Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thinking Like a Cosmologist

All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists - The New Yorker:

This article is a bad example of thought, but a good example of the sort of thinking someone schooled in physics and not much else engages in. The base problem of human knowledge is that it is done by humans. There is only so much that a single person can know, no matter how brilliant they may be. When they focus on one thing to become very expert in it (a worthy cause), we know that they likely have very deep knowledge in that subject, so far so good.  The way the world works, that means their knowledge about most everything else is quite shallow.

Beyond that the shallowness, all but the wise fail the "Man's got to know his limitations" test -- absolutely everything "known" is "known" ONLY from the perspective of easily fooled and mortal man -- as evidenced by the author of the article, prideful beyond all reason. We could wax on at length about man's limits -- "when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is another good one to apply here -- if you are a scientist it is easy to think you have the most important knowledge, and it ought to be applied to the exclusion of other knowledge.

Being finite beings, we have a choice between being "Knowing everything about nothing, or nothing about everything". Unfortunately, even that is an inadequate description of our limits -- I'm closer to knowing nothing about everything, but even so, each day I find some part of "everything" that I was totally unaware of!

Here is a paragraph that illustrates some of this from the article .
The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another. That’s one of the reasons why a modern secular society generally legislates against actions, not ideas. No idea or belief should be illegal; conversely, no idea should be so sacred that it legally justifies actions that would otherwise be illegal.
The author has discovered the point (which even he claims to be "obvious") that "people see things differently" ... even more so, they see things as "widely varied in importance" (eg sacred, profane, good, bad, stupid, meaningless, etc).

So "modern society" legislates against "ideas vs actions". Can he name a society that didn't or doesn't legislate against actions vs ideas outside of George Orwell books or potentially our existing society with "hate speech"? The fact is that NONE of us know what others are thinking -- even speech is an "action", and if he believes that our "modern secular society" is somehow very "open" on that topic, he really needs to write an article on how it is OK to call other people N**S, Wetbacks, Faggots, ... etc. since those are "only words".

Therefore  his paragraph is nonsense -- nobody legislates against ideas, but US "secular society" comes as close as anyone has in a long time with their concept of "hate speech" and "hate crimes" ... so his supposed "model society" is a great example of what he claims he is trying to combat!
The government has a compelling interest in insuring that all citizens are treated equally. But “religious freedom” advocates argue that religious ideals should be elevated above all others as a rationale for action. In a secular society, this is inappropriate.
In what used to be the US, "The Government" was a servant of the people and was very limited in what it could do. When the government was limited, it was required to treat all people equally. If it was still so required there would be no "progressive" income tax, affirmative action. hate speech or crimes, etc. The government would be limited from doing a great many of the things that infringe on religious liberty today -- religious liberty supposedly guaranteed under that same Constitution that is no longer in force.

So in this paragraph, the author apparently finds one supposed "law of the land", ... religious freedom is inappropriate in a "secular society". Interestingly enough, since freedom of speech is under the same clause in the Constitution, is that ALSO disallowed in a "secular society"?

So what IS a "secular society"? He doesn't say -- it appears to have no "values", so one would assume no fixed rules at all. He does point out "The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems." So why did he not just stop the column there? If it is all purposeless and meaningless, why waste our time? Clearly he does not truly believe that -- because he hates God and religion. His hatred is at least enough to a motivator for him to write a column, so at least hatred still holds meaning for him in a supposedly purposeless universe.

He does say this at the end .
We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass to governments—totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic—that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered “sacred.” Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance. We should celebrate this openly and enthusiastically, regardless of whom it may offend.
So then holding NOTHING sacred becomes sacred -- we have seen this "Brave New World" before  -- eugenics? genocide? slavery? medical experiments on human subjects? the Gulag? ... the shop of horrors is endless. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot -- this is an old movie. God is dead, all praise the man with the strongest "Will to POWER" (Nietzsche) ! Why not? ... it is all purposeless -- so any purpose found must be from the bootstraps of a "Superman" -- he with the greatest will to power!

 Certainly a Constitution that limits the government can't be "sacred" -- as it is no longer is here, otherwise we would not be having this discussion. We would be having a discussion about a gay "marriage" amendment passing both houses of congress by 2/3 majorities -- followed by a discussion on it passing 3/4 of the states.

**IF** it passed -- and it seems highly likely that if there was to be ANY chance of that, it would have included some sort of allowance for the first amendment religious freedom that the column author hates, in order to make it able to pass. Those are the sort of compromises that were the essence of what was once America under rule of law.

But as it is, we have no "law" to be compared with "religion" -- because we ALREADY hold nothing sacred as a nation, so there is no Constitution as a basis for law, and therefore no law to followed save raw power.

Which apparently to this cosmologist is either "fine" or "unknown" ... since his thinking on these subjects of law, rights, politics, morals, etc is so fuzzy as to defy parsing for any real meaning beyond that he hates God and religion and is very confused about the other topics he covers.

One hopes he seeks out an oncologist rather than a fellow physicist if he ever needs cancer treatment!

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