Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

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I've spent the last two days worrying away at a problem at work. On the face of it, it was quite simple - get systems reporting for a bunch of new servers, and share them on an internal website with spiffy graphs. But at each step of the way, something was busted, and had to be fixed. It meant learning a handful of new skills, trouble-shooting a dozen finicky things, and generally delving deep into How Unix Works. I hate it and love it at the same time - but certainly the day whips on by when you've got your head really stuck in a problem.

So a bunch of things have been on my mind lately. I mean, of course, the usual alone-at-holidays sort of low-level crap. But more weighty stuff, too. Context, atheism, materialism-vs-dualistic universe, true love, and reason.

Context: Several times recently things which have seemed shocking in one context were entirely normal in another. This is a trivial observation, to be sure - but there are more interesting corollaries. I have friends in Iraq who come home ill equipped to deal with an entirely different context in civillian life. Another friend in the industry who says things that are workady for her, but out of context, shocking to me. A relationship that on one coast was impossible, but in the context of separate ends of the continent, wholly different.

Atheism: I've read Dawkins' "God Delusion" and excerpts of Hitchens' "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything". I've also read excerpts of Haught's "God and the New Atheists". I have much sympathy for Dawkins and Hitchens point of view - which if nothing else insists that reason and empirical observation are the only thing which we can confim positively in this world - and that faith often leads to blind prejudices and refutation of what is obviously true. Witness that 1/2 of today's Republican candidates for President of the United States of America either outright deny, or claim not to be certain of, Darwin's theory of differentiation of species through evolution. In a way it's unfortunate that evolution is such a battleground, because in terms of a defense of science, it's not the best. Why not astronomy? Of course, Biblical literalists also deny the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe. All for what? Goat-herds' scriptures written three thousand years ago that, while perhaps valid observations of human spirit - were worthless as observations of the physical workings of the world. Haught argues that the "new atheists" aren't as intellectually rigorous as old school atheists like Sarte - and in that, at least, I think he's right. But on the other hand, he suggests that the unknowability of the origin of things is sufficient to include God - but isn't courageous enough to suggest that Christ was literally resurrected. It's sort of sloppy work, philosophically - if the central most important tenets of the Bible, and I think God as creator God, and the resurrection of Christ are probably those two - aren't actually true - what is it that makes any of it true? If nothing is specifically true, why is it any of it true in abstraction?

Material Unvierse / Dualistic Universe: Almost all religions require a dualistic universe - i.e. one which consists of both a physical and observable component - and a spiritual and unobservable component. Science only comments, however, on what we can observe. There's been a lot of folderol about science itself being a religion - which is absurd. Science asserts nothing but that it can also be refuted. This is precisely the opposite of faith - which asserts nothing which CAN be refuted. Science at it's best simply doesn't concern itself with an ostensible spiritual universe - even if that spirtual universe exists, they are, in the words of one of my favorite thinkers, Stephen Jay Gould, "Non-overlapping magisteria". My grandfather (coincidentally a Gould, and related to Stephen Jay) who was a man of deep faith and regular church attendance - always submitted that science picks up where faith leaves off; and that if God created the universe, the more we know about it, the more we know about his design. Seemed sensible and final at the time. Even non Abrahamic religions - Buddhism, Taoism, require that there is some part of the universe which isn't directly observable. My rational Western mind agrees entirely - if we can't observe it, we can't act as if it were true. Making conclusions based on the unproveable is a logical error. And yet...there is something there, something sublime that the heart answers to which the mind simply can't comment on. It is found in the natural world, in the human spirit, in words - but it's sublime. What is it?

True Love: I asked a friend - an old flame, really - what she thought "True Love" really is. In listening to her answer, I realized I had none for myself. None at all. And later that night, talking to the cat, I told her that I loved her more than anything or anyone on earth. Sadly, it was nearly true - though in a cold, calculating moral-calculus sort of way (Bentham would be proud!) I'd of course choose the health and welfare of my family and friends over that of my cat. But I'd bitterly resent having to make the choice - and for sure, the cat has never let me down. Except for throwing up on my bedspread. And maybe that's true love? Someone never letting you down, except for throwing up on the bedspread?

Reason: I am sick to death of people defending values which do not come from reason. "That's just how I feel." is not a justification. Policy and politics not based on reason are wrong. The war on drugs, such as it is, has not ameliorated that which it purports to address. So why do we do it? A whole host of reasons which aren't true, but are just laden in sentiment and BS. Even love - most sublime of feelings - won't flourish if there's not some logical underpinning to it. We must think like scientists, govern like Vulcans - and love like Romantics. But always, in all things, reason must prevail. It's sadly lacking in the world, in the U.S. The hideous way that women are treated is anything but reasonable. The absurd hate of gay people is not based on reason. American policy, news-reporting, and campaigning, are based on fear more often than anything. Caution can be reasonable (though isn't necessarily) but fear is not. Fear is the mammal, reason is the human. Give in to fear, and we find ourselves governed by increasingly despotic assholes who suborn precious American values. What is clearly a war-crime, a felony for which Americans and foreigners have been tried and convicted in the past - suddenly the highest legal authority on the land won't comment as to whether it's torture or not. It fucking is - what the hell happened to the country I went off and served? FUCK! Well, this is more a diatribue than anything. Maybe I should just delete it. Fuck it, no one's reading by now anyway.

All of these are incomplete thoughts - but I'm putting down skeletons.

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