Fit Philosophy

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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Friday, December 23, 2005

The year past...

The year past...

2005 pivoted on the death, in August, of Tom Overholt, my good friend, former colleague, and tennis partner for 25 years. Diagnosed many years ago with a chronic form of leukemia, He was a brave man. One day in the locker room he said to me, “We all know we’re going to die, but it’s a strange feeling to know what you’re going to die from.” The ancient human practice of reflecting upon the year past as if upon the whole of a life, is grounded on the inescapable awareness of death that we live with. So this year I send out my recollections with a heightened sense of the fragility of existence.
     But not at all sadly. Quite the contrary, I’m delighted to recall the year’s adventures and discoveries. I gave up most of the cross-country ski season and annual spring bike training in Texas to take a position teaching philosophy aboard a US navy ship—the subtender ESLand—from January to March. Snow conditions here at the time were no good anyway. I enjoyed the experience so much I’m writing a book about it, based on my logs during the voyage from Spain to the Bay of Biafra and my time ashore in West Africa. Jane joined me in Spain during her March break so we could share exploration of Madrid and especially Bilbao, where the Getty Guggenheim museum was a revelation. Outside Guernica, immortalized by Picasso, we climbed up to the Settimameña caves, a little-known member of the large number of 12,000 year old sites with Ice Age wall paintings. There I realized that people then must have got quite good at locating such limestone outcroppings, which would provide not only shelter but water. For the first time I felt a peculiar kinship with these human ancestors.
     My now-annual April and October visits to California allowed me to enjoy Megan’s daughters—Tazmin and Serina—growing up while my mother grows smaller. She reached 94 in the fall with her faculties intact but her mobility sharply reduced. At the end of May Jane and I were biking again in Tuscany, this time with friends from Athens Georgia—one of Jane’s former professors, Harry Duval and his wife Nancy—and enjoying the riding we did even more with our familiarity with the maritime part of the province. Since Jane is on sabbatical next year we may sample some cycling in the Rockies for the first time. By the time our longer-than-usual warm weather this fall came to a close I’d logged just over 5000 miles on my bike computer (which is now a GPS unit, as well). The best triathlete I’ve coached out of the UWSP triathlon club—Blake Becker—won his age group at Ironman Wisconsin in September, giving him a slot again in the Ironman World Championships. I plan to go to Kona next year for the first time as a spectator.
     2006 will mark the 22nd year Jane and I have been together. Now we’re jointly teaching our Healthy Relationships course regularly during the interim and summer terms. I can boil down the advice for you with a paraphrase of Ogden Nash:
               Keep your relationship brimming
               With love in the loving cup:
               When you’re wrong, admit it—
               When you’re right, shut up.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

John Bailiff (2002) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Really intelligent design...

There is just one thing the current president has done we can all approve: nominating John E. Jones to the federal bench in Pennsylvania. Judge Jones yesterday issued a history-making decision in Kitzmiller et. al. v. Dover School Board--aka the "intelligent design" case--which genuinely exhibits intelligent design. By taking the time to write a 139p review of both the evidence presented at trial and the history of the arguments over science and religion, Jones has done the American public an enormous service. He recounts the history of the campaign to impose Christianity on the teaching of biology and exposes the mendacity of its architects. His job was made easier by the fact that the Dover board members who abdicated their duties as elected representatives in order to pursue sectarian aims--and to lie under oath about their intentions--proved to be stupid and uninformed. Jones even properly criticizes the waste of taxpayers' money they caused. The ruling is likely to end the career of the "intelligent design" scam; but it may achieve an even greater benefit by provoking a discussion of what science is and, better still, what a theory really does. Many people ignorantly suppose that a theory is just some sort of speculation. A theory proposes testable explanations of natural phenomena. Science is the enterprise of performing that testing. "Intelligent design" is NOT a theory, since it proposes nothting that can be tested. Three years ago the Discovery Institute--a right-wing project to foster the ID campaign--offered large cash awards to any lab or scientist who proposed a research project to support ID; none have been submitted because there's nothing to test. So this is the best news Americans have had in decades...jb    

Monday, December 19, 2005


It's a century since Einstein, using Max Planck's conjecture, propounded the special theory of relativity (1905). If the reactionaries fisated on opposing Darwin's theory of evolution--which they imagine they understand--actually had any grasp of intellectual history, they would recognize that Einstein's insights and discoveries constitute an even more complete refutation of all they believe. Even Einstein--like Planck himself--was unable imaginatively to accept the consequences of his own theory. The success of quantum theory equals the radical elimination of all supernatural explanation for the universe. So Darwin's discovery of the origin of differences in life forms--the origin of species--was only the first stage of the elimination of religion as an explanatory device. The relativity of time and motion was the second stage. The third stage is still underway, with the investigations of quantum theory and cosmology. A fourth stage has begun to emerge with discoveries in molecular biology, including DNA research and the human genome.

But allof these are stages in the elimination of religion and the consolations faith in the supernatural has so long afforded humans. Nietzsche--also just over a century ago--was among the first to recognize the way in which modern discoveries sabotage traditional beliefs. So the reactionaries are right to be afraid, but it's not just evolution that threatens their beliefe. Modernity threatens all traditional beliefs in the supernatural or divine. This is one of its most welcome aspects. For the absolutism of supernatural beliefs--especially the beliefs of the proselytizing religions, Christianity and Islam--and the defense of those beliefs, have been the occasion for most of the atrocities committed over human history, climaxing with fascism and terrorism...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fit Philosophy

John Bailiff, PhD.
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin
Stevens Point WI 54481 715.252.4072
Philosopher - Triathlete
24 Mar 1936 -
Life partner: Jane P Jones, PhD, Professor of Health Promotion