Archive for October 8th, 2010

Scientific spiritualism as an animating force.

Oct 08, 2010 in Religion

I try not to rub my deeper thoughts in people’s faces, but this guy was talking some serious shit before this exchange:

Very Unpleasant Rightwinger: we are a clump of dna yet we have value. how is that?

ME: Who told you DNA was valueless? Without DNA, there’d be no Bible, no Jesus, and no myopic little assovertincups to cheerlead his rightwing buddies.

You aren’t really talking about value, you’re using the value each of us understands to be inherent in human life as a bargaining chip to establish your version of God. The classic line of reasoning goes something like this: Ah, look at the lovely children. You value them! But you think they are DNA, water and chemicals, thus you do not value them! I think they’re made of God’s tears, so I value them!

Well, what the hell makes God’s progeny so special…if they aren’t special? The rocks and trees and microbes are God’s progeny too, no?

Do you have any idea what matter really is? Do you realize you are mostly empty space? Do you realize that your sense of the physical is nothing more than a series of emergent patterns, fractally repeating? Relationships between particles that we still don’t understand, in a medium we still don’t understand. Values, compounding upon values. Truths, echoing through nature and manifesting in our brains, elegant patterns that we can only feel humble amidst.

The problem is most people are too scientifically illiterate to really get beyond their monkey-brained ways of seeing the world, and that you need stories about God and souls to put your true worth in understandable terms. They’re very true in a sense, just not literally in the way you see them.

Yet none of this fits in your little “GODLESS LIBRULS KILLING BABIES!” box. The truth is, you don’t value life much at all and will gladly condemn others to death to square your vision with the world. You guys sit in here and spend every day slagging on those who work to do good for the poor, and who try to use the instrument of government, democratically controlled, to help the less fortunate. You call them every name in the book, and then act self-righteous because you like to tell women what to do with their bodies. Yes, sometimes liberals can be guilty of doing arithmetic with human lives, but I’ve yet to see a one of you live above that standard. Even (you) will gladly let doctors and firemen stand by while innocents die, just to teach others a lesson about “responsibility.” The right-o-sphere concurs.

Okay, I was somewhat angry. This guy was a grade-A bonehead. The nicer way of putting things is that I can actually sit down in a church nowadays and mostly concentrate on what I have in common with the people around me, because really, my life has been about trying to find that glory in our lives, but my way. And I’ve come to the same conclusions that many religious people have come to: Literalism and fundamentalism aren’t fruitful to deep thought or even good conduct. They obscure man’s greater faculties and describe them as dangerous. Heretical accusations soon follow. Pious people should be treated with suspicion. Quiet ways can often teach best (though I only know how to practice this in life, not necessarily in blogging).

Just don’t tell me that I don’t value life, especially when I’m the guy heartsick that a generation is becoming terminally unemployable and I’m trying to urge my president to rise to the occasion. I’m trying to urge my nation to rise to the occasion, and to be the great people we are capable of being. When America is at its best, none of the others can compare. When America has come together to solve our collective problems, we’ve done great deeds and saved countless millions from poverty and death. This truly is one of those times again, and the government needs to intervene to create demand where the private market isn’t picking up the slack. It’s not only practical, but it’s deeply good. Telling me a good deed isn’t a good deed just because the government did it doesn’t wash. After all, who elects the government? To the extent that we can sway it towards beneficial actions, it must necessarily possess the same positive value. If government assistance helps a child, that is a pure good, undiluted. It matters not who feeds that child.

It’s much the same with the question of our value. It matters not to our worth because there may or may not be a sentient Deity out there. I am sentient. As awesome as I am, um, I know there are many others even more awesome. The awesomeness quotient of humanity is something any God should be respectful of. After all, how could God be a dullard and a moron to not be impressed by Shakespeare? A billion love poems scribbled in notebooks? The intricacy of the human voice? An amazing experiment in space-time properties that kept combining until intelligence arose. It is simply more than one person can fully absorb.

How do we not regard it as possible that this process is actually a form of intelligence itself? It is in many remarkable ways an ultimately rational universe. There is no action without an equal and opposite reaction. Apply a rough approximation of that to human nature and you can see the connections that bind our deepest personal metaphors to the primal forces of Nature itself.

Yes, I can get ornery but…

Sometimes, I must be a rock.

-hw