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.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Michael’s Picks

By Michael De Dora
* At a hotel ballroom just south of Ground Zero, Pastor Bill Keller launched his plans for a nearby 9/11 Christian Center – a direct response to the proposed Islamic community center – “with a fiery sermon targeting Muslims and Mormons as hell-bound followers of false faiths.” 
* On that note, 57 percent of FOXNews.com readers apparently don’t think much of Constitutional rights. 
* A Florida church’s plans to burn Qurans this Sept. 11 “could endanger [American] troops and it could endanger the overall effort” in Afghanistan, according to the top U.S. commander there, Gen. David Petraeus. 
* Two lawyers discuss why it’s not just wrong, but also dangerous to think our Founders sought a Christian nation. 
* Tim Crane parses several differences between science and religion on The New York Times’ philosophy blog.
* Hal Herzog does an interview with Salon.com on the question “why do we get so angry with animal abusers, but eat more animals than ever before?”
* My essay on secular discourse and humanism was published on the On Faith section of The Washington Post’s Web site.
* Michael Joseph Gross looked into Sarah Palin’s life for a couple months, and the result is an extraordinarily interesting, depressing, and maddening essay in Vanity Fair. 
* Schoolteachers in China are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by U.S.-based Evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family. 
* A town outside of Boston denied a store owner’s request for a license to sell beer and wine seemingly because it might be “detrimental to the spiritual and educational activities” of a church in the vicinity.
* The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond.


  1. Er, you mean 3 trillion (with a "t") for the Iraq War?

  2. Mr. De Dora,

    This is the first set of your picks I've read and it reads like a sort of "Wing-nut Watch".

    As I was looking it over I was also listening to some Tea Party news on TV.

    I had an idea.

    It would be great for someone to write a new version of Orwell's Animal Farm.

    The farm would start out in a traditional "Americana" version. It would end up as the worst kind of corporate factory farm.

    The transition process would include boom/bust cycles of disaster capitalism and a rise of religious fundamentalism leading ultimately to an ersatz theocracy that served corporate interests.

    Scary, isn't it?

    Poor Richard

    Poor Richard's Almanack 2010

  3. Max's Picks:

    Pat Condell on the Ground Zero mosque.

    Bloomberg makes Dubai a hub
    "Particularly since the meltdown of the western capitalist system, there has been an increasingly large focus on the virtues of Islamic finance...”

  4. Obama should remind everyone that burning the Koran is protected by the First Amendment.

  5. Yes, it is, but is it a good idea? And by the way, so is burning flags and crosses.

  6. Massimo Pigliucci said..."Yes, [burning the Koran is protected by the 1st Amendment] but is it a good idea?"

    If a bunch of ex-Muslims in Afghanistan were burning their own copies in support of secularism, I might applaud.

    What troubles me most is how much the "Yes its protected but its a bad/stupid/irresponsible idea" argument is used by the intolerant.

    If I criticize controversial but protected speech, at the very least I think it is essential to pay more than trivial lip service to its protected status.

    Also, if burning stuff is a ploy for undeserved attention, could making fun of it as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert do, be a better countermeasure than exited condemnation?

    Poor Richard

    Poor Richard's Almanack 2010

  7. Unfortunately we humans tend to see things as two-sided, and we also tend to pick sides. Maybe it is most reasonable to consider both stupid, the person who only wants to offend others without even having any valid point to make whatsoever and those who think that you should never ever disrespect a sacred item because whatever the superstitious decide to consider holy is off limits.

    (Note the qualifier, by the way: this is different to Crackergate in several important ways, no matter if you found PZ Myer's actions a good idea or not. The Florida fundies have the same holiness fetishism as those they want to offend and would surely balk at burning bibles, so their message will only be "our superstition is the right one", and not, as in Crackergate, that mere objects should not be taken so seriously - note that he also defaced an atheist book in the same go. In addition, the burning of the Quran does not even have any relation to the message that they pretend to want to broadcast anyway. Now if they were doing it to make a point against some specific case where people were attacked specifically for disrespecting the Quran, then we would be talking, although that would still not necessarily make it wise.)

  8. Alex SL said: "...we humans tend to see things as two-sided..."

    Yes, despite a decimal bias at the periphery (fingers and toes) the brain, where our bilateral arrangement comes to its sharpest point, seems very partial to binary. Perhaps this helps explain why the hand can sometimes grasp what the brain cannot.


    Poor Richard's Almanack 2010

  9. Massimo Pigliucci said..."Yes, [burning the Koran is protected by the 1st Amendment] but is it a good idea?"

    I've decided I don't care if its a good idea or not.

    Little inflammatory "sparks" are happening all around us all the time. They are commonplace. They are not inherently dangerous.

    What is dangerous is the powder kegs. The powder kegs are the actual problem, not the random little sparks.

    Ironically, we get used to the powder kegs. We tolerate and ignore them, but we keep freaking out about the sparks.

    So I don't give a damn who burns any books, flags, draft cards, effigies, bras or whatever; and I'm not going to blame the sparks if a powder keg goes off.

    Poor Richard's Almanack 2010


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