Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Perhaps getting less deserted….

June 20, 2018

LiveJournal has apparently become seriously compromised by Russia. This inconveniences me minimally, as I’ve made little use of it in the past year. I’ll probably move elsewhere in the long run, but in the interim I’ll dust this off.


Jeff Sessions

June 20, 2018

So, over at another WordPress site, someone is claiming it is “false” that

Jeff Sessions said that the separation of church and state was “an extra-constitutional doctrine” and “recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.”

It traces the quotes as far as this book, but then claims that “there does not appear to be any reference to these quotes” in the source given by the book and that “there does not appear to be any transcript or article on the Internet that supports this claim”. This is an overstatement at best.

Checking via Amazon Preview, it seems the full Edwards reference is to Hans Johnson’s article “Warning: Severe Sessions Ahead”, published in the January 1997 issue of “Church and State” magazine, which is a publication of “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” — a group that is perhaps not exactly unbiased, but technically not atheist. With work, an on-line copy of this article can be found. (At least one other site gives the relevant sections in a partial copy.) They report his phrase there as “extra-constitutional doctrine”, allegedly used in a speech given in May 1996 in Mobile, Alabama. It does not provide additional context by quoting any further extent of the speech. I have not been able to turn up an independent report of that speech.

However, the Johnson article also sources the “recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional” quote as having come from an interview with Sessions in The Alabama Baptist (a weekly publication of the Alabama Baptist Church); no specific date is given, but it is indicated as “later” than the Mobile speech, necessarily must have been before Johnson’s article was published, and (being characterized as part of an election campaign) likely before November. This leaves a window of around 30 issues (mostly or all in volume 161 of the publication) that would need to be searched for definitive proof. The website for The Alabama Baptist does not include any pre-2000 articles, but notes that (Alabama’s) Samford University’s special collections includes an extensive collection of (most?) articles prior to 2000. The Samford University library’s catalog indicates that Volume 161 is in its collection. This could potentially provide independent verification.

Finally, this quote does not appear to be contradicted by any sentiments Sessions has publicly expressed — or at least, none turning up in my quick search for those. It thus appears an overstatement to call the claim “false”, when “unproven” seems more precise — especially as it seems likely provable to ordinary standards of sourcing.


Another Public Catholic complaint

October 14, 2015

So, Rebecca Hamilton is again removing comments left at her blog.

Her original piece (on the court-ordered removal of the 10 Commandments Monument from the Oklahoma Capitol) is here (and mirrored in the Wayback machine here.

My now-censored comment was:

For the curious, the rulings in Prescott v OK-CPC by the state supreme court (which quotes the text of the state’s Blaine Amendment) and what appears the federal AA v Thompson final dismissal. I’ll note, the latter case was dismissed on without prejudice on standing grounds; which as a technical point of law means that the federal court did not address whether Representative Kiesel’s position had merit or whether Representative Kiesel’s position was instead wrong.

I’ll also note, Prescott is a Baptist minister. While the SBC tend otherwise these days, the pre-revolutionary history in Virginia leaves some Baptists still quite adamantly against any admixture of Church and State.

Those who aren’t familiar might also care to use Google Scholar to look up the rulings in Van Orden v Perry and McCreary County v ACLU, to see how the Supreme Court distinguishes permissible versus impermissible displays. Aside from its being made of stone, the Oklahoma display seems to more resemble the isolated display in the McCreary case.

The bulk of this comment is purely factual points — albeit ones inconvenient to her presented viewpoint. The last sentence is quite subjective, but would not hardly appear radical enough to qualify as an “attempt to hijack the board with your personal agendas”, or any of the more significant offenses against civility her Blog Rules warn about. Ms. Hamilton appears inclined to respond to dissent via the cognitively lazy approach of selective exposure through censorship, rather than the more effortful approach of counterargument.

Conveniently, the Disqus-based comments allow for me to retrieve my remarks to repost here as protest against this. Petty and probably pointless on my part, but since the censorship can also be termed thus, it might merely be viewed an in-kind response.

Public Catholic Complaints

October 29, 2012

So, with my job not on the table due to the distantly passing Hurricane Sandy, today I’ve time to make some slightly extended remarks on a couple blog posts over at Patheos; specifically from Public Catholic. Since WordPress is better on TrackBacks, I’ll dust off this thing for one of its rare uses… not that I blog all that much at LiveJournal these days, either.

The first to draw my attention was a religious conversion account. Two things struck me with that post.

The first is related to Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s study published in the book Amazing Conversions: why some turn to faith & others abandon religion. They sampled some 4000 students, and then picked out those with the biggest religious anomalies. Most people end up in the religion they were raised — it’s even proverbial. And they found that those who were raised religiously, tended to end that way, and the irreligiously raised tended to stay that way. (Utterly unsurprising.) However, they then went and looked at the anomalies — those raised far less religiously than most who ended far more religious than most, and those raised far more religiously than most who ended far less religious than most.

My observation (first posted there) is that Rebecca Hamilton’s account of her irreligious-to-religious event blends in very well with the others of that type. Most such religious conversions are relatively abrupt and emotionally charged events; in contrast, most religious-to-irreligious conversions are the result of a sustained period of reflective rational inquiry and seeking out arguments in both directions.

The second was her remark:

This peculiar moral certitude of moral ingrates is, I believe, a direct consequence of being your own god. If you decide what is right and wrong, it’s pretty easy to be morally proud 24/7. I encounter it in people who are their own gods all the time. The difference being that now I know it for what it is.

I made the suggestion that this “peculiar moral certitude” is that associated with the high-RWA “authoritarian follower” personality type, which type Altemeyer has put out an excellent introduction on. In particular, from page 57:

As I mentioned in chapter 1, if you’re an average human being, you’ll think you’re a better than average human being. Almost everybody thinks she’s more moral than most. But high RWAs typically think they’re way, way better. They are the Holy Ones. They are the Chosen. They are the Righteous.

However, I also added the observation that this sort of behavior is disproportionately common among the religious rather than the irreligious — though noting the latter aren’t immune. Furthermore, high-RWAs don’t necessarily think of themselves as their own God (usually attributing the imperative to an external agency, who just happens to agree with them on everything). Rather, that’s a trait that notionally would be more associated with high-SDO “authoritarian leader” personalities — which atheists and the irreligious have in approximately equal amounts.

I noticed another comment, which indicated others had been removed. I added a response, suggesting that this removing was contrary to the stated aims of Patheos (in their site’s “About” link) to encourage dialogue, not monologue.

My comments were deleted, apparently merely for this apparent disagreement and for casting the conversion story in a light considered unfavorable. A bit of work with Google turned up a partial reply from “Bill S” before it was also deleted.

Arkenaten,. I feel your pain. You even had to change your name to Abb3w. If I kept bringing up the First Amendment as an excuse for denying complete health care coverage, the last thing I would do is deny freedom of speech to my bloggers.

Apparently, I’m being confused with some other godless heathen, probably one a bit less polite. For the record: no, I didn’t “change” my handle to abb3w. I’ve been using “abb3w” as an ID since 1989, pretty much anywhere that would allow it — Fark, Wikipedia, Livejournal, Scienceblogs, Patheos, assorted minor corners of the net (like this dusty one here), plus half a dozen “abb3w@” email addresses in that time. I’ve not used any other handle in more than five years. Whoever made the earlier remarks using a different handle was someone else. It’s also not hard to track back to me as result — more pseudonym than “anonym”.

I tried posting something more focused — repeatedly.

An approach based on removing topical and polite disagreements seems likely to result in dissenters seeing decreasing merit to limiting responses to being either topical or polite. Behavior not rewarded tends to be less likely to be repeated.

Repeatedly removed… though a variant now seems to have survived on another post.

I also made one other (removed) observation, alluding to the research in (doi:10.1002/per.614)… but I’ll get back to that in a moment. Perhaps in some defense of this censorship, this post went up. The ones she characterizes as “Obama Locusts” sound likely to be the high-RWAs to the political left — which are less common, but not outright rare. The derogatory language makes it sound like there’s also some high-SDO element, as that (doi:10.1002/per.614) piece indicates derogation is characteristic. (Though there’s an earlier study which explicitly ties high-RWA among men to higher assault rates on women; contrariwise, it predates the studies on SDO.) Again, double highs are scarcer to the political left than the political right, but not vanishingly.

Which brings me to a final trio of observations. First, that article in the European Journal of Personality notes both high-SDO and high-RWA share a prejudice type — against dissident groups. Second, one of the results in Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” was for a 1990-1993 study of state legislatures; while a bit before the time of Ms. Hamilton, the Oklahoma Democrats of that era scored 8 points above the scale midpoint, despite the average for Democratic politicians nationally being circa tend points below the midpoint. (There’s no evidence the South has lost any of this tendency.) And third, the individuals who had the sort of irreligious to religious “Amazing conversion” event that Ms. Hamiliton describes was also pronouncedly associated in the A+H study to exceptionally high-RWA attitudes.

Ms. Hamilton being high-RWA would thus explain her response to dissent, and render her conversion account even less remarkable. It also means that the self-righteous attitude she talks about is something that is not about irreligion or religion, but about her


Over thataway, folks….

September 15, 2008

Not that I do much with it, but I’m mostly blogging over at Livejournal these days.

Hello world!

September 17, 2006

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!