Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scientific American, Irreligiosophy, Righteous Indignation

Scientific American featured a two part interview with Alan Alda, actor, artist, writer, director, and science promoter.  I found this to be one fascinating and enjoyable interview.  First, Alda with his training is a natural interviewee and raconteur.  Although I knew he hosted Scientific American Frontiers for nearly as long as M*A*S*H was on the air, sometimes off script such folks are not so engaging.  Alda clearly “gets” the joy of science, learning, and discovery.  I would have to say he is nearly as engaging as a science spokesman as Neil DeGrass Tyson, or perhaps the late great Carl Sagan.  He is not a scientist himself, but in some ways this makes him even more valuable.  Mirsky does a fine job steering the interview without sounding too much like a fan boy, which I can forgive since I’ve watch M*A*S*H more times than I could possibly count.  If I interviewed him it would go something like this: Me –“do you remember when you played Hawkeye Pierce?" Alda- “yes.” Me—“that was awesome.”  The interview is close to an hour split between the two shows, but it just flies past, and well worth the time.  Alda was shilling for his new PBS three part series “The Spark of Man,”  it sounds interesting I must find time to watch it.

Irreligiosophy this week covered the topic of Christian persecution, and for the first time that I can remember I had some disagreement with Chuck and Leighton’s take on the topic.  I stipulate that Chuck and Leighton did not indicate that the early Christian church was not persecuted, and I also take their point on the reasons the early Christians were persecuted.  They were not persecuted because they worship Jesus and his father or himself as god or gods.  (I always find the whole doctrine of the trinity a mess.)  They were persecuted because they failed to “play ball” with the other religions, and were new and secretive. Therefore, they were easy scapegoats to blame and kill when things went south such as the burning of Rome under Nero.  Christianity was outlawed the Empire for only a few years, but persecution and being an outlaw religion are not necessarily the same.  It may not be illegal to be homosexual, but you still can be persecuted today.  No matter why a group or individual was persecuted, whether they went to their deaths willingly, or whether a local governor, the central government, or local populace orchestrated the persecution, when you are at the business end of spear, or about to be burned alive the reason for the persecution is irrelevant.  The group or person is just as torture and/or dead.  The violation of the humanity of the victim is just as terrible.  Sure, the reason for Christian persecution was not because they had a new belief in the human/god figure who came back in pseudo-zombie form, but because they were a convenient exclusive group to go after and available.  Even if some of the persecution was brought onto the christians because they were too stubborn to kill a goat and toss some incents onto a pyre, it really should not have come to that at all.  Yes, I know Rome and the Roman World was one tough and violent time, but the positions that put christians into such a position should not have occurred at all.

This is not to say Chuck and Leighton were completely off their rocker, but I just think it was an overcompensated revisionist view point.  Next week they plan to do an episode of the christian persecution of the pagans.  This time period was just as wrong, and tragic.  The only persecution that should be allowed is that of Red Sox fans and people who profess to like the Stones or the Who over the Beatles -come now, really?

Righteous Indignation featured an interview with UFO researcher Robert Moore, and the group Hayley, Trystan, and Marsh had an interesting discussion on the propriety of an Islamic group planning protests in the town that received fallen British soldiers from the Afghan war.

After the remains of the British soldiers leave the airfield the caskets are taken through the town on the way to interment.  The way it was explained is that townspeople and service personnel line the street in mourning and respect.  The Islamic group wants to have a protest in the name of the killed Muslims by having empty caskets paraded through town in their memory, and perhaps at the same time as the deceased soldiers are brought through the town.  All of this is likely to end in violence between the Islamic group and angry and perhaps prejudiced anti-Islamic people.  The question raised was in a nation that values freedom of expression should the government not allow the Islamic protests to go forward to prevent violence and disrespect for the fallen.  Marsh and Trystan landed on the side of let the two sides protests, but arrest trouble makers as it occurs.  Hayley seemed to think the permit should be denied for the proscribed three months to prevent violence and prevent the solemn procession from being interrupted.

I loathe the idea of anyone disturbing the funeral procession of anyone who died in service to their country not really for the dead but for the grieving.  In the States, a wacky religious group/family would protest the death of killed U.S. servicemen and women by proclaiming quite intrusively at the burials that the fallen died as vengeance from God for allowing homosexuality in the country.  My knee jerk reaction is that the protestors of this ilk ought to be dropped into a dark hole, and forgotten.  However, given my love of free speech, even the speech of morons, the protestors should be allowed to say their bit, but at a respectful distance.  If anyone steps out of line, then off to jail with them.  The cliché is true that free speech is not necessary free unless you let even idiots express their ideas freely.

Upfront, the interview with Moore was rather disturbing.  I could not figure out for the life of me whether Moore actually has a high pitched squeaky voice that is hard to follow, or was he trying to disguise his voice?  At times I had a difficult time understanding him, and the hosts on a number of occasions asked him to clarify what he had just said.  I do not believe it was his accent.  The hosts seemed to have a difficult time as well.  Everyone once in a while it sounded as if his voice had a split second of normalcy before it went back to a high pitched Graham Chapman or John Cleese in drag skit voice.*

Moore’s interview had some parallels with Mark Andrew Turner, in that he is investing something that is questionable, lamenting on how others tackle similar investigations, but does not seem to have any opinion on what he is actually looking to discover.  To be fair, he did not that it would be quite game changing if they found even one UFO to be a extraterrestrial origin.  To be honest, I am not really sure what Moore’s is attempting to accomplish.  He does believe the British UFO researchers ought to be more organized, and methodical.  At the same time whether it was his voice, his somewhat disorganized approach, or his mental state, at times I thought Moore might be mad (in the English mental sense and not angry.)  It was one more unique (yes, that's an oxymoron) interview of a possible believe by the indignants.  I did enjoy it even though I kept think and even saying "huh" during parts of it.   I looked over his website and thought "huh" again.  He does seem to want to defend the honor of singer/artist Kate Bush too.  Perhaps it is me and the various non-homeopathic cold remedies I am talking these days.


*It has been pointed out that Mr. Moore's voice is naturally high pitched.  I honestly questioned whether his voice was actually of this pitch, while listening to the sow.  Any offense to Mr. Moore, I apologize.


  1. 'Me - "That was awesome." ' ROFL!! :D

  2. I think it's important that everyone is allowed to speak freely and protest their ideas and beliefs. That is an important point I want to get across.

    The Wootton Bassett protests were a difficult one for me to remain unbiased about though. However, the government have now actually banned Islam4UK under terrorism laws. This has caused controversy and it going to be covered by Trystan in the next episode.

    Also worth mentioning is Robert Moore. That is indeed his own voice and wasn't put on. I met Robert at the Weird '09 (not Weirdo nein, hehe) conference and he has some very clear and interesting ideas about ufology. As far as I can tell (and you would have to ask him to be 100% sure) he takes a similar stance to ufology as I do to ghost research.

    There is reality to the reportings of odd sightings that need investigating from a rational stance.
    It isn't a case (as far as I know) of Robert trying to prove that the sightings are aliens or proof of any particular thing. Rather, his research involves looking for logic behind the sightings. I might be wrong.

    Thanks for the review, it's really cool to be able to read feedback every week :)

  3. I do not wish to come across as mean or shallow regarding Mr. Moore's voice, but it is unique.

    It is good to know there are honest UFO researchers out there. Thanks for the comments.

  4. Also, I do not question the political or ethical underpinnings of anyone's argument in this arena. It is a difficult question. I truly thought it was an engaging and thoughtful debate.

  5. Podblack - I wish I could take credit for the idea of that joke. However, I cribbed it from an old Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley and Paul McCartney. Glad you enjoyed it.


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