Thursday, December 21, 2006

Person(s) of the Year

Here are the results of my own little POTY survey, conducted via e-mail. Multiple votes in parentheses.

Donald Rumsfeld (3)
Keith Olbermann (2)
George W Bush (2)
Borat (2)
Michael Richards (2)
Milton Friedman
Democratic Party
Britney Spears
Sanitation Workers
Al Gore
The Blog
Steven Colbert
Jack Murtha
This Moment
Barack Hussein Obama
Rahm Emmanuel
Wilford Brimley
JPL's Mars Recon Observer

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

$77 per Ton

Earlier this fall, Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist for the World Bank, issued a report on the potential economic costs of climate change. His headline figure was that the annual worldwide costs due to climate change could amount to 20% of world economic output by 2100. Insurance companies are already beginning to take note of such dire warnings and are raising premiums on waterfront property or refusing to insure it altogether.

The report also contained another useful estimate: a present-value "social cost" of $85 per tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere -- equivalent to about $77 per U.S. ton. It represents the discounted sum of all the future climate-change costs imposed on society by each ton of CO2 that we take out of the ground and send into the atmosphere. For example, at eight-tenths of a pound of CO2 emitted per mile, driving the typical car costs society 3 cents a mile -- or $300 for every 10,000 miles -- just in terms of climate change.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Crastpog Catalog: PastaBelt Organizer

Having a hard time finding the right pasta, or the right belt for that suit? You need to get organized. The PastaBelt Organizer neatly stores up to 40 varieties of fresh pasta -- from linguine to angel hair -- plus 28 belts on non-slip hooks. Push the toggle switch and they rotate forward or back. The motor is so efficiently designed it's almost completely silent. The convenient non-glare light comes on automatically when the rack begins rotating to help you pick the right noodle and/or belt. Adjustable bracket mounts to most closet rods or kitchen cabinetry. Matte finish with natural wood trim. Uses 4 D batteries (not included). Not recommended for use with gnocci.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

William James on the Unconscious and Religious Conversion

According to William James, the unconscious mind plays a key role in religious experience and conversion. People who have conversions are especially susceptible to "incursions" from the unconscious into the conscious.

But even if a person’s individual psychological makeup is the cause, James argues it does not reduce the religious significance of a conversion. In James’s formulation, we ought to judge a conversion by its “fruits, not its roots.” James also argues that the "subliminal theory" does not rule out the participation of a Diety in a conversion. He proposes that higher spiritual agencies might touch us through a “subliminal door.”

Here James confronts the medical-materialist view, which posits a natural explanation for all supposedly religious phenomena, and James tries to accommodate religion by building a doorway between the natural and the supernatural. It’s the sort of accommodation that tends to displease both sides of the issue, and it makes the whole system less elegant.

Overall, James’s conception of the unconscious and its role in conversion is powerful and coherent in either the psychological or the theological realm. The trouble comes when James tries to argue that the unconscious can serve both masters at once. Scientists find his accommodation of religion superfluous, and theologians find the psychological mechanisms insufficiently supernatural or even heretical. James says both camps are excessively sterile, dogmatic, and monistic. Forget about One Big Truth in favor of billions of individual truths, says James.

James’s pluralism is admirable. And his pragmatism – judging beliefs by their fruits, not their roots – is a remarkably good way to live, day-to-day. But at the end of the day, for someone seeking to understand the way the world really works, James’s pluralism and pragmatism constitute elaborate cop-outs, evasions of the question. Many, if not most, of the people who have religious or conversion experiences become dogmatists themselves – what of those fruits of conversion? Unfortunately, James does not say.
Related Posts with Thumbnails