Monday: Hili dialogue

November 13, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to Monday, November 13, 2023—my last full day in Paris. It’s also National Indian Pudding Day, celebrating my favorite indigenous American dessert.  Try some: you’ll either love it or hate it!

Posting may be light today because the hotel internet is wonky. Bear with me; I’ll do my best.

From Yankee Magazine

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the November 13 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*I was at the Paris March against antisemitism yesterday; and it was quite a crowd; estimated at about 105,000 (I’ll post pictures later).

More than 100,000 demonstrators in Paris and cities across France took to the streets on Sunday to show their solidarity with the country’s Jews and to deplore antisemitic acts that have multiplied across the nation since Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The marches were called by the leaders of both houses of the French Parliament, the Senate and the National Assembly, and unfolded under gray skies mostly without incident, with 3,000 police officers in Paris alone patrolling the route. The marches in France came a day after a huge pro-Palestinian protest in London that police said involved about 300,000 people.

French presidents typically do not participate in such marches, and Mr. Macron said that while he would not be present, he would be there “in my heart and in my thoughts.”

But there were a lot of big names there. A photo from the NYT:

(from the NYT) Marchers included, from left, former President Nicolas Sarkozy; the leaders of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, and Senate, Gérard Larcher; Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne; and former President François Hollande.Credit…Thomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and the National Assembly leader, Yaël Braun-Pivet, said the march was not intended to be a political statement about the war, over which political parties in France have clashed in recent weeks.

Instead, Ms. Braun-Pivet, who herself has been the target of antisemitic threats and is under police protection, said the march was an appeal for French citizens to show one another and the world “what France is today.”

The fact so many people participated in a march organized only six days ago — according to the Interior Ministry, more than 182,000 people marched across France, including 105,000 in Paris alone — showed that the French were “capable of assembling rapidly, reuniting around our values, our history, and what I’m sure will be our future,” she said.

Several former presidents joined the march in Paris, including François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as five former French prime ministers. Cultural figures attending included the actresses Natalie Portman and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

All I’ll say now was that there was a great feeling of solidarity among the demonstrators, many of whom were wearing the French tricolor or waving small French flags. It really did feel like France coming together against antisemitism or bigotry of all sorts.

*According to the Washington Post, the war in the Middle East just escalated a bit, putting the U.S. more at odds with Iran:

The Pentagon on Sunday announced a new round of airstrikes on Iranian facilities in Syria that officials said were linked to dozens of recent attacks targeting U.S. troops there and in neighboring Iraq, this time causing an undetermined number of fatalities among proxy fighters backed by Tehran.

The operation marked a significant escalation by the Biden administration, which has sought to deter the sharp rise in violence against American forces in the Middle East without provoking a broader regional conflict as tensions flare over the war in Gaza.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that these latest strikes had been carried out in eastern Syria on facilities used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and groups affiliated with it. They hit a training facility near the city of [Bukamal] and a “safe house” near Mayadin, he said.

President Biden directed the operation, Austin added,“to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests.”

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary assessments following the strikes, said the training facility in Bukamal also was used to store weapons and that secondary explosions were observed.

One wonders if, at the end, we’ll be at war with Iran.

*Over at the Free Press, Bari Weiss put up a 64-minute podcast by Sam Harris about the war, along with an edited transcript of that conversation. For the full edit, though, go here. Here’s the last bit of Sam’s monologue, which is largely about how radical Islamists behave as they do because they really believe their religious doctrine, something that many Americans don’t seem to believe. Here’s the ending:

Just think about what happened at the Supernova music festival: At least 260 people were murdered in the most sadistically gruesome ways possible. Decapitated, burned alive, blown up with grenades… And from the jihadist side this wasn’t an error. It’s not that if they could have known what was in the hearts of those beautiful young people, they would have thought, “oh my God, we’re killing the wrong people. These people aren’t our enemies. These people are filled with love and compassion and want nothing more than to live in peace with us.” No, the true horror is that, given what jihadists believe, those were precisely the sorts of people any good Muslim should kill and send to hell where they can be tortured in fire for eternity. From the jihadist point of view, there is no mistake here. And there is no basis for remorse. Please absorb this fact: for the jihadist, all of this sadism—the torture and murder of helpless, terrified people—is an act of worship. This is the sacrament. This isn’t some nauseating departure from the path to God. This isn’t stalled spiritual progress, much less sin. This is what you do for the glory of God. This is what Muhammad himself did.

There is no substitute for understanding what our enemies actually want and believe. I’m pretty sure that many of you listening to this aren’t even comfortable with my use of the term “enemy,” because you don’t want to believe that you have any. I understand that. But you have to understand that the people who butchered over 1400 innocent men, women, and children in Israel on October 7th were practicing their religion, sincerely. They were being every bit as spiritual, from their point of view, as the trance dancers at the Supernova festival were being from theirs. They were equally devoted to their highest values. Equally uplifted. Ecstatic. Amazed at their good fortune. They wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone. Let this image land in your brain: They were shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) all day long, as they murdered women and children. And these people are now being celebrated the world over by those who understand exactly what they did. Yes, many of those college kids at Harvard and Stanford and Cornell are just idiots who have a lot to learn about the world. But in the Muslim community, and that includes the crowds in London, and Sydney, and Brooklyn, Hamas is being celebrated by people who understand exactly what motivates them.

Again, watch “Hotel Mumbai” or read a book about the Islamic State so that you can see jihadism in another context—where literally not one of the variables that people imagine to be important here is present. There are no settlers, or blockades, or daily humiliations at check points, or differing interpretations of history—and yet we have same grotesque distortion of the spiritual impulse, the same otherworldliness framed by murder, the same absolute evil that doesn’t require the presence of evil people, just confused ones—just true believers.

Of course, we can do our best to turn the temperature down now. And we can trust that the news cycle will get captured by another story. We can direct our attention again to Russia, or China, or climate change, or AI alignment, and I will do that on this podcast, but the problem of jihadism and the much wider problem of sympathy for it isn’t going away. And civilized people—non-Muslim and Muslim alike—have to deal with it. As I said in a previous podcast on this topic: We all live in Israel now. It’s just that most of us haven’t realized it yet.

*The Associated Press discusses how Biden’s initial enthusiastic backing of Israel has weakened as world opinion turns against Israel and towards Palestine.

In the early days and hours after the horrific Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, President Joe Biden spoke with stark declarations and unqualified support for the longtime U.S. ally.

Now, a month on, that unambiguous backing has given way to the complexities and haunting casualties of the war, and the Biden administration is imploring Israel to rein in some of its tactics to ease civilian suffering in Gaza.

As condemnation of the conflict has grown around the world, stoking anti-Israel sentiment, the president is also confronting the limits of the U.S. ability to direct the outcome — not only about the war, but what comes after it.

“There’s no going back to the status quo as it stood on October the 6th,” Biden said three weeks after the attack. But even if Israel is successful in crippling or eradicating Hamas, there will also need to be a shift in Washington, where successive U.S. administrations have sought to manage the Middle East conflict and where the political will has been lacking to devise ways to end it.

And yet the path forward is uncertain, at best. “It’s entirely unclear if there is a ‘morning after,’” said Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. He noted this could be “an extended period of violence at a different scale for many, many months or years to come.”

“But if there is something possible, they can’t just put a plan on the table,“ he added. “They have to take new American positions of their own, that are transformative, that are different, that are like something we have not seen.”

Telhami said after his staunch support for Israel, the president would need to take equally dramatic steps to secure buy-in from Palestinians to bring about a political resolution to the conflict, starting with reining in Israeli settlements in the West Bank that Palestinians view as infringing on their future state.

And that last part is the hard part. If we’re really going to have two states, without terrorism pervading Palestine and leading to attacks on Israel, we need honest brokers on both sides, and that can’t be Netanyahu, Hamas, or the Palestinian authority. Mahmoud Abbas is as corrupt as they come, rich with funds appropriated from the world’s donations to help Palestinians, and so we’d have to have leaders emerge on both sides that can confect a lasting peace. I can’t see how that’s happening, and it puts Biden in a tough spot. I’m confident he’ll still back Israel in trying to prevent a wider war, but eventually he’ll have to lean on both Israel and Palestine to create what seems impossible, the once-vaunted “two-state solution.”

*Michael Shermer has written a long response, called “Why I am not a Christian,” to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s declaration that she gave up atheism for Christianity. (His title of course comes from Bertrand Russell’s famous essay.) It’s an excellent riposte that, while deeply respectful of Hirsi Ali’s accomplishments,  takes apart her declaration that only adopting Judeo-Christian principles can save the world. Like Steve Pinker, he declares that what made the modern world “modern” in its morality was not adherence to religious ethics but to the humanistic values embodied in the Enlightenment:

An excerpt:

In my books The Moral Arc and Giving the Devil His Due I show that it isn’t atheism bending the arc of justice and freedom, but Enlightenment humanism—a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on human and civil rights, individual autonomy and bodily integrity, free thought and free speech, the rule of law, and science and reason as the best tools for determining the truth about anything. It incorporates scientific naturalism, the principle that the methods of science operate under the presumption that the world and everything in it is the result of natural processes in a system of material causes and effects that does not allow, or need, the introduction of supernatural forcesBy extension from above, if God is a supernatural being outside of space and time and therefore unknowable in any rational or empirical manner, it is not possible for natural creatures like us to understand a supernatural deity.

. . .The answer is that it is in human nature to struggle to survive and flourish in the teeth of nature’s entropy, and having the freedom, autonomy, and prosperity available in free societies—built as they were on the foundation of scientific naturalism and Enlightenment humanism that seek to discover the best way for humans to live— enables individual sentient beings to live out their evolved destinies. This is moral realism, and it doesn’t require a deity to justify its validity. Steven Pinker explains the logic:

If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me—to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car—then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously. Unless I am Galactic Overlord, I have to state my case in a way that would force me to treat you in kind. I can’t act as if my interests are special just because I’m me and you’re not, any more than I can persuade you that the spot I am standing on is a special place in the universe just because I happen to be standing on it.

This is the principle of the interchangeability of perspectives (developed in Pinker’s 2018 book Enlightenment Now), which is the core of the oldest moral principle discovered multiple times around the world throughout history: the Golden Rule. Pinker notes that it also forms the basis of “Spinoza’s Viewpoint of Eternity, the Social Contract of Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke; Kant’s Categorical Imperative; and Rawls’s Veil of Ignorance. It also underlies Peter Singer’s theory of the Expanding Circle—the optimistic proposal that our moral sense, though shaped by evolution to overvalue self, kin and clan, can propel us on a path of moral progress, as our reasoning forces us to generalize it to larger and larger circles of sentient beings.”

. . . Atheism isn’t the alternative to the Judeo-Christian worldview, Enlightenment Humanism is. We can ground human morals and social values not just in philosophical principles such as Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Kant’s categorical imperative, Mill’s utilitarianism, or Rawls’ fairness ethics, but in science as well. From the Scientific Revolution through the Enlightenment, reason and science slowly but systematically replaced superstition, dogmatism, and religious authority.

Read it. I’ve received many emails despairing of Hirsi Ali’s deconversion back to Christianity, and although she may have found peace in that faith, one can argue strenuously against the reasons she gives for accepting it. Read the comments following my piece (and of course read Hirsi Ali’s piece).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is in her usual state:

Hili: I’m meowing in an important cause.
A: What cause?
Hili: I’m dying of hunger.
In Polish:
Hili: Miauczę w ważnej sprawie.Ja: Jakiej?Hiii: Umieram z głodu.

From Divy:

Two from the Absurd Sign Project 2.0:

The plot to kidnap Masih, as told to Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes”:

From my “home” Twitter (“X”) feed. This is ineffably sweet:

A very savvy elephant:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a two-month old infant gassed upon arrival:


From Matthew, who’s back sending tweets. First, spawning echinoderms. It’s amazing that the gametes can find each other in the ocean, which required absolutely precise release of gametes. This is coordinated by environmental factors like temperature and daylight.

Kitten sees birds for the first time, frantically makes biscuits:

49 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1002 – English king Æthelred II orders the killing of all Danes in England, known today as the St. Brice’s Day massacre.

    1833 – Great Meteor Storm of 1833.

    1841 – James Braid first sees a demonstration of animal magnetism by Charles Lafontaine, which leads to his study of the subject he eventually calls hypnotism.

    1887 – Bloody Sunday clashes in central London. [A crowd of marchers protesting about unemployment and the Irish Coercion Acts, as well as demanding the release of MP William O’Brien, clashed with the Metropolitan Police.]

    1922 – The United States Supreme Court upholds mandatory vaccinations for public school students in Zucht v. King.

    1940 – Walt Disney’s animated musical film Fantasia is first released at New York’s Broadway Theatre, on the first night of a roadshow.

    1956 – The Supreme Court of the United States declares Alabama laws requiring segregated buses illegal, thus ending the Montgomery bus boycott.

    1969 – Vietnam War: Anti-war protesters in Washington, D.C. stage a symbolic March Against Death.

    1970 – Bhola cyclone: A 240 km/h (150 mph) tropical cyclone hits the densely populated Ganges Delta region of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), killing an estimated 500,000 people in one night.

    1982 – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. after a march to its site by thousands of Vietnam War veterans.

    1990 – In Aramoana, New Zealand, David Gray shoots dead 13 people in a massacre before being tracked down and killed by police the next day.

    1994 – In a referendum, voters in Sweden decide to join the European Union.

    1995 – Mozambique becomes the first state to join the Commonwealth of Nations without having been part of the former British Empire.

    2001 – War on Terror: In the first such act since World War II, US President George W. Bush signs an executive order allowing military tribunals against foreigners suspected of connections to terrorist acts or planned acts on the United States.

    2002 – Iraq disarmament crisis: Iraq agrees to the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

    2002 – During the Prestige oil spill, a storm bursts a tank of the oil tanker MV Prestige, which was not allowed to dock and sank on November 19, 2002, off the coast of Galicia, spilling 63,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil, more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

    2015 – Islamic State operatives carry out a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, including suicide bombings, mass shootings and a hostage crisis. The terrorists kill 130 people, making it the deadliest attack in France since the Second World War.

    354 – Augustine of Hippo, Roman bishop and theologian (d. 430).

    1715 – Dorothea Erxleben, German first female medical doctor (d. 1762).

    1833 – Edwin Booth, American actor and manager (d. 1893

    1847 – Mir Mosharraf Hossain, famous novelist of Bengali literature (d. 1912).

    1850 – Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet, and essayist (d. 1894).

    1866 – Abraham Flexner, American educator, founded the Institute for Advanced Study (d. 1959).

    1869 – Helene Stöcker, German author and activist (d. 1943).

    1906 – Hermione Baddeley, English actress (d. 1986).

    1906 – Eva Zeisel, Hungarian-American potter and designer (d. 2011).

    1929 – Fred Phelps, American lawyer, pastor, and activist, founded the Westboro Baptist Church (d. 2014). [His granddaughter, Megan Phelps-Roper, escaped the homophobic cult and created the excellent podcast series The Witch Trials of JK Rowling.]

    1938 – Jean Seberg, American-French actress and singer (d. 1979).

    1941 – David Green, American businessman and philanthropist, founded Hobby Lobby.

    1949 – Terry Reid, English singer-songwriter and guitarist.

    1952 – Merrick Garland, American jurist, 86th United States Attorney General.

    1952 – Art Malik, Pakistani-English actor and producer.

    1954 – Scott McNealy, American businessman, co-founded Sun Microsystems.

    1955 – Whoopi Goldberg, American actress, comedian, and talk show host.

    1967 – Jimmy Kimmel, American comedian, actor, and talk show host.

    1967 – Steve Zahn, American actor and singer.

    1969 – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somalian-American activist and author. [And born-again Christian *sigh*.]

    2002 – Emma Raducanu, British tennis player.

    Death is a commingling of eternity with time; in the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time.
    1002 – Gunhilde, wife of Pallig, Danish chieftain. [She may have been Sweyn Forkbeard’s sister and a desire to avenge her death was probably a principal motive for Sweyn’s later invasion of England in 1003, leading to the eventual conquest of England by his son Cnut.]

    1606 – Girolamo Mercuriale, Italian physician and philologist (b. 1530).

    1868 – Gioachino Rossini, Italian pianist and composer (b. 1792).

    1872 – Margaret Sarah Carpenter, English painter (b. 1793).

    1903 – Camille Pissarro, Virgin Islander-French painter (b. 1830).

    1952 – Margaret Wise Brown, American author (b. 1910). [Known as “the laureate of the nursery” for her achievements.]Best

    1963 – Margaret Murray, Indian-English anthropologist and author (b. 1863).

    1969 – Iskander Mirza, Indian-Pakistani general and politician, 1st President of Pakistan (b. 1899). [He was also born on this day.]

    1970 – Bessie Braddock, British politician (b. 1899).

    1973 – Lila Lee, American actress (b. 1901).

    1974 – Karen Silkwood, American technician and activist (b. 1946).

    2004 – Ol’ Dirty Bastard, American rapper and producer (b. 1968).

    2020 – Peter Sutcliffe, English serial killer (b. 1946). [The Yorkshire Ripper.]

    1. Margaret Wise Brown founded (I guess, “founded”) the “here and now” style. Clement Hurd was the artist, though.

      There’s something to it! Goodnight Moon has a sedative, sleep-inducing effect (I guess) – the way the colors and scene dynamics / contrast come together. If anyone can get over the fact it is meant for toddlers and try it, they should – minimalistic. Quite a singular read / piece of art. Highly recommended.

      1. Rossini had a sense of humour. My favourite Rossini quote: “Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour.”

  2. I’d like to try making it -Indian pudding -as it looks like nice comfort food, so can anyone give me an approximation of how many calories in that, say per 100 g? Watching the waist since losing 2 stone /11kg since August.

    1. No, but Entry level recipe is .. well, the “serving size” will end up being a spoonful, like 15 mL. Let’s look at the suspects :

      4 cups whole milk
      1/2 cup molasses
      1/4 cup pure maple syrup
      2 tablespoons unsalted butter
      2 large eggs
      2 teaspoons granulated sugar

      That makes about 1-1/2 quarts. IOW a lot. And IMHO needs more sugar.

      Next, I want to try a smaller, lighter version – it’s hard because it needs the molasses – extra sugar is used to balance the molasses and spice… and that whole milk.

      Then there’s the whipped cream or ice cream which pretty much ruins any effort to lighten up.

  3. Steel-manning Ayaan Hirsi Ali: her central perspective is opposition to Islam, and understandably so. So has likely been disappointed that too much of anglophone atheism has gone rather woke, and now indulges Islam, refusing to find fault with it. Many atheists have criticised Dawkins and Sam Harris for their entirely fair comments about Islam. Thus she now sees American Christianity as the bulwark against Islam that secular atheism is declining to be. Hence her cultural identification with Christianity.

    1. I think you’re right. When confronted by humanists with opposing views on the dangers of Islam, instead of thinking “some humanists are wrong” she thought “humanism doesn’t work.” Which is of course ironic, because Christianity is hardly a unified ethical group with little inner dissent. It only looks that way from inside the small pocket of those who agree with you.

  4. Happy St Brice’s Day to all the Danes reading! Where I live in Norwich we probably killed a few – but maybe not, as Norwich was an Anglo-Danish town with a lot of Danes here… on the other hand, in 1004 ‘Sweyn came & burnt Norwich’ – OK, well I promise not to kill any Danes, if they promise not to burn my city! Again!!

  5. Internal contradiction: “faith, one can argue strenuously against the reasons she gives for accepting it. ” – Sigh, you think possibly that might be WHY it’s called “Faith”? Will you ever accept the fact that there is no, and will never be a logical series of derivations starting from self evident truths that ends in the conclusion, “Therefore God!”. It’s more like believing in nothing, and the limits of science and reason. But you have to pretend you have all the answers, that’s your living.

    1. And yet Christians seem to want to come up with all sorts of reasons – that have the veneer of logic and evidence but not the substance – as to why they believe. If they just said, “I believe in God because I have faith”, I wouldn’t have a problem with their arguments. In fact I would have no comeback.

      But they still come up with all sorts of crap about why evolution is impossible or that they have eye witness accounts of the resurrected Jesus. It’s almost as if faith is not enough, even for them.

    2. Have you read our host’s book Faith vs. Fact, Chuck? (There’s a link for obtaining it in the upper-right corner of this page.)

      Jerry thoroughly addresses there the precise issue you raise in your comment. And reading it might help you overcome your bout of sighing.

    3. I think you are addressing your argument to the wrong group. You first need to convince your fellow believers, the large majority of which very often, daily even, compose logical series of derivations starting from self evident truths ending in the conclusion, “Therefore God!”

      Seems that despite the proclamations of “You just gotta have Faith!,” which I agree are very common, nearly all believers actually want to have their cake and eat it to. Logical arguments supported by science when it suits their mood, and “You’ve just got to have Faith!,” when their logical arguments are sufficiently refuted.

    4. “But you have to pretend you have all the answers”

      There’s an allegory :

      A drunk on the street looking for their housekey in the dark. They look under the small pool of light under the streetlamp for a reason.

      We are all that drunkard.

    5. “But you have to pretend you have all the answers, that’s your living.”

      I’d say that is the antithesis of what scientists do and how they do it. As soon as science pretends it has all the answers it grinds to a halt – I don’t think that has happened to science in any general sense.

      I’d venture that no-one has faith that comes from nowhere – they believe in their Gods because they have been taught to by their families and teachers and because what they believe makes sense to them in explaining the World as they experience it. Religious people are constantly proclaiming the evidence they believe ‘proves’ their God exists whether it be ‘miracles’, visions, holy books, the complexity of the World and the life it supports or whatever. In other words their faith is upheld by their reason interpreting the evidence they perceive (even if from an atheists point of view their reasoning is defective).

      For atheists there is no evidence for the existence of Gods (of whatever stripe) that is not much better explained by materialistic arguments. That is not saying we have all the answers though, which is why there are still large numbers of people engaged in research including into the big questions about the origins of the universe.

  6. I thought Indian Pudding Day was many weeks ago – I know because I made a ton of it – because of Indian Pudding Day – because of WEIT!

    Next pudding I have to make :

    Grape Nut Pudding

    (No grapes, no nuts, what’s the deal?)

    1. I wonder how they keep the Grape Nuts from turning into mush?

      As a kid, eating Grape Nuts used to give me an anxiety attack. Place Grape Nuts in bowl, pour in milk, wait for Grape Nuts to soften from 4X diamond hardness to 1x diamond hardness, frantically try to eat the entire bowl in the few seconds before the Grape Nuts turn into mush.

  7. I thought Shermer’s piece was excellent. I couldn’t help but wonder over the weekend what type of Christian Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become. It is almost a content-free statement to say “I am a Christian,” given the diversity and conflicts in the theology of the various sects.

  8. I listened to Sam’s podcast as Bari Weiss made it available yesterday and found it to be an excellent extension of the 14-minute podcast of last week. In it, as in the piece of transcript above, he urges people to read a book to get a sense of history and, in the podcast mentions his short edition, “Islam and the future of tolerance”, the transcript of a 2015 dialogue between Sam and Maajid Nawaz. It is a short and small format volume, only 125 pages and very informative. I am no expert on these matters, but recommend it. I would invite comments on the book from weit readers who are more expert than I.

    An edit: I appreciate that in the podcast he takes the West Bank settlers to task, but clearly differentiates the settlers’ illegal acts and attitudes from those of Hamas.

    Edit #2: just a thank you to Jerry for attending and reporting live on the emotional sense of the march. I was wondering if he picked up any sense of the general Israeli feeling toward the West Bank settlers’ ongoing actions when he was in Israel recently. My sense is that their behavior is akin the the KKK nightriders in the U.S. South in the early part of the 20th century.

    1. What does “akin” mean in this context, Jim? What you seem to be acknowledging is that the behaviour of the settlers is not “the same as” that of the Klan, else you would have said so. How “akin” do two different things have to be before the one being wrong makes the other wrong also?

  9. The zealous advocacy—and even requirement—of murder in the jihadist creed is very scary indeed. Faith run completely amok.

    Thank you for going to the antisemitism march in Paris. Over the past few weeks I began to fear that large-scale demonstrations *in support* of Jews might no longer be possible in the world. This event proves that Jews are not alone.

  10. Good to see that there’s a good amount of solidarity in France for Israel.

    A day or two ago it was noted here that support for Gazans is higher, the younger you are. Maybe that’s because youts are less likely to read and respond more to visuals, and therefore it might not be a good thing to be keeping the visuals of the initial slaughter under wraps. A “dialog” with the son of a colleague over all of this wound up in short order with him calling me a “despicable cretin,” which ended that.

    Also, an old HS GF, who is fairly secularly Jewish but once worked on a kibbutz, is having somewhat the same difficulties with her daughter, and appreciates the input that has come from here over the past month.

    And my own son seems to be trying to keep fairly agnostic about the whole thing. At least that’s better than buying the Hamas party line.

    1. “….Maybe that’s because the youts (sic or a quiet tribute to My Cousin Vinny?)are less likely to read…”. When my grandson (age 25) was here for lunch the other day, he noticed that I was reading Sam Harris’ “Islam” and asked about it because hewas trying to read and catch up on the history of the Middle East that of course was not taught in school. I admire him greatly for making the effort but I cannot see how he and his peers have the time, given the pull of their full-time jobs, families and in some cases graduate school also. How to choose what to read, get the time to read it, reject the simplistic twitter-length official and repeated stories of much of the media. I admire your son who must also suffer from having the time limitations and knowing where to access a credible balance of information.

      1. Yep, youts was in ref to Vinny,

        And indeed, my son is overloaded as an atty with the Pubic Defender’s office, mostly handling juvenile cases, so as someone focused on protecting and defending the under-aged it’s good that he will give at least some consideration to the concept that kids are getting blown up because Hamas forces them to be where the bombs are going to fall. In talking with him last night he kept coming back to a hospital being bombed, but as far as I can tell he must be referring to the one that was only hit by an errant Hamas rocket and in the parking lot, while the one that sits atop Hamas HQ is still intact but without electricity. Is that right?

        Also, earlier on NPR today I learned that six photojournalists have already been killed in this war – Hamas’ way of censoring what images come out of the place.

        1. The typo in “an atty with the Pubic Defender’s office, mostly handling juvenile cases” had me alarmed for a second!

    2. I think support for Hamas skews young because many zoomers and millennials have had their minds coddled. For them, morality derives not from principles and actions but from power and oppression. Palestinians in Gaza are oppressed & helpless, so the Hamas attack on October 7 is morally correct no matter what’s on those awful gopro videos. Jews in Israel are rich and powerful, so their self-defence is morally, well, indefensible no matter what horrors are visited on Israel. Everything else (calling Israelis settler colonizers, forgetting the history of the region, stigmatizing Jews elsewhere, denial of the October 7 kidnappings) seems to come from that coddled source of morality.

  11. I’m late to the “Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a Christian” party because I was traveling, but here are two more thoughts, from a former Evangelical Christian turned atheist.

    Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Christianity is true. If so, Ayaan is making two big mistakes.

    First of all, she seems to value Christianity as the means to an end: triumph over the evil forces of Islamism/authoritarianism/wokism. That is not supposed to be the Christian way. As C.S. Lewis argues forcefully in his books “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters,” the whole point is that Jesus – a relationship with Jesus, love of him, serving him – is the end, not the means. You love Jesus and worship him, and as a sort of positive side effect, you may well achieve good things, such as a social change or a good character or whatnot. Quoting C.S. Lewis from memory: “Aim for Heaven, and you’ll get the Earth thrown in; aim for Earth, and you’ll get neither.”

    Second of all, she values Christianity for the comfort and meaning it provides, which, well…

    Has she never heard of the belief that you must accept Jesus as your Lord (specifics differ: be baptized into the Catholic church, sincerely accept Jesus into your heart in Evangelical churches) in order to be saved, and unless you do so, you are condemned to eternal suffering in Hell with no chance of a reprieve? And not only are you condemned to suffer unspeakable agony forever, you DESERVE to suffer!

    That means that, according to Ayaan newfound faith, her beloved sister (who died at a young age), her mother and father, and almost all her childhood friends are now or will soon be suffering absolutely horrific anguish, for the rest of time, because all of them are/were Muslims.

    And she finds that comforting?!?!

    Speaking for myself, I used to be a devout Evangelical, but my utter revulsion at the idea of a loving God who sends people to eternal torment in Hell was the first thing that started my journey toward atheism.

    1. Well I don’t really want to stick up for Christians, but there are plenty of Christians who don’t believe in the eternal-torment-in-hell stuff. They can take a non-literalist interpretation of their writings, and construct their own version of the religion out of the bits they like.

      1. Of course, but then you’re back to moral relativism, which Christians dread and avoid. “Do nonbelievers deserve to go to Hell? This group of Christians says yes, that group says no! Pick your favorite!”

        Christianity is supposed to be about Truth with a capital T, not believing whatever you want. If Christianity is just making up stuff that suits you, then Ayaan is wasting her time.

        1. Well I would agree that Christianity is false, but, still, Ayaan identifying as a Christian does not mean that she has to identify with the particular strain of it that you once did.

  12. I’ve got a couple of nitpicks with Shermer’s article.

    “It incorporates scientific naturalism, the principle that the methods of science operate under the presumption that the world and everything in it is the result of natural processes . . .”

    Two things. 1) That seems to be going beyond what the term “scientific naturalism” means. Either that or it is simply confusing grammar.

    2) I’ve never liked the view that “science presumes the world is ______.” I’d go so far as to say that it isn’t true. Science does not make or require presumptions of the sort “The world and everything in it is natural,” or similar. All science does is look at what’s out there. If whatever it is out there is in any way perceptible to humans then the methods of science can be used to figure stuff out about it. Could be anything, a universe filled with various gods, or magic, faeries, anything you can dream of. But none of those have been found. No, what science found was “scientific naturalism,” which is a finding of applying the methods of science, not a presumption necessary to do so.

    “By extension from above, if God is a supernatural being outside of space and time and therefore unknowable in any rational or empirical manner, it is not possible for natural creatures like us to understand a supernatural deity.”

    Again, maybe I’m just confused by the grammar, but claims of the sort “it is not possible for natural creatures like us to understand a supernatural deity,” bug me. That claim does not follow from “if God is a supernatural being outside of space and time and therefore unknowable in any rational or empirical manner.” What follows from that premise is, then it almost certainly doesn’t exist and even if it does who cares, because we can never know anything of it and it can’t have any effect on us whatsoever.

    Oh, but it’s magic so it can pop over to our mundane natural existence any time it wants and mess with us. Well then, in that case the premise is wrong. We can indeed, in principle at least, learn things about it. If it can interact with our world in any way that is perceptible to us then science can learn about it. All science is, is an extension and enhancement of human perception plus safeguards against human limitations. And if your definition of supernatural, or god, or whatever somehow avoids that then it is incoherent. Just because you can dream it up doesn’t mean it is possible.

  13. Re: Sam Harris’s explanation of Hamas extremism and I agree… anyone familiar with Ridley Scott’s “Alien” can see a jihad single mindedness to kill for the propagation of it’s ‘species’. Nothing will stop it and no individual is exempt, not even it’s own kind. That this alien lives amongst us IS a horror movie.

  14. Despite Sam Harris’ written words being excellent, listening to his oratory, is far, far more powerful. It forces you to slow down and really absorb what he is saying (even as I performed some mundane tasks). It is heartbreaking for everyone. Though long, I highly recommend listening.

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