Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Last Disappointment, Part 1

Every once in a while, I try to read a book that's interesting or important or that will just be a change from the genre fiction I otherwise seem to read. So the other week, when I was in the library, I picked up The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser. I'm not sure why it interested me; maybe I just thought it would be interesting to see what sort of arguments the other side has for their beliefs. I gotta say, if this is the best refutation anyone can come up with, the New Atheists (which would make a pretty good name for a band) don't have much to worry about.

Some quick background: over the past few years, there have been several books written by prominent atheists. Richard Dawkins wrote The God Delusion, Sam Harris wrote Letter to a Christian Nation, Christopher Hitchens wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I think there have been a few others, as well. There's even a snazzy new logo. In interest of full disclosure, I'll say that I haven't read any of these books. They may be brilliant, they may be silly, I don't know.

One of the reasons I haven't blogged so much lately is that I sit down wanting to write a review of this book, and just think "Ugh." So I'm going to break it into more manageable and less frustrating parts.

The first thing that strikes me about this book is just how shamelessly political it is. There's not a whole lot of philosophy in it, and very little past the Humanities 101 level of things. But Feser is continuously harping on all the hot-button socially political issues of the day. This is the very first paragraph of the book:

At the time of this writing, exactly one week has passed since the Supreme Court of the State of California decreed that homosexuals have a "basic civil right" to marry someone of the same sex... Malcom Muggeridge famously said that "without God we are left with a choice of succumbing to megalomania or erotomania." The court's majority, in declaring by sheer judicial fiat the equal dignity under law of family and sodomy, would appear to have gone Muggeridge one better by succumbing to both at once."

Allow me to point out the subtle characterization of heterosexual sexual relationships as being wholesome and constructive (i.e. his use of "family"), while gay relationships are entirely driven by sinful lusts ("erotomania", "sodomy"). The subliminal implication he's trying to make is that gay people don't of course have real "families"; their children, their relationships, their support of each other is somehow less valid and legitimate than others. But remember that this isn't a book about gay marriage or politics.

Again, let me point out that this is the very first paragraph of the book. But it's not the last time he'll mention it. Gay marriage is something that Feser returns to again and again in his book, referencing it I think at least once in every chapter. He doesn't limit himself to the terrible influence of Teh Gay, either. There's Terry Schaivo, abortion, and lots and lots of sex. Well, just the kind of sex that Feser doesn't approve of.

As I was reading Superstition, I think I gradually came to the conclusion that Feser's book is not the philosophical treatise I was expecting, but more of the philisophical analog of Ann Coulter's writings. You don't come into this book to learn something or to get a well-reasoned argument. You come to a book like this to get your worldview reinforced and to learn exactly how wicked those unlike you, in this case the liberals and the atheists, truly are. Just like Coulter, that's the service that Feser provides.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Now all I need is a belfry

So, the other night, I was lying in bed on my way to the Dreaming. There was a squirrel outside making some noise or another and I was looking up at the ceiling at the moving patterns the blinds made as a car went in or out of the parking lot. The squirrel must be in the tree right outside the window. Then another car drives through the parking lot making that pattern on the ceiling. Then again.

Wait. I didn't hear a car. At that point I'm really looking at the ceiling and see something go right across it. Oh, my God, there's a bird in here! So I jump out of bed and turn on the light and, yup, there's a bird circling around inside my bedroom. So I quickly remembered my glasses were in the bathroom and went to fetch them. I wonder how it got in, is there a window broken somewhere? I came back to the bedroom and stopped.

That's not a bird.

That's a bat.


Quickly, I closed the bedroom door and ran to the closet to get a bedsheet to catch it in. Well, OK, first I screamed like a woman in a 50s science-fiction B-movie, then ran to the closet to get a bedsheet. On my way back to my bat-filled bedroom, I also grabbed the broom. Why? I don't know. I guess bats are like spiders in that sense.

Back at the bedroom. Deep breath. Ready to open the door and throw the sheet over the bat and quickly catch it. Open the door. Cue dramatic music.


What? Where did it go? Walk over to the windows to see if one is broken. Nope. Check behind the blinds to make sure they're bat-free. OK, I'll open one so when I find the bat, I'll just shoo it out. Window's open. Screen's not. Screen won't open. Great, I have a rodent flying around my apartment and I can't even open a window to get rid of it.

Go back to the living room and open the patio door. Fortunately, the weather is warming up, so it's only about sixty outside. I can live with that.

I grab a flashlight and head back to the bedroom. I start looking around, under, inside, and through things. Nothing. No bat. Well, I *know* it's here. There's no other route out of the bedroom and I've kept the door closed every time I left. Keep looking.

I finally found it hiding behind the filing cabinet. Naturally, it had to decide to hide behind the heaviest thing I own. After moving the CD rack and the lamp, I've got enough room to grab the filing cabinet and pull it back. Yup, there it is, on the floor. I poke it with the broom enough to push it out from behind the filing cabinet. Grab a towel and run to the far side, at which point he decides to crawl back behind the cabinet. So I pull the cabinet out another six inches and throw the towel over the chirping thing.

Gently, I scooped it up in the towel and hightailed it outside. Putting the towel down, I shook it apart a bit and the bat chirped a few more times then lopsidely flew away to hide under the eaves of the building not far away.

Yeah, it was kind of icky. It was a bat after all. But you know, under different circumstances, he was enough like a little furry creature that it would have been kind of cute, too. But not flying around my bedroom at the wee hours of the morning.

At this point, it was pushing 1 am, I'd been running around the apartment, and moving furniture. Sleep was not quick in coming. So that explains why I'm a bit sleep deprived this week.

* With apologies to Samuel L. Jackson.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does this mean I'm famous?

I've been thinking it's awfully strange that people keep coming to the blog after having searched for "plain yogurt" on Google. Then I did the search myself and found that this post is on the first page of results.

I never thought I'd be on the first page of any of Google search results. How strange.