Uh oh!!

October 29, 2009

Not a close call - Basil Wolverton

Did we just have a really close call with an asteroid?  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Anthony Watts says in his post that the space rock was not being tracked by any Earthlings.  That’s not a happy thought!


Is this Evil?

May 18, 2008

Somewhere I read a definition of what is an evil person:  An evil person addresses his own problems by inflicting pain and suffering on others.  I think that makes the Burmese ruling junta a perfect example of evil personalities at work.  Thousands are in agony and dying without reason, while the junta, jealously protecting its position, does very little.  Better that the little people should die than that they should suffer any threat to their position.


Terrorized by Risk

November 27, 2007

What is this poor fellow so scared of? Is he traumatized by the probability (miniscule) of being brained by an asteroid (properly called a meteorite) as he strolls to his favorite banana vendor? Or he is he worried by the odds (much higher) that he will be creamed by a drunken driver as he walks or drives home? Maybe he’s worried about the obvious threat to his health and safety posed by the vicious terrorists of the world who want to do the United States harm. Well, he’d be better off watching his back as he crosses the street.

The fact is, the threat of harm from terrorism here in the USA is pretty darn trivial. There are so many other things that are more likely to bring down death and maiming on an individual that it might seem odd that people are so worked up about it. Of course, one difference is that being killed in a car accident or by falling off of a ladder is an . . . accident. The fact that there are people out there who would love to kill some of us, any of us, is deeply upsetting. Nevertheless, the odds of its actually happening are very small.

Some people, including me, think the terrorism bit is being overblown. Part of the terrorist-industrial complex, for which the vague notion of a “war on terror” is, for most, justification enough. Add that to the prison-industrial and the military-industrial complexes, and you have quite a service and construction economy going! You can read some very good arguments on this point by Prof. John Meuller of Ohio State University at this link:   Six Rather Unusual Propositions on Terrorism. Meanwhile, I’m going back to worrying about something really scary – the next major meteorite impact on earth!


Lisbon Redux

December 27, 2004

News of a great catastrophe, brought on by an oceanic earthquake and tsunami. The same magnitude as the one that hit Lisbon in the late 18th century and prompted the famous exchange between Voltaire and Rousseau about pessimism, optimism, God, meaning, etc. [Read J.J.'s letter here.]

From Voltaire’s poem about the destruction of Lisbon:

But how conceive a God supremely good,
Who heaps his favours on the sons he loves,
Yet scatters evil with as large a hand?

And this from today’s newspaper:

…the underlying story of this tragedy is the overpowering, amoral mechanics of the earth’s surface, the movement of plates that grind and shift and slide against each other with profound indifference to anything but the pressures that drive them….. [These forces] demonstrate, geologically speaking, how ephemeral our presence is.

Bravo! That’s what I call secularism with a capital ‘S’! Three cheers for the Enlightenment! Up with Voltaire. And as for you Mr. J.J. Rousseau, keep your pollyanna fantasies!

Well…, he wasn’t so bad in his letter to Mr. V. He just felt that Voltaire was too, er…negative. Didn’t give one reason to hope. As he said:

If it is not always a misfortune to die, it is only very rarely one to have lived.

Does anyone write that way anymore?! Alas, no.


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