More Atheists, Fewer Creationists

Whatever the short-term fluctuations of politics, the long-term trends driving the evolution of American society are stable. And one of the most consistent trends in America since I started writing this blog has been the steady growth in the number of self-identified atheists and agnostics. It's a cheering thought that gives me hope for future generations discarding the harmful dogmas of the past.But even these optimistic estimates may have been an undercount, if a new study is to be … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #5: Nixonian

I'm not at all surprised that an abuse-of-power scandal is threatening to topple the Trump administration. I admit I'm a little surprised that it's all happening so fast.I've already written about the deep and worrying ties between Trump and his cronies and Russia. It's gotten even worse since then, with news that Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a level of detail that might jeopardize its source. It's an open question whether … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Parable of the Sower/Curse of Chalion

Last year, I mentioned that I was making an effort to read more science fiction and fantasy by female authors. I'm still working on that goal - I'm now up to 15 out of 100 - and here are two of the latest ones I've read from that list.Parable of the Sower by Octavia ButlerI've had a hard time getting into Octavia Butler's writing. She's a gifted author, but I read fiction mostly for escapism, and her books aren't great for that. Almost all of them center around protagonists in terrible … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Remembering Seneca Village

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 7Although Ayn Rand's philosophy wasn't fully developed in The Fountainhead compared to where it was in Atlas Shrugged, there are some things that are consistent across her books. One of them is this: The heroes know they're the heroes, and the villains know they're the villains.This isn't how it really works. The idea that Bad People are aware they're Bad is a trope that only exists in fiction. Other than in rare and exceptional cases, everyone acts … [Read more...]

God Won’t Repay Your IOUs

Big Data can give us insight into a surprising number of things - including the claims of religious apologists. To wit, take this story that I saw in New York magazine.Three economists conducted a study based on data from Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending site that connects people who want to borrow money with those who have money to lend out. The question they wanted to answer was whether anything in the language of a borrower's loan application predicts whether they'll pay back the money … [Read more...]

Cleansing the Stain of the Confederacy

Last month, the city of New Orleans began removing four public monuments to the Confederacy. The monuments, which date back to the 19th century, include statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Jefferson Davis. Possibly the most shocking of the four is a memorial to the post-Civil-War Battle of Liberty Place, when a white supremacist group called the Crescent City White League staged an insurrection against the city's integrated police force and government. They … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Selling the Dream

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 7Howard Roark has begun his new job at the source of all evil, Francon & Heyer. As a condition of taking the job, he asked to do structural rather than ornamental work, and Keating kept his end of the bargain. Even so, it gnaws at him:The lines he drew were to be the clean lines of steel beams, and he tried not to think of what these beams would carry. It was difficult, at times. Between him and the plan of the building on which he was working stood … [Read more...]

Letter-Writing Wednesday: Yes to Single-Payer

As bad as things are getting elsewhere in the U.S., my home state is quietly becoming a progressive mecca. First was the free public college plan that passed as part of the annual budget.But something much bigger is on the horizon. As of now, New York is on the verge of instituting statewide single-payer health care.This isn't a utopian pipe dream or a distant, idealistic fantasy. The bill, which is called the New York Health Act, is a reality; it's already passed the state legislature, … [Read more...]

Book Review: Hidden Figures

Summary: We need all the brainpower we can get.Even in the darkest days of prejudice, when women and minorities were most oppressed and their talents denigrated, they've always been there, making crucial contributions to human progress. The only question is whether their achievements are preserved in the historical record, or whether they're shunted into the background so that white men can get all the glory. Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, about the black women of NASA who helped … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: A Friend in Need

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 7Howard Roark has been left alone and jobless, again, by the forced retirement of his mentor. Luckily for him, though he's done nothing to deserve it, he has a friend.Peter Keating marches in to see his boss, Guy Francon, and tells him, "I've got to have that man." When he explains Roark's background, Francon agrees:"Oh well... well, speaking structurally, not esthetically, Cameron does give them a thorough grounding and... Of course, Cameron was … [Read more...]