Friday, October 10, 2008


Yom Kippur ended at sundown yesterday. I'm not Jewish, but I like the idea of a "day of atonement" in which, among other things, you're supposed to make amends to anyone you've wronged in the previous twelve or thirteen (such are the vagaries of the Jewish calendar) months. So I'm trying some atonement here for things I've posted on this blog.

First, Ben Stein. I really came down hard on you. It's largely because I was so disposed to like you. I enjoyed your show, Win Ben Stein's Money. More to the point, we had a friend in common; someone whose judgment I respected and who once did one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. To see you trashing evolution came, to say the least, as an unexpected blow below the belt. Your falling for the canard that Darwin's theory gives support to Nazi racism and the Holocaust had me shaking my head in despair. Nevertheless, I'm willing to allow that, in this matter, you were acting the fool not the knave.

Next, Leon Kass. I made sport of your fuddy-duddy-uncle-ish objections to outdoor eating in general, and ice cream cones in particular. I disagree with you about embryonic stem cell research (I've never cottoned to slippery-slope arguments, so long as reasonable people like me get to decide where the lines get drawn) and some other issues for similar reasons. Nevertheless, I'll confess, I find you fascinating, because you seem to have something I don't (which, my having lived over sixty two years, may be evidence of naivete or even imbecility): what Miguel de Unamuno called the "tragic sense of life". It's something you seem to share with the British philosopher John Gray and my former Fray colleague and fellow blogger IOZ, not that either of them would necessarily want to be put in the same category with you, or with each other, or with Unamuno, for that matter.

Last (and certainly least), Sarah Palin. I was a bit snarky, but I'll give you credit for a couple of things you said during your Katie Couric interview: "Well, I am all for contraception", and "Oh, I think it [evolution] should be taught as an accepted principle." Good for you, though you still don't get my vote.