On fallacies and faith

December 13th, 2006

I've been reading some heated arguments over homosexuality recently, and I am struck by the sheer quantity of fallacious arguments used by the homophobic contingent. Saying "If homosexuals were okay then they'd be able to breed" is like saying "If we aren't supposed to eat humans, why are they made of meat?" or "If God meant for us to walk around naked, we'd be born that way."

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Mythology of the Bible

June 8th, 2006

The few times I've sat down and perused the New Testament, I've been struck by the mythic feel of most of the stories. (Well, this applies to the Old Testament as well, but that's not my focus here.) In fact, in the parts that directly talk about Jesus, only the Semon on the Mount has a non-mythic feel. I suspect that, as in any mythology, many of the New Testament stories are borrowed from other cultures and mythologies. For example, a number of quotes are attributed to multiple historicoreligious figures, such as Jesus and Siddhartha Gautama. As mythic tales are passed down, they are applied to the receiving culture's heroes.

So many of the tales of the New Testament have little to do specifically with Christianity, and these same stories have an ageless, mythic quality to them. However, the Sermon on the Mount stands apart. It isan exposition, an analysis, a discussion of previous teachings. There are no action scenes to speak of, and it is highly philosophical. It has the feel of rhetoric, not story-telling. I suspect that it is far more historically accurate than the surrounding text -- it also has the feel of a belated transcription, like someone who was present at one of Jesus' speeches went home and wrote down what they remembered of it.

What I find intriguing about this explanation of the striking difference in style is that the Sermon on the Mount is also regarded as the core of Jesus' teachings. A number of non-Christians or non-standard Christians agree with the teachings in that particular story, but have doubts about the others. Some regard it as the true core of Christianity. (Perhaps the writing style is simply more believable, but could this not be due to the same logic I use here?) I don't have any particular position on its relationship with Christianity, but I do hold that of all the Jesus stories, it is the most likely to be historically accurate.

Keeping track of comments

May 31st, 2006

I find it interesting how advances in web technology come in waves. Weblogs have been around forever, but blogs really came into their own with the development of simple CMS apps that ordinary folks could use (instead of manually editing and uploading every time they had something new to say). And each new advance begets a new problem.

With blogs that incorporate comment systems has arisen a new need: the need to keep track of the comments one has written. I like to follow up on comments that I leave on other people's blogs, so after commenting, I drag the link to a folder in my bookmarks toolbar in firefox. Then I occasionally revisit the links in the folder, deleting where necessary. It's not efficient, and I'd like to see some automation. Some scattered sites and systems have their own systems that work by email, such as LiveJournal and Movable Type. But that's not enough. There needs to be a system independent of the CMS in use by a site. I know others must be feeling just as frustrated.

So I wasn't entirely surprised to see a system appear on the del.icio.us/popular list recently: coComments. I'm signing up for the service as I write this, and I intend to test it thoroughly.

What do you do manually on the web that can be automated? What will the next advance be?

Why we fear the Other

April 14th, 2006

I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine about transgender issues and transexuality, speicifically about the irrational fear and defensiveness that some people exhibit around gender-ambiguous folks. The conversation got me to thinking about Fear of the Other, Fear of the Unknown. I think I know why it exists.

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