Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Thoughts on Religion and American Values

I subscribe to the science blog Facebook group I Fucking Love Science (IFLS). It is run by Elise Andrews from LabX Media Group in Canada. Usually posts are about new science breakthroughs in biology, physics, and astronomy. But sometimes there are stories about other science fields like archeology, sociology, and paleontology. These fields sometimes bleed into the humanities.
Ina Gadda Davida. Links to the article.

Recently, IFLS posted a story about a new theory published by the Biblical Archeology Society. It is linked to the picture above. The theory combines what we know about basic biological anatomy with studies in ancient linguistics to come up with this idea that perhaps Adam's Rib actually is Adam's Penis. The theory, as I understand it, is pretty clever.  It combines what we know about animal penises and how they differ mostly from our own anatomy, and how ancient peoples must have made the same comparisons, and how they would have used that knowledge to inform their own mythologies. Combine that with how difficult it can be to translate idioms and euphemisms, and the theory does have some traction.

Science is pretty fluid, and allows for new discoveries to amend and change facts and theories based on new evidence. Unfortunately, religion has trouble amending anything, especially if its a common and popularly held belief.

This brings me to the end of the article. One of the detractors of the theory is quoted as saying, "I do not need and will not read articles that damage my faith or attempts to cause me to doubt what I know is the Truth from the Bible".

This statement is very telling, and I think highlights the major issue causing the rift between Science and Religion. Previously on the blog Tom is Clever, I wrote a piece on my own personal thoughts on Religion. In the article I outlined fundamentalism in Christianity. Inerrancy is a major part of fundamentalism, and this quote proves the stubbornness of this idea.

The theory posed above does not detract from or change the biblical theology in any major sense. Eve is still created from Adam, and all the dogma and misogynist code extrapolated from that story can still exist. Having Eve created from a penis bone is, at its core, no different from creating her from a rib, or any other of Adam's bones. So... I find it interesting that even the most hardline Christians would care. If anything, this theory helps explain how the mythology can still exist even with better translations.

The only explanation I can think of, is the need for the very religious to continue to attack and dismiss Science as a whole. It really doesn't matter if it is Science at all. I think anyone offering a differing opinion of what the religion means would be treated the same way by this particular quote. For all I know, this believer's faith, and what he knows to be "Truth from the Bible" could be completely ridiculous conjecture not supported at all by his Bible, or by actual Biblical scholars.

The scary part is, it wouldn't matter. Because this man, and all the other Christians like him have already made up their minds, and out right refuse to acknowledge anything different, no matter if the different ideas, theories, or theologies are far closer to actual Truth.

This attitude doesn't stop with personal theology, however. That is the truly scary part. This attitude of inerrancy and refusal to learn new things has bled into other parts of American society. The Truth in the Bible is not the only thing Americans are unwilling to compromise over. For example, the Second Amendment can not be compromised, not matter how many statistics, factual information, specialists, and experts prove that stronger gun regulations could decrease the number of massacres, and gun related crime.

Refusal to even listen to any other side of any other argument because it threatens personal understandings of the universe is a major problem in all facets of society. This idea that one person already knows the Truth, and anything else must be false creates a barrier where no beneficial discourse could possibly survive. Policies concerning military spending, immigration, tax reform, gun control, and domestic social spending have all been held at a near standstill for decades due to a refusal to back away from popularly held beliefs. Until we can get over the "what I know is right, and what you know is stupid" attitude, there will be no change, and nothing will get better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Come Full Circle

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Stax/Concord, 2015
produced by Richard Swift

Nathaniel Rateliff - guitars, vocals
the Night Sweats:
  • Joseph Pope III - guitars
  • Mark Shusterman - keyboards
  • Patrick Meese - drums
  • Luke Mossman - guitars
  • Wesley Watkins - horns
  • Andy Wild - saxophones
singles -
  • SOB
  • Look it Here
There has been much hand ringing and bell tolling for the death of rock n roll. Even though it may seem like certain genres like metal, punk, glam rock (thank goodness), and whatever it is that Nickleback is responsible for are indeed dying, I believe that rock music has just changed direction once again. The music from this band is a throwback to those early rock n roll groups of the late 50s.  Buddy Holly was not the death of music. Also, I love a good horn section. Harriet Gibson from the Guardian pointed out the "ghosts of Otis Redding and Chuck Berry" are apparent in these pieces. I enjoy this record so much, it is as fresh as it is nostalgic.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

... Sitting in a Tree, F-R-O-G-G-I-N-G

Apparently I love frogs. There are only so many different kinds of frogs around where I live, in New England, or as we like to call it, the "Center of the Universe, and your part of the country sucks".

This is the "frogs are cute" post. Peepers are little and can be super annoying. Like babies, and puppies. Here is one of these little suckers...

In case the scale is difficult to tell, the Spring Peeper (pseudacris crucifer) is roughly the size of a gumball, or could sit on a quarter. They are one of several species of chorus frogs found all over the North America. Obviously they are called chorus frogs because they love to sing, and they sing loud and proud.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lies, Slander and Racism: an addendum

From previous posts on this blog, it is obvious how I feel about The Washington Football Team and Dan Snyder's position on their name. Recently it came to light that the team had been running a Twitter account in support of the current name, and in opposition of any call to change it.
Links to somewhere

This alone, wouldn't be so bad, the Washington team has made no secret how they feel about their brand. The problem is they tried to disguise the Twitter account as a fan created and supported account, not an official team account run by staff members.

Now, for the people out there who understand why the name is racist, and unacceptable for a major sports franchise, this scandal isn't very remarkable, or surprising. However, for people on the fence about it, or indifferent, this highlights how desperate the team is to have support. To create the illusion that other parties aside from the team believe the name to be not racist is disingenuous and also not even necessary. There are plenty of actual fans who argue against the name change all on their own.

Bottom line: the whole thing is set up as sly propaganda. And if your football team has to resort to sneaky tricks to gain support, then maybe the name really is racist and unacceptable.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Speak no Evil, Hear no Evil

There has been much talk lately of college campuses becoming overly sensitive politically correct nightmares. From a humanist utilitarian perspective, this is difficult to believe. There is such a thing as being too open and accepting? But with comedians like Seinfeld admitting why they don't play schools anymore, and stories of the hijacking of the Trigger Warning note, and stories of students speaking out against insensitivity for seemingly innocuous statements, this has become a serious question, and has put Freedom of Speech back into the national conversation.

Before I continue further, let me make it very clear, there is a huge difference between this particular issue of free speech and overly sensitive PC police, and the need to combat actual racism and misogyny.

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine the other day about this same issue. She stated that even though sexism is very pervasive in our society and has become toxic, pointing out every single instance in her life would be exhausting, and attacking people (men mostly) for "mansplaining" can be counter productive and no longer effective. She has since picked her battles, understanding the differences between intentional marginalizing comments and actions, and ones that are perfectly reasonable and steeped in cultural normative has made being an active feminist far less stressful.

This doesn't mean women ought to stop shaming men for things like catcalling. In fact, getting creative with it like Elana Adler's project You are my Duchess not only brings the issue to the public, but the humor helps lessen the damage done by these vulgar assaults. As she points out on the website, at first, these cross stitches are cute and funny, but after awhile you realize these are actual things actually shouted out in public from one stranger to another. The whole collection becomes a disgusting monument to what many women deal with on a daily basis. These are the battles worth having, this is not the problem.
less exhausting, and no mansplaining necessary

Our problem of overly protective, political correct schools is not the same issue as gender inequality, or institutional racism. It perhaps is born of both of these larger societal issues, but has since outpaced these movements into something resembling a satire. For example, at Brown, the Sexual Assault Task Force was created to make Brown a safe place for victims of rape and abuse. This is necessary to help these people cope with their trauma and normalize in an accepting community. However, the task force promotes the use of safe spaces, where students can retreat when speakers and debates become too overwhelming. The problem happens when students use the safe spaces not to withdraw and recover from PTSD-like symptoms, but to escape having to engage in competing viewpoints. The New York Times Sunday Review has a full article about that here.
links to the article too

The Right, of course, has linked these issues together to try and undercut Liberals, and try and show that the status quo is fine. We don't have to have serious conversations about Race or Gender, because it's just the Left over reacting. An interview between Rachel Martin of Listen to the Story on NPR and Jamelle Bouie of Slate basically sums this up. Bouie states that this desire to protect Freedom of Speech has minimized the Americans who are trying to stand up and fight to be welcome and accepted in systems that are predominately white and male.
click me

At some point in the last decade, the necessary considerations for equality, and acceptance in educational places took a weird turn. Instead of protecting freedoms of expression and speech in a move to be more open and welcoming to minority groups, colleges have pandered to students' entitlement.

I find this whole thing interesting. Professional comedians like Seinfeld aren't refusing to perform on college campuses because they don't believe in civil rights, or feminism. It has more to do with the way in which the college population responds to perceived slights, either real or imaginary. Part of what makes comedy far more important than just funny cartoon antics, is the ability to have thought provoking conversations wrapped up in jokes. A comedian is able to have those embarrassing, uncomfortable conversations about the difficulties of life, because they're cloaked in comedy. Just like Ms Adler's confrontation with abusive catcalling is wrapped up in needlework. But if a campus has banned topics of feminism, racism, violence, and addiction because they may offend the student body, how can the comedian bring a voice, and a cathartic relief to his audience?

The way in which campuses are dealing with these issues has missed the point. The student body is no longer interested in what is best for the entire student body. This is no longer about feminists wanting equality, or minorities wanting acceptance. Feminism and cultural acceptance aide in the educational system and benefit everyone. The focus has shifted from what is best for education, to what is best for that individual. If colleges refuse to have conversations about certain "trigger" topics, how can their students with these issues perceived or real find cathartic relief and grow stronger and more confident? And, to go one step further, the group as a whole will be better educated and more welcoming and accepting.

These students that call out their peers and professors for insensitive remarks in exaggerating, over the top ways seem to do it, not because it helps inform the perceived aggressor, or to help reclaim lost dignity or stop oppression, but rather because the spotlight is now on them.

Children behave without an understanding of other people. They are unable, at the moment, to empathize. These students seem to behave that way. When something seems to disrupt their perception of their universe, and make them uncomfortable it is made offensive and demonized. Empathy is something learned, and is very important to cultivating a culture of acceptance.

I think, as a society, we often forget that college-aged kids are not yet adults. We want them to be fully functioning grown ups capable of making good, rational decisions and participating in real life society. They can vote, they can serve in the military, they can be prosecuted for crimes as adults. But really, 18-22 year olds don't behave like people in their late 20s, or 30s, or like their parents. If the goal is to promote a safe learning environment for all students in a caring and accepting culture, then we have to promote certain conversations built to teach empathy, no matter how uncomfortable those conversations may be.