May 5, 2009

Cass Sunstein and “Net Neutrality”

Posted in Law tagged , , , , , at 1:59 pm by Andrew

In my previous posts on why I think Cass Sunstein will be Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Justice David Souter, two separate commenters mentioned net neutrality as a reason to oppose a Sunstein nomination.

Three things:

1) Sunstein isn’t my personal top choice; that would be Sunstein protege Diane Wood, who has the strongest record of unambiguously supporting strict separation of church and state. Sunstein was just the first name that popped into my head when the news broke, and I was — and am! — surprised that he doesn’t seem to be getting any sort of attention from the Jeffrey Toobins and Chuck Todds of the world. So far I have not seen a single mainstream media mention of Sunstein as a potential nominee, and that strikes me as seriously underrating his chances.

2) On the issues: Sunstein explicitly mentioned net neutrality as a reason he was voting for Obama back in the Democratic primaries in his 2008 endorsement:

He [Obama] proposes a $150 billion research budget for climate change. He wants to hold an unprecedented national auction for the right to emit greenhouse gases. He has offered an ambitious plan for promoting technological innovation, calling for a national broadband policy, embracing network neutrality, and proposing a reform of the patent system.

[emphasis added]

That seems pretty clear to me.

3) In the alternative, if you think Sunstein is secretly opposed to net neutrality as a matter of public policy, you should be rooting for his appointment to the Supreme Court and away from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where any such policies will actually be enacted over the next few years.

Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame (my answer to Reppert; no atheism content)

Posted in Personal tagged , , , at 11:08 am by Andrew

Friend of EC Victor Reppert asks:

Should someone who commits a baseball-related criminal offense be allowed in the Hall of Fame? If so, then shouldn’t baseball rethink Pete Rose, a player who, in his own right, earned his major baseball achievements honestly, whatever else he might have done to besmirch the game.

Can anyone think of a good reason to suppose that Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame, while Rose should remain out?

One answer, from a student of mine, said that Bonds should be in because he did not break a rule in place at the time.

Okay, this requires a little bit to unpack, because on the surface you might think there is an equivalency to be drawn between Barry Bonds and Pete Rose, in that they both broke the law.

But Pete Rose is not out of the Hall of Fame because he’s a lawbreaker (or because he’s “immoral” or a “bad person,” as the folks who like to bring up Ty Cobb as a counterexample often suggest). Lawbreakers, jerks, racists, drunks, and other associated bad guys do (and should) get elected to the Hall of Fame.

No, the reason Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame is much more simple: Pete Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from the game of baseball (including the Hall of Fame) in exchange for former Commissioner Bart Giamatti dropping baseball’s investigation against him. More specifically, Rose voluntarily entered a written plea bargain in which he agreed to permanent placement on baseball’s ineligible list so as to avoid uncovering facts that almost certainly would have led to criminal prosecution.

Required reading: the Dowd Report.

Is Christian Terry Eagleton the New PZ Myers?

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Personal Experiences, Worldview tagged , , , , , , at 10:23 am by Andrew

One response by religious people to the rise of the so-called “New Atheist” movement has been to wade into the trenches and ratchet up apologetic arguments in an effort to convince the wavering that religion is at least as well-supported as atheism. Evaluating those arguments is the bread and butter of this site.

But, as Stanley Fish reminds us in his review of Terry Eagleton’s new book, Reason, Faith and Revolution, the religious can take a different approach as well:

When Christopher Hitchens declares that given the emergence of “the telescope and the microscope” religion “no longer offers an explanation of anything important,” [Terry] Eagleton replies, “But Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”

Eagleton likes this turn of speech, and he has recourse to it often when making the same point: “[B]elieving that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world . . . is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus.” Running for a bus is a focused empirical act and the steps you take are instrumental to its end. The positions one assumes in ballet have no such end; they are after something else, and that something doesn’t yield to the usual forms of measurement. Religion, Eagleton is saying, is like ballet (and Chekhov); it’s after something else.

Oddly, this reminds me of PZ Myers’ off-the-cuff remark — played to ominous music in the schlock propaganda film, Expelled, of course — that he would like to see religion reduced to the role of knitting in American society:

If only PZ had said “ballet” instead of “knitting” — perhaps we would have been spared that awful movie. 🙂

Seriously, though: both PZ and Eagleton are essentially advocating for the same thing, even if neither of them realize it. When religion is thought of as a personal preference, those who hold it and those who don’t occupy roughly the same social and political space; nobody thinks that you need to appreciate knitting or enjoy the ballet to hold elective office in this country, for example. Thus, the more we see theists move to Eagleton’s position, the more we atheists are accepted in the social, political and cultural mainstream. And that’s primarily what even the most vocal “New Atheists” (like PZ Myers) want.

Anti-Atheist Humor?

Posted in Atheism, humor tagged , at 9:59 am by Andrew

Since we’ve taken some (mostly good-natured) shots at Christians here at EC, one of my commenters challenged me to “equal time” for jokes about atheists, and suggested the following link. So, in the spirit of fairness:

Jokes About Atheists.

Maybe I’m a “fundamentalist atheist,” but… I didn’t find too many of these all that funny, except for the bit about atheist evangelists distributing blank sheets of paper.

EDITED to add: I guess it takes a fellow atheist (“Non-Stamp Collector,” who also authored this work of genius) to really make fun of atheists: