As the temperature here in Wisconsin drops down into the single digits (without wind chill added), here’s a warmer moment that I recorded on my iPhone last summer, sitting next to the first set of waterfalls along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia Gorge, Oregon. (This is my first video “production”, thrown together in about 15 minutes using iMovie 2011 – I can see how playing with such toys could become addictive). The snippet of music is from Chris Thile’s beautiful “Raining At Sunset” on his incredible Not All Who Wander Are Lost album.
Rachel Maddow occasionally irritates me, at least when she takes her self-imposed mission of balancing Fox News a bit too literally (and so similarly distorts her opponents’ positions). But she just returned from a vacation in particularly good form, as this clip exposing the Republican Party’s apparent antipathy towards science and education illustrates-
Here’s the story, as reported by the Huffington Post-
ISLAMABAD — The governor of Pakistan’s most dominant province was shot and killed Tuesday by a bodyguard who authorities said was angry about his opposition to blasphemy laws carrying the death sentence for insulting the Muslim faith.
Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, regarded as a moderate voice in a country increasingly beset by zealotry, was a close ally of U.S.-backed President Asif Ali Zardari. He is the highest-profile Pakistani political figure to be assassinated since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto three years ago, and his death underscores the growing danger in this country to those who dare challenge the demands of Islamist extremists.
“Taseer showed himself to be a rare politician, willing to risk his life in espousing an unambiguous position against discrimination and abuse,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“He was the most courageous voice after Benazir Bhutto on the rights of women and religious minorities,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a fellow leading member of the Pakistan People’s Party, who wept as she spoke. “God, we will miss him.”
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, called Taseer “a champion of tolerance.”
Taseer publicly vented his opposition – even using Twitter – to Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws that effectively order death for anyone convicted of insulting Islam. Although courts typically overturn convictions and no executions have been carried out, rights activists say the laws are used to settle rivalries and persecute religious minorities.
People accused of blasphemy are often killed by extremists or spend significant amounts of time behind bars. In some cases, the charges border on the ridiculous: A man was recently held because he threw away a business card of someone whose first name is Muhammad.
The laws came under renewed international scrutiny late last year when a 45-year-old Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Taseer called for granting Bibi a pardon, a stance that earned him death threats from Islamists.
“I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing,” Taseer tweeted on Dec. 31.
I don’t know anything more about Governor Taseer than what I’ve read in the last few hours about his assassination. Since he was a politician in a notoriously corrupt part of the world, I doubt that he was as angelic as his obituaries are portraying him. But if he was murdered for protesting a blasphemy law, his death is worth noting – as is his life. It’s wise, I think, not to forget that the impulse to return the world to the simplicity and certainty of the Dark Ages is alive and well… and not necessarily limited to a culture like Pakistan’s.
Philosophers of emotion sometimes view anger and many other emotions as being “factive”. The mark of a factive emotion is that if one has it towards something or someone, then one must at the same time believe that this something or someone exists. For instance, if I am angry at Jack (presumably for something I think he’s done), then I must believe that Jack exists (at least!). This contrasts with certain non-factive emotions, such as fear or anxiety: for instance, I can reasonably fear that it is raining outside without believing that rain is occurring; it’s enough if I believe that it is merely possible. As Robert Gordon once noted, I don’t even have to believe that it is probably raining, since it seems perfectly reasonable to both fear that it is raining and believe that there is exactly a 50% probability that it is (so that I believe that rain is no more probable than it is improbable).
Anyway, a story in the newspaper today (on the Entertainment page, under the the “Brief” heading) entitled “Anger at God common during times of crisis” caught my attention. The fact reported by the headline is certainly unsurprising, but the story goes on to note-
Interestingly, those who don’t believe in God or question God’s existence reported more anger at God than people who said they believed.
If anger really is a “factive” emotion in the sense outlined above, the fact that non-believers report more anger at God – if this really is a fact – is a significant observation. Of course, I can imagine several explanations that would square this fact with the idea that anger is a factive emotion, but for the moment I just want to savor the apparent paradox.