This Week's Reader January 4, 2009  

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sony's Home juggles free speech, hate speech
Sony's Home has had a rocky start. Server issues, lack of compelling content, and a somewhat hostile environment have all added up to make the online service more of a PR problem than Sony likely expected. The latest issue? Sony has banned words such as "gay," "bi-sexual," and "Jew" from the service. If you've played a game online... well, ever... you know why such words would go on the black list. But supporters of gay rights, or gamers who practice the Jewish faith, have taken issue with these words becoming negative labels.

Downloading your games? Get ready for extra fees
But why, exactly, would something like the Extended Download Service even be in existence? Keeping records of who buys what and when they bought it seems like standard business practice and would appear to be one major advantage to buying digitally. Allowing customers to access these records and re-download what they've already paid for seems like a no-brainer; charging people for that option just seems slimy. Unfortunately, phone calls to Digital River resulted in a thirty minute perma-hold when waiting to talk to customer service, and repeated disconnects when attempting to get in touch with someone in the PR department.

Rights, liberty and community.
Where libertarianism is weakest is that many libertarians, advocates of the pure voluntary community, can only address issues if they arise within the utopia which does not exist. Individuals who tend in this utopian direction are incapable of explaining any process by which their utopia may be achieved. Since issues are intertwined they will tend to tell you that to deal with one distortion caused by the political process you must address all the other problems simultaneously. We see this from utopian libertarians in regards to the marriage equality issue.

They will argue equal marriage rights should not be given same-sex couples because the state should not be involved in marriage at all. When you point out the dozens of other issues of state involvement which directly tied to marriage they then tell you how all those issues have to simultaneously solved as well. For instance, they will argue that the involuntary state should not be involved in marriage so gays should not have equal marriage rights. If you bring up the problem of allowing spouses for of Americans to immigrate they will tell you they don’t want immigration laws either. So now, before justice can be done for gay couples in these circumstances you must abolish both state marriage for everyone as well as immigration laws. Unfair tax laws that penalize gay couples are another example. While marriage rights would solve both problems for such couples the utopians suggest waiting until all these laws can be reformed first. The absurdity is that neither marriage, immigration laws or taxes are likely to be abolished in our lifetime so the utopians are suggesting gay couples just deal with the injustices inflicted on them until they die. Then they will be shocked when they find gay people uninterested in this “solution”.

Partisan at any Price
So the best one can say about Jack Kelly’s analysis is that he’s somewhat confused about economic history. A less charitable interpretation would be that he’s more interested in partisanship than in truthfulness. I suppose writing very partisan attacks guarantees one a devoted readership, but it bothers me greatly. Whichever side it comes from, by repeatedly demeaning and demonizing their opponents, these folks diminish the quality of democratic debate in this country. Their is a fine line between the person who says “All Democrats (Republicans) are idiots” and the person who decides that they ought to be denied political power by any means necessary. That is to say, anyone who so carelessly ignores the empirical evidence in order to cast aspersions on his opponents has–by so doing–demonstrated his contempt for democracy.

My Story
As time went on and my schedule became more hectic some of the thoughts I had tossed into the back of my head began to surface. These thoughts contained doubts about what I was doing. Some were doubts about what I was teaching. In most cases I cast these thoughts aside. Christianity had taught me that thoughts like these were either a part of my own sinful nature or an attack from the devil, God's ancient enemy. How could I even trust my own thoughts? After all, the Bible was clear that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (according to Jeremiah 17:9). It became even more imperative to pray and to give myself to Christ ... to die to self and to live unto God.

But my prayers seemed to go unheeded. In fact, I began to notice things that really caught my attention. My wife is an extremely religious woman. She believes the Bible to be literally true and would spend the first hour of her day reading the Scriptures. The next hour was devoted to prayer. A large portion of our prayer was for our children. Over the years we saw quite a rebellious spirit arise in each of our kids. We had desired that they would become godly offspring, willing to sacrifice their own lives for the cause of Christ. As they rebelled and seemed dead set on pursuing their own ways, we pleaded with them, we educated them in the ways of Christ, we chastened them when necessary and, above all things, we prayed for them. However, it seemed that prayer was not effective. No matter how many hours my godly wife prayed, no matter how many times either of us hit our knees, our children did not change. We began to doubt their salvation. I began to doubt God.

The Joys of Deconversion - Part One
As a Christian, I had two sources of information: Reality, and the “Truth” as proscribed by my faith. I doubt I need to say it, but these two sources were often in conflict with one another. The exercise of juggling reality with faith was an enormous burden. I spent a great deal of time, effort and brain power trying to twist one or the other into pretzel-shapes in order for them to somehow work together in the same universe. If the facts did not conform to my faith, then I would attack the facts as somehow “incorrect” or “deceitful.” If the facts were incontrovertible and in direct contradiction to my faith, then I would consider how possibly my faith was misunderstood, and revisit the Biblical passages, sometimes delving directly into the original Hebrew or Greek definitions to somehow come up with that little pinion that allowed my submarine engine to function in a ’56 T-Bird. It was pure sophistry, but I persisted. Ironically, I kept insisting that secular thinkers “just didn’t get it.”

12 Elegant Examples of Evolution
Archaeopteryx, found in 1861, was long thought to be the first bird. Then it was recognized as something closer to a dinosaur with feathers — but still unique for that. In the 1980's, however, paleontologists digging in deposits more than 65 million years old in northern China found feathered dinosaurs which very definitely did not fly. Some dinosaurs, it appeared, may have looked far different from our traditional conception — and feathers may first have served an insulating or aesthetic, rather than aerodynamic, purpose.

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