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False Flag

Tempted to go to the Stewart/Colbert "rally" in DC at the end of next month - it might be interesting/fun? I wonder if I should plan to drive back to Pgh the same day or get a hotel room. Anyone considering carpooling or organising a trip on some more comprehensive level should let me know.

Recently read about Google being criticised for not allowing vendors to customise Android's default search engine - I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think carriers should not be allowed to customise Android at all (because they invariably mess it up, they fragment the platform and make upgrades hard, and the way they mess it up often is intended to establish tollbooths). Still, I think that Google should not be able to control what might become a common platform in a way that privileges its other services. I'm not sure there's a way to avoid having the worst of both worlds.

Pope Ratzinger gave a speech in the UK yesterday that condemned godlessness, creating some controversy, suggesting that lack of religion may be tied to Nazi ideology. Issue: ecumenical versus position-centric ideas. Atheists are typically excluded from the cross-religious dialogues, either as atheists or as members of particular philosophies; cross-religious groups often (not always) see us as a common enemy. It would be nice to be included, but there are barriers - it's possible for religious groups to relegate some people to each other and coexist, but there are nonbelievers in any broad community that pose an existential threat to religious portions of that community.

I might like to see ecumenicalism extend to "those who have a value-system based on care for humanity", but I don't expect it - it's not necessarily that living in a secular community (or standing alone as a self-defined source of values) is easy, but the idea of it looks simple, seductive, and dangerous from those guarding a religious perspective, particularly because there's no easy way to distinguish those of us who care about values and virtue from crass libertene materialism.

In the end, I don't mind the Pope's criticsm, primarily because we've never been invited to that discussion and because I see it as defining him and his particular branch of Roman Catholicism (yes there's some oddity in this if you think about it) in a way where their notion of the good is alien enough to me - it's a shame that the perspective makes collaboration on areas of common interest very difficult, but the criticism itself can't connect without more common ground. I do disagree strongly with the message though - I believe that what is valuable in theology is the philosophy inside it, and I believe that the highest way to be moral is to be a moral relativist who has become engaged in the defining of values. It is hard for values to permeate us and for our value systems to be lived when they are alien to our nature and followed out of obedience. I would not expect them to be bothered by this perspective any more than I am bothered by theirs - what's left is the pragmatics of how we can advance what values we actually share, even as our cross-criticisms and discussions are a sign that we're taking our perspectives seriously (If there are perspectives that want to include us more deeply, and we're not at ends from including them similarly, all the better, but we should not ask philosophies to become false to their basis in order to do so).

On another level, I am bothered by the criticism, in that it is bombastic and paints the many flavours of seculars with a very broad and ugly brush. I just don't expect better - it would've been nice to have had the same point made in a more nuanced way without the Nazi allusion.

A rare diplomatic scuffle between Germany and France...

Currently I am fascinated by Gene regulation and Morphogens.


Carriers can, tragically, customize the default search. If there's been a change since, I applaud Google for growing a backbone in the one place it should.