Saturday 2/13/16

  1. Perpicacious Koran?
  2. Record high exonerations 2015
  3. Magic & Science
  4. Talking like ducks
  5. “Frequently Bought Together”!?
  6. Fun’s Over
  7. Ignorance


One might also say that Christians take the Koran too literally.

I’ve written about Islam before (like here, herehere and here, for instance). This time, I’ll defer to Casey Chalk’s Why the West Misreads Islam So Badly, which starts with my own core conviction about our in ability from outside Islam to distill it to “religion of peace” or “religion of violence.” The introduction:

The debate over whether or not Islam is an inherently violent religion is misguided. One side, represented by Muslims, Western Islamic scholars, and political liberals, argues that Islam is a peaceful religion; the other, represented by nationalist, conservative, and some Christian thinkers, insists on its essential bloody character. Both cite the Quran as evidence.

Few of us are actually qualified to speak authoritatively on Islam—a 1,400 year-old religion with more than 1.5 billion adherents spanning the globe, offering a diversity of languages, cultures, and theological traditions that rival the diversity of Christianity. But that’s only part of the problem: This enterprise relies on a wrong-headed Western twist on the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity—the belief that the teaching of Scripture is clear to any reasonable person.

(Emphasis added) He goes on an extended comparison between how atheists or infidels treat Christianity (and Judaism) and how the “essential bloody character” advocates treat Islam, but he does not — because he cannot — pitch his tent with the “peaceful religion” party.


A red letter day:

In 2015, 149 people convicted of crimes large and small — from capital murder to burglary — were exonerated. It is the highest yearly total since this grim form of record-keeping began, in 1989.

Yes, I just quoted with favor something from the New York Times Editorial Board, which usually produces 100-proof sophistry.

That’s just the opener. Half of the exonerations were for crimes that never occurred. Yes, you read that correctly. The Times gives one example: “a conviction of murder by arson that later turned out to be based on faulty fire science” (i.e., the fire was not arson).

27 were based on false confessions.

“In nearly half of all 2015 exonerations, the defendant pleaded guilty before trial” (i.e., though innocent, they faced a worse punishment if wrongly convicted than if they “copped a plea” on a lesser charge or with an agreed lesser sentence).

“Official misconduct — including perjury, withholding of exculpatory evidence and coercive interrogation practices — occurred in three of every four exonerations involving homicide ….”

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


What fascinates Copenhaver is the overlap between magic and science. His anthology probes the moment when “the author of a scientific encyclopedia wrote that the skin of a hyena will ward off the evil eye”. Drawing on Max Weber’s idea of a “disenchanted world”, Copenhaver uses the unusual form of the anthology to trace the arc of disenchantment.

(Diane Purkis, reviewing The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment, Brian Copenhaver, ed.)


I decided this should be a separate item, though the preceding one reminded me.

Along with our high respect for science goes our high respect for expertise and derring-do in the realization of expertise. But that such derring-do can later seen as monstrosity is a surprise only if you haven’t paid attention to things like transorbital lobotomy, which was less than an unequivocal success but was quite a fad for a while. Dare I suggest that it was on the boundary of science and magic?

I was born in the wrong body. I’m actually, spiritually, a wolf. It’s called being otherkin. It’s very important for me to be open about it—coming out transformed my life, and my family. Our dog used to be terrified of storms and postal workers, but I was able to communicate with her, and now she’s much more secure and self-grounded. I think of communication as my calling.

(Sharptooth, a character in Eve Tushnet’s novel Amends)

There doubtless are technicians (I won’t call them “professionals”) who’d help Sharptooth as they helped Dennis Avner with species confirmation surgery. (Oops! Wrong link! My bad!)

I suspect that they, and their kin in genital mutilations and other gender wizardry, will some day be seen as limelight-loving monsters, as has pretty much been the fate of of Walter J Freeman II, M.D.

Their victims will be legion, but such is the zeitgeist today that urging caution on a young person with gender dysphoria will get one labeled as some kind of phobic and anti-science. One must instead resort to things like generalized blogs — and prayer, of course; fervent prayer. Because there are so many airheads who “affirm” like mad because they want to be able to talk casually about “my trans friend, __________.”


Like many Bobos, I have mixed feelings about availing myself of Amazon’s convenience. But I have no mixed feelings when I call “Bullshit!” on this implausible “Frequently Bought Together”:



I’ve enjoyed the Trump show. I’ve enjoyed the way he’s shaken up the Republican Party, frazzled Conservatism, Inc., and put the state of the beleaguered white working class into the political conversation. I liked him when he was a threat to established interests. But now that he’s coming off as a threat to democracy, this isn’t funny anymore.

This guy is a hooligan. A man who talks like a mafioso while bragging about his lack of compunction for Constitutional niceties is not someone a democracy can afford to have head the executive branch of the US Government.  I believe that when it gets right down to it, most Americans will be unwilling to take a risk on a president with that kind of character. There’s something of the back alley to him. If America needs to shred the Constitution and embrace torture with gusto to “be great again,” then she will already be ruined.

(Rod Dreher)


* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.