17 October 2013

Better Living Through Chemistry

I really can't say much more than this:

Non Sequitur, 17 Oct 2013

Well, actually, I suppose I could, but it wouldn't meet even the Addams-Family-friendly nature of this blawg. As Jon Stewart said after the 2008 elections, "You lost. It's supposed to taste like a shit sandwich." Because that is, after all, the entire point of representative democracy: Vigorous debate leading to a course of action selected by something resembling a "majority," with the loyal opposition's tactics restricted to rhetoric and voting... except when those members of the opposition are willing to go all the way to civil disobedience and suffer the consequences. The Teabaggers want the disobedience (all too often not civil, in any sense of the word) without the consequences — but only for them, considering the way they want anyone else who disagrees with government-financial-complex policies treated.

  • Congratulations to Eleanor Catton for winning the Man Booker Prize with The Luminaries and to the newly announced finalists and longlist members ("honorable mentions") for the National Book Awards. A pox, however, on awards "systems" that persist in making such announcements prior to general public availability — of the ten fiction longlist members on the NBA list, several have not yet been published, but were reviewed only in advance form unavailable to the rest of us. For an award to be meaningful, particularly over time, it can't be just a stealth marketing-and-publicity device.
  • Perhaps technology will enhance portability of my theme music.
  • Mr. Neil tells us what the future must hold if it is not to be a descent into barbarism far, far worse than that demanded by the RealMurikans.
  • <SARCASM> Hey, the humanities are just like biology and geology — teach the controversy! </SARCASM>
  • In an astoundingly intellectually-dishonest blog entry far, far below the standards ordinarily enforced on The Grauniad's blogs, Andrew Brown attempts to explain away his debating loss to an atheist over the value of religion by completely mischaracterizing both his own position and any realistic analysis of the subject of the debate. (n.b. I am, by education, a chemist with less-than-fond memories of Professor Atkins' textbook on physical chemistry; that has nothing to do with what follows.)

    Everything that Mr Brown says that is potentially positive about "religion" concerns "belief" and "mythology" and "use of storytelling paradigms to make some sense of the irrational," not "religion." The latter — particularly to those of us who are athiests by choice, members of disfavored religio-ethnic groups by ancestry, or who have actually visited places like Londonderry or Jerusalem or Magdeburg or Istanbul or Riyadh or Mumbai or Oklahoma City, to name just a few — is missing a word: In front of "religion" comes the word "organized." Since the early seventh century (certainly in Europe, anyway), "organized religion" and "belief" have been inextricably intertwined, to the point that doing away with the ills created by the various politics-for-second-sons systems of organized religion requires Alexander's approach to the Gordian Knot. For those of us who have either suffered discrimination at the hands of organized religious systems, or recognize it as widespread and inappropriate for other reasons, this kind of apologia that attempts to distinguish the bad from the good in self-serving, inconsistent ways is all too familiar... and all too insulting, ill-founded, and above all irrational.

    Organized religion is an intensely rational exercise in power politics. Mr Brown's intellectual dishonesty (or, perhaps, sheer ignorance) in failing to acknowledge — particularly for those of us who do not share faith-tenets with those of a/the dominant organized religion, whether in the West or elsewhere — that his argument conflates "religion" with "belief" is precisely the problem he claims with those who oppose "chemicals": It omits the rest of the term. Those who oppose chemicals don't oppose chemicals in the abstract, but synthetic industrial chemicals used for immediate financial gain without adequate study of the consequences (whether or not intended). Similarly, I don't oppose belief in the abstract (even after this recent "debt crisis" I still believe in representative democracy, a belief becoming more and more irrational in practice), but organized politicosocial apparatus surrounding dubiously systematized belief for immediate political advantage without adequate study of the consequences (whether or not intended).