Monday, June 25, 2007

the Fish god-concept

Stanley Fish has been deluged by comments, mostly from atheists, about his critique of the trio of books written by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. Including me. As a playwright, I couldn't help but focus on his abuse of Shakespeare.

Fish said:
The criticism made by atheists that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated is no criticism at all; for a God whose existence could be demonstrated wouldn’t be a God; he would just be another object in the field of human vision.

This does not mean that my arguments constitute a proof of the truth of religion; for if I were to claim that I would be making the atheists’ mistake from the other direction. Nor are they arguments in which I have a personal investment. Their purpose and function is simply to show how the atheists’ arguments miss their mark and, indeed, could not possibly hit it.

At various points Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens all testify to their admiration for Shakespeare, who, they seem to think, is more godly than God. They would do well to remember one of the bard’s most famous lines, uttered by Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”


My response:

Professor Fish seems to subscribe to the divinity of Shakespeare as much as his opponents do, since he apparently believes that quoting a well-known Shakespearean adage, regardless of context, is some kind of miraculous rhetorical coup de grace.

For what is Hamlet talking about, this thing not-dreamt of in Horatio's philosophy? The ghost of Hamlet's father. Presumably Shakespeare doesn't expect us to actually believe in ghosts. And presumably Fish doesn't believe in ghosts. But if a god can be imperceptible and yet exist, surely ghosts can too. And the third part of the Catholic Holy Trinity was once called the "Holy Ghost."

I would be perfectly happy if Fish's conception of gods was the one preferred by believers - an unknowable entity beyond human comprehension. Then there would be no more religions, since the existence of religions depend on a hierarchy of authorities who interpret god for others. Fish's god-concept would strip them of every last fiber of credibility, especially on topics of such vital interest to the vast majority of believers as whether or not god cares if you have sex outside of marriage, or whether or not you should suffer a witch to live.

Such a lofty, function-less god that Fish describes is the next best thing to atheism!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NYTimes promotes evolutionary psychology - yet again

Richard Conniff is the Times' latest evolutionary psychologist, along with Tierney, Brooks, Dowd, Merken, and scores of others. Conniff has important news for the masses - humans live in hierarchies. Egalitarianism doesn't exist, and if it did, it would be a recipe for disaster.

Well who on earth is promoting the idea that humans don't live in hierarchies? Who do you think? The rightwing's usual suspects - Academics.
A long line of academic thinking says the opposite: that hierarchy is a modern imposition on free-spirited, brother- and sisterly human nature. The traditional tribes to which we belonged through almost all of human history were fiercely egalitarian, according to anthropologists.
But the academics go wrong, I think, on several counts.
Note that Conniff can't be bothered to cite examples of these crazy academics. But we all know that those crazy academics are always coming up with insane shit that those of us with common sense know is wrong.

One of the commenters says:
The sociobiologists would have a ball with this piece.


Duh - Conniff IS a sociobiologist - or as we call them nowadays, an evolutionary psychologist, a hugely popular fad in pop psychology because it tells people that everything that everybody with common sense knows is true, IS absolutely true, in spite of the dastardly efforts by the Academics to sow confusion.

So humans live in hierarchies. Does that make hierarchies the ideal - the more hierarchical the better? He seems to think so. I guess the Allies beat the Nazis because they were just so much more rigidly hierarchical than those goose-stepping egalitarians.

What bugs me as much as his evolutionary psychology is the fact that Conniff is probably getting paid for his blog posts. I mean, really, how hard is it to write his entries? They are as well-researched and thoughtful as any rant about pointy-headed intellectuals from your crusty old grandpa. The Times really does like to promote mediocrity.

At least Stanley Fish seems to put some effort into his blog posts, although he is pretty massively wrong in his belief that religion and science are more similar than different. I'm definitely ambivalent about Fish, since he penned one of the most sensible responses to the Larry Summers controversy ever. Summers' remarks reflected his beliefs in evolutionary psychology, which he shares with Stephen Pinker, and also Richard Dawkins - who wrote one of the books about religion that Fish argues with in his column.

I am a stone-cold atheist myself, but I have a problem with Dawkins for his evolutionary psychology leanings, and with Christopher Hitchens for being an all-around asshole. Sam Harris I don't know too much about. Based on his web site, his entire career seems to be about debunking religion, which, if limited, is nevertheless dandy with me.

So although I am not a Fish-hater, I certainly do disagree with his statement:
Mine is not a leveling argument; it does not say that everything is the same (that is the atheists’ claim); it says only that whatever differences there are between religious and scientific thinking, one difference that will not mark the boundary setting one off from the other is the difference between faith and reason.

This only works if you make the word "faith" mean whatever you want it to mean. Or as commenter Bevan Davies remarked:
I “believe” that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I do not “believe” that I will go to heaven when I die.


But believers v. atheists is mostly a false dichotomy. Most believers are skeptical of faith - all faiths except their own. Atheists simply think more logically and coherently than religious types.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cougar in the Times

Wow, I thought I was respectably ahead of the Times as far as using the term "cougar" but I was wrong. The Times is currently using the term, in this article subtitled: Women of a certain age find a home, and plenty of hot guys, on TV.

It almost makes me want to watch TV more - but who has time?

Movies, the home of male fantasies, still primarily treat women like wallpaper in front of which the important beings perform their acts of heroism and car chases and retro-rat-pack schemes. Unless it is a "chick flick" in which case it is taboo - any male who views such a movie will be polluted by girl germs.

Theatre of course, keeps getting into those unsightly tender "feminine" emotions, driving theatre critics into spasms of anxiety that theatre isn't as manly kewl as movies.

Friday, June 15, 2007

the latest killer app from Apple



I got my new MacBook Pro laptop, and in addition to GarageBand 3, it comes with PhotoBooth, so of course I went crazy making faces at my built-in camera with the "Glow" effect on. And also took my new "pensive librarian" headshot on the right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I am not a "cougar"

I only recently learned that the term for a woman my age who pursues guys in their 20s is called a "cougar" - and there are many cougar-related web sites.

I certainly do like 20-something guys, although not exclusively. But more importantly, the term "cougar" belies the intense double-standard that our culture still holds dear. And you know the double-standard is still firmly in place because the term for a guy my age who pursues 20-something women is "a guy."

One of the fascinating aspects of running a playwrights group is that you get to hear what your members really think about things, and it's often quite revolting. I already blogged about the gender attitudes of members betrayed by their plays in my essay A Streetcar Named Biteme", and the retro beat goes on.

The most recent gender atrocity was perpetrated only a few weeks ago, wherein a member, whom I had previously thought was a pretty cool guy, since he's straight, but he wrote a really sensitive play about a gay couple, came up with a short play about a crazy old coot who gets the upper hand on an uppity bitch talent agent and a metrosexual. It was crystal clear to me that the subtext of the play was the author's deep-seated resentment that the rules of gender behavior are changing. The old coot was crazy-like-a-foxy-grampaw, while the metrosexual was thoroughly conceited and obnoxious, and cared about heirloom tomatoes. Crazy grampaw humiliates the bitch at the end, for preferring the metrosexual to him.

As if it wasn't torture enough sitting through this short play that went on for an eon, one of the actors, a friend of the author (and/or his sycophantic director), opined that we could all learn something from the play. I couldn't stop myself - I scoffed bitterly at the idea that anybody could learn anything from these cardboard cutouts.

The play's author stopped signing up for reading time after that and I think he's going to quit the group - which is fine with me, especially if he takes along with him his entourage - his numerology-believing, Mars/Venus gender-dichotomy-obsessed girlfriend and his sycophantic director, whom I discovered through Google is a hard-core rightwing Catholic and who, at least as of a few years ago, worked as a volunteer for an organization that tells homosexuals it's OK to be gay - AS LONG AS YOU DON'T HAVE THE GAY SEX.

But more to the main point of this blog post is the play I sat through a couple of months ago, written by a man fairly close to my age, about a New York lawyer who golfs down South with a bunch of good ole boys. She confesses to the good ole boys that she's such a big loser when it comes to men - why she even dated a man who was - gasp - HALF HER AGE!

Wow, what a big loser. And I don't even think the author for a moment understood why this pissed me off so much. It wasn't that the good ole boys thought she was a loser - she thought she was a loser. But the good ole boys didn't spend any time worrying that the girls at Hooters they loved so much were half their age.

So I will not accept the term "cougar" - it is utter bullshit. It's time the world got used to the fact that women like hot young men - we're called "women." The evolutionary psychologists are trying to hang on to the Mars/Venus myth for all they are worth, but every year that goes by proves them wronger than ever. Sooner or later they will shelve that tenet of their ideology too, along with the myth that men are "naturally" polygamous and women are "naturally" monogamous - a theory that was quietly retired when genetic testing began to reveal the fact that many children were not actually related to their mother's husband - although the ev-psychs covered their tracks by immediately turning it into a "women are looking for better genes" storyline.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More manly men of theatre

I've blogged here for a couple of years now about how the male critics of the theatre world (and the overwhelming majority are male) are anxious that the theatre world is becoming emasculated, and so they promote the work of manly man playwrights (in the mold of John Osborne and David Mamet) every chance they get.

But I couldn't have come up with this opening paragraph in Ben Brantley's review of Neil LaBute's latest play in my wildest parody:

Rehab as a spectator sport has become such a girlie affair, thanks to the pink-tinged public meltdowns of Britney, Lindsay, et al., that it’s kind of gratifying to watch Neil LaBute grease the road to recovery with his patented brand of testosterone.
Oh how Ben Brantley loves that testosterone.

The male critics are just trying to salvage the theatre world - they know if theatre is associated too much with females it will suffer a loss of status in this patriarchy-in-denial culture we live in.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hot Adam expelled



The hot actor who portrays Adam in the Creation Museum's documentary about the Garden of Eden has a naughty past which is naturally, intolerable to the nutjobs who believe in creationism.

I would have gone to Creation Museum to watch that hot Adam though.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hurray for the Weather Channel!



I admit it - I love the Weather Channel. It's both calming (except for those weather disaster shows they have at night - *shudder*) and scientific, and useful. I admit it, I am a weather geek.

I also hate and despise Fox "News" as anybody with a brain and a conscience and a fondness for the truth does.

So I am really loving that the Weather Channel is facing down Fox:
“If The Weather Channel isn’t talking about climate change and global warming, who is?” said Kaye Zusmann, the vice president for program strategy and development for the network. “It’s our mandate.”

The network, which had been gearing up for the opening of hurricane season on Friday, sees the engagement with the issues surrounding climate change as important for content and for business.

“We have a point of view, and we think it’s really important to articulate why it’s happening. Secondarily, it’s good business,” said Ms. Wilson, the network president. “Many consumers want to know, ‘What should I do?’ ”

The lightning rod for controversy, so to speak, is Heidi Cullen, the network’s resident climate expert.

In December, she raised the ire of Fox News and others by writing on her weather.com blog that the American Meteorological Society should not give its “seal of approval” to any meteorologist who “can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change.” (There are now more than 1,700 comments on that one post.)

Dr. Cullen, a tiny woman who speaks with conviction, said she believed that people were “finally seeing climate connected to weather,” but that a lot of information still needs to be disseminated. “If you turn on the local forecast, you wouldn’t necessarily know that global warming exists,” she said.

Far from being intimidated by the political backlash, Dr. Cullen and executives at the channel say they have embraced the issue of global warming. Dr. Cullen is host of the weekly show “Forecast Earth,” formerly named “The Climate Code” where she has entertained such guests as former Vice President Al Gore. She also appears on the channel’s other programming with segments on hybrid taxicabs in New York City and the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft.


So THERE all my friends and relatives who think I'm weird for enjoying the Weather Channel - they are RIGHTEOUS! As well as calming and scientific and useful.

And that goes for you too, leather punk Jon Stewart!



Although you are so very hot, young punk Jon Stewart.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

1/2 below average

Somebody said this to me a few years ago, and while it does explain many things, from the fact that GWB got "re" -elected to the fact that crappy movies and plays are often very popular, it is really scary if you think about it too much:


"Think of somebody you know whom you consider of average intelligence.

Consider that 1/2 of all the people in the world are less intelligent than that person."