Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I choose neither
When not blaming It for all the World's ills, another favourite, and all-pervasive, gag used to fog thought or debate about important issues is the old...
You're either with Us or against Us
And the gag works best of all if the supposed dichotomy is presented in such a way that people will be damned for the company they keep if they favour the 'wrong', or should I say unfashionable, option.
So, if you don't buy into the particular Global Warming paradigm being thrust down our necks well then you just have to be an apologist for the oil industry
You think the Global War on Terror is horseshit? Well, obviously, you just luuuuuuurve terrorists
and my personal favourite...
If you reject Darwinism then you must be a fundamentalist crazy. Or, more perniciously, you are a fool and your doubts only serve to further the agenda of fundamentalist crazies. Best shut up and come over to the 'Our' side, even if you think Darwinism is crap.
The output of the human brain, the most wondrous object in the known universe, reduced to a series of binary decisions. Even simpler than a traffic light.
An impressive achievement
If you're a dick
And so, whenever I encounter someone who phrases issues along the lines of 'With Us or against Us' the trusty old 'Dick-O-Meter' flashes into overdrive.
Sorry, believing that life sprung up spontaneously from inert sludge, a feat that no-one has ever come near to replicating in a lab, is just as irrational and faith-driven as believing that G-d did it. And demanding that people must believe in one or the other doesn't make it any less so.
Bogus certainty about bogus dichotomies is responsible for more death and suffering than any individual religious or political ideology.
You could do away with all religions and all political ideologies tomorrow and the dicks in charge would still find bullshit issues to divide us, to be certain about and to kill each other over. Humanity's inanate appetite for tribalism is partly responsible but it also has to be said that there are a lot of people out there who simply find it easier to hurt each other rather than think things through on their own,
There's an audio of a cracking interview with Kurt Vonnegut available on this page here. The first time I heard it I burst out laughing. I suspect Vonnegut had a chuckle himself afterwards. Vonnegut is well known for being a secular humanist so he must be part of the herd of independent minds that believes in Darwinian Evolution, right?
clank clank whirrr wibble
does not compute
Here's a transcript of the best bit, at the end of the interview-
VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It’s the scientists themselves are behaving tribally.
INSKEEP: How are the scientists behaving tribally?
VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn’t possibly have produced such machines.
INSKEEP: Does that mean you would favor teaching intelligent design in the classroom?
VONNEGUT: Look, if it’s what we’re thinking about all the time; if I were a physics teacher or a science teacher, it’d be on my mind all the time as to how the hell we really got this way. It’s a perfectly natural human thought and, okay, if you go into the science class you can’t think this? Well, alright, as soon as you leave you can start thinking about it again without giving aid and comfort to the lunatic fringe of the Christian religion. Also, I think that, you know, it’s tribal behavior. I don’t think that Pat Robertson, for instance, doubts that we evolved. He is simply representing a tribe.
INSKEEP: There are tribes on both sides here in your view?
INSKEEP: May I ask what tribes, if any, you have belonged to over the years?
VONNEGUT: Well, it’s an ancestral tribe. These were immigrants from north of Germany who came here about the time of the Civil War, but anyway, these people called themselves free thinkers. They were impressed, incidentally, by Darwin. They’re called Humanists now: people who aren’t so sure that the Bible is the Word of God.
INSKEEP: Who are denounced by some religious people as secular humanists?
VONNEGUT: Well, that’s exactly what I am. The trouble with being a secular humanist is that we don’t have a congregation. We don’t meet, so it’s a very flimsy tribe, but there’s a wonderful quotation from Nietzsche. Nietzsche said, Only a person of deep faith can afford the luxury of skepticism. Something perfectly wonderful is going on. I do not doubt it, but the explanations I hear do not satisfy me.
I like Kurt Vonnegut