Category Archives: Theodicy

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 »

Moral luck, Donald Trump and the coronavirus

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Trump Covid

The concept of moral luck is one of the more curious sidelines in the study of ethics, at the intersection of moral philosophy and mathematics. However, Donald Trump’s bizarre reactions up to, during, and after contracting Covid-19 make for a great opportunity to look at the concept. In short, President Trump first ascribed his escape from Covid for the first… Read more »

The Covid attack on empathy, sympathy and compassion

Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

It is now official. The coronavirus mitigation policy of President Trump and state governors like Iowa’s Kim Reynolds is now essentially, “Sorry, old folks and immigrant workers, a lot of you are gonna die.” As a member of that honored class, pardon me if I am angry today. The coronavirus has taken a huge hit on three bedrocks of human… Read more »

How bad are we really? Humankind by Rutger Bregman

Garden of Eden

An ages-old morality play has started a new season of “reality shows,” run on television every night since May 25, 2020. Was George Floyd a bad man or a good man? How about the four policemen who killed him on the street? Were the street protestors outside the White House on June 1 patriots expressing their constitutional First Amendment rights… Read more »

Avenging angels and the Coronavirus

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

During a recent medical visit, my physician, a nice young foreign-born guy, asked me what this quarter-inch round scar was on my upper left arm. “Smallpox vaccination,” I said. His question took me aback, but I later realized how distant in time the “Avenging Angel” of smallpox is in our collective past. Meanwhile, you can always count on preachers like… Read more »