Archive for Religion

Picking Battles

Posted in Politics and Society, Science! with tags , , , on April, 2011 by melendwyr

From Ian Sample’s Guardian interview with Sir Martin Rees, who lately was awarded the Templeton Prize:

IS: What do you make of the approach to science and religion issues taken by Richard Dawkins and those of his ilk?

MR: I won’t comment on him, but I’m not allergic to religion. I would say two things. One is that I think all of us are concerned about fanaticism and fundamentalism and we need all the allies we can muster against it. And I would see Rowan Williams et al as being on our side. I admire them more than want to rubbish them. Another point is if you are teaching Muslim sixth formers in a school and you tell them they can’t have their God and Darwin, there is a risk they will choose their God and be lost to science. So those are two respects where I would disagree with the emphasis of the professional atheists, as it were.

My questions: if they would choose religious belief over evidence and reasoned argument, aren’t they already lost to science? What benefit accrues to science if people who would make such a choice believe it not to be necessary? Particularly as analysis quickly reveals that to be nonsense – the fork is very real and cannot be honestly avoided.


Secular Right: Futility

Posted in Politics and Society, Reviews with tags , , , , on August, 2009 by melendwyr

Heather MacDonald suggests that all her posturing about the foolishness of religion is a way of attracting young people to conservatism, of “rebranding” it. She seems to think that the young are running away from institutions like the GOP in droves because of their theistic stances.

So her anti-religious rhetoric has nothing to do with Reality or Reason (the two things that SR is supposedly about), but is entirely a means toward her end – which seems to be the propagation of what is commonly called “social conservatism”, or so I presume.

Meanwhile, religious morons dominate the discussions. I mean, just look at this guy. That’s the sort of comment that’s all over the place on SR – not because the morons are exerting themselves, but because no one is saying anything of value. Are the morons shouted down? Are the glaring errors in their arguments acknowledged, much less condemned, by anyone? No.

I’m ‘conservative’ because I think change should be approached with caution – which is not to imply that it’s not inevitable, or not desirable. I think the best of the past should be carefully preserved, and care taken to see that the things we introduce to history are worthwhile; I don’t want to back blindly into the future.

In other words, I want to preserve the legacy of Jefferson in “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg” mode, regarding what should be tolerated. Not “maybe we shouldn’t execute homosexuals, just castrate them instead” mode. (Well, that’s more tolerant than the general view at the time, but I think you get my point.) Or “let’s declare blacks to be two-thirds of a person for purposes of voting assignments”. Or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are natural rights, but I need to be able to own slaves.” Those are aspects that I don’t see the value in preserving.

The people who want to preserve that sort of stuff aren’t necessarily conservatives. But they are morons. Pure and simple.

I don’t think it’s the GOP’s theism that’s driving people away. It’s their authoritarian, culturally reactive, narrow-mindedness. Those aren’t traits that make up the best parts of our historical legacy. They’re not things I want to preserve and encourage. I want political groups that are based in reason and reality, not ideological stances that proclaim to possess a continuity with a better past while not actually representing what the past was really like. I want stances to be taken because they’re true and correct, instead of being advertising gimmicks.

I’m increasingly of the belief that SR isn’t interested in providing those things.

As long as the religious morons believe they can be influential without having to give up their attempts to promote their delusions, they’ll keep promoting them. The only way to get the religiously conservative to work for the cause of secular conservatism is for secularism to become sufficiently powerful in its own right that the religious feel they have something to gain by allying with it – and something to lose by not doing so. Power attracts power; strength attracts strength. At least in the nonsensical, limbic-brained world of politics.

MacDonald isn’t just going about things in the wrong way, she has the wrong goals. And no one else is doing much contributing to SR, so she’s establishing the site’s message by default.