About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Michael’s Picks

By Michael De Dora
* The Web site Patheos is featuring a collection of essays on the future of humanism. Contributors include Hemant Mehta, Greg Epstein, Ron Lindsay – and me. Click here for my entry. 
* New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared on The Daily Show with John Stewart and did a wonderful job distilling down the position in favor of allowing the Islamic cultural center to be built near Ground Zero.  
* A short but great three-minute clip from a 1959 interview with Bertrand Russell, who discusses God and religion. 
* An essay in the New York Times by Tim Egan on uncritical thinking and its impact on society. 
* Glenn Beck says that Charles Darwin is the father of modern-day racism. 
* Firebrands vs. diplomats; accommodationists vs. New Atheists. Lucy Gibbins says there’s room for both in the secular movement. 
* Innocence Project founder Peter Neufeld speaks about injustice in our criminal justice system in an interview with Slate.com. 
* The Economist reports on a group of Moroccans fighting for the freedom to not observe Ramadan in public. 


  1. Loved the 3 minute video of Bertrand Russell.. thanks

  2. Beck followed up on his radio program, calling Darwin the "father of the Holocaust" and suggesting that the Descent of Man reads as some sort of virulently racist book, with Beck's idiot cohost saying that Darwin "was not a tolerant guy" with Beck concurring.

    I noted not merely how ignorant Beck is, but what a Mt. Everest of hypocrisy he is.


  3. * Bloomberg ... did a wonderful job distilling down the position in favor of allowing the Islamic cultural center to be built near Ground Zero.

    More like dismissing the opposition. All the families he's met support the mosque? I think that even Jon Stewart didn't believe it.

  4. Should it really matter whether *all* the families support it? I mean, it's a tragedy that they lost relatives there, but that doesn't entitled them to make decisions about public land use, even less so about private property.

  5. A city council can require strip clubs to be at least 800 feet from schools and 600 feet from other strip clubs, but it can't prevent a victory mosque from being 600 feet from Ground Zero.

  6. "A symbol of Islamic triumphalism" in Ibn Warraq's words.

  7. Yes, I know what you meant. I have no idea how this could possibly apply to the case under discussion.

  8. From "A symbol of Islamic triumphalism"

    "If the Center is ever built, then I do not ever want to hear anyone talking about the hurt sensibilities of Muslims again."

    That sounds a lot like "I don't ever want to hear about racism anymore because we have a black president now."

  9. From Ibn Warraq's blog post:
    "I began by arguing that the feelings of the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001 should be respected, and that the Islamic Center should be opposed,"

    I keep hearing right-wingers make statements like these about the 9-11 families, and I have to ask, is there some congress of 9-11 families who come to some unanimous decisions about how they think and feel? (read sarcasm)

  10. jermox,

    Ibn Warraq's argument is that building the mosque is insensitive, so Muslims would be hypocrites to complain when others are insensitive to them.
    The analogy would be, "I don't ever want to hear about racism anymore if blacks do something racist."


    Some of the 9/11 families responded to Bloomberg.

    But frankly, 9/11 was an attack on America, and most Americans oppose the mosque.

  11. Max,

    It doesn't matter how many Americans oppose the mosque. That's what Constitutions are for, to protect the rigths of minorities. Otherwise democracy simply becomes mob rule.

  12. Max,

    Ah, so it would be like a restaurant owner telling a black couple "My parents were killed by a black man in this building. I can't force you to leave because you are black but if you are sensitive to my feelings you will leave and never come back to my restaurant. If you make an issue of this it just proves why I don't have to care about claims on how black people are being treated."

  13. Max, how interesting that you would bring up strip clubs. According to this Christian Science Monitor piece the following strip clubs are as close or closer to Ground Zero than the Burlington Coat Factory/Park 51.

    "New York Dolls Gentleman’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge, plus Thunder Lingerie and More, a sex shop with a peep show."

    I await your patriotic outrage.


  14. I know, Massimo, if they have a right to do something, then it's the right thing to do. Call it the Appeal to Rights fallacy.
    The First Amendment doesn't protect obscenity. If the legal definition of obscenity were as general as the standard English definition, then perhaps it would apply to the Ground Zero mosque.

  15. Max, so for you building a cultural center near ground zero is obscene? I'm so glad we do have rights that protect minorities in this country...


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