Category Archives: Theodicy

Why I won’t be in church on Easter morning

Nautilus shell

Politics meets religion meets mathematics. The political talk is that churches should open on Easter Sunday, April 12, and go back to “life as usual.” But the hard math says, “Please, do not do this!” One common talking point compares Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. so far (900+) to auto accident deaths (about 37,000 annually) and mocks the “big deal”… Read more »

COVID-19 and real-life lifeboat ethics

Before there was the “Trolley Problem,” ethics classes would commonly haul out “Lifeboat Ethics” scenarios to stimulate class discussion. In my years of teaching ethics, I never used either because I dislike them both. They both ask the wrong questions, and they lead the Stephen Millers of the world to invoke horrendous “Lord of the Flies” government policies like caging… Read more »

The roll of the COVID-19 dice

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Bayes Theorem

“It doesn’t want to kill you before you transmit it.” – biologist Michael Farzan of Scripps Research That quote is not so scary as it sounds; it is basic probability math. The probability math of the COVID-19 Coronavirus variant has hit the news, and not in a good way. We have already seen the first reported cases in my county… Read more »

Stupid stuff and the probability of tragedy

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Italian Hall

Drunk drivers will almost always get home safely each night. And if that happens enough successive times, the human brain “learns” a very bad thing, that it is okay to be driving drunk. Until tragedy strikes and it’s not. The Barack Obama foreign policy had been famously summarized as “Don’t do stupid s**t,” which is opposite of drunk driving, but… Read more »

The helpless gun violence theodicy of “thoughts and prayers”

In a recent post I looked at the theodicy expressed or implied by people as they sought to explain some “larger meaning” in hurricanes and other natural disasters. Theodicy is literally “the justice of God,” or figuratively the broader question of “Why do bad things (or good things) happen in this world?” That latter interpretation has come to include both… Read more »

Hurricane Dorian: Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’

Dorian-Saturday

Residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast (where I live) have woken up on Saturday morning to find their prayers answered, as Hurricane Dorian’s projected path has taken a sharp right turn. Fervent prayers from Florida’s northern Atlantic coast, on the other hand, are apparently still stuck in limbo. Those sentences are an expression of theodicy, “the justice of God,” or the… Read more »

The three languages of right and wrong

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You likely don’t realize it, but whenever you talk about issues of “right” and “wrong,” you are at least “bi-lingual,” and often “tri-lingual.” Just as many Americans unconsciously and fluidly slip between speaking English and Spanish in a linguistic hybrid, most of us intermix at least three “cultural languages” when expressing our views on morality and the law. [1] I… Read more »

The new religious Machiavellians

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The characteristic of the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian super-loyal endorsers of “Everything Trump” that continues to confound me most is how they have appeared to toss over three thousand years of classical Judeo-Christian moral/ethical thought in exchange for a decidedly-secular Renaissance ethical model, the famous one expounded by the Italian politician Niccolò Machiavelli. [1] Machiavelli’s famous dictum of “the end… Read more »

Mind-body dualism and religion – the hard debate

In a prior post, I noted that the most-cited debate between science and religion, that of Darwinian evolution, is “the easy problem to solve” in this face-off. Millions of Christians and major denominational bodies have already come to a reconciliation with the science, simply by understanding, as St. Augustine of Hippo recognized by the early 5th century, that the short… Read more »