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User Journal

Journal Journal: Hope from an ex-Taliban?

A fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine this week, titled The Freshman. Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is attending Yale now, after serving as an unofficial ambassador from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That apparently got him a bit part in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, when he was captured on film criticizing a woman who had decried the state of women's rights under the Taliban.

His statements at the time were, of course, influenced by his job as a Taliban representative; diplomats can't always speak their mind. I won't vouch for his opinions on the rights of women or the proper role for religion in a society. But I was particularly struck by his impression of Western society, and can only hope it is an accurate one

"You have to be reasonable to live in America," he said. "Everything here is based on reason. Even the essays you write for class. Back home you have to talk about religion and culture, and you can win any argument if you bring up the Islamic argument. You can't reason against religion. But you cannot change Afghanistan overnight. You can't bring the Enlightenment overnight."

Perhaps we can settle for keeping the Enlightenment here?

User Journal

Journal Journal: I'm sick of "science is based on faith just like religion"

Okay. Feel like another journal entry is about due.

The fundamentalist wackos came out, as expected, for
the recent court decision over teaching of intelligent design.

Let's get something straight: belief in evolution is *not* based on faith "just like" religion; they aren't rendered equal just because some people choose to believe in Darwin's theory without having every bit of evidence at their fingertips ready to present to doubters.

Everyone has to take *some* things as at least provisionally true in order to get on with life. I could demand proof that the air isn't going to kill me before I take each breath, but no one can live *that* skeptically.

Many biologists and non-biologists take Darwin's basic theory as settled, and don't spend time testing it. They learn it, believe it, see a few textbook examples (which, in classic textbook fashion, could be copied from other textbooks, even if they are wrong or out-of-date), and get on with their lives.

That's ordinary, pragmatic faith that scientists have not been engaged in a 150-year conspiracy to hide the facts from the public to achieve some anti-religion goal.

The reason that faith is NOT religious, is that is a faith in the human activity of science, open for all to see, continuously growing as scientists discover more and more about the natural world, and subject to contentious debate about the details (not about the overarching scheme of evolution by natural selection, but how it works in specific cases).

It is not based on reading an old book, then declaring the topic closed.

Yes, some science is fraudulent. And when Korean cloners or Euro-american physicists are found to have faked data, it makes the newspapers, and their careers are ruined. They don't go on to found scientific theories that persists for over a hundred years with thousands of scientists working in it. The institution basically works to prevent large-scale error.

I believe in science, and have faith in the institution, although I know any particular scientist is full of human frailties, and any scientific paper could have fatal flaws. I just don't believe evolution by natural selection is going to succumb to these failings. Basically, it is right, and if you have a religious or psychological difficulty with that, the problem is in your religion or in your head. The problem is NOT with evolution.

User Journal

Journal Journal: So what am I sick of? 7

So, this new slashdot account is "sickofthisshit."

What is it that I'm sick of?

One thing I'm particularly sick of: the fundamentalist wackos who come out of the woodwork everytime there is some article about evolution. Please. This is the twenty-fucking-first century; anybody technically literate should understand that evolution happened, that the universe (and earth) are billions of years old, and that the Bible isn't a repository of scientifically accurate information.

None of this "well, six days could be each billions of years long, so I can still believe in Genesis being literally true. Well, not literally literally. Just approximately literally." bullshit. Just plain DID NOT HAPPEN THAT WAY.

People, "equal time for intelligent design" is about like "equal time for 2+2=5." Can I prove evolution happened? Depends what you mean by "prove." Can you prove 2+2=4? Depends on what *I* mean by prove.

Oh, and by the way, how about equal time for "a flat earth"?

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