Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Ecclesiastical g-strings

In the podcast A Love Supreme: Jazz, Justice, Democracy, Otis Moss III builds a model for leadership on aspects of jazz. He makes some interesting connections, albeit extremely American. But I couldn't pass up this gem:
Church is not concerned about the love ethic any more ... but a market-driven ministry ... that turns the preacher into an theological exotic dancer, looking for someone to put a dollar in their ecclesiastical g-string.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

How do illegal immigrants get into Australia

In a radio interview about her candidacy for the Australian Senate, Lin Hatfield Dodds claims that only 3 - 4% of Australia's illegal immigrants arrive via the boats that we hear so much about. The rest fly in on normal commercial planes.

If that's true, it makes a mockery of the endless political wrangling about protecting our shores from people smugglers. The few who arrive in boats are almost certainly genuine refugees who have risked their lives to escape an unliveable oppression. They deserve our compassion and care more than the other 96% who have the money to fly here in safety.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Intentional Action and the Praise-Blame Asymmetry

Recent research suggests that it is easier to blame someone than to praise them. Joshua Knobe shows this clearly in the following two thought experiments:

Suppose that a vice-president goes to the chairman of the board and says OK, we've got this new policy. It's going to make huge amounts of money for our company but it's also going to harm the environment. And the chairman says, look, I know this policy is going to harm the environment but I don't care at all about that, I only care about making as much money as we possibly can. So in fact they initiate the new policy and the environment is indeed harmed.
Now the question is, did the chairman of the board harm the environment intentionally? So what would you say in that instance?

Like 85% of people, I say he is to blame.

The second vignette is very similar to the first one. What differs is just the moral status of what the person is doing. So suppose we keep everything exactly the same but we just change the word 'harm' to 'help'. So now suppose the vice president goes to the chairman of the board and says, OK, we've got this new policy, it's going to make huge amounts of money for our company and it's also going to help the environment. And the chairman of the board says, look, I know it's going to help the environment but I don't care at all about that, all I care about is just making as much money as we possibly can. So let's implement the new policy. And sure enough it helps the environment. In this case did the chairman of the board help the environment intentionally?

This is From Joshua Knobe (2009). The philosophy of good intentions (podcast on ABC Radio National) but see also Joshua Knobe, Adam Cohen & Alan Leslie (2006). Acting Intentionally and the Side-Effect Effect: 'Theory of Mind' and Moral Judgment. Psychological Science 17:421-427.

Frank Hindriks seeks to explain this asymmetry by saying that praise depends on being appropriately motivated, whereas blame does not. Seems to me that just generalises the phenomenon rather than explaining it. (Frank Hindriks (2008). Intentional Action and the Praise-Blame Asymmetry. Philosophical Quarterly 58, 233: 630-41.)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Jesus the Comedian

I recently read this section of Peter Kreeft's "Before I Go: letters to our children about what really matters" (p. 94).

Jesus had a fantastic sense of humor. Even if you don't detect it in the Gospels (but how can you miss it?), you can detect it in nature. He's the mind ("logos") of God who designed nature, after all. How can you look at a basset hound and not know Jesus is a comedian? And some of those deep-sea fish -- absolutely over the top and of the wall.

The two greatest jokes of all time were the incarnation and the crucifixion. They were the two great jokes God played on the devil. The incarnation was the great disappearing act and the crucifixion was the great judo act.

Even if you don't get it now, you will in Heaven, where you will have the last laugh forever.

I love the "great judo act" image!

With regard to humour in the Gospels, I think Kreeft is pointing to the laughs Jesus probably got from the audience when he used hyperbole like passing a camel through the eye of a needle. A web search found these ...
  1. Matthew 23:24 "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." NIV. Now that's funny!Here's the same verse from The Message:"Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?" Living Bible:"Blind guides! You strain your water so you won't accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!"
  2. Examples or irony, sarcasm, puns, hyperbole and situation comedy in the Old Testament
    • From Terry Goodrich 
      • Jesus suggested the critic should get the log out of his eye before being obsessed with a speck of dust in someone else’s.
      • When Peter told Jesus that religious leaders questioned whether Jesus paid the tax, Jesus told him to reel in a fish and check its mouth. In it was enough money to pay both Jesus’ and Peter’s tax.
    • Pictures of Jesus laughing