The World Ends in 2012. So, What Do We Do With the Advice, "One Orgasm A Day Keeps the Doctor Away" ?
It's the middle of summer, so maybe I should talk about something light. Let's see, oh, on July 14th, the sun will be perfectly aligned on the East-West Manhattan avenues! I drove crosstown (westward) yesterday during sunset and it was blinding! Nice day though. Went to a party that lasted until the cops showed up... But, that's New York City, things happen like that.
Ah, did you know that the world will end in December of 1012? A Google search gets 300,000 pages on the subject. YouTube has over 65,000 videos on the impending doom. Here are a few on a variety of prophesies! [Can you spot the many fallacies there?] There are lots of people out there who believe this, and given the scientific ignorance of the American public, this is no surprise. They claim the proof is in ancient texts, Mayan calculations, pyramids, holy books, etc. Of course, the ancients knew by divine inspiration or something like that. Anyone can predict the end of the world--I'm sure the world will end someday... when the sun burns up its hydrogen supply--but those who make specific predictions of events that will take place in our lifetime are simply idiots or very gifted con artists. Oops, did I offend anyone?
Now if the world ends in a couple years, what do we do with the British National Health Service (that socialist creation) advice, an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away! If it's about health and long life this isn't the advice to have if the world ends in 2012. Building a bomb shelter may be more appropriate. On the other hand, maybe we should cram in as much pleasure as we can before it all ends! What do you think?
Just across from Britain, Ireland now has an anti-blasphemy law! In an earlier post, I wrote an argument in defense of blasphemy, so I won't repeat the same points here. It strikes me as medieval that the church or any religion needs this special privilege. If it's a crime to offend people of faith in Ireland, I would like to see the immediate implementation of this law against all organized religions that say offensive stuff about other religions! Whenever a Xtian says that Islam is a religion of hate, he should be punished. When a Muslim rails against the infidels he should pay for this offense. As for me--knowing that I've already offended many faiths--I won't be visiting Ireland. I would guess that this new law will have very bad effects on Ireland if it's not changed soon.
Let's look at our own mess with the religious fanatics here. The lunatic fringe was not marginal but in charge in the last 8 years. They still wield considerable influence. One of the problems is a political party that supports scientific illiteracy, prejudice, superstition, and attacks on reason & science. I'm not talking about elements in the GOP--the Dems have lots of ignorant people/politicians in their midst--but it's the party's political agenda to promote ignorance and plain stupidity.
Politicians are elected by the people, so it's natural for them to reflect the people's views. However, the fact are what they are--for example, it is the earth that orbits the sun; a fact that is known only by half of Americans--therefore, some leadership is necessary, and we should do better to educate the people. It's unethical and stupid to promote religion--i.e., creationism or "intelligent design"--instead of science! Evolution is a fact, a scientific theory, supported by evidence, has facts, and many disciplines supporting it. The more we find, the more evidence we collect the stronger this theory becomes. If we ever find evidence that contradicts elements or even the entire theory, then we make revisions. It's absurd to claim that if it's written in a holy book it must be true.
I teach a course on Public Myth and Ideology. I understand the power of ideas. I also understand the power of culture, the strong influence of certain images have on identity, and the conservative mind of those who don't know or don't care to know. Less confident people are less prone to revision and even tolerant of other ideas. Being a fan of a sports team is fine; you support it no matter what. But, you can't do the same about other important things in life. If that's how you see the world, then you'll make the wrong decisions about your life and about the direction of the country. I often ask my students, do we, collectively, get what we deserve? What do you think?
The following video is from Charlie Rose and the great Carl Sagan's last appearance on the show. If you haven't read Carl's Demon-Haunted World yet, I recommend you get a copy right away. It's how science illuminates our world and our existence. He would, too, be committing a crime in Ireland though by saying such things...
There is a good book out, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I have to say that I disagree with the authors that blame the atheist scientists for driving (some) people away from science. From early on, the approach should be, learn about the natural world through inquiry and rational thinking. Obviously it's likely that once a person learns the facts, but most importantly learns to base his beliefs on scientific evidence. Atheism is the result of the question: where's the evidence?
Mooney is also the author of The Republican War on Science. If you want to understand how bad it's been in the US read these two books. It's ironic really that a country rich in scientific knowlege and all sorts of achievements because of science and technology has such a disinsterested public. The authors show that it's been like this since our early days. We take pride in the product of our science but we don't know much about it. It's not about high science and obscure ways but about basic stuff, like the age of the earth, evolution, etc.
As Carl Sagan said, science is more than the product. It's the way of thinking, the way of approaching the unknown, obtaining knowledge through inquiry, testing, and open-mindedness. It requires confidence though, in that a person has to be able to make revisions. You can't be a sports fan when it comes to knowledge. Better evidence, better arguments win... and the new theory has ways of amendment; otherwise it's not a scientific theory, it's a dogma. In addition, thinking and searching require effort and time. I hope that many more people find such a journey of discovery worthwhile.
In closing, and since these are the light days of summer, one more video that will make me a criminal in Ireland today... I'm sorry, Bernadette (Bernie) of Donegal Town, I won't be visiting anytime soon...
PS. I started creating this post in my mind after reading Unscientific America around the same time Ireland passed the anti-blasphemy law. Then the news today about disgraced Ralph Reed who wants a new moral Christian Conservative movement in America. Oh, please, God save us... I also read the science blog Pharyngula [highly recommended] that happened to have these 2 videos, so my thanks to PZ Myers.