Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Are Iraqi's Mad at America?

Sounds like a silly question, right? It's obvious. Take a look at the info in my recent post for starters. Note that perhaps the 1,000,000 dead due to the invasion comes on the heels of maybe another 1,000,000 dead due to sanctions the U.S. and Britain imposed in order to remove a dictator that there is good reason to think we had installed.

But in Bob Dutko's world this question truly does cause puzzlement. The Egyptian journalist had thrown shoes at Bush and this was confusing for Bob. He and I discussed this on his radio show last Friday. You can listen here.

How Many Dead in Iraq?

Do you know how many have died in Iraq in response to the 2,998 who died on 9/11? Could it be as many as 1,000,000?

Iraq Body Count offers "documented" deaths. They readily admit that this estimate is an undercount, because many, if not most deaths simply aren't documented. But they defend themselves by saying that they are at least offering a number that must be conceded at a minimum. They have the death count at about 100,000.

The British medical journal The Lancet published a study in October of 2006 that put the death count at 655,000. The methods were criticized by conservatives, who claimed the figures were way too high. The publishers in turn offered counter criticisms.

The London based polling group Opinion Research Business published a study in January 2008 that estimated about 1,000,000 dead. I'm not aware of criticisms of the methodology. Many believe that media coverage of this study is been surprisingly limited. See for instance here.

Americans are woefully ignorant of the numbers, and yet well aware of the number of Americans killed. This was revealed in a poll that once again barely registered amongst the mainstream media, though it was administered by the AP. The median estimate for Iraqi deaths in the opinion of Americans: 10,000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coming Out as an Atheist

It doesn't always go smoothly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

History-As It Was vs As It Was Taught

The Simpsons live in the town of Springfield near a town they regard as their rivals; Shelbyville. The founding of the towns is explained at the Simspons Archive:

In 1796, a fiercely determined band of pioneers leaves Maryland after misinterpreting a passage in the bible. Their destination, New Sodom. Marge says these pioneers were circus freaks.

Jebediah: "People, our search is over. On this site we shall build a new town, where we can worship freely, govern justly, and grow vast fields of hemp for making rope and blankets."

Shelbyville Manhattan: "yes, and marry our cousins."

Jebediah: "I was -- What are you talking about Shelbyville? Why would we want to marry our cousins?"

Shelbyville Manhattan: "Cause they're so attractive. I, I thought that was the whole point of this journey."

Jebediah: "Absolutely not."

Shelbyville Manhattan: "I tell you I won't live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins."

Jebediah: "Well then, we'll form our own town. Who will come and live a life devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call rootmarm?"

Those that form the roots of our town our wonderful and virtuous. Our enemies are deviant. This is kind of how history is taught in our schools. When we reach adulthood many of us come to realize that maybe our history courses were a little whitewashed. It makes you wonder how many erroneous views you may still hold about American history.

And you don't have to be a liberal to recognize this. Even conservatives understand.

In light of this, it is interesting to me to watch Christians that appear to be shocked at the skepticism of someone like Robert Price with regards to the New Testament. He and an apologist by the name of Phil Fernandez had a discussion. While Price offered reasons for his views, Fernandez' constant response was "But your views are out of the mainstream. Your views are rejected by even liberals. This is hyper-skepticism."

Price repeatedly responded by saying he knows he's in the minority, but the reasons for his view are still compelling to him, and Fernandez needs to address the reasons. Basically Fernandez didn't seem to think he had any obligation to. The fact that Price is outside the mainstream is response enough.

But the lessons we can learn from the way we were taught history in high school ought to be enough to inform us that it is very easy for large groups of people, even smart educated people, to have fundamentally erroneous views about even American history, where information is far more readily accessible. Did Lincoln fight the Civil War to end slavery? We're taught in school that he did, but perhaps most Americans when they reach adulthood come to know that it's not quite that simple. But it's easy to suspect that there are many other things that the majority of Americans are wrong about.

It's easy to see this even in our own day. How will history record the events of the last few years? Maybe textbooks 100 years from now will say that George Bush invaded Iraq to set up lucrative oil deals for friends, under the pretense of a WMD threat. Or maybe they'll say that he invaded to bring freedom to the Middle East. Does it matter which is true, or does it matter more the biases of the author of that history?

What about global warming? Conservatives reading this blog can easily recognize how media pundits can shape public opinion in a false way. If you can imagine widespread misinformation with regards to this issue, which is easily studied in this age of accessible information, why do you think it is enough to respond to Robert Price by saying "You're out of the mainstream"?

This point just does not seem to get through to Christians. It's almost like they can't hear you when you say it. I discussed some of this with internet apologist Brian Auten, who provided the audio of the Price/Fernandez discussion. I summarize here how he reacted:

Jon: Fernandez wouldn't address Price's arguments, but contented himself to just say that Price is out of the mainstream.
Brian: I know what you mean. But Price is on the fringe? How can you react to such a person?
Jon: Evaluate his reasons.
Brian: But why believe one scholar over the vast majority? Price's arguments are ad hoc and based on an unreasonable skepticism.
Jon: Sigh. The majority can be wrong. Which of his arguments are ad hoc or unreasonable.
Brian: Thanks for taking the time, Jon. I'm shutting comments down here.

This is from a guy that supposedly has access to lots of resources refuting the Christ myth position. Likewise Fernandez is obviously very well read. Why is he so averse to discussion the actual arguments made by someone like Price?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Things To Admit When You Are a Lame Duck

Well, at least something positive can be said of our President. Bush doubts that the Bible is literally true and seems to believe in evolution. Good for him. I'd prefer a President wrong on evolution and maybe more wrong about the Bible that didn't involve us in unnecessary wars and didn't accelerate our bankruptcy the way he did, but what can you do.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

So Who Was Right?

So it looks like the recession actually started in 2007. That's interesting, because I recall that questions about whether or not we were in a recession back in January of 2008 came up during the Republican Presidential Debates. Let's take a look back and see which candidates seemed to understand the situation and which did not.

Jan 6 Milford, NH

Romney: Senator McCain was one of two Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts. I believe the Bush tax cuts helped our economy grow and are one of the reasons that we’re not in a recession today.

Jan 10, Myrtle Beach, SC

Chris Wallace: Governor Romney, do you believe that we're headed for a recession?

ROMNEY: Well, first, Chris, let's get the record straight. Could we be headed for a recession? Absolutely. Do we have to be headed for a recession? Absolutely not.

McCain: And by the way, I don't believe we're headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong, and I believe they will remain strong. This is a rough patch, but I think America's greatness lies ahead of us.

Wallace: Do you believe we're headed for a recession? And do you have a short-term government economic stimulus package that you think would be more effective than what you've heard so far from Governors Romney and Senator McCain?

HUCKABEE: Chris, I hope we're not headed toward recession, but if we are, there's four factors that will be the reason..

Paul: I believe we're in a recession. I think it's going to get a lot worse if we continue to do the wrong things that we've done in the past, that it's going to be delayed, just as what happened in the Depression.

Thompson: We still have a bunch of two-handed economists in Washington. On the one hand, we may go into recession, and, on the other hand, we may not. Nobody knows.

Jan 30 Simi Valley, California

McCain: And finally, could I just mention on the issue of rebates, fine, because part of this is psychological. Part of the problem we have, of course, in any recession is psychological. And I'm still optimistic that nothing is inevitable.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Texan of the Year

Rod Dreher nominates Ron Paul for Texan of the Year in an article entitled Ron Paul: If Only We Listened. He's got my vote, though I'm in Michigan so my vote probably doesn't count.

HT: Sullivan