Monday, May 4, 2015

What I Did On My Vacation and other stuff...

Hi-ho, people of CommentaramaPolitics! I hope you didn't miss me too much. I just spent a glorious week in jolly ol' London and had a mahvelous time. London is a wonderful city of civilized people where autos actually stop for pedestrians crossing the street and the Underground runs like clockwork. If the New York subway system ran one tenth as efficiently, New Yorkers would have to find something else to complaint about! Seriously, London is great.

The most astounding was Westminster Abbey where I stood at the graves of the entire history of the British Empire. I paid homage to Henry V who was immortalized by Shakespeare in the "St. Crispin's Day" speech. I was walking through this glorious Abbey, I stopped to look around. When I looked down, I was standing on the grave of Charles Darwin! I admit that I wept at Poet's Corner where all of the greatest writers of the English language are buried - Keats, Shelley, Audin, Austin, the Brontes, the list was endless. And then there was Sir Isaac Newton. All of it was a breath-taking.

However, on a bitter note, I was disappointed that the Queen did not answer the doorbell at Buckingham Palace. I mean, really, I am about 6 millionth+ in line for the Crown. You'd think that she wouldn't be so ill-mannered to not receive me. But then again, with the pending birth of little Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, I can only assume that she and the other royals were otherwise occupied. But frankly, I thought it was really rude that they couldn't arrange for Kate to give birth while I was there. I suspect that they specifically waited until I was safely on the plane going back "across the pond" to announce the birth. Well, I will certainly return that baby gift!

All bitterness aside and as a complete non-sequitor to my vacation, I want to share something that I read before I left for jolly ol' England. It is one of the most elegant responses that I have ever read on the subject of "Religion v. Science". Of all places, it appeared on the Village Voice blog written by a young man who goes by the moniker of Andrew W.K. To look at his photo, one would suspect that he would not or could not be so elegant. To me this is the perfect example of why I strive to "never judge a book by its cover". I am copying his response to a question in its entirety because it is worth reading: Ask Andrew W.K.: 'How Do I Show Religious Freaks That Science Wins?':

Yo, Andrew.

How can anyone believe in religion? It's so ignorant and obviously fake. I've always backed science since I was a little kid, and now I'm proud to say that I'm studying to be a molecular biologist in college. The thing is, I'm surrounded by a lot of religious idiots at this school, and whenever I try to explain to them how believing in a man in heaven who rose from the dead and all that superstitious BS is literally causing the murder of millions of people, they argue back and tell me that "science is evil and is playing God," and that I should develop my "faith" before I blow up the world.

What is the best way to finally get through to these ignorant people and explain to them simply and finally that they're wrong? If they would just give in and accept the scientific future, they would see that they don't need religion to enjoy life.

Thanks for your feedback,
Enlightened Scientist

Dear Enlightened Scientist,

Science versus religion.

I've always found this to be one of the most unnecessary arguments in contemporary society. Why does it have to be one way or another? I may not be the most mature or educated person, but when I see highly esteemed academics twice my age arguing about this, on and on, it puzzles and concerns me. Arguing about whether science or religion is better seems about as futile as arguing about whether day or night is better. Both have their qualities and shortcomings; neither can (nor should) be expected to replace the other. They are two sides of the same coin, and they both emerged out of — and are aspects of — a fundamental search for reality.

Both science and religion came from mankind's desire to know. Both are striving for truth. Science wants to understand truth. Religion wants to experience it. Science wants to get at truth from the outside in. Religion gets at it from the inside out. Science gives us the how; religion gives us the why. Science gives us the means to an end, religion gives us the meaning of that end. Science wants to bring comprehension to the universe. Religion wants to bring tangibility to the intangible.

You say your argument is that science has never killed anyone like people have been killed in the name of religion. While people may not murder each other "in the name of science," we do know that nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, eugenics and biological experimentation can also contribute to death and killing in an endless variety of ways. Both science and religion can be used as a method or justification by those who want to cause pain and suffering and break the rules of common sense and humanity. And even if one has a more extreme body count than the other, it doesn't mean that one should exist and the other shouldn't. None of the crimes that humanity has committed against itself mean that science is evil or that religion is bad. All it means is that people can do horrible things to each other using all sorts of convoluted reasoning.

Ultimately, it seems that when people complain about the harm of religion, they're often simply complaining about people behaving badly. They're talking about their dislike of people behaving barbarically. As much as the truth of God may be beyond description and intellectual grasp, the truth of human cruelty and ignorance is all too familiar and measurable. And when people claim to talk about the evil of science, they're actually just complaining about those unfortunate scientists who lack the ethical tools or moral integrity to guide and refine the use of their discoveries. Both religious people and scientific people can behave badly. A closed-minded scientist can be a jerk just as easily as a devout religious person can be a fool. No mode of thought or set of beliefs should be blamed for the lack of character in a particular individual. Nor should the vast array of benefits found in both science and religion be thrown away just because some people behave poorly in spite of them.

So your complaint really shouldn't be with religion or people who are religious, but simply with the unfortunately all-too-familiar shortcomings of the human race. Any religion that promotes hatred is not really a religion at all. And any scientist who cannot live with the spirit of brotherly love in his heart has more problems to investigate inside himself than in the material world. Every person who feels it necessary to battle over the definition or location of truth is neither in possession of any truth to begin with, nor do they have the possibility of experiencing any truth while existing in a prejudiced, spiteful, and unloving state of mind. We must do better than this. We have to grow.

Out of all the principles we should tirelessly strive to live with, gentle kindness, flexibility of spirit, open-mindedness, and a type of pure and unconditional love are the most crucial — especially when we feel most compelled not to behave that way. We simply cannot claim to be real human beings until we can learn to live with the other human beings around us, no matter how religious or scientific they may or may not be. Learning to live with one another remains our first and most urgent challenge, and it starts with each of us honestly working at it from the inside. It's much easier and much more tempting to lash out and attack everyone else we think is wrong, but we must start much closer to home. We can't fix the world until we fix ourselves first.

Someday, maybe science or religion really will claim dominance and beat the other once and for all. But until then, it seems that we each have plenty of work to do personally and internally, in order to become more gracious, more tolerant, and more humane human beings.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

Please feel free to discuss...


AndrewPrice said...

Hi Bev, Welcome back! :D

That is an eloquent response. I find the claim the lumping of Christianity and other good religions in with Islam to be ridiculous. I see it as a smear. Many modern Christians have issues, but murdering people is not one of them.

Moreover, the anti-religion crowd loves to forget that the Soviets were atheists and opposed religion. They saw science as the founding principle of modern society. And they killed tens of millions of people.

Kit said...


This song is about the DC Metro system but I guess many of the complains apply to the New York subway system.

Critch said...

I loved London. People were for the most part very polite, and it was so civilized. I walked across London Bridge, I toured the Parliament and Buckingham Palace. I loved The Tower and The Imperial War Museum. I loved the pubs, I really loved the pubs. I think the most inspiring thing I saw was Ely Cathedral in East Anglia, about 100 miles from London...I want to go back.

Anonymous said...

Bev, welcome back. I'm glad you had a good time. And thanks for reprinting this exchange. It was very well written and thoughtful and I'll referto it in future discussions, I'm sure. Welcome back.

BevfromNYC said...

GypsyTyger - Thanks! I am glad to be back...sort of. Frankly, I would rather be a tourist with no real time restraints that having to always be in a rush to be somewhere. But a girls gotta make a living, right? Anyway, I am so glad that you liked Mr. W.K's response. Like you, I will be using it as a reference anytime this subject comes up. It is exactly what I think, but could never put into words so well.

BevfromNYC said...

Critch - I love London too and I will definitely go back. Mainly because the pubs are so cheap! Who know that a pint was so cheap? The underground is expensive, but who cares when the beer is so cheap!

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - I LOVE that video! It could very easily be about the NY subway system except the NY system is guaranteed to be much, much worse. The London and NY systems are the same age, but London's system runs a million times better. I think the reason is that NY's subway system was built by several different private railway barons for the benefit of the masses. Then the city/state took them over and consolidated them under the MTA. I think London's system was built as a city/government project to begin with and is better thought out.

BevfromNYC said...

Hi Andrew - I am glad to be back! Yeah, whenever there's an attack by Islamic terrorists, somehow all religions get blamed. And the inevitable comments about the Crusades and abortion doctors murdered in the '80[s comes up. Yeah, it's not "religion" that is the problem. It's just humans doing bad stuff...and in the case of ISIS, they do it in the name of Islam now, today, at this moment. Not 30 years ago or 800 years ago, but now, today, at this moment.

BevfromNYC said...

Speaking of terrorist attacks, does anyone else think that ISIS just made a huge tactical error by making Texas it's first strike zone within the US?

AndrewPrice said...

OT: This just in, Mike Huckabee is running for el Hefe. As you might have suspected, Commentarama endorses Father Huckabee's quest to restore America to the 1850s... a time when only 13 states outlawed abortion, when S&M was national policy and would soon cause a war, and when our first gay president was sleeping in a bed with other men. Very progressive Father Huck!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Glad you're back! Glad you had a good time too! :D

Yeah, I think it's asinine that they are lumping together two thousand years of history, often false history, and blaming every mad man, crank or opportunist who ever claimed to act in the name of Christianity as if their actions were official Christian doctrine... yet they act like all the bad stuff done by atheists and scientists is just random jerks.

Kit said...

"This just in, Mike Huckabee is running for el Hefe. As you might have suspected, Commentarama endorses Father Huckabee's quest to restore America to the 1850s... a time when only 13 states outlawed abortion, when S&M was national policy and would soon cause a war, and when our first gay president was sleeping in a bed with other men. Very progressive Father Huck!"


AndrewPrice said...

A tad too tongue-in-cheeky?

Kit said...

A few quick thoughts on the religion/science thing:

A lot of the anti-theist atheists only think of Christians as this hyper-fundamentalist caricature. (Ex., Carrie's mom) They never look at, say, the deeply Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce. Or anti-Nazi dissidents like Bonhoeffer.

Also, why do science and religion have to be in conflict? And why must they be treated as two different systems of belief? Science is the study of the natural world while religion is the adding of meaning to the natural world. Science explains the how, religion explains (or at least attempts to) the why.

"Moreover, the anti-religion crowd loves to forget that the Soviets were atheists and opposed religion. They saw science as the founding principle of modern society. And they killed tens of millions of people."
That annoys me, too.

Kit said...

"A tad too tongue-in-cheeky?"

Maybe a bit.

BevfromNYC said...

"A lot of the anti-theist atheists only think of Christians as this hyper-fundamentalist caricature."

This bothers me too. Religious organizations have provided food, shelter and aid to communities through out human history. There is a reason why one can find a church or cathedral on the town square. Religious institutions have been central to the development of civilizations.

Mostly anti-theists can only see the Crusades and "witch-hunts" and fail to see the achievements in art, architecture, literature, scientific discovery, university systems, and systems of clinics and hospitals that has been created in the name of religion. [Any hospital with "Saint" in its name, was founded by some Catholic religious order or another.] Religious organizations have providing basic food, shelter and aid to communities through out human history.

AndrewPrice said...

Fine, Kit. Spoil my fun. I un-endorse Mr. Huckabee. :(

AndrewPrice said...

... you have to admit though, that was one of the best endorsements he's going to get! :D

BevfromNYC said...

"...Commentarama endorses Father Huckabee..."

Okay! The Huckster, it is then. I applaud your quick endorsement and I will now have to honor it with my vote. I was getting worried that I would have to think for myself! This must be what feminists feel like with Hillary.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, This must be what feminists feel like with Hillary.

Bravo! :D

BevfromNYC said...

WAIT, WHAT??? I just declared my vote for Huckabee to be the final word on your endorsement! What a fool you've made of me, Andrew! }8-/

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry Bev, but you should know I always go with whomever I saw on television last! ;-)

Kit said...


You don't understand. Yes, they might offer state-of-the-art cancer treatment but they refuse to give women who arrive at the hospital free birth control pills, condoms, or abortions.

Which means they are providing substandard, third-world quality care!

Kit said...

Because they hate women because they believe a book where Jebus rode a dinosaur. What a bunch of retards.

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - NOW whose being "tongue-in-cheeky"? ;-D

Rustbelt said...

Well, if we're endorsing/unendorsing the Huckster. let's revisit one of the Huckster's finest (NOT!) moments. LINK

Rustbelt said...

Wait! Before we're out of time... happy Cinco de Mayo!

Please celebrate accordingly- with a taco and enough hot sauce to leave you breathing fire like Wile E. Coyote.

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