The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Did Dawkins cause a religious fundamentalist resurgence?

Robert Wright wonders:

A few decades ago, Darwinians and creationists had a de facto nonaggression pact: Creationists would let Darwinians reign in biology class, and otherwise Darwinians would leave creationists alone. The deal worked. I went to a public high school in a pretty religious part of the country--south-central Texas--and I don't remember anyone complaining about sophomores being taught natural selection. It just wasn't an issue.

A few years ago, such biologists as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers started violating the nonaggression pact. ... I don't just mean they professed atheism--many Darwinians had long done that; I mean they started proselytizing, ridiculing the faithful, and talking as if religion was an inherently pernicious thing. They not only highlighted the previously subdued tension between Darwinism and creationism but depicted Darwinism as the enemy of religion more broadly.

My fear is that the damage is broader--that fundamentalist Christians, upon being maligned by know-it-all Darwinians, are starting to see secular scientists more broadly as the enemy; Darwinians, climate scientists, and stem cell researchers start to seem like a single, menacing blur.

Three centuries after the Enlightenment and 46% of the people in the world's most powerful country believe a mythical being created humans from scratch. Wright may be on to something.

It's true that if you tell someone he's wrong, he'll often dig his heels in. But I think Wright misses the basic distinguishing feature separating religionists from atheists: we atheists tend to believe evidence, while religionists tend to have faith in magic. Tell an atheist he's wrong and generally he finds real, testable evidence to support his claim—or he changes his mind.

Are Republicans really crashing our economy?

Just about:

Then again, it's a hard accusation to prove: after all, one person's economic sabotage is another person's principled anti-government conservatism.

Beyond McConnell's words, though, there is circumstantial evidence to make the case. Republicans have opposed a lion's share of stimulus measures that once they supported, such as a payroll tax break, which they grudgingly embraced earlier this year. Even unemployment insurance, a relatively uncontroversial tool for helping those in an economic downturn, has been consistently held up by Republicans or used as a bargaining chip for more tax cuts. Ten years ago, prominent conservatives were loudly making the case for fiscal stimulus to get the economy going; today, they treat such ideas like they're the plague.

Traditionally, during economic recessions, Republicans have been supportive of loose monetary policy. Not this time. Rather, Republicans have upbraided Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, for even considering policies that focus on growing the economy and creating jobs.

This collection of more-harm-than-good policies must also include last summer's debt limit debacle, which House speaker John Boehner has threatened to renew this year. This was yet another GOP initiative that undermined the economic recovery.

In other words, they're quacking. And as Sullivan says, "At some point, Obama has to stop sounding defensive on the faltering recovery and start pointing to who is actually responsible."

Why does it take a British newspaper and a British-American pundit to point this out?


Krugman says bailing out Spanish banks doesn't change the fundamentals:

[T]he whole story is starting to feel like a comedy routine: yet again the economy slides, unemployment soars, banks get into trouble, governments rush to the rescue — but somehow it’s only the banks that get rescued, not the unemployed.

Just to be clear, Spanish banks did indeed need a bailout. Spain was clearly on the edge of a “doom loop” — a well-understood process in which concern about banks’ solvency forces the banks to sell assets, which drives down the prices of those assets, which makes people even more worried about solvency.

Meanwhile, senior officials are asserting that austerity and internal devaluation really would work if only people truly believed in their necessity.

Put all of this together and you get a picture of a European policy elite always ready to spring into action to defend the banks, but otherwise completely unwilling to admit that its policies are failing the people the economy is supposed to serve.

It's depressing, watching Europe make the same mistakes they made in the early 1930s. It's happening in the US as well, thanks to a craven, almost-criminal effort by the GOP to kill anything that would help our economy before the election. I sincerely hope President Obama becomes FDR after his re-election. The other two possibilities—he stays the same, cautious guy, or Romney gets elected—will mean years more depression in the US.

Ribfest 2012

Parker never really likes the walk up to Ribfest. It's about 5 km, and yesterday the temperature hit 33°C, making him a very hot dog. He did, however, get a few bits of ribs, and when we stopped in the Urban Pooch booth, two entire elk jerky sticks he stole from the display case.

This year's results:

  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro, again my favorite;
  • Itinerant Chicago BBQ, again my second-favorite;
  • Corner 41, who had a good, hot vinegar sauce and fall-off-the-bone ribs (with a little too much fat, though); and
  • Perennial Chicago fixture Smoke Daddy ("Ribs so good you'll slap your pappy!"), whose ribs had the smokiest flavor and also the most fat.

Smoke Daddy gave Parker a free pig's ear, so they get points for that.

All of the ribs this year fell off the bone, with no tug, which disappointed me a little. I might have to go back this evening to find some tug-off-the-bone ribs, maybe with a nice, thick tomato-based tangy sauce...yeah...

The end of NPR as we know it

Time to rend the clothing and tear the hair. Click and Clack are retiring:

TOM: And with Car Talk celebrating its 25th anniversary on NPR this fall (35th year overall, including our local years at WBUR)…

RAY: …and my brother turning over the birthday odometer to 75, we’ve decided that it’s time to stop and smell the cappuccino.

TOM: So as of October, we’re not going to be recording any more new shows. That’s right, we’re retiring.

RAY: So, we can finally answer the question, if my brother retired, how would he know?

The show will continue indefinitely as an endless "best of" reel, which won't be the same.

Very sad. Inevitable, but sad.

How foreign guidebooks view the US

The Atlantic's Max Fisher has a roundup:

Flipping through a few of the many English-language tourist guides provides a fascinating, if non-scientific and narrow, window into how people from the outside world perceive America, Americans, and the surprises and pitfalls of spending time here.

Of the many pieces of advice proffered, four of the most common are: eat with your fingers (sometimes), arrive on time (always), don't drink and drive (they take it seriously here!), and be careful about talking politics (unless you've got some time to spare). But they say more than that.

In many ways, the tour books say as much about the world as they do about the U.S., by highlighting the ways in which American practices and standards deviate. Anyone who's traveled widely, particularly in the developing world, will understand why these books are so emphatic about, for example, punctuality, personal space, and the unreliability of our trains.

All of them, of course, have sections on tipping. It's difficult to overstate how confusing that can be to foreign visitors.

Must be a full moon

It turns out, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva gets a little out-of-sorts because of it:

The moon’s own gravitational field was pulling more strongly one side of the Large Hadron Collider, every-so slightly deforming the tunnel through which the proton beams pass.

The deformation also changed as the Moon rose and fell in the night sky. In order to keep the proton beams on track, the operator at the LHC’s control center had to subtly alter the direction of the proton beams to accomodate the Moon’s pull, “every hour or two,” [Indiana University physics professor Dr. Pauline] Gagnon explained in an email to TPM.

The Daily Parker could not confirm reports that some of the near-light-speed protons were later seen running naked through the lab.

Afternoon link round-up

I've got a deadline, which didn't stop me reading these articles (but did stop me posting thoughts about them):

Back to the mines...