Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This Church Says Torture Is Wrong

The First Parish Unitarian Church I pass on my way to work has taken down the "Room For Different Beliefs" sign and replaced it with this one.

The sign implies, of course, that there is such a thing as right and wrong, that moral values really do exist, and do so objectively, that is, independent of anyone's personal opinion. Otherwise, if this were simply the expression of a preference, what would be the point of the sign?

You might say, "To create a consensus among a majority who will then be able to put a stop to the practice." However, if this is just an opinion, and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, what's the point? On what basis should one opinion outweigh any other opinion? This sign makes sense only if it expresses a view that transcends personal preference.

However, the church has already indicated that they have room for my beliefs. And, I just might believe torture is right. And since they have room for the belief that it's wrong to say torture is wrong, they're in a dilemma. It's a good thing that they have room for the belief that it's OK to hold contradictory beliefs!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fake or Foto

From time to time, Autodesk, the makers of AutoCAD®, Maya®, and Inventor®, posts a series of images along with a challenge. Which ones are are real photos and which ones are CG?

Here is the series above:

Here is the original series:

Here is the current series:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gourmet Foods?

Somewhere in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

I enjoy taking pictures of humorous signs, especially when they aren't intended to be humorous, like these. I'm tempted to offer a free meal to anyone who can identify the exact location of these dumpsters, but I suspect you wouldn't want it! I'll give you this hint. You can find the dumpsters somewhere along Route 12 in Fitchburg, Mass. They're in the parking lot of an establishment that is apparently short on advertising space. I know I get hungry every time I drive by!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hoarding Condition

From boston.com

Car towed after cargo blocks windows

An elderly Sandwich man's car, which was so full of trash and other random items that the rear and side windows and half of the windshield were completely covered, was impounded in Yarmouth yesterday morning, police said. Police said that Theodore Clements was pulled over in his Nissan Stanza when police noticed the blocked windows. Searching the car, they found an assortment of items, including a cast iron chain and hook, a bike, hockey helmets, and empty food boxes. Clements told police he had a diagnosed hoarding condition. The car, which was unregistered and had not been inspected since March 2005, was towed, police said, and Clements was issued a citation and taken home to a senior housing complex.
Hoarding condition. Yeah, yeah, that's it. I have a hoarding condition. A biological explanation for my behavior! I'm not a pack rat. I have a medical condition.

Let's close the prisons and provide all criminals with medical treatment instead. Someone out there has a murder condition. Actually, someone out there has a stupid condition.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

I was listening to the radio and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Literally. A behavioral psychologist had given a name to what years ago used to be called "rebellion." It is now called "Oppositional Defiant Disorder."

This is from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

All children are oppositional from time to time, particularly when tired, hungry, stressed or upset. They may argue, talk back, disobey, and defy parents, teachers, and other adults. Oppositional behavior is often a normal part of development for two to three year olds and early adolescents. However, openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a serious concern when it is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects the child's social, family, and academic life.

In children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), there is an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that seriously interferes with the youngster's day to day functioning.

Symptoms of ODD may include:
  • frequent temper tantrums
  • excessive arguing with adults
  • active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • frequent anger and resentment
  • mean and hateful talking when upset
  • seeking revenge

The symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings, but may be more noticeable at home or at school. Five to fifteen percent of all school‑age children have ODD. The causes of ODD are unknown...
So now there is another medical explanation for one more type of bad behavior. This is what happens when we assume that we are nothing but molecules in motion. No one is responsible for his or her behavior. And if one of these kids commits a crime......well, we certainly can't punish someone for being sick, can we?

    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    Room for different beliefs?

    I found this banner outside a Unitarian Universalist church I pass on my way to work.

    The sign is a logical contradiction. I'm tempted to stop by and ask them if they have room for beliefs that don't have room for different beliefs!

    "We are a welcoming faith, " says Rev. Jim Eller, a UU Pastor. "We do not have one set of beliefs....We welcome agnostics, atheists, humanists, pagans, Buddhists, Christians and theists. All are welcome."

    Oh? Would they welcome Nazis? Would they welcome racists? Child abusers? Biblical Fundamentalists? No, especially not Biblical Fundamentalists.

    Sadly, this sign is typical of today's thinking. Or, should I say non-thinking?

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Another Paradox

    I found this in an article at everything2.com.

    All adjectives may be divided into two types:
    self-descriptive and non-self-descriptive.

    Here are some self-descriptive adjectives:

    Here are some non-self-descriptive adjectives:


    So, to which type does the following adjective belong?


    If the word is really non-self-descriptive, then it applies to itself. But that would make it self-descriptive. And if it's self-descriptive, then it is describing itself as being non-self-descriptive.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008


    I love puzzles, brainteasers, logic riddles, and paradoxes.

    Here's an interesting paradox. How many of the following five statements are false?

    1. Three of these five statements are false.
    2. 2 + 2 = 5
    3. 3 +1 = 4
    4. 4 x 2 = 8
    5. 6 - 1 = 4

    Statements 2 and 5 are clearly false. But what about statement 1? If it's true, there are three false statements. But where is the 3rd false statement? If it's false, then there are three false statements, which makes it true, which brings the number of false statement back to two. But, if there are only two false statements, then statement 1 is also false...

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Subvert The Dominant Paradigm

    You may have seen this bumper sticker in your travels. I found this one in the parking lot where I work, though I have no idea whose it is. If I find out, I'll probably ask them about it. The message is a call to rebellion against the current mode of thinking, whatever it happens to be. Maybe some people display the bumper sticker to be funny or to raise eyebrows, but I'm sure some consider it a serious expression of their own thinking.

    My question to them is what will you do when the dominant paradigm becomes subverting the dominant paradigm?

    Maybe it already is.

    This reminds me of a quote by G.K. Chesterton in his book, "Orthodoxy." It's a keen observation about modern man, summed up brilliantly in the last sentence.

    ‘But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.'

    --G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1909

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    "Safe, Legal, and Rare"

    When Hillary Clinton says she wants abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare," it is considered to be a "softening" of her rhetoric. I think it's a disingenuous attempt to appeal to anyone with half a conscience by throwing in the oh-so-reasonable term "rare." Who could disagree with that?

    I think she would be satisfied with legal. She certainly doesn't want it to be safe. At least not for the baby. And I doubt she wants it to be rare.

    But, put her comments in another context, say, that of slavery. Imagine if Abraham Lincoln, in a bid to appease southerners had said, “I'm personally opposed to slavery, but I don't think the government should interfere with a slave-owner's right to choose. Let's keep slavery safe, legal, and rare.”

    Abortion is every bit as evil as slavery ever was.

    Hillary isn't safe. Her dealings aren't legal. And, unfortunately, she isn't rare.

    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Pop vs. Soda

    I grew up calling soft drinks "pop." But when I moved to New England, I realized that hardly anyone knew what pop was. Instead, virtually everyone calls it "soda," and a few even call it "tonic." Here's a fascinating map that shows, county by county, the most common term for soft drinks.

    Click the map to enlarge it.