Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Happens If Apple Creates i-Harmony and Excludes PC users?

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Is it OK for e-Harmony to provide services for heterosexuals alone?

And I don't mean "OK" in the "do you find it palatable" sense, I mean in the "legally permissible" sense.

Are there other groups of people that e-Harmony excludes? People searching for adulterous relationship? People searching for polygamist relationships? I'd guess that they don't even ask those questions, but maybe they do?

Are there relevant reasons for e-Harmony to exclude homosexuals from their services? They've said that their system is based only on research culled from successful heterosexual marriages. Could that be a legitimate reason for not providing matching for same-sex couples?

e-Harmony has also said that there's nothing stopping them from offering their system to homosexuals in the future, and that they just haven't entered that market yet, and perhaps they will in the future.

Should a private business be allowed to offer its services to a limited set of the population? All the time? Some of the time? Where and how do we draw that line? Ladies nights? What about businesses that serve exclusively homosexual clientele (I'm assuming they're out there, or that they will arise)? What happens if we flip this around?

What if it's a religious dating service, and it excludes people who aren't of the religion? Does J-Date exclude non-Jews? Would that be similarly illegal?

Obviously, there's lots of questions here. Let's get a conversation going:

You're such a delicate boy
In the hysterical realm of an emotional landslide
In physical terms

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Finally

I know, I know, I haven't posted in a while. I've started a post or two, but they weren't good, and never got finished. And then, I either wasn't around or basically had other stuff that I wanted to do more than blog. I'm not your dancing monkey you know.

Here's the quick update:


I turned 26. Work is good. We took a trip to Southern Illinois to visit friends, and stopped in Cincinati on the way back to visit family. I've decided I want to watch the original Superman movies. I'm working on locating a Wii. Laura and I had our second anniversary. Whoever came up with the concept of Jell-O cake was brilliant. Einstein-brilliant.

Right. Well, that's it. I'm going to make a concerted effort to post more frequently. I've got some fun topics running around in the back of my mind, so those might get some play. Soon enough.

Ok, off to bed. I've got to be to work bright and early tomorrow - the interns start!

I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Partial Response to Zhubin:

A while back, Zhubin swung a very broad sword at Christianity, cutting into religious faith more generally. Ben recently provided a quite substantial response, (in 2 parts) and there's been some fascinating dialogue over on his blog. If you've got any interest at all in the topic, I recommend reading the conversation. It's long, but it's worth it.

My response is going to be much more brief; Ben did a great job, and there's plenty of my response contained in the comments section of both blogs.

One of Zhubin's primary criticisms was that any faith that posits acceptance of that faith's beliefs as necessary grounds for entrance into a happy afterlife was, essentially, "ugly" and cruel, because wonderful people who were nonbelievers would be punished with Hell, despite their obvious goodness [this position is fleshed out more fully in the comments following Ben's second post]. The other primary criticism was essentially that faith is unscientific.

I've responded more fully in other places, but here I just wish to make a couple of simple observation in defense of faith:

First, if you don't believe in, or don't fear, Hell, then the threat of damnation cannot possibly be taken with any seriousness. And if damnation isn't actually viewed as a legitimate threat, then it seems to follow that religions cannot possibly be cruel for issuing it. They might come off sounding stupid, but certainly a non-believer would not have reason for finding the religion ugly or cruel.

Second, the greatest people throughout history have been people of faith, and their religion has been instrumental in making them wonderful people.

One of the primary concerns Zhubin posed was that religion facilitates a view among a community of believers that non-believers are going to suffer for their lack of belief. Thus, Christians would likely think that Gandhi was going to Hell. His conclusion was that Christianity was therefore cruel in their judgment; after all, Gandhi was by all accounts one of the greatest people to ever live, and if anyone lived up to a merit-based Heavenly reward, it would be Gandhi. What is missed here, in the attack on religion more generally, is that if not for religion, great people like Gandhi would not even exist.

If you look throughout history, the individuals who would most likely be viewed, throughout worldly eyes, to be worthy of Heaven are all individuals of faith. And not just faith, but also devoted to religion. Gandhi was a devout Hindu. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa were passionate Christians. Certainly, within the last 100 years, these 3 names stand out as the cream of the human crop. And I think that the same proves true throughout history; that those who devote their life to a religion have the potential to become truly great persons.

There's certainly nothing stopping an atheist or agnostic from becoming a similarly great person, but I don't see it happening. Being a believer in a religious community fosters a commitment to service, of a life dedicated to others. Too frequently we faithful persons fail to live up to call to serve. But therein is the rub: our religion lets us know that it is a failing. For a non-believer lack of service is simply an omission, without real consequence. For a believer, they have failed in the task set before them by their faith, and the result can be very dire (Hell, reincarnation as a lower being, etc.). Thus, religion enables greatness in a way that atheism/agnosticism cannot. Why is a non-believer concerned that religions might condemn great people when, without those religions, those great people would never exist?

Ok, so there you have it. I'm finally getting tired again (insomnia), so I'm going to bed. This isn't a great response, and I'm well aware of that. Deal.

You've got to fill her up with Jesus
You've got to fill her up with light

Monday, May 07, 2007

Question:

This is taken from the same vein as the the previous question. I take it to be a relatively uncontroversial view that if an employee has a religious reason for refusing to perform a given task that the employer can, if they see fit, terminate that person's employment. Most people seemed to feel that reasonable accommodation for religious exercise was a good thing, but that it could go too far, and that it should be left to individual employers/employees to work out the proper balance.

This leads to two questions:

1. Are there any reasonable accommodations that we should mandate? Should employees be protected from termination if their exercise of religion means they're taking off religious holidays (but are otherwise performing their tasks)? Or should the employer be allowed to fire them regardless of the form of religious exercise?

2. How do people feel about the government mandating that employees with certain (non-state) jobs restrict their free exercise of religion to perform the job? If the employer is fine employing pharmacists who don't prescribe Plan B, or doctors who don't provide abortions, or cabbies who won't pick up people with alcohol, would that be ok? Or do you think we should have laws that say cabbies must pick up all fares/doctors provide all services/pharmacists fill all prescriptions?

Personally, I'm inclined to say that when the state steps into these situations it's going too far; a law that forces people to choose between their jobs and their religion is extremely coercive and not at all in the spirit of First Amendment. When private employers do it... not nearly so offensive. That's just my take. I want to know what others think.

Oh yeah I wait tables too

Movie Review: Spider-Man 3

Like so much of America, this past weekend I went to see Spider-Man 3. I've been told several times that the movie got "bad reviews". This isn't completely accurate; I've scanned the reviews and I saw what I think are better characterized as "mixed reviews". I'm here to offer a more positive take.

For starters, the movie was not as good as Spider-Man 2. You just can't go into a movie expecting it to be a repeat of the best superhero movie, and anyone who set their expectations that high has only themselves to blame if they weren't entirely satisfied.

This time around your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man delivered with amazing action sequences, practically flawless CGI, just the right amount of campy humor, and plenty of the character drama that makes Spider-Man the greatest comic of all time. That was what made Spider-Man 2 so riveting; that we cared about Peter Parker. This time around the Parker side of the story isn't quite as engaging, and so the movie doesn't quite match up to the previous outing.

But the action is better, and that almost makes up for the shortcoming. This time around Spidey faces off against 3 foes. The Sandman, played with subtle emotion by Thomas Hayden Church, serves as a nice subplot to the two major storylines of the movie. The Green Goblin story wraps up, with Harry finally filling the glider-boots of his dad Norman, the best friend/worst foe storyline modified perfectly from the comic books for the screen. And Venom. Topher Grace is perfect. Plenty of people have taken issue with the fact that Topher isn't a particular menacing figure, but in this role, he works. The whole concept of Venom is that he once was Spider-Man, only now the symbiot takes on another host, a parallel Parker, only evil. Grace is a wonderful doppelganger to Toby Maguire, both as Eddie Brock to Peter Parker, and as Venom to Spider-man. Toss in some amazing graphics, and you've got the perfect Venom.

The one criticism of Spider-Man 3 is that it tries to do too much. There are 3 villains in the film, each of them has a human-persona back story, and of course we have to follow Parker's life too. It's a lot for a single film, and so none of the stories reaches quite the depth that the audience is craving. Of course, had they dwelt much longer on any one particular story line, perhaps director Sam Rami would have been accused of overkill. It's a fine line to walk, and for the most part Rami does it exceptionally well.

I give it an A-.

Look out, here comes the Spider-Man

Friday, May 04, 2007

Question:

Should a taxi driver be allowed to refuse a fare for religious reasons [that is, reasons that offend the driver on religious grounds, not reasons based on the religion of the fare]?

UPDATE
Question the Second:

Is there any job where an individual should be allowed to refuse to serve a particular customer/execute a specific task for religious reasons?

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone