Tuesday: Hili dialogue

I, Professor Ceiling Cat Emeritus, am back briefly; I was busy all day yesterday at Dalhousie University, talking to W. Ford Doolittle and his group, which was great fun. We had a lovely lunch at a Turkish restaurant (lamb kabobs with yogurt, rice, and salad), more talk, and then I met with a group of biologists and philosopher to discuss (or, rather, answer questions) about Faith Versus Fact.  The questions were good, though one person was upset that I neglected the concept of a deistic god, one who could motivate good actions. I did mention that in the book: it’s just not worth discussing the implications of a being a being for which no evidence is conceivable and which doesn’t interact with the world. When I analogized such a being with “garden fairies”—an undetectable Ground of Gardens without which no flowers could grow—I was criticized for comparing a deistic God with fairies. But really, worshiping a deistic god is in principle no different from worshiping a garden fairy! Further, I noted, why would one be motivated to do good by the supposed existence of a being about whom you have no evidence and know nothing? What if such a god was not good, but malicious? How would you know? People who would do good in service of a deistic god would undoubtedly do good without any religious belief. They would just be good people.

Another historian accused me of “tub thumping”, with the implication that I should just shut up about my objections to religion because it’s unseeemly, or off-putting. I responded by saying that atheist “tub-thumping” is nowhere near as pervasive or annoying as the tub-thumping of religionists (viz., all Republican candidates, many preachers). And why should we mute our disagreement with the harmful beliefs of religion? Such criticisms are what people raise when they have no substantive counteragruments to your claims. After all, nobody is accused of “tub-thumping” when they criticize the ideology or platform of the Republican party. Once again, religion is a special kind of belief that is deemed off limits to criticism. I do appreciate this kind of pushback, as “preaching to the choir” isn’t always what I want to do, and criticism sharpens the mind.

We then repaired to a French bistro for dinner, where I had cassoulet with sausage and duck confit. Tonight at 7 p.m. I’ll be speaking at the Halifax Public Library. 

On this day in history, the Battle of the Alamo began in Texas in 1836, the Tootsie Roll was invented in 1896; and, in 1945, the famous photograph of 5 Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima was taken. Notable births on this day included W. E. B. Dubois in 1868, and conservative atheist S. E. Cupp in 1969. Deaths on this day included John Quincy Adams in 1848, Nellie Melba (namesake of Peach Melba) in 1931, Stan Laurel in 1965, and James Herriot in 1999. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is happy as a clam with all the attention she’s getting from visitor Sarah (you CANNOT visit Dobrzyn without giving due attention to the Furry Princess of Poland):

Hili: Fascinating. Do you know yet who the murderer is?
Sarah: This is not a murder mystery.
Hili: So what is it about?


In Polish:

Hili: Fascynujące. Czy już wiesz kto zabił?
Sarah: To nie jest kryminał.
Hili: To o czym to jest?

As lagniappe, here’s the adorable Gus playing peekaboo with staff Taskin:


Look at that face!

A tw**t sent by reader John Williamson:

And reader Diane G. contributed a website and a video of a baby red fox growing up (note how they begin with dark color). Here are the first 35 days of its life:



  1. Jim Knight
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    The Battle of the Alamo was in 1836, not 1823.

  2. Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    That fox video is too cute!

    • Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      In the best possible way, that is.

      I like you almanac entries. (I enjoy listening to Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac on NPR.) I also enjoy “Everyman’s Library” book editions because they include a timeline of the writer’s life and work and world events.

  3. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I think the proper deistic g*d would be the sun. The evidence is there everyday.

    Yet another cub. There was also a cub in the airplane category. The grown up name would be J-3. Not cute but it’s something.

    • Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      For sure, without Sol we’d be toast. (Eventually, *everything* will be toast, but you know what I mean.)

      • Posted February 23, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Actually…since the Sun is what gives us our daily bread, without it, there’d be no toast.

        You really can’t beat the Sun as far as gods go. It’s definitely the most beautiful star in all the heavens.

        And, of course, cats make superlative deities, too….


  4. dan bertini
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Now this is progressive. A female atheist minister. Wrap your head around this.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      That is some story. Never see it down here in the bible belt and pants. Gretta would be boiled alive.

    • Walt Jones
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      Seth Andrews interviewed her last fall: http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/podcast/gretta-vosper-atheist-minister-under-fire

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Interesting person. There are (at least) hundreds of ministers etc who don’t believe in God. My bet is they’re wishing they could be as honest with their congregations about their own views as she is.

  5. Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I second the vote for the sun as the proper deistic god.

    And enjoyed reading this post, seems like a good trip, nurturing body, mind…and er…soul.

    Carl Kruse

  6. Dominic
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Samuel Pepys was also born on this day in 1633!

    • rickflick
      Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      Or, maybe 1904.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink


  7. lwgreen1
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    We shouldn’t leave out the Navy corpsman who was with the five Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. Corpsmen go through the same shit as the Marines and are usually granted honorary Marine status.

  8. Dean Booth
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I learned some things this week: ‘lagniappe’ is not a species of cat and is not pronounced lag-née-appy.

  9. Posted February 23, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    For all of us, JAC, keep on thumping that tub.

  10. lkr
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    ..tone police are thick on the ground in Halifax, eh?

    • Posted February 23, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Not so many, but one in particular was especially vociferous and, I should say, impolite. It’s hypocritical for society to allow preachers and politicians and religions to thump their tubs, but antitheists aren’t supposed to have tubs.

  11. cornbread_r2
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    When I lived at the West Virginia embassy in the mid-70s, my pals and I would sometimes get baked and go to the nearby official Iwo Jima memorial. Once there, we’d stroll around the base of the memorial counting the legs. As might be expected, we seldom came up with the same number and frequently even totaled an odd number of more than ten legs. Good times…

  12. Diane G.
    Posted February 24, 2016 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Such a full day! Nice to get a trip report–I’d loved to have heard the back-and-forth between you and the deist/tub-thumper critics!

    Taskin, that is the cutest Gus picture ever!

  13. HaggisForBrains
    Posted February 24, 2016 at 4:17 am | Permalink


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