shirenomad: (philosophical)
2012-04-23 03:31 pm
Entry tags:

The Wall Between Science and Religion: Part 2

Cross-posted to Facebook and Livejournal:

Yesterday I talked about how Neil deGrasse Tyson gave ten minutes of evidence (describing the scientific brilliance of the Muslim Golden Age) that spoke against his final point (that believers have no place in science), proving that Tyson may be a great astrophysicist but he'd make a terrible lawyer. Today I'll talk about how, at least with some, the reflex of resisting believers is even more ingrained.

Perhaps I was foolish to assume that YouTube viewers would even care, especially those that would be watching Tyson's video in particular, but I made the following comment on the video:

"The issue is not that 15% of the scientific community accepts God. Tyson himself admits that Baghdad, at its scientific height, had people of all religions (certainly including both Muslims and Christians) present, and that Jews (who also believe in God) currently dominate science. It is when those who accept God believe the lie that this means science is false that we have problems. Muslim science did not crash and burn with Muhammad but with al-Ghazali."

I got a quick response: "youre right. science in no way goes against the idea of a god. but it also in no way goes along with the idea of a god. it does however go against the bible and most other religious ideas. so if you want to believe in a god. then by all means do it. but youre going to have to pick between science and the bible assuming you are a christian"

I should have left that one alone but I couldn't just let it hang there. I assumed (correctly) that the commenter was referring to the creation story, and the more recent, dare I say, heresy that it must be literal. But theologians throughout history have pointed out that the creation story in Genesis is likely allegorical, being written to establish not any detailed or scientific explanation of how God did it, but simply that He did. (In fact, Origen -- 3rd century -- argued that it must be allegorical, and that the original readers would have understood that. Why? Because if you treat it literally, you have the first evening and morning without a sun or a sky. You don't need a shred of scientific understanding to understand that this is no more literal than Psalm 23's description of the writer as a sheep.)

And I said so... and now the hordes truly descended. Some came at me with additional points where they felt the Bible contradicted science (including some that, given that I had just stipulated that Genesis 1 was not literal, were already not at issue; they were just moving through a checklist without listening). Others, despite admittedly not being Christian themselves, told me what a horrible Christian I was for not treating every word of scripture literally, as if they were authorities on its meaning. A few taunted me that one day science would contradict every last word of the Bible and I'd have to disavow it all. Our science is greater!

I see three possible intentions of these commenters (possibly all three were there):
1) They thought I, having admitted that the Bible was not literal in certain places, was on the verge of abandoning the entire thing, and they were trying to convert me to atheism.
2) They could not accept that I, as a believer, could also believe in science, and they were trying to get me to revert to their preferred stereotype.
3) They just wanted to punt the believer around.

Regardless, the result was the same: I thought, no wonder believers are abandoning science, if those in favor of it are telling us it's an exclusive club, no silly God-followers allowed. You're trying to chase us away. You're trying to keep us separated. These arguments are not the solution; they are part of the problem.

Here are my responses to atheists who get the urge to push the faithful away:
1) As I just said, you are part of the problem. If a Christian is forced to choose between God and science, odds are decent that he will choose God. And if he does the opposite, you have still widened the gap between the two groups. Feel lucky that some recognize it as a false choice.
2) As Tyson admitted before he forgot, great scientific minds can also believe in God. You are rejecting in advance the next al-Haytham (also a Muslim theologian), the next Newton (also a Christian theologian). You are also pushing away lesser brilliance who won't revolutionize the world but can still be part of the workforce that any solid scientific community needs. Why do you want to thin the numbers of science? Why not instead encourage us to pick science without abandoning faith, and grow in numbers?
3) You are bringing your own conclusions about what the Bible says to the table, when you have not studied it on more than a cursory level. Yes, you share these conclusions with some Christians who haven't thought about it either. But you do not share them with actual theologians, even ancient ones like Origen and Augustine. Nor do you share them with the modern Catholic church, who have been studying the Bible for 2000 years straight and, as I noted earlier, currently hold that it does not require anything in conflict with modern science. In short, you are fighting even those who are on your side because you have convinced yourself in advance that they aren't. You assume that the other side is 100% at war with you because a minority is making noise.
shirenomad: (philosophical)
2012-04-22 08:55 pm
Entry tags:

The Wall Between Science and Religion: Part 1

Cross-posted to Facebook and Livejournal:

Last weekend I watched a for-the-most-part fascinating discussion of science history on YouTube. The speaker was Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who you may be familiar with (he's host of NOVA scienceNOW and has made two appearances on The Daily Show in recent memory). The history he told was well researched, applicable to the present day, and I absolutely agree with the conclusion.

...Not the conclusion he actually made, mind you, but the conclusion I thought he was going to make, because it was the one that logically followed from everything he said.

You can watch the video for yourself here, but here's a summary, combined with my own research on the matter:

The Muslim world was, from roughly 750 to 1200 AD, the center of science in the world, taking the knowledge of the Greeks and building on it dramatically. Al-Khwarizmi's development of algebra revolutionized mathematics. Astronomy hit such a boom that Arabic names such as Aldebaran and Altair still dominate the sky. Al-Razi wrote a medical textbook that remained the authority in medical schools, in both the Middle East and Europe, for nearly a thousand years. And Ibn al-Haytham was likely the first to conceive of what we now call the scientific method.

And then, in the late 11th century, came al-Ghazali, an imam who denied the very idea of cause and effect, save for the Ultimate Cause: every event happens because and only because God wills it. (His famous example was that fire does not burn cotton, God burns it.) While God usually behaves the same way, creating what appear to be laws of nature, He can do something else any time He likes. Therefore, he concluded, science is meaningless... even blasphemous, because it says that God will always behave the same way and therefore has no will.

The idea, sadly, caught on, despite attempts to refute by other Muslim scholars. By the 14th and 15th centuries, Muslim science was in serious decline, and by the 16th century it was all but non-existent; only recently has it begun to recover. Christians and Jews began their own domination of science and culture (Tyson's analysis, not mine) and the Western World, not the Middle East, remains in the lead today.

Tyson, having told this tale, mourned what could have been had Islam remained pro-science. He then compared it to the present day, with the tendency of some Christians to deny discoveries and theories such as the Big Bang and evolution. And I am in total agreement. God has clearly set laws in effect over the universe. God gave us brains. And the fate of Muslim science should be a warning to us. I have been a big fan of a saying of a Christian and physicist I know: "the Bible is infallible, and science is infallible, but fallible man can misinterpret either." I also know that the Catholic church, no liberal bastion, never quick to reject tradition, interprets the Bible such that there is no contradiction with evolution (read Cathecism 283, or the words of the past five popes on the matter, or just walk into any Catholic private school and hear evolution taught by nuns). So absolutely, Dr. Tyson, I agree that Christians should not poo-poo science just because it appears to conflict with an image of God we've developed that isn't necessarily accurate; that we should instead embrace it...

And now I'll directly quote the last 30 seconds of Tyson's speech, and we'll see if you can spot the moment where he abruptly forgets everything he just said:

"I am concerned about what lost, what brilliance may have expressed itself, and did not, in [the Muslim] community over the past thousand years. And so, what I want to put on the table is -- that's the end of my talk, but I want to say -- I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the National Academy rejects God. I want to know why 15% don't. And that's really what we've got to address here, otherwise the public is secondary to this. Thank you for your attention here."

Whoa. Did I understand him right? He had just spent ten minutes telling us how the Muslim community had made huge contributions to science, and could have continued to do so had it not fallen into the lie that faith and science are incompatible. But Tyson now appears to conclude not that scientists should encourage the faithful to return, but that they should automatically assume that any belief in God is a burden to science. In short, he's saying that faith and science are incompatible.

How dug in are scientists against what they perceive as the savage and superstitious, that one can both see and recite evidence that faith and science can work side by side, and still walk out believing that belief in God will always be an anathema to his cause? And if Tyson believes that science requires leaving such silly religious beliefs behind, then should he be surprised that some believers think that science must be wrong?

The faithful need to be making overtures here as well. What I said before holds; we do not leave our brains at the door when we enter the family of God. God can trump the rules He set in place if He likes, but for the most part He does not; this is why science has been such a marvelous success. And when an examination of the universe's history shows that not only does something in scripture generally not happen under these rules, but it clearly did not happen, then we need to at least put on the table the possibility that we've been misreading scripture.

But to the scientists: when we make these overtures, you need to be ready to welcome us.

Tomorrow: Things get even more counterproductive.
shirenomad: (informative)
2012-03-06 03:02 pm
Entry tags:

Why we all want Citizens United to remain law.

Originally posted to Facebook; cross-posted to Livejournal.

For those who haven't heard, the Montana Supreme Court in Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock has rejected the idea that corporations had the right to fund campaigns, claiming that there were special circumstances in Montana that meant the famed Citizens United v. FEC didn't apply. As the dissent pointed out, what they were really saying was that they just didn't like the Supreme Court's ruling and were choosing to ignore it. To the surprise of no one, the Supreme Court has picked up the gauntlet and taken on an appeal of the decision.

But this is a good chance to discuss the original case, because I hear a lot of complaint about Citizens United by people who don't seem to know much about it beyond "it allows corporations and super-PACs to flood the airwaves with political ads." Which is true, but only in the same sense that Miranda v. Arizona allows people to commit crimes and then flaunt them to the police without consequence. That is to say, it's an unfortunate side-effect, and it could do with some tweaking to prevent abuse, but given the alternative, we're much better off for it.

Let me ask you some questions:
1) Should a pro-choice group be able to detail an incumbent's record on abortion or contraception on their website and push for the readers to vote him out?
2) Should a teacher's union be able to compare the various candidates' past funding for education on display in their newsletter and endorse the one with the best record?
3) Should the NAACP be able to to release ads in the middle of primary season opposing a candidate it believes is racist?
4) Should be able to do anything it does?

Did you say "yes" to any of those? To all of those? Then you're supporting Citizens United, or at least the primary point of it, because none of those were technically legal until the Court made its ruling.

Fact: It's the last question that is particularly on point for Citizens United, because that's what we were dealing with: a non-profit organization, funded by individual contributions, vocally opposing Hillary Clinton's run for president. There was no for-profit corporation. There was no super PAC. The FEC restriction that the Court struck down was not limited to either. It couldn't be, because there is no legal line to draw between a non-profit organization and a for-profit corporation, or between either and a super-PAC. Regardless, the entity has a status independent of any of its members. If you can silence any such entity, you can silence all.

(The opinion itself noted other situations that the restriction in question would silence if universally enforced: "The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests; the National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U.S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate's defense of free speech.")

Fact: Citizens United did not decide that corporations had speech rights, or that advertising counted as speech. Both had been true since at least 1977 with First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. The case merely elaborated that advertising funding could come from the corporation's general treasury instead of a smaller, restricted political fund, that the ads could explicitly endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and that they could be within the period of time previously restricted. It then got a lot of publicity, largely because Obama critiqued it in his State of the Union speech, but also because people perceive it as the sole cause of the super-PAC (more on that in a minute).

Fact: the ACLU came down on the side of Citizens United in their own amicus brief, which you can read on their website. This was not only because it was the correct result, but because the ACLU has a good sense of self-preservation (as the opinion noted, the ACLU could also be restricted from supporting or opposing candidates otherwise).

Just to be even clearer about the consequences, let's consider what happens with the opposite result: organizations have no free speech rights, at least not in advertising. Congress can silence them all. Okay, so that means individuals get all the power, right? Well, in a sense, yes. Every individual can spend money on their own ad. But what if an individual can't afford an ad? No problem, the traditional solution to that is to form an organization that will pool the money and... oops. Nope, that organization doesn't have the right to create an ad anymore. You spend your own money and that's it.

So now who's the loudest voice? The 1%. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, the Koch brothers, or the Walton family can spend millions on advertising without having to involve a corporation or organization. The richest candidates are close behind, with Romney, Schwarzenegger, and Kerry filling the airwaves using their personal funds. Meanwhile, candidates with little personal funds and no rich individual backers are dead in the water, unable to afford a single ad on any medium with any weight. And grass roots movements can't support candidates effectively. But with Citizens United on the books, the 99% can organize against and overpower the 1%.

So, 5) Should individuals be able to organize their funds such that they can afford to produce a political ad, when they would be unable to afford to do so individually? If so, you want Citizens United on the books.

With all that said: Super-PACs exist because of a separate ruling by the DC Circuit in v. FEC, which ruled that organizations independent of any candidate could not have upper limits on acceptance of contributions. Although the court claimed to be applying the intent of Citizens United, I believe that claim to be inaccurate, and to the extent that the Supreme Court did have such an intent, I believe it was wrong. "Content-neutral" restrictions on speech are okay if the government also has a significant interest in the restriction (it does: reducing potential corruption and bribery and improving signal-to-noise) and any speaker still has ample opportunities for speech (they do so long as the limit is set high enough to get in a reasonable number of ads). (Look up Ward v. Rock Against Racism, which allowed a restriction on decibel levels for amplifiers in Central Park, so long as they applied regardless of what words were blaring over the speakers and who was yelling them. Same principle.) So I believe a spending limit meets this test and is valid, if it applies regardless of the entity's status: to both Bill Gates and Microsoft, both CNN and Ted Turner. This is what I hope the Court corrects when Western Tradition reaches them.

(Also perfectly permissible, by the way, are any number of disclosure rules. The Court explicitly okay'd those in the same case -- Citizens United still had to put the "paid for by" message on its advertising -- as they passed the content-neutral test.)

The First Amendment doesn't forbid limits, but it does forbid limits that are applied only to corporations and organizations (that is, when Congress picks and chooses which entities to shut up). You can't isolate certain speakers or messages, even if the speaker is an organization of individuals. Otherwise you cripple an important part of free speech: the right of many to speak as one.
shirenomad: (LiveJournal)
2012-01-03 12:01 pm


I've begun a shift to Dreamwidth, for several reasons;
- All this crap. I'm personally most annoyed with their handling of icons in comments, myself, but the rest is pretty bad too. (Speaking of which, check your paid subscription status just to be safe.)
- The multiple recent glitches in the RSS feeds, which have already caused me to dump LJ as my primary aggregator and switch to Google Reader (that was looooong overdue anyway). Also the other downtime issues.
- My paid subscription expires in about a month anyway, and I don't use this journal enough any more to justify renewal even if none of the other stuff was true.

I'm not going to outright terminate this account, since I still have some friends and communities here that I don't want to abandon, but don't expect much if any more posting here. If you want to find me on DW, I'm at ShireNomad.
shirenomad: (Whedon)
2011-04-12 10:41 pm
Entry tags:

A proud and distinguished profession.

I was reading the Mark Watches review of Firefly and, although Mark and I both love Joss Whedon's work in a lot of similar ways, we heavily diverge on at least one point of interpretation. That of the meaning of Inara and her "career."

Mark, it seems, thinks that Whedon means to respect the profession of prostitution as a proper career. In Mark's mind, it's a part of Inara, and Mal is stubborn and overly-protective for dismissing it as worthless. And there's definitely nothing harmful about it.

Except Mark then contradicts himself when he reaches "Heart of Gold," by calling what Burgess did to Petaline a violation, and rightfully cringing at "get down on your knees." Why? Surely Burgess paid both women properly for the service, didn't he? It's a dignified service to provide, isn't it?

But Burgess is not alone in his misogyny. Atherton treated Inara as property ("I know what's mine"), despite Inara's later claims that she's very careful about who she selects as a client. Fess's father (the one who actually called Inara in and paid her, mind you) treated her dismissively as well. There's a pattern here. When a man meets a woman who gives him, well, everything in return for some cash, it's hard to see how he'll respect her.

Or see her as anything but an unusually sexy device. Remember Mr. Universe and his robot bride? Had Atherton taken Inara as a personal (and permanent, "bought and paid for") companion, would he see her as anything more than that, other than that Inara makes better conversation? At best, wouldn't she be like the indentured mudders, just with a better wardrobe?

I remind everyone that for all its faults, the world of Firefly is not sexist. No one ever, meeting Zoe, questioned for an instant her ability to kick copious ass. No one ever, meeting Kaylee, questioned for an instant her ability to keep a ship running (on duct tape if necessary). Patience owns a moon and leads a small army of thugs. Good guys have no issues slugging women who earned the privilege, with no thoughts of "she's a woman, be gentle!" ...And then you get to the sex workers, and all of the sudden people see only objects.

Oh, Whedon understands perfectly the harms of the oldest profession. Inara was not in the original plans of the story, but Fox insisted on including a "space hooker." So Whedon gave them the geisha-like companions, who behave with high class, who have the (supposed) protection of their guild... and who are only respected by those not their clients. (And then we got Dollhouse later, if you really want to see the horror of "selling yourself" amped up to eleven.)

But I still need to talk about Inara herself. The model of professionalism, of poise, of grace. Of artificiality. Her every move, every word, is calculated. We so rarely see the facade drop, and only when she's dumbfounded (Jaynestown), enraged or terrified (Our Mrs. Reynolds), or devastated (Heart of Gold). There's something beneath, and we catch glimpses of it in the above episodes, but she buries it. For the job, to present the face her "clients" want to see. Until she almost forgets the real self exists.

Therein is the tragedy of Inara's "career." "Inara, he doesn't even see you." So few do.
shirenomad: (speculative)
2011-03-23 05:53 pm
Entry tags:

On the effects of mass.

I'm doing this exercise again, but this time I'm giving you some advance notice: these are my Mass Effect characters. Refrain from asking about actual Mass Effect events (especially as I haven't played ME2 through yet and do not want to be hit with spoilers), but feel free to tailor your questions to your knowledge of the ME universe in general (culture, tech, politics, etc.)

1) Dara
2) Cole
3) Brit
4) Zaku
shirenomad: (informative)
2011-02-22 05:48 pm

When nerds go to law school.

Every time my professor talks about a "UBO" (Unincorporated Business Organization), I hear "Yu Gi Oh!" And then have to resist the urge to type "screw the Rules of Partnership, I have money!" in my notes.
shirenomad: (betrayal)
2010-08-23 12:02 pm


I'm probably in agreement with you on a lot of things, but if you assume that every last person who doesn't agree with you is a "stupid bigot," I'm likely to argue with you just to defend those "bigots" against the slander. I know and love too many "bigots," and I'd rather be labeled a bigot myself then allow people to get shouted down before they're even heard.
shirenomad: (philosophical)
2010-08-06 10:16 pm
Entry tags:

To-may-toes, to-mah-toes...

Scientifically, a tomato is a fruit: nutritious plant tissue surrounding seeds, designed to be eaten by animals so the seeds might later be (ahem) deposited elsewhere surrounded by helpful fertilizer. But in cooking terms, a tomato is a vegetable because of its low sugar levels. If someone asks for a fruit salad, or a fruit sorbet, you would not include tomatoes, because you are in a culinary context. If someone in a science lab wants to study the effects of something on fruit, tomatoes would probably be fine, against because of the context, and you would not use them if the test called for a vegetable.

Just to confuse things further, in 1893, the Supreme Court ruled that a law regarding "vegetables" (and not fruit) included tomatoes in the meaning of the word (Nix v. Hedden if you were curious), not for scientific or culinary reasons but because the justices agreed that Congress had created the law in question to cover a category that included tomatoes. Later laws then made the same assumption about what tomatoes were. The law is funny that way: the intended purpose of a law can affect the very meaning of words in that context, and then that meaning can carry on to other law.

I believe this sums up why perfectly reasonable people can't seem to see eye to eye when it comes to Prop 8 and gay marriage. )
shirenomad: (speculative)
2010-08-01 08:50 pm
Entry tags:

Fair's fair.

You know, looking at the Arizona immigration law, I think the problem isn't that they run IDs against the immigration database, it's that they do it selectively. This is America, where we randomly select grannies at the airport for additional checks; why? To be equal protection about it. So run everyone's ID on traffic stops. It's not inconvenient; they already check you against other databases. I've been pulled over a couple times for "California stops" and they ran my license both times to see if I had outstanding warrants. And really, the administration should know by now that failing to check the white person's ID properly can create its own embarrassments...

shirenomad: (writing)
2010-07-14 11:58 am

Im a riter!

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Actually, it depends on what particular chunk of writing I put through the test. I'm most consistently Stephen King in my fiction, but I've also gotten plenty of Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood responses.

As for my posts on Livejournal, I tend to sound like Dan Brown (ugh!)
shirenomad: (informative)
2010-04-23 05:07 pm

Because I'm supposed to be studying.

From [ profile] pretzelcoatl:

Pick 20 movies/anime/video games/TV shows/literary works and put their summaries from Better than it Sounds and WITHOUT CHEATING have your friends guess.

ETA: Since it's been 24 hours, I've updated the remainder with the category of work as hints.

ETA 2: 48 hours, so I'm adding the genre.

1. (VIDEO GAME) Siblings argue over how to inherit their father's legacy. (Baldur's Gate, guessed by [ profile] westmarked)
2. (MOVIE, WAR DARK COMEDY) A man's sexual frustrations cause him to make some questionable decisions at work. Hilarity Ensues. (Dr. Strangelove, guessed by [ profile] surgo)
3. Dead people fight other dead people but almost never to the death.(Bleach, guessed by [ profile] tozetre)
4. Evil billionaire rebuilds family heirloom on top of New York City skyscraper, unleashes Noble Demon creatures that really don't like to get up in the morning. (Gargoyles, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
5. Scientist, police officer afraid of water and war veteran go fishing. With explosives.(Jaws, guessed by [ profile] mahmoth, with honorable mention to [ profile] thunderphoenix)
6. Japanese schoolgirls hang out. (Azumanga Daioh, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
7. A man wears sunglasses at night, so he can fight crime. Then the government. Then conspiracy nuts. (Deus Ex, guessed by [ profile] moltare)
8. A college professor joins forces with a bartender to fight an entire army over a box that will kill you if you try to open it. (Raiders of the Lost Ark, guessed by [ profile] tozetre)
9. (COMIC BOOK) Emo Kid breaks out of prison, gets his jewelry off some weirdos, gets into trouble thanks to a White Haired Pretty Boy and tries to get his sister to accept him. (Sandman, guessed by [ profile] thunderphoenix)
10. Holocaust survivor turns Statue of Liberty into deadly weapon. (X-Men (movie), guessed by [ profile] tozetre)
11. A miner and a delinquent team up with an underage girl for the purpose of fighting a race war. (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, guessed by [ profile] westmarked)
12. Ninja detective fights mad scientist that wears a bag on his head. (Batman Begins, guessed by [ profile] pretzelcoatl)
13. Family comedy about a young child who is abandoned by his family and robbed in his own home. On Christmas Eve. (Home Alone, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
14. A prince must pick up litter in order to make up for his father's alcoholism. (Katamari Damacy, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
15. Two former celebrities and their children fight a wannabe ex-fan. (The Incredibles, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
16. (THEATER) Young man suffers from mental illness, hallucinates, desecrates a grave, then murders his family. (Hamlet, guessed by [ profile] shadeykins)
17. Thieves kidnap a young princess as part of a political coup. They're the good guys. (Final Fantasy IX, guessed by [ profile] pretzelcoatl)
Yeah, this one was maybe too tough... --> 18. (ANIME, SCI-FI ACTION/COMEDY) A young boy has disagreements with his new maid. (FLCL, guessed by no one
19. The last human in existence drifts through space in a vast abandoned ship. It's a comedy. (Red Dwarf, guessed by [ profile] bugen)
20. Prisoners concoct elaborate escape plan with help from an American circus acrobat after learning that their captors intend to turn them into pies. (Chicken Run, guessed by [ profile] pretzelcoatl)
shirenomad: (philosophical)
2010-04-12 11:29 pm
Entry tags:

An essay on sci-fi morality.

Sci-fi writers are not open to all views, or with an advanced perspective on things. Sci-fi writers are often the exact opposite. Sci-fi allows one to make a specific argument obvious when it is not so much so in the actual world. Or make an argument that is actually invalid in reality, but works due to the parameters of the fictional world. And the temptation to do so is usually all too great.

A human has a divine nature through his desire to understand. How do we know this? Because Valentine Michael Smith has shown us thou art God. Except he doesn't exist, and no one can actually do what he does, no matter how much they grok the universe.

There is no just war; we should forgive even those who try to kill us to the last. How do we know this? Because an alliance with the Cylons is the only way to locate Earth and rebuild humanity. Except we're not looking for Earth and we're not at war with Cylons, nor with anyone with whom interbreeding holds some huge mystic significance about the Shape Of Things To Come.

Humanity is fallen, disconnected from something greater, and needs to reconnect with God. How do we know this? Because Elwin Ransom learned it on the unfallen Malacandra after meeting its people and its Oyarsa. Except we have yet to encounter another inhabited world, fallen or unfallen.

We must protect the earth at all costs, because preserving its Mako is the only thing keeping it from literally falling to pieces. We must not hate other races, because the dwarf and troll leaders wanted unity before they were lost in a cave-in. We must not try to seek an orderly utopia, because it'll cause 99.9% of a planet to give up on living and the rest to go viciously insane. We must not cheat death because... well, I could go on for days naming all the fictional reasons we mustn't do that.

If our world made it obvious what the answer was, we wouldn't be asking the questions. But once someone has engineered a world with rules to their liking, they can answer conclusively "why" their view is the only accurate one. "Because look at my story! Look what happens there when they follow my viewpoint, and when they don't!" And if no one points out the fallacy -- "yeah, if your story world were real, that would be the case, but that's a big IF" -- then they find themselves certain. Clearly, their view is the only obvious one. Their world tells them so. They need not justify it any other way.

Even if the view happens to be accurate, or at least possible, relying purely on the story is pointless. It proves nothing, and makes one weak in actual arguments. Argumentum ad fabula: argument from fiction.

Which brings us to the readers. A reader who focuses on one author is not only going to get the same conclusions, but is all the more likely to forget that hey, this isn't an ethical textbook you're reading. But that assumes one author. What if you read of CS Lewis's divine eldils and Robert A. Heinlein's divine man? What if you see the utopia of the orderly Federation in Star Trek and the dystopia of the orderly Alliance in Firefly? What if you still consider multiple options, what if you remember that sci-fi describes what might be instead of what is, in multiple senses of the phrase? What if you think for yourself which makes more sense given the world you yourself know? Well, that's what makes sci-fi readers open to more views...
shirenomad: (philosophical)
2010-03-27 10:02 pm
Entry tags:


Yesterday I heard a law professor describe two essential forms of morality. The first she associated with the right wing: a morality that comes from somewhere other the holder (e.g. from a religious source), which that holder attempts to achieve. The second she associated with the left wing: a morality that the holder establishes by herself through philosophy and thought.

I have my own opinions about whether one can truly create a morality uninfluenced by others, but she admitted to what was an interesting insight in the process. The "right wing" morality is something to be sought, a finish line to strive for, therefore somewhere you (unless you claim otherwise like some pious gasbags) are NOT YET AT. So when you are caught short of the line, there is sighing, but there should be no condemnation; it is a hard road to travel. Whereas the "left wing" morality, by default, should be where you ALREADY ARE, your beliefs are already in line with where you say they should be. You have drawn the finish line around yourself. So when you stumble, you couldn't live up to the circle you yourself picked, and we should be free to cry "hypocrite!"

(Mind you, the professor falls firmly on the "left wing" side of things, and was speaking to a group of largely like-minded individuals.)
shirenomad: (memorable)
2010-02-12 07:55 pm
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shirenomad: (wtf)
2010-01-20 09:22 pm

Re: Scott Brown

For the record, I'm in favor of ending the filibuster. I was in favor of ending it when Republicans called "ending it" "the nuclear option" and the Democrats called it the end of civilization and the death of puppies. And I'm not going to be inconsistent now just because the shoe's on the other foot. It's a stupid system, too easy to abuse, and I don't think I care about the circumstances of removal so long as it's removed. Maybe out of good taste and common sense the Democrats could wait until it's no longer about the health care bill, but I'll take what I can get.

Just remember, no take backs the next time the Republicans are up 51-49 and refusing to compromise on PATRIOT Act III: This Time It's Personal.
shirenomad: (God moment)
2009-12-25 10:51 am

Merry Christmas

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the Lamb.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am.
shirenomad: (celebration)
2009-10-26 09:17 pm
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shirenomad: (SciFi)
2009-09-28 09:31 pm

Spotted on campus...

No sign of any blue police boxes... yet.
shirenomad: (concerned)
2009-09-23 01:00 am

The more things change...

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it." After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

- Acts 19:23-41

The Ancient Greeks could be made to understand when to calm down and protest respectfully and properly. I hope we Americans can figure that one out too.