21 January 2012

Lecture Notes

Last night I attended a lecture. A friend of a friend talked for about an hour about the science/atheism vs. religion divide. One of the key points he hammered was that this debate/dialogue has devolved to a place of waste. The conversation is being defined on both sides by people who are ignorant to the questions that need to be (and have been) asked. He briefly cited Hitchens, Harris, and others in the new atheist movement and discussed the typical "arguments" that come from the religious side. A lot of his angst seemed to be rooted in the state of this dialogue.

The lecturer, Keith, was well versed in history, philosophy, and religion and was adamant that this debate/dialogue could happen in a real and productive way. He talked about people he knew and some who he didn't, on both sides of the argument, who could engage in a way in which we could all get more informed, intelligent, and grounded on the issue of religion and science.

While his point was correct, I think we're beyond that. Keith talked about Nobel prize winning people who could engage this topic productively and all I could think was how un-entertaining nobel prize winning people *probably* are (I've never met any, but I have a stereotype in my head). I don't think we want to get smarter and more informed. This is even more true when we look at the idea of religion. The thing we want more than anything is to be entertained. There is nothing entertaining about being educated slowly over the course of time. The argument, as it is currently defined, is entertaining. We are getting what we want in this debate.

The second big theme from Keith's lecture focused on doctrine, creeds, councils, etc. This was the part of the talk when people started shifting awkwardly in their seats. Keith talked about many of the spiritual traditions (Native American, Buddhist, Judeo-Christian, etc.) and how there are many fundamental similarities when you look at life and material reality. While we typically have crazily different "doctrinal positions," when we look at the lives we say we want to be living, things start to level out.

During the Q&A time at the end, this was the point that seemed to rub people the wrong way. Questions were asked and re-asked about this. Universal Truth, Foundational Morality, etc. were discussed. As I was sitting there the question that seemed to be floating around the room, underlying the questions that were being asked, was "How do I know if I am winning?"

This question can be viewed in two ways: zero-sum or non-zeor-sum. While it was being phrased in a non-zero-sum way (we can all win!), I think it was really being experienced in a zero-sum way.

How do we know if we are winning? Well, I guess if we can figure out who is losing...right?

Keith drove the idea that doctrine, in and of itself, is impotent. While I agree with him, I would submit that doctrine is the mechanism we use to define the winners and losers on a cosmic scale. It's the basic way we have decided who's in and who's out.

Finally, Keith had a great beard. I give his beard two, enthusiastic thumbs up.

24 July 2010

Being Open Minded

Been thinking about this for a while. I consider myself fairly open minded, progressive, whatever. However, I am finding that I am becoming more and more close-minded with close-minded people. Is there such as thing as open-mindedness?

26 May 2010

5 Observations/Thoughts about Ironman 2

  1. It was really entertaining. Robert Downey, Jr. is a great, charismatic actor.
  2. It's amazing to see how far the special effects technology has come in the past 10-15 years.
  3. Movies disseminate the mythology of our culture and world.
  4. Ironman 2 is mythology.
  5. The myth of unlimited progress is the overarching theme of this movie. The movie would have us believe that science will always stay ahead of the curve. By the time the bad guys have scary technology, the good guys' technology will be superior and we (ahem...we are the good guys) will be able to kick the bad guys' butts. Science will be able to solve the problems that science created. Eat popcorn, drink Coca-Cola, fear not!

25 May 2010

Mission Statements & Taglines

I have always found these things to be frustrating and meaningless.They are all about style. They lack substance. They tell one side of the story. They may market your company/organization/church, but they do not tell the full and real story. Offering only the shiny part of who you are is where the seed of cynicism starts. So be honest....about all of it.

02 May 2010

Surface Level: Some Oil was Spilled

I love watching the Sunday morning political shows. Today's biggest (and scariest) topic was the oil "spill." Here are some random things that happened on the show...and went through my mind.
  • "We're dealing with this on the surface." --some BP exec. Truer words were never spoken.
  • How can this be called a "spill?" When you spill something, you say "oops" and clean it up. 200,000 gallons of oil per day (or more) is not quite an "oops."
  • This could truly decimate (environmentally and economically) a big chunk of the South.
  • Why are we relying on BP to solve the problem that they created?
  • In becoming all riled up about this, I am participating in deep irony. I whine and complain about this "spill" and our oil-based economy, but then I drive and drive and drive.
  • In our quest to "harvest" the oil (a non-renewable resource), we will likely destroy the seafood industry (a renewable resource) in much of the Gulf.
  • The long-term effects of this "spill" will long outlive those of Hurricane Katrina (except for those who lost people in the storm, of course).
  • The conservative view is that this "spill" is collateral damage to our economic system.
  • The liberal view is that oil is evil, so let's get into some other type of energy (while maintaining our level of consumption).
  • Are there any other options?
  • As I often do, I was thinking a lot of Wendell Berry. I was thinking of Jayber Crow watching his town and state move forward and "progress."
  • Is progress a myth?
I took a nap after lunch.

13 March 2010

Two Problems from One Solution

In one of Wendell Berry's agrarian essays, he discusses two of the biggest problems in modern, industrial agriculture: loss of soil fertility and producing too much animal waste. The scientific, industrial method depletes natural soil fertility (micro-organisms, micro-nutrients, etc.) thus creating more and more dependence on chemical inputs (which have unintended consequences-comprimised water supply, bees?, beneficial insects?...). Industrialized animal production produces a lot of *crap*. Food, Inc. describes one hog farm in Utah that averages over 1 million hogs on site at a time. Because of the food input and, ahem, *output*, this one hog farm produces more *waste* than the city of Los Angeles. Holy *crap*.

Wendell Berry describes a typical, small farm prior to the industrialization of farming. He tells of farmers who knew how many animals their land could support. He writes about how farmers used the *waste* from their animals to fertilize their fields. Free, nutrient rich poo with much more complexity and variance than the typical three-nutrient chemical fertilizer. Wendell Berry reflects on this and says that, in typical industrial/scientific style, we have created two problems from one solution.

01 March 2010

Economic and Political Insanity

Two connected items from a talk I did last weekend:

1. Anyone remember what George W called us all to after 9/11? Shopping. Go to the malls. Consume. Spend.
2. Anyone pay attention to the societal/political reaction when Obama suggested that we avoid blowing our kids' college education money in Vegas? You'd have thought he was recommending human sacrifices. How dare he!

Richard Foster (paraphrased) says that when we live in and allow ourselves to be consumed by a sick culture, we become sick. I am interested in becoming less sick.