October 28th, 2007

before the light

miscellaneous thoughts I've been collecting

21 unconvincing arguments for god (pdf)

The funny thing about this list is that the very first item, Holy Books, is precisely the argument that our friend Ezra Taft Benson thought would be soooo convincing in defense of the Book of Mormon.


I was also reminded a few days ago about just how pervasive the de facto religious test for office is. For those of you not familiar with it, Stephen Colbert is making a basically fake campaign for President, in both parties, but just in South Carolina. He was recently described to me, by an a self-professed atheist, this way:

Of course, the real Stephen Colbert is nothing like the arrogant, blustering, Bill O'Reilly right-wing idiot clone he plays. The real Colbert is a very kind, gentle family man, a philosophy graduate from Northwestern, who teaches Sunday School on weekends. He got his start with the famed Second City comedy troupe in Chicago. He's also a shrewd political analyst.

Notice how that "who teaches Sunday school on weekends" just got slipped there. What exactly does this have to do with a person's qualifications for President? Okay, sure, this is a joke campaign, but how different is this description from one someone would offer if the campaign were for a real actor? For, say, Al Franken running for the Senate in Minnesota? Why don't we hear about people teaching inner-city youth math? But Sunday school teachers are thrown around like this is great? Brainwashing children into believing in a great sky fairy? Frightening them into being good lest they burn in hell makes him such a nice guy!

And if this admittedly doesn't have anything to do with a person's qualifications for office, why mention it at all? Could it be because America demands a person of "faith" and this is not a statement that an atheist can make?

The last thing I wanted to mention was an infuriating article by Deepak Chopra. Chopra claims that:

...the claim of evolutionary biology to explain something as complex as generosity, altruism, or music. Such claims are thoroughly bogus.

Why does he think they are bogus? Because he objects to "reductionism". Scientists are demanding precise chemical and genetic explanations for how things like music or altruism work. And why is he bothered by that?

He's bothered by it because he is anti-science, pure and simple. He likes the mystery. His whole article drips with the tired refrain of "too much" understanding. We are taking the mystery out of life, the ephemeral out of things he would rather attribute to god than to simple biology. He doesn't want biology to explain it--and so he calls it "bogus"--because he wants science to stop and leave something for theists like him to hang their god on.

I don't feel particularly sympathetic to the demand that we just stop trying to understand because it offends his sensibilities which rely so much on the ignorance of the past. Grow up, Deepak.

I recorded a Book TV episode with a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza. I caught glimpses of it and Dinesh did his best to piss me off. I'll watch it and take notes, and see if I can't find it on YouTube.