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Kucinich UFO Identified!!!!! Plus How to Think, and Huckabee

This is why I sometimes click on the spam before deleting.

Via email:

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 1 - Rael, founder and leader of the worldwide Raelian Movement of 65,000 members in 90 countries, has a possible explanation for the object Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich says he saw over Shirley McLaine's house.

During the Drexel University-MSNBC Democratic presidential primary debate Oct. 30, Tim Russert asked Kucinich about the actress's claim that Kucinich had seen a UFO over her home. Kucinich responded that, yes, he had indeed seen the UFO McClaine mentioned, and in addition, that he had "felt it communicate" with him.

"What he saw may not have been a U-F-O," Rael said upon learning of Kucinich's televised remarks, which were widely ridiculed in the media after the debate. "This could have been an IFO, an identified flying object. The Elohim, the advanced extraterrestrial scientists who created us, follow our progress here very closely, and many so-called UFOs are actually their spacecraft. The technology of the Elohim is so advanced - 25,000 years ahead of us, in fact - that people who lived before the invention of airplanes could only come up with supernatural or magical explanations for them.

More here.

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The president of Princeton, Shirley Tilghman, gave a speech at the university's Opening Exercises and concluded with a summation of how to develop the "qualities of mind" that enable us to change what we know about the world. It fits into what we've discussed here on the blog about "critical thinking":

"Those qualities are the willingness to ask an unorthodox question and pursue its solution relentlessly; to cultivate the suppleness of mind to see what lies between black and white; to reject knee-jerk reactions to ideas and ideologies; to recognize nuance and complexity in an argument; to differentiate between knowledge and belief; to be prepared to be surprised; and to appreciate that changing your mind is not a sign of weakness but of strength. We ask you to be open to new ideas, however surprising; to shun the superficial trends of popular culture in favor of careful analysis; and to recognize propaganda, ignorance, and baseless revisionism when you see it."

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[My two cents on the campaign, cross-posted from The Trail.]

Mike Huckabee has emerged as perhaps the most fascinating figure on the campaign trail this side of Elizabeth Kucinich. He's affable, funny, plays rock guitar, pardoned Keith Richards (name ONE thing that any other candidate

has done that's as cool as that), has completely cornered the Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers vote, and is running as a rock-solid conservative even as his governing record leads some folks call him a liberal.

He's also a Southern Baptist preacher, and believes, he says, in Adam and Eve.

Huckabee's literal reading of the Book of Genesis came up yet again the other night on Bill O'Reilly's show. O'Reilly pressed him to explain why he has said, in various forums, that he doesn't believe in evolution as taught by modern science (for example, after evolution came up in a debate earlier this year, Huckabee said in a conference call with reporters, "If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, that's fine. I'll accept that. I just don't happen to think that I did").

O'REILLY: Do you believe in Adam and Eve? Do you think Adam and Eve were around?

HUCKABEE: Yes. I think they were a real person, Adam and Eve. I have no reason to doubt that.

O'REILLY: But so you believe that God just said, OK, here is the man, I'm going to take his rib, and there is Eve. And then everybody evolved from there.

HUCKABEE: As I said that night with Wolf Blitzer, I do not know how He did it. Honestly don't know how long it took. Wasn't there. I could not give you the details. But I just believe He did it. And so, you know, if it turns out that I am wrong, I have lost nothing. If it turns out I'm right, it is a good thing.

Huckabee left open the possibility that the six days of Creation were metaphorical, and might have represented six billion years. So he's not literally a biblical literalist. In these theological discussions he often takes a step back and says he doesn't know precisely what happened. His central argument is that evolutionary theory describes human beings as a random, accidental development, whereas he believes that God created humans. He has said that school kids should be taught "that there are views that are different than evolution."

Does any of this matter? Huckabee argues that it doesn't: He has groused about the evolution questions and says he's not going to be writing anyone's 8th grade science curriculum if he's elected president.

One of The Trail's readers posted a comment the other day about the Dennis Kucinich UFO encounter, saying, in essence, why is that any weirder than the supernatural events that are described in the Bible and are central to Christian faith? (The commenter put it more colorfully.) But it's no mystery: Christianity is mainstream in America, whereas atheism or UFOlogy or even Mormonism is not. Christian candidates don't have to explain themselves -- unless, like Huckabee, they get too far into Adam-and-Eve territory.

The Founders, many of whom (Washington and Jefferson come to mind) were deists who didn't think God paid attention to the fall of every sparrow, and who considered themselves very much members of the Enlightenment, might be surprised at the resilience of religious fundamentalism. But for Huckabee, being a Southern Baptist preacher ensures him a solid base of support, which is arguably all he needs at this point and may help explain why, even though he's barely raised two nickels, he's at double-digits in the polls in Iowa.

His biblical literalism would presumably be a harder sell in a general election. I'm guessing that many swing voters have a pagan streak. (And swingers don't like to be told what to believe; preachers have to tread softly.) Huckabee will argue that his public policies are more important than his religious beliefs, but some voters may think along the lines of Bill Maher:

"But why shouldn't it be part of a political discussion," Maher said to Huckabee in an interview this summer. "If someone believes that the Earth is 6,000 years old, when every scientist in the world knows it's billions of years old, why shouldn't I take that into account when I'm assessing the rationality of someone I'm going to put in the highest office in the land?"

[More: A great quote from Franklin has been posted by a Trail commenter: "I've lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We've been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel."--BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

I'm not expert on any of this, but my research on GW for The Grand Idea led me to believe that he was a deist.

From the Wikipedia entry on deism: "Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and tend to assert that God does not interfere with human life and the laws of the universe..."

More from Wikipedia: Currently (as of 2007) there is an ongoing controversy in the United States over whether or not America was founded as a "Christian nation" based on Judeo-Christian ideals. This has spawned a subsidiary controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians or Deists or something in between.[32] Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, for some of whom the evidence is mixed.[33] However, Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography, "Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but each of them having afterwards wrong'd me greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith's conduct towards me (who was another freethinker) and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, tho' it might be true, was not very useful."[34] In a letter written towards the end of his life Franklin expressed interest in Christianity though he stated that prior to this he had been uninterested in Religion.]

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In other blogs:

Check out these shots of Madonna's arms! And then read about physics.

State Department's "spin" budget nearly a billion a year under now-departed Hughes.

More discussion of deism here.

Liz Donovan on irritating sports announcers.

Via Arts & Letters Daily, here's Tony Grafton on libraries, in the New Yorker: "The narrow path still leads, as it must, to crowded public rooms where the sunlight gleams on varnished tables, and knowledge is embodied in millions of dusty, crumbling, smelly, irreplaceable documents and books." [For the record, I read the HARD COPY of Tony G's article over a bowl of soup at The Good Pain. The digitization of everything is rather dizzying, but I'm with Grafton: Libraries still rock, even if Google rules.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 2, 2007; 10:34 AM ET
 
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