Friday, December 18, 2009

Rolling on the ground and talking to angels

There seems to be more than the average amount of religious posts and comments lately, as I travel through my short list in the blogosphere. Since most (all?) of my blogger-friends are Liberal through and through, most of theses religious posts/comments are derogative (disparaging), of course. That's ok, since I haven't caught the religion malady myself quite yet, though I consider myself spiritual (I'm just not into organization) :) Like an old violin, I like to be in tune with something.

I guess the thing that stuck out most in my traveling and reading was the conspicuous discrepancy between the Liberal line of "tolerance for all things and all people" - except those who believe in God and creationism. While I have to put myself in the "amazingly skeptical" camp with regard to creationism, I see no reason to belittle or ridicule the tens of millions of Americans who believe it wholeheartedly. To do so seems decidedly unliberal in one's thinking, or at least selectively intolerant (which in itself would seem to demote one to a Liberal Second-Class at best, I would think.)

One comment explained that, while the writer would probably like the atmosphere of living in a small town, he was worried about the religion disease in such areas. "Before you know it, people are playing with snakes and rolling on the ground and talking to angels." It was obvious the writer felt he would then probably catch the disease himself, the contamination being constantly in the air, as it were.

Another VERY articulate and well-educated Liberal personage made a fine (and very interesting) post about Rhode Island's beginnings, and especially the beautiful city of Newport, and it's surroundings. The post was, mostly, about tolerance and Rhode Island's fantastic history in that regard, and rightly so. The writer went on to remind us that Rhode Island was the home of early settlers fleeing religious persecution, and that many religions lived side by side there in harmony. Even Jews, by God, and all were immensely tolerant of each other's beliefs and everyone got along just famously. Then the writer quickly went on to exclude the Puritans from this otherwise-welcoming umbrella of religious tolerance. Ah, well. The Puritans were assholes, you see, who believed their way of doing things was the only right way and everyone else were just stupid heathens who didn't know any better. Worse, the Puritans were proselytizers who also ridiculed and marginalized anyone who didn't believe the "obvious truth" the Puritans believed. Since that's hardly tolerant, the Puritans not only wouldn't fit in in Rhode Island, but were only worth running away from. So the enlightened tolerant folks fled Massachusetts Bay to Rhode Island environs, or some such, and left the know-it-all Puritans to their own uneducated and unenlightened devices to survive in a pre-globally-warmed world as best they could.

That, believe it or not, brings us to scientists in general - and the Gospel of Selective Tolerance.

What is science? Science is more than one thing, but mostly the word is used to describe an area of knowledge which has been studied in depth and organized systematically. Cool. What is a scientist? A scientist is a person who has expert knowledge in one of these systematically organized areas. An expert. I am not sure if any person who is a true expert in any area of natural or physical science is a scientist, but I am sure a scientist is an expert.

As a seeker of truth, a scientist is surely the most unbiased and open-minded person in the world, right? And yet...

Scientists are mostly liberal in their thinking and approach to things; mostly tolerant unless someone dares to challenge their personal beliefs (which have, of course, arisen from a meticulous collection of information which has been properly studied and systematically organized and subjected to a thorough peer review.) And why not? - what dolt would dare challenge the "obvious" truths of Global Warming or Evolution? Sigh.

Indeed. What dolt would dare to intimate that perhaps all the information is not in yet on certain subjects? - that perhaps we don't REALLY know enough more than to simply formulate an educated theory? Maybe (this dolt continues) we should continue to gather facts while prudently acting to protect ourselves in case the scientists are right. After all, one doesn't have to subscribe to the (theory?) of Global Warming in order to want clean air and clean water and have a desire to make those things happen.

The fact that scientists are in the main mostly Liberals (or at least only selectively tolerant) is not their fault. Scientists are highly educated, usually, and all of our institutions of higher learning are awash in Liberal thought. So it stands to reason. (Here I hasten to exclude Bob Jones University and Oral Roberts University and Brigham Young University and one other which at present escapes my memory.) Of course any scientist worth his salt would now be on his feet protesting the pigeonholing of Liberalism; scientists are ruggedly independent free-thinkers, after all.

People, people, people. (As Chill Wills was fond of saying, may he rest in peace.)

Is there a point to this post? There may well be, if I go back and search diligently. Perhaps that point might be a caution against thinking that your way is the only right way and your truth is the only truth. Or perhaps it might mean I (much like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction) am a messenger from God. Who knows. But I want to tell all of you that the writer of THIS post not only doesn't have all the answers, he is less and less sure of the ones he thought he knew last year. Because this is true, I am not a scientist, but I strive for an open mind.
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"We have been so cocksure of so many things that just were not true." So said the late Mortimer J. Adler, University of Chicago, editor of the venerable "Great Books of the Western World" from which this dolt scratched out a meager education while working nights in a factory.


37 comments:

  1. Ah, context is so important.

    Telling scientists WHO are, as you mention, intolerant of creationists because of their refusal to face facts that they should give climate scientists the same credence for knowledge and scientific process they want themselves is NOT the same thing as saying religious people and creationists should be run out of town.

    I'm a firm believer that people can believe any damn thing they want. Wanna be a Puritan? Go ahead, as long as you don't inflict what you choose to believe on those around you against their will (which is what happened in New England, in case you missed it).

    If you want to believe the world is 6000 years old, that dinosaur bones were planted as a test of our faith, go ahead. Just don't teach it as science and use my tax dollars to do it.

    As I've said in multiple posts, I believe any number of things that aren't based in science and most scientists scoff at - reincarnation, fairies, dragons, magic, psychic power. I just don't confuse my beliefs with science or pretend they are any more than the kind of things that give my life meaning and make it pleasant, that can, in fact, shape who I am. But no one has to agree with me to be happy with my own beliefs. And, though I find my beliefs charming and they give me joy, I would be screaming with everyone else (including Christians) if someone decided to teach them in biology or physics.

    I'll be honest, I don't think scientists would care what people believed if those who believed didn't put so many other people at risk with their readily disproved assertions.

    Not doing anything about climate change puts people at risk (and only postpones the inevitable). Accepting things that can't past scientific scrutiny as science belittles the science that passes the test. That doesn't mean all theory is proved, just that there's a distinct difference from an idea that fits the data that cannot yet be proved and an idea that can be readily disproved with elementary school science.

    Are their scientists who have moved from attacking belief-masquerading-as-science to attacking belief. Sadly, yes. Am I completely innocent? Probably not. But, believe me, we have to justify everything, including repeatedly.

    Most scientists I know (and I know a lot of them) actually are Christians (and I know two conservative scientists for each liberal one - the most liberal being my father who received his masters at BYU, ironically enough) or otherwise religious. I tend to think of myself as spiritual myself.

    But, among the less attractive features of many religious individuals who get on the news is the notion that attacking idea (no matter how stupid) is the same as attacking religion. It's not. Nor, in my opinion, is a situation analogous to refusing to allow an organization like the KKK to set up shop in Harlem is comparable to burning crosses in the front lawn or tar and feathering black people.

    But that's just what I think. Ironically, I take flak all the time from scientists for not disbelieving stuff either (which argues you're right about at least some scientists).

    Not me, of course. :)

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  2. If I didn't know better, I would think the Puritan analogy was missed by you.

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  3. But I know it didn't. You simply chose to ignore the implications and similarities to modern liberal folk. :)

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  4. And similarities to modern Right Wing Radicals, I might add.

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  5. So... you seem to be saying the Tarot is not an exact science? But that is one of the things I like most about you! Say it isn't true! :)

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  6. "Telling scientists who are... intolerant of creationists because of their [creationist's] refusal to face facts..."

    My, but we are arrogant. My, but we certainly think we have a corner on "obvious" truth! Well, I'm not a creationist but you don't have any facts to back up your theory of so-called "Evolution" either. Can you show me a SINGLE case where one species has evolved into another species? No, you fall back on examples of natural selection, which is hardly the same thing. We've covered this ground before, and you just ignore the lack of evidence and keep saying Evolution is a "science". Bullshit. I don't know how we got here and neither do you. Show me the fossils lady. In the meantime, don't be looking down your nose at other theories, even creationism. Or my personal theory of extra-celestial implantation. Cocoons, maybe. It's just as sound as YOUR theory. A lot of people saying evolution is "obvious truth" doesn't make it so any more than a lot of people saying creationism is true. Why don't you admit that all you can show evidence of is this or that species adapting to its environment? Or at least stop plugging your assumptions as actual science.

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  7. "I'm a firm believer that people can believe any damn thing they want. Wanna be a Puritan? Go ahead, as long as you don't inflict what you choose to believe on those around you against their will (which is what happened in New England, in case you missed it)."

    Well, I don't believe I should believe something without a reason to do so. I value facts too. And if my facts are incomplete, I may change my beliefs when I get more facts. Frankly, that's what the Global Warmers should be doing: believe what they think the facts tell them at this particular point in time, and act accordingly, but be willing to react to new data as it comes in. What if the world is icy cold in 10 years? Then what are you going to say? Are you going to just ignore what you said today like a tv weatherman does? The sad part is you don't have to put yourself in that position. Just say, "It looks like the globe is warming and I believe it is, based on the facts we have right now" Why do you have to take such a rigid stand and end up looking like an ass if more information comes in?

    Puritans controlled a piece of territory. Whoever lived there did so according to the rules of the powerful and if they didn't like it they could leave, same as it is now in the USA. I think the Puritans were wrong, I think YOU are wrong for teaching Evolution as a science in schools when you don't have to. That is bullying. Teach it as one theory. Don't be a Puritan when it comes to explaining how we got here.

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  8. "...is NOT the same thing as saying religious people and creationists should be run out of town."

    I know it's not. And I know that's not what you are saying. Now just take one more baby step and resist the temptation ostracize and ridicule their seeming ignorance either. :) If your truth is really truth, it will prevail. Remember your quotes.

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  9. "...as long as you don't inflict what you choose to believe on those around you against their will..."

    Isn't that what you yourself are doing? Only you are presuming you have the only truth and your facts lead to the only possible conclusion. Some people believe your facts point to a completely different conclusion. They shouldn't beat you over the head with their beliefs. Give them benefit, unless you have a proven outcome.

    Thomas Edison didn't talk people to death on how his theory was right. He made a light bulb and let people look at it. You can't do that yet, so don't act as if you can.

    I'll bet you are really sorry I'm off work today. Look what you will find tonight!

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  10. "If you want to believe the world is 6000 years old, that dinosaur bones were planted as a test of our faith, go ahead. Just don't teach it as science and use my tax dollars to do it."

    I haven't heard that on yet, about the planting of the bones. What sect is that? Umm... but I am still maintaining an open mind. Lalala. Maybe they are right. Who am I to say. But I don't PERSONALLY believe that. I can say that, right?

    Anyway, why not use your tax dollars on silly stuff? You guys waste enough of MY tax dollars on YOUR silly projects. What's the difference between studying their bones and and and and... giving the NEA money to walk on flags and show Piss Christ "art"?

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  11. "As I've said in multiple posts, I believe any number of things that aren't based in science and most scientists scoff at - reincarnation, fairies, dragons, magic, psychic power."

    Ok, well I believe in some of those things too. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I believe in reinactment and reinvestment. I don't believe in psychic power but I believe in psychotic power, and in the Great Randy. I don't believe in fairies and dragons but I believe in Jimmy Swaggert and Al Gore. I do believe in Magic - in a young girl's heart. How the music can free her, whenever it starts. And it's magic, if the music is groovy - it makes you feel happy like an old-time movie. I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul, but it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll. And like that.

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  12. Don't be blaspheming the obviously factual story of 6-day creation. It's a proven fact.

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  13. And all you people out there who believe you came from monkeys, you probably did.

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  14. Jebus Max, don't be bringing the Great Fornicator down on us here. Just shurrup.

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  15. For once in your life.

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  16. Dear children of God:

    You know how it breaks my heart to see you all in such discord. Blessed are those what love one another - even non-Australians - even Max.

    I come searching for that reprobate sinner, the great satan infidel Soubriquet, but he is nowhere to be found. Is he just off somewhere gritting his gear?

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  17. "I just don't confuse my beliefs with science or pretend they are any more than the kind of things that give my life meaning and make it pleasant, that can, in fact, shape who I am."

    You seem pretty cocksure about what is science and what is nonsense. But at least you have stopped being smug in your enlightenment. You are saying, then, that science doesn't give your life meaning? Or make it pleasant? Or, in fact, shape who you are? I wish you would please stop belittling science and wake up and smell the peer review.

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  18. "But no one has to agree with me to be happy with my own beliefs. And, though I find my beliefs charming and they give me joy, I would be screaming with everyone else (including Christians) if someone decided to teach them in biology or physics."

    That's just nonsense, Stephanie and you know it. There's no way you find your ::shudder:: "beliefs" charming.

    See, but that's EXACTLY what you are trying to do in biology class today. You are trying to teach Evolution as if it were some sort of scientific fact. It may well prove to be true if we ever have a nuclear holocaust in the future, and mutants spring up. But not at this point in time do you have an example we can look at and touch.

    I think the only thing I learned in biology was that many things can be sorted in a clean and official-looking manner. Animals can be sorted. Plants can be sorted. Even my garbage can be sorted. But putting any of that stuff into some arbitrary order based on perceived similarity still doesn't make the amobas jump off their page and onto the zebra page. If you catch my drift. Not to rub it in.

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  19. Now Maxie, I KNOW you are being deiberately argumentative, and that you know not every single thing can be proven with empirical evidence. Sometimes if there is a preponderence of evidence, you have to start to believe it is true. If it quacks like a pope, it is probably christian. Or something like that. I know you understand where I am coming from. So please stop arguing with that nice science lady just for the sake of arguing. K Maxie? It's not like we were asking you to believe Al Gore has a brain.

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  20. Bugger. What's goin' on? Where's Maxie?

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  21. Zuzu's Petals. I want to live.December 18, 2009 at 4:26 PM

    I want to live.

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  22. "Not doing anything about climate change puts people at risk (and only postpones the inevitable). Accepting things that can't past scientific scrutiny as science belittles the science that passes the test. That doesn't mean all theory is proved, just that there's a distinct difference from an idea that fits the data that cannot yet be proved and an idea that can be readily disproved with elementary school science."

    Not doing anything about climate change puts people at risk only if climate change is real.

    Saying I shouldn't believe in anything that doesn't "pass" the current understanding of scientists is ridiculous. What are they, gods?

    If I don't believe in Evolution or Global Warming, then that belittles the science of Electromagnetic Wave Theory? Does it know it is being belittled? Look, one doesn't have to believe in EVERYTHING scientists believe in or nothing at all. No science I believe in is diminished in any way. Truly. Don't be a nut, now.

    In Galileo's day, elementary school students could prove the sun orbited the earth just by going out and looking up at the sky. Science changes. More importantly, science (and what we are sure we know today) will change in the future, too. I do agree there is a point of stupidity that I just crossed, but I ask for a little more flexibility in your thinking. Yes, I agree that all things shouldn't be believed in willy nilly without a little investigation.

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  23. Miss Stephanie, I really think you should disregard everything Relax Max has said here. He is obviously jealous of your superior understanding of how the real world works. I think most people can see right through him. You did know he is under psychiatric observation, right?

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  24. Damn, a gal can't go out of town without get piled onto.

    Puritan - I did get your point, but pointed out the fallacies.

    Tarot is not an exact science (or, in fact, any science at all).

    Adaptation and mutation (and the creation of new species through those mechanisms) have been directly observed (like, say, antibiotic-resistant diseases). Facts include rocks dated to different ages and fossils, both sets of facts have been dismissed by some of the less rational creationist (and all creationists are the same, but the more rabid/less rationale ones tend to get the media attention). That was my point. I never said evolution was a fact - it is a theory based on facts. Creationism, however, has no facts to support it. Unless you can dig some up, ;). Talk about planting meaning.

    I'd answer more but my FAMILY insists I spend some time with them. I'll be back when I've distracted them with candy.

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  25. Why, EXACTLY, do you keep deleting my comments? I take it, it's a private conversation.....

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  26. And don't tell me it's a blogger problem because I check them and they do publish.

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  27. A. -I don't keep deleting your comments. I just don't like anonymous comments when I can't decipher the meaning or intent. When that happens I delete them rather than give the anon person a forum or a return link to their blog. That's all. You don't have to comment anonymously. You especially don't have to comment anonymously without typing your name so I know who you are, or saying something so I know who you are.

    Tell me you weren't among those trapped in the chunnel?

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  28. French restaurants didn't give a clue. I can't log in from 250 feet below.

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  29. Some of us are worried

    A likely tale.

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  30. Well, I saw on the news where it was a terrible snow storm in the southeast of Engalnd, and that the roads were closed. And I had heard about the emergency in the chunnel when the train stopped and people had to be evacuated. And I knew at the same time you were fleeing France as debt collectors were on your trail, so I thought you might not have made it safely through that hole under the water. Sue me.

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  31. You didn't say anything about any French restaurant. You just said an Indian waiter wanted to buy you and I just assumed your husband agreed and gave you to him. Try to be more coherent.

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  32. Please show where I have ever said evolution is more than a theory (or where I said that it has to be the only theory taught in school - other theories just have to be based on facts and not readily disproved). In fact, I take flak all the time for scientists who do call a theory a fact. They are not the same. I have an excellent grasp of the difference between data/facts/observations and the conclusions one draws from them. Good scientists do. That's how I tell the good scientists from the bad. (One of my pet peeves include calling a theory a fact).

    That CO2 is a greenhouse gas is a fact. That it change change the energy absorbed by a gas system is a fact. That the levels of CO2 people have generated in a limited amount of time (and the pace we are continuing to do so) is unprecedented is an observation (which has limitations and uncertainties on it, but most of those uncertainties have to do with exactly how much more, not that it's more).

    No one knows what will happen if the pace continues unabated. However, what we've seen already happen - unprecedented melting of South American and Himalayan glaciers [which people depend on NOW for water and are already affecting them], ice loss [fortunately over water so far] in arctic and antarctic regions, and in Greenland are observable facts. There have been unusual droughts in the South East US, Australia, and a killer heat wave in Europe within the past decade.

    Tropical storms have been unusually frequent and gone where they have not gone in centuries (including Europe).

    What that means for the future involves educated guesswork, but it is compelling evidence that changes are being made with large implications for millions even billions of people. And, like many complex processes, it can not be changed soon or easily. People are already suffering in Peru because of the glacier situation. Many more are threatened if the sources of many life-giving rivers are disrupted in Asia. Ditto for ocean acidification (a result of the ocean absorbing CO2).

    You can call it arrogance to want to minimize the damage. I believe we're making changes and, although I don't presume to know the worst or least case effects, I know the potential for severe changes is high.

    I'm more concerned because models, until now, have been underpredicting the changes, that does not give me confidence that they are alarmist. Most of the changes we're seeing today weren't expected until at least 2050. I should not be the only one scared by that.

    Localized temperature fluctuations don't challenge my understanding of the situation; I expect that. Take a complex system and add energy - you often find a variation on the extremes rather than moving in just one direction.

    Could I be wrong? You bet, though the advantages to moving away from oil would still serve me well. I WANT to be wrong. I want people to be safe and not go without water and food because I refused to believe or to act. But the data to date does not back that outlook.

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  33. I was going to comment but I got so distracted by the other comments I forgot the original topic.
    I once spent a horrible weekend on the campus of Bob Jones University when I was a senior in high school. It was like a prison.
    Right now I'm reading "Misquoting Jesus" which is a study on which parts of the Bible are actually the inspired word of God and which were made up by people along the way.
    And I have a coal mining company from Pennsylvania core drilling on the property next to ours, so I'm feeling a bit threatened these days. Satan has entered paradise.

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  34. @Stephanie B - Just because I can't bring myself to go through all of that again doesn't mean you win.

    @Janet - I can't believe you actually read some of this, although I know you back me 100%. :)

    I have a book about the books the Catholic church didn't put into the bible back during the Council of Trent, mainly because the books didn't support their dogma. Like the boy Jesus playing terrible pranks on his playmates when he got upset with them. But that's one thing we should be wary of - the fact that a group of men arbitrarily chose which ancient writings should be part of the Bible and which should be excluded. They even excluded the first 20-some verses of the Gospel of St. Mark because Mark alluded to the fact that Jesus was married. Horrors.

    I am sorry Bob Jones has sent a coal mining company next to your property. I recommend stoning the men during the day and equipment incineration during the night. Otherwise, they may feel you are all right with what they are going to do. Peace. Feliz Navidad.

    PS - I saw on Fox News tonight (so I know it must be true) that the Anglican Church in New Zealand had put up a billboard with picture of Mary and Joseph in bed, and Joseph has a really insecure expression on his face. Mary is looking contentedly heavenward. The caption is, "God is a hard act to follow."

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  35. Max that's hilarious! Although I'm surprised Fox News would show anything that wasn't rabid fundamentalism. Oh, sorry, was that intolerant?

    I knew about the Council of Trent story. You should read the book. Bart Ehrman is the author. Actually when I finish it I'll send it to you. Apparently the story of Mary Magdelene is completely made up, as well as the last couple of pages of Revelation.

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  36. Roy is an excellent resource for separating the grain from the chaff as it will. You might ask him.

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