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Monday, December 01, 2008

"Stanford Challenge" Founder Dead

Some of you may know Kelly Tripplehorn as the founder of the "I53 Network" and more specifically, the "Stanford Challenge." The latter was so-called because to collect a certain amount of prize money (initially $1000, then raised to a symbolic $5300) the successful challenger would have to have their 'solution' to the problem of induction accepted and published in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Most people recognized this as a trite regurgitation of presuppositionalist Christian apologetics, and more than a few engaged with Tripplehorn, although his was just one of several absurd challenges offered by cocksure theists like Harun Yahya or Kent Hovind.

Alas, Tripplehorn's challenge is now defunct. According to his obituary, he passed away over Thanksgiving weekend, cutting short educational plans to complete his masters in religion and potential study for a doctorate in Israel. He was only 26, and though no details are given for his manner of death, there is a suggestion to donations to mental health charities, particularly those dealing with bipolar disorder. I can only infer from this that Tripplehorn himself was plagued by this disorder, and I wonder if his death was a result.

As a fellow D/FW resident, I had hoped at some point to interact with Tripplehorn in some capacity. He seemed to be an enthusiastic and friendly individual, if horribly misinformed, and I had thought that we could have at least had a good exchange. Strangely enough, I do feel a bit of a loss at his passing, even though we never met; I felt compelled to make a donation on his behalf to the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.

I don't know if his religious experiences were in any way connected with any mental illness he may have been struggling with, but I know that this has been the case for others like him. I plan to spend this month reflecting on the theological confrontations in which I've been engaged in the past; while I may at times mock the ridiculousness of theistic superstitious claims, I should not forget that they are taken quite seriously by many people, and that a life lived superstitiously is usually preferable to a life cut short by self-imposed tragedy.

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