Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
The interview focuses around the claims of Murray's new book, "Real Education," which is in a sense an extension of his work with The Bell Curve. The first question:
Although attending college has long been a staple of the American dream, you argue in your new book, “Real Education,” that too many kids are now heading to four-year colleges and wasting their time in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
Yes. Let’s stop this business of the B.A., this meaningless credential. And let’s talk about having something kids can take to an employer that says what they know, not where they learned it.
I agree with him here, however one can say these things and not immediately be an elitist. Being an elitist is when a person puts a moral judgement on people who do not go to college, and in that aspect a lot of the people who do attend universities (including many of those who really shouldn't) are elitists. But I make no such value, I simply look around and see many people my age overwhelmed with material they are supposed to learn. I have been in classes where I was the only one talking and answering questions, even in writing classes people had trouble engaging with what the teacher was saying.
Now there are two reasons that could be causing this, either people are not mentally equipped for more intellectual pursuits, or perhaps our high schools aren't rigorous enough. Not enough people consider the former option and I don't think Murray considers the later. When it came to the "high-brow" stuff: I largely taught myself. I read philosophy, geography, literature, philosophy, religion, all on my own during those four years I spent waiting for college. I was also willing to avoid having a social life.
However are some people not capable of intellectual pursuits? In regards to abstract reasoning and speculation about metaphysics and such, probably. First of all, most people aren't really interested, and many unfortunately try to convince themselves that they are while going to school. Second many people may not be able to comprehend the material, but is this such a bad thing? Often when one boils down complex texts, one find only a few central points. The rest is showing off with footnotes. I feel the problem may not be the ideas, but their presentation. A university education is supposed to do this, but maybe that's the wrong approach. It might be better if left up to the media (as problematic as they are).
When the facts are simple but the implications broad, we should not recoil. As long as people can grasp the central ideas behind what moves and shakes the world, that's all that matters. While I would not claim that someone who read the Cliff Notes for War and Peace "understands" the book, I don't feel that one has to read An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (always shortened to Wealth of Nations by intellectuals) to understand capitalism. I feel that Murray's approach to the issue is too avoid educating people about high falutin' ideas at all, which is not any kind of solution to the problems of our education system. he would do good to remember what Chomsky said:
it's striking to see the intelligence that's used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in -- they have the most exotic information and understanding about all kind of arcane issues.
Ordinary people are capable of learning, processing, and retrieving information, its a question of appealing in the right way. There is a way to dress things up for intellectuals, and then a way to do it for carpenters, another for housewives, another for young children...etc. this is something Murray seems to forget.
Well, that was a lot on just one question.
I’m sure you’re aware that unemployment is very high right now.
There are very few unemployed first-rate electricians. I can get a good doctor in a minute and a half. Getting a really good electrician — that’s hard. If you want jobs that are in high demand, go to any kind of skilled labor. And by labor, I mean things that pay $30 or $40 an hour.
This question and response show the fact that neither the interviewer, nor Murray has any idea of what really is going on. It is a follow up to his response that people should enter the workforce instead of going to college (which for most people I agree). The interviewer (Deborah Solomon) responds with this questions, which makes no sense to ask. Murray is thinking about the long term, not simply what unemployment is like right now. It isn't actually very high (it's still lower than many countries, and I'm not intellectually snickering, I'm unemployed too, thanks to Bush & Co. and NYU's inability to make a degree anyone wants - I went to the Detroit of colleges!). However Murray seems to ignore something about his line of thought, if people go from being in college to going to trade schools, there will be a glut of those electricians, plumbers, etc. Also most jobs without the college degree are not in those fields, they are in retail and the like, which does not pay as much (I know, I see the wanted listings).
I believe that given the opportunity, most people could do most anything.
You’re out of touch with reality in that regard. You have not hung around with kids who are well in the lower half of the ability distribution.
I agree with Murray here. I don't have the legs to be a dancer or the fingers to be a concert pianist. But I'm fine with that. The fact is we have aptitudes for different things. We are a species with a diversified mind, which helps us to be efficient in division of labor. However unlike Murray and his ilk, I don't think that means people should be paid wildly different amounts of money.
and so it goes:
Aren’t think tanks basically welfare for intellectuals?
Actually, the interesting thing there is the extent to which it’s the think tanks in the last 15 years that have been producing the stuff that has had the most effect on the debate, as opposed to colleges.
Well Mr. Murray, who produces the thinkers for the tanks? I suppose you just take 'em off the street? Well, maybe they should.
Have they affected debate, of course? But I think what intellectuals dream up together usually ends up causing more harm than good, intellectuals have to be checked in their excesses. As an intellectual, I understand that better than anyone. Now if only the scientists understood their limits...
Are they welfare for intellectuals? Of course they are (and I want some). And so are colleges. Just like monasteries in the old days. A place to put the crazy people with big words so work could get done in the real world without people stopping to wonder if God can make rocks he can't lift!
The last answers are the most worrying, displaying the kind of intellectual self-loathing that the thinkers of the Nazi Party exemplified in its worst aspects. When I disparage my eggheaded kin, it is a suggestion of improvement and done out of love, but these responses show utter disregard and well, ignorance. but think tanks don;t have much to so with history and historians I guess. They like number crunchers but not people who pin ideas to dates.
What do you make of the fact that John McCain was ranked 894 in a class of 899 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy?
I like to think that the reason he ranked so low is that he was out drinking beer, as opposed to just unable to learn stuff.
His ranking so low is not a good thing, and his inability to comprehend things is not either. He is supposed to be running the country, remember? In a normal case, one could say "well someone has to be on the bottom, and he had to be a hard worker to get in right?" However he was the son and grandson of admirals, the closest the thing to royalty one could be in the navy. It's like W's lackluster performance in college, a warning sign.
What do you think of Sarah Palin?
I’m in love. Truly and deeply in love.
She attended five colleges in six years.
He attacks people going to college when they're not ready, she clearly wasn't, and if she wasn't running for VP (as a Republican) and was her college counselor he would have said to her, "Sarah dear, this isn't the place for you, you're just not capable of absorbing all these books!"
Why is the McCain clan so eager to advertise its anti-intellectualism?
The last thing we need are more pointy-headed intellectuals running the government. Probably the smartest president we’ve had in terms of I.Q. in the last 50 years was Jimmy Carter, and I think he is the worst president of the last 50 years.
What is Murray doing here? Why is he so willing to embrace anti-intellectualism? I think such behavior usually has two causes. The first is a feeling of inadequacy for being concerned so much with affairs of the body, perhaps memories of being the last picked to play on the schoolyard, maybe not. But it is a feeling which produces a loathing of oneself and this becomes projected outward. The intellectual becomes attracted to figures who show physical vitality and power (think Heidegger and Machiavelli).
Second, I think that this is something stoked by right wing intellectuals as a way to put down their left wing brethren so they can rule with less opposition and lead the people whom they consider little better than sheep (people can sing better but sheep give off wool). McCain has plenty of pointy heads around him and so did Bush, and both are manipulated, advised, controlled, and consoled by them. Same with all leaders. But celebrating anti-intellectualism never leads to suggestions they should hire the "regular folks" for the administration.
What is interesting is that Murray seems to debunk his whole thesis by invoking Jimmy Carter. Murray worships at the temple of the IQ, but the president with the best one had the worst administration. Well at least according to Murray (another case of why political parties make whores of most intellectuals left and right - by Murray's own libertarian standards Bush is the worst president of the past fifty years: terrorist attacks, wars, rights violated, debts, and now bailouts).
The case with Bush show why you want a sharp intellect in the White House, because you need a mind that will battle it out with the policy wonks and intelligentsia assembled at Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush simply became a Yes-Man to his own policies when they were fed back to him in the pleasing jargon of his Neo-Con Man buddies. The Oval Office should be a Hegelian battleground, a dialectical slaughterhouse where wills and intellects collide to result in the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit over the dimension of world-historical...okay, okay enough with the intellectual fancy talk.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
STRAND BOOKSTORE 828 BROADWAY
September 22, 2008, 7p.m.
THE ART OF THE MEMOIR:
TELLING & SELLING YOUR LIFE STORIES
Performances, followed by discussion of the joys and perils of making a narrative out of your own life, dealing with issues of privacy and the lunacy of family, and figuring out how to navigate the stormy seas of publishing. All questions will be answered. And perhaps an audience member or two will get a chance to tell one of their life stories.
DAVID HENRY STERRY
MASTER OF CEREMONIES: A TRUE STORY OF SEX, DRUGS, ROLLER SKATES & CHIPPENDALES*
Find out what it was like to be the ugliest man at Chippendale's in the cash-happy coke-crazy 80s, when it was raining men and girls just wanted to have fun. Sterry has appeared on NPR, the BBC, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. His first memoir, Chicken, is being made into a TV series by Showtime.
LEVINE-GREENBERG LITERARY AGENCY
James Levine is one of America's great superagents, and the founder of Levine-Greenberg literary agency. He has spent decades putting together ideas, people, and money; identifying, nurturing, and marketing talent; and creating projects that make a difference. He is also the author of seven books, and has appeared on Oprah. He has helped dozens and dozens and dozens of writers become professional authors.
21 DOG YEARS: A CUBEDWELLERS TALE
MIKE DAISEY has been called "the master storyteller" by the New York Times for his many monologues, which include How Theater Failed America, Great Men of Genius, and 21 Dog Years. He has performed at the Public Theater, the Spoleto Festival, Yale Repertory Theater, the Noorderzon Festival, and many more. He's been a guest on David Letterman, has been heard on the BBC, NPR and currently he's a commentator for PRI. He has been the recipient of the Bay Area Critics Circle Award, two Seattle Times Footlight Awards, and a MacDowell Fellowship.
*Anyone who buys this book will get a 10 minute publishing consultation.
Couple needs the help of an egg donor to have a family. Seeking an egg donor with the following qualities,
-some form of college education
-BMI of 28 or less
-20-28 years of age
-height 5'3 or taller
-some form of post HS education
-no use of illegal drugs, cigarettes, alcohol abuse or antidepressants
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Your result for The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test...
Breakdown: your Blind Patriotism levels are borderline unhealthy, but you show such a love of people from everywhere and a natural resistance to brainwashing, you would probably focus your energy to fight the Fuehrer with furor, so to speak.
Conclusion: born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would have taken up ARMS against the oppressors. Or even your friends' oppressors. Congratulations!
Less than 5% of all test takers earn a spot in the Resistance!
- it rules -
Sunday, September 7, 2008
First, the introduction. Prager here talks about how students learn all about the Inquisition and how it is linked to religion, but that they are never told the secular roots of the twentieth century's great calamities, such as Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. That's odd, because I remember learning in school that these ideologies lead people to slaughter one another and never thought, "gee I wonder if it was Catholicism's fault that Stalin happened?" Prager seems willing to ignore the genocidal parts of the Old Testament, where God specifically orders the Jews to massacre and enslave their neighbors. Of course this doesn't let Stalin off the hook, or Hitler, or anyone else, but it does undermine his claim that God is a meaningful source for morality. The problem is also that he lumps all secular belief systems together. A Liberal secularist and a Marxist are two different people, and even within Marxism, there were those who opposed Stalin and Lenin's excesses of power.
Prager then goes on to write this:
For all the problems associated with belief in God, the death of God leads to far more of them. So, while it is not possible to prove (or disprove) God's existence, what is provable is what happens when people stop believing in God.
Unfortunately he doesn't follow this line of thought through, and acknowledges little positive influence that secularization has had. Gays would still be burned, tithes forcibly collected, science stifled, and his own ancestors would still be stuck in Ghettos if it wasn't for it. But these details aren't worth noting, instead there is nothing but bloodshed and decadence because people stopped kneeling and blindly accepting everything their priests and poorly edited books told them. The idea that maybe these movements and dictators could inspire such ferocious and bloody loyalty because they took on the trappings of the old churches is also not considered.
Anyways, to his points, he's got fourteen of them, just like Mr. Wilson.
1. Without God there is no good and evil; there are only subjective opinions that we then label "good" and "evil." This does not mean that an atheist cannot be a good person. Nor does it mean that all those who believe in God are good; there are good atheists and there are bad believers in God. It simply means that unless there is a moral authority that transcends humans from which emanates an objective right and wrong, "right" and "wrong" no more objectively exist than do "beautiful" and "ugly."
The problem is that even WITH a God we are left with subjective moral facts because every religion claims their God wants things a certain way. A secular worldview could take such principals as Utilitarianism for a way to think about the issue, or base its reasoning from enlightened self-interest, which even religion has to fall back on (after all, when one acts good to get into Heaven, isn't that stemming from the same desire?)
2. Without God, there is no objective meaning to life. We are all merely random creations of natural selection whose existence has no more intrinsic purpose or meaning than that of a pebble equally randomly produced.
It's tragic even if there is a God. A being claims to be all loving and all powerful, but we are left to suffer anyways under the illusion that it cares. Nothing really changes if the secularist has his or her way.
4. Human beings need instruction manuals. This is as true for acting morally and wisely as it is for properly flying an airplane. One's heart is often no better a guide to what is right and wrong than it is to the right and wrong way to fly an airplane. The post-religious secular world claims to need no manual; the heart and reason are sufficient guides to leading a good life and to making a good world.
So many flaws in this statement. Let me screw my head back on, it just spun off. Alright. there we go. Several things are wrong with this argument.
Humans do need instruction manuals. We are not born with intrinsic notions of right and wrong. we have an instinct towards self-preservation and that's it. over time this drive is channeled into service towards others, as well as being courteous and polite. I agree there. But the problem is that acting rightly is not a set of specific instructions like flying an airplane. There are too many variables. The notion that one cannot trust their heart because the heart can't tell you how to fly a plane, is terribly misguided because it confuses one set of instructions for another. More appropriately, ethics is a game and not a guide to operating a piece of machinery. One has to react and plan in a given situation with others.
This runs counter as well to most Christian ethical thinking (although the author is not a Christian, he has the Judeo-Christian God in mind), since Christian ethics COME from the heart. There is no more law, there is only love, which is a force and not a body of set principals. This is, after all, why Christians claim they can eat bacon and their women aren't ritually unclean while menstruating.
The heart and reason are all we have, even if we are religious. So many groups claims so many different ethical and moral imperatives that it is hard to see what believing in a God means. Plenty of groups say one thing is allowed and others claim the exact opposite, even when they claim to follow the same book.
He also claims that the secular world claims to not need a manual. This is not true either, as there are several ethical codes of conduct that different groups have come up with (Marxism, Buddhism, Humanism, Utilitarianism, Objectivism, etc.), while not relying on any divine revelation. One may not agree with them, and neither holds sway over the majority of atheists, but most theists in the world don't believe in the Resurrection of Christ either.
5. If there is no God, the kindest and most innocent victims of torture and murder have no better a fate after death than do the most cruel torturers and mass murderers. Only if there is a good God do Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler have different fates.
What the author fails to realize though (and maybe he needs to read Jack Chick, I know, I know, I keep saying that) is that for Christians salvation is by faith not works. Adolf Hitler can repent on is death bed and go to heaven. His horrible crimes would still have been committed. Mother Teresa can have a crisis of faith before she dies and where does she end up? In hell. There are also plenty of religions that don;t have heaven and hell, and in the Old Testament it's not clear what happens when people die. They simply go to sleep with their ancestors for the most part.
6. With the death of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many Westerners believe in little. That is why secular Western Europe has been unwilling and therefore unable to confront evil, whether it was Communism during the Cold War or Islamic totalitarians in its midst today.
It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.
This is an incredible bizarre argument. Prager admits that religious beliefs are irrational, which the first thing. Second he thinks that becoming secular makes you a Communist, a common ploy among theists. And third he is right in suggesting that secularists were responsible for bringing about sexually equality, and he seems to think this was a bad thing, founded on "irrational" beliefs.
This argument is really grasping for any veneer of intelligence. We should believe in God because it will make us more rational on the outside and keep our irrationality on the inside. This is another unhistorical claim made by the author. We only have to look at the Crusades and witch hunts to know that irrational beliefs, when they are the foundations of a society, will produce irrational actions and are not confined simply to theology or (in the case of Marxism) philosophy. Religious people always want to make their societies function according to their faith. Occasional it works well as in the Civil Rights movement, but most of the time ends up with books banned, books burned, people labeled heretics, and people burned.
Soooooo if God controls everything, God knows what we are going to do, and we can't go against God's will, we are still free. The prisoners in concentration camps and gulags had more freedom than we do if God exists. Actually only an atheist can believe in free will, but one who is not a strict materialist (i.e. Peter Unger).
Okay, first, they don't want to equate humans with animals. They want to give them equal consideration when it comes to causing a being unnecessary pain. They are also not unanimously supported by the secular community and they have religious advocates as well. Second, they are not "elites." Secularists don't have a Pope or a High Priest. Thirdly, as humans we can value members of our own species without needing to make reference to God. Simply saying humans matter because they are made in the likeness of a man in the sky is no real argument. If any other creature had a God it would make its God resemble it. Horses would give their gods hooves, pigs would have gods with snouts.
The fact that religious people have often destroyed works of art is of course ignored. While many people in the past were inspired by religion for their art (and many are still) getting rid of religion does not lead to the end of it. Look at most of the songs written, and how many of them are about human love. Something is motivating the writers of these songs, and it is entirely worldly in its subject matter. While I'm not too happy about the state of the art world, I wonder if Mr. Prager has been to many art galleries, and how many Catholic churches he has entered. While the "scatological" is not found there, plenty of art that celebrates suffering and gore can be seen.
The concept of "holy" only exists within a religious context. Remove that and the term is not meaningful, true. But losing the term doesn't really matter. If you took away Judaism, you would lose the ability to call things Kosher, but so what? Most people would not notice its loss in their daily lives.
Hubris exists with God and without it. People simply think they are carrying out God's will. In fact this is a form of hubris which is more dangerous because any one can believe it. Secular hubris is usually much more well founded, it takes a period of success and a position of power to develop.
The problem is that the people who did the most to oppose the early advocates of these rights were themselves religious too. And God can take rights away, he often does so in the Bible and Koran, as well as in the Book of Mormon. Look at how he treats Job. How can God punish us for breaking his laws when we could not elect him? That doesn't seem to be the kind of thing our founders would approve of, even if they did put vague religious phrases in their manifestos an declarations.
Crimes are crimes, we don't need to play the numbers game. Do secularists commit crimes? Of course. Have Secularists slaughter people? Yes. This is an argument for secularism, not religion. Why? Because if he exists, God allowed the Nazis and Soviets to kill so many people. He also let his own followers kill people as well. Think of all the people who prayed, asking to be spared from the gas chambers, and whose prayer weren't answered. Believer and non-believer both perished. Is this a God worthy of worshipping? Believer and non-believer both perished.
Even with God, all is permitted. Its simply a matter of waiting for the right, convenient revelation.
As noted at the beginning, none of this proves, or even necessarily argues for, God's existence. It makes the case for the necessity, not the existence, of God. "Which God?" the secularist will ask. The God of Israel, the God of America's founders, "the Holy God who is made holy by justice" (Isaiah), the God of the Ten Commandments, the God who demands love of neighbor, the God who endows all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the God who is cited on the Liberty Bell because he is the author of liberty. That is the God being referred to here, without whom we will be vanquished by those who believe in less noble gods, both secular and divine.
Okay, he finally ends his argument, and once again leaves me aghast. He claims he is not arguing for God's existence, but he is. The argument from morality is just that. X exists, X can only come from God, therefore god exists.
Does he make a strong case? I think that history, real life experience, and logic show that he is wrong. Why? Because the middle part of his arguments, where X comes only from God, doesn't hold up. Only if X comes from God, without any doubt, can it be said that God exists. Since I have thrown doubt on his attempts to do this, Mr. Prager's argument is neither true, nor valid for all that matter. His attempt to cloud everything with the smoke and mirrors of patriotism only highlights his weakness.
He still needs to make an argument why "the God of Israel" is the right God. Simply writing an answer to the question is not sufficient. Everyone claims their God can deliver the same moral goods. He invokes the ten commandments as a code to follow, ignoring Leviticus and Deuteronomy and the clearly intolerant parts of the Bible. He commits all the usual fallacies of religious thinkers and ads a few brazen and unfounded allegations of his own to give his failure flourish.