Pharyngula

Templeton discovers mortality

A major institution supporting the conflation of ‘spirituality’ and science, the Templeton Foundation, has lost its founder. Sir John Templeton is now cooling meat, his mind stilled, his ‘spirit’, whatever the heck that is, missing. This is a sad event, since from all I’ve heard from those who met him, he was a very nice fellow. It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a fruitless and pointless endeavor that does nothing but prop up belief in unreality.

Now the question becomes one of the direction the Templeton Foundation will take in the future. I’ve also heard that his son and successor is not such a nice fellow, and leans more towards evangelical Christianity than to spiritual nebulosity.

Comments

  1. #1 wÒÓ†
    July 8, 2008
  2. #2 Benjamin Franklin
    July 8, 2008

    “Just look on the birght side of life…”

    whistling…

  3. #3 llewelly
    July 8, 2008

    It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a fruitless and pointless endeavor that does nothing but prop up belief in unreality.

    It wasn’t entirely a fruitless and pointless endeavor. Thanks in part to Templeton, we have many studies of intercessory prayer showing that it has no effect on medical outcomes. I claim that’s worth knowing.

  4. #4 Benjamin Franklin
    July 8, 2008

    Dman Dyslexia strkies agani. That should be bright

  5. #5 Nick Gotts
    July 8, 2008

    Templeton may have been a nice guy personally, but he gave money to some very shady characters. Winners of hie prize, according to the linked article, included Mother Teresa of Calcutta [well-known sycophant to dictators such as Baby Doc Duvalier], Alexander Solzhenitzyn [anti-democrat and anti-semite], the Reverend Dr Billy Graham [enough said], and Charles Colson, the Watergate-burglar-turned-minister.

  6. #6 Reginald Selkirk
    July 8, 2008

    Winners over the years have included Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Alexander Solzhenitzyn, the Reverend Dr Billy Graham, and Charles Colson, the Watergate-burglar-turned-minister.

    Yes, Charles Colson the YEC.

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a fruitless and pointless endeavor that does nothing but prop up belief in unreality.

    Sure, he could have targeted research better.

    But I bet that he supported more genuine research than most people having his money. I tend to see him in an overall positive light because he supported real science (and anti-IDists, like the most recent winner of the Templeton prize).

    His foundation also put the IDiots in a bad light by offering money for ID research, with few or no proposals coming in for the grants (there’s some dispute, since it seems that some purported proposals were made–but these probably had nothing to do with positive evidence for their nonsense).

    IOW, he and his foundation were open to supporting genuine religious science, but could find none which was genuine.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  8. #8 Jason Failes
    July 8, 2008

    llewelly @3: “It wasn’t entirely a fruitless and pointless endeavor. Thanks in part to Templeton, we have many studies of intercessory prayer showing that it has no effect on medical outcomes. I claim that’s worth knowing.”

    I completely agree with you, and Dennett by extension: Rigorously testing religious-based claims is likely the best way to “break the spell” in short order.

    Even if it does mean some people get money they really don’t deserve in the short term, the long term effects of testing, and therefore discrediting (if I can project the 100% success rate of the past into the future), supernatural beliefs cannot be overvalued.

  9. #9 Akheloios
    July 8, 2008

    He gave grants to do real science, which is a mark for him.

    The grants he gave to do real science were in fields where no new findings could be expected., which is a mark against him.

    He purposefully set out to devalue the worth of the major mainstream prize for science in the world, the Nobel, which is a mark against him.

    If only he’d spent his money on research in fields where real progress could have been made.

    If only he’d have spent his money to promote real science rather than the bastardised relioscienceywoo he valued.

    The man was unbelievably rich, he had the right to spend his money on whatever he wished, unfortunately he wasted it on studies that produced nothing but negative data.

    He wasted a lot of potential, thumbs down I think.

  10. #10 Steve Jeffers
    July 8, 2008

    Yeah, it wasn’t his intention, but he called a lot of theist bluffs. A lot of theist scientists have failed to fit their imaginary friends into their day job. Theologians have been forced to define terms and come up with models. And, of course, a lot of greedy types emerged looking to earn some quick money.

  11. #11 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    Yeah, at this point and time in our history, all things considered, Templeton was one of the better religious ones.

    If I had his money, I’m sure I would have put it to different uses, but he appeared to be honest, committed, and a non-douchebag.

    And as llewelly and Jason noted, his money financed a lot of research that put to bed a lot of myths about the effectiveness of religion.

  12. #12 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    I’ve also heard that his son and successor is not such a nice fellow, and leans more towards evangelical Christianity than to spiritual nebulosity.

    He had already yielded the day-to-day leadership of the foundation to his son John Jr., a pediatric surgeon who quit his practice in 1995 to become the organization’s president. An evangelical Christian, “Jack” is the chairman of Let Freedom Ring Inc., a neo-conservative think tank which raises funds for various conservative causes.
    http://www.letfreedomring.net/
    (caution, stupid music, apparently now for sale by owner)
    Another one of his projects is
    http://weneedafence.com/
    He has reportedly contributed to both presidential campaigns of George Bush, whose relations with the scientific community are arguably the worst of any president in history.

    So, son will indeed be worse than father. After seeing Eric Hovind, son of Kent, and various other cases, I hope this is not some kind of trend.

  13. #13 raven
    July 8, 2008

    The Templeton foundation ditched the DI which they supported at one time. With nothing good to say about them.

    They called them a political movement and said they didn’t want to spend their money on politics. They are a vicious group of Dominionists after all.

    Don’t know anything about the son. This could be a big break for the DI again. Being evangelical isn’t necessarily a death sentence for their minds. Oddly enough some evangelicals support evolution.

  14. #14 Lauren Templeton
    July 8, 2008

    Sir John Templeton’s passing is heartbreaking for his family and friends – those that knew him best. It is evident that you never had the opportunity to meet him. If you had met him in person, I think you would have a different opinion and would not treat the announcement of his passing so carelessly. John Templeton was an amazing human being. He was generous, thrifty, wise, and hardworking. He also loved everyone regardless of their thoughts, beliefs, political affiliations, or philanthropic endeavors. Today the world has lost a very special person. His family, friends,and foundation will miss him greatly. His contributions to the world were great, and he lived a good and honorable life.

    Respectfully,

    Lauren Templeton

  15. #15 PatrickHenry
    July 8, 2008

    Templeton wouldn’t fund the ID movement. They even issued a statement about it (pdf file): The John Templeton Foundation does not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge.

  16. #16 Jason Failes
    July 8, 2008

    Lauren Templeton,

    No one here is disagreeing with you.

    It’s just the nature of this blog to give but a brief nod to his stellar character, then spend the rest of our efforts debating the past and potential future effects of the Templeton Foundation on science, education, and the ongoing culture wars.

    Again, no offense was intended to the man himself, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say you have our collective condolences.

  17. #17 Schmeer
    July 8, 2008

    Well written, Jason. I agree.

  18. #18 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    Lauren Templeton, it is true that neither PZ nor the majority of commenters here have met Sir John Templeton, and that is the reason that news of his death is treated here in the manner you describe as careless. I am sorry for your loss, but the statement “today the world has lost a very special person” is as true today as it has been every day since the evolution of complex social behaviour and the concept of loss in primates, and it is true today because of the loss of thousands of others as well as Sir John Templeton.

    However, he was a figure of some import and significance beyond the impressions he left upon those who knew him personally, and as such, what will follow here will be a discussion of that import and significance. If you feel that such a discussion lacks the reverence you obviously felt for the man, I respectfully encourage you to read no further.

  19. #19 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    Thanks for the eulogy, Lauren Templeton. I don’t doubt its sincerity or its truth.

    But surely if we affected anything like that, not knowing the man, it would both sound, and be, a hollow tribute.

    We, many of us at least, try for an honest evaluation. I do not think we can properly do anything else.

    My sympathies and condolences for your loss.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  20. #20 Islandcreek
    July 8, 2008

    John Templeton was a giant in the investment business. Unlike most others in that business he was grateful for his success and used his money to benefit mankind in ways that others do not. Regardless of your personal beliefs (or not)in God, the very vast of people in the world have an interest in religious beliefs. Trying to bring science and religion together, if only for intelectual curiousity, is a valid concept. It is certainly no less valid than “theories” about “dinosaurs” or “neanderthals” It’s still is an advancement in human existance and understanding.

  21. #21 Jay Again
    July 8, 2008

    “Islandcreek” “doesn’t” “know” “when” “scare-quotes” “are” “appropriate” “and” “also” “can’t” “spell” “intellectual” “even” “though” “there” “is” “a” “built-in” “spell” “check”

  22. #22 Wicked Lad
    July 8, 2008

    Jason Failes wrote:

    Even if it does mean some people get money they really don’t deserve in the short term, the long term effects of testing, and therefore discrediting (if I can project the 100% success rate of the past into the future), supernatural beliefs cannot be overvalued.

    I’m an ignorant lay person, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but if you use a 95% confidence level, don’t you expect 5% bogus outcomes? If we do a lot of solid, rigorous testing of religious and other supernatural claims, I’d expect the claims to be substantiated 5% of the time.

    Glen Davidson wrote:

    His foundation also put the IDiots in a bad light by offering money for ID research, with few or no proposals coming in for the grants (there’s some dispute, since it seems that some purported proposals were made–but these probably had nothing to do with positive evidence for their nonsense).

    I’m sorry to learn that. Do you have any links regarding those purported proposals? From time to time I’ve bolstered my anti-ID arguments with the assertion that “those proposals never came in.”.

  23. #23 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    It is certainly no less valid than “theories” about “dinosaurs” or “neanderthals”

    I look forward to seeing your collection of fossilised Jesuses.

  24. #24 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    Good riddance to a tax-dodging creep.

  25. #25 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    Lauren #14,

    apparently, you are his great niece, please accept my condolences for your loss.

    I’m certain this moment is heartbreaking for you and the rest of his family, but can you understand that in view of his son’s track record, people who are passionate about defending science and freedom of thought, and maybe liberal ideas, are worried that he might not live to the example of his father, who you say, “loved everyone regardless of their thoughts, beliefs, political affiliations, or philanthropic endeavors” ?

    How can you assure us that the templeton foundation will not become yet one more anti-science pro-religious conservative think tank now that Sir John is gone ?

  26. #26 Jason Failes
    July 8, 2008

    Wicked Lad @ 22: “I’m an ignorant lay person, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but if you use a 95% confidence level, don’t you expect 5% bogus outcomes?”

    That may be true (I work in educational media and haven’t actually done primary research in a number of years), but that is where study replication comes in.

    The 100% does not refer to confidence level in a particular study, but rather the overall unbroken pattern of replacing supernatural explanations with natural explanations in any case where the supernatural explanation under consideration is the least bit testable or falsifiable (unlike, say, God, who has been hiding in an invisible corner for some time now)…

    …but I do look forward to what our resident statisticians have to say about this.

  27. #27 MartinM
    July 8, 2008

    Good riddance to a tax-dodging creep.

    Distasteful at the best of times, but to say that in the presence of a bereaved family member is really fucking low.

  28. #28 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    B. Dewhirst:

    You’re a friggin’ Wobbly? Did you just step out of a steam-powered time machine?

  29. #29 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    When Al Capone dies, and someone mentions that he is was a bad man, this is not inappropriate.

    In the same sense, mentioning that a man who went out of his way to avoid taxes, taxes which then fell to the poor who were unable to hide their money in some tropical resort… and to use that money to actively blur the line between science and religion…

    What I said was not out of line.

    That said, I’m very sorry that I did so before seeing who was reading the comments, as I would have more clearly delineated why I thought he was a creep if I were doing so.

    The man personally, negatively impacted my life… just as Jesse Helms did, and just as George Bush has. He spent his life masquerading as some kind of living saint, when as far as I’m concerned he was little better than an opportunistic thief with a thin veneer of social respect.

  30. #30 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    I’m sorry to learn that. Do you have any links regarding those purported proposals? From time to time I’ve bolstered my anti-ID arguments with the assertion that “those proposals never came in.”.

    Apparently it’s more complex than I thought. I believe that it was the grant to Henry Schaefer that caused my own caveat, but in one of the following quotes they make it quite clear that he is no IDist.

    However, there also was no specific call for ID proposals, apparently. Harper seems to have said that they were allowed, no blackballing, and no proposals for actual ID research (though I believe that the DI claimed Schaefer or some other grant recipient for a counter-example) came in. I’ll just let the quotes say the rest:

    The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research. “They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned. “From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.

    Being focused on the research of the ID community, ResearchID.org was naturally curious about insinuations of Harper and the New York Times that the JTF does not fund ID research. Our investigator asked Charles Harper about these claims in the New York Times article, particularly where the article makes ID researchers look unresponsive to JTF requests for research proposals.

    In response to an inquiry about whether the JTF put out a call to ID scholars for grant requests, Harper specifically stated that, “No such request [for proposals] was made. There never was a call-for-proposals to the ID community. All I said [to the reporter] is that, like anybody else, ID people could apply and proposals submitted would be reviewed on their merits. No blackballing.”[5] Harper also stated, “The incorrect narrative that was implied (and that percolates through the cybersphere) was that: (a) Templeton used to be pro-ID and wanted proposals to support ID research; and (b) that later these desired research proposals never arrived; and (c) that therefore the JTF became disenchanted with ID. This is completely false. It is a creation of media narrative manufacture.”[6]

    In short, Charles Harper explicitly denies that there ever was any call for research proposals made to ID scholars and disavows the accuracy of the entire New York Times’ narrative describing the JTF’s disillusion with ID. As documented below, Harper opposes ID, so clearly he has no motive to protect intelligent design. In light of Harper’s entirely different account, the veracity of the New York Times’ article on the ID research community’s interaction with the JTF is called into grave doubt.

    http://www.researchintelligentdesign.org/wiki/Media_Misreports_Intelligent_Design_Research_and_the_John_Templeton_Foundation

    In response to errors and misrepresentations stated in the February 28, 2007 ResearchID.com blog post: 1. The John Templeton Foundation has never made a call-for-proposals to the ID Community. 2. The Henry Schaefer grant was from the Origins of Biological Complexity program. Schaefer is a world’s leading chemist, and his research has nothing whatsoever to do with ID. 3. Bill Dembski’s grant was not for the book ‘No Free Lunch.’ Dembski was given funds to write another book on Orthodox Theology, which was not on ID, however he has never written the book. From our FAQ… Does the Foundation support I.D.? No. We do not support the political movement known as “Intelligent Design”. This is for three reasons 1) we do not believe the science underpinning the “Intelligent Design” movement is sound, 2) we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and 3) the Foundation is a non-political entity and does not engage in, or support, political movements. It is important to note that in the past we have given grants to scientists who have gone on to identify themselves as members of the Intelligent Design community. We understand that this could be misconstrued by some to suggest that we implicitly support the Intelligent Design movement, but, as outlined above, this was not our intention at the time nor is it today. — Templeton Foundation[65]

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Templeton_Foundation#The_.22Intelligent_Design.22_controversy

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  31. #31 Rick
    July 8, 2008

    Templeton was ahead of his time, what with only seeming to have benign deistic tendencies. Still today a man with that outlook is relatively rare. What’s frustrating is that I believe he wasted his money when real scientists needed his support.

  32. #32 Sam
    July 8, 2008

    @22

    That concern is only with studies with large variability or small sample sizes where the p-value for the statistical test ends up at 0.05. Studies with large sample sizes or low variability will provide much greater confidence such that very few studies will provide false positives.

  33. #33 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    A brief correction… in my most recent post, I may have given the erroneous impression that I thought George Bush Sr. was dead. Instead, I had intended him as someone else whose faults I wouldn’t be shy to discuss after his passing. Were I a bit older, Nixon would have been the logical choice.

    Colugo: Yes. One big union. The IWW has a fine webpage to which google can direct you, and which I’ll not pimp here. If you’d heard that there was a group trying to unionize Starbucks… that would be the Industrial Workers of the World.

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    I believe that it was the grant to Henry Schaefer that caused my own caveat, but in one of the following quotes they make it quite clear that he is no IDist.

    Rather, that the research has nothing to do with ID. If it’s the same person, he’s actually a Discovery Institute fellow-CSC, strong circumstantial evidence that he’s IDist.

    The fact that a DI fellow received a Templeton Foundation grant presumably led some to claim (or at least imply) that it did make some ID grants. But as noted, Templeton states that the grant has nothing to do with ID.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  35. #35 FO
    July 8, 2008

    “Distasteful at the best of times, but to say that in the presence of a bereaved family member is really fucking low.”

    I’d hear his reasons and arguments before making any high-horse moral judgements like that. If this was Billy Graham or Benny Hinn, then forget about a lone comment at someone else’s blog; I’d yell it into their children’s ears — and I’m not so sure you’d call it “fucking low”.

  36. #36 SC
    July 8, 2008

    Speaking of Wobblies (which is admittedly one of my favorite things to do), I highly recommend this film – An Injury to One – to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it:

    http://frif.com/new2003/inj.html

  37. #37 Chris Rosendin
    July 8, 2008

    My vote is for Kent Hovind. If the being in jail thing is a black mark, Ted Haggard would do fine.

  38. #38 Chris Rosendin
    July 8, 2008

    I meant to say if his son doesn’t work out as successor. Didn’t mean to leave a non-sequitur.

  39. #39 Ab_Normal
    July 8, 2008

    Off topic: Brenda has been sighted at Making Light:

    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/010403.html

    Same old references to Freud, not as much cussing at people (yet).

    (relurk)

  40. #40 SC
    July 8, 2008

    fossilised Jesuses

    And another great band name was born.

  41. #41 Nick Gotts
    July 8, 2008

    SC@40
    How about Jesus’s Foreskin? Presumably a four-piece skinhead band.

  42. #42 Nick Gotts
    July 8, 2008

    …of course a four-piece Christian skinhead band.

  43. #43 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    B.Dewhirst

    In the same sense, mentioning that a man who went out of his way to avoid taxes, taxes which then fell to the poor who were unable to hide their money in some tropical resort…

    Do you have any evidence for that, that he went out of his way to avoid taxes, or was somehow able to hide his money in some tropical resort ?
    All I know is that he became stinking rich by selling his mutual fund, and as everyone knows, we live in a world which taxes capital gains at the lowest rates, you would have probably done the same would you have been in the same situation. So if the system makes it easy for the very rich to pay very little taxes, they are not necessarily some evil tax evaders. We should change the system, not just simply wait for the very rich until they finally grant us with their generosity, because this one will never come.
    It’s precisely because of this kind of ideological baseless injections of morality that nothing ever happens.

    Change the system, and fuck this kind of moral judgements, unless you can really back them up with evidence.

  44. #44 Bill Dauphin
    July 8, 2008

    “Distasteful at the best of times, but to say that in the presence of a bereaved family member is really fucking low.”

    I’d hear his reasons and arguments before making any high-horse moral judgements like that.

    I disagree. B.Dewhirst’s comment, made with the full knowledge that a bereaved family member was reading, cannot be interpreted as anything other than deliberate rudeness. If we knew B’s “reasons and arguments,” you might conclude that Sir John deserves nothing but rudeness, and I might even agree… but there’s no reason to believe his great niece deserves a gratuitous emotional poke in the eye.

    I have no problem with taking the fight to our philosophical adversaries with vigor and without shame… but there’s no good reason to treat Laura Templeton as our enemy. And even if there were, it would keep ’til tomorrow.

    I don’t know enough about Sir John’s business or about British tax law to evaluate the charge, but if by “tax cheat” what B.Dewhirst means is that Sir John took (legal) advantage of a tax system B thinks is unjust, then his anger is more properly directed at the people who wrote the law.

  45. #45 uncle frogy
    July 8, 2008

    I did not know Sir John either but I have seen some of his interviews on the now gone TV program “Wall Street Week”. (a sad lose to business news and Wall Street reporting) I was impressed by his honesty and his disciplined approach to investing, he seemed a very rational longterm fundamental investor who was not led astray by any fad idea new kind of market B.S. like dot com or real estate loans crap we see today. That was his strength. A friend loaned me one of his books which I eagerly started to read but gave up before I could finish it. It was everything his investment strategy and discipline was not. It was not even very good “self-help inspirational”

    If his foundation follows his honest rigorous approach as indicated above it will add some small bit to human knowledge if not it will become become just another obstacle to be over come.
    I thought it was kind of negative that he moved to the Bahamas also but he even gave up his U.S. citizenship

  46. #46 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    Um… he did a bit more than that folks… he left the country and moved his assets to avoid paying taxes.

    He renounced his US citizenship in 1960 and moved to the Bahamas, a tax haven.

    I did not write my initial post with the full knowledge his extended family was already reading it.

    He hid his assets from taxation after benefiting from American infrastructure, deliberately blurred the line between science and religion, and promoted religion as a necessary component of a moral life.

    As I am American atheist leftist scientist, that is enough for me.

  47. #47 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    I have no problem with taking the fight to our philosophical adversaries with vigor and without shame… but there’s no good reason to treat Laura Templeton as our enemy. And even if there were, it would keep ’til tomorrow.

    Time and place, dammit.

    Even if he deserved (deserves) criticism, one should choose the right place and time for it. This might be the right place, but clearly it’s not the right time, or the right audience.

    And even when the time, place, and audience are properly chosen, accusations are inappropriate without evidence. You’d think people here would know that.

    If you’re still reading, Lauren, we apologize for the rude ones writing here. There’s really nothing else we can do, though, since this forum has little censorship.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  48. #48 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    The fact that he avoided paying any kind of taxes on his earnings for the last 48 years is a matter of public record, Glen, as is the fact that he used that money to undermine science and promote religion.

    This is the time and place, while major media outlets try to whitewash his history with bromides about how much money he gave to religious charities.

  49. #49 Wicked Lad
    July 8, 2008

    Glen D, thank you for that pointer. It seems the New York Times article I’ve been citing was misleading.

    Jason Failes and Sam, thank you for the guidance on statistics. I have got to get off my butt and study that subject. It’s essential for critical evaluation of scientific claims and results.

  50. #50 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    Ah, that’s better (facts, or at least purported facts), Dewhirst, and I can see that if you didn’t know who was (likely) reading you might not understand the reactions of several of us.

    I hope it’ll be allowed to rest for now.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  51. #51 Nick Gotts
    July 8, 2008

    I don’t know enough about Sir John’s business or about British tax law to evaluate the charge, but if by “tax cheat” what B.Dewhirst means is that Sir John took (legal) advantage of a tax system B thinks is unjust, then his anger is more properly directed at the people who wrote the law. – Bill Dauphin

    However, you need to look beyond them to the people who made sure the law was written that way – that would be the very rich. I don’t think there’s any suggestion that Templeton was other than honest, but the whole system of offshore tax havens such as The Bahamas is disgraceful in itself in the way it allows individuals to amass huge untaxed fortunes, and is used to hide many forms of criminality.

  52. #52 Reginald Selkirk
    July 8, 2008

    Time and place, dammit.
    Even if he deserved (deserves) criticism, one should choose the right place and time for it. This might be the right place, but clearly it’s not the right time, or the right audience.

    About time and place – showing up at a skeptical blog with a strong tradition of free speech and insisting that people not say bad things about someone you knew seems to me to be a bit of the wrong place. Wouldn’t it be simpler for Lauren Templeton to absent herself from the conversation if she feels it might be upsetting to her?

  53. #53 oldtree
    July 8, 2008

    perhaps they will do good, but considering the apparent mental condition, not too likely.

  54. #54 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    Generally speaking, Wicked Lad, a statistical test with an ? of 0.05 or level of significance of 5% implies that out of twenty tests, on average, we can expect that one test will be falsely positive, i.e. a difference will be detected when none exists in actuality.

    Further, statistics are usually given with some measure of error, known as a confidence interval. For example, if a survey concludes that 35% of Americans enjoy ham sandwiches, plus or minus 4.3% with a confidence level of 95%, we could say we are 95% confident that the true percentage of Americans who enjoy ham sandwiches falls between 30.7% and 39.3%. Technically, it means that, were the study conducted the exact same way with the exact same population but a different sample each time, the true parameter would fall within the 95% confidence interval of the statistic measured 19 times out of twenty.

  55. #55 Epinephrine
    July 8, 2008

    Question for Sam (#32)

    That concern is only with studies with large variability or small sample sizes where the p-value for the statistical test ends up at 0.05. Studies with large sample sizes or low variability will provide much greater confidence such that very few studies will provide false positives.

    Are you saying that a false positive rate for samples drawn from a population with no difference in the measured variable would be other than 5% with an alpha of 5%? That doesn’t make much sense (at least, not to me).

    Given no difference in the population, and assuming your assumpitions hold (for example, normally distributed, etc.), selecting a cutoff precisely determines the type 1 error rate (with the exception of discritisation effects, 5% might not be exactly possible) as the criteria changes based on the sample size. If there is no effect of prayer on health (as an example), and one tests for the effect of prayer on health with an alpha of 0.05, one should expect roughly 1 in 20 studies to return a significant effect (if a two tailed hypothesis is employed the number of significant differences detected, over time, would be about the same in both directions).

  56. #56 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    I have got to get off my butt and study that subject. It’s essential for critical evaluation of scientific claims and results.

    For that purpose, Wicked Lad, a general introduction to statistics type of course will do fine.

  57. #57 MartinM
    July 8, 2008

    If this was Billy Graham or Benny Hinn, then forget about a lone comment at someone else’s blog; I’d yell it into their children’s ears — and I’m not so sure you’d call it “fucking low”.

    Quite right. That rises to “fucking despicable,” at the very least.

  58. #58 MartinM
    July 8, 2008

    Generally speaking, Wicked Lad, a statistical test with an ? of 0.05 or level of significance of 5% implies that out of twenty tests, on average, we can expect that one test will be falsely positive, i.e. a difference will be detected when none exists in actuality.

    Careful; that’s the case only if in all 20 cases the null hypothesis is true. Knowing ? doesn’t tell us how many of n positive results we can expect to be false.

  59. #59 Bill Dauphin
    July 8, 2008

    Nick:

    I don’t think there’s any suggestion that Templeton was other than honest, but the whole system of offshore tax havens such as The Bahamas is disgraceful in itself in the way it allows individuals to amass huge untaxed fortunes, and is used to hide many forms of criminality.

    Your first clause was pretty much my point. As for the rest, I suspect I’d agree with you if I knew enough to have an informed opinion… but it strikes me as a poor excuse for pissing on Sir John’s casket in full view of his family.

    Despite the urgency we feel in pursuit of our ideals, the occasional moment of kindness is not weakness.

  60. #60 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    B.Dewhirst

    let me try to explain again, I refuse to inject any kind of morality into this, it’s useless. First, we have an ultra-capitalistic system which completely favours capital gains over labour, then we have all these little tax heavens that completely escape the control of the productive economies. So when someone who is very rich takes advantage of it, like most of them, why make a moral judgement and condemn him as evil, especially when the one making the judgement has never been in that situation, and would have probably done the same ?
    We need to realize how useless all of this is, it is actually in the very rich’s advantage to blur the discussion and inject some misplaced morality into it. Because let’s not forget that we live in a world where most poor people envy and admire the rich. We need to skip all of this irrationality and focus on defining a system which can distribute wealth in a more equitable way, which is exactly the opposite of what we have today. We need to adapt to a no growth world.

  61. #61 Epinephrine
    July 8, 2008

    On the subject of statistics, a good article about null hypothesis significance testing is The Earth is Round (p<.05), (J Cohen, 1994). His point that NHST doesn’t answer the question we generally wish is quite valid; as he says, we want to know, “Given these data, what is the probability that Ho is true?”, but what we answer is instead, “Given that Ho is true, what is the probability
    of these (or more extreme) data?”

  62. #62 PatrickHenry
    July 8, 2008

    John Templeton was an innovator, and he prospered. Good for him. I’ve never heard that he harmed anyone, so I don’t understand the hostility on this thread. As far as I know, Templeton was honest and honorable, and no one in his industry had any criticism of him. If the tax climate is better in the Bahamas, perhaps the US (and UK) should reconsider the way they treat successful people. What Templeton did with his fortune was legal, so it’s no one’s business but his.

    If his niece is still reading, you have my condolences. I always thought he was a fine man.

  63. #63 Epinephrine
    July 8, 2008

    Wow, that message got garbled horribly.

    I think a symbol in the article title interfered, so I’ll type it out in words.

    The Earth is Round (p less than .05), (J Cohen, 1994).

    Good read on null hypothesis significance testing.

  64. #64 Bill Dauphin
    July 8, 2008

    Glen D (@47):

    Time and place, dammit.

    You place this after a quote from me in a way that suggests argument. Just to be clear, I agree with your position, and was trying to say much the same thing myself.

    (I suspect you knew that; I wanted to make sure everyone else did, too.)

  65. #65 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    negentropyeater @ 60:

    So when someone who is very rich takes advantage of it, like most of them, why make a moral judgement and condemn him as evil, especially when the one making the judgement has never been in that situation, and would have probably done the same ?

    I resent the insinuation I would have done the same. I most certainly would not, and there are plenty of prominent examples of wealthy Americans who haven’t done so either. You seem to concede that what he did was evil, and present an argument that could easily have been made in the defense of slavery and those who benefited ‘honestly’ from it.

    In order to overturn evil institutions such as slavery, and the institution you describe above, first the evils therein must be openly discussed.

    Your nihilism isn’t my problem. Trying to persuade me to do nothing is pointless, and you should simply recognize that futility and desist.

  66. #66 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    PatrickHenry:

    His organization has personally caused me harm in my profession, as I was forced to choose between a principled stance against continuing membership in an organization which would further my career and ignoring the efforts done to blur the distinction between science and religion.

    He has also done me harm by increasing my tax burden by exploiting his superior wealth, and by undermining public intellectuals I respect.

    He has harmed many more by promoting religion at a time when it is a fuel for so many conflicts, and for directing his money into boondongle religious research when it could have been curing malaria.

    If I may anticipate one objection to this argument… we do not share a common conception of the right to property. (Possessions are another matter.)

  67. #67 Glen Davidson
    July 8, 2008

    (I suspect you knew that; I wanted to make sure everyone else did, too.)

    Yes, and yes.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  68. #68 Tulse
    July 8, 2008

    I refuse to inject any kind of morality into this [..] We need to skip all of this irrationality and focus on defining a system which can distribute wealth in a more equitable way

    How is “we need to…distribute wealth in a more equitable way” not a moral judgement?

    And even if tax shelters and offshore havens are legal, I don’t think that makes using them moral. Or, perhaps more accurately, I think that using them, and abandoning US citizenship for purely monetary gain (after profiting handsomely from the country) is petty and small-minded.

  69. #69 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    “I was forced to choose between a principled stance against continuing membership in an organization which would further my career and ignoring the efforts done to blur the distinction between science and religion.”

    Which organization and how does it relate to Templeton?

    “we do not share a common conception of the right to property.”

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28832

  70. #70 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    Colugo @ 69:

    The Templeton Foundation, acting in accords with its mission as established by its namesake, has taken out a number of two-page advertisements in the American Scientist magazine, the journal of the Sigma Xi graduate research honors society. These ads are designed to look like magazine content, and their content suggests the magazine supports an apologist position with respect to the science/religion divide.

    Clarification wrt your snark: I’m a libertarian socialist, not a Marxist, and I’m self-supported.

  71. #71 Flex
    July 8, 2008

    Capital gains on the secondary stock market, whether through long-term or short-term holding, should be taxed heavily.

    The only capital gains made on secondary market are because of a sale at a higher price than purchased. The only benefit the company recieved from the purchase/sale is an adjustment to the amount of debt they could assume. The higher the stock price the higher the market capitalization, with the result that lender are more likely to grant the company loans.

    The money you buy stock with doesn’t go to the company, it goes to the seller of the stock, which is either another investor or an investment bank.

    Since there is no value being added to the stock price by the purchaser of the stock, it seems odd they should enjoy an untaxed reward for selling it.

    Dividends, on the other hand reflect the actual labor being done to improve the company. Certainly, even dividend payments reward people for simply holding onto the stock, but at least there is a reflection of company value in dividend payments.

    And it’s been argued for years than since dividends are already taxed as part of the company revenues, that dividend income should not be taxed.

    So, let’s swap it.

    Tax capital gains at 50% and make dividend payments tax-free.

    The first thing you’d see is a lot less volatility in the stock market, and a lot less speculation. (You may even see crude oil drop in price.)

  72. #72 Coriolis
    July 8, 2008

    Tulse, saying that a more equitable system is better is not necessarily a moral judgment. One can I think quite easily come to the conclusion that when there is too much of a gap between rich and poor in a country that ends up (eventually) hurting both the rich and the poor, even outside the obvious cases of revolutions.

    I.e. it is not in the interest of rich people in the US to squeeze out every last bit of money from the poor people living here and delegate them to poverty since that could well result in a much dumber and unmotivated workforce incapable of competing abroad. Which would end up hurting the rich people as well eventually. Which one could argue is exactly what’s been happening, except that at least some of the rich people have financially moved out of the US, like this fellow apparently.

    Infact outside of the us/european countries, the only massively successful former third-world countries are the far east asian ones who had far less income disparity then latin america let’s say, much better public education/healthcare, etc. And in the end this benefited rich people in those countries as well. Of course there is a balance to be maintained, since communism doesn’t work either.

    Although to be fair, the original post you quoted did mostly frame it as a moral question or so it seems to me.

  73. #73 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    How is “we need to…distribute wealth in a more equitable way” not a moral judgement?

    It could merely be construed as practical self interest. Societies with an equitable distribution of wealth tend, on the whole, to have less crime.

    As a member of said society, I am thus less likely to be burgled, mugged or murdered in bungled attempts at same.

  74. #74 Longtime Lurker
    July 8, 2008

    My condolences to the family of Sir Templeton, but would we have the same compunctions about offending the Phelps family, or Ham’s family?

    As far as “pissing on Sir John’s casket in full view of his family” is concerned, in this case, Sir John’s family member chose to come here. If one were to be offended by two dudes screwing, it would be wise for one to avoid going to a bath-house.

    That being said, Templeton seemed to have been a decent fellow, with a sound investment strategy, and a willingness to invest in developing countries. I would venture to say that his overall impact has been fairly positive, but his “trust fund kid” of a son could be just as bad for society as Richard Mellon Scaife.

  75. #75 Tulse
    July 8, 2008
    How is “we need to…distribute wealth in a more equitable way” not a moral judgement?

    It could merely be construed as practical self interest. Societies with an equitable distribution of wealth tend, on the whole, to have less crime.

    True, although that’s not the way I read negentropyeater’s post, and such a position would have to do the complete cost-benefit analysis (e.g., am I better off living in a low-tax situation and simply building a heavily armed residence to prevent crimes against me?).

    My point was simply that, unless (as noted) one is arguing purely from self-interest, the notion of the importance of equitable wealth distribution has underlying ethical assumptions.

  76. #76 Nick Gotts
    July 8, 2008

    I’m a libertarian socialist, not a Marxist, and I’m self-supported. B. Dewhirst

    No good expecting Colugo to make fine distinctions like that I’m afraid.

  77. #77 frog
    July 8, 2008

    I find it very strange when people who should be grieving become involved in anomic communications. The idea of sitting shiva is more appropriate — grief and mourning are very personal, and they should involve one’s local community, face to face contacts in one’s regular surroundings.

    Semi-anonymous communication at that stage is not only unhealthy, but deeply inappropriate. Those without a personal interest should not be bludgeoned into joining grieving that can only be insincere or mentally disordered. Grieving (real mourning) for those we have never known is disturbed — it is a confusion of an abstraction for the concrete. I know it is a common disorder, but we’d all be better off if we could distinguish between the personal, subjective world, and the global, objective world.

  78. #78 Gretchen
    July 8, 2008

    I’ve attended a number of conferences devoted to discussing scientific approaches to studying religion which would not have been possible without Templeton funding. At each of these conferences the specter of the ethical considerations of accepting Templeton funding inevitably arose. Some would be vehemently against it, while others saw no issue. The discussion on that topic continues, and no doubt will for quite some time. Still, I know that I personally have benefited greatly in terms of knowledge and connections by virtue of this funding. Having the chance to sit down with David Sloan Wilson and Daniel Dennett and argue over drinks about whether religion is an adaptation was one such experience. And so, I’m grateful to the institution whatever criticisms one may (justifiably or not) level against it.

    Lauren Templeton, you have my condolences. I appreciate the work your uncle has done, and hope that his son’s work will be a credit to his father’s memory. I am a firm believer that scientific theorizing about religion should be theology-free and so would not have made many of the choices Sir John did, but the foundation does promote the opportunity for scientists and the more theologically-minded to communicate, and that communication is undoubtedly useful and probably necessary.

  79. #79 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    True, although that’s not the way I read negentropyeater’s post, and such a position would have to do the complete cost-benefit analysis

    No need for that. We have hundreds of long term experiments currently running with visible outcomes. Sweden or Colombia, where would you prefer to live and pay taxes?

    Unless you are a cocaine wholesaler, or part of the wealthiest 3% of society, the choice is obvious.

    (e.g., am I better off living in a low-tax situation and simply building a heavily armed residence to prevent crimes against me?).

    Taken to it’s extreme, this simply reduces each individual to a sovereign state, entirely responsible for their own security and border control.

    A society that redistributes wealth sensibly benefits almost everyone, with the possible exception of the super rich, no morality required just common sense. All societies have accepted the need for some redistribtion as inevitable and rather obvious (hence militaries, police forces and social welfare systems). The real question is how far should wealth distribution go?

    European and Asian countries seem to strike much closer to the sweet spot than the US does. Hence lower crime, health care costs and higher life expectancy.

  80. #80 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Brian Coughlan: “Societies with an equitable distribution of wealth tend, on the whole, to have less crime.

    As a member of said society, I am thus less likely to be burgled, mugged or murdered in bungled attempts at same.”

    NationMaster: crime per capita (per thousand)

    Burglary

    UK: 13.8321 per thousand
    US: 7.09996 per thousand

    Robberies

    UK: 1.57433
    US: 1.38527

    Assault

    US: 7.56923
    UK: 7.45959

    Murder

    US: 0.042802
    UK: 0.0140633

    (Note: Scotland has markedly higher murder rate than the rest of the UK and Glasgow is comparable to many US cities.)

    Car theft

    UK: 5.6054
    US: 3.8795

  81. #81 frog
    July 8, 2008

    negentropyeater: We need to realize how useless all of this is, it is actually in the very rich’s advantage to blur the discussion and inject some misplaced morality into it. Because let’s not forget that we live in a world where most poor people envy and admire the rich. We need to skip all of this irrationality and focus on defining a system which can distribute wealth in a more equitable way, which is exactly the opposite of what we have today. We need to adapt to a no growth world.

    Morality can not be generally identified with irrationality. Rationality is meaningless without morality, morality is at the heart of any real discussion of actions. There is no absolute cost/benefit to be measured — it can only be measured against moral standards, which at base are aesthetic/empathic standards. They may come out of our biological and cultural backgrounds — but that doesn’t make them irrational.

    It makes them facts.

  82. #82 frog
    July 8, 2008

    How much more egalitarian is the UK than the US? Does anyone have hard numbers?

    My understanding was that the UK was by far the country with the least equal distribution of wealth in western Europe — a mini-US, so to speak.

  83. #83 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    frog: “How much more egalitarian is the UK than the US? Does anyone have hard numbers?”

    This opinion piece cites some numbers.
    http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/12800

    It doesn’t explain why the UK’s burglary rate is twice as high as the US, however.

  84. #84 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    I wouldn’t exactly call the UK educational system ‘egalitarian,’ and I think that is where this disparity comes in… comparing the figures for the US and Sweden or Norway is much more striking.

  85. #85 Coriolis
    July 8, 2008

    I guess it also doesn’t explain why the murder rate in the US is 3 times larger either…

    And you could also try comparing various crime rates to Japan or Sweden let’s say (both of which are far more socialist then US or UK). It should be quite an eye-opener.

  86. #86 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    According to Unicef the UK is the worst Western country to grow up in (even worse than the US! We’re number 2!).

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1384238.ece

  87. #87 frog
    July 8, 2008

    Colugo — interesting piece, it puts together stats I’ve seen in other places. Britain is a little US in some respects.

    An interesting point though brought up by the article is freedom (and missed in the article). How can you claim to be free, when your future is determined by the conditions of your ancestors? Only Mexico appears to be less free in an objective sense than the US.

  88. #88 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    @ #80

    I’m not British, Irish actually and live in Sweden. Besides, Britian is no culturally and economically much closer to the US than Europe. Try Sweden, Ireland or Germany.

    Also, rather than minor crimes of property, where definitions vary and the values trend in any event fairly closely, compare the serious stuff. Violent crime rates and prison population, look for orders of magnitude differences, not just a couple of percentage points.

    I expect you’ll be quite shocked.

  89. #89 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Coriolis: “why the murder rate in the US is 3 times larger either…”

    Right, but nobody is surprised by that, least of all me. And it doesn’t contradict the wealth distribution – violent crime model like the UK’s burglary rate does. A real eye-opener is fact that doesn’t fit a theory.

    Japan also has capital punishment. Must be working, right? (I’m being facetious; just pointing out the fallacy of positing simple causal associations.)

  90. #90 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    @ #80

    I’m not British, Irish actually and live in Sweden. Besides, Britian is now culturally and economically much closer to the US than Europe. Try Sweden, Ireland or Germany.

    Also, rather than minor crimes of property, where definitions vary and the values trend in any event fairly closely, compare the serious stuff. Violent crime rates and prison population, look for orders of magnitude differences, not just a couple of percentage points.

    I expect you’ll be quite shocked.

  91. #91 Sastra
    July 8, 2008

    PZ wrote:
    “This is a sad event, since from all I’ve heard from those who met him, he was a very nice fellow. It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a fruitless and pointless endeavor that does nothing but prop up belief in unreality.”

    If this is what prompted Ms. Templeton’s response that “If you had met him in person, I think you would have a different opinion and would not treat the announcement of his passing so carelessly,” then I think she is too sensitive. I see nothing cruel or flippant in what PZ wrote here. There’s not a word against the man himself. But not everyone admires or is impressed by the organization’s goal and methods of funding, discovering, and rewarding “scientific progress in religion” or whatever it is.

    I’ll admit upfront that I haven’t studied this group in any depth, but my impression is that the original goal has shifted. It began — I think — with the assumption that supernatural and paranormal “truths” were out there to be discovered through science. Put in the money, do the research, and make great breakthroughs.

    Unfortunately, the Templeton Foundation had many members who were very good and worthy scientists. They wanted to avoid the shoddy methods of pseudoscience, and do it all right and proper. Surprise, surprise — they did not get the results they expected.

    So, a subtle shift. Instead of searching for direct, hard, specific evidence for spiritual truths by using the scientific method, they began to do research on neutral, non-extraordinary stuff like the psychological value of forgiveness, who believes and why, and so forth. They also seem eager to collect stories and testimonials from scientists who are already religious, so that they kinda see the Hand of God behind the wonders of Nature, in a happy and vague kinda way. Scientists CAN believe in God. Breakthrough! Reward!

    At any rate, this is my general impression, but I could be wrong. Templeton Foundation is honest enough to refuse to do pseudoscience, but cagey enough to blur what it should really means to ‘bring science and religion together.’

  92. #92 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    (I’m being facetious; just pointing out the fallacy of positing simple causal associations.)
    Of course this is quite true where the variations are small and the criteria of measurement vary.

    However, there are categories where the differences are quite startling, and impossible to explain as mere noise. I don’t think it a stretch to opine that these massive disparities can tell us something about the relative success or failure of particular economic and political models.

    Assuming of course you consider less death, imprisonment and assault desirable outcomes.

  93. #93 eric
    July 8, 2008

    B. Dewhirst said:
    He renounced his US citizenship in 1960 and moved to the Bahamas, a tax haven….He hid his assets from taxation after benefiting from American infrastructure, deliberately blurred the line between science and religion, and promoted religion as a necessary component of a moral life.

    So…under that logic every European citizen who immigrates to the U.S. for its lower tax burden is equally evil? Every Russian who immigrates to Europe? Every Chinese who immigrates to a non-Communist country? Or are only the rich considered evil for immigrating to places where the tax base is lower?

    Second, the State does not own my net income. I do. The State took its cut in taxes already – it has no legal hold on what remains after I’ve been taxed. If taking your money with you when you immigrate (so you don’t have to pay any more taxes) is a social evil, then IMO its an evil well worth the good it brings. Because it would be a greater social evil for the state to keep your after-tax money in perpetuity.

  94. #94 frog
    July 8, 2008

    Eric,

    What is this “The State” you speak of? Please define your terms clearly so we can discuss. I’ve never had one in my pocket, and it sounds like it would make a nice pet.

  95. #95 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Biran Coughlan: “I don’t think it a stretch to opine that these massive disparities can tell us something about the relative success or failure of particular economic and political models.”

    I agree, but more complex and sophisticated models are required, ones that also consider culture (e.g. US Southern rural honor culture), age demographics, policing etc.

    Apparent anomalies to variants of the old ‘the US is the Third World of the West – brutish and violent – due to income inequality’ chestnut, like Canada’s twice as high rate of rape (compared to the US), the UK’s doubly high rate of burglary, Finland’s more than twice as high suicide rate, or the Netherlands’ significantly higher rate of death from cancer indicate that more complex models are needed.

  96. #96 B.Dewhirst
    July 8, 2008

    Eric @ 93:

    Do you think stealing a dollar is the exact same thing as stealing a million dollars? How about a billion? I don’t.

    Further, most immigrants do some kind of useful work after moving. Here, we have someone who has benefited (and continues to benefit) greatly from an infrastructure he refuses to fund.

    You’re conflating the State and the Government unnecessarily. I’m opposed to the former and for the later. Roads are a part of Government, the CIA is a part of the State.

    I think we agree that we both have a right to a home, to clothes, and to entertainment in exchange for some kind of work (possessions). Hopefully, we both agree that neither of us has a right to own a thousand slaves. Where you and I differ is in whether or not a minority of people have a right to own factories which produce resources for millions of people, large numbers of homes in which they do live, etc. I consider private property (owning factories, hotel chains, etc) to be based on coercive force by a minority for their own benefit, and therefore illegitimate. Taxes, on the other hand, are legitimate insofar as they are the product of a popularly supported government.

    I’ve used some specialized terminology here, and alluded to it above, and would suggest the wikipedia series on anarchism to anyone confused. I can also be contacted through the url to define terms at length.

  97. #97 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    Apparent anomalies to variants of the old ‘the US is the Third World of the West – brutish and violent – due to income inequality’ chestnut, like Canada’s twice as high rate of rape (compared to the US), the UK’s doubly high rate of burglary, Finland’s more than twice as high suicide rate, or the Netherlands’ significantly higher rate of death from cancer indicate that more complex models are needed.

    In agreement, with the minor caveat that generally, in some as yet not clearly bracketed range, wealth distribution has a dampening effect on crime, especially violent crime. After all, what is taxation but a kind of negotiated, formalised theft?:-)

    It’s getting the mix of factors right that is the challenge.

  98. #98 JJR
    July 8, 2008

    Brian C @79

    “…A society that redistributes wealth sensibly benefits almost everyone, with the possible exception of the super rich, no morality required just common sense. All societies have accepted the need for some redistribtion as inevitable and rather obvious (hence militaries, police forces and social welfare systems). The real question is how far should wealth distribution go?”

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but the answer from the ruling classes until about 1789 was “fuck the poor”.

    “…European and Asian countries seem to strike much closer to the sweet spot than the US does.”

    Thanks to the struggles of many European socialist parties and labor unions for over a century…who very much felt moral revulsion at the gross inequalities of their societies.

  99. #99 frog
    July 8, 2008

    BC: After all, what is taxation but a kind of negotiated, formalised theft?

    I’ve often wondered if legal systems couldn’t be better analyzed in terms of ritual combat, as in ethology. The human equivalent of horns and feathers is lawyers and tax-collecters.

  100. #100 Bill Dauphin
    July 8, 2008

    Lurker:

    but would we have the same compunctions about offending the Phelps family, or Ham’s family?

    This is an invidious comparison, as you yourself tacitly admit:

    That being said, Templeton seemed to have been a decent fellow, with a sound investment strategy, and a willingness to invest in developing countries. I would venture to say that his overall impact has been fairly positive

    …but since you ask, yes, I would make make the same concession to human kindness in those cases, as long as the survivors weren’t trying to use the occasion to promote the departed’s hateful ideas (as Phelps’ family almost certainly would, since they’re fully part of his schtick, but as Ms. Templeton has not).

    Nothing about the passion of our advocacy requires us to be heartless.

    As far as “pissing on Sir John’s casket in full view of his family” is concerned, in this case, Sir John’s family member chose to come here. If one were to be offended by two dudes screwing, it would be wise for one to avoid going to a bath-house.

    Gee, I was a touch worried about the crudeness of my metaphor, but you’ve made me look quite refined by comparison. Your two guys might not stop screwing, but I would hope even they wouldn’t go out of their way to give extra offense.

    frog:

    I find it very strange when people who should be grieving become involved in anomic communications. The idea of sitting shiva is more appropriate — grief and mourning are very personal, and they should involve one’s local community, face to face contacts in one’s regular surroundings.

    I find it strange that you would presume to tell others how they should grieve. You say “grief and mourning are very personal”; I say they’re very individual.

    I don’t find it strange at all Ms. Templeton should attempt, in a fairly modest and nonconfrontational way, to defend the honor of her departed loved one as part of her grieving. I also don’t think it would weaken any of our principles if we all responded to her graciously.

    But that’s just me, I guess.

  101. #101 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    Thanks to the struggles of many European socialist parties and labor unions for over a century…who very much felt moral revulsion at the gross inequalities of their societies.

    Oh I’m not disputing for a second that the motivation, both to encourage or resist redistribution can be obviously defined as having a moral (or immoral!) wellspring. I would probably consider many of my own motivations as overtly moral too. I just don’t think you need to reach for transendence to make the case.

  102. #102 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Brian Coughlan: “After all, what is taxation but a kind of negotiated, formalised theft?:-)”

    One which I am all in favor of. There has to be a legitimized enforcer, or else there is a Hobbesian vacuum of power. That’s why I approve of there being both an EPA and a CIA. Someone has to enjoy a monopoly on legitimate violence (including the ability to delegate the same – legal self-defense etc). And it may as well be the state – oops, I mean “the government;” no, make that “the people.” Well, whatever term sounds the least ominous.

    Anarchist theory makes for some quaint pieties, just like Marxism, Objectivism, etc (yes, Nick Gotts, I do know the difference between various political flavors, despite my having a bit of fun). But in the real world a mixed economy has proven its effectiveness. Marketized social democracy (we call it welfare capitalism here) has emerged the victor in the long struggle of ideologies.

    Anarchism (anarchocommunism, anarcho-syndicalism, libertarian socialism etc) has had an inglorious historical role of lone wolf assassinations of heads of states, providing the root stock of national syndicalism (and we know how that turned out in Italy), and in general getting punked by tough-minded Marxists like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. Indeed, the IWW was one of its genuine high points. Methinks the tendency has long since peaked. But what do I know?

  103. #103 Brian Coughlan
    July 8, 2008

    @ #102 Not much to disagree with there:-) Although I expect we’ll clash on degree and scale. It’s tempting to start boring people with my pet obsession (again, and so soon!), but I’m going to be good:-)

  104. #104 Brownian, OM
    July 8, 2008

    Careful; that’s the case only if in all 20 cases the null hypothesis is true. Knowing ? doesn’t tell us how many of n positive results we can expect to be false.

    Yes, of course, thanks MartinM. Further, it should be noted that in actuality, one shouldn’t have multiple tests to consider–one should only have one, the results of which may or may not reflect what’s actually going on in the population of study.

    Having said that, I once saw a peer-reviewed and accepted paper in which the investigators attempted to test the effectiveness of ten variants of some thing and did so using ten times ten independent two-sample t-tests without making any adjustments to ? (they used ?=0.05 for each).

    Ironically, only four of the hundred tests returned significant results.

    How that paper ever got published remains a mystery to me.

  105. #105 frog
    July 8, 2008

    BillDauphin: I find it strange that you would presume to tell others how they should grieve. You say “grief and mourning are very personal”; I say they’re very individual.facts of the matter.

    Private isn’t the same as individual, BD. It’s a fair assumption that the Templetons aren’t Hindus or Australian aborigines or alien visitors from the ninth planet of Sirius, so the basic rules of western psychology apply.

    I don’t know how others should grieve — but it doesn’t take a Nobel to know how they shouldn’t.

  106. #106 SC
    July 8, 2008

    But what do I know?

    Astonishingly little, Colugo, especially for someone so intent on spouting off on the subject. But I’m off to the beach, and can’t be bothered with you. Enjoy wallowing in your ignorance.

  107. #107 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    I had that coming since I did set that up for you, SC.

    Enjoy wallowing at the beach!

  108. #108 Holbach
    July 8, 2008

    Templeton may have been a nice fellow, but it is what he represents that makes me judge him. He perpetuated religious thought through a philantrophic organization, which to me is disingenous. Yes, he was a nice fellow, I’ll give him that, but his niceness was rent with that which we could do without.

  109. #109 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    B.Dewhirst,

    I resent the insinuation I would have done the same. I most certainly would not, and there are plenty of prominent examples of wealthy Americans who haven’t done so either.

    All the rich do exactly the same, they all hire tax consultants and lawyers and try to find the best possible financial construction to pay the least possible taxes. If it’s not tax heavens it’ll be offshore placements, it’ll be offsets from capital gains taxes with something else, and the wealthier they are the more advantageous it will be.
    When I was younger, I used to think like you, this is evil, this is greed, how can these people do this ? Then years later, it hit me, I sold my company and made quite a lot of money, and I’m also there, with my tax lawyer and my offshore investments, taking advantage of a completely corrupt system and trying to pay the least possible taxes. And yes, believe me I want this to change because it makes me sick to see all this inequality, this can’t last, this is completely surreal, but there is no way I’m going to be a stupid cunt and not take advantage of this corrupt system if everybody else who I know is in the same situation as I am continues to do so. Do you understand ? I want this to change but it needs to be for everybody the same.
    What we need is a revolution, bottom up. Stop pointing the finger at the rich saying they are evil for taking advantage of a corrupt system. That’s not evil, that’s just human. What’s really blocking us, are those rich who refuse to accept that this corrupt system has created far too much inequalities and refuse to change it.

    You seem to concede that what he did was evil, and present an argument that could easily have been made in the defense of slavery and those who benefited ‘honestly’ from it.

    I certainly won’t concede that he was evil for taking advantage of a corrupt system, no. And neither can you turn it easily into an argument in the defense of slavery.

    In order to overturn evil institutions such as slavery, and the institution you describe above, first the evils therein must be openly discussed.

    If you want to openly discuss about the “evils therein” instead of wasting your time on those who take advantage of a corrupt system, why don’t you focus on those who refuse to accept that we need to change this system and make use of all sorts of propaganda and disinformation to achieve their goal ?

    Your nihilism isn’t my problem. Trying to persuade me to do nothing is pointless, and you should simply recognize that futility and desist.

    I’m not trying to convince you to do nothing, quite the contrary. But I’m just suggesting you might want to focus more on changing the rules by alerting people on the urgency of the need to change them rather than by condemning people who are taking advantage of them.

    Tulse,

    sorry, my sentence was unclear, I meant, I refuse to make a moral judgement about people who take advantage of a corrupt system, and actually follow the law.
    I’ve done so for many years, condemning people for that, I thought it was greed, evil, and now, I’m fairly rich, and I do the same. Like everybody else. Why shouldn’t I ? So I’d be really dishonest if I told you that I found what he did immoral, or even petty and small minded.

    But I can tell you, I will not stop alerting people for the need to change this fucking ultra-capitalistic system, you can count on me to go and march in the street when the time comes, and to give up a big share of what I have got. But in the mean time, as long as all these fuckers continue to block everything, and most of the people continue dreaming about their movie stars and keep their religious delusions and do nothing, I’ll continue to take advantage of this system as much as I can and try to pay the less possible taxes.

  110. #110 Steve Jeffers
    July 8, 2008

    ‘He perpetuated religious thought through a philanthropic organization, which to me is disingenuous.’

    Worse than that – by offering a financial incentive for academics to come up with a predetermined result, he was on the same moral plane as tobacco companies who pay scientists to discover the health benefits of smoking.

    As I say, the great thing is … tens of millions spent, and there’s nothing to show for it except prayer doesn’t work, the universe looks exactly like it would if there wasn’t a God in it and modern physics can be spun to sound a bit New Agey.

  111. #111 frog
    July 8, 2008

    negentropy: I certainly won’t concede that he was evil for taking advantage of a corrupt system, no.

    In short, you won’t unilaterally disarm. But on the other hand, you can’t separate the person from the system. By refusing to disarm, you also propagate the system.

    It’s a nasty quandary, and it’s why most revolutions turn really bloody. You have been corrupted — but it doesn’t come from some innate evil. You want a revolution — but you want the folks who are least capable of doing it to go first.

    You can’t start it by yourself — so why should you sacrifice yourself for no change at all? But you’re the only one (folks in your class) who can actually start it — you have to lead.

    And why would anyone sacrifice themselves? What kind of megalomania would motivate that?

    Like I said, history is a nasty quandary that always ends up a mess. We can try to not be the one to put the knife in, but we always end up collaborating to some extent or other.

    Too much feedback to hear the guitar. We just wait for Hendrix to show up.

  112. #112 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    I think you would have a different opinion and would not treat the announcement of his passing so carelessly.

    How rude.

    Distasteful at the best of times, but to say that in the presence of a bereaved family member is really fucking low.

    You have a very odd notion of “presence”. Do you suppose that when, say, spammers send you email, they’re there in the room with you, and you have an obligation not to hurt their feelings? Ms. Templeton, of her own choice, posted her response to PZ at a specific time and from a specific place and then went about her business; she has never been co-located with any of us. The notion that people can’t express themselves freely about John Templeton just because there’s a note from Ms. Templeton in pharyngula’s database that the software displays on their screen is mindbogglingly stupid.

    I won’t even get into this elitist Victorian bullshit about “taste”.

  113. #113 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    nonconfrontational way

    Ahem. Posting “I think you would have a different opinion and would not treat the announcement of his passing so carelessly” is nothing if not confrontational.

  114. #114 FO
    July 8, 2008

    About time and place – showing up at a skeptical blog with a strong tradition of free speech and insisting that people not say bad things about someone you knew seems to me to be a bit of the wrong place. Wouldn’t it be simpler for Lauren Templeton to absent herself from the conversation if she feels it might be upsetting to her?

    Indeed. Thanks for saying what I meant to say, but didn’t really get across.

    Quite right. That rises to “fucking despicable,” at the very least.

    Sorry if you find it so, but those bastards had a not-insignificant role in ruining my childhood — and hence my future. The first convinced my parents to record his sermons and play it over and over every single fucking day for at least three years. I believe it’s called “psychological torture” and “indoctrination”. The second is a goddamn scam and con artist who weaseled at least half of my family’s income for several years — just when I needed the money to go to college. If something similar happened to B. Dewhirst, then I for one would certainly understand his bitterness.

    So please excuse my “fucking despicable”-ness. Will the gentleman please come down to have a sniff at what his horse smells like down here?

  115. #115 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    This is an invidious comparison, as you yourself tacitly admit

    I don’t think that word means what you think it means … and Longtime Lurker did not admit any such thing.

    I would make make the same concession to human kindness in those cases<

    So if someone had done a drive-by on the Jesse Helms thread, posting “I’m grieving for Jesse; don’t say anything bad about him”, you would have complied … as a “concession to human kindness”, yet? It seems that you are having trouble distinguishing between humans and database entries.

  116. #116 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    About time and place – showing up at a skeptical blog with a strong tradition of free speech and insisting that people not say bad things about someone you knew seems to me to be a bit of the wrong place. Wouldn’t it be simpler for Lauren Templeton to absent herself from the conversation if she feels it might be upsetting to her?

    In fact, she is absent. These fools whining about “human kindness” are fantasizing, rather than considering the actual facts. All we know is that Lauren Templeton is aware of PZ’s commentary, and at one moment in time, typed in a response to it and hit “Post”. She isn’t “present” and we have no reason to think that she has read or ever will read any of these comments — and unless her intent is to go out of her way to be confrontational or suffer emotional hurt, she would not. There’s absolutely no reason for anyone’s behavior to be significantly different than if she had never hit that Post button.

  117. #117 SC
    July 8, 2008

    I had that coming since I did set that up for you, SC.

    Yup. Happy to oblige :).

    Enjoy wallowing at the beach!

    Actually, it was an invigorating walk, but it was quite nice, thanks!

  118. #118 islandcreek
    July 8, 2008

    Wow, a lot of you folks need more interaction with people who are not like yourselves. There’s a whole wide world of people, rich and poor, skilled and unskilled, who are deserving of respect, regardless of whether they agree with you. Please get a grip. Those who disagree with you are not evil; I really think lack of respect for others is a serious problem in our country. Nothing is gained from lack of respect for others. Now I’ll await for the barage for pontificating. Most of this discussion thread has no more value than listening to talk radio all day, or reading stock market threads. The fact is that John Templeton made a better life for many thousands of people, most of who were of ordinary means, who believed in him and invested in his funds. Very few of the posters on this thread can claim that. How many of you have ever created a job, for instance?

  119. #119 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    FWIW, Lauren Templeton is a “successful hedge fund manager”:

    http://www.nowplayingnashville.com/event/detail/107295

  120. #120 truth machine, OM
    July 8, 2008

    I really think lack of respect for others is a serious problem in our country.

    Best attend to that beam in your eye.

  121. #121 negentropyeater
    July 8, 2008

    frog,

    In short, you won’t unilaterally disarm. But on the other hand, you can’t separate the person from the system. By refusing to disarm, you also propagate the system.

    You mean, I shouldn’t hire a tax consultant and try to pay less tax possible ? Is that what you call refusing to disarm ? And then wait and hope for years that others do the same ?
    That’s completely irrealistic, I’ll just end up sacrificing myself for nothing. No this is never going to work.

    I think we can change things differently, more efficiently.
    First, there are a certain number of rich who understand the need to change this corrupt system. They are in the same dilemna as me, I guess, they won’t give up their priviledges unilateraly, but they do understand that they are going to have to give them up one day or another to a certain extent, and change this system, otherwise, it will end up being a bloodbath, like in 1789. So let’s call them the realists.
    There are more and more influential realists, the problem is that still, nobody wants to listen to them in Government.
    But I think with the recession that’s still ahead of us, which will be the most severe that the US will have known since 1929, and a new administration, things will change.
    First, people in 2009 will have to start showing their anger and their disatisfaction and start marching in the streets, truck drivers blocking roads, workers going on strike, the usual type of conflict that America seems to have for so long pushed away, people won’t be able to continue to rationalize inequalities for that long. Without this, nothing will happen. But this will give a huge opportunity for the realists to exert a much more profound influence in this new administration and to really try to go for a system which distributes wealth more equitably.

    That’s why I say, it’s a revolution that is needed, in the sense of people need to revolt, not necessarily a bloody one, but if they don’t show their anger and their disatisfaction, if they systematically avoid conflict, nothing is going to happen, the rich won’t make it happen by sacrificing themselves, and the realists amongst them are powerless.

  122. #122 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Revolutionaries tend to come from the lower elite strata. Lenin, Pol Pot, Kropotkin, Guevara, the Weather Underground, Shining Path, Baader-Meinhoff etc. (The leaders and theoreticians, not the cannon fodder.)

    The problems with revolutions is that nobody wants to be a prole and everyone wants to have a dacha.

    Under capitalism, the rich buy themselves power. Under socialism, the powerful reward themselves with privileges. (A formulation not original to me.) Under a mixed economy, both occur but each to a lesser extent.

  123. #123 SC
    July 8, 2008

    Colugo,

    Please stop. I’m not going to engage with you, but these are areas (particularly the history of radicalism in the US and Europe) in which I have a good deal of expertise, and you clearly do not.

    And by the way, Kropotkin was not a member of the “lower elite strata.” He was a fucking prince. He was also an accomplished scientist, who gave up a prestigious position as a geologist with the Russian government because he could not in good conscience continue. He supported himself as a scientist, science writer, and author, while never having any significant money and living many years in prison. He was a profoundly admirable human being and a man of great honor.

    Anarchism is not state socialism, and you’re extremely ignorant about it and its history.

  124. #124 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    “Anarchism is not state socialism”

    Never said that it was. But it is a related species.

    I know that Kropotkin was a prince. He was on the upper end of the typical revolutionary demographic. I should have wrote “elite, especially lower elite.” Oopsie.

    I see that I have tread on something close to your heart. I have no wish to offend, but I have no particular inhibition against offending in the course of making comments either.

    I’ve gathered that you are a professional social scientist, probably teach labor and revolutionary history (you mentioned the Wobblies) with passion for and identification with your subjects of study. That’s fine. If you like, elucidate my errors.

  125. #125 SC
    July 8, 2008

    If you like, elucidate my errors.

    I’m not in a good mood (sorry if I’m a bit snippy – I shouldn’t have suggested that you stop commenting), I don’t have the time, and all I would want to do is to give you a long reading list. I guess I just don’t understand your purpose in making these broad declarations about areas in which you aren’t well-informed. And, yes, I was offended. The stereotypes about anarchism you put forth have historically contributed to a culture in which anarchists have been tortured and killed (I’m particularly sensitive about this after the other recent thread). And to raise the name of Kropotkin, a personal hero of mine and a man who gave up a life of great wealth and status to dedicate himself to social justice and to science, in a context in which you’re suggesting glibly that everyone just “wants to have a dacha” was also offensive.

    Again, I’m really sorry for attacking you. I won’t continue the conversation, but I have no desire to prevent you from speaking your mind.

  126. #126 Colugo
    July 8, 2008

    Please, no need to apologize; I don’t take these things personally. And I’ll try to become better informed on anarchism (but that’s my goal on a wide variety of topics).

  127. #127 SC
    July 8, 2008

    (but that’s my goal on a wide variety of topics)

    Mine, too. Never enough time. Sigh.

  128. #128 islandcreek
    July 8, 2008

    Best attend to that beam in your eye.

    You really should get away from your computer for a while and have some face to face interaction with human beings, truthmachine.

  129. #129 PZmyersfails@humanity
    July 9, 2008

    “It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a
    fruitless and pointless endeavor….”

    There is some irony in there. Myers talks about how Atheism is going to save the world and he can’t even put together a decent science blog and focus on science.

    Myers if I where you I would focus on science instead of pointless and stupid religious bashing.

    Let me give you a little social skills advice. In order to get someone to look at science you have to show them and not insult them.

    I love science but you give science and humankind a bad name.

  130. #130 tom quick
    July 9, 2008

    Seconding PZmyersfails sentiment, where’s the Myer’s prize? Where’s the money? The most enjoyable part of this Templeton diss was the discussion of Kropotkin. It was fresh, educational and operated in the realm of ideas.

    What bothers me about the so-called scientists here are that they’re just blog talkers, sniping at each other, claiming their authority from real scientist’s work done a hundred years ago. It’s a side show where the Scopes trial is played 24/7 for the peanut gallery, while the real world has moved on to genetically modified crops and $4/gallon gas.

    And to the Templetons my condolences. I have experienced this loss, and it still hurts everyday

  131. #131 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    2 morons with their “PZmyersfails sentiments”…

    1 because he thinks Pharyngula is not a good enough science blog (when PZ has regularly been elected the best science blogger on the web…)

    1 because there is no money (!) and that he doesn’t like the commenters because they just pretend to be scientists and don’t know what is going on in the real world (projecting a lot I see).

    Both of you, you fail.

  132. #132 Nick Gotts
    July 9, 2008

    Marketized social democracy (we call it welfare capitalism here) has emerged the victor in the long struggle of ideologies. – Colugo

    Right – and history has ended, as the great Fukuyama told us in 1992.

  133. #133 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 9, 2008

    With a little help from scientists, Templeton wound up doing one good thing. (I don’t feel it is so important to test outright woo like prayers.) Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre was able to found the Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology Institute (FQXI) from Templeton seed money.

    Apparently they twisted his arms until AFAIU they got full independence. My interpretation is that they added a token bow to Templeton below:

    Mission
    To catalyze, support, and disseminate research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.

    At FQXi, we believe that similar paradigm-shifting discoveries may now be occurring in physics and cosmology. For, as far as we have come, many unanswered questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology remain–some arising from the scientific progress we have achieved, and some even predating science. For example:

    * What, if anything, happened before the Big Bang? What determined the characteristics of the universe? Is our observed universe all that exists, or is it just one “universe” among many, a mere part of a much bigger picture, in which we misinterpret local conditions as fundamental laws? What will happen in the distant future? Will dark energy collapse or rip apart our universe? Will all particles and black holes ultimately decay away?
    * What do the fantastically effective but bafflingly counterintuitive laws of quantum mechanics tell us about reality? How do quantum measurements occur: Are there really “many worlds,” and if not, how do quantum possibilities collapse into a single observed reality? Can we find a self-consistent theory of nature that unifies gravity and quantum mechanics?
    * What distinguishes the future from the past, if the universe is governed by physical laws that make no such distinction? How does duration, which we experience, relate to the time described by physics and mathematics?
    * What is the relationship between physics, mathematics and information? What determines what exists? How “real” is the world of mathematics–and how “real” is the world of matter?
    * Why does the universe seem so complex, given its simple initial conditions, and the elegant mathematics that describes it? Is life ubiquitous in the universe (or beyond)? How does matter give rise to consciousness–or does it?

    Questions like these lie at the frontier of science and at the foundation of our understanding of the universe, and intimately connect with and inform not just scientific fields, but also philosophy, theology and religious belief systems. Answers to these questions will have profound intellectual, practical, and spiritual implications for anyone with deep curiosity about the world’s true nature. [My emphasis.]

    I note that, unsurprisingly, this is close to Tegmark’s interests (“the mathematical universe”) [above].

    Then again, Paul Davies is a FQXI member … woo’h.

  134. #134 Nick Gotts
    July 9, 2008

    Having had time to think about this, I consider it’s nonsense to say this is “not the time” to criticise Templeton because his grieving relatives might read it – but it was OK for Jesse Helms, where I don’t remember any objections except from Liar Byers. Either this rule applies to everyone, or (my preference) to no-one.

  135. #135 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    Fukuyama is such an idiot, I don’t even know why people pay attention to him. How can one even continue to claim that the current western style of political economies which can only function with continued consumption growth stimulation can have a very long future.
    He should stick to his hobbies, photography and hand made furniture, at least he won’t say so much nonsense.

  136. #136 Damian
    July 9, 2008

    PZmyersfails@humanity said:

    There is some irony in there. Myers talks about how Atheism is going to save the world and he can’t even put together a decent science blog and focus on science.

    Myers if I where you I would focus on science instead of pointless and stupid religious bashing.

    Let me give you a little social skills advice. In order to get someone to look at science you have to show them and not insult them.

    I love science but you give science and humankind a bad name.

    If you can’t even be honest, how on earth do you expect people to take you seriously or treat you with respect?

    Where has PZ, or any atheist for that matter, ever said that atheism ‘is going to save the world’?

    This science blog that you claim isn’t ‘decent’ is the most popular blog of its type anywhere on the internet, and has had almost 30,000,000 (yes, that’s 30 million) hits. Quite an accomplishment, if you ask me.

    And if you weren’t so intellectually lazy, you would know that there is a search function, as well as an archive, where you will find hundreds science posts, many of which are as good as anything that I have come across. There is also a section entitled, “A Taste of Pharyngula”, where you will find some of those posts.

    If you don’t like the fact that PZ isn’t as credulous as many people seem to be, or that he can be so successful while highlighting the excesses of religion, I would suggest that it is perhaps you that needs to take note. This blog wouldn’t be so popular if a great many people didn’t believe that it is about time that someone exposed much of what happens in the name religion for the self-serving, hypocritical, dangerous nonsense that it so often is. All too often, in fact.

    But no, instead of taking that on board, you do what so many do and decide to whine about the fact that atheists have somewhere to gather together on the internet. Needless to say, I’m not particularly impressed.

    And finally, if you are the type who is insulted quite easily — and I really shouldn’t have to say this as it is self-evident — this blog just isn’t the place for you, I’m afraid. PZ has neither the need, nor the desire (as far as I can tell), to cater for people who are offended easily. There are numerous blogs out there for those who want to be told how interesting they are, and how terrific all of there arguments are. What you will find here is an all too rare honesty, as well as a challenging group of people who won’t allow you to get away with sloppy thinking.

    tom quick said:

    Seconding PZmyersfails sentiment, where’s the Myer’s prize? Where’s the money? The most enjoyable part of this Templeton diss was the discussion of Kropotkin. It was fresh, educational and operated in the realm of ideas.

    What bothers me about the so-called scientists here are that they’re just blog talkers, sniping at each other, claiming their authority from real scientist’s work done a hundred years ago. It’s a side show where the Scopes trial is played 24/7 for the peanut gallery, while the real world has moved on to genetically modified crops and $4/gallon gas.

    And to the Templetons my condolences. I have experienced this loss, and it still hurts everyday.

    And what makes you think that many of the people that participate on this blog are not the same people that helped to genetically modify crops? That is, after all, what scientists generally do, is it not?

    How many scientific papers have you produced? You will find literally hundreds of people on this blog who have contributed to their fields in meaningful ways, and in my humble opinion, more so than Templeton did for any particular field of science, despite the fact that he had enough money to make a real difference.

    Your concern in both noted and stupid.

  137. #137 MartinM
    July 9, 2008

    What I said was not out of line.

    That said, I’m very sorry that I did so before seeing who was reading the comments, as I would have more clearly delineated why I thought he was a creep if I were doing so.

    If what you said wasn’t out of line under the circumstances, why would you modify it?

    To be clear (which, admittedly, I wasn’t previously) I have no objection to criticising the dead, even the very recently dead. I don’t even have a fundamental objection to criticising the very recently dead in the presence of the bereaved. However, ‘good riddance’ is not a criticism. Perhaps that’s one part you would have reworded had you noticed Ms. Templeton’s post, in which case we’re not actually in disagreement.

  138. #138 MartinM
    July 9, 2008

    Sorry if you find it so, but those bastards had a not-insignificant role in ruining my childhood — and hence my future.

    By ‘those bastards,’ I presume you mean the relatives whose treatment is the point of disagreement here? No? How odd.

  139. #139 Sastra
    July 9, 2008

    Mission: To catalyze, support, and disseminate research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources.

    The irony here, I think, is that there is a serious disconnect between what most Templeton folk think are “new frontiers, innovative ideas, and paradigm-shifting discoveries” which will impact on religious and spiritual beliefs, and what apparently ARE the actual frontier paradigm-shifting discoveries. Francis Crick called his book regarding the material basis of mind The Astonishing Hypothesis. Other scientists criticized him for hyperbole — there’s nothing “astonishing” about that hypothesis, it’s been established for ages.

    Not to the majority of the world, and not, I am guessing, to the Templeton supporters. Most of them still think the “astonishing hypothesis” is that Souls REALLY DO exist and Life is a form of energy. Wow. We’re confirming that more and more every day.

    On the contrary. Scientific discoveries seem to point, more and more, against our familiar, trite, and comfortable dualist assumptions on transcendence, magic, and the special cosmic role of consciousness, and towards a genuinely strange and counter-intuitive materialism, with mind as unintentional byproduct of a mindless and uncaring universe. We’re special only to ourselves. And throughout the evolution of our scientific understanding, that startling discovery has been unexpected. And rather unwelcome.

    I always find it annoying when the spirituality-infused claim that their theories and beliefs are sooooo cutting-edge and daring. No, they’re the ones thinking INSIDE the box. The physical world is not the smug, confining little “box” that hems us in — spirituality is. Naturalism requires thinking outside the box. It’s harder, and takes actual work.

    Templeton Foundation appears to be a mixed bag, and most have good intentions. But I wonder. Have they ever really, seriously thought about what they would do if the research into the Deep Questions does NOT lead to, or even support, any of their religious beliefs? Will they redefine and morph naturalism, humanism, and atheism into a “brave, new understanding” of spirituality, religion, and God? Or would they just shift the debate and pretend they never thought science could LEAD to the spiritual and say they only meant it is CONSISTENT with it, or what?

    Someone once called them “The Premise-Keepers.” Find a way to make the premise fit with the science. It looks like the only way to do that, and be honest, may be to either make the truth of the Premise completely irrelevant — and focus only on how religious belief effects us pragmatically — or subtly repackage atheism as the New Spirituality and hope nobody much notices that.

  140. #140 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    Nick #134,

    I agree that it’s got nothing to do with timing, this is not relevant. Only that if people want to criticize Templeton they need to be ready for criticism of their own criticism. Also, its’ a question of measure; I’ll certainly agree with PZ’s criticism :

    from all I’ve heard from those who met him, he was a very nice fellow. It’s just too bad that he threw so much money away into a fruitless and pointless endeavor that does nothing but prop up belief in unreality.

    But to evaluate the sum of the actions that he had on this earth, good and bad, and then compare him with Al Capone, George Bush, Jesse Helms, or why not even Pat Robertson or Adolf Hitler whilst we’re at it, is not the kind of criticism which I find very useful.

  141. #141 Nick Gotts
    July 9, 2008

    neg@140,

    I agree, and with your larger point that, to paraphrase: “It’s the system, man”. However, as I said to Bill Dauphin, and as I think you agree, there are (very) rich people actively keeping that system in place, and in fact working to make it more and more unequal. Whether Templeton belonged to that group, I don’t know.

    BTW, I assume you, knowing where my views tend, got that my praise of Fukuyama was sarcastic? I only realised when I read your post, that not everyone reading it necessarily would.

  142. #142 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    BTW, I assume you, knowing where my views tend, got that my praise of Fukuyama was sarcastic?

    Of course I did, I just couldn’t resist to kick this guy’s ass a bit more.
    A few years ago at my business school’s alumni reunion, he came to make a speech. We completely trashed him. He couldn’t even make a single rational argument. He belongs to this generation of people who still believes in the myths of the 20th century, the absolute perfection of free markets, the never ending sustained growth of consumption and the economy, he is such a deluded mind, it’s just unbelievable when you meet him. So now he’s changed his views on neo-conservatism and the war (finally !) says he is going to vote for Obama, but is still going to continue to polute everything with all his nonsense, and people still continue to listen to him. Well no thank you, stay home Fukuyama, stick to your hand made furniture.

  143. #143 MartinM
    July 9, 2008

    You have a very odd notion of “presence”. Do you suppose that when, say, spammers send you email, they’re there in the room with you, and you have an obligation not to hurt their feelings? Ms. Templeton, of her own choice, posted her response to PZ at a specific time and from a specific place and then went about her business; she has never been co-located with any of us. The notion that people can’t express themselves freely about John Templeton just because there’s a note from Ms. Templeton in pharyngula’s database that the software displays on their screen is mindbogglingly stupid.

    Well, we could have an interesting discussion about precisely what ‘presence’ means in the modern age; whether the existence of telephones, video-conferencing, and a whole range of virtual environments influences renders the notion of presence as reducible to physical proximity obsolete.

    Then again, we could skip straight to the point, which isn’t altered at all by such parsing, and which you haven’t actually engaged, beyond declaring it ‘mindbogglingly stupid,” ex cathedra.

  144. #144 Tulse
    July 9, 2008

    I understand and sympathize with Ms. Templeton’s loss, but this seems an odd forum for her to express it. It would be like a relative of Stephen Jay Gould going into the Uncommon Descent threads to complain about how people reacted to his death. Just because one can have sympathy for a living person’s grief does not mean that they have to think well, or even speak well, of the dead.

  145. #145 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    there are (very) rich people actively keeping that system in place, and in fact working to make it more and more unequal.

    Exactly. You can’t criticize people for following the law. But you can criticize people for refusing to accept that this is an unjust law, for doing everything possible to hide it, and for making sure that this unjust law doesn’t get changed.

  146. #146 windy
    July 9, 2008

    I understand and sympathize with Ms. Templeton’s loss, but this seems an odd forum for her to express it. It would be like a relative of Stephen Jay Gould going into the Uncommon Descent threads to complain about how people reacted to his death. Just because one can have sympathy for a living person’s grief does not mean that they have to think well, or even speak well, of the dead.

    I think a relative of SJ Gould’s would have every right to do that. But PZ did speak rather well of Templeton in this post, although some commenters didn’t. I suspect that Lauren Templeton’s accusation of “carelessness” was prompted by the “cooling meat” remark.

  147. #147 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    I suspect that Lauren Templeton’s accusation of “carelessness” was prompted by the “cooling meat” remark.

    You mean because he forgot to mention the rest of the stuff like the bones, hair, skin, … ;-)

  148. #148 Tom Quick
    July 9, 2008

    Damian@136, I am used to having bait balls thrown at me from every side. The repetitiveness is getting boring. I mentioned GM because it’s a subject which doesn’t open up the same old debate one more time. I haven’t been here long enough to know whether this has aready been talked to death, but as you say there should be a lot of experts around here on this subject that could do it justice.

    I don’t feel a need to serve up credentials again, having been whipped around already for not being a real scientist working in the only field that really matters. Reducing solid waste is the only area where I’ve contributed substantially. I know JS about evolutionary biology (it’s not of any importance for what I do) and I’m here for the education. Before baiting people by calling them stupid, remember that not everyone is as smart as you.

    Regarding the money part, I too am guilty of not returning the grant money to my alma mater that I so greedily lapped up as an RA. Templeton gave back money to a cause he believed in. His investment was a lot more effective than blog chat for accomplishing his objectives.

  149. #149 Tulse
    July 9, 2008

    I think a relative of SJ Gould’s would have every right to do that.

    windy, of course they’d have the right to do that, but I think it would be pretty naive to expect a warm reception from those who opposed his work, even at this death. Likewise here.

  150. #150 B.Dewhirst
    July 9, 2008

    negentropyeater @ 145:

    If that law says you must hand over captured slaves, I can damn well criticize someone for following it.

    You’re rationalizing.

  151. #151 Sastra
    July 9, 2008

    windy #146 wrote:

    I suspect that Lauren Templeton’s accusation of “carelessness” was prompted by the “cooling meat” remark.

    Yes, I think so too — that, and perhaps the headline.

    Problem is that this kind of criticism — that when atheists say there is no God, no afterlife, no spirit, and no souls when in the presence of the grieving they are being rude, careless, unkind, and thoughtless — tends to extrapolate out to the general principle that atheists who speak openly against religious beliefs are ALWAYS rude, careless, unkind, and thoughtless, because of course everyone is either grieving, has grieved, or will grieve sometime pretty soon.

    They think it’s only fair. It’s okay to be an atheist, as long as you act like a believer in public or keep your comments to yourself. Otherwise, who knows what fragile hope you may shatter, or what good person you may insult or send into the pits of hopeless despair with a careless remark.

    Tch. The whole world is not a funeral where we need tiptoe around sensitivities. On the contrary, Templeton himself relished this very debate.

    To their credit, the Templeton Foundation has funded people like Micheal Shermer, whom they knew was not just going to put out things that everyone wanted to hear. They might even like PZ on a panel one day, to provide a challenging counter to the majority viewpoint. Calling John Templeton “cooling meat” and arguing that no, he does not live on as a spirit honors the “spirit” of his commitment to inquiry and dissent. He wanted to explore ideas.

    I think Lauren Templeton’s personal feelings made her miss that perspective. That’s a kind of respect, too.

  152. #152 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    Tom Quick,

    His investment was a lot more effective than blog chat for accomplishing his objectives.

    What were his objectives ?
    How big was his investment ?
    How do you measure how effective his investment was to accomplish his objectives ?

    What are Pharyngula’s objectives ?
    How big is the investment ?
    How do you measure how effective Pharyngula is in accomplishing its objectives ?

    When you start thinking critically about all these questions rather than pulling meaningless statements out of thin air, maybe it’ll help you to start making some sense of your moronic brain.

  153. #153 tom quick
    July 9, 2008

    negentrop, I fear that I am too stupid to answer your intelligent questions. I have always considered money to be of value to conduct research. I’m looking at $13,000/day for lab time next month at WMU right now. Talk is cheaper, and the way things are going money-wise, maybe that’s what I’ll be doing in the future. Virtual research producing virtual results on blog threads.

  154. #154 negentropyeater
    July 9, 2008

    B.Dewhirst

    there’s a very big difference between the current ultra-capitalistic system and the corrupt system of taxation and slavery, from the point of view of someone who takes advantage of the system, which is quite obvious :

    if today, I decided unilaterally that I refused to continue to take advantage of this sytem, what should I do ? Stop placing my money, try to maximize profits, minimize taxes ? What consequences would it have, how visible would it be ? Is anybody going to follow me ? Should I just go online and publish a long article that me Negentropyeater I just decided that I wouldn’t do this anymore, you think anybody would take me seriously ?
    Absolutely none, zero, zilch. The only way I think we are succesfully going to change this corrupt system is as I explained in my post #121.

    if in the old days, I had been a slave owner, and I had freed my slaves, what consequences would this have had, how visible would this have been ?

  155. #155 Longtime Lurker
    July 9, 2008

    Re Sastra@139:
    A bit early in the month, but this comment is definitely Molly-worthy.

    Re Bill Dauphin@100:
    If you re-read my post, you will notice that I, in no way, cast aspersions on the late Sir Templeton. More importantly, neither did PZ in his original post. My “crude metaphor” merely dealt with the fact that nobody is “pissing on the corpse” in full view of the family. In fact, Ms Templeton had to go out of her way in order to see what had been written about her dear departed relative. Many of my posts (hello Doctor Gee! Hello Gordy Slack!) have consisted of “thicken your skin, then come back to enjoy the fray”.

    The Bard had it exactly wrong when he wrote: “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” We can see this already with the glossing over of Jesse Helms’ more unsavory aspects in media coverage of his death. At least one poster here has reason to believe that he has a grievance against Templeton, why should we ignore that in deference to old-fashioned mourning conventions?

  156. #156 Bill Dauphin
    July 9, 2008

    Wow, I confess to being mildly overwhelmed by taxonomy of radicalism this thread has become, but I did want to chuck in one last thought before I retire to the bar.

    I understand and sympathize with Ms. Templeton’s loss, but this seems an odd forum for her to express it.

    She came here and reminded us, in a single post that was largely devoid of bitter words or rhetorical armwaving (which is what I meant by “nonconfrontational” in my earlier remarks), that her uncle was not simply an icon of woo or undeserved wealth; he was also a fairly decent (as even many of his critics here have stipulated) person with a loving family who are currently in pain.

    My concern over the rudeness of (some of) our response to her was not that I think dying confers on the deceased some magic immunity to criticism, nor that I think some random stranger who wanders into this community deserves special consideration… rather, my concern is that it doesn’t serve our interests to act like jerks.

    Not to put too much importance on fictional “examples,” but one of my favorite scenes from TV in recent years was from (IIRC) the first season of The West Wing. Sam Seaborn (the Rob Lowe character) has become involved with a young woman who he later learns is a high-priced escort. Meanwhile, Sam’s beloved mentor, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry is being threatened by Republicans with potentially damaging revelations about his past. Sam and Leo’s deputy Josh Lyman (the Bradley Whitford character) go to Sam’s call-girl friend to find out if she has any sexual dirt on the people who are threatening Leo. She, of course, refuses to even discuss the matter, and admonishes them that “you’re the good guys; you should act like it!

    OK, I know that’s a long story to tell for one line, but my point is that when we advocate for rational secular living, or for socioeconomic justice, we’re setting ourselves up as the good guys, and perhaps we should give some weight to acting like it.

    Presumably the point of all our advocacy is to make the world a better place. In another thread, when we were all struggling to articulate a fundamental basis for ethical behavior, someone suggested as a starting point that “generally, people should be happy.” That sounds trivial at first glance, but maybe not so much: The ultimate product of social and economic justice, and of personal freedoms (including the freedom from religious oppression), and of good government and reasonable social support structures, ought to be a world were most people are happy most of the time (this admittedly presumes a thoughtful, nuanced definition of “happy”).

    I’m not suggesting that we should “suffer fools gladly,” or that we should in any way back off from full-throated advocacy for the things we stand for; I am suggesting that reflexive, unnecessary vituperation and emotional cruelty may not always truly serve the larger goals of our advocacy.

    OK, y’all can start ripping me up for being a pussy now. Have fun; I’ll be over here making myself a Zen mojito!

  157. #157 B.Dewhirst
    July 9, 2008

    At least we agree that your historical analog is a master of slaves.

    What end of a revolution do you honestly expect to be on?

    Really, I’m the good cop… the bad cop things power flows through the barrel of a gun.

  158. #158 B.Dewhirst
    July 9, 2008

    Bill Dauphin, we win the ‘hurt feelings’ game either by not playing or by having feelings which are more hurt.

    Frankly, the personal misery that religious funerary traditions have inflicted on me leave me with little consideration for the feelings of others in this regard. If I have to keep hearing about how my rotting loved ones are in a better place, or burning in hell… they can deal with others pointing out that they are only so much rotting meat.

  159. #159 Bill Dauphin
    July 9, 2008

    Bill Dauphin, we win the ‘hurt feelings’ game either by not playing or by having feelings which are more hurt.

    I guess I’m saying one version of not playing the “‘hurt feelings’ game” — and hence, winning, by your formulation — is to avoid going out of our way to hurt people’s feelings unnecessarily. YMMV.

    (Mojito tastes good… fresh mint from my own garden… ommmmm…)

  160. #160 B.Dewhirst
    July 9, 2008

    Yes, but what -I’m- trying to say is that too much focus on their feelings entails accepting their framing of the situation.

    Accepting the other guy’s framing is a good way to get kicked around by Overton windows. As Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, etc. have all pointed out… this stuff is offensive because norms are being questioned.

    Nobody would question why saying Al Capone was a bad person in his obituary is acceptable… but the ‘philanthropy’ he was involved in has such an aura of respectability that we’re immediately in how-dare-you territory (and the legal sanction of his business dealings does much the same thing).

    Anyway, half past time for me to let this thread drop.

  161. #161 Bill Dauphin
    July 9, 2008

    Yes, but what -I’m- trying to say is that too much focus on their feelings entails accepting their framing of the situation.

    [sigh] I jus’ sayin’… not everyone is them, and even those who are aren’t them all the time, always building frames. Sometimes — on alternate Thursdays in months ending in y, perhaps — they’re just regular people with regular feelings. Once in a blue moon, it might be temporarily OK for us to be that, too.

    Really, folks… what’s the point of making the world a better place to live if we’re committed to living lives of unrelenting grimness and ferocity?

    Time for another mojito, I think.

  162. #162 Nick Gotts
    July 9, 2008

    Sometimes — on alternate Thursdays in months ending in y, perhaps — they’re just regular people with regular feelings. – Bill Dauphin

    Bill, they get less and less like that, on average, as you get near the peaks of wealth and power – how do you think they got there, and stay there?

    Gotts’ first law: in sufficiently competitive social systems, the scum rises to the top.

  163. #163 Bill Dauphin
    July 9, 2008

    Bill, they get less and less like that [i.e., "regular people with regular feelings"], on average, as you get near the peaks of wealth and power – how do you think they got there, and stay there?

    Mebbe… but I meant “regular” as opposed to “aggressively pushing a ‘frame’” (a la B’s comment), not so much “regular” in the sense of generally sharing the same emotional reality as us mere socioeconomic mortals. I only mean that I’m ready to believe Laura Templeton posted here as she did because she genuinely loved her uncle and wanted to defend his name, rather than because she was secretly shilling for Bahamanian tax shelters or pushing the “scientific” legitimization of woo.

    All that said…

    Gotts’ first law: in sufficiently competitive social systems, the scum rises to the top.

    …I politely decline to be quite that cynical. No doubt many rich people are scum, and I’ll even stipulate for the sake of argument that rich people may be more likely to be scum than us reg’lar folk. But I don’t believe, as the bloke who founded Maxim apparently asserts in his recent book, that the rich are inevitably scum because being scum is the only way to become rich.

    In my misspent youth, I once worked the retail counter in the tennis pro shop of a very tony country club in Houston (IIRC, George H.W. and Bar’ Bush were members, though I never met them). One of my most enduring memories of that job is my surprise at how very normal, and fundamentally decent, most of my old-money elite customers turned out to be. Admittedly, this wasn’t the Templetons, Buffets, or Gateses of the world, but even so….

    It’s often hard to be skeptic without also being a cynic, but I’m working at it. Not because I’m any less committed to my ideals, but because I find that being angry all the time fails to make me a more effective advocate. Or happy.

  164. #164 Nick Gotts
    July 9, 2008

    Bill,
    I did say “on average”! The “first law” is a vivid way of making the point that motivational differences, selective pressure for ruthlessness, and socially approved value-systems work together to ensure those at the top tend to be nasty – as well as clever and energetic. It also cheats by containing the word “sufficiently” – without saying how competitive that is! I’m really not angry all the time – most of what anger I have is politically motivated, and currently gets expressed here! It does also make sense that “old money” should be less ruthless (and clever, and energetic) than the nouveau riche.

  165. #165 B Marsh
    July 9, 2008

    John Templeton was a great man. He understood that to learn, one must begin with humility.

    “I am still an enthusiastic Christian,” Mr. Templeton once said, explaining his commitment to what he called religious progress. “But why shouldn’t I try to learn more? Why shouldn’t I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn’t I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more.”

    Openness to new possibilities is the path to truth. We only know a small part of what there is to learn; Sir John Templeton give his life fortune to researchers at many universities (via peer review) who are trying to increase knowledge.

  166. #166 Leigh
    July 10, 2008

    Bill Dauphin, thank you for being you — a genuinely decent human being. You give me a lot of hope.

    And by the way, you make a very good point in post 156. “It doesn’t serve our interests to act like jerks.” “We’re the good guys . . . we should act like it.”

    I’ve taken on a new (volunteer) job. I’m now the Director for Outreach for Texas Citizens for Science. I’m the missionary, if you will, from the reality-based community to people who don’t know a whole lot about science, or who “know” a lot of bunk they’ve been fed from the pulpit. Obviously, I’m also going to try to rally the troops who trust in science, but who aren’t enthusiastic and active in supporting it (for whatever reason).

    People like you make my job a lot easier.

  167. #167 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 10, 2008

    Sastra, I think you point to the core of the problems with Templeton type foundations. Elegantly so.

    To add, if possible; when leeching grant money for what the foundation surely would think is a step back, enlarge the universe and so relatively diminish humans, scientists support Templeton Foundation in spreading their confusion about science results.

    I’m divided over FQXI, and now you have given me more concerns here.

    Your concern in both noted and stupid.

    I usually think creotards are breathtakingly inane when they start to assimilate the terminology and arguments of science bloggers, because it points to their characteristic of projection and their inability to create intelligent designs. So I don’t think we should be affected by their abilities to sling monkey poop.

    But I will make an exception for us as regards hiking a ride on The Machine. W00t!

  168. #168 Bill Dauphin
    July 11, 2008

    Leigh (@166):

    Thank you for the very kind words, but I didn’t mean to set myself up as some kind of a saint. I’m just another poor schmuck who’s struggling with the inherent tension between perfectly well justified righteous indignation and the fact that indignation itself can sometimes be toxic to the ideals that motivate it.

    Thank you for your volunteer work, which no doubt does more good in a single day than a month’s worth of internet armwaving could ever hope to accomplish.