Today was a good day; it was better than most
Didn't see me no demons, didn't fight with no ghosts
Baby maybe we haven't gone crazy after all
There's only four seasons and even the best of us fall
When the Catholic churches only response to the fact that the church claims that condoms increase your chances of being infected with HIV and AIDS is, "Why you always gotta bring that up?", this is the only rational response.
I don't know if the frustration of watching this debate makes the outcome worthwhile. However, I do really enjoy the outcome.
Tue, Nov. 3rd, 2009, 10:30 am
I watch a lot of debates about the existence of god. I do this not to root for one side or the other, but because I find that many of the people who participate in these debates are endlessly amusing to listen to. Among these polemicists is my favorite, Christopher Hitchens, who I agree with half the time, and even then only half heartedly. An acerbic wit and an English accent captures my heart every time.
I recently watched the film "Collision", which chronicles in high indie film making style a series of debates and conversations between Christopher Hitchens and a fellow by the name of Douglas Wilson, a Christian author and minister. What I enjoy most about their encounters is how well they're matched. You never get the feeling that one of them has won the argument (to be fair, it's an argument that really can't be won, but I digress).
One argument that always comes up in any debate about whether the Christian world view is better than the atheist world view is the question of morality and the core of its existence. As humans, are we born with morality in our blood, in our genes, as the atheist world view has us believe? Or do we need commandments from on high as a basis for our morality, as the Christians insist?
If we have no higher authority to go to, why do we have morality? If there is no justice in the end, nothing to fear when we die but an eternity of nothingness, what prevents us from murdering, raping and pillaging? Without cosmic justice, what stops us from being Stalin? This is what the Christian will normally bring to the table.
On on the flip side, if the Jews thought it was OK to murder before they reached Mount Sinai, how did they get that far without killing themselves off? Wouldn't it make more sense that we innately know not to harm our fellow human beings in order to continue our race? That regardless of religion, we try to do the right thing?
This goes back and forth forever, the Christian saying that the atheist has no reason to believe in a moral code if all that we are is molecules and chemicals interacting, and the atheist saying I don't need an imaginary man in the sky to tell me what to do because I can tell very well from right and wrong, thank you very much. I think that they both fail. The atheist argument fails because of the fact that there are people on this earth who are willing to kill each other for fun and profit. The Christian argument fails, to me, because I find it to be specious, with everything we know of the origins of the bible.
Well, I have an alternate. Could morality not have evolved? Most great ideas come from trial and error. As Greg Craven would put it, we're the grand experiment, and we're all in the test tube. Could morality not come from trial and error? Why did Hammurabi write his laws? Would it not have been in reaction to wrong doings? We are all taught what to think, whether we like it or not. Morality is inherent in our society at this point. It's taught in our schools, on our television, in our reading materials, in our laws. And as we change as a society, our morality changes. Women have the right to vote. Segregation is no longer legal. These all fall under morality.
It's quite possible that religion may have pushed us along, but it does not prove that morality comes from god. And perhaps there are aspects of morality innate in us (I recently listened to a radio lab where they interviewed children about what rules are OK to break in a classroom when the teacher says it's OK to break them, and which aren't. The children were fine with many of the supposed rule changes, except when it came to hitting, which they all firmly stood against). But I firmly believe that it's all trial and error, from the beginning of our species on. The state kills inmates. We find out that many may have been innocent. The national view changes. Governors see this evidence and change the laws. Isn't it really as simple as this?
Perhaps I'm totally wrong, and my argument most certainly has holes aplenty, but it's been on my mind recently, so I needed to splatter it out somewhere. So there it is.
From What's the Worst That Could Happen? by Greg Craven
One of my students proposed the most succint and insightful definition of science that I've come across: "Science is the observation of errors." It's got the whole nature of science in there: the basis in empirical observations; the sledgehammer test (having your hypothesis smashed to pieces by others in your field); the built-in uncertainty; and the self-critical, self-correcting attitude. As much as we think science is about being right, the practice of the stuff is largely focused on being wrong.
Why? Because being open to the possibility that you might be wrong is exactly how you get less wrong over time, sort of like saying "I'd better find all the holes in my argument before someone else can." Strangely, the way to make your ideas stronger is to try to break them. Looking for errors in your understanding rather than just trying to find supporting evidence is th ebest way to improve your ideas.
This is useful for the lay person as well. Each of us is right now walking around with some mistaken understandings. If we don't admit that possibility, then we lose the opportunity to get rid of those mistaken understandings and replace them with some that are closer to the truth before the mistakes do us harm (or humiliate us, as is most often the case for me).
Science is all about trying to align your understanding more closely with physical reality, which requires a good bit of uncomfortable humility. I would suggest that in the shouting match about global warming, your goal should be somewhat similar. After all, when you fall out of a 10th-story window, gravity doesn't care about what you believe will happen. That is why, religion aside, it is fundamentally in your own best interest to change your beliefs to fit how the physical world works rather than hoping that it's the other way around.
This can be quite challenging to the ego, but it is simply pragmatic. When it comes to something as all-encompassing as the climate - which influences every part of human activity - I've come to realize that being humble about my understanding makes it less likely for the laws of physics to end up spanking me hard. I'd much rather admit I might be wrong than have the physical world demonstrate the point to me unequivocally and painfully.
Always keep in mind that it is in your own best interest to ask yourself, Could I be wrong? Because that's how you move your understanding closer to physical reality and then make good decisions - that is, ones that are more likely to bring you happiness and security.
Seeing as it's been raining for what I can only assume is years at this point, thought I'd share this old Bradbury story:( All Summer in a DayCollapse )
Dune was aimed at this whole idea of the infallible leader because my view of history says mistakes made by a leader (or made in a leader's name) are amplified by the numbers who follow without question.
That's how 900 people wound up in Guyana drinking poison Kool-Aid.
That's how the U.S. said, "Yes, sir, Mister Charismatic John Kennedy!" and found itself embroiled in Vietnam.
That's how Germany said "Sieg Heil!" and murdered more than six million of our fellow human beings.
Leadership and our dependence on it (how and why we choose particular leaders) is a much misunderstood historical phenomenon.
You see, we often get noncreative leaders, people most interested in preserving their own positions. They flock around centers of power. Such centers attract people who can be corrupted. That is a more descriptive observation than to say simply that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
If you are corruptible and your imagination is confined to worries about loss of power, you exist in a self-destructive system. Eventually, as all life does, you must encounter something you did not anticipate, and if you have no t strengthened your creative resources, you will have no new ways for adapting to change. Adapt or die, that's the first rule of survival.
The limited vision of noncreative people is not difficult to understand. Creativity frightens the unimaginative. They don't know what's happening. Things new and unexpected arise from creativity. This threatens "things as they are." And (terrible thought) it undermines illusions of omnipotence.