Sunday Sermonette: Obscurantism
Psalm 67 is a mercifully brief, simple song of praise. Psalm 68, however, is both exceedingly long and has been called the" most difficult and obscure of the psalms. "The RSV actually covers up some of the difficulty, for example by translating verse 4 as " His name is the Lord, " whereas the Hebrew actually says " His name is Yah. " That is a specific short form of Yahweh. The KJV spells if Jah, as do Rastafarians who prefer it as the name of god, but the Hebrew pronunciation is closer to English Y than J. The form Yah appears 43 times in the Psalms, but otherwise only once in Exodus and several times in Isaiah. It is par...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 18, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

More epistemology
Many people find it uncomfortable to live with deep mystery. They want their questions answered. Many people also need to be handed meaning and purpose on a platter -- it ' s too difficult to make their own, especially in the face of hardship and injustice. Making up stories that seem to satisfy the need for explanation and meaning is a temptation that many just can ' t resist. But for other people, testing stories against empirical reality is more important. Whatever dissatisfaction or psychological distress we suffer from choosing to live in reality is worth it to us, because we want the truth more than anything. On...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 17, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The knowledge machine
 That ' s the title of a book my Michael Strevens, which I recommend. (Liveright, New York, 2020)Strevens presents his own take on the philosophy of science accessibly and persuasively. If you ' ve even dabbled in this area you ' ve heard of the so-called demarcation problem -- how can we tell science from pseudoscience -- and the two best-known modern conceptions of science, Kuhn ' s construct of paradigms and paradigm shifts, and Popper ' s construct of falsfiability. Strevens doesn ' t think Kuhn or Popper are quite right. However I would say that without quite realizing it, he ' s pretty close to Popper -- he just...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 15, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: The show is about nothing
The next three psalms are just not very interesting. The first amounts to a curse against the singer ' s unspecified and undescribed enemies, who he is confident God will shoot with an arrow. The second is a standard song of praise, giving God credit for nature and what it offers. The third is more praise for God and a pledge to keep on worshiping and sacrificing. There isn ' t much to say about these, except that they seem to fulfill the function that songs do today in religious services, to remind people of what they are supposed to believe and deepen their investment. Of course these beliefs are contradictory -- God wil...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 14, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: The Divine Right of Kings
Psalm 61 implies that God will always protect and reward those who are faithful to him. Of course we know that isn ' t so. Then we get two psalms, also attributed to David, and all implying, in one way or another, that David is chosen of God -- to be an enemy of David is to be an enemy of God, and vice versa. Not to worry, though, God is going to come through and destroy David ' s enemies, who are by definition unrighteous. This was the common ideological basis of nations in that time -- an alliance between a priestly caste and warrior kings, with the king ruling by divine sanction. It is very weird that a substantial part...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 11, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The bias of reality
Stephen Colbert -- or rather " Stephen Colbert, " in his former character -- famously said that " Reality has a well-known liberal bias. " And so conservatives must deny reality, which as in the case of anthropogenic climate change means denying scientific findings, and the very integrity and authority of science. But that doesn ' t usually work very well with the courts --viz. the jury award of $1 million to climate scientist Michael Mann -- so they also result to scientific fraud.You may recall that U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled to suspend FDA approval of the abortion medication mifepristone,relying largely...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 9, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: Moar genocide
Regarding Psalm 60, the meaning ofShushan Eduth is disputed. It means something like " Lilly of Testimony, " which doesn ' t make a lot of sense. It could be the name of a tune, but some authorities say it ' s the name of a city where Jews resided during the Babylonian exile, although that doesn ' t make much sense in context since this supposedly refers to a battle recounted in 1 Samuel 10, and repeated in 1 Chronicles 19. It could just be a metaphor for the content. Joab is one of David ' s generals, and like various passages in the Deuteronomistic History, this describes the massacre of the Moabites.  Psalm 61...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 7, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Must Read
 I ' m not going to discuss this or try to add to it, I ' m just going to ask you to read it.This is the McLuhan Lecture from Berlin, given by Cory Doctorow, on the subject of enshittificiation. We ' re all living through the enshittocene, a great enshittening, in which the services that matter to us, that we rely on, are turning into giant piles of shit.It ' s frustrating. It ' s demoralizing. It ' s even terrifying.I think that the enshittification framework goes a long way to explaining it, moving us out of the mysterious realm of the ' great forces of history, ' and into the material world of specific dec...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 4, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Right to life?
The RSV labels Psalm 58 " A prayer for vengeance. " Since that is an addition by modern translators, I don ' t include it here, but at least they ' re frank about it. There ' s no indication of what, specifically, has provoked this fantasy of gory torture and murder, but the writer (not actually David) was really pissed about something. Note that according to the Bible, the literal, inerrant word of God, God wants the unborn babies of the unrighteous to be aborted (verse 8). I ' m not sure what the " pots " are in verse 9, and I can ' t find an explanation. Note in verse 1 that there are multiple Gods. Evidently the o...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 4, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Medical care, medical costs
 Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, something like 90% of Americans have some form of health insurance. Great news! That means we can all afford the medical services we need and nobody has to go broke because they get sick or are injured in a car crash or by somebody exercising their Second Amendment rights! Err, no. Sadly it does not mean that. In the first place, for the 50% of people who get their insurance through employment, it ’s costing them more and more for the premiums – by three times the rate of inflation, since 1999.    With that, plus deductibles, copays, and payment denials by in...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 2, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: Name that tune!
The introduction to several psalms refers to events in 1 Samuel when David is on the run from Saul, although the content is not really specific to the tale. In Psalm 56, "The Dove on Far-off Terebinths " is thought to be the name of the tune. (Terebinths are a kind of tree.) We ' ve seen a few of these instances where an existing composition is apparently given new lyrics. Oddly, however, 1 Samuel 21, in which David goes to Gad, does not actually say that the Philistine seized him. David was apparently afraid that KingAchish would do him ill, so he pretended to be insane, whereupon Achish expelled him. But there is no dire...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 31, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Welcome to the nuthouse
Despite having his Precious Bodily Fluids depleted and polluted by the feminist succubus and the Bill Gates microchip vaccine, Travis Kelce turned in a Hall of Fame-worthy performance to lead the KC Chiefs to the Superb Owl. So, right on cue, MAGAland is in hysteria becausethe game was obviously rigged, presumably by an Italian satellite, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hugo Chavez.“Taylor Swift is an op,” Benny Johnson, a right-wing media personality who boasts millions of followers across different social media platforms, wrote on X. “It’s all fake. You’re being played.”“The Democrats’ Taylor Swift electio...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 30, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Reforming new drug development
So what to do about the misalignment between incentives under the current drug patenting and licensing regime, and public health? (To summarize recent posts in a pistachio shell, the pharmaceutical industry is motivated solely by profit, the most profitable drugs are not necessarily the ones that contribute the most to population health, and the prices are too high for many people to afford in any case.) It is true that if there were an effective international regime to limit pharmaceutical prices, the investment in new R&D would be severely limited. As Thomas Pogge puts it (Pharmaceutical Patents and Economic Inequali...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 28, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: David Kvetches
We have two short psalms and one long one today. " Mahalath " in Psalm 53 is probably a kind of stringed instrument,  perhaps similar to a guitar. The singer believes that all of humanity is depraved. This seems to have been written at some time of ill fortune, but the context is not specified. Psalm 54 refers to an incident in 1 Samuel 23. David was hiding from Saul in the wilderness of Ziph, when the Ziphites (presumably some Ziphites, or their representatives) went to Saul and told him where David was to be found. Saul and his army went to capture David, but they were called away to respond to a Philistine att...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 28, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Reflections on the Dumpster
Many sane people are baffled by the veneration of the Trump cultists for such a repulsive, worthless excuse for a human being. I ' m going to say what we aren ' t supposed to say. The answer is obvious: the characteristics of the Orange Shitpile that are most loathsome are exactly what they like about him. He gives not just permission, but affirmation, to the base impulses of people who aren ' t very smart and whose basic nature is selfishness, continual anger, and hatred.People who are ignorant, lack critical thinking skills, and whose minds are boxed in by prejudice and bigotry can ' t win arguments with facts and logic,...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 27, 2024 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs