Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day - a different perspective

For another example of how technology is totally changing the world and how we interact and relate to each other go check out Sanya Weathers' take on Memorial Day over at Eating Bees. It's a gaming blog, as Sanya was the Community Director for DAOC and now for GuildCafe and was blogging about MMOs before the term "blog" existed. So though the comments might be a little impenetrable for some, one can't help but understand this:

...I crossed off names with a yellow highlighter when Johnny and Jane came marching home or at least back to a place with air conditioning and internet access hurrah, hurrah.

Sometimes I used a black marker. Not often. But enough.
Regardless of your thoughts on the war (and please don't use the comments to discuss it), I'd like to remember this Memorial Day that people who are "just playing a game" have a great impact on each other's lives and that the loss of a member of a "virtual community" hurts, too.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

On getting old(er)

I often tell my wife, "The fact that I'm not as old as I'm going to get in no way mitigates the fact that I am already old." Sort of. I usually don't use words like "mitigate" with my wife because she laughs at me and then corrects my grammar. The point, however, stands.

At Voodoo Fest in October, I was with some friends waiting for Rage Against the Machine to take the stage when the following was shouted by one of them:

"I don't want to sound like an old man, here, but this little girl next to me is mad at me because I'm standing on her pants. Are you fucking kidding me?! Standing on your pants?! What the fuck is wrong with you?"
I had to agree, especially since a guy next to me had just asked me rather politely if I could step off of his pants and I was happy to be able to properly ridicule the idea without directing it at him.

I found myself in a similar "I don't want to sound old, ..." situation tonight at the movies. (More after the break)

First off, let me say that I hate text messages or "texting". It is a thoroughly ridiculous and inefficient method of communication. I understand its advantages and use it (sparingly) in situations in which more conventional forms of communication (like shouting across the room)are rude and/or inconvenient. The middle of a major hurricane is one of those situations in which text messages are invaluable, if still distasteful. I'm not anti-technology, I just dislike this particular medium.

The kid next to my wife and I would not stop texting through the entire movie. What's the big deal, right? If he had been using a regular phone, maybe it wouldn't be. But he had one of those big do-everything-but-jack-you-off phones with a huge screen that was distractingly bright. We're not in your fucking living room, dude! Watch the fucking movie! He finally stopped when my wife leaned over and started reading over his shoulder. I was so proud.

When the movie was over, I saw upwards of ten kids ranging from 13 to 17 years old pick up their phones and start texting as they were walking out of the theater! Hadn't even gotten down the aisle. Please stop telling(?) Mary Sue Bob whatever drivel is passing through your under-developed noggin long enough to avoid stepping on my fucking feet. And dude, I understand and admire the dexterity involved in simultaneously texting and taking a piss, but just disconnect for crying out loud! At the very least, it's unsanitary. Yeah, you won't be laughing when you get gonorrhea of the face.

I know, I know. My parents didn't understand why I had to have music drowning out the world all the time and these kids will have children and not understand the constant need of the hive-mind buzzing in their brains. I just wish it didn't make me feel so old.

BTW, the new Indiana Jones totally rocks.

UPDATE 5-26: Apparently, the Russians are pissed off about Indiana Jones, which is off topic, but fucking funny. Thanks to Broken Toys for the link.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big Brother Jam

You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back

From Rolling Stone, apparently Big Brother Is Producing Your Rock Video!

...the rockers performed in front of several of the city’s 200,000 CCTV cameras and then used something like the Freedom of Information Act to acquire their footage...
Gaming the System.
Social Hacking.
Culture Jamming.

Whatever you want to call it, it's cool.

Props for the discovery go to jeffrey over at Library Chronicles.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

A glimmer...

Tonight, at my cousin's high school graduation, I heard something that gave me a little hope for our current faith/science problems.

My cousin goes to an all-boys Catholic high school in Baton Rouge. The Bishop of Baton Rouge was officiating the mass. This is the same bishop that, 16 years and two weeks ago, got drunk with me and my friends in a bar we rented after our all-boys Catholic high school graduation in New Orleans. (Stop it. We had girls there, too.) He was just a lowly auxiliary bishop back then, not the full-fledged head of a major Diocese that he is now.

During the homily, he brings up the Hubble telescope and the wonders of the universe and, of course, how God made all of that and he also made us and isn't all of that so wonderful. In the middle of it all, he says that "scientists" (you all know those guys, right) say that not only is the universe 13 billion years old but one can see the beginnings of the universe through the Hubble.

He attributes it all to the Glory of God(c), of course. Still, in a time when even the most powerful Christian on Earth, the leader of hundreds of millions of Catholics, is giving legitimacy to the ridiculous notion of "Intelligent Design," a bishop down here in Protestant-gutted Louisiana (especially Baton Rouge - don't even get me started) is talking up science to a room full of conservative Christians. Mostly Catholics, but still.

It's something.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Art for art's sake?

This is ridiculously incredible.

Don't ask, just go.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Logic is Not the Opposite of Faith

If you’ve taken the time to spy any chunk of ideas I’ve written about, it’ll probably come as no surprise that I am very into the strictures of debate, even the lesser frequented unwritten rules of plain discussion. Yes, my wife hates me. Points of order are easy complaints for me to make, as so many believe their own utterances to be expressed in a debate-worthy fashion when, in truth, many are just blathering intellectually without any steerage. Kind of like this paragraph!

This does not mean, however, that every discussion is a formal debate or that I expect hard core forensics to be applied to a friendly, verbal tête-à-tête. Sure, it would be nice, but I cannot, myself, maintain that infinitive level of focus. (One must always leave time to watch Star Trek.) So, a number of family members have seized varying occasions to ask me, “What tactic crops up most frequently without ever actually leading to debate?” Hands down, that would be the idea that logic is the opposite of faith. It deserves debate, but persistently comes from people who don’t know how.

While no one has ever said to me, outright, that logic is the opposite of faith, the notion creeps into and through plenty of discussions as if it is a given. A completely viable thinker can stand right there, ask you your reasons, listen to the dissertation of logical proofs you offer up as the very definition of REASON itself, and then counter confidently with, “Sounds like you have to give it up to God, “ or some non-sense about the great mystery. The problem is not that folks believe in such blueprints to the universe, it is simply that they’ve impacted nothing for the sake of the discussion. They’ve neither proved nor disproved, agreed nor disagreed, helped nor hurt the conversation. They’ve made the time you’ve taken to explain yourself, time wasted. It is little different from taking a half hour to describe your ground-breaking research on Project Blue Book, by request, only to have the requester respond with, “I hear the barley crop is in for a harsh season.” You might as well have been talking to the Wailing Wall.

While I’ve no doubt that the idea of logic as the “opposite” of faith began with logicians who recognized illogic in the manners that some people had chosen to express their beliefs, this wordplay now seems to get more often insinuated into conversation by the blind believer. It is used as a tool. It is meant to puncture a hole in any logical argument regardless of the subject matter or content. It’s treated as a trump card. By claiming that logic is the opposite of faith and thereafter claiming that you are a faithful person, it gives flimsy license to simply discount everything another person has said, baselessly. Its use smacks lightly of a child in the terrible twos.

“By comparing every layer of the Earth’s crust in reverse order, taking particular note of the fossils therein, we can see the slow and gradual changes that are the hallmarks of evolution.”


“If you said you were going to clean the car on Friday and thereafter promised that you were going to clean the car on Friday and then you spent Thursday through Sunday as a vomiting drunkard in Tijuana, what you told me was untrue.”


I suppose it’s natural to want a universal trump card. If you believe in whatever humanly frail configuration your own personal card presents in conversation, such eliminates a lot of petty annoyance, tons of conflict, and the need for anything mentally challenging on the spot. (Please read Idiocracy.) The problem with this particular zinger, the presumption that logic is the opposite of faith, is that it is not factual. Logic is not the opposite of faith. In fact, if one is truly faithful, s/he MUST embrace logic. We’ll get to that.

Logic is not the opposite of faith for a great many reasons. Among them, this Layperson’s List:

1) There are no universal opposites.

2) Logic exists as a part of “creation” and, if God exists, logic is therefore a gift from God.

3) Logic and faith are not mutually exclusive…they overlap.

The first entry on my Layperson’s List, “there are no universal opposites,” may sound highly philosophical, (meaning, of course, boring), but in actuality it is a simple misunderstanding about how we use the concept of opposites (and yes, still boring). This “opposites” concept is generally defined as “the one thing that is most unlike a given thing,” and is tainted immature in its over-application.

I touched briefly upon this misunderstanding in my piece Fun with Stereotypes, Generalizations, and Profiling when I wrote, “Philosophy 101…Students are asked to think back to the beginnings of civilization [language] and list ideas that might have been perceived as basic, universal opposites. Inevitably, through common sense, students list right and wrong, light and dark, on and off, good and evil, man and woman, yes and no, happy and sad, and other appropriate notions. The problem with the structure of supposed universal opposites is the result. Woman is somehow placed on a list with wrong, dark, evil, no, off, and sad. This is the very tender root of association as used, even by accident, for prejudicial effect.”

The illustration is an intriguing one, mostly because reading between the lines brings something to light…antonyms are a function of language, opposites are a function of thought. Neither is a function of physical reality. You see, a man is the antonym or “opposite” of a woman in word alone, not in his physical being. This is difficult for us to accept. In plain conversation it is very easy to overlook the fact that the WORD “apple” has nothing to do with a physical apple. The WORD apple helps us communicate the IDEA of an apple, even if an apple is not present in the room to point at. Two people on the phone, one saying “apple” and one hearing “apple” both share a similar IDEA as to what the conversation is about. What they CALLED that idea, however, would never alter, impact, or otherwise affect an actual piece of fruit in a bowl. An apple, by any other name, is still whatever it is. “A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

So, the WORD “man” is shown as antonym to the WORD “woman” because the language is thereby limiting the context of the communication to a DUALITY of sexes. Outside of that context (that supposed duality) might be the fact that nearly 9 percent of all newborns in the U.S.A. are born gender non-specific or the fact that “man” and “woman” are really talking about roles while “male” and “female” talk about gender. Regardless, using antonyms is a tool that limits the context to only an idealistic duality when a physical duality does not exist. Hence phrases claiming, “It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” or “What goes up, must come down.”

Let us not confuse that linguistic tool, those antonyms, those words, with limited perceptions or thoughts somehow invoking physical opposites. Let us not allow the useful existence of antonyms, antonyms that limit a context, to drive us to believe that there is never a greater context and therefore no more to understand than A is magically opposite of B.

Opposites, as a function of thought, are susceptible to all the pitfalls of subjectivity like any other idea. Hubris is one of these pitfalls, the egotistical notion that we can take a function of thought and manifest it as physical reality in order to discuss it as a fact. (Weird Science) We cannot.

See, opposites, as thoughts, are necessary. In early childhood development, the use of opposites is a teaching tool that allows us to assimilate knowledge when we are still pooping pants. Saying that one thing is MOST unlike another thing teaches us how to reason. It teaches us how to recognize differences and eventually how to assimilate and to categorize those differences. An infant might learn to recognize a cartoon picture of a dog as a dog, but then most immediately calls anything with four legs and a tail a dog. By staying on and teaching the child that the cartoon on the next page is NOT a dog, but a cat, the baby eventually recognizes those differences and can pick between both animals. As well, those two images are so basic in the U.S.A., that the child somehow learns that a dog is the opposite of a cat. That’s great for learning, but we forget once older that, in fact, a dog is not the opposite of a cat. If “opposite” is tasked to be the object most unlike the given, well doesn’t a cat have a lot more in common with a dog than, say, a Twinkie or deep space or anti-matter? Who is to say which thing is truly MOST UNLIKE another? In the same way, “day” has more in common with “night” than it does with a bologna sandwich, “up” more in common with “down” than with pencil shavings, and “order” more in common with “chaos” than a fictional character in an unpublished manuscript who has a propensity for wearing chaps.

“Opposite” is a reasoning tool. It allows us to visualize one thing, and then, with no further input, visualize a new idea perceivably 180 degrees out from the original. We then label that second idea with a name. Anti-Christ, Bizarro, Evil Spock, they are all anthropomorphizations of this mental practice. They amuse us. “Dude, those jeans have so many holes in them, they’re like the anti-pants!” Meanwhile, our amusements overlook the same practice in everyday conversation.

“Unnatural” sounds like an opposite, it sounds like anything “not natural,” but then what is “supernatural” and how does it play into the relationship of such ideas? “Abnormal” sounds like anything “not normal” and then has the same problem with the concept of “paranormal.” If “alive” is truly the opposite of “dead,” then how can we even conceptualize fictions dealing with the “undead” or loosely related existential matters? If “love” is the true opposite of “hate,” bereft of any similarity or convergence, then a “love/hate” relationship could never exist, except among the happily schizophrenic. Come on people, pencil is not the opposite of pen, pencil is not the opposite of paper, pencil is not the opposite of eraser. If a pencil could exhibit some physical property defining it as opposite to any of these three, we could never discuss the remaining two in an “opposites” context without getting tossed in a loony bin. Yet we do discuss them. We discuss all three. Almost everybody has used pencil as the opposite of all three of these in discussion. Such proves that the practice is dependent upon shifting ideas, momentary opinions, convenient retorts, a simple call to meet an isolated conversation’s need. The practice is not, and will NEVER be what many speakers claim. They claim the “opposite” attribute to be a self-evident truth, a physical reality, a given, and state that they are merely acknowledging that “fact” before spurring the conversation on. Wrong! That’s faulty foundation.

Opposites, as tools, have their place in helping us make a point, but they are never a given nor the point themselves. We build our point in conversation the way we built our mental prowess from those early childhood beginnings and so it is no wonder that opposites are part of byplay. However, they cannot be the result of that disagreement, only one tool in arriving there. I can easily say, “The rough draft of your essay was INCOMPREHINSIBLE,” in order to illustrate through hyperbola how poorly a piece has been put together. Yet, as bad as that piece may be, “incomprehensible” is a stretch. Incomprehensibility would more literally dictate that it was in code, in alien symbols and, perhaps, somehow written fourth dimensionally. The opposite of comprehensible is used for the sake of exaggeration. Notice, though, that this could not be the point of the conversation. You should never hear a speech leading up to, “In conclusion, your essay is incomprehensible,” unless, of course, the essay IS written in code, in alien symbols, and somehow fourth dimensionally. The real life conclusion will always be something other than that. It will be, “So, I insist that you write this again,” or, “So, you’ve failed the assignment,” or, “You are going to have to look for a literary agent with a death wish before you can get this published!” There is no closure in a debate that ends on a note of opposites as absolute.

Heady? Yes, perhaps. Still, that’s a veritable litany of reasons as to why opposites of any kind are a misused construct in conversation. Opposites falsely group terms together that do not belong (i.e. women and evil). Opposites are treated as antonyms with no limit to context, a backwards process that attempts to take a word’s functional status and force it into being a physical reality. Opposites are a teaching tool for immature minds, one that must be outgrown if one is to partake in adult conversation. And, in the end, opposites are never the point, never the conclusion.

These misuses in our generation are taking place in countless households to innumerable volumes. How often have you heard assertions like,

“That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,”

followed by,

“You’re wrong! It makes complete sense!”

We’ll call these speakers Phil and Norma, respectively. Their tiff is just one example that simultaneously fails multiple rigors of debate as well as the intent of plain discussion to reach agreement, all through simple misuse of an opposite.

First, Norma’s retort presumes itself to be the point, as if just mentioning an opposite wins an argument. It does not. Whatever the point is, Norma has clearly missed it.

Second, though the two statements seem related because they use similar words, Norma has actually gone completely off-topic. When Phil presents the subject matter as a flawed train-of-thought, that suspect repartee is now the pith of the disagreement, the new content. Norma is beholden to address the subject matter directly. Instead, in this case, Norma says the one thing she anticipates will allow her to AVOID addressing any part of the statement. It’s not unlike Ann asking what Tully’s financial plan is to pay off credit card debt and Tully responding with, “I see no reason to help pay down our debt when you refuse to cook dinner all the time.” Sorry Tully. We are linear beings. We are subject to a force of nature called chronology. Ann asked her question first and deserves to have it addressed first. Phil brought the suspect train-of-thought to light first and deserves to have it addressed by Norma immediately thereafter. Save the other things you wish to discuss for later. The other things may be valid concerns, but they are not valid arguments when unrelated to the most immediate topic.

Third, there’s more to life, more to this context, than a perfect duality of sense and nonsense. These are antonyms, not universal opposites. As illustrated before, “sense” has more in common with “nonsense” than it does with marzipan or the voice-over direction in FernGully. Logical sense exists. Philosophical sense exists. We all know the literary dichotomy struck between sense and sensibility. Emotions are a part of making sense of things. Cultural differences lend interpretation to sense. Ethic is a biting factor in sense. Thomas Paine separated out common sense from all other sense. Sense has components, layers. Therefore, when Phil claims that something does not make sense, it is a call for Norma to compile all such applicable building blocks to restate and to support her premise. He demands explanation. It’s a dare of sorts, knowing that if Norma cannot, she fails her point. Well, stating an opposite does none of this. It’s just as much a failure as if Norma had clammed up and said nothing. In fact it is additionally a failure in that she’s both failed her point and falsely presumed that somehow she made a valid one. Enacting this assumed reversal is actually less meaningful than if she’d said nothing. You go girl!

So, logic and faith cannot fit some conversational mold as universal opposites simply because universal opposites do not exist. Even if one wishes to compare them via this structure, one is attacking the issue from a very childlike standpoint. That might be useful to start a dialogue, feel out your listener, but if you do not therein elevate the discussion by more mature means you are simply taking the standpoint of a mentally challenged four year old. A more mature debater would realize that a more proper antonym to logic is illogic. A more proper antonym to faith is skepticism. If logic and faith are polar concepts, then their antonyms should be as well. Yet, skepticism and illogic are not treated in this way. Skeptics can be logical and can be illogical. Persons failing logic can be secular skeptics and can be faith-driven. Skepticism and illogic overlap. They meet up in areas and remain apart in others. Therefore, if the antonyms are not polar, the chosen words are not polar, not opposites.


The number two item on the Layperson’s List of reasons that logic is not the opposite of faith reads, “Logic exists as a part of ‘creation’ and, if God exists, logic is therefore a gift from God.”

I’ve always taken great offense at the implication that my simple ability to add five plus five is somehow directly influenced by Satan. “The heresy of numeracy!” Again, nobody ever actually picketed my calculus class nor did the devil himself ever bubble up in a fiery din whilst I hashed out a neat little truth table. It does seem, however, that when one gets on the specific subject of faith one is frequently asked to completely forego math, physics, and any critical reasoning skill in order to accept what another person shares at face value. It seems I am frequently put in the position of being asked, advised, or ordered to “let go.” There is merit in the act of “letting go” of course, but I am specifically talking about those who ask me to “let go” of cold, hard facts. Are not those cold, hard facts also a part of the existence in existentialism, part of the pattern in the multiverse that God designed? If I can do as you ask and let go of all quantum principal in order to understand your take on God, cannot you let go of religious staples in order to discuss another possibility? Letting go is meant to be applied to uninformed opinions. Letting go helps shed material possessions toward a happier, Walden life. It removes anger. It helps us move beyond the loss of a loved one or get over a substance addiction (in my case, bad tacos). It helps us accept defeat in order to fight again another day. Letting go is at one time a coping skill, a metaphysical practice, the foundation of peace, a test of maturity, a facing of fears, strength, and yes, a leap of faith. Given all its many flavors, it is even easy to understand why so many folks swear by it to such an exclusive degree. After all, in practice, the technique is said to lead one to realize just how things matter, how ideas stack up. Why is it, then, that “letting go” is so frequently used to inform me of what supposedly doesn’t matter. Happiness matters. Coping matters. Maturity matters. Faith matters. However things stack, doesn’t that mean that math matters and logic matters and the process of elimination matters? Yet, the clockwork of so many orations urges me to reject curtain number one in order to choose between curtains two and three. Hello? Monty? I’m willing to take that journey with you, but tell me why first. Presume you know something I don’t. Presume God has spoken to you directly and that you are strapped with the burden of explaining that wonder to a person completely out-of-the-know. You are going to have to start the explanation speaking in my terms in order that I should understand and come to share that newer knowledge with you. This means telling me why curtain number one (logic) is off-limits BEFORE we can go any further. “Letting go” CAN be alternatively accomplished by thoroughly accounting for the ideas that are to be rejected. I need not come to spiritual balance ONLY through leaps of faith. Perhaps I want my faith to be an informed one. If there is such a higher view to be achieved, one drawn from omnipotence or everpresence, its truth will reverberate down into the “lesser” things of this world and thereby make valid my desire to discuss them, negating your desire to ignore them.

Still, the offense I’ve taken in this radical supposition that my yearning for checkmate is a call to Beelzebub, doesn’t actually come from ridiculous notions like Satan loves Texas Instruments. My consternation more readily hails from the fact that this assertion discounts God’s presence, usually a discounting by the God believer. Given my values, folks may find it hard to swallow that I do believe in God. I MIGHT even go so far as to say that, while logically, I have no idea what that God looks like, how s/he is to be treated, or what form our interrelationship is supposed to take, there is the remote possibility (one in infinity) that the body of religious philosophies presented us might accidentally be correct, or might accidentally have one passage or two that is correct. I’m insulted by the hypocrisy in the assertion, not the assertion itself. If Satan wants to live in my underwear drawer, let him. It’ll make my life a hell of a lot more interesting than anyone else’s. But don’t come to me and tell me that God made [hu]man in his own image while part of that image, the basic ability to reason, is concurrently suspect. Don’t present reason, even reason used to discount the existence of any god, as a temptation outside of the body that need not be experienced. In order to conceptualize, to “know of” a god at all, one requires the basic ability to reason. Reason is not a choice. Reason is part of the definition of that “image,” it is plainly what separates humans from animals. It is a part of me to no more varying degree of difference than my leg, my arm, my personality, or my capacity for love…all treated as divine gifts by the way. If there is a God, s/he would WANT me to use my logic, WANT me to take full advantage of my divine gifts. Logic, and the mathematics it spawns, are not a work of the devil. To say so is to disavow the god who "sent" you.

Some very basic examination backs this up. By claiming that my logical discourse in debating you is some temptation from Satan or from tricky free-will in a materialistic world, you are submitting that logic is not part of the divine image in which you assert me to have been made. Therefore, either God did not have logic to give or God had it and purposely withheld it. Let’s examine those two possibilities while you try to convince me to “let go” of reason.

If s/he divinely withheld logic, then I do not have it and therefore you cannot ask me to forego it or let it go. I cannot let go of something I do not possess in the first place. My statements would be no more or less important than yours and must then be treated as such without subtraction. Further if s/he again divinely withheld it, then if I obtain it and use it, I am being Godly or God-like and you shant argue with me. Kowtow.

On the other hand, if God didn’t have logic to give, then s/he is completely illogical. This would be a very ironic construct, given that we usually attribute a massively chaotic state to hell and not heavenly dwellings. Irony aside, an illogical being defies explanation. You would have no way to discuss such an entity, no way to sell it. You’d have nothing to say. Whatever words in whatever order you’d attribute the attempt to illuminate the listener would be words classified as incorrect before even leaving your mouth. Essentially, this scenario beckons you to stuff a sock in it and shut the heaven up!

Well, religiously faithful persons cite neither of these scenarios. They do not refrain from speaking on the subject and do not treat my conversation as God-like. They do not present God as illogical nor treat my argument as equal to their own. So, in these practices, they are acknowledging logic as part of their definition of the divine. They must accept my grounds AND use similar anglings to justify their own beliefs. To be truly faithful, one must embrace logic.

All tolled, whatever shape the possibility of a divine plane or omnipotent entity might take, logic is going to be a part of it, a building block, a theme. With those kinds of pillars shoring up the vastness of creation, humans partaking in logic would be partaking in something far larger than the self, far larger than even all perceived reality and imagination. Humans exercising logic in a simple, every day conversation would be echoing a key element that permeates all which lies behind the veil of this world and the next and the next and the next. Mind you, a great many other human actions would likely also be a part of this theme. Emotion, life force, honor, valor, deeds, work, originality, talent, name your pick. I can easily make the same claim about almost anything people put on a pedestal. The point is not to escalate logic to some tensile strength that girds the structure of the unknown, but to say that it is undoubtedly one of the contoured chits in the jigsaw. We cannot aggrandize select divine morsels while sacking their counterparts.

Look, Jesus knew and used math. He didn’t just have some rudimentary understanding of math that might barely rival my computer illiterate father trying desperately to buy a broken Swatch on eBay. He was a carpenter. He lived with the complexities of practical math in the forefront of his mind, at the tip of his tongue and writ with his own meaty hand every single day. Wood was an enormous commodity. Math assured one that s/he got the designs correct prior to the first cut. Math would have been a large portion of his conversations and therefore his relationship with his “Earthly” father. Sure, if Jesus was somehow God or son of God or prophet of God, he may have known way back then the deepest fractal anomalies and cosmic string proofs. Putting together a goofy goat yoke for his neighbor wouldn’t have been much of a challenge. Yet, he didn’t miracle his wares into being. Poof! A quilt rack! Poof! A scroll shelf! If he did, we would have certainly read about it in Crap Not Edited from the Bible Weekly. He built them with bare hands and used plain logic to do it. If he didn’t exist, he didn’t exist. If he was just a guy, he was just a guy. But, if he was God, it is important to take note that he didn’t forego the math. He didn’t treat simple, human logic as something beneath him. He used it. He partook and did so in the positive. He achieved with it, worked with it, and to a certain degree exhibited faith in it. Jesus could be completely made up, but employing logic would still be a Christ-like endeavor.


This brings us to the last entry on our Layperson’s List of why logic is not the opposite of faith, one that was described as “Logic and faith are not mutually exclusive…they overlap.”

Sum up all known logic, if you will, to be represented by a circle. Do the same, then, with faith. Draw it out, if it helps, just two circles on a piece of paper. Now, how do you place those circles, those rings on a page? If you are asserting that logic and faith are opposites, and you are my four year old nephew, you’d probably place them at the farthest corners from each other, never to intersect.

Or, perhaps, if you eat organic consume and wear a dress made of hemp you’d draw one ring on one side of your paper and another ring on the “back.”

A few Real Genius Lazlos will make two separate pieces of paper and rush them via AMC Pacer to trash receptacles in New York and L.A.

And, there’s always the defeatist simpleton on a high horse, usually with a three times life size bust of Heidegger mounted over his bed, who will simply refuse to draw either circle, claiming that sketching them out implies a relationship between the two and since they are “opposites” they have absolutely no relationship. Wow, kids! Isn’t drawing fun? Mmmmmm, glue.

Regardless of how lofty an approach one takes in this penciled exercise, illustrating how s/he perceives logic and faith to be opposites, the results are all the same. Each of these examples overtly claims that the sketcher cannot think of, cite, or even imagine a single, solitary instance in all of life and creation wherein logic and faith might conjoin. See, the crux here is not whether logic and faith as nouns ever truly overlay, one on the other, but rather the implication that the asserting individual cannot even THINK of a way in which the two MIGHT sync up. Ergo, if I CAN think of one way they might, and you cannot, I know more about them than you do and you must take the subservient position of the novice in the debate. If I can think of two ways they might overlap, your backseat would be all the more necessary. If I can think of one or two ways they DO sync up, that’s even deeper a reflection of my superior knowledge, etc. You can draw circles until you are blue in the face, plotting them out on all sorts of pages forcing them as far apart as you wish. You are simply making a model of your belief. What you fail to realize, however, is the brittleness of that model, the sheer fragility of that particular belief. It’s a belief, as represented on paper, that is so fragile, I do not need a proof to discount it. I need no facts, no studies, no surveys. I need no experts, no philosophers, no clerics. All I need to completely shatter that particular assertion is to MAKE-UP a single way in which logic and faith MIGHT be concurrent, and your models are completely defunct, confuted. Put simply, I can visualize all of your options….plus one.
I can perceive logic and faith to be at least this…

…if not this

… if not every permutation of this.

If you cannot perceive it, you know less and I win. If you can perceive it, even just after I show it to you for the first time, you acknowledge instances in which the two can overlap, thereby disacknowledging the assertion that the two are opposites at all.


So, to recap, there are no universal opposites. Do not claim, then, that logic and faith are opposites and treat your claim as a given, unless you’re bucking for village idiot.
Logic is a part of creation, and if you believe creation to be supernaturally sourced, then logic, like faith, is an important measure in understanding that supernature. It should be given quarter in all discussions on faith, lest you soundeth quite dumb.
Logic and faith are not islands. No more can you separate out logic from faith than you can faith from the many facets of living you wish it to guide. They interrelate. They cross-compliment. You may choose to pick portions of each realm which do not overlap for the sake of discussion, but by all means do not fail to acknowledge the other manners in which they do, or you go to the grave as blank as you came from the womb.

For my part, logic is not meant to explain the unknown. Rather it is used to explain the newly known. Faith, by comparison, is meant to carry through an element of truth uttered in something very old and make it applicable present day. As systems of thought, perhaps even as aspects of the human soul, these two foci are too often pit against one another in discussion, presumed at cross-purposes and treated like weapons. Instead, I feel they are each a differently functional environment in which to conduct that discussion and that the participants must respect those environments, sometimes simultaneously, or perish. Personally, if logic were the mountains and faith the plains, I’d simply want to camp in the hills. It would be so much more interesting there.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Louisiana Senate Sneaks "Academic Freedom" Bill Through

I'm extremely late with this so this post is very long. A lot of links, too. Honestly, I never thought it would amount to anything. Again, I vastly overestimated the intelligence of the LA Legislature. Props to Panda's Thumb and PZ Myers for the links at the end.

Proposed Senate Bill 561 by State Senator Ben Nevers of Bogalusa was to provide that

D. Neither the Louisiana Department of Education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator or teacher, in the course and scope of his duties in such capacity, shall censor or suppress in any way any writing, document, record, or other content of any material which references topics listed in Paragraph A(4) of this Section.
Paragraph A(4) states
(4) That the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
but that, of course,
E. This Section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
Seems fairly reasonable right? Maybe to some, but the Senator had this to say,
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill, Nevers said.

“They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory. This would allow the discussion of scientific facts,” Nevers said.

Such bullshit. I wrote a letter to my senator asking:

  • Why does this focus only on science?
  • Does this also protect history teachers who wish to teach Holocaust denial theory or September 11th conspiracies?
  • Will this bill protect the biology teacher that teaches condom use instead of abstinence?
There were also other criticisms from around the state. :)

In a rare moment of clarity, Louisiana State Senators must have gotten the message. But instead of just pulling the bill entirely, the bill was "re-engrossed" as SB 733, the Louisiana Science Education Act. Motherfucker. Incidentally, can someone tell me how something can be re-engrossed? Once it's engrossed, it's final. That's what that engrossed means. Now it's re-final? Bullshit.

Anyway, then they rammed it through. Unanimously. That story begins with the words "Moving with uncommon speed..." *sigh*

Basically, the new bill says that science teachers can teach science. Thanks for wasting my fucking money on that one guys! There is however, one alarming change(emphasis mine):

C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board.

Ignoring the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, State Idiot Nevers had to amend the fucking thing to specifically cite - in B(1) - evolution and the origins of life! Do they think we're stupid? That's a dumb question. Of course we're stupid. We were educated in Louisiana!

So a teacher can teach whatever bullshit, excuse me, "supplemental instructional materials," they want with no guideline as to what should be considered proper materials. The minute some asshole brings an ID pamphlet into the classroom, the ACLU will get involved and even more of my money is in the fucking toilet. Which is fine, because Louisiana has so much to spare. Still no psychiatric hospital in New Orleans (unless you count the prison), but we can waste time and money on this crap. Besides, since the mentally ill are just possessed by demons, bringing God back to the classroom will only help the problem.

And the response? An editorial and a few letters. I'm glad of that, but I'm not sure how effective it is.

The fight has now moved on to the House (HB 1168), where I'm certain it will go through the same contortions and pass unanimously before it is signed into law by our ridiculously pandering governor.

If you live in Louisiana, please please please(!) write AND call your State Representative to express your displeasure at this colossal travesty-in-waiting. If you don't know who that is, you can find out here. If you need help with your letter, go take a look at these links, courtesy of Barbara Forrest. Out-of-state criticism will probably only strengthen their resolve, but I don't see how it could do that much damage at this point.