Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

June 30, 2008

On Angry, Arrogant Atheism

Filed under: culture, religion, science, Uncategorized — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 7:22 am

Recently, PZ Myers ripped Gordy Slack for “bad” articles on creationismGordy Slack’s reply is revealing in its own way.

It surprises me that PZ is so pissed off by my efforts to understand why so many Americans reject evolution. If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution. They see people calling their intuitions and worldviews retarded and corrupt, and they march the other way. That’s one reason why we evolutionists have done such an abysmal promotions job even though we’re armed with the most delightful and seductive and potent theory ever. If we can’t sell evolution, we must be doing something wrong. Right? I’m just saying that we might start by resisting the urge to spit bile in the face of potential buyers.

Gordy Slack’s original article, such as it was, painted creationism as a form of legitimate skepticism.  It conferred respect on creationism for its truly adversarial relationship to science, noting things that apparently creationists pointed out, and science eventually proved them right.  PZ Myers’ point was: no, scientists were saying the same things, and unlike the creationists, they found the hard evidence to prove it.

Creationism is fundamentally reactionary and denialist.  The line between honest skepticism and denialism can usually be discerned by asking a simple question.  Both the skeptic and the denialist will claim there is not enough evidence to support a particular claim, what differentiates the two is their answer as to what evidence would be necessary to change their belief.  The true skeptic will be able to produce a few pieces of evidence that would convince them.  A denialist will sometimes openly say no amount of evidence will convince them, or if they are more sophisticated, they will just leave it at an unspecific more.

The fact of the matter is that the theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best and heavily supported scientific theories we have.  The rejection of evolution rests on a logical fallacy, the fear of its ramifications, not the lack of evidence.  The arrogance of the atheist, or the evolutionary scientist is the mere questioning of the unassailable church doctrine.  The thinking goes, if those atheists weren’t so arrogant and just accept the fact that the bible is unerringly correct, then there wouldn’t be a problem.

There are many that believe there is some way to reconcile the theory of evolution and religion.  I am not denying that there are ways to reconcile the two beliefs, but there are none that I find particularly intellectually satisfying.

What the creationists of the world seek from the scientists is simple: accommodation.  And this is what makes atheists so angry.  It sends the message that if one is petulant enough, stubborn enough, loud enough, irrational enough, that it is possible to get the most reasonable of institutions to cave.  Science, as an ideal, is imperfectly implemented by humans.  We try our best, and sometimes we fail, but the central tenet is that we try to succeed, and we are fundamentally honest.

I used to believe standing by a principle was easy.  Science was some forgone conclusion, why wouldn’t someone want to be rational?  Why wouldn’t someone want to know more about the physical world around them?  My upbringing was religious.  I saw going to church on Sunday as some sort of insurance policy.  I thought there was some ancient break where god was regularly intervening in the world and then he quit for some reason.  Later, I realized that the person who went to church on Sunday was the same on Monday.  The tales of great miracles occur regularly, but when examined closely they more closely resemble hoaxes or tales of the credulous, not divine intervention.  Finally, I was able to stitch together a coherent, rational view of natural history that exposes the very strange creatures that we are and what we believe.

I admit it.  I’m a little bit bitter about that.  I can only compare and contrast my own experience of confirmation with this statement from the Brights.

Hello, parents/guardians! Please read the following Brights’ Net’s “rules” for youngsters signing up to be counted in the constituency of Brights.

1) The decision to be a Bright must be the child’s. Any youngster who is told he or she must, or should, be a Bright can NOT be a Bright. [The Brights’ Net doesn’t wish to count children who are not taking the step for themselves.]

2) Children should know they can change their mind at a later time (as can any person).

3) A child must be able to independently sign onto the Brights’ Net site, read and understand the definition, conclude they are a Bright, and then locate and complete the sign-up form without assistance. (Parents should feel free to discuss likely implications of “being a Bright” with the child, but the child must be capable of abiding by the guidelines.)

Can you imagine a church adopting such a policy before we start labeling children Christian?

Religion is at war with the world.  At war with the truths we discover.  Has religion ever endorsed some new discovery and gone, wow, this is better than we thought?  The universe is far older, larger, grander, more complex and elegant than our prophets led us to believe.

This willful ignorance is something to be angry about.  Furthermore, I will not lie, mislead or deny the truth as I see it to accommodate those who want to wallow in a delusion.  If this makes me arrogant, so be it.  I ask nothing less than an intellectual revolution towards rationality, a new permanent enlightenment of our species to replace the decadent thinking of the here and now.  Thinkers unite!  You have nothing to lose but your superstitions and an undimmed view of universe to gain and explore.

June 8, 2008

Hillary Concedes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 10:38 am

Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic party nomination to Barack Obama.  In a campaign that was plagued with some tactless moments, the concession speech had a lot of class.  That is all.

June 5, 2008

Remembering Tiananmen

The Guardian had a piece on the Tiananmen Square Massacre which took place 19 years ago on June 3rd-4th. What makes Fenby’s piece frustrating is its obvious Western lens. Fenby states the fundamental questions the protesters were facing was the following:

But there was a more fundamental question: if the Chinese were to be free to run their lives economically, why not politically as well? If the command economy was being dismantled, why not the command political system, too?

As is typical, Fenby considers this to be the common wisdom instead of say asking, or quoting any one participating in the demonstrations. Naomi Klein provides another analysis of the underlying reasons for the protests in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism where she *gasp* actually cites one of the organizers of the protest.

This alternative narrative is being advanced by, among others, Wang Hui, one of the organizers of the 1989 protests, and now a leading Chinese intellectual of what is known as China’s “New Left.” In his 2003 book, China’s New Order, Wang explains that the protesters spanned a huge range of Chinese society — not just elite university students but also factory workers, small entrepreneurs and teachers. What ignited the protests, he recalls, was popular discontent in the face of Deng’s “revolutionary” economic changes, which were lowering wages, raising prices and causing “a crisis of layoffs and unemployment” (China’s New Order pg. 45, 54). According to Wang, “These changes were the catalyst for the 1989 social mobilization.” (China’s New Order pg. 54)

The demonstrations were not against economic reform per se; they were against the specific Friedmanite nature of the reforms — their speed, ruthlessness and the fact that the process was highly antidemocratic. Wang says that the protesters’ call for elections and free speech were intimately connected to this economic dissent. What drove the demand for democracy was the fact that the party was pushing through changes that were revolutionary in scope, entirely without popular consent. There was, he writes, “a general request for democratic means to supervise the fairness of the reform process and the reorganization of social benefits.” (China’s New Order pg. 57)

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism pg 187-188

So Fenby gets partial credit, the economic reforms were at the heart of the protests. However, it was not because of mystical consciousness raising magic of the “free market” and people asking doing a collective “why not?” It was precisely because of the tangible forms of economic distress that these reforms caused that spurred the protests and calls for democratic oversight.

Capitalism and democracy are not concepts that go hand-in-hand. Most of the time, they are directly at odds. Capitalists are always a select elite in society. So it seems natural that if economic affairs are controlled predominately by capitalists, this is a direct contravention of democracy because the public opinion of the majority is ignored when forming economic policies, by definition.

If there were any sense in the world, and the subsequent ability to call a spade a spade and declare A is A, China would correctly be identified as state capitalists, not communist. As such, the proper narrative of the Tiananmen Square Massacre is one of class struggle, another instance of capitalists crushing labor. The Tiananmen Square Massacre is an inconvenient truth for both East and West. This is why Fenby can confidently declare it to be “officially a non-event.” It is, from the point of view history is traditionally written from: the state’s. However, it is an important event to remember for a history of the people.

January 15, 2008

The MSNBC Kucinich Debate Saga

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 10:20 am

In an interesting turn of events, MSNBC invited and then uninvited presidential candidate and Ohio congressmen Dennis Kucinich from Tuesday’s debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  Dennis Kucinich was also excluded from the ABC debate before the New Hampshire primary.  As I examined before, even when he is there moderators try to turn him into a wallflower.  What is new is a judge said that he will issue an injunction to stop the debate if Kucinich is excluded.  NBC is appealing the decision.

It will be interesting to see what MSNBC will do

  1. Find a more sympathetic  judge and stop the threat of injunction
  2. Force the judge to stop the debate
  3. Allow Kucinich in the debate and all but ignore him

However, if Kucinich is allowed in the debate, I would expect some questions trying to discredit him.

December 5, 2007

Kucinich at the Brown and Black Forum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — codesmithy @ 9:17 am

Above, Representative Kucinich takes advantage of the forum’s format slightly to ask himself a question, which he happens to have a very good answer for.   I’ve already written about H.R. 676 in reviewing Paul Krugman’s “Conscience of a Liberal.”  Krugman stresses the need to compromise and endorse plans to secure enough profits for private insurance companies, less insurance companies oppose any universal health care plan.  Plans like those proposed by Obama, Edwards, and Clinton.  I think Krugman is slightly mistaken in his political calculation.  I think strong support for H.R. 676 is necessary to enable the other compromises.  I don’t see private insurance companies being willing to compromise unless they believe something that cuts them out completely is credible.  Other compromises would require such blatant transfer of public wealth for private profit, it seems unsavory and wasteful.

Alas, more impressions of Kucinich’s performance can be read here.

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