Monday, February 25, 2008

PZ Myers: The Courtiers Reply

I found this to be absolutely brilliant in its construction and execution. It echoes a sentiment I have often felt when reading logical deconstructions of Atheist works by inconvenienced believers. Except in this case, it puts into words what I have only been able to internally articulate in vague emotional terms.

Reposted from

There's a common refrain in the criticisms of Dawkins' The God Delusion(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) that I've taken to categorizing with my own private title—it's so common, to the point of near-unanimous universality, that I've decided to share it with you all, along with a little backstory that will help you to understand the name.

I call it the Courtier's Reply. It refers to the aftermath of a fable.
I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor's boots, nor does he give a moment's consideration to Bellini's masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor's Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor's raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.
Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor's taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.
I'm afraid that when I read H. Allen Orr's criticism of The God Delusion in the NY Review of Books, all that popped into my head was a two-word rebuttal: Courtier's Reply. You would be amazed at how many of the anti-Dawkins arguments can be filed away under that category. That's all you'll get from me on Orr's complaint—it's another Courtier's Reply. If you want a more detailed dissection, Jason Rosenhouse provides it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poor Choice of Words...

This unemployment benefits appeal was forwarded to me by the writer's sister. I've redacted all of the identifying information with X's to protect the innocent (and the guilty). While I do not condone violence, including threats of violence, perceived or otherwise, I can empathize with her frustration...

Okay, so my sister...whose name has been partially changed, wrote the letter below which earned her a call from the XXXXXXXX County Bomb Squad Sheriff today.  The funny part (besides the fact that they called her) is that it's been two weeks since she faxed this to the unemployment office.  The sheriff said that he sympathized with her letter, as did all the other's who had read it.


Ima D. Bomber
Decision to appeal:  denied benefits
Reason for appeal:  I believe I had a "good cause for quitting".

        My decision for quitting my job is quite clear.  My husband was laid off from work, we were unable to pay the rent on my single income and we were subsequently evicted from our home.  As I had no way to house or feed my children, I was forced to separate from my husband and travel across the state to move in with my sister's family (including my mother who also resides at that address).
        I put in my two week notice to my employer, with every intention of fulfilling my obligation. As I found that telling this woman I hardly knew that I was being evicted from my home was far too embarrassing, I told her that I was moving to my sister's to help care for my ailing mother. This was not entirely honest but, as my mother suffers from anxiety and a heart condition, I found this a more acceptable reason for my departure During my lunch break on 11/19/07, however, I received a distressing call from my children regarding a lack of food in my house and knowing that I had no way to pay for groceries, I knew I would have to move more quickly than planned.  At this time I had finally reached my breaking point and had a complete emotional melt down. Knowing that I could not return to work with my face blotchy and my eyes full of tears, I told the supervisor that I was suffering from a migraine headache and could no longer work that day and, furthermore, I had to pack my belongings quickly so I would not be able to return to work for my remaining days.  Although your office found this reason for quitting my job both "plausible and/or compelling", it did not fit into one of your nine clearly defined reasons for "good cause" and my benefits were denied.                                         

        Since that time I have gone through a number of emotions.  Starting with utter despair, continuing on to a feeling that I can only relate as a suicide bomber and finally to an almost uncontrollable anger.  I am unable to make my car payment or my car insurance payment and will be unable to get to a job, even when I get one. So, yesterday, I found myself applying for state assistance.  Now I have gone from being a productive member of society that pays my taxes, to a user of state resources set aside for those who can not provide for themselves.  Now YOUR taxes are being used to support me even though I am quite capable to supporting myself, but needed a bit of help to get by.  I believed I was paying into an unemployment system that would provide for me should this unfortunate event arise and I find that they are not.                             

        I have been paying taxes since I began my first job at age sixteen and have only once before received unemployment benefits.  During that time I had been laid off because the government did not find it necessary to supply enough funds to provide my patients, the mentally ill, with a nurse.  My union fought bitterly and used my story as a compelling reason for the government to stand up and take action to help those suffering from mental illness.  Again, I find that the government has no problem taking my money, but has no intentions of using it to help me or my fellow Americans in any way, other than to support immigrants (noting that all government forms come with a variety languages to choose from) and a war against those who wish to immigrate here.  I am proud to be an American.  I know a lot of them and they are generally a good people.  The people in charge of the bigger picture, however, are obviously taking advantage of our general good nature and at some point this MUST come to a stop.

        I have considered bombing target areas, but find that I do not have the stomach to kill innocent people like yourself who are just trying to do their own job and take care of their own families.  Nor do I have the availability or knowledge to use a weapon large enough to make any impact that would draw the governments' attention.  I have seriously contemplated suicide and hope that you will think of me whenever you hear of someone who has literally come to the end of their rope.  The irony in all of this is that if I proceeded down either of these paths I would probably end up in prison or a mental hospital and either way the American tax dollar would be paying to support me even though the government could not provide for a few months unemployment that I paid for in advance.

        So, if this letter falls into your hands and you find yourself saying, "I would love to make a change, but I don't have that kind of power." do not despair.  I have been in your position, wishing I could do more for my patients with mental illness and finding that the government has more money wasted in meetings, paper work and red tape than in truly trying to find what will work best to aid the American people and implementing it.   All I ask is that you pass this letter on to your boss and if he/she finds himself/herself saying, "This is totally out of my hands." then they should continue to pass this letter up the chain of command.  I know eventually this will fall into the hands of someone who says, "It is my job to make sure that my boss is not bothered with this kind of thing."  To that person I would like to say, "Please file this between your butt cheeks.  Because you are part of the problem and not part of the solution!"


Ima D. Bomber (aka #XXX-XX-XXXX)