Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Can Environmentalists Be Atheists?

Over the weekend, I went to the Atlantic coast and stayed on Chincoteague. On Saturday, I took a stroll to Assateague Island. On the entire trip, both the drive and the walk, the outstanding feature was the trees. Both along the highway and on the islands, there are trees in abundance. This had me thinking this morning about the central feature of the drive to save the rainforests and fight global warming, the fear that biodiversity will be lost as species of trees and animals go extinct.

What amuses me is the extent to which many of have these fears are atheists and/or are believers in the view that our current way of dealing with the world is entirely too human centric. Why is this amusing? You have to know a bit of epistemology to see why. The entire concept of the “species” is a product of human thought. Granted, there are physical realities that distinguish one such grouping from another, but their entire importance lies in the mind and language of man. What we consider a species is in reality a small variation in the genetic pattern of the organism in question. A few chemical sequences in the DNA, if you will. All of the importance attached to preserving this bit of variation lies in the conversation about it. The soon to be extinct species could care less (unless they are having trouble mating).

Notice the contradiction? If there is no “meta-reality” beyond the physical world, the entire conversation about extinction is rather silly. Also, if there is such a reality, then the normal cycle of species extinction also matters little in the grant scheme of things.

There are a few species, such as the American Bald Eagle, that have symbolic significance to us – but likely don’t to the people of other nations. There are also some species which are close enough to humanity to preserve as a point of familial honor, such as the Orangutan. I won’t lose much sleep about most of the rest, however. Species have been going extinct before man walked the earth and will do so long after we join them or evolve out of this universe.

If there is a Meta-Reality, isn't this Meta-Reality God?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

This Year's NFL Championships

This coming weekend, the Conference Championships will be played, followed in two weeks by Superbowl Sunday. In all, three trophies will be awarded, one for each conference and one for the Superbowl. Readers of this blog (oh, that's only me) and my main blog The Christian Left are familiar with my past rankings of NFL frachises by number of championships (Superbowl, League and Conference) with ties broken by win-loss percentage, so none will be surpised that I will update these rankings this year.

With the conference championships set, there are four teams who could move in the rankings (thereby moving everyone else): Green Bay, New York, New England and San Diego (team names are trademarked, but cities are not).

Green Bay has 13 wins (like Dallas, who was eliminated yesterday). If they win the conference, they will have 14. If they win the Super Bowl they will have 15. Even if they lose the NFC title game, they will retain the best championship record at 13-6, ahead of Dallas' 13-11 record. The only way they would have been at risk was for Dallas to have won yesterday.

New York has 8 wins and 12 losses, with a 10th place ranking. If they win and New England loses, they will move into 7th place at 9-12. If New England (currently 8-4) wins the AFC title game, they will be at 9-4, taking Chicago's place at 6th and leaving New York in 8th. If New York wins the Super Bowl, they will stand at 10-12, and move into 6th (behind San Francisco and Washington, who are tied at 4th at 10-7. If New England wins the Super Bowl, they will move into 4th at 10-4, moving San Franciso and Washington down to a tie for 5th. A New England loss in the big game leaves them at 9-5 in 6th place.

San Diego is currently at 2-7 in 25th place. A loss this weekend will leave them where they are. In the unlikely event that they win at Foxboro, they will be at 3-7 in a tie with Tennessee for 20th. If they then lose the Super Bowl they fall to 21st at 3-8. If they win, they will be at 4-7 and move into 18th place, displacing Minnesota from that lofty perch.

The smart money is on a Green Bay vs. New England Super Bowl, with a New England victory. Of course, anything can happen. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The Super Bowl will be New England, now at #6 v. New York, now at #8.

There is always another way of looking at these things, of course. One way, which also makes intuitive sense, is to first credit appearances in championship games and then rank the number of wins for teams with an equal number of title game appearances.

Here is how this scheme works out:

Rank Team Appearances Wins
1 Dallas 24 13
2 NY Giants 21 9
3 Green Bay 19 13
4 Pittsburgh 19 11
5 Oakland 19 8
6 San Francisco 17 10
6 Washington 17 10
8 St. Louis 17 6
9 Chicago 15 9
10 Denver 14 8
11 Cleveland 14 4
12 New England 13 9
13 Miami 12 7
13 Indianapolis 12 7
15 Buffalo 12 6
16 Minnesota 12 4
17 Philadelphia 11 5
18 Tennessee 10 3
19 San Diego 10 2
20 Detroit 6 4
20 Kansas City 6 4
22 Cincinnati 4 2
22 NY Jets 4 2
22 Tampa Bay 4 2
25 Carolina 4 1
26 Atlanta 3 1
26 Seattle 3 1
28 Baltimore 2 2
29 Arizona 2 1
30 Jacksonville 2 0
31 New Orleans 1 0

After the Superbowl, win or lose, nothing happens to the Giants, who will have 22 appearances and still be ranked #2 behind Dallas. New England will move into #10, win or lose (although for tie breakers, it is better to win).

This second system rewards longevity, although there is something wrong with rising in the ranks even if you lose.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Iowa Center for Fiscal Equity: Holistic Politics

The Iowa Center for Fiscal Equity: Holistic Politics

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Universal Calender

Happy New Year!

The true calendar geeks among us - most Sagitarians - know of a movement toward a Universal Calender, one that can be used every year by taking one day a year out of the standard week and doing the same for leap year. Without a strong planetary executive, this remains a pipe dream. I have never been one to pass up a good pipe dream, so let me offer my proposal.

The problem with the current leading proposal is the placement of the extra day at the end of the calendar year. Given the northern domination of the planet, resistence to another day of winter is not surprising (even though winter is not actually extended - however who needs a cold weather holiday).

I propose a midyear holiday for the day after June 30, which would fall on a weekend. (During leap years, there would be a two-day midyear). I would then cut out July 31st. I would then start the New Year on Sunday, January 1 and the year would always end on Saturday, December 31st. Christmas would always be on Sunday and Boxer Day would always be a holiday on December 26th. I would also end the Monday holiday for New Years, moving it to the previous Friday. In the U.S., ending President's Day, Columbus Day and Armistace Day could used to justify making all of the last week of the year a holiday period, thus leveling the playing field for all those workers who have to come into the office when everyone else is off that week.

I would do some additional shifting of the calender. I would start the New Year four days earlier than it is now in order to move Christmas closer to the winter solstice. In other words, the new Year would begin on what was December 28th. Oddly enough, we could make this change on January 1st, 2009, since this year December 28th will fall on a Sunday. I don't think I'll be planetary executive by then. The next year this could be done without breaking a week is 2015. I won't be planetary executive by then either (although one must have goals).

UPDATE: If you move January 1 to the winter Solstice and have Christmas January 7 (like on the Julian Calender), then Christmas moves to what is now December 28th. The question then becomes, when does the Winter Solstice (December 22) next fall on Sunday? 2013 and then 2019 and 2024 and 2030. If it doesn't happen by 2030, it is someone else's problem.