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By a further semantic slide, it came, for some, to mean any authoritarian power structure with power concentrated in the hands of the few, hence the lumping together of the various 20thC dictatorships as right wing.

You've just argued that the Communist dictatorships of the 20th century, the USSR, China, Cuba. are "right wing", which seems to establish the vacuity of the term far better than anything I could have written.

tcpkac, the first problem is coming up with a definition of "right wing" that has any operational value. If "hard core libertarian" meant "right wing", then you'd be including both the free-trade, free-love, cheap-drugs libertarian like me (and Heinlein, I think) with a Pat Buchanan nationalist, isolationist, Christian-privileging paleoconservative, a Ron Paul/Lew Rockwell racialist isolationist paleolibertarian, and, arguably, a Mussolini Italian Fascist into one category --- which seems to reduce "right wing" to vacuity. It happens that Philosoblog extends this discussion just today, while critiquing Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. It would seem that "right wing" primarily means "I think I'm left wing and I don't like it."

Elizer, I don't think that a skeptic like Heinlein meant any of his characters to be taken as completely authoritative. That said, I don't see any difficulty in reconciling "perfectly logical" in context --- he's using it as an example of using logic to arrive at an absurdity --- with "deceptively logical seeming."

Of course, to a formalist, the whole syllogism could be perfectly logical in the strong sense you're using, since we could construct an axiom system in which 1/0 is well defined.

When one got past pre-adolescence, one realised that Heinlein's writing skills, such as they were, were in the service of a political philosophy somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun. Whatever floats your boat.

Then one got past pre-adolescence by becoming an uninformed dolt. In fact, Heinlein's political views ranged from Upton Sinclair socialist and New Deal Democrat in the 30's, to hard-core libertarian later in life, but never corresponded to anything "right wing" except to those people who use "right wing" as a synonym for "I don't like it."

Leo, Heinlein praised math to the very stars, but I'm not sure he was actually good at math. It's been a long time and I don't have the book in front of me, but I remember a scene in The Rolling Stones where the father is telling the kids they need to study advanced math, and using some mathobabble, and I don't think the father was making any sense...

The kids, looking at some kind of map of mathematics, say "Dad, what's a hyper-ideal?" "Hyper-ideal" is a perfectly good term in algebraic topology. Heinlein did graduate work in maths at UCLA after his medical discharge. He did incline to being a hardcore formalist, as evidenced by the discussion of axiomatic systems and such in Rocket Ship Galileo.

And yes, it does worry me a little that I can quote a Heinlein juvenile by memory....

Well, one aspect of this that I find amusing in a mildly infuriating way is the common sort of understanding of "atheism" that seems to be largely based on a rejection of what someone learned in their fifth grade Sunday School classes. Kathryn above makes exactly this point (although I'd claim that Buddhism makes specifically scientific claims: that following certain practices based on a certain understanding of the Nature of Things, leads to greater peace of mind and less suffering.) But then she nails it by noting that the claim that "religion" is invariably incompatible with tolerance of homosexuality is simply untrue, even among adherents of a religion in the Abrahamic tradition.

Just yesterday I was reading a well-recommended apologia that similarly claimed "religion" was incompatible with finding meaning in life from a sense of immanence, as opposed to transcendence. It wasn't bad as an argument, but it depended on a statement of the meaning of "religion" that defined it in terms of transcendence, thereby excluding the various monist, animist, and pantheist traditions from American Indian religion to Shinto and Hinduism. One might charitably ascribe the circularity of argument to ignorance, instead of intellectual dishonesty, but either way it's fatally flawed.

In any case, though, the underlying question appears to be either (1) can a literal interpretation of the claims of Old Testament miracles and cosmogony be seen as consistent with current scientific knowledge, or (2) is religious "knowledge" compatible, commesurable, with scientific "knowledge" in any way, or are they so different as to form completely distinct and separate magisteria?

The answer to (1) is, pretty clearly, mostly no. Why mostly? Because there are logically sustainable interpretations that could be "true" --- they're just ones that completely undercut the scientific mode of thought --- like the notion that Deity would create the world in seven days, 6014 years ago, with built in fossils, pre-created illusions of distant galaxies, etc, so that the universe would be in all ways indistinguishable from one that around in a Big Bang tens of billions of years in the past. But that leads directly to the conclusion that the answer to (2) must be "yes", by a Gödelian argument. A Superior Being who could do (1) --- which is inescapably true of any God capable of doing the Old Testament thing --- must also, inescapably, be able to construct a universe in which any experimental verification of Its existence would be answered "no", if that is Its wish. Similarly, such a Superior Being must be capable of constructing the universe in such a way that any attempted falsification of Its existence would fail.

But then, if A can neither be falsified by experiment, nor can its converse be falsified, it's simply outside of the domain of "scientific" knowledge; it cannot be evaluated in scientific terms. Which is to say, it's a separate magisterium. (Notice that this doesn't say any statement in that separate magisterium is true. It's just part of a different system.)