Archive for November, 2007

An atheist in the Catholic Church

By Razib Khan | November 4, 2007 3:23 pm

In my post below I wanted to emphasize that religion has several distinct and independent dimensions. Too often in our modern era religion is reduced purely to the dimension of confession or belief because of its relative accessibility to outsiders. Here is some of that complexity on display, from page 371 of The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815:

Less comical but more dangerous was a prelate like Etienne-Charles Lomenie de Brienne, whose composition of a materialist treatise at the Sorbonne in 1751 did not prevent him entering the priesthood and becoming Vicar-General of Rouen the following year at the age of twenty-five. He subsequently became Bishop of Condom in 1760 and Archbishopof Toulouse in 1762. Proposed for the archbishopric of Paris, he was turned down by Louise XVI on the grounds that ‘at least the Archbishop of Paris must believe in God’. This check did not prevent him becoming first minister in 1787, Archbishop of Sens…and acquiring the cardinal’s hat. After the outbreak of the Revolution, he showed his gratitude by voting for the Civil Consitution of the Clergy and buying – and then desecrating – the confiscated abbey of St-Pierre-le-Vif….

There was once a time when Europe was the Faith and the Faith was Europe. To some extent this did enforce a greater degree of outward belief, but at the extremes there were likely individuals would could never suffer a religious outlook. With the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in secular affairs it is no surprise that unbelievers used it as an institutional ladder from which they derived instrumental benefit.


Firefox that works?

By Razib Khan | November 4, 2007 2:45 am

I’ve gotten tired of Firefox freezing when (and other sites) loads. Recently Firefox started freezing in gmail when I tried to use the search. But the UI for Safari, Opera and IE are inferior in my opinion. Any recs for something similar to Firefox that doesn’t freeze all the time?


Of feeling, God and Antony Flew

By Razib Khan | November 4, 2007 12:29 am

From a New York Times Magazine piece about Antony Flew. Here is the most shocking part:

When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it. But he made the book sound like more of a joint effort — slightly more, anyway. “There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it.”
So even the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter: Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor and author from Ohio, rewrote many passages, especially in the section that narrates Flew’s childhood. With three authors, how much Flew was left in the book? “He went through everything, was happy with everything,” Varghese said.

The book in question is There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. I was going to take some time out to read it out of curiosity, but I’ll scratch it off my “to-read” list. Antony Flew’s take on tired old arguments I was a bit curious about, but a ghost writer, not so much.

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Donors Choose

By Razib Khan | November 1, 2007 11:53 pm

Thank you to everyone who donated! To me the most gratifying thing is to know that so many students are being affected. Let’s do this again next year!


Pure Jewish blood?

By Razib Khan | November 1, 2007 2:56 pm

William Saletan has a piece up over at Slate, Jewgenics, which covers his reactions to a talk (you can view it online) sponsored by AEI around Jon Entine’s book Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. I’ve read the book, though I don’t have time to listen to the talk right now. But I wanted to offer a quick perspective on one point in Saletan’s piece:

According to Entine, the rate of Jewish “outbreeding”–procreating with non-Jews–is half a percent. That’s the lowest rate of any population in the world today….

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Hair, eye and skin color in Europeans

By Razib Khan | November 1, 2007 2:08 pm

Here is another write up of Genetic determinants of hair, eye and skin pigmentation in Europeans. Generally echoes my own impressions, though I offer the link in the hope it is more readable! The paper was hard to reduce because of the contingency and polymorphism across the many genes affecting the many traits.
Update: Links fixed!


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