Steve Hutchison (foomf) wrote,
Steve Hutchison

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This fits better here than in my ++google stream.

This came about because of a discussion (flamewar) I got involved with on ++Google. My old reflexes kicked in unfortunately, and I'm now going to avoid saying anything in anyone else's stream there, about anything of much interest or depth.

So, here, because I can put it behind a cut, and this applies to the stream and to this journal as well:

On my own public stream, anyone can say what they will, but I reserve the right to arbitrarily say "No, you cannot continue that here" to anyone at any time. It's not that I don't respect you, because whether or not I respect you, it's a matter of filtering things that I have time or energy to deal with.

That said, anyone is welcome to reply on-topic to anything I bring up here. My judgement to whether it's on-topic.

And a few (HAH!) words about religion, science, philosophy, and art.

On religion: I don't care what your religion is. I'm an Episcopalian Christian, which means I'm Protestant, and I'm part of a tradition which is accepting of a wide range of doctrine within a well-defined framework. I don't care if you're an atheist, an agnostic, an apathy-ist, I don't care if you practice Santeria, Wicca, Shinto or whatever. I don't care if your religion is Ayn Rand, or if you believe in a flying spaghetti monster (or just say you do because it's amusing), though if you proclaim such a belief solely to mock people who have other beliefs, I think you're an asshole and hold you in contempt.

I don't care for sloppy thinking, even though I do my share of it.
If you're an atheist who (in discussion in the stream) claims to dismiss religious beliefs then I won't accept your discussions of religious belief systems unless you can show that you know those systems at least as well as the people you're trying to refute. If you just nit-pick, you're wasting everyone's time.
My religion teacher in my university days was an atheist, and he had a better understanding of the various religious doctrines and dogmas than half the priests I've met in the rest of my life. I learned a great deal about the strengths and weaknesses of religious traditions and beliefs, and how they formed, from his classes. I don't expect everyone to meet his standard.
I do expect and warn that no sophomoric, facile, superficial arguments will go unchallenged, and that doesn't matter who's making them or with which religious background or conclusion. That said, I won't hold in-depth religious discussions in my public circle. If someone wants to be involved in such a thing in my stream, I'll make a separate circle, when the time comes.

Science. A word that's become as overloaded as "nature" did once.
I apply the scientific method in places where it's possible. I recognize its limitations.
For instance, it can't answer questions about one-time events and outliers; if something cannot be reproduced, scientific method is not going to work on it. It's a tool, and if you have a problem it can't address, use a different tool.
Speaking of which, Occam's Razor fails when it encounters chaotic systems.
Einstein didn't do experiments. He did math.
And nobody is completely objective, nobody comes at a question without any preconceptions, and no peer group is free of prejudices that will blind them.
Further, the myth of scientists who make discoveries by creating experiments that can be replicated by others ... what a lovely myth, were it true. The reality is that researchers operate on a heady mixture of information, intuition, methodology, and lots of random poking, often using expensive machinery. Many of the high-energy particle physics discoveries cannot be easily reproduced, or reproduced at all, for a variety of reasons.
Almost all the useful biological research happening now is being done by big companies, by universities operating on grants from big companies, and anything that can be harvested into a profitable product is being transferred to those companies. (Drugs are profit.)
And politics (as demonstrated by the Texas Board of Education, and by George W. Bush) interferes with, and coerces, the directions of research and the conclusions it's allowed to make. But this IS NOT NEW. It's part of the messy context that the people who idolize science want to ignore - I liken this to the "perfect cylinder on a frictionless plane" simplifications when you're learning physics.

Philosophy - why do people imagine that philosophy is something that anyone can do and that everyone's opinion is equally valid? Oh, right, they're ignorant. Next question. Can we discuss philosophy? Sure, but I'm far from an expert on it, and it's a discipline all its own, so I'd rather not get into deep philosophical discussions.
I also won't be casually accepting gibberish. There are some commonly-accepted fallacies, and I won't hesitate to point them out when someone blurts them as if they were as true as gravity, and I won't hesitate to say, "No, your opinion is not just as valid as anyone else's, black is not white, true is not false, and this is why."
Among these: the fallacy that says you cannot "truly know" what someone else feels or thinks. If that were the case, then why would you bother talking, but neuroscience strongly suggests that you're wrong anyway.

Art - like Philosophy. We live in a sea of art. But we're hardly experts on it any more than fish are experts on the oceans, except for the few of us who ARE because we (they) studied it in appropriate ways, so unless you're expressing opinions about how a particular work affects you personally (which is what Art is about, vaguely and in general) then you should probably not make proclamations (in my stream anyway) about whether or not something Is Art, or Is Valid, or even Is Any Good. Because I'm likely to challenge the proclamation, and request some kind of back-up reasoning.

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