly or implicitly) into the conclusions of the research.

The pitfall comes when the researcher takes this assumption for the purpose of research, and applies it to their perspective on reality. This rapidly leads to a logical fallacy called begging the question or assuming the consequent: a researcher assumes something, makes observations based on that assumption, and then uses the observations to prove the assumption. That's exactly what Benny Shanon is doing. The logical progression is basically:

  1. Assume that Moses had an experience on Mount Sinai.

  2. For the purpose of scientific analysis, assume that Moses's experience was not supernatural.

  3. If Moses's experience was purely natural, the most likely explanation is a religious service incorporating hallucinogens.

  4. Therefore, Moses was probably high on Mount Sinai.

  5. Therefore, Moses's experience was probably not supernatural.

See how the assumption kinda gets lost around step four, and then is magically proven at the end? Either Shanon's a bad enough scientist that he's begging the question himself, or (more likely) he's making the argument in bad faith in order to gain a little notoriety. Instead, he should be claiming, "Assuming Moses didn't meet God on Mount Sinai, he was probably on drugs" -- a statement which is not at all controversial and merits only the response, "Well, duh!"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Anyone remember Frodus?

Anyone remember Frodus? Well, Thrice does. BBC just played a track off of their upcoming Earth EP (part of the Alchemy Index album), and it's a cover of Frodus's "The Earth Isn't Humming" from Frodus's And We Washed Our Weapons In The Sea.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm back

I had a friend beg me yesterday to restart this blog. I was pretty noncommittal at the time; I've thought about restarting this thing many times in the past couple years, but I'm always missing either the desire, the time, or the content. I figured the same would happen now, until I ran across CNN Living /'s list of Ten guys women should run from.

Just for a second, ignore the fact that I'm reading this article at all, and check out guy #9: The Virtual Lover. From the name, I assumed this guy's problem would have something to do with an Internet addiction. Not quite:

What a relief it is when a man doesn't try to force you into bed on the first date. How charmed you are when, on the third date, he says he wants to wait until "you both can't stand it anymore." How sympathetic you become when, on the sixth date, he tells you how badly he was hurt by your predecessor. How confused you are six months later when you've realized his pager goes off every time you get naked, but he's still sending you roses and talking teddy bears.

A surprising number of great romancers out there never get around to having sex. To the date-weary woman, this can seem like not the worst combination, but beware. Eventually he will blame his problems on the smell of your breath or the size of your thighs.

That's right, women. You should be concerned about your dating relationship if your guy isn't sleeping with you by the sixth date; you should run from a relationship where this lasts as long as six months, no matter how he treats you otherwise.

Let's engage in a bit of role reversal. What would you think about an advice column suggesting a man dump a woman solely because he isn't getting any?

As a sidenote, CNN appears to be regurgitating four-year-old O Magazine stories.