Monday, January 25, 2010

Education measured by earnings potential alone?

The language of this article infuriates me: College Degree: Still worth it? It has been reprinted all over the country under various headlines. The article appears to originate at the Kansas City Star by MarĂ¡ Rose Williams - call 816-234-4419 or send e-mail to

For example:

"With money scarce, many newly cost-conscious families are trying to work out the math."

There is similar language throughout the article, positioning a college education as measured solely by the amount of income it may produce. In fact, it even suggests that "success" itself is measured purely in salary terms, as though there are no other achievements in life.

There is a lot more to Humanity than that. Study of Nietzsche or Plato is not likely to appear on a job application, but this article suggests such study isn't worth anything. So why study any of the classics, or history, or even science and math, if it will have no directly traceable impact on our annual income? This is what dental school is about - not what a liberal arts education is about. Isn't there something to gain from the collective knowledge assembled over centuries in literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, and science that goes beyond their impact to our annual salary?

There's a brief mention of "intangibles" but even that quickly circles back to "success" measured by annual salary. How about developing one's rational thought and other intellectual capabilities?

In short, I think this article sends a, commonly held, but horribly misguided analysis of what college education is about. For those that desire such an education, the "cost" must be measured by more than the impact on salary. College is essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity - we will never be that age again. It's not for everyone and I'm not saying force it on everyone. But for those that want it, there has to be a better "return on investment" analysis than how it may or may not impact earnings.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's hard to be rude to Christianity

I've often been involved in conversations at parties and what not, in which people begin poking fun at some fringe religion, sometimes far fringe like "cults" but other times, somewhat less fringe like Mormon or Scientology. They joke around about how absurd the stories and so on, similar to how people speak about ancient Roman or Greek Mythology. What I usually try to point out in these situations is that the stories of modern "accepted" religions, including the most accepted one, Christianity, are no less far-fetched and fantastic.

Daniel Dennett, in an interview by Jonathan Miller says it much better than I do, of course. Listen below.

Here's a few quotes:

If somebody's a member of a cult, as we say, we have no trouble being rude with them, with laughing at the Raliens, or those people that got interested in the comet, various doomsday prophesiers when the prophesies don't come true, we laugh at those people and the world laughs with us at them. So we have a line where we consider some religious belief to be just too kooky to take seriously, and we are rude with impunity when talking about those.

If Christianity were a small sect in the world, I think it wouldn't receive the respect, but look at all the churches that the Christians have built, look at all the great art, look at all the great music. It's hard to be rude to a religion which has created so much great culture.

The biggest point for me is that, if one is informed and is being intellectually honest, Christianity is in fact just as "kooky" as any other religion across all time. The only thing that makes it seem less "kooky" is that it is so widely accepted and practiced and that most people are only exposed to a "sanitized" version of its traditions, edited to be more G-rated, one more consistent with 21st century morals and norms. If Christianity were a small sect in the world, it would receive no more respect than any cult or mythology in the world.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas-day Detroit flight bomb - more knee jerk reactions

My prediction: the TSA will do what it always does and enact some inane protocol that will change nothing in terms of making us more secure. Instead, whatever new rules they impose will simply waste money and add to passenger inconvenience and hassle, all in the name of "doing something".

Come on, a so-called "watch list" with a half a million names on it, but you can't detect a man who has made multiple trips to terrorist training camps and who is credibly alerted as a potential threat – by his own father, no less?

And now there will be new TSA rules that will very effectively inconvenience millions of travelers who pose no credible threat whatsoever while providing zero improvement in actual security and safety. Thank you knee jerk reaction.