Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Circle the Wagons!

I have been reading and writing blogs for a couple of years, now. I regularly visit a lot of different types of blogs, and have observed some trends. For example, crafty blogs with a lot of cool pictures and on-topic writing have a lot of traffic. More philosophical or political blogs have smaller followings, for the most part, but have very strong supporters. Religious blogs are similar. In essence, the more "serious" and focussed the blog, the smaller the base of followers.

The philosophical/religious blogs have an interesting tendency to be defensive. There is a lot of "preaching to the choir," and sometimes some expression of openness to challenges, yet when a particularly sensitive area comes under scrutiny it looks like a wagon train pulling the wagons into a circle because someone saw a feather on the horizon. The enemy is near, circle the wagons!

Some of the Christian and/or religionists of Texas and the Mid-West are still in active conflict with the Atheist/Agnostic scientists of that same area over how evolution is to be presented in schools. Of course there are other related points in conflict, but this one is easier to focus on. I can see both sides of the argument, and two groups of wagons forming circles to defend fundamental truths.

The religionists want to prevent evolution from being the sole mode of creation taught in schools. This is a defensive response to a perceived threat to the spiritual well-being of their children. A threat to children is a serious threat, and so the response is strong regarding this threat. Circle the wagons!

The scientist see a threat in what is essentially a myth (from the scientific perspective) being placed on par with a body of scientific knowledge that has been assembled through the proven reliable method of scientific research. This causes a defensive reaction and the wagons of science are drawn into a circle.

Too often the venue for the subsequent battle is the court of law and the halls of the law makers. This third body, the makers and enforcers of laws, is in the unenviable position of trying to find a viable middle ground. The issues in conflict are not subject to compromise, and so the battle comes down to trying to shape and influence policies and rules and laws in favor of one camp or another.

An ongoing struggle with little promise of resolution. The scientific thinkers reflect on a past when new ideas were squelched by religious hierarchies, and fear the religionists gaining too much strength. If  you examine history it is a reasonable fear.

The religionists fear the corruption of their children, who will be discouraged from faith because that faith does not submit to the rules of scientific inquiry. The educational practices of  declared atheistic political orders in recent history lend some strength to such a fear. Think KGB and USSR.

What are your issues, the ones close to your heart or touching on something you really value? What causes you to bring your wagon into the circle? Are they so dear, so fundamentally part of your view of the world, that they are not open to discussion?  Are there ideas out there that cause you to feel threatened?

Watch closely. I think I saw a feather on the horizon.


Saint Brian the Godless said...

I admit to feeling threatened by the whole Tea Party movement and all the hatred (yes, that is what it is) for the government, and specifically Obama. I feel threatened in general by the astounding attempts of Christianity to literally run this country as if by Divine Right; they've infintrated every level of government now. Frankiy it's getting a little like living in Iran. Religion is not supposed to BE in our politics; this country was founded by people fleeing christian religious persecution. So yes, I feel threatened by religion, as I see it as creeping ignorance. Religion MUST keep it's believers ignorant in order to keep them as followers and keep them easily manipulated. It's a tool of control, a mental computer-virus gone mad. It's scary.

If Christianity had all the power, as it once did, well then they'd be building the ovens next week for people like me. This much is easy to see.

It is the nature of religion to control everything it can possibly control and to attempt to destroy that which it cannot.

Harvey said...

What I don't understand (and, therefore, I gues that I fear it) is the insistance of believers (of any particular faith) that it is necessary to their well-being that as many other people as possible either be coerced or forced into accepting their particular
version(s) of reality. I guess that I understand (and have posted previously) that if there is no way other than "faith" to assure yourself that you "have it right", you need to seek affirmation by getting as many people as possible to agree with you, but if you can't accomplish this by means of logic, strength of argument, or by example (this last approach being expressed as WWJD? or so-called witnessing by example), I don't see how forcing others to "agree" by trying to make us into a "Christian Nation" by force of law accomplishes anything.

Michael Lockridge said...

The compulsion to conform everyone else to a certain ideology is based on fear, I would say. Fear that the ideology won't stand the rigors of examination, of challenge, that it is delicate and needs to be protected by eliminating competition.

It is probably a manifestation of territorial behavior, where the dominant creature kills or drives off the competition.

I have never understood the behavior in the context of the Christian faith. It seems to manifest a lack of real faith. Then again, I was converted into a very generalized Christianity, and did not grow up in any of the sub-cultures. I may be missing something.

My own faith is based on my own experiences with God. It is dynamic and changing, founded on a relationship with a transcendent God. I trust God to make me what I need to be, while I interact with His creation as wisely as I can.

I suppose that if my faith was more rigid I would have to protect it from the bumps and bruises of life, for fear that it would be broken or destroyed. However, it is those bumps and bruises, and many other experiences, that build me and contribute to my faith.

pboyfloyd said...

Indeed, it IS all perspective.

Brief personal story about perspective. My wife loved to drink, but she became ill(not through booze).

She can't drink now, so, from her perspective, booze is BAD now.

If I get some rum and have a drink, I'm BAD 'til the booze is gone, from her perspective.

If I start to drink a 'mickey'(375 ml.) of rum on Monday and there is still some rum in the bottle on Friday(I'm sure that you can imagine how little rum I'd have to be consuming at any given time for this to happen), from her perspective, I've been 'drinking' ALL WEEK!(even though I might have been driving around 'dead' sober(no chance of impairment and such) a lot during the week.

That's the end of that little story, I leave you to come to your own verdict on my wife's perspective there.

Reread your story here from a neutral perspective, if you can.

pboyfloyd said...

"The religionists want to prevent evolution from being the sole mode of creation taught in schools."


"This third body, the makers and enforcers of laws, is in the unenviable position of trying to find a viable middle ground."

Really? Is one end of the 'spectrum' faith and the other end science(knowledge)?

Isn't the one 'spectrum' from 'totally faithful' all the way to 'totally faithless/atheist' and ANOTHER COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SPECTRUM from 'the most scientific(knowledgable)' to the 'daftest, most ignorant simpleton on the planet'?

Where is the 'middle ground' between two completely different spectra here?

Michael Lockridge said...

I was not trying to draw a viable line of tension, or spectrum, with these issues at the extremes. They are issues in conflict, even though the relationship is not so simple as points on a single line.

You grasp the point regarding managing the issues through legislation. There may well not be a true "middle ground." The legislators will be compelled to create one, and it will not be adequate.

pboyfloyd said...

But it seems to me that legislators ought to explain that school is to learn English, Math and the Sciences.(perhaps a second language) and NOT religion.

Evolution does NOT try to explain anything about 'why' we are here, it simply explains how we are connected with all life on Earth.

If a child is to be prepared for college, he/she NEEDS to know this. They can be taught this whether or not they will ever need it in their future, much like we are all taught math to a certain level and proceed to forget it all over the course of our lives.

I have no problem with text books omitting the fact that the literal interpretation of the Bible is false, although that might be confusing to students in more literal minded religious areas.

Michael, do you think that your grandchildren would be better served to learn their religion in church and such venues and learn evolution as part of their curriculum in school, perhaps in preparation for University courses in biology etc.


Do you think that school courses concerning evolution ought to be a debate ground for evolution versus creationism?

Michael Lockridge said...

Actually, in another blog I decided that the venue of science was not the proper place for the idea of creation. As you noted, Pboy, they may touch on each other but are not in the same "spectrum."

School curriculum is, unfortunately, a politicized issue. In the past the master of an academy decided by fiat the curriculum. Public funded educational systems have to satisfy the public, or at least their representatives. The old system may not really have been better, but then you didn't have to go to that academy.

Add to all of that the fact that systems of education are often systems of indoctrination, and the already muddy waters get even less clear.

My grandchildren will both benefit and suffer from whatever system is in place when they are being educated. If they are fortunate they will experience blessings and curses in more-or-less equal measures. There is always rehabilitation.

pboyfloyd said...

There ya go with that 'perspective', Michael.

Note how some religious head-cases railing against science in the name of their interpretation of their book is couched in terms of 'politicized issue'.

Then you go on to completely muddy the waters. There's the past, there's the public vs. private, there's the other(unnamed) problems that school-systems have!

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

But science belongs in the science class and religion doesn't. The past will still be the past etc. etc., isn't that right?

Michael Lockridge said...

Our perspective, whether physical or philosophical, determines how we see things. For non-scientists the scientists are coming in with a system of thought, a perspective, and saying, "follow us, for we are right." It is a system of thought, a body of knowledge, and a way of looking at things. If the outsider is contested, they will often wish to defend their own perspective rather than give over to science and scientists.

Science may claim to come from a neutral perspective defined as "reality." To the outsider this is just another call to authority. The outsider is invited to study science, a reasonable offer of knowledge. Yet most of you are arguing from a very deep scientific perspective.

Potters and planters may not have what it takes to study so deeply. They will lack the background and perspective to understand.

Entre Nous said...

I think your 'everyone has a cause, the cause is everything' outlook is an on point perspective, though the jaded do not liken to being forced to see.
If one would subtract fanatics (even the most calm of them)
from the equation, what would we have?

I find a nation of napping idealists quite boring.

Michael Lockridge said...

The image of a nation of napping idealists is an interesting one. Rather catalytic, I suspect. Something related to that image may well fall out of my head, one day.

mac said...

I can understand the fears of the religious. They fear that if their children are taught one thing, they will loose their faith.

HOWEVER, a public school is no place to teach religius based curriculum. If parents wish their children to know about creationism, they have every right to teach them. But, not in a public scchool.

Religion, and creationism, might be taught in mythology along with the other religions.