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The war for people's minds. - Dedicated to the downfall of organised religion [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Reason as a candle in the dark

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The war for people's minds. [Jan. 21st, 2008|12:38 am]
Reason as a candle in the dark

theendoffaith

[saithkar]
[Current Mood |Anxious]
[Current Music |Vangelis]

It has been almost 150 years since Charles Darwin published his landmark work On the Origin of the Species, yet still large portions of Americans state they do not believe in the evolution by natural selection, but rather by divine creation. This is a huge problem of course, as no adult should be basing their worldview around ancient fiction. However one of the main stumbling blocks seems to be that people (erroneously) believe that evolution is very complicated, while the notion that “God dunnit” appeals to the more simpleminded as it explains things without the need to think while reinforcing their faith. However you can understand the IDEA of evolution’s role in the universe ever since the big bang WITHOUT getting into the nitty gritty of gene-centred vs multi-level adaptation and so on. And this is where Carl Sagan comes in.

Sagan was perhaps the most eloquent ambassador science and reason could ever have asked for. In his many books and most notably in his ground breaking documentary series Cosmos (1980) he explained scientific concepts in ways everyone can understand. And this is the most important thing, we all trust people who know more than us to explain things in life, but for so long the men of god have been feeding us lies. The world needs more people like Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, to not only explain science, but extol its' virtues in an almost liturgical manner - to convert the unbelievers to the path of truth. Please watch and consider now, Sagan’s beautiful overview on our origins and how we got here, accompanied by the music of Vangelis (he of Blade Runner fame amongst others):



How much grander is this than the unimaginative and anthropocentric beginnings posed by religion, how much greater do we all seem by being but new arrangements of matter billions of years old? Matter that came from supernovae in the cosmos and was blasted across space and time to eventually collect and form here. How much more thrilling is this to consider than the pitiful instance of so many clerics that we were summoned into being by the snap of some god or another’s magical yet incorporeal fingers? While there is undeniably great poetry in the King James Bible’s intonation that “Darkness was upon the face of the deep” and so on, the notion that humanity is created from dust, or a clot of blood, or a man’s rib in the case of half of us (at least according to the demented tenants of Christianity) is both tedious and misanthropic. We are surely more than that and better than that, for the religious texts - after their brief dalliance with wonder at creation - descended into a sadomasochistic orgy of hatred as they revel in mankind’s “fall from grace”, and lavish us with pornographic descriptions of sin and punishment without end. Existence is remarkable but a long way from perfect, because for all the culture and science humanity has created that will surely stand as our highest achievements, we are also responsible for that greatest failing, faith, and the untruthful, immoral and perverted religions that feed off and on it.

How much longer can people keep pretending that Bronze Age truths are more relevant than things discovered and agreed upon since? As a society we have an ongoing conversation about morality and ethics, while yearly science explains more and more about the universe. Yet still people beat a path to the doors of the churches and mosques in search of answers, why? In his book Pale Blue Dot Carl Sagan wrote: How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that expressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Religion is the ignorance of yesteryear being foisted on the present and the future by ignorant men keen on maintaining power at all costs. We must do all we can to fight back. Spread the word.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: to_scarlet_hue
2008-01-20 05:27 pm (UTC)
Nice video. I already knew all that, but he does a good job of summing it all up in just a few minutes.

lol @ "sadomasochistic orgy of hatred".
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-21 07:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, Carl Sagan's Cosmos should be mandatory viewing in high schools. He so clearly expresses scientific concepts and encourages critical thinking, two things kids are never taught - a criminal situation. What is also criminal is the level of ignorance about evolution in your country, we must do all we can to spread the word. Take away the religions' ability to claim a monopoly on the truth and half the work is done.
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From: prophetxi
2008-01-21 09:11 am (UTC)
Can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-21 09:32 am (UTC)
The Amoeba dubia also has the largest genome known to date. This protozoan genome has 670 billion base pairs of DNA, over 200 times larger than the human genome.

I thought you read Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near? In that, Kurzweil explained that raw size was not the be all and end all. If you accept that all land-based life forms evolved from fish as evolution suggests, then by looking at the complexity and size of our genome relative to say the Coelacanth's you'll have to say there has been some refinement, to say nothing of our achievements outside the evolutionary sphere.

Also, read this:
http://richarddawkins.net/article,2129,Canadian-fossil-makes-waves-in-Huckabees-presidential-run,Randy-Boswell-The-Ottawa-Citizen
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From: prophetxi
2008-01-21 12:40 pm (UTC)
I found this interesting:

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From: kamaron
2008-01-21 09:34 am (UTC)
Have you seen ZEITGEIST?
it's about things that many ignore, spread the word
you can watch it on youtube or download directly from the page

http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com

Realizing that all beliefs are not as true as they claim to be is how we will evolute.. that's the next step.

one step beyond
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-21 09:37 am (UTC)
http://community.livejournal.com/theendoffaith/12446.html

Based on that I haven't seen it yet, but there is a difference between conspiracy theories (if there are none in that film then I apologise) and bona-fide FACTS, which are what I'm trying to encourage here. I'm all for open conversations, but our priority must always be the truth above a good story.
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From: kamaron
2008-01-21 10:18 am (UTC)
it maybe contain a bit of both
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[User Picture]From: goratrixx
2008-01-22 01:54 pm (UTC)
The narrow-mindedness of the conservative right seems all the more horrific now as I write from the enlightenment and reason of another Scandanavian country. We (societies affected by this trend) just have it so wrong to be going back to religious conservatism and I don't know where it's gone wrong. Some writers argue that uncertainty caused by poor employment prospects and financial/family stresses encourages people to grasp to order and regime and certainty in such a manner.

I really think that that is true - ours and the American society, based on the American workplace and social arrangements, encourages this fanatacism as over here, where the social system aims to encourage and facilitate people, religious fanatacism is not so high, even though a large proportion of Scandanavians identify as Christians.

Sorry, I'm projecting a little at the moment, it's just the more time that I spend away from Australia the more upset I get about neo-conservatism.

I do think that you do need to chill out a bit on the "science is where it all begins and ends" though. I think this is also what I was trying to get at with the "purple prose" discussion that we had recently - try to avoid sticking to ideologies or systems that define things for you. If you google "labelling theory" you may get an idea as to what I'm talking about, if you're not already up on it. Yes, we have science, however our own experience and existential ways of looking at the universe need to flow through this. Yes, we have scientific phenomena, but to me the way that I choose to define myself on this Earth and the decisions that I make are far more important and meaningful to me.
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-23 12:54 pm (UTC)

Part 1

I too envy the Scandinavian countries, where many identify themselves as nominally "Christian", but have the lowest church attendance rates worldwide. The difference between Scandinavia and the rest of the west is that they have TRUE socialism, not communist crap, but a system whereby the state (through high taxation) supports the populace and invests in important skills from research and development to encouragement of the arts. Compare that to the "free" market society we have imported almost wholesale from America. Everyone is convinced now that low-taxation/low social spending/small government is the way to go, ever since the Regean years this myth has been perpetuated and goes on with the new generation of neoconservatives, who bring nothing new but religious allegiances to an already failing system. They are breeding a new class of working poor to prop up their power then convincing them because "we all share the same religion" that voting for them is a must, never mind those latte-sipping liberal types with their fancy learnin', good ol' fashioned folksy rhetoric and religion will appeal to lowest common denominator and thus will win you elections.

More on that here: http://community.livejournal.com/theendoffaith/26588.html

Compare this duping of the mug-public to the enlightenment science brings and we get to the crux of why I think this issue is so important.
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-23 12:54 pm (UTC)

Part 2

I looked up that "labelling theory", and while an intriguing psychological and legal talking point, it really has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The difference here is between truth and lies; reality supported by evidence and fiction obscured by dogma. It pains me to upbraid a good friend, but I believe that you really have no understanding of the scientific method. No one is denying we all have personal experiences that affect our thinking profoundly, but my historical association with gravity does not bring the fact of its' existence into question no matter how existential I get. Of course there have been bad individual scientists, but the scientific method of testable hypotheses, repeated experiments, rigorous fact-checking and peer-review ensure that we can be as confident of scientific facts as we can be of anything. Richard Feynman compared the [the precision of quantum mechanics] to predicting a distance as great as the width of North America to an accuracy of one human hair's breadth. No religion or personal intuition can even come close - this is why we put our “faith” in science.

To quote once more from Carl Sagan when comparing science to religion: Is it fair to be suspicious of an entire profession because of a few bad apples? There are at least two important differences, it seems to me. First, no one doubts that science actually works, whatever mistaken and fraudulent claim may from time to time be offered. But whether there are any "miraculous" cures from faith-healing, beyond the body's own ability to cure itself, is very much at issue. Secondly, the exposé of fraud and error in science is made almost exclusively by science. But the exposure of fraud and error in faith-healing is almost never done by other faith-healers. I trust science as much as I trust anything because of its' methods. The point I'm making here is that no matter how traditional it is, creationism is flat out wrong, and anyone who believes it just because they were told it was true has been deluded, and anyone who understands evolution but choses the "the scriptural explanation" is a fool.

Of course it’s the decisions we make that affect us the most, but you'd be happy I'd imagine, to concede that you make those decisions because of electro-chemical activity within your brain. Just because we understand part of this process that doesn’t make it any less amazing, sometimes the more we know the more wondrous we find the cosmos is. There is much we don't understand, but still quite a bit we do, and that does not remove the human equation by any means, our idiosyncrasies define us and there will always be lively debate and conjecture amongst people as the best way to ultimate understanding. However in my admiration of science and my condemnation of religion, I am basing my position on facts that cannot be disputed, and facts are not subjective, only their interpretation is, which is another story altogether....
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[User Picture]From: goratrixx
2008-01-26 02:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Part 2

I was really talking about Labelling Theory to try to give some background to my concerns about dogmas, in particular, that in your opposition to one you've thrown in your towel with another, i.e. put your "faith" there. Please don't interpret my response as an opposition to science - yes, there are problems with science but it doesn't mean scientific discoveries need to be dismissed. I understand scientific process quite well - I have a psych major as well and although psychology is often not called a real science as it deals with variables that are hard to quantify, it certainly employs scientific methodology. You certainly haven't "upbraided" me - it's difficult to convey meanings online and one cannot clarify areas of confusion in this sort of context. Further, I think that we have very different points of view. I guess that I'm just such a powerful believer in my own self-determination that I find it hard to belong to any particular institution. But prior discussions have revealed that we have differences in opinion about biological determinism as well :)

Sorry if I sounded a bit harsh earlier, I have been a bit full-on in my last few comments. If I've been too full-on then feel free to email me and vent, I know that you're not an emotional retard and can set it straight if need be.
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-28 12:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Part 2

Ah well I don't need to vent at anyone, I welcome all robust debate here.

The great Ernest Rutherford, the father of modern nuclear physics once famously declared "In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting." but of course that is not a widely held view. I understand how psychology could be maligned by some, but just if anything psychologists have to be even more meticulous in their experimentation because of the incorporeal nature of what they are studying. I was just wondering what your position on this was because you mentioned before that you used to mistrust scientists and I wasn't sure why.

Self-determination I would call the antithesis of religion being a sceptic is a noble thing (not of course when taken to extremes and believing in regular UFO visits or that Freemasons were responsible for September 11) but science is a broad church if I can use the term and so there is plenty of room for continued discussion until we arrive at truths that are both absolute and personally subjective. If I believe one thing about you, who's to say I'm right or wrong, only you and nothing can quantify that, so there will always be the personal along with the empirical.
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[User Picture]From: yobadself
2008-01-25 07:03 pm (UTC)
I definitely find evolution more amazing and compelling than, "he spoke, and so it was." Plus...ya know...that whole logic/science thing.
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-28 03:29 am (UTC)
But of course, however it's incredible and pathetic that while you're correct, you are in a minority in your country, why are so many of your neighbours so unwilling what is right before their eyes? One only has to look at domesticated crops and animals to see how humans can harness the power of evolution, and one only has to compare chimpanzees with at least 98% identical DNA to us to see how it has worked its' natural course. Then there is the undisputed geological, biological and archaeological evidence that dates our planet and even human civilisation to thousands of years BEFORE the creationists claim the universe popped out of their god's kitchen. Why are your neighbours so stupid, and what can we do about it?

I agree completely with you (and with Carl Sagan!) that evolution is more amazing and compelling that creationist drivel, but even if it were dull and boring like they claim, that doesn't make it any less true. I think the problem we have in society is that the truth doesn't count for as much as it should. The crass, over the top circus mentality of evangelical Christianity might entertain the ignorant masses, but why aren't people asking the tough questions of the shaky foundation that lies under the glitz and showmanship? Would people rather be entertained by lies or swallow reality even when it might ask tough questions instead of providing easy answers? Somehow I think we know the answer to that....
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[User Picture]From: losfer
2008-01-26 12:22 am (UTC)
Science and fact are the weapons we must take up to battle and ultimately win the war against religous retardation.
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[User Picture]From: saithkar
2008-01-28 03:31 am (UTC)
But how can we convince people who have turned their back on fact and reality for delusional fantasy promising infinite rewards? While many are already lost to reasohn, we have to ensure that they cannot poison their children's minds with the same rubbish so that the next generation may have a chance. That's why it's so important to spread the word about evolution, it's both wonderous and true, and lies should never be tolerated.
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