Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hindus want to reclaim yoga

A group of ardent Hindus, some called "Hindu nationalists," want to reclaim yoga to what they claim are its Hindu roots. An eclectic group of opponents, ranging from Deepak Chopra to religious scholars, says it's not Hindu but pre-Hindu.

Is yoga from before Hinduism? Well, I think that it depends on part what you call Hinduism.

Western critical religious scholars, for example, call everything in the Bible before the Babylonian exile "Israelite religion," reserving "Judaism" only for post-Exilic religion.

If that standard is followed, AND if roots of yogic practice can be traced back that far, then, no, it's not Hindu.

That said, conservative Christians and Jews alike, today, reject the scholarly distinction mentioned above. I'm sure the "nationalist Hindus" do the same. (That said, I think it's fair to say Hinduism is not "just" a religion, but, more than any other world religious tradition, a sociology as well.)

That said No. 2, folks like Chopra have good financial reasons for denying the Hindu roots of many religious practices from India that have become relabeled as "spiritual." Per the story, even if you're not a conservative Baptist minister who believes yoga is of the devil, telling many practitioners that they're engaged in a Hindu religious exercise will surely drive them off.

But, package it in smiley New Age wrapping and ...

Too bad PZ Myers can't write an unbiased poll

In his parting shot about whether a convention called Skepticon should be about skepticism or atheism (such a convention could discuss, of course, how many atheists came to their state of disbelief via skeptical reasoning) he skews the works with a false-answer poll.

The only thing fully accurate is the "so-called" in the first sentence:
How much of a so-called skeptic convention can be about religion?

None 0% (0 votes)
No more than 25% 0% (0 votes)
No more than 50% 0% (0 votes)
Just so long as it isn't all of it 25% (3 votes)
All of it, why not? 75% (9 votes)

First, he implies that a skeptics' convention, according to some "straw man skeptical purists," can't discuss religion at all.

No, we so-called "purists" object instead to the unskeptical promotion of atheism, or the claim that only atheists are real skeptics, being promoted at a so-called skeptic convention, about which phrase you are right.

Then, with this:
There's only one choice that isn't arbitrary and incoherent and unjustifiable; I'd like to see the complainers confront the specific details of their position.

He of course implies that people who question him and other hyperatheists are "arbitrary and incoherent and unjustifiable."

Well, I'm not going to confront any "specific details" in a post on your blog; given the way rabid Pharyngulacs are, that would be like debating Ken Ham or his ilk at a fundamentalist college.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Petrified wood, petrified psyche


Massive, towering trees
Were transformed into stone
In the twinkling of a geological eye.
All the remains petrified 300 million years.
As Heraclitus’ permanent change
Hit a wall of geochemical inertia.
So, too, can human attitudes, emotions and states
Suddenly and sharply change,
Then become frozen in the face of many a further assault —
Death is the final dissolve
But short of that, few life acids can eat away
Frozen fear, lithified anxiety, calcified cowering.
But the hurts themselves remain liquid,
Even if partially congealed;
Only the reaction and the framings become concretized.
And so, like marrow inside bone
New psychological antibodies still spew forth,
Even if fighting the wrong issues the wrong way —
Petrified to do anything else.
Life is often neither growth nor regression.

Nostalgia, time, feelings, and the difficulties of language


I looked in Carefree, and found coffee,
But not that Starbucks where you and I sat.
I moved on down the road,
To Anthem, and fond the place of which nostalgia sang.
Kevin, I remembered our time there,
And several visits to Phoenix
And hiking with you
And receiving your insight,
Including on some new issues and decisions,
Even if my time is limited,
And the road calls again.
I think you with thoughts
And a secular blessing,
Knowing, as my friend Paula said
That “we” sometimes struggle for the right language
For such things, to speak deeply yet nonmetaphysically.
But, I cannot tarry;
The fierce urgency of the now calls to my intuitional mind
And so, I prepare to click the pen shut,
Gather up this notebook, and hit the road —
While taking nostalgically warming coffee with me.

Desert ambivalence: a poem


I love the desert — in small doses.
I love its variety, if sharp and sere,
Frm slickrock redness of Utah
To the tangled shrubbery of the Chihuahuan’s edges;
From the sky blues of the southern borderlands
To Death Valley’s raw, existential rigor.
I love it all.
But in small doses.
Without sky islands,
The Chihuahuan and eastern Sonoran would hold less charm.
Likewise for Death Valley without nearby Sierras.
As for the Great Basin?
Its sky islands seem smaller and poorer to me,
And have never touched me as much.
And, so it is —
Desert ambivance.

Nov. 10, 2010

Is Michael Shermer a racialist?

Years ago, the editor of Skeptic magazine had made it clear through his blogging that he was a thoroughgoing, and thoroughly nonskeptical, economic libertarian when it came to matters of government regulation, economics, economics and allegedly rational human behavior, etc.

So, I stopped reading Skepticblog.

Well, recently, out of boredom, an expansion again of my skeptical horizons and other things, I started reading again. And, there is a lot of good stuff.

But, Shermer's at it again, with a hugely unskeptical lovefest for Bjorn Lomborg's newbook and movie.

The main thrust of the blog post is bad enough.

But, here's what caught my eye:
My own Senior Editor, Frank Miele, who is an expert on evolutionary biology and biodiversity (and is one of the fastest and most facile researchers I’ve ever known), challenged Lomborg on several of the chapters in his book, and we had a lively and successful debate.

That would be the same Frank Miele who is coauthor of the book "Race," about which I blogged when it came out as being "Bell Curve light."

A few comments from that blog post:
Pages 9-10 have a laughably racist “genetic” rather than sociological assumption of evidence for various types of athletic prowess. (I await every new world-class African swimmer or hockey player to refute "athetics of the gaps" thoughts like this.)

More seriously, here's a sociological counterexample. Chinese children, and adults, are known from research to have an above-average percentage of musical perfect pitch. Genes?

And, the piece de resistance on page 10 — the “mean sub-Saharan African IQ of 70.” All together, now, can we say Bell Curve? (See below.)

Add to this the fact that Miele and his co-author think blacks are "stuck with being stupid:
239: “No one has demonstrated a method of compensatory education that produces relatively permanent increases in mental ability, as opposed to learning how to answer specific test items correctly.”

Five years ago, Miele held the same position vis-a-vis Shermer that he does today: Senior editor at Skeptic magazine.

"Race" was never questioned, let alone dismantled, in that magazine's pages.

Since Miele is clearly a racialist, and maybe even a full-blown racist for all I know, how can we assume any different of Shermer?