[SEB Guest Post] A Late Night Thought on Prohibitions and Rules

If you wish your prohibitions and rules to be based upon reason, then you should look more to adopting etiquettes and manners than to adopting religious morals.

The rules for which fork to use, or for what constitutes polite conversation, typically employ more logic and evidence in their creation and defense than do any church’s prohibition against using condoms or prohibition against homosexual marriages.

The Pope, for instance, employs more reason deciding when and where to spit than he does deciding the morality of divorce.

It is mere unthinking prejudice that so many people consider religious morals to be of greater weight than etiquettes and manners, for, in truth, religious morals are more often based on fluffy thinking than are the latter.

Cross-posted at Café Philos

[SEB Guest Post] Yeah I’m a Dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

With the modern equivalent of the Library Of Alexandria at the fingertips of around 310,650,000 Americans, why are we all still so ignorant, naive, and proud of, what politicians like to call and rely on, uneducated votes?

A little research will reveal (to those who deal with Cognitive Dissonance logically and honestly) just how big of a sucker we all are for perpetuating an argument for 200 years, all the while allowing only the most depraved kind of persons to be the soul profiteers from it. So proud you voted for Demagogues that care as much for this country as dope dealers care about addicts .

If you consider yourself a “Democrat” or a “Republican” (or TEA Party Douche) it looks as if you are the reason this “Democracy” will be as short lived and end as VIOLENT as EVERY Democracy has before this one.

Read up on Communication of falsehoods, propaganda techniques, and the many logical fallacies politicians use (I fucking Hate being lied to. Don’t you?) before you defend whatever perceived ‘lesser of two evils’ you settled for with the same glittery generalities they sold to you. Because as morally corrupt as it is to employ those methods all while claiming to be god-fearing and virtuous is nowhere near as bad as the decadence they indulge whilst serving you as long and hard as they can. Case in point (mild in comparison to the fleecing that goes on in  Washington everyday) the coveted Ms. Palin received a “per diem” expense allowance for 312 nights she spent at her home in Wasilla. Over 17,000 dollars, by definition, embezzled from the state of Alaska and already cash strapped United States. Common thievery from another greedy low life. Now if those same villainous officials were caught doing the same  in a private or company setting there would be dire consequences, very likely prison.

This fact disturbs me deeply me because, for instance, those very same verboten acts of an individual against his neighbor or his employer victimize only the neighbor or the vitality of the company, whereas the licentious and criminal undertaking of an elected official undermine the prosperity and vitality of our entire country!

I think it is not unreasonable to define “corruption in public office”, or even the lackadaisical way in which some of these trusted servants carry out their responsibilities, as TREASON. For there is no doubt our enemies are aided by their criminal exploits as well as the often over looked imprudence of these elected ignoble officials. And what enemy would not take comfort in seeing our country become weaker.

In 1790, the Congress of the United States enacted that:

“If any person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States of America, shall levy war against them, OR shall adhere to their enemies, giving them AID AND COMFORT within the United States, or elsewhere, and shall be thereof convicted on confession in open Court, or on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act of the treason whereof he or they shall stand indicted, such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and SHALL SUFFER DEATH.”

If we want to make this country great and prosperous again, a good place to start would be to take the next smug miscreant asshole who is caught fleecing America from his desk at any level of government and try him then hang him. (the death penalty has been imposed on countless Americans for far lesser crimes.)

We can all be assured that the level of quality and productivity from our over-paid and over-privileged servants might finally match the salaries and benefits they currently are rewarded.

And no longer will our enemies take aide and comfort knowing the injuries WE sustain from unchecked corruption in government. And trust that not a penny would be found wanton in our social security if those greedy pricks had to rely on it for retirement.

All you registered Democrats and Republicans should probably read up on some of the federalists papers, most notably federalists paper No. 10 and anti-federalist paper Brutus No. 1, if you would care to get to know a little bit about that which you claim to love.

Voting is no where near as powerful in preserving liberty and freedom as is a well informed public. This age of information and communication has made the fundamental arguments, that started these factions INVALID and only serves to retard prosperity and, if history teaches anything, herald tyranny.

One more thing. Do you want to us to WIN the war on drugs? Really?

OK. Take the Billions of dollars given to law enforcement each year and fund education. Make teachers the prestigious and highly paid civil servants they once were.  Provide them the tools to produce generations of adults that are not only scholastically superior to the rest of the world but perhaps more importantly, with the addition of required psychology courses from grade 1 thru 12 may enjoy a higher quality of life being expertly aware of all the complex feelings and emotions one feels in life and well equipped with highly effective coping mechanisms and conflict resolution techniques.

Would that not be attacking the demand at its source? Yes. It would put a huge god-damned dent in the demand AND would deliver, for the very first time I might add, a devastating blow to supply.  Pretty fucking simple economics.

What kind of backward misanthropic asshole would declare a war on the drugs that was perceived to threaten and attack indiscriminately the health and well-being of  people and then, to the absolute dismay of the VICTIMS of these drugs, find themselves the sole VICTIM of said war. If someone where looking into our little screwy  terrarium they would draw the conclusion that for reasons unknown a small but apparently very powerful group of ruling bipeds had decided to ally themselves with a substance they call drugs in an ongoing effort to destroy lives of all the other worker bipeds with a much more proactive approach by bashing in homes and breaking up  families as well as many diabolically creative attempts at ensuring a lifetime of hardships by adding insult to the injuries of their disease with the social stigma of being a criminal.

And fuck all those in advance who disagree on this point and sympathize in any way whatsoever with the atrocities of the war on mankind carried out every day with  acts of terrorism exploding, fully loaded, into homes of women and children, taking their source of income or even just the bit of stability and love those innocents had.

Alright I’m gettin’ really pissed. I better stop before I start cursing all those enemies of freedom and liberty that carry out this war so vehemently. I don’t pray, but just for fun lets all end this collection of ideas with a prayer to all the gods those screwballs pray to.

Dear god we ask you on this fine day to make aware the evils and sufferings they themselves bestow upon the relative innocents daily and in mass.  We ask you with your mighty hand grant these whore mongers a compassion and desire to help and promote health and the value of family, instead of just saying those things and then doing the opposite. Let your love of justice cause their new god-given goodwill to eat thru the sins of their crimes against humanity until there is left only a hole. The kind of hole that can only be filled by the drugs they employed as a cover for oppressing political upheavals they perceived as a threat to the free ride they all enjoy. And then cause them all to die and go to…I don’t give a shit where.  In your many names we pray.  Oh yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, your divine word, IF it was ever clear and concise, is anything but now. So if you could drop by and clear some things up it would end pretty much every problem that plagues this world today.

AMEN

CNN.com looks at why the web benefits liberals more than conservatives.

Here’s an interesting article I stumbled across today:

Opinion: Why the web benefits liberals more than conservatives – CNN.com

(CNN) — From the micro-donation platform first popularized by Howard Dean in 2003 to the million-strong Barack Obama Facebook page to the huge audience of the Huffington Post, liberals have been the dominant political force on the internet since the digital revolution began.

Now, research out of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society suggests that the reason behind this imbalance may be the liberal belief system itself.

Liberals, the research finds, are oriented toward community activism, employing technology to encourage debate and feature user-generated content. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more comfortable with a commanding leadership and use restrictive policies to combat disorderly speech in online forums.

All of this suggests that the internet may benefit liberals more often than conservatives — at least for now.

Gregory Ferenstein, who wrote the article for CNN.com, goes on to compare The Huffington Post (liberal) blog to Hot Air (conservative). Both are the most popular sites for their target demographics, but the Post’s audience absolutely dwarfs that of Hot Air:

A leading right-wing blog, Hot Air was founded by Michelle Malkin, an author who is known for her support of wartime loyalty oaths and racial profiling as a defense against terrorism. In criticizing Obama’s 2009 address to the United Nations, she said, “he solidified his place in the international view as the great appeaser and the groveler in chief.”

Indeed, Malkin’s hard-line national security views are matched by Hotair’s unusually restrictive comment policy. The site permits comments only by registered users; currently, registration is closed to any new users. The site states, “We may allow as much or as little opportunity for registration as we choose, in our absolute discretion, and we may close particular comment threads or discontinue our general policy of allowing comments at any time.”

By contrast, the left-leaning Huffington Post, the most visited blog on the Internet, has thousands of bloggers and invites active users to become featured authors and comment facilitators.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. How many Conservative blogs can you think of that have ridiculously restrictive commenting policies? If you show up and voice a Liberal opinion you’re lucky if it ever gets out of the moderation queue, assuming you can even leave a comment without registering and waiting to be approved beforehand. Now how many Liberal blogs do you know that have a similar policy?

I can’t speak for all Liberal blogs, obviously, but part of the reason I set up SEB was to get my liberal ideas out there where they could potentially change minds and where they could be refined by criticism. I’m willing to have my ideas challenged and I have been known to change my mind after a good debate on a topic. The few Conservative blogs I check in on from time to time seem to want nothing more for their ideas to be accepted without criticism by the people following them.

Of course that’s just my subjective personal experience which is why it’s nice to see someone doing some research to see if it’s true:

Harvard professor Yochai Benkler finds that these differences are representative of the broader political web.

“The left not only chooses more participatory technology, but also uses the available technological tools to maintain more fluid relations between secondary or user-contributed materials and those of primary contributors,” he writes. “The left is more egalitarian in opportunities for speech, more discursive, and more collaborative in managing the sites.”

By contrast, Hot Air’s prohibitive policies, and Malkin’s support of strong leadership, seem consistent with Benkler’s conclusion that the right is more “hierarchical” in its approach.

[…] Republicans tend to see a “limited participatory role” for citizens, Dalton writes in his book “The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation Is Reshaping American Politics.”

One of the things that always amuses me when Conservatives criticize Liberals is how often they accuse us of doing what they tend to do themselves. We’re trying to “restrict freedoms” and “dictate to others” and “force things down the American public’s throats” which is all stuff the Conservatives like to do.

Take the Public Option that used to be in the Health Care Reform package that was passed awhile back. Conservatives accused the Obama administration of a “government takeover of healthcare” when what was being offered was the freedom to choose something other than a private insurance company driven by profits. There was nothing in the legislation that said the private companies couldn’t go on offering insurance. It wasn’t the fabled “single payer system” the Republicans kept trying to claim it was. Didn’t matter, it was an unAmerican thing, as far as the Conservatives were concerned, to offer a government backed plan that would provide coverage to everyone who needed it. What could be more egalitarian than providing health care to everyone? Who didn’t want that kind of freedom and fairness? The Conservatives.

The article goes on to point out that the surprise victory of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate Race happened in part because Brown pretty much emulated everything Obama did on the Web. While that worked once, it goes on to say that it’s unlikely that Conservatives will suddenly adopt that approach:

The conservative philosophy of ironclad loyalty to a singular message does have decided advantages. In Congress, strong party loyalty has allowed Republicans to vote as a bloc, giving them formidable strength despite their minority status.

However, the internet is less predictable. And, from what we have observed from the short life of the web, opening one’s site to the capricious innovations of grass-roots users can be enormously beneficial but hard to control.

Conservatives may one day embrace the participatory web en masse. However, the very structure of the internet as a decentralized grouping of communities may never appeal to the large portion of right-wingers who prefer military-style hierarchies and commanding leaders.

And, as years go by without a conservative social-media pioneer or a top-ranked website, it looks as though the internet has already chosen a side.

In short, the web benefits Liberals more than Conservatives because the web is Liberal by its very nature and just look how successful that approach has been for it. Had it been more Conservative in nature I doubt it would ever have been the phenomena it has turned out to be.

At the very least you can be damn sure that a site like SEB would never have been allowed on a Conservative internet.

Steven D. Hales: You Can Prove a Negative.

We’ve all heard the argument that you can’t prove a negative from various True Believers™ in Gods, UFOs, Big Foots (Feets?), etc.. It’s a common bit of folk logic, but is it true? Philosopher Steven D. Hales argues that it is not in a small essay titled You Can Prove a Negative:

It is widely believed that you can’t prove a negative. Some people even think that it is a law of logic—you can’t prove that Santa Claus, unicorns, the Loch Ness Monster, God, pink elephants, WMD in Iraq and Bigfoot don’t exist. This widespread belief is flatly, 100% wrong. In this little essay, I show precisely how one can prove a negative, to the same extent that one can prove anything at all.

The essay itself is a small PDF file and it’s an easy read worthy of a look. My favorite bit is from the summary at the end:

Meaning: your argument against aliens is inductive, therefore not incontrovertible, and since I want to believe in aliens, I’m going to dismiss the argument no matter how overwhelming the evidence against aliens, and no matter how vanishingly small the chance of extraterrestrial abduction.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it all up right there. It’s the “I DO believe in faeries! I DO! I DO!” chant in a different form.

 

Why would God bother at all?

It’s a very simple question and one I’ve asked a number of believers over the years, but have yet to get any kind of a reasonable answer. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of it’s been kicking around in my brain the past couple of days so I thought I’d take the time to write it down.

For the sake of the argument we’ll have to assume that God does exist and he has a reason for doing the things that he does. We should also try to define his basic properties; what we mean when we use the word “God.” To keep it simple let’s go with the basic assumptions present in most of the big religions:

  1. God is perfect.
  2. God is all-powerful.
  3. God is all-knowing.
  4. God is eternal.

Right off the bat with the first aspect of God we have a problem of motivation that I’ve never been able to get past. A common interpretation of the word “perfect” is: entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings, thorough; complete. A truly perfect being would need nothing and thus want for nothing and, logically, have no reason to do anything. All the usual motivations us mere humans have for doing things would be of no concern to a God. Our motivations are driven by needs, both real and perceived, and even when we claim we’re doing something for no reason that’s often not the reality of the situation. God wouldn’t need anything. Not food, companionship, entertainment, sleep, sex, or anything else.

So why would he create anything? He has no need for Heaven, angels, universes, planets, people, critters, and so on and he couldn’t possibly gain anything from the creation process he doesn’t already have because he’s perfect. If he needed any of those things or even if he just had a need to create he wouldn’t be perfect. If God has no good reason to create anything then why are we here? I recognize that this implies that God could exist and not be perfect, but most religions reject that possibility.

The second attribute of God invites all manner of logical paradoxes. Most folks interpret all-powerful to mean that God can do anything which invites classic questions like, “Can God make a stone so heavy he can’t lift it?” The obvious answer being no which means that there’s a limit to God’s power (it’s a limit on what he can do and thus not all-powerful) and at the same time if he could do it then there would still be a limit to God’s power (a limit to how heavy an object he can lift, but not how heavy he can create). Of course that assumes that God has a physical form to lift things with, unless you assume he does his lifting by some other means (telekinesis perhaps?), and the further your pursue that rabbit the deeper you’ll find the rabbit hole goes. Of course it’s a moot point in the face of attribute one which removes any need to create a heavy stone and then try to lift it. Still you can have a lot of fun thinking up various paradoxes like “can God get lost” which ties into aspect number three as well as two.

Speaking of the third attribute, this introduces yet more motivation and paradox problems. Most of the big religions consider all-knowing to mean that he knows everything there is to know from the past, now, and the future. Ask how this is possible and the most common explanation you’ll get is that God exists outside of the universe and thus can see the whole thing from beginning to end. The obvious logical contradiction this causes is in regards to free will. Most of the big religions believe that you have free will, but they also believe that God knows everything you will do before you’re born. God, being all-knowing and perfect, can’t be wrong so logically you have to live out the life that God knows you will live which means that you don’t really have a choice and thusly don’t really have free will, but the believers will insist that you do because otherwise you can’t be held accountable for your actions by God. It’s a paradox and one that people will happily argue with you about until you’re blue in the face without ever grasping that it’s a paradox.

But assuming for the moment that God went ahead and created everything for no reason and assuming that it’s possible to have free will in spite of God knowing ahead of time what you’re going to do, the fact that he’s all-knowing still makes the exercise pointless. Before God created even the first elementary particles for the first atoms at the very start of creation he already knew how it would all play out in the end. Again this begs the question of why even bother if it’s all just going through the motions? What does God gain from this that he wouldn’t have already had if he’d not done anything at all? Again, by definition, God doesn’t need anything and is complete unto himself. What value could an exercise like reality hold that would motivate a being who doesn’t need any of it to be complete?

The fourth attribute is an interesting one because it’s hard to really wrap your head around the concept of forever. We are finite beings and everything we see around us is also finite. Though bits of reality have mind bogglingly long existences that they may as well be infinite as far as the length of our puny lives are concerned, the point remains that everything appears to have a beginning and, at some point, an end.  The universe itself is finite as far as most of the big religions are concerned. It has a beginning and will have an end and while the length of its existence is beyond human comprehension it’s also ridiculously short in comparison to “forever.” Which brings us once again to asking why God would bother? Consider that God may have existed for countless eons compared to the universe (though most would argue that time is meaningless where God resides) and will continue to exist for countless eons after the universe is gone. What does he gain with the relatively short experiment with reality that he wouldn’t have had prior to it? Being perfect he doesn’t need anything and he was perfectly comfortable with existing on his own for, if you’ll pardon the pun, God knows how long prior to bothering with creation and he’ll continue to exist – unchanging by most religion’s definition – long after the universe has gone the way of the dodo. Reality is a pointless exercise on that time scale.

All of these problems are before we even start in on what reasons a particular religion’s take on God might have for the various rules and regulations he’s laid down, which, when you consider the source, are almost entirely arbitrary. These questions imply a single God, but most of them apply to religions with many Gods as well. Perfect beings, as a whole, would have no motivation to do anything. That’s the sort of thinking I do when my brain gets going.

I’ll never understand modern art.

I like to think I’m a fairly sophisticated fellow, but there are certain topics that make me feel like a Neanderthal. Fashion is one of those topics and the other is modern art. Take, for example, the following picture of an art “installation” that is up for the 2008 Turner Prize:


Click to embiggen!

Cathy Wilkes, 42, is a Glaswegian who gathered together a television, a sink with a single human hair and a pram and titled it She’s Pregnant Again when she represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2005.

This time, she has placed a mannequin on a lavatory next to two supermarket check-out counters. Four horse-shoes and bits of discarded wood dangle from wires attached to the mannequin’s head. They appear to bear no relevance to the check-out counters on which the artist has arranged bowls and spoons, as well as empty jars with the remnants of food. Scattered across the floor are piles of tiles and broken pottery in a plastic bag.

I can appreciate the nude mannequins, but I have no clue what the artist is trying to say with that piece other than perhaps “look at what I can get away with calling art!” It’s interesting in a “uh… OK” sort of way to me, but I see no deeper meaning in it. Which probably explains why I’m not an art curator:

Sophie O’Brien, one of three Turner Prize curators, saw deep meaning in the installation, explaining that the artist was “searching out the language of objects – things we overlook in our daily life” – and making us look at them with “fresh eyes”. She claimed that the artist had placed each found object with extreme precision.

*Squinting at picture closely* Really? OK, if you say so.

When she says the artist placed each object with “extreme precision” I get this mental image of her standing there with a slide ruler, a protractor, and lots of string measuring out precisely where each object should go based on some obscure algorithm she pulled out of her ass. I can’t help but wonder if such levels of precision are really necessary for such an installation. It was all for naught in my case, though, as I’m not seeing anything new about the objects in question.

Her colleague, Judith Nesbitt, the Tate’s chief curator, added: “It’s as if the narrative has been stripped away. You’re left trying to make sense of the objects to each other and to ourselves.”

OK, I’ll agree with that much. I am left trying to make sense of the objects in relation to each other. I still don’t get it.

I mean I can see where a certain amount of skill is involved in something like this. It’s just that the skill in question has less to do with the art itself and more to do with her ability to smooth talk people into thinking it’s art. I can admire that skill, but I’m not convinced it’s art as a result. Perhaps that’s a side effect of my natural cynicism about people and the bullshit they tend to spread. On some level I’m envious because it seems like a good way to earn a living if you can pull it off.

The one part of the exhibit I think is neat is the nude mannequin sitting on the toilet. It’s just weird enough to appeal to me, though it would be better if it didn’t have the random bits and bobs dangling off its head. Just a nude mannequin, posed in the casual way that it is in the picture, with perhaps the nurse’s hat, sitting on a toilet, would be something I could appreciate a great deal. Not because it’s art, but because it’s funky and makes people wonder what kind of drugs you’ve been indulging in.

I actually own a male mannequin head and torso myself. I picked it up back in my early twenties the first time I worked for a Meijers store in Waterford Michigan. They were throwing it out as the trend at the time was away from semi-realistic mannequins to the trendy partial mannequins minus arms, legs, heads, etc. that are used in most stores today. It wears one of the last of the Les’s Place t-shirts I had made up in the mid-80’s in honor of the BBS system I used to run. It doesn’t have any arms or lower half of its body and no hair. I call him Ralph and he usually wears one of my hats when I’m not wearing it.

He’s currently sitting on the floor of the living room in front of the sliding glass door because I’ve not figured out where I want to put him yet, but I’m leaning towards having him stare up out of the basement window once we get a storage rack in place down there for him to sit on and to hold all my spare computer parts. He’d almost never be seen except for the occasional nosy person who happens to spot something odd in the basement window. When we lived in the apartment in Canton he sat on the half-wall that divided the stairway from the living room staring down at anyone who came in the apartment. The first few times you’d come in he’d scare the shit out of you, but after awhile you’d forget he was even there. I could always tell when the maintenance people were coming in because he always startled them.

I loved that. But that’s not art. That’s me just being funky. I can appreciate funky.

SEB Mailbag: “You have won, its time to move on and deal with greater questions.”

Got the following missive this morning:

From: John Kraft
Subject:  Give up materialism

Taking comfort in religious peoples misunderstandings is not noble or intelligent Its simply selfish.  It is like making fun of a child for not understanding that which adults do.  By continually trying to show how dumb these people are you are being locked in to a lower debate and a lower understanding.  You have won, its time to move on and deal with greater questions.  There is nothing satisfying in telling others how they are wrong.  It is better to understand how you yourself are wrong, and in this way come to understand what is right.

Here’s my reply:

    John,

    A good portion of the problems I often point out go well beyond being simple misunderstandings on the part of the True Believers. Too often they enter into the realm of harmful, not only to the believers themselves, but to those around them as well. The Muslim girl who’s father and brothers kill her because she had the audacity to develop a crush on an American soldier. The young girl who dies from diabetes because her parents decided to sit around and pray for her instead of seeking reasonable medical treatment. Those aren’t misunderstandings, those are examples of idiocy run amok.

    Do I sometimes poke fun at otherwise harmless believers? Yes I do. The thing you seem to forget is that these people aren’t children, they’re adults and they should know better by now. There’s no real debate to be had here to begin with. Most of the True Believers are impervious to reality and will continue to cling to their delusions no matter how good of an argument you present to them. Ridicule is one of the few things that seems to sink in with them.

    When the secular humanists, atheists, and freethinkers are in the majority in this country then perhaps I’ll concede that it’s time to move on from my puerile antics, but until then…

    Les

Progress:  Man’s Greatest Mistake

[Ed’s Note: The following was sent to me in an email by Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D. as a possible submission to SEB. I present it to you in full and unedited for your consideration.]

In the beginning the Earth was without form, inanimate objects lay dormant, chemicals worked their magic; then the miracle of a single cell, and life began to evolve.  Individual cells grouped themselves accordingly, and then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, life gave birth to awareness, a consciousness that soon began to turn inward upon itself, a self-reflective tour de force, the commencement of an ever-evolving, always-expanding, mind, one that would soon turn “the stolen fruit of the Tree of its own Knowledge” against the very breeding ground of its own birth.

Assuming that the Earth had been given to him, that this “marvelously blue-marbled island in the sky,” this, as yet, “unformed glob of clay,” was his to shape as he saw fit, man declared that he would take possession of the Earth, that from this time forward he would dominate the planet, that he had surely been given the supreme right to tinker with Eden, to exploit, to extract, even to gouge from its very bowels anything and everything that might serve to give him comfort, anything that might make it possible to add a few precious years to that of his life, anything that might enable him to postpone the inevitability of an appointment with death………. and that he would do such a thing in a manner that would preserve the integrity of the planet, protect the fountainhead, the source of every breath that he would one day breathe.

First was the cerebral gift of prehension, an outer coat of brilliance, enabling man’s mind to think, even to reason.  Then as man began to associate with others, he would share what he had learned about the world around him; thus an accumulation of knowledge. Not that such could have been avoided, since the survival of the group depends upon the parceling of information.  Then, as life would have it, knowledge began to be arranged and then even codified in such a manner that science became a reality.  Accordingly, there were those who realized that science could be applied, that science could be used in such a manner as to improve the plight of man; hence the rise of technology.  However, given man’s propensity to enrich himself, no doubt, a natural tendency to hoard food, money, or whatever (an apparently inevitable breach of human character referred to as greed), one must wonder if there would have been any who might have been willing to share the results of an inventive mind with others while not expecting a fee in return?  Thus, the advent of business (home-bound trades, the local store, partnerships, associations, companies, syndicates, cartels, and eventually the rise of transnational corporations), a nearly unquenchable desire for men to make as much money as possible in that of one lifetime which unfortunately led to a manifest disregard for the needs of “Mother Earth,” a self-serving choice to allow the byproducts of personal gain to pour out onto the land, into the sea, and throughout the air, recklessly destroying the very Eden of man’s birth.

Although I am sure there are many factors that have given rise to progress (developments that have enabled life to be a bit more pleasurable, those that have reduced the poverty and pains of life, along with man’s natural need to create), I have come to the conclusion that the primary cause of, the fundamental catalyst for, progress is nothing more than a rather simple fear of death, a determined attempt, on the part of man, to add a few more years onto life, an indigenous effort to postpone the inevitability of one’s own death.  Really now, except for those who are terribly depressed or are experiencing horrible physical pain, who is it that would not like to extend the extent of one’s stay on Earth before being forced to “give up the ghost?”  But…… at what cost?  And herein lies the problem, a bafflement for that of man; a conundrum so difficult to understand that it has become nearly impossible for man to realize that progress, the mantra for the forward movement of life, an addiction to the fruits of his own labor (cars that speed us on our way through life, asphalt highways that snake their way through the landscape, cities filled with cement parking lots, plastic gadgets, gismos, even nuclear bombs ready to put an end to life on Earth), has become a corridor, a conduit, leading the way toward the eventual destruction of life on Earth.

How utterly amazing, in attempting to distance himself from that of his own mortality, man, after all these years, has finally managed to construct “a tower for the Babel of his own destruction”……… the one sure way for him to die!

Perhaps we, as a race, have reached a time that demands that we face up to the fact that we have lost the right to “have our cake and eat it too,” that we comprehend how terribly foolish we have been, that we realize that having once been allowed to roam the pharmacopoeia of valleys prepared for man, a blind devotion to the “golden calves” of our times, things made by the pride of our own hands, has placed us upon a course that is leading to ruin, the destruction of an Eden no longer fit for life!

No longer is it possible for rational man to deny that global warming (the ongoing demise of the world’s glaciers, the rising of the Earth’s seas, the progressive shutdown of the North Atlantic Ocean Current leading to the possibility of another ice age, the destruction of life in the sea, changing weather patterns, drought, floods, famine, starvation, the displacement of entire populations of people, and the eventual inevitability of world war) is a reality, that the intractable desire to consume more and more things has become that of our own worst enemy.  Although I am convinced that there was no way for anyone to have known that our capacity to reason would have led to a world tittering on the brink of destruction, I submit that we, as rational beings, take responsibility for having chosen to have laid waste to the Earth. I suggest that we need to “tighten our belts,” that we realize that we must learn to live with less, that if we, as a race, are to retain a degree of dignity we have no choice but to face the fact that no matter how much we have learned, how many discoveries we have made, how many things we have managed to assemble, it is all for naught if we end up destroying the Earth.

I ask this question: What will historians (if there are any who manage to survive) say about a race who so effectively managed to lay waste to the planet?  Will they perhaps come to the conclusion that progress was a terrible mistake, that it would have been much better if man would have learned to have lived with less, learned to have lived with what God originally provided, been willing to exchange a shorter span of life for that of a no doubt pristine world…….. if man would have had the wisdom to realize that life is best measured not by how long we live, but rather by how well we have learned to live?

Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.
Psychologist
gdsoderstrom@yahoo.com
December 6, 2006

NRO’s John Derbyshire no longer calls himself a Christian.

Not being of a Conservative bent myself I don’t make a habit of reading National Review Online unless I catch wind of them having a particularly interesting or outrageous article. This one falls into the interesting category as it’s a FAQ of sorts put together by columnist John Derbyshire in which he explains his religious views:

Q. Do you believe religion is good for people?

A. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I thought so for the longest time. All those Golden Rules, those injunctions to charity, compassion, neighborliness, forbearance, and so on. Not only does the proposition seem obvious in itself, but we all know people whose lives were messed up, but were then straightened out after they got religion. I know one and a half cases — I mean, two people this happened to, but one of them relapsed after three or four years, and last I heard she was in worse shape than ever.

On the other hand, some religious people are horrible. This past few years, working at National Review Online and fielding tens of thousands of e-mails from readers, I’ve had my first really close encounter with masses of opinionated Christians of all kinds. A lot of them are very nice, and some are very nice indeed — I’ve had gifts, including use of a house one family vacation (thank you, Pastor!) — but, yes, some others are loathsome. I get lots of religious hate mail, some of it really vile. Often this is in response to something I have said, which I suppose is fair enough, even if not a particularly good advertisement for Christ’s injunctions about meekness and forbearance. Often, though, these e-mails come in from people who are not reacting to anything in particular, they just want to tell me that I am not religious enough to suit them, or to call myself a conservative, or to work at National Review, or to live in the USA, or (though this is very rare) to live at all. Half a dozen times I’ve had readers express these sentiments using four-letter words of the taboo variety.

The usual response to all that is the one Evelyn Waugh gave. He was religious, but he was also a nasty person, and knew it. But: “If not for my faith,” he explained, “I would be barely human.” In other words, even a nasty religious person would be even worse without faith.

I have now come to think that it really makes no difference, net-net. You can point to people who were improved by faith, but you can also see people made worse by it. Anyone want to argue that, say, Mohammed Atta was made a better person by his faith? All right, when Americans say “religion” they mean Christianity 99 percent of the time. So: Can Christianity make you a worse person? I’m sure it can. If you’re a person with, for example, a self-righteous conviction of your own moral superiority, well, getting religion is just going to inflame that conviction. Again, I know cases, and I’m sure you do too. The exhortations to humility that you find in all religions seem to be the most difficult teaching for people to take on board. Mostly, I think it makes no difference. Evelyn Waugh would have been no more obnoxious as an atheist.

And then there are some of those discomfiting facts about human groups. Taking the population of these United States, for example, the least religious major group, by ancestry, is Americans of East Asian stock. The most religious is African Americans. All the indices of dysfunction and misbehavior, however, go the other way, with Asian Americans getting into least trouble and African Americans most. What’s that all about?

In the end, I think I’ve now arrived at this position: An individual might be made better by faith, or worse. Overall, taking society at large, I think it averages out to zero. But then…

It makes for a fascinating read as John ends up not quite being an unbeliever—he considers himself a Mysterian—but he’s certainly among what is commonly known as the irreligious, which includes us atheist types. In other words, he’s the sort of believer (to use the word loosely) I’d consider an ally and any disagreements I’d have with him would probably be largely over politics as opposed to religious viewpoint. At the very least his presence there raises my opinion of NRO a decent amount.

Found via Debunking Christianity.

Quiz: What’s Your World View - Take II.

***Dave did it twice so I figured I should too…

You scored as Existentialist. Existentialism emphasizes human capability. There is no greater power interfering with life and thus it is up to us to make things happen. Sometimes considered a negative and depressing world view, your optimism towards human accomplishment is immense. Mankind is condemned to be free and must accept the responsibility.

Modernist

100%

Existentialist

100%

Materialist

94%

Postmodernist

50%

Romanticist

44%

Cultural Creative

38%

Idealist

25%

Fundamentalist

0%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

And, like ***Dave, I’m relatively consistent to the last time, just more so.