Category Archives: Theodicy

When we become inured to death

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

In 2017 and 2018, when all eyes were on several horrific incidents of mass gun violence, the United States was averaging just under one incident of mass gun violence per day (defined by the excellent Gun Violence Archive as four or more people killed or injured in one reported incident). During the pandemic year of 2020, that number rose to… Read more »

The capricious God of Covid

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Dice icon

“At the first glance, the only ‘law’ … seems to be that of Caprice — caprice in inheriting, caprice in transmitting, caprice everywhere, in turn.” — Philosopher William James (1842– 1910) One of the classic examples in an introductory statistics class is the drawing of billiard balls from an opaque sack containing an unknown mix of various colored balls, and… Read more »

Biden, the bishops, and a failure to communicate

Cool Hand Luke

American Catholic bishops have apparently backed off plans to deny the Holy Communion from practicing Catholic Democratic politicians like President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Comments from the Jesuit Pope Francis and public sentiment appear to have convinced the bishops that this stance would be politically unwise at this time. California Republican and gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, who in a… Read more »

When ethics and dogma meet politics

Stephen Crane

“Think as I think,” said a man, “Or you are abominably wicked; You are a toad.” And after I had thought of it, I said: “I will, then, be a toad.” — Stephen Crane (1871–1900) It can be dangerous to bisect any part of the world around us into two paths, but I have come to view human expressions of… Read more »

Betting against the house on the Covid vaccines

Slot machines

“You have a greater chance of being in a car accident on the way to getting this vaccine than you have of having a problem from this vaccine. But that’s not how people view risk.” — Paul Offit, vaccine expert at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Maybe it is because I do not seem to have a gambling gene in my body…. Read more »

Worth a read: A Series of Fortunate Events by Sean B. Carroll

A Series of Fortunate Events

Good science is hard; good science communication may be even harder. During my publishing career I was the editor or managing editor on quite a few university-level texts, and I usually found the “Introduction to …” textbook authors to be better communicators and classroom teachers than the authors of “upper division” specialized texts. Ironically, the best-selling intro text authors may… Read more »

Giving up Rush Limbaugh for Lent

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Odious

A coincidence, surely, that Rush Limbaugh and I share a birth year, or that he died of lung cancer on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian 40-day “penance” tradition of Lent. When I would visit my then-88-year-old Norwegian grandmother while attending university near her Upper Peninsula Michigan home, she would open the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette in the… Read more »

Kids, can you say Epistemology?

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Blaise Pascal

Zen kōans (similar to parables) are notoriously hard to source, but the “stick” theme is common. This “stick kōan” about accepting reality is of unknown provenance, but it makes its point: The master held out a large bamboo stick and asked the student “Is this stick real?” The student, trying to show his superior understanding, replied, “How can we know… Read more »

Betting your life on “The Truth”

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Junction

One of the unnecessary tragedies arising from the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol was the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt, a documented QAnon conspiracy theorist. Ms. Babbitt was the first to enter through a glass door into the secured House Speaker’s Lobby, which had been smashed by her fellow insurgents. Capitol police assigned to protect the U.S. “line… Read more »

When your coronavirus theology kills people

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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Perhaps there are two kinds of normal people…There are those who don’t believe in free will and thereby don’t have free will, and there are those who do believe in free will and thereby actually have free will. ” Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves. I will be upfront about my definition of “bad theology” here: Bad theology is a belief system… Read more »