Sunday, 29 April 2007

“Technical” Virginity

Is it possible to regain one’s virginity? That depends on what “virginity” means. If it means never having had sex, then no, for you can’t undo the past. If it means having an intact hymen, then yes. See here.

The Harmfulness of Religion

Wait. Haven’t atheists such as Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett been telling us ad nauseam that religions such as Islam are harmful as well as false? Ian Buruma says that “Islamist terrorists use the Koran to justify murderous actions, but the actual reasons for their holy war are generally political and not theological.” If this is so, then the harm these Jihadists do is not attributable to religion in general or to Islam in particular. It is attributable to politics in general or to their political views in particular. That S is both a murderer and an adherent of religion R doesn’t mean that R caused S to murder.

Addendum: After I composed this post, I discovered this essay by psychologist David P. Barash. Suppose your goal is to explain the pervasiveness of religious belief. You might try to discover some benefit that it confers. But can’t it just as easily be said that the best explanation of the pervasiveness of religious belief is that it’s true? It seems to me that atheists such as Dennett (author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon) beg the question against theism. They assume (without argument) that it’s false and try to explain it in naturalistic terms. Maybe it’s not false! Whatever scientists are doing, philosophers should restrict themselves to arguments for and against religious belief. Philosophers, as such, are interested in the grounds of belief, not in the causes of belief. There could not be a more fundamental distinction.

Equal Pay

Feminists are ideologues. Their aim is to engineer society so that it conforms to their utopian blueprint. If this means distorting facts, so be it. See here.


Yesterday, in Muenster, Texas, I did my fourth bike rally of the year—and 400th overall. My goal, as I wrote some time back, is to do 1,000 rallies. Why not? I enjoy them as much as ever, and it’s a great way to stay in shape and get out into the countryside with friends. Yesterday I rode with several friends: Joe Culotta, Julius Bejsovec, Phil Kevil, and Randy Kirby. We had a ball. The weather was gorgeous (it reached 84° Fahrenheit, but was in the 70s during the ride). Even the wind cooperated. The Muenster rally starts later than any other—at 11:00—so the wind is usually stiff by then. Sometimes it’s out of the north; sometimes it’s out of the south. I prefer north, because that means we have a tailwind rather than a headwind for the final eight miles.

As expected, I’m getting stronger by the week. You may recall that I averaged only 13.67 miles per hour two weeks ago in Lancaster. Yesterday, by contrast, I averaged 16.87 miles per hour (for exactly 60 miles), and the course is much tougher. Muenster has more climbing than any other rally. One hill near the end is a backbreaker. It was all I could do to stay on the bike. Some people have to dismount and walk. My legs remained strong for over two and a half hours. I think the leg exercises I’ve been doing on my Soloflex machine are helping. To get up hills, you need strong quad muscles. My heart and lungs are in superb shape. My maximum heart rate yesterday was 152. My average heart rate—for more than three and a half hours of riding—was 125. I burned 2,115 calories during the ride, which is an average of 594.9 per hour and 35.2 per mile. For the sake of comparison, I burn 85 to 90 calories per mile while running. Running is hell. That I do it is a testament to my masochism.

There’s an ebb and flow to bicycling. There are points during a rally where you feel strong and points where you feel weak. Just past Saint Jo, Phil was struggling. I could hear him gasping for air as he rode behind me in a paceline. I was worried that he would get dropped, so I told him to rest for a couple of rotations. What does he do? He rides away from Randy and me at the end! The sandbagger. Julius, too, looked to be struggling early on, but he finished strong. Many of the bicyclists go to the Germanfest grounds after the rally, but it’s so late in the day, and the drive home is so long (85.5 miles), that I head for home immediately. I’m enjoying my new Honda Accord. It has a good air conditioner and the CD player is wonderful. I listened to Black Sabbath’s Vol 4 (1972) on the way to Muenster. It had me pumped up by the time I arrived.

There’s a steep descent north of Saint Jo. I’ve gone as fast as 48 miles per hour on it in years past, but yesterday I got up to only 41.8 miles per hour. The headwind slowed my pace. I shouldn’t do it, but I got into my Pantani tuck position to increase my speed. The Pantani tuck involves putting your stomach on the seat. Your rear end is just centimeters from the rear tire. The idea is to get as low a profile as possible. It’s exhilarating. You just hope you don’t blow a tire at that speed. It would be horrifying. We paid for this exhilaration later, while climbing the big hill I mentioned earlier. What goes down must come up.

All in all, it was a great day. Friends, beautiful weather, spectacular Texas countryside, bean burritos. With any luck, I’ll get to do it 600 more times.

Peter Mullen on the Atheistic Project

At the centre of the secular atheistic project is the destruction of the historic basis of our way of life: marriage and the family.  This has been achieved by the secular doctrines of rights and egalitarianism according to which childbearing and adoption procedures are extended to homosexual couples. Government economic and social policy consistently discriminates against marriage and in favour of any alternative cohabiting arrangement. It is getting to the stage when the Vicar will have to watch out for the politically-correct commissar before he ventures to preach against adultery.

(Peter Mullen, “Eternal Life,” The Salisbury Review: The Quarterly Magazine of Conservative Thought 25 [spring 2007]: 35-6, at 36)

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “3 Suspects Talk After Iraqi Soldiers Do Dirty Work” (front page, April 22):

This article, which reports that Iraqi security officers beat information out of a suspect, reiterates the danger of permitting, explicitly or implicitly, even some torture when dealing with terror suspects.

The accompanying photographs of grinning Iraqi policemen posing after a “very good job” is a bit too reminiscent of similar snapshots of American troops doing their jobs at Abu Ghraib.

Despite the fact that America formally condemns the practice of beating terror suspects, the captain in charge did little to dissuade such behavior when he stated that “this is their culture.” Such an excuse represents a dangerous and regrettable acceptance of acts of torture and ill treatment and a grave violation of international law.

Torture and inhumane treatment of detainees should never, explicitly or implicitly, be acceptable to gain information—or for any other purpose. If Abu Ghraib has taught us anything, it is how easy it is to lose a foothold on the slippery slope of tampering with the absolute prohibition against torture.

Brita Sydhoff
Secretary General
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
Copenhagen, April 25, 2007

Note from KBJ: This is absolute deontology, folks. Absolute deontology is the view that certain acts—such as lying, breaking a promise, torturing, and killing innocent human beings—are wrong no matter how much good they produce (or how much bad they prevent). Has the writer not been watching 24? If the writer had been watching this television series, he or she would know that sometimes torture is the only way to save the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people. Would it be wrong in such circumstances? Are we to let them die so as not to bloody our hands? Either the writer must bite the bullet and say yes or he or she must admit to being a moderate deontologist who writes sloppily.

Safire on Language