Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lousy exegesis and “Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah” (and no relation between the two)

Greetings.

Date on the Jewish calendar: 6 Nisan 5769

Quasi-holidays: Bunsen Burner Day and National “She’s Funny That Way” Day

Worthy causes of the day: “Help Prevent Another Exxon Valdez Spill”, “Now Is The Time For National Single Payer Health Care”, “Stand With Dr. Dean”, and “End "Corrective" Rape of Lesbians in South Africa”. I cannot possibly make up that last one.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Rep. John Shimkus: God decides when the "earth will end"” and its accompanying blog post, “Shimkus: Capping C02 Emissions Will "Take Away Plant Food”:

    This is really, really bad theologizing for a number of reasons. 1) Interpretations of Scripture are fallible. This goes double for translations. 2) He is interpreting esoteric material as if it were meant to be taken literally. 3) The passage in Genesis in question gives a promise that YHWH will not destroy the land with a flood again. It does not promise that other bad things will never happen. Neither does it promise that humans will never cause bad things to happen. This promise is also not a command for us to do or not do anything. It is also not permission or a prohibition for us to do or not do anything. The idea that we can do whatever we want without consequences is against the plain meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. 4) Neither the Hebrew Bible nor the New Testament teach that YHWH gives out open miracles on demand. 5) There are many problems which Scripture does not give answers for. High carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is one of them.

    Theological rating: F
  2. Fortunately some Christians do get it: “Creationism's Damage to Christianity”:

  3. I have seen the most recent episode of Kings, “First Night”, and I did not like it.

    The writers continue to demonstrate no understanding of prophecy. Sha’ul lost his kingship because he screwed up over explicit commands of YHWH communicated through Shemu’el. Silas, on the other hand, does not get explicit instructions from God through Samuels; he is told what God is unhappy about, but not what to do about it. In Samuel, the answer about what Sha’ul can do to retain his kingship after he screws up with exterminating ‘Amaleq is essentially nothing; he screwed up one time too many on explicit instructions. In Kings, however, God leaves it fuzzy whether Silas can retain his kingship or not. Silas walks away from discussing the situation with Samuels convinced a “sacrifice” will be necessary—and he soon becomes convinced the “sacrifice” will be the life his illegitimate son. The writers clearly have no clue what a sacrifice is—it is not the destruction of “something beautiful”—especially the fact that human sacrifice is an abomination according to the Hebrew Bible. But this misinterpretation by people who would not even know what an honest-to-goodness altar was if they walked straight into it and impaled themselves on the horns does fit into a previously noted change/reimagining from the original text: Sha’ul’s concubine (a legitimate relationship for a king) has been reinterpreted as Silas’s mistress (an illegitimate relationship for anyone). Adding the “sacrifice”, the situation is suspiciously like the incident between Dawidh and Bathsheva‘: the relationship was at best improper and at worst adulterous at the outset, and as punishment their first child died. We will probably see next week whether my prediction is correct.

    The writers also continue their festival of bashing Yonathan/Jack. Yonathan was a close friend of Dawidh. Jack hates David and takes a convenient opportunity to pretend to be his friend and take him out for a wild night on the town boozing and womanizing, with the hope of producing a photograph of David in a situation which will reduce people’s esteem for him. Jack’s immoral nocturnal escapades, only previously briefly mentioned, are put on display for the audience. We also get to meet Jack’s gay ex-lover. Any resemblance to the original Yonathan is accidental and unintentional. David, who cannot bring himself to commit an act of fornication, comes off much better. Considering the aforementioned Dawidh/Bathsheva‘ affair, the writers seem to be taking the low road of smearing David’s rivals even in areas their prototypes behaved correctly.

    There is one bright side. Sha’ul’s wives and concubine (unlike his daughter Mikhal) are minor characters in Samuel. Queen Rose in Kings actually works to move the plot forward. In this episode she plots against any match between David and Michelle.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing, in honor of Pesaḥ (Passover) next week, is “Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, March 30, 2009

¡

Greetings.
Jewish date: 5 Nisan 5769.

NOTE:  Pesaḥ (Passover) is coming soon.  See OU Kosher for Passover for useful information.

Today’s quasi-holidays: Doctor’s Day, National Hot Dog Day, Grass Is Always Browner on the Other Side of the Fence Day.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Current progress:  Working on draft 2 of the chapter “Ode to Truth”, dealing with basic epistemology.  (The thing about writing a book is actually happening.)  Yesterday I wrote material about the distinction between fact and opinion and between knowledge and belief.
  2. Due to a schedule conflict, I have not watched the latest episode of Kings yet.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the sarcasm mark, which is explained further in “A Giant Step Forward for Punctuation¡:   Introducing the long-awaited sarcasm point.”  Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Sunday, March 29, 2009

We are not going downhill morally and technophobia is nonsense

Jewish date: 4 Nisan 5769

Quasi-holidays: Rocky and Bullwinkle Day (instituted by me, last week), National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR THE LAST EPISODE OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (NEW SERIES).
    I will refrain from talking about the whole of Battlestar Galactica (new series), as I have not seen it. (I got into it very late, due to no one telling me how infused with religion it is.) However, the last episode, part 2 of “Daybreak” has a very abrupt resolution. Having reached Earth (= Terra = Sol III, not the Earth which Kara previously visited and died on) 150,000 years in our past, Admiral Adama decides without consulting anyone that ever one, human and Cylon, will disembark, abandon all their technology, and assimilate into the local population, which miraculously can interbreed with the humans from the fleet. Adama’s rationalization for this that technological progress has outstripped moral progress, so to avoid disaster it is necessary to abandon technology. And while I can accept some of what happens in what I have seen of the show on the basis of fictional license, this idea is complete nonsense. People have been complaining about morals going downhill since ancient times, so one would think that people today should be the most rotten people to ever live. I beg to disagree, using Jewish ideals as my moral criteria. And while there is no such thing as objective morality, much of my criteria enjoy popular appeal:

    • In hunter-gatherer societies, at least until recently, murder was a leading cause of death. Today, on much of the planet, being murdered is a remote worry.
    • While caution is still necessary, being assaulted and robbed is less of a worry.
    • Torture is banned on much of the planet.
    • We have wiped out smallpox and are close to wiping out polio, thereby saving all future generations from suffering and dying from them.
    • Human sacrifice is widely considered an abomination.
    • Much of the planet has no concept of worshipping inanimate objects.
    • Most countries subscribe to the concept of human rights. While I reject the concept of natural rights as being anything but natural, the concept of legal rights pushes people and governments to demand better behavior of humans and governments. While implementation still leaves much to be desired, the ideal helps drive better behavior.
    • Caste systems have disappeared for many and are in decay for others.
    • The ideal of an absolute monarch has disappeared for many.
    • War has lost its appeal as an ideal for most.
    • Slavery is abominated on much of the planet.
    • The idea that women are somehow inferior to men is under assault, even in traditional strongholds of the idea.
    • Child marriage has experienced a strong decline.
    • Forced marriage is considered an abomination by many.
    Notice that these improvements have been made despite great leaps ahead technologically. Wiping out diseases the way we have has only been made possible through technology. Does humanity have progress to make morally? Absolutely yes. But we have made progress, and YHWH willing, we will continue to improve.
    END SPOILER.
  2. More countries having no clue on freedom of religion: “Tajikistan criticised over restrictive religion law”, and “Second Yezidi man found murdered near Mosul”.
  3. “Goa to crack down on beachwear 'hurting religious sentiments'”: I can appreciate the affront Hindus feel at the misappropriation of their religion, even though I disagree with the arrests. Gods and scripture are not good subjects for secular tourist souvenirs.
  4. Sometimes it takes a while for the US courts to understand freedom of religion: “Religious freedom wins out”.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is the Aquarium Coffee Table. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Friday, March 27, 2009

2 Nisan 5769: Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day/World Wear Odd Socks Day/World Theatre Day/The Scream Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “CAIR’s Well-Deserved Expulsion”: Finally the US government has figured out these people are anti-American!
  2. “Paganism returns to the Holy Land”: Yes, there are Neo-Pagans in Israel. That people who worship the pagan deities which the Hebrew Bible said—without leaving any wiggle-room—not to worship upon pain of death should be shunned is unsurprising. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to force acceptance of one’s religion as legitimate upon others, and Jewish Israelis are entitled to regard Neo-Pagans with disgust. I assume that believing Jews are not actually stoning Neo-Pagans in Israel; something like that would probably be reported in the news. Why anyone would switch from Judaism to Neo-Paganism is not made clear. At least some of such people do not like Judaism and its lack of choice in which deity to worship; monotheism gives only one option. However, if only one deity exists, there is no point in worshipping another one, whether one likes the one deity or not. It is also childish to find fault with Judaism for rejecting paganism; whether a religion or any other belief system is true or not has nothing to do with whether or not it fits one’s tastes. A claim that Judaism is “imposed and artificial” would be just as true for any other religion. Religions are not natural entities, but rather (in one aspect) a form of social construct involving humans and possibly deities. The fact that a deity imposes a religion on one or that people in general favor one religion over another does not make it any less valid. What really matters is how good a religion models objective reality (i.e., how true it is); everything else pales in comparison. I hope Israeli Neo-Pagans are more theologically sophisticated than this, because this article gives absolutely no good reasons for their religious beliefs.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “There are a hundred ways to stalk”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1 Nisan 5769: Old Jewish New Year/Make Up Your Own Holiday Day/Spinach Festival Day

Greetings.

In honor of Make Up Your Own Holiday Day, I hereby declare March 29 to be Rocky and Bullwinkle Day.  (You can tell what I watched yesterday in Hulu.)

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Nobody voted in the poll on whether to spin of a separate Divine Misconceptions blog.  I will interpret this as a sign not to do so.
  2. See Mishnah, Ro’sh hashShanah 1:1 for demonstration this is a Jewish New Year.  Specifically this is the new year used for dates in the Hebrew Bible.  I do not know why the new year was later shifted to 1 Tishri, six months later.
  3. More countries stomp on freedom of religion: “Morocco clamps down on Shiites”, “Saudi Arabia's Shia press for rights”, “Member of minority Yezidi sect killed in northern Iraq”, and “Tories 'prepared to defend' polygamy ban”.  For that last one, the West has a notion that anything happening between two or more consenting adults is OK, but somehow polygamy, even by consenting adults, is not.  Considering that polygamy has historically been considered acceptable and it is considered religiously acceptable or even desirable by some groups, this is an extremely surprising attitude.  After all, we hesitate to interfere with the practice of anyone’s religion unless it puts someone in grave danger.  And what is the danger in polygamy?  The fact that polygamy has been abused is irrelevant; there have been plenty of bad monogamous marriages and monogamous marriages used to deceive the government, but that does not mean monogamous marriages are inherently bad.  Note this is not a defense of child marriages or marriages where one or more partners are unwilling.  But if all partners are consenting adults, possessed of the collective financial means necessary for the endeavor, why should any government stand in their way?
  4. Muslims are doing a bad job trying to convince others to outlaw saying anything critical of Islam: “Atheists, believers oppose free speech curbs at UN”.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is MagicCube5D. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy new year.

Aaron

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

29 ’Adhar 5769: Pecan Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Support Encore Careers for America”, “Obama at the G20”, and “Tell Secretary Salazar to Put a Stop to Oil and Gas Activity in the Arctic”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. More incidents of countries behaving badly (as if anyone really expected freedom of religion to catch on overnight): “Iraq’s most ancient sect in need of protection to escape extinction”, “Saudis awaiting change from religious police”, “China Prepares for Post-Dalai Lama Era”, “Hindu fights for pyre 'dignity'”, and “Suffocating the Baha'i”.
  2. “'Leader' of Italian religious group in court accused of helping Swiss gigolo”: This is a disaster caused by a severe lack of critical thinking skills. Thus is it written:
    Investigators believe Ernani Barretta, 64, holds the key to where Swiss con man Helg Sgarbi hid the fortune he swindled out of a succession of ultra-rich society women and industrialists' wives.

    The Italian businessman called himself the "Instrument of God", according to police, and told his 30 followers that he had special faith healing powers, could walk on water and was capable of being in two places at the same time.

    He will face court in Pescara, on Italy's Adriatic coast, where the regional Flying Squad called its investigation "Operation Sect".

    Mr Barretta, who carried business cards describing himself as a "medium", has been charged with fraud, criminal association and extortion.
    Mr. Sgarbi’s claims are extraordinary, but they are testable. It is not too hard to ask someone to walk across a swimming pool to prove he can actually do it. I have no clue what his victims were thinking in trusting him.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “Time spent grading student essays”:
song chart memes graph

Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crazy hoop to jump through to get employed

Greetings.

WARNING:  I AM ABOUT TO VENT.  IF YOU DO NOT ENJOY READING COMPLAINTS NOT RELEVANT TO YOU, PLEASE DISREGARD THE FOLLOWING AND READ SOMETHING FUN, SUCH AS A BOOK BY STANISLAW LEM, INSTEAD.

I just went through the worst job application form I have seen in a while.  Besides the standard stuff, there were two annoying extras.  The first was a self-evaluation of how I work, presented largely in nonspecific terms which have little to do with how I think about working.  There were also questions about my office ethics in there.  Considering that people are usually biased in their own favor, this sounds like an extraordinary opportunity for dishonesty.  The second annoying extra was an IQ test, a series of abstract puzzles where I had to figure out what geometric figure went with a set of other geometric figures.  Considering I have a PhD in science, I think this ought to be redundant.

If anyone out there reading this is in human resources, please hire me to tell you if and why your job application forms suck.

VENTING HAS ENDED.  MY APOLOGIES FOR ANY DISCOMFORT YOU MAY HAVE FELT DUE TO READING THE VENTING.

Oh, yeah:  The poll is over on Thursday.  Please vote before then on whether I should spin off a separate Divine Misconceptions blog.  Thank you.

Aaron

28 ’Adhar 5769: World Tuberculosis Day/Harry Houdini Day/American Diabetes Association Alert Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Will Your Representative Help Sea Otters?”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: China still does not get it: “Large protests by Tibetans in western China”.

Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing, submitted by Emily, is “Getting Their Kirk On”. (Note: Free registration required.) Enjoy, share the weirdness, and live long and prosper.

Aaron

Monday, March 23, 2009

27 ’Adhar 5769: National Puppy Day/World Meteorological Day/Toast Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Report on last night’s episode of Kings (“Prosperity”):


    • Notions of prophecy seem to be rather muddled in this show.  In the Hebrew Bible, if one suspects that one has seen a sign from YHWH, one goes to a prophet to confirm and explicate it.  Or the prophet simply shows up and lets one know what YHWH has to say.  The writers of Kings have seriously muddled this straightforward process.  Silas/Sha’ul looks for signs of the will of God.  However, without explicit prophetic communication, the error rate of interpretation is bound to be high.
    • Jack/Yonathan still hates the guts of David/Dawidh.  This is against the original text.
    • In the original text, Sha’ul sets a task for Dawidh to complete in order to be allowed to marry Mikhal, which if I remember correctly was to bring him a large number of foreskins of Pelishtim (Philistines).  (I know:  EW!  GROSS!)  Considering the peacemaking efforts going on in this episode and modern sensibilities and th1e decline of arranged marriages, Kings cannot possibly have events play out this way.  This episode has Silas/Sha’ul remind Michelle/Mikhal of a vow she made without anyone ever saying what the vow was, but afterwards she virtually cuts off contact with David/Dawidh.  Presumably in another episode it will be revealed that the vow concerns who Michelle/Mikhal may marry, and David/Dawidh will have some task to complete.
    • I do not remember Sha’ul ever trying to make a peace treaty with the Pelishtim or cede territory to them.  The inclusion of such material in Kings sounds suspiciously like someone trying to retrofit bogus “Palestinian” land claims into the story.
    • The idea that a dream is ¹⁄₆₀ prophecy is Jewish, from the last chapter of Tractate Berakhoth in the Talmudh Bavli, if I remember correctly.
    • The name of the series, Kings, seems to derive from the Septuagint’s scheme for naming the books of the Hebrew Bible.  Corresponding to the Hebrew books of Samuel (Shemu’el) and Kings (Melakhim), the Septuagint has four books of Kings (ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΩΝ, Basileiōn).  Not mention calling this series Samuel might seem a bit odd.
  2. China’s using politics to try to squelch the Dalai Lama backfires:  “Nobel outrage at South Africa’s decision to ban the Dalai Lama”.
  3. “Chief IDF rabbi, chief medical officer sign organ donation cards”: More religious leaders should step up to set such a good example.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Star Wars - Who's on First”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Sunday, March 22, 2009

26 ’Adhar 5769: World Water Day/Mothering Sunday (UK)

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Stop the AIG Bonuses”, “Help us pass historic Wilderness bill!”, and “Support The Historic Bill to End Canada's Commercial Seal Hunt”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. A site I discovered recently which should prove useful for those interested in the Hebrew Bible: Tanakh Profiles. Info is given on all the named humans in the Hebrew Bible. Note, however, that all the names are given in the original Hebrew, even though the site is in English, so those who cannot read Hebrew names will be out of luck.
  2. “The war on "man-caused disasters"”: “Man-caused disasters” is a new double-edged term. On one hand, it is an accurate description of terrorism and jihad. On the other hand, the new term sounds a lot broader than “terrorism” and “jihad”. E.g., the financial crisis the United States is also a man-caused disaster, only not the sort intended by the new term. What gets lost in the new term is whom we are really fighting: all Muslims who participate in or support jihad. It is also noted that the new term is arguably sexist; women can cause disasters as well. Let us hope the new term “man-caused disasters” never catches on.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the blog Apostrophe Catastrophes: The Worlds' Worst. Punctuation;. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Friday, March 20, 2009

24 ’Adhar 5769: Vernal Equinox/Sweater Day/National Quilting Day/National Agriculture Day/Great American Meat Out Day/International Day of the Francophonie

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Join the Fight to End Mountaintop Removal”, “New Networks Must Be Neutral”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Gambian state kidnaps 1,000 villagers in mass purge of 'witchcraft'”: When are they going to get over this shameful witchcraft paranoia which only hurts innocent people?
  2. “Pope tells Muslims that religion rejects violence”: The Pope is trying to redefine religion, as it is written:

    "Genuine religion ... stands at the base of any authentically human culture," he said. "It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith but also of right reason."
    The Pope thus commits the fallacy of redefinition.  “Religion” has no one accepted definition.  It is such a loosely defined term that any belief system which has anything to say on theology or morality is likely to be termed a “religion” by someone.  This includes atheism, communism, and Nazism.  Some even claim that science, which is more of a methodology than an ideology, is a religion; while this is usually a politically charged claim, the same sort of dedication, devotion, and feelings of awe usually associated with religion can also be found in the writings of some scientists on science, e.g., those of Carl Sagan.  Trying to indirectly change Islam, which has a documented history of violence and totalitarianism, in this fashion is likely to convince no one sensible.
  3. “Woman accused of church theft blames Satan”: Uh, yeah... I hope she did not mean it literally...
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Building my own Solar Panel”. Somebody please send me one of these. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, March 19, 2009

23 ’Adhar 5769: Poultry Day/Absolutely Incredible Kid Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Urge President Obama to Stand Up for Wolves”, “Stop Hospital "Superbug" Infections”, and “No, Former Vice President Cheney Was NOT A Law Unto Himself”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:  More countries having trouble with freedom of religion: “KAZAKHSTAN: 'This is not the end of the attempt to adopt such a law”, “Medvedev steers religions toward young people, but blocks Jehovah's witnesses”, “Sharia courts begin work in Swat Valley with restrictions on women”, and “Proposal at U.N. to criminalize 'defamation of Islam'”. That last one is not a joke: Pakistan wants to make it illegal across the planet to “defame” Islam, which includes any criticism whatsoever or noticing the rather obvious association of Islam with terrorism and human rights abuses. The text does refer to “defamation of religions” in general, too, but I will only consider the possibility that they are actually against defamation of religion in general when they stop scapegoating all non-Muslims, including the blatantly transparent claim of being anti-Zionist but not anti-Jewish.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is MrKlingon.org - the home of the Universal Translator Assistant Project. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Qapla’.

Aaron

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

22 ’Adhar 5769: Spacewalk Day/Awkward Moments Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day:  “Zimbabwe in Crisis” and “Don't Let Our Tax Money go to Undeserved Executive Bonuses!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. More lack of tolerance:  “9 killed in Somalia flare-up”.
  2. “Tanzania: Trouble as Strange 'Church' Moves Into Town”: 1) How is anyone supposed to know if someone is possessed by the Devil?  2) Assuming one really is possessed by the Devil, why should whipping and burning the possessee work to get rid of the Devil?  Does this not sound more like doing the work of the Devil than anything else?
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the possibly pointless garfield minus garfield.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

21 ’Adhar 5769: Submarine Day/St. Patrick’s Day

Greetings.

My apologies to those of you who received an earlier, incomplete version of this post via E-mail. Blogger did something stupid and published without authorization.

Worthy cause of the day: “Stop the AIG Bonuses”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Some countries are making no effort to implement freedom of religion: “TAJIKISTAN: 'This Law will worsen the situation with religious liberties”, “RUSSIA: Nationwide strike at Jehovah's Witnesses”, and “Egyptian Christian's recognition struggle”
  2. More intolerance: “Minister beaten after clashing with Muslims on his TV show” and “Hindu extremists wreck plans for statue of 'Christian' Charlie Chaplin”
  3. “Bishop orders Episcopal priest to renounce Islamic faith”: It should be common knowledge that Christianity and Islam are not logically consistent and thus anyone trying to practice both Christianity and Islam is being inconsistent. Those who have any doubts as to this should see Why I Am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq, which lists on pages 215-216 lists a number of anti-Christian verses in the Qur’an: 5:75, 5:51, 5:56-64, 9:29-30. I Am Not a Muslim also gives a good summary as to Islamic attitudes towards non-Muslims as well. It is no wonder that this Episcopal priest who is trying to practice both Christianity and Islam is under a well-deserved threat of defrocking.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Cat Twitter app for iPhone lets cats post thoughts”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, March 16, 2009

20 ’Adhar 5769: National Artichoke Hearts Day/Lips Appreciation Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Protect Our Last Wild Forests”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. As I have mentioned before, this year I am going through the Septuagint on the Torah. Yesterday, I discovered that the material in the last few chapters of the Septuagint version of Exodus are out of order. Naturally, the chapter and verse numbering there is also botched. I am not clear how this happened; with 70 or 72 translators, one would think that someone would have noticed.
  2. Last night I saw the first episode of NBC’s retelling of the story of King Dawidh (David) from Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, Kings. If you want to see a highly accurate portrayal of the Biblical text, this is not it. This version takes place in a world resembling the 21th century United States in technology and culture. As a result, the writers have played fast and loose with the original text to make the story workable. Many of the original characters are there in some recognizable form: Sha’ul (Saul) as King Silas Benjamin, Dawidh as David Shepherd, Mikhal (Michal) as Michelle Benjamin, Yonathan (Jonathan) as Jack Benjamin, and Shemu’el (Samuel) as Reverend Ephram Samuels. Golyath (Goliath) has become a tank somehow. The fact that Sha’ul/Silas is a king and not a president is an exceptional trumping of modern sensibilities by the Biblical text; his concubine has been transformed into a mistress, thus transforming a licit relationship into an illicit one. Even in the first episode Dawidh/David and Mikhal/Michelle are informally courting; in the Biblical text, the concept of dating does not exist at all. Yonathan/Jack takes a severe beating, being made to look resentful and with Sha’ul/Silas accusing him of a behavior which can only be read into the Biblical text with a sledgehammer. In the Biblical text, Sha’ul being chosen by YHWH to be king is communicated by Shemu’el alone; in Kings, this has been fractured, with the choice being communicated by Shemu’el/Revered Samuels and by a miracle involving butterflies. The removal of Divine favor in Kings is also likewise split. There is also a major character without any Biblical precedent, William Cross, who financially backs Sha’ul/Silas and uses the power of money to manipulate him. Previews suggest that at least certain aspects of the story of Dawidh, such as his marrying Mikhal and Sha’ul trying to kill him, will remain intact. Intuition suggests, however, that the story will increasingly diverge from the Biblical original as time goes on, but we will see. If you missed it last night, you can watch episode 1 of Kings on-line.
  3. Is anyone going to vote in the poll?
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Flying and Crashing Servers”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Friday, March 13, 2009

17 ’Adhar 5769: Genealogy Day/National Open An Umbrella Indoors Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Stop subsidies for Big Oil”, “Keep Humanitarian Aid in Sudan”, “Protect Marine Mammals - Say No to Arctic Ocean Drilling!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Malaysia Christians battle with Muslims over Allah”: This pointless battle over terminology, now with the (probably baseless) accusation that Christians in Malaysia call God “Allah” in order to convert Muslims. Which considering this childish attack by Muslims on freedom of religion might not be a bad thing.
  2. More freedom of religion problems: “Saudi Arabia’s Shia Stand Up”, “Swat Valley: Sharia implemented on 16 March”, “Somalia OKs Islam as basis of law for country”
  3. “Saudi Academy in Va. revises Islamic history books”: Thus is it written:
    An Islamic school in northern Virginia with close ties to the Saudi government has revised its religious textbooks in an effort to end years of criticism that the school fosters hatred and intolerance.

    While the Islamic Saudi Academy deleted some of the most contentious passages from the texts, copies provided to The Associated Press show that enough sensitive material remains to fuel critics who claim the books show intolerance toward those who do not follow strict interpretations of Islam.
    Further down there is a truly bizarre claim:
    Some sensitive sections survived the revisions, though. One of the few references to Christians and Jews, or "People of the Book," disparages scholars in those faiths for rejecting the truth of Islam.

    "Scholars of the People of the Book know that Islam is the true path because they find it in their books," an 11th-grade textbook reads. "But they shy away out of ignorance and stubbornness. And God knows their deeds and will judge them."
    This claim is nonsense. If Jewish and Christian scholars know that Islam is the true religion, then they cannot be ignorant; failure to adopt Islam in such a case would be intellectual stupidity. Furthermore, the very premise that the books of Judaism and Christianity proclaim that Islam is the true religion is itself wrong. I have never seen anything remotely suggesting the truth of Islam in any of the Jewish religious literature of any period nor in the New Testament; if any pro-Islamic material is in there, it is tucked away in some little-viewed spot. I could say more as to why Jews do not consider Muḥammad a prophet, but unfortunately I have limited time today and do not have the proper references at hand.
  4. “'Sex-y' sermons cause stir in rural Alabama”: Yes, this is unconventional. However, given current publicly attested attitudes on sex which are different from the mores of the past and that historically religion has had a lot to say on the subject, why should anyone be surprised that sexuality should become the subject of sermons?
  5. “Muslim community rallies behind Sudbury man charged by the FBI”: So... this guy has supported Islamic terrorism in the past, and the Muslim community is shocked that the FBI, whose job it is to fight against terrorists (among other things), should be interested in him. Exactly why should I be surprised?
Today’s news and commentary:Since tomorrow is Pi Day, today’s weird thing is the weird song “Pi”:

Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, March 12, 2009

16 ’Adhar 5769: Middle Name Pride Day/Girl Scout Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Shari'a making inroads in the West”: This is worrying.   If people want to subject themselves to a religious legal system to which I do not subscribe, that is their business.  People are entitled to handle their affairs however they find mutually acceptable.  The problem is that not everyone being subjected to shari‘ah in the West is a willing participant.  As it is written:

    In Italy, three members of a Brescia-based Maghrebi family (father, mother and eldest son) were accused of beating and sequestering their daughter/sister Fatima because she had wanted to live a "Western" life.

    In the first trial, the three were sentenced for sequestration and abuse. The court acknowledged that the teenager had been "brutally beaten up" for having "dated" a non-Muslim and, in general, for "living a life not conforming with the culture" of her family. But on appeal, the family was acquitted because the court deemed that the young woman had been beaten for "her own good."

    The Bologna public prosecutor's office then disputed the acquittal of the three accused parties, but the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation dismissed it and ruled in favor of the charged parties.
    It is hardly likely that the beaten teenager, who apparently had no interest in living a Muslim lifestyle, was particularly willing to be subjected to shari‘a rules.  This is in violation of her freedom of religion.
  2. “Pope admits Holocaust denier affair was mishandled”:  Finally!  Now when is Richard Williamson going to be excommunicated again?
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “You know she is getting her”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

15 ’Adhar 5769: Shushan Purim/Johnny Appleseed Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Tell EPA: Pave the way for cleaner cars!”

Also: I gave blood today. Please consider giving yourself if you can, as the Red Cross is in short supply. Two great things about it are 1) you can save a life without having to do anything dangerous, such as run into a burning building and 2) it is a way to do something good which costs nothing.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. On and off I have thought about spinning off a separate Divine Misconceptions blog. This current blog is titled Weird thing of the day, but the range of materials posted on it has gotten rather wide and frequently not particularly weird. Spinning off a separate blog would allow me to focus this one more on weird things and another one on material related to the Divine Misconceptions project; on the other hand, it would mean I have to manage two separate blogs. To help me decide, I have started a new poll in the sidebar on the right, ending on 1 Nisan. Please vote and let me know what you think.
  2. More religious intolerance: “India: Pastor Shot In Bomb Attack On Church”, “Dalai Lama blasts 'brutal crackdown' in Tibet”, “The International Coalition for Religious Freedom: Should Kazakhstan Head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe?”, and “UZBEKISTAN: Can authorities 'separate the simple study of one's religion from extremist activity'?”.
  3. “Somalis in Minneapolis fall under FBI suspicion”: (Submitted by Barry.) It does not take a genius to note that much of the terror committed on this planet is done in the name of Islam, regardless of whether one considers Islamic terrorism to be a legitimate part of Islam or not. As such, it is only to be expected that Muslims everywhere are being scrutinized for connections with Muslim terrorist organizations, and naturally Muslims who themselves do not engage in or support terrorism are put in a rather uncomfortable situation.
  4. “Egyptian cleric blasts Starbucks for 'Queen Esther' logo”: Thus is it written:
    "The girl in the Starbucks logo is Queen Esther. Do you know who Queen Esther was and what the crown on her head means? This is the crown of the Persian kingdom. This queen is the queen of the Jews. She is mentioned in the Torah, in the Book of Esther. The girl you see is Esther, the queen of the Jews in Persia," the cleric said.

    "The Crown you see here [in the Starbucks logo] is the crown of the kingdom of Xerxes," Higa said.

    "We want Starbucks to be shut down throughout the Arab and Islamic world," he concluded. "It is inconceivable that in Mecca and Al-Madina, there will be a picture of Queen Esther. Can you believe that in Mecca, Al-Madina, Cairo, Damascus, Kuwait, and all over the Islamic world there hangs the picture of beautiful Queen Esther, with a crown on her head, and we buy her products?"
    Putting aside the blatant anti-Semitism, the problem is that the premise for boycotting Starbucks is wrong. According to the Wikipedia article on Starbucks (which includes references to back it up its claim), the girl in the Starbucks logo is a siren, and previous versions of the logo look less plausibly like Queen ’Esther. WARNING: Previous versions of the logo are not suitable to show to children. Or scrupulous adults. Do not blame me if you follow that link and are offended.
  5. “Clean and Virtuous: When Physical Purity Becomes Moral Purity”: Just a curious quirk of human thinking.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Unveiling the "Sixth Sense," game-changing wearable tech”:

Technologically, it is a wonderful thing to be living in the 21st century; we have wonderful toys and keep getting more of them. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Worthy cause of the day: Vote on wilderness expected soon. Help it pass!

Greetings.

Today’s worthy cause is “Vote on wilderness expected soon. Help it pass!” Please sign and tell your Representative in Congress to protect the wild places of America. Thank you.

Aaron

Sunday, March 8, 2009

12 ’Adhar 5769: Farmer’s Day/International Women’s Day/Check Your Batteries Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Tell Your Governor You Want Green Jobs”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. France’s idiotic approach to stemming the tide of Islamic fanaticism creates well-deserved trouble: “Sikhs take up French turban rights issue”.
  2. “Boys in the hood: the fight for religion's soul”: I am not sure what to make of this. I fully believe in the value of authenticity in religion, but these monks seem rather paranoid. Paranoia is not a good thing in religion (or practically any other endeavor) since it works against reason.
  3. More intolerance: “Muslim Leader’s Threat to SBY: Outlaw Ahmadiyah or I’ll Bar All Votes for You”, “Christian man stabbed to death over inter-religious love affair”, and “Sufi Shrine 'blown up by Taleban”.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “14 hours later, the all-turtle marching”.
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Friday, March 6, 2009

10 ’Adhar 5769: International Book Day/National Frozen Food Day/Middle Name Pride Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “We deserve the Truth”, “Prevent the Worst of Global Warming: Pass a Strong Climate Bill Now”, and “Health Reform Must Be A Priority!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Roman Catholic bishops to faithful: Give up cell phone and Internet during Lent”: This is an interesting idea. It may be impractical for some, but it is still interesting.
  2. “Oklahoma hates Richard Dawkins”: Summary: A state representative in Oklahoma filed a resolution attacking evolutionary biologist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins and his speaking at the University of Oklahoma as part of celebration of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday on the grounds that Dawkins’s views are (allegedly) against those of the majority of Oklahomans. Since it is not under the authority of the government to dictate science or religion, this is obviously inappropriate. (This is despite Dawkins being a known jerk. Expression of one’s views, no matter how offensive they are, is constitutionally protected free speech.) Furthermore, both the state representative and Dawkins fall into the cliché of linking evolution and atheism. See the sidebar on the right under Divine Misconceptions, subsection Others’ work for information on why this cliché is wrong.
  3. More people not getting freedom of religion: “Religious Persecution on the Horn of Africa”
  4. “Traditional Anglicans want to join Catholic Church”: Not surprising.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Trek Spring Collection Preview: First Look At Genki Star Trek Fragrances”. I would never dare make up anything resembling this. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, March 5, 2009

9 ’Adhar 5769: Bridge Players Day/Name Tag Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Protect Tigers and Humans, Stop Illegal Logging in Jakarta”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. More failures of freedom of religion: “India: ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law Considered In Karnataka"”, “Scientology protests prompt new Riverside County law”, “Church Fights for Right to Drink Tea”
  2. “End of the world that never was”: When an alleged prophet predicts the World is supposed to end and it does not, this is a good sign that the alleged prophet is a false prophet.
  3. “Leave God a message at his Dutch answering service”: This seems to be an art project and fairly pointless. Deities have never needed telephones before.
  4. “Japanese Buddhist steals statues "to pray"”: Shouldn’t this be bad karma?
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is “Prototype wireless, robotic vacuum cleaner: hamster-powered”. (No, I am not making this up.) Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

8 ’Adhar 5769: Learn What Your Name Means Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Some people in the US military do not seem to get this whole “freedom of religion” business: “Questions Raised Anew About Religion in Military”.
  2. “Fertility Doctor Will Let Parents Build Their Own Baby”, “Fertility clinic to offer custom-designed babies”, “"Designer Babies" Ethical?”, “Are Designer Babies Arriving?”, and “Make Way for Designer Babies”: Summary: Until now, it has been possible to choose embryos for a specific sex or not to have specific genetic diseases using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Now Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg of Manhattan and Los Angeles is offering genetic screening for other traits as well, e.g., eye color. Whether he can deliver is one question, though even if he cannot, eventually someone will be able to. These articles betray a number of religio-philosophical errors in the debate on the subject:
    1. Asking whether anything is “ethical” is the wrong question. Ethics are artificial rules set up to avoid breaking moral and legal rules. Since ethical rules are only meant as a safeguard to avoid breaking other rules, they can be changed as necessary. The real question is whether it is moral to create designer babies. (The answer as to whether making designer babies is legal is “yes”.)
    2. Some make a “slippery slope” argument, i.e., they argue that even if there is nothing wrong with creating designer babies, permitting it will only cause horrible problems down the line. Frankly, this line of thought is downright paranoid. Nobody really knows in what direction this technology will develop, so to assume the results will be a disaster, e.g., a class of the “genetically perfect” versus everyone else, is unwarranted. (The whole notion of “perfect” in anything but a mathematical sense is itself flawed.) If we reject a technology for what people might do wrong with it, we also reject what people might do right with it. All those making this argument, no dessert for you tonight.
    3. Some argue that genetic engineering is “playing God” and therefore wrong. The problem with this is that humanity has been “playing God” ever since they began to domesticate animals and plants. Every domesticated species has been changed from its wild form through selective breeding; in some, such as dogs and maize, the modifications have made them almost unrecognizable. Even humans themselves are subject to selective breeding. Every time anyone chooses a mate with even the least interest in producing offspring, one is selecting what genes one’s offspring may have; after all, barring mutations, one’s offspring’s genes can only come from oneself and one’s mate. Thus if one wants strong children, one should marry someone strong. If one wants intelligent children, one should marry someone intelligent. If one wants creative children, one should marry someone creative. And so on. Granted, environment does play a major role in the results and which genes the children end up with are not guaranteed, but people can—and do—“design” their children even without resort to genetic engineering, and arguably they have been doing so (or those doing matchmaking for them have been doing so) for all of human history. I am not aware of anyone ever having attacked the traditional methods of sexual and artificial selection in human breeding (when participation is voluntary) as immoral. Given that genetic engineering is only a shortcut to the same results, why should it be considered any less moral? Granted, parents choosing a hair color for their children are being vain and foolish, but why should we condemn parents trying to make their children smarter and more talented, especially if they have the wisdom to know that genes alone are not enough and that the children will need intellectual stimulation and encouragement as well? May future generations of humanity be more gifted than ours! Those of you against “playing God”, stand in the corner until supper time, and no dessert for you either.

      NOTE: Your humble blogger so far has not been successful in getting married and producing offspring. If you happen to be or know someone who may be an appropriate match for Aaron, please let him know. He is seeking an intelligent and creative Orthodox Jewish woman with a compatible worldview. More information available upon request. Eccentrics welcome.
  3. More problems with freedom of religion: “Despite opposition, Afghan Christians worship in secret”, “Nigeria: Bauchi Riot Victims' Tales of Horror!”, and “UZBEKISTAN: 'You call white black and black white'”.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the MacOS iPhone Project. Everyone knows that the iPhone, as it comes out of the box, runs a version of Mac OS X. This project makes it run Mac OS 7. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron