Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Faith-based" discussion

I read another article this morning on the relative merits of societies predicated on religious belief and those which are secular. (It was in the CHE; you can find it at aldaily.com.) It was learned and dispassionate and even handed. It entirely missed the point. Such articles almost always do, because their unstated premise seems to be that whether we believe or not depends on what we would find most useful. Left undiscussed is truth. If there are no intellectually respectable arguments for the existence of God--and there aren't--what difference does it make whether we'd be better off in an Age of Faith? As Bishop Butler said, "Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why then should we desire to be deceived?" Our preferences don't really figure into the matter.

Perhaps we should end with another famous believer. Johnson said, "the mind can only repose on the stability of truth." Of course Johnson seems to have spent much of his life muttering to himself, "I do believe. I do believe. I do, I do, I do."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


1. For the umpty-seventh time, yes, I am the Richard Epstein. Those other Richard Epsteins are each a Richard Epstein. Yes, that professorly chap is more famous, but, dude, the gentleman is an attorney.

2. No, I do not know why a certain class of intellectual dilettante advocates the legalization of marijuana, but the prohibition of tobacco. Probably because I smoke cigars. And why are you asking a poet this question? This sort of conundrum is best addressed by Jerry Seinfeld.

3. As between Derek Walcott and Ruth Padel, I'd choose Francis Turner Palgrave, who has prior experience in the position, wore a long, but rather patchy, beard, is responsible for The Golden Treasury, which promoted the confusion of good poetry with Good Taste, and who edited a volume of selections from Robert Herrick mysteriously entitled Chrysomela.

4. No, I have no idea why the guy who played Kumar and Dr Kutner is in the White House now. What made you think I could explain this? Anyway, isn't Martin Sheen still President? Maybe Kumar/Dr Kutner knows him. Or Charlie Sheen.

5. I prefer the Oxford comma, even though Fowler eschews it, except when its omission would occasion confusion. The truth is, I like punctuation. I hope someday I shall find a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the imprint of a semi-colon. Should/would works just the same as shall/will, except that the distinction is even less observed. Do not get me started on decimate.