Two seemingly unrelated posts I read this morning combined in a beautiful way.
Seth Godin is insightful as always, saying:
* Most people want to believe.
* And we’re most comfortable believing what everyone else believes.
Add to that the fact that “everyone else” isn’t really everyone else, it’s just your peer group. That’s why we mostly hold the same religious views as the community we grew up in.
The related post is from TorrentFreak: Piracy, Morals and The Need for Change
Ernesto discusses a NY Times article that tells of the generational divide in the moral perception of copyrights – today’s college students just don’t see anything wrong with copying digital files.
This is only surprising if like most people you (wrongly) assume that morals should be based on the law, and not the other way around. Morals aren’t a constant, they’re just the sum of what we believe to be right and wrong. They exist because we want to believe that there are such things as right or wrong, but their content is usually whatever our peers happen to believe in in that time and place.
So, asks Ernesto, should sharing copyrighted material be leglized?
Wrong question. The right question is “should there be such a thing as copyright?”. Well, the future generation has voted, and their answer is “definitely not”!
Eliezer Yudkowsky is worried that “many people, especially in the media, understand science only as a literary genre.” A worthy read.
Hardly surprising though. There’s no reason really to expect people to behave in the scientific age any different than they did in any previous age, i.e. treat science the same way religion used to be treated.
Most people who believe in evolution, do that just as others believe in ID, and in just the same way that some are protestants, some catholics and some Jews. They choose to believe mainly due to social reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that science and religion should be treated as equals – science is better simply because in general it’s willing continually test its basic hypotheses and admit mistakes. However, that too is done on the general level, i.e. through culture and over generations, and seldom on the personal – show me more than a few scientists willing to shed off their misconceptions in face of new evidence. Einstein certainly couldn’t.
And regarding the X-Men decidedly unscientific use of mutations, science, and specifically the theory of evolution, is used here as a literary tool just as religion and superstition were used in fairy tales and fantasies of old. The human mind is always looking for an explanation. We aren’t willing to accept fantastic powers and events without one. However, the explanations that we’re willing to accept are surprisingly simple. Apparently most of us don’t require an explanation of the explanation, maybe because that would lead to a chain of “dangerous” questioning that evades any further explanation in the end (god, or the big bang) which could drive you to existentialist musings which inevitably make you feel bad.
Which leads me back to Yudkowsky, and his closing words:
“You had best ask yourself which future experiences your belief prohibits from happening to you.”
Exactly, and most people would rather feel safe than venture to unknown future experiences. We need to separate science as a form of constructive critical thought that can generate an understanding of our world that continuously shatters our previous world views, from science as a social phenomenon, that since the 19th century has ascended to become an attire to don, if you are to be accepted in intelligent society. Most people prefer the latter.
I just watched this video of Richard Dawkins’ interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly (pointed out by Garr Reynolds on Presentation Zen).
The amazing thing for me was how O’Reilly didn’t give Dawkins a chance to speak. As Reynolds says, it was all about O’Reilly speaking. It strikes me that O’Reilly is doing a disservice to his own cause. Unless you’re an extremely religious person, who’s only interested in having your own view of the world reaffirmed and enjoy bashing atheists, you just might watch this interview and say to yourself: “I wonder why he won’t let this intelligent looking, soft spoken fellow string two sentences together? Looks like he might have something to say after all, but O’Reilly just won’t let him…” And the next step would be to look for some more information – you just might read his book, and you just might be persuaded.
In other words, if you suspect that your audience may be intelligent (and I wonder whether O’Reilly does) it may be a good idea to let the other guy speak and then base your attack on what he said, rather than talk about “me, me, me” in such an obvious way.
As a kid, I used to have an argument with a religious neighbor that went something like this:
Him: “Of course there’s a god – otherwise, who created the universe?”
Me: “But if god created the universe, who had created god?”
The main argument in Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” is just a slightly more sophisticated version of my simple retort as a kid. Essentially, he claims that the theory of evolution provides a simple mechanism that can explain the amazing phenomenon of life – a prime target of the religious proponents of intelligent design theory. In order to choose between the two options laid above – whether the theory of an omnipotent, omniscient, etc. creator is an explanation or merely a complication, Dawkins suggests that we choose the much simple evolutionary principle and avoid the unnecessarily complex god hypothesis.
The apparent objective of the book is to try and win new converts to atheism. The very thesis of the book though – that religious belief at our age makes no sense anymore, should make it clear that the objective is futile. How can a religious person, who decides to ignore reason where it comes to the matters of his faith, be expected to listen to logic arguments and be persuaded by them? Still, maybe those who are unsure where they stand, or who have never given much thought to the matter, stand a chance to wake up to truth.
The beauty of the book though is in its readability, a quality that Dawkins the author is famous for. This, along with his exquisite British sense of humor, makes the book a joy to read – especially if you agree with its contents as I do, and it simply serves to strengthen you in your position with regards to religiosity.
People see in art what their mind wants to see. I always saw Van Gogh’s restless starry night as an example of the artist’s misery and craziness. For this guy it speaks of god.
A letter by Mr. Marqués De Tamarón from Madrid, to the editor of The Economist (October 7th, 2006), in response to their review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion reads:
“SIR – Your laudatory review of “The God Delusion” seems to accept the tenet that “it was religious faith that ultimately turned [the September 11th terrorists] into killing machines” and that “religious moderates make the world safe for fundamentalists.” However, the historical fact remains that the most murderous sets of beliefs ever adopted were those two great, modern and officially atheist ideologies, communism and National Socialism. So much for scientific hubris.”
Mr. Tamarón’s mistake lies in classifying communism and National Socialism as atheistic. For issue at hand – how blind faith can turn zealot’s morals upside down – extreme ideology and religion (especially monotheistic religion) fall into the same category. Both are often used as a tool by power crazed leaders to drive their brainwashed followers to commit atrocities.
What enables such deeds in both cases is the firm belief in one truth, and in a small cadre having a monopoly on that truth. If extreme ideologies have waned in the west, along with religion, it is because our post-modern society has largely freed itself of mono-verity and adopted pluralism instead.