Science Distinguishes Hard Thinking verus Faith, Using the Ever-Popular “Smart Versus Stupid” Cleaver…

Here we go again. Intuitive, meaning of course “stupid” in this context, people are more likely to believe in God than analytical, meaning “smart” people.  Right. The article is helpfully titled “To Keep the Faith, Don’t Get Analytical”, in case we missed the point.

In fairness, the study itself seems a little more more circumspect than that – but not much.

(Took me a minute to overcome my intuitive error and see the correct answer in the example given in the article. Guess I’m a gullible rube – big surprise, there.)

So, the question becomes: does the study prove what the article says it proves? Does the study even prove what the study claims to prove? Let’s dig in a little:


“Recently there’s been an emerging consensus among [researchers] … that a lot of religious beliefs are grounded in intuitive processes,”

Warning klaxons should sound whenever alleged scientists use the word “consensus”. What we’re looking for is “evidence” or “experimental results”,  not “consensus” .  I believe you could easily get a consensus among scientists that “my field of study should be better funded” or “hot members of the targeted gender should find scientists more attractive” or maybe “huge, throbbing foreheads should be the key marking of sexual desirability.” Whatever. But nothing in a consensus indicates anything about that consensus being backed by science – only backed by *scientists*, a subtle but critical distinction.


LCWR and Me

Pretty much staying out of this whole LCWR thing, for my own sanity. If you want to read something intelligent about it, try the Anchoress.  Here’s just a little personal story:

Like so many Catholics, I had a front-row seat to the spectacle of the effective dissolution of several religious orders – in my case, the Sisters of Mercy, out of Burlingame, CA.  About the time I was born, one of my older sisters joined that order – circa 1959. At that point, the Mercy Sisters were a large, flourishing order running numerous schools and hospitals. They wore a full-on head-to-toe habit like the one on the left in this picture:

When I was a small child, the family would drive up to Burlingame to visit my sister – it was an amazing experience for me, as little more than a toddler, to walk about in what seemed like a sea of long skirts peopled by cheerful young women – that’s the picture I have still in my mind.

Then, when I was around 10, things began to change. As a little boy, I knew nothing about the back story, I just saw that the sisters dressed differently. Every time I saw them after that, they had shed more of the habit. By the time I got out of high school, my sister asked me to help her coach her grade school girl’s basketball team – she had gone into teaching, and had become principle of a Catholic school in the LA area. By then, there was little to distinguish a Sister of Mercy from any other somewhat conservative working women with poor taste in clothes.

Within a few years, my sister had left the order, like so many of her peers. Unlike too many of them, she didn’t just stop playing dress-up while continuing to  live off the gifts given to the Sisters over the years – she left left, like went and got a job.

My sister was a poor lost soul – she had gone into the order as a teenager, grew up there, and then, when it dissolved around her, found herself basically a teenager in her late 30s. Rather than having a career or a family, she was stuck wondering what to do with her life, and, like a child, wanted to do something exciting and different, not realizing, at first, that the world is not too kind to lost souls. She also wanted a man to fall for her, sweep her away, again, not realizing, at least, not on the emotional level, how unlikely that was to happen.

Finally, as she entered her 40s, she came down with cancer, fought it off, had a recurrence, and died at 46.  She was terrified to die. While our family was there through all this, in some sense she died all alone – at least, whatever companionship we offered didn’t seem to be enough or the right kind.

Maybe I could make some sort of poignant metaphor out of this, but to me, it’s just a personal story. But it is the lens through which I see the whole issue. I feel now like my sister was in some sense betrayed – that she, a timid but good soul, would have lead a better, more fulfilling life had the order reinforced and supported her decision to become a Bride of Christ, to fulfill a vocation of teaching, and to die in the arms of her Order and her Sisters. Instead, she died alone in some cosmic sense, with all those women she had intended to be a Sister to questioning and, ultimately, disparaging the very life she had chosen, and nowhere to be seen.

Maybe I’m kidding myself. We’ll never know.


Thoughts on the TSA – Part the First

Just back from some business travel, and, since I used airplanes, I fell repeatedly under the tender ministrations of the TSA. Couple thoughts:

OK, I get it – because of this guy:

we all must now take off our shoes and run them through the x-ray machine before we board an aircraft.

And, while I don’t remember hearing about it at the time, I guess there was somebody like this guy:

Who, using only his (no doubt C-4 laden) belt managed to threaten to destroy numerous Americans and aircraft, because now we’re also asked to take off our belts and run them through the scanners. I don’t think the evil Belt Bomber actually managed to blow up the plane – the Shoe Bomber didn’t, either – because I’m pretty sure I would have heard about it.

But, following this inexorable logic,where’s the love for this guy:

If you haven’t flown commercially lately, I’m sure you’ll be shocked, not to mention *terrified* to hear that I and hundreds of millions of other people have gotten onto commercial aircraft *without having to run our underwear though the x-ray machine*! Why is our all-protecting government asleep at the wheel on this?

Slightly more seriously, let’s compare the cost of doing all this with the cost of just letting people walk onto planes with their shoes and belts (and underwear) undisturbed. Let’s optimistically allow 1 minute per flight per passenger to remove and replace his shoes and belt – that’s about 770 million minutes, or 20 *lifetimes* of 75 years each, per year, spent making us safe from dangerous shoes and belts. While I personally only spend maybe 20 or 30 minutes a year futzing with my shoes and belt to get through security, on the whole, we pay the price of flying a 20-person flight into the ground each year to protect us from the likes of those jokers above – who conspicuously failed to blow anything up or kill any Americans.

And there’s no guarantee, either that doing the stupid shoes-and-belts(-and-underwear) dance saves lives or that not doing it costs lives – we never did it before, and no airplanes were ever belted or shoed (or pantied) out of the sky.

It makes a fellah wonder: is the point of all this really our safety? Really? The Underwear Bomber looks like a fairly normal guy – but then, we don’t check underwear now, do we? I’d say there are numerous other indicators that All Is Not Right Upstairs with the Shoe Bomber and perhaps the hypothetical Belt Bomber that we could have maybe identified them as possible risk using common sense rather than x-ray machines. Ya know?

But I’ll save that for another post.

Easter Vigil Mass in the LA Cathedral – revisions, surprises, etc.

Last year, both my readers (that would be ‘myself ‘and ‘I’) may recall that I disparaged the new Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of Angels in Los Angeles as an ugly, pretentious building only its hubris-drenched parents could love.

Well, let me here offer a partial retraction and apology: The interior is not repulsive. It’s not my style, but I can see that people put some thought into it and how it would  be used, and the results make some intrinsic sense (meaning, that unlike the exterior, you don’t need a guidebook to explain the ‘meaning’ of everything you’re looking at). Only the exterior design is an abject piece of pretentious modern ‘art’ garbage that even the other ugly buildings in the neighborhood point at and laugh:

(Lost the picture I took of this building from the artificial plaza in front of the cathedral, where it more clearly evident that this building is pointing and laughing at the Cathedral. BTW, only an uncultured rube cannot see that this building is laughing – besides, I’m the artist here, and I’m telling you it is, which, with modern ‘art’ is all you need or deserve to know.) Continue reading “Easter Vigil Mass in the LA Cathedral – revisions, surprises, etc.”

Do We Really Believe?

A week or so ago, read somewhere that legendary cautionary tale Richard Dawkins incredulously asked the Catholics in a crowd if they really believed that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.

This is a very good question. On the one hand, the answer, based on some cursory evidence, is: not really. Because it can be fairly asked that if I, for example, truly believe that the Creator of the Universe is physically present in several tabernacles within a couple miles of where I am at the moment, how could I be sitting here, working away like the world is not on fire? How could I treat my fellow man, who may very well have received Our God this very day, with anything less than humble reverence and awe?

If we were better people – if I were a better person – maybe we *would* spend hours a day in awed contemplation and worship before the Eucharist. Indeed, some of the very best people do. However, as fallen and weak people, we do nonetheless take furtive shots at acting as we claim to believe.  For example, we do spend time in awed contemplation and worship:

And we build the most beautiful buildings in the world in which Our Lord might dwell:

We compose and sing the most beautiful music for the Lord present in the Eucharist:



And we further honor Our Lord in the Eucharist by creating the most beautiful art in the history of mankind:



And these are just samples – there are thousands of of beautiful churches, thousands of beautiful works of art and music, and hundreds of millions of people attending the Eucharist each week. Not to mention the really important evidence – that our lives are changed, that many of us are working each day to do the will of God as best we can within our various callings.

So, on the whole, I think the evidence is that, yes, Richard, we do really believe.

Income taxes and the truly rich

Here is an article explaining some of the ways you can pay no income tax – if you’re really rich.

Not passing judgement on the merits or morality of these behaviors, just a reality check for those who think a billionaire has to have paid huge amounts of income taxes. No, he gets to be a billionaire by (among other things)  NOT paying income taxes.

Science, and why it arose only in Christendom

Here is a great little speech given by John C Wright. I’ve commented there.

While the subject of the talk was the relationship between Science, Romance and Science Fiction, the esteemed Mr. Wright, in his usual manner, recaps a lot of history and philosophy to get there – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Check thou it out!