Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Embarrasment of Riches: Best Posts of 2011

Motivation kitteh will push me to finish the dissertation in 2012.
The more I post on this blog, the more rewarding I find it. 

To those who read and considered what I wrote this year: thank you. To those who read and were moved to comment on posts: thanks a lot. I have appreciated and enjoyed the dialogue.

Proceeding month-by-month, here are my selections for best posts of 2011:
January: Mystical and fuzzy thinking appears not only in the domain of religion. In Can Science Explain Art, Music, and Literature? I discussed some woo-laden points of art and music made by philosopher Roger Scruton. Another good post was the review of specious claims made in the Bible: I Don't Believe in Bibles: The A-Bible-ist. Since we still see the bogus idea that atheism is incompatible with common decency, I was happy with my take-down of intelligent design philosophy guy V.J. Torley in Torley: Atheists Don't Know When Not to Kill.

February: An Uncommon Descent regular, BA77, was taken on in It Takes More Than Just Having an Explanation, which examines the creationist appropriation of concepts and terms from quantum mechanics. Personal changes and happenings were at the forefront of my thinking in Autistic Son, Artistic Daughter. Finally, I challenged the long-winded and repetitive GEM (aka Kairosfocus) in Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs and The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Descent and. Like many in the Uncommon Descent crowd, GEM mixes bias, hasty conclusions, selective evidence, and an overweening sense of personal offense to dress up his creationism as science.

March: March was a funny month, I guess. In Pay Down Debt or Build Up Savings?, I championed savings over debt--although I really meant that both should be done--and thus far it seems I have both more savings and more debt. So, I dunno. I like Where's the 'Ski?, which is about the failure of chief ID guy and mathematician William Dembski to respond on his own site to legitimate questions.

April: Exhibiting a little frustration at the sheer volume of woo in our culture, I wrote How About We Promote the Good with Discussion Rather than with Pleasant Fictions? I said then what I feel now, that the ideas we want to pass along to our children "can be conveyed without bunnies, false friends, and warrior kings of the future." I then considered the Christian holiday of Easter in Good Friday, Depending on Perspective. I also looked at a central claim of the ID movement in The Medieval Castle of Intelligent Design.

May: In May, I argued on behalf of teachers in Teachers Deserve Competitive Salaries and Benefits. The topic of the Kuzari Principle was back in Kuzari Returns! and Kuzari: Belief and Evidence (and Bias, Oh My!). I thought I was being controversial with They Did Not Die For Our Freedom.

June: June was all about Kuzari, and four posts stand out: Deuteronomy Doesn't Validate the Sinai Revelation, Three Sinai Stories, Why Aren't There More Sinai-Like Stories? and A Reply to Dovid Kornreich on Evidence and Hypotheses. Dovid Kornreich, my dialogue partner at this time, bowed out and to this date has made no reply to posts he asked me to make.

July: Theology became the hot topic with Theodicy Is an End to Theology and Dear Theology: Show Me the Money! A final Kuzari post was made with How the Sinai Story Originated and Developed. No immodesty: I think this post, and the series, is devastating to any suggestion that Kuzari justifies Judaism.

August: A good month of posts. The immoral atheist meme was addressed again in a post appropriately titled Immoral Atheists. Then, a trollish amateur philosopher was corrected in his bizarre ontology in If You Build It, He Will Come -- And You Better Not Disagree with Me. Next, philosopher Roger Scruton was again taken on in Can Science Explain Art, Music, and Literature? (Part 2). I examined "just war theory" in Wednesday Comedy: Jesus Loves Nukes. Finally, I marveled at the poor reasoning of the highly regarded C.S. Lewis in A Bad Argument by C.S. Lewis.

September: I think We Belly Full but They Hungry, a commentary and prediction on changing American class dynamics, is an important post. I considered Edward Feser's smarmy taxonomy of atheist attitudes in Hardline Atheism Is Intellectually Productive. In With Prayer, the Medium Is the Message, I recalled my own experience with prayer brought in examples of prayer across several religious traditions. I brought Feser back for another beating, this time on the doctrine of "original sin," in Original Sin, Faith, and the Limits of Reason.

October: I talked about Jesus in The Sacrifice of Jesus as a Left Turn from Judaism. The important point here is:
The sacrifice of Jesus is not really a sacrifice but a buy out. It kicks people from being ransomed to God to being ransomed to Jesus, and it does so without people's knowledge. In both the Jewish and Christian world orders, people are chattel. The only question is who you think is your master, El or his son.
In Enjoy Your Freedom? Thank a Protester, I again tried to be controversial, although I think the main idea of the post has true merit. I attempted to defend cultural criticism and its postmodern pretensions in Attempted Witty Title: A Reply To Jerry Coyne. I agreed with Jerry on most everything, but felt the topic of Jersey Shore could have some academic and intellectual merit.

November: I was ecstatic to see that Jerry Coyne replied to a point I had made, and I sought to clarify and extend the point in He Noticed! Deuteronomy 2013-17 became topical this month and my contribution was The Moral Deity That Commands "You Shall Not Allow Any Soul to Live." Next, I stood flummoxed before the brazen demand to believe without evidence represented by the idea of the Holy Spirit. The post was called, appropriately, Holy Spirit, Holy Bullshit. This month saw me increasingly wanting to talk about my experiences in the Alpha course, and that desire motivated Prepare to Lose, which is about arguing to learn rather than arguing to declaim. Finally, I wrote In the Humanities, We Too Want to Find Things Out because the humanities share this goal with the sciences; however, we focus on squishy terms and ideas--such as "identity."

December: This has been an extremely busy month. I began my series on what happened when I tool the Alpha Course, A Jewish-Born Atheist Does the Alpha Course. I am also glad I talked about my family in Why My Children Go to Church (and Why I Occasionally Go Too). I like what I said at the end:
Science and religion don't mix, in my opinion. Atheism and religion don't mix, either. But they can co-exist, and they can even fall in love with each other.
The month's big controversy came when I argued for moral relativism in In Defense of Moral Relativism, Moral Relativism and What Christian Moralists Really Want, and Moar on Moral Relativism.

Let me give special mention to the series on James Kugel's How to Read the Bible. I should have finished the series this year but I did not. I can't imagine that it will remain unfinished through next year. Nevertheless, I like the work that's been done, and I am eager to get to the final installments.

On a personal note, I want to announce that 2012 must be the year to complete or near-complete my dissertation. I expect that blog posting will necessarily have to be cut back to allow time for dissertation writing. My wrap-up piece next year will hopefully include the good news that I am finished or on the precipice of doing so.

Happy New Year!

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