Wednesday, February 01, 2006

France enters Muslim cartoon row

BBC NEWS | Europe | France enters Muslim cartoon row:
"Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or Allah."
Who gives a damn?

Sam Harris provided a GREAT answer to Edge's question, "What is your dangerous idea?" Harris thinks science needs to destroy religion. I don't know how that can happen in reasonable time or with any grace, but I agree.

Here, read this, you religious bullies!

Most people believe that the Creator of the universe wrote (or dictated) one of their books. Unfortunately, there are many books that pretend to divine authorship, and each makes incompatible claims about how we all must live. Despite the ecumenical efforts of many well-intentioned people, these irreconcilable religious commitments still inspire an appalling amount of human conflict.

In response to this situation, most sensible people advocate something called "religious tolerance." While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves — repeatedly and at the highest levels — about the compatibility between religious faith and scientific rationality.
Hear! Hear!


jj mollo said...

I read just recently that when two highly analytical people marry, their children are much more likely to be autistic. Could it be that something is missing from such minds? Perhaps, you may think, it is something we can do without.

Steve said...

Yes, I saw that, but I'm not sure I follow your meaning. Can you elaborate?

jj mollo said...

I am a believer in the secret wisdom of evolution and tradition. If you look at the quality of the stone age paintings in the caves of Spain and France you can see that they communicate with modern minds very forcefully. There is no way to say that the quality of the art is less than that of Monet or Picasso.

Analytical thinking is just one small aspect of the universe of human character. It is currently ascendant, but I'm suspicious that it is not complete. Religion is more than just the analytical crust represented by dogmatism. In historical terms, I think that the "spiritual" force, whatever aspect of the brain it may represent, has added to life, united people and made us stronger. I also believe that monotheism changed humanity for the better.

If you go to the city of Bath, you can read the secret messages that the Romans there sent to their gods as tokens thrown into the natural springs. Having read a few, my feeling is that they were a vicious and small-minded people, very unlike the exurban religious people that I grew up with. I think Christianity changed them. The difference between the chronicles of Julius Caesar and St. Patrick is very telling. (Read How the Irish Saved Civilization.)

Maybe those "ideas" were OK for the time, but have become obsolete since Darwin. I don't know. But my wonder for the universe is matched by my admiration for the development of civilization in Europe.

Analytical people need to accept that, though the ideas they espouse are powerful and objectively true, the strengths of other people are not lesser virtues. If so, they wouldn't have been retained in the gene pool. Great leaders cannot be reduced to computer programs. We can chart the inventions and discoveries that contributed to our society, made us what we are today, but it is much harder to classify and quantify the parallel development of the mental, emotional, imaginal components.

In short, I would be reluctant to advocate the reduction in social variance implied by the elimination of religion.

jj mollo said...

By the way, due to my religion I approve the publication of images of Mohammed. One of the central tenets of my system of belief is that any challenge to the Freedom of Speech is sacrilege and cannot be tolerated. If intimidation is applied, we should redouble our efforts to confront the source of that intimidation.

Steve said...

My sense is that the capacity for spirituality (and therefore religion) came about as a function of evolution because it conveyed a selective advantage to the species for the reasons you give: it united people and made groups stronger.

That says nothing, though, about the truth of the beliefs that take hold. What matters isn't the truth but the effect. Many belief systems have served very well along the way. Or so it has been until modern times.

Now, it seems to me, with increasing human population density, potentially devastating technologies ever more available, rapacious economic systems and the exponential nature of it all, the destructive potential of demonstrably false beliefs probably mark the limits of humanity.

We're eating, drilling, spilling, spewing and multiplying our way to ruin, yet various of the major religions herd us right along that same path, irrespective of analysis. What gives here?

Diversity is good and necessary, but if humanity and modern civilization are to continue into the future, I think humanity is going to have to change its ways, to change its nature to fit the times. To recognize destructive variants and do something about them.

Something like that. Someone, though, is going to have to come up with better ideas than the ones I've had or been exposed to. Time is almost certainly way too short for any of that.

I don't think religion has to be destroyed, but I do think that certain characteristics it has taken on from time to time can't be tolerated any more if civilization is to continue to advance.

To each his own, up to a point.

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