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Niagra Falls

I know this is weird, but they were all puppets. And I was a puppet, as well. Not the Mister Rogers puppets whose mouths don’t move, but the human-looking puppets whose mouths split their faces open when they talk. We had wigs for hair and most of us wore cheap Goodwill clothes which made us look lived-in. I worked at a church as a janitor. I was a handsomish puppet with a grimace that made me appear alternately sly and cruel. I was neither. One day, after Sunday service, the toilets backed up. I ran around like a maniac, mopping up the urine and feces with a real life mop that was twice my size. My wig hair barely clung to my conical head. A dapper, tuxedoed puppet came in with his daughter looking for a playground to keep her occupied for awhile. Or at least I assumed it was his daughter. He seemed suave and debonair and kept checking his watch as if he were late to a dinner party. He asked me if Niagra Falls was nearby. I told him we were in California. “Too bad,” he said. I led his daughter out to the playground while he took care of some presumably important business in the church office. I never asked visitors their business. It wasn’t in my puppet nature. His daughter and I swung on the swings and kicked our unnaturally fuzzy legs at each other under the jungle gym. Our knees weren’t supposed to bend, but I could feel that they might. The tuxedoed puppet finally came outside, looked up at the azure blue sky, smiled and reached his hands out to the girl. “Time to fly,” she said, somewhat sadly. He slipped a note into my pocket before he left. I didn’t find it until later that evening. It read, “She doesn’t really like playgrounds, but I’m sure she won’t forget you.” Even now, I take the note out before bed and read it with a thrill that I’m sure only puppets can feel.

- 11/29/2007 9:03:23 PM | link

Meet the new athiests

Same as the old athiests. Only more adolescent.

For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favor, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.

One striking aspect of Dennett’s book is his failure to avoid the language of purpose, intention, and ontological moral evaluation, despite his fierce opposition to teleological views of existence: the coyote’s “methods of locomotion have been ruthlessly optimized for efficiency.” Or: “The stinginess of Nature can be seen everywhere we look.” Or again: “This is a good example of Mother Nature’s stinginess in the final accounting combined with absurd profligacy in the methods.” I could go on, but I hope the point is clear. (And Dennett is not alone in this difficulty: Michel Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto, so rich in errors and inexactitudes that it would take a book as long as his to correct them, says on its second page that religion prevents mankind from facing up to “reality in all its naked cruelty.” But how can reality have any moral quality without having an immanent or transcendent purpose?)

Or as Percy might have said, scientific theories rarely take into account the theorizer.

- 11/20/2007 9:55:06 AM | link

Warmed-over Luke urine

Speaking of misanthropic contrarians (I was speaking to myself), this guy does not like Seinfeld. I like the literary comparisons so I’m inclined to agree with him (even as I DISAGREE!!!)

No wonder we prefer the literary company—and remember the name—of doomed Sydney Carton, the depressive, despondent, romantic road-to-ruin guy who asks the boring Darnay what he thinks of "this terrestrial scheme" and then explains that "the greatest desire I have is to forget that I belong to it." The whole "terrestrial scheme"!

To take the Christian perspective on Shapiro, this is not unlike the call to God’s flame in Revelations.

Should we insert Seinfeldian for lukewarm? Shapiro might add the word "piss" behind it, but is the intent not the same?

- 11/3/2007 10:15:56 AM | link


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