Crossing the Rubicon

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon by Fouquet

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon – Fouquet

It would seem that my claim — that you are entitled to adhere to any philosophy you wish as long as your conduct does not endanger me, and that we have come to the point where, whatever your philosophy argues, it will most likely endanger me if it is not evidence based and it informs your behavior –has disturbed the force.

We have a land full of fundamentalist wingnuts, yes, but perhaps the more dangerous population are the new-agers involved in what I can only suggest is neo-spiritualism (turn about is fair play, I think, as these folk argue that Dawkins et al are neo-atheists.) Unfortunately, these otherwise clever folk offer the likes of Ken Ham steerage when he talks about science being a faith and the value of religion. This is the heavy cavalry in the 21st century attack on “freethinkers” and their calls to arms are that religion not only has great social benefit, but may reflect ultimate truth. And the more comprehensive the argument that there is no demonstrable validity to either claim, the more virulent the attack. The Sarewitzs of the world are more dangerous because they present as plausible the logically inadequate and inconsistent as acceptable to the scientific mind, they provide religious nonsense with a stamp of modern approval and somehow suggest that Eastern religion and quantum mechanics are coming together to form a new cosmic understanding. Om mani padme humbug.

vinegar tasters

The Vinegar Tasters.

The problem, as I attempted to put it in the first paragraph, is that we no longer have the time or space to allow people to do moronic things. Trusting in magic in a closed system with a lit fuse is not acceptable policy. Now, I have to admit that the pendular argument has something to offer, and while I am horrified by the constant attempts to analogize science to philosophy the physics of harmonic motion (periodic motion where the restoring force is directly proportional to the displacement) do offer some food for thought. Is Q’uranic patience, Dao-ist acceptance, best practice?  Shall we smile, fools on the hill, as the lemmings throw themselves off the cliff, until the wheel turns? I don’t know if I am equipped for dung heap sitting, certainly not without substantially more meditation. And of what use is the argument for an evidence based ethic, if we are condemned to suffer the slings an arrows of outrageous harmonics.

Faith comes with no guarantee. But, as Taleb reminds us, neither does evidence. However, it is the irrational leap into likely disaster with paper bags over our heads that worries me. I have no problem with enlightened codes of behavior, whatever their purported sources, but if you believe that the world will be magically cleansed by an old white dude and his circumcised son, we are going to have problems (and I mean, you and me, as well as globally.)

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Blankenbicker, Adam. “Why I Don’t Believe in Science…and Students Shouldn’t Either.” Sci-Ed, September 2, 2013. Accessed February 20, 2014. http://blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/09/02/why-i-dont-believe-in-science-and-students-shouldnt-either/.
Coyne, Jerry A. “No Faith in Science.” Slate, November 14, 2013. Accessed November 29, 2013. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/11/faith_in_science_and_religion_truth_authority_and_the_orderliness_of_nature.html.
Herman, Joan L., Ellen Osmundson, and Ronald Dietel. Benchmark Assessment for Improved Learning. An AACC Policy Brief. Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center, 2010.
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan the Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York, NY: Random House, 2005.

 

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