Dear friends, the reason I’m commenting on your argument here in a separate article is not that I consider you were wrong talking to each other within, or only within, the comments section of another Zspacer’s article, Alex Knight’s; actually what I consider wrong about this, is that, as I have repeatedly written, and read, when one sends a reply to a commentator, Zspace shows it up as comment to the initial author instead of having proposed some other outlet in case the discussion shifts to things not having to do with the initial article or not engaging the initial writer. So:
Besides the familiar double talk employed by politicians, which fully deserves the analysis , both quite accurate and quite sarcastic, given by Pinter in his Nobel acceptance speech of 2007 , titled “Art, Truth & Politics”, and referring to the genuine ambiguities of man’s life presented by dramatists like himself in contradistinction to the outright lies, often not only misleading but also criminal, of decision makers, there are other places too where semantic ambiguities play a role in the discourse between citizens, some times a role as phoney as in the case of politicians, sometimes fundamantalistic and fanatical and sometimes as genuine as in innocuous , but often ineffective too, philosophical debates. Many of these places intersect on the common ground of religion. I think it will clarify the nature of some aspects of the issue if we do the following: 1. Present a little the recent Dawkins story as a ground on which to fix ideas and show its relevance, before we finally see its irrelevance. 2. Present some of the views on religion of a more imaginative atheist (Konrad Lorenz, who with two other biologists, received a Nobel prize for the establishment of “ethology”, the study of the life of animals that are not in captivity, and for the understanding of its relevance in many aspects of also human nature and of its implications for the course of human civilization). 3. Talk a little about de Sade in the light of the film “Quills” about him.
(By the way: when speaking of theology, a teacher, like I happen to be, of also biology, to teenagers, and who also has concerns like ZSpace’s, OK such a teacher does have, of course, some obligation to find a way comprehensible to people who have taken just high school level molecular biology, to see what sense to make of the theological dispute that we’ll see happening in England. But the arguments from molecular biology I will do include only if somebody asks me to) There we go:
Dawkins, the Oxford biologist (of the books “The selfish gene”, “The blind watchmaker”,…) has found a sponsor to post on London buses a big advertisement writing “God does not exist, so have a good time” or something like that. A Russian tycoon has sponsored himself to post on
monologs: “…Neither a reductionist of the Jacques Monod type nor an antireductionist of the Kurt Goedel type, can take the recent bus advertisements in London “God does not exist, therefore feel free to have a good time” more seriously than something just prompting one to say: “If that’s what was keeping you from feeling free to have a good time, then by all means do feel free and do have a good time. Religion did harm you, if to believe in life’s richness they had told you that the richness of miracles containable in science was not enough and as package deal, along with the extra richness allowable by religion, you had to take threats about hells unaccountable by science. After all, you’re not taking the bus ad in the spirit of “If no God exists then everything is allowed” that in other times was considered as a dangerous slogan (“then all will become criminals”) or as mourning and depression “if God is dead then the living meaning has been extinguished”). So, in short, feel free to have a good time”. And neither of the two kinds of thinkers we saw above, can take the antipodal slogan “God does exist, therefore feel free to have a good time” more seriously than something just prompting one to say: “If that’s what you needed to feel free to have a good time, then by all means do feel free and do have a good time. Science did harm you, if to believe in rationality they had told you that the properties of bunches of macromolecules are only the ones familiar to scientists drawing their models from the physics that existed before the understanding of macromolecules. Even if antireductionism is wrong and reductionists of the Monod type are right , it still is true that the richness of the properties of those bunches is so much greater than the one containable in what the old models considered as scientific that it is like a God having been detected. You don’t have to become a creationist to go beyond the traditional limitations of science! (At least join Hoyle’s club, to see what efforts are needed to dispute mainstream without getting the easy but crazy way out. But even Monod-like biology is rich enough and miraculous enough). So, in short, feel free to have a good time”. And who can argue convincingly against the following conjecture?: that both types of thinkers would also say to the ones who espoused the one and the other bus slogan, respectively: 1. If by saying “God does not exist, therefore feel free to have a good time” you mean things like e.g. “well, what does a human amount to? An advanced robot that will die by eventually getting our of order and therefore will feel no hell (since it will be out of order), but does feel pleasure by having some of its circuits tickled before it dies, therefore kill to get more cheaply the oil of some countries to have more energy so as to tickle your pleasure circuits for a longer fraction of your living time”, well if that’s what your slogan means then, even before I sit down and work out the re-valuation of values really implied by atheism, I do consider it a priority to take any chance to shake down off you all this crap; off you and off the theoreticians whose teachings gave such alibis and such blank checks to your stupidity and to your cheapness. 2. If by saying “God does exist, therefore feel free to have a good time” you mean things like e.g. “God does exist, and to us , his chosen people, he said “feel free to kill to get more cheaply the land or oil of others etc etc” (things well known from fundamentalism of either the Jewish type or the Bush-American type and the old tendency of Americans to simulate their path towards Far West with the path towards Canaan through the desert, and to simulate Pequot massacre stories and in general genocide of Indians, blessed by God “like the genocide in the Bible stories”, well if that’s what your slogan means then, even before I sit down and work out the basis for the continuing relevance of the values really implied by theism, I do consider it a priority to take any chance to shake down off you all this crap; off you and off the politicians and theologians and preachers whose teachings gave such alibis and such blank checks to your stupidity and to your cheapness.
Well, dear friends, Michael and Richard, or Richard and Michael, these last things I do consider as slamming, and I do consider such slamming well deserved; but also only hypothetical, as far as addressed to factual people and not to collective entities and to collective habits and tendencies; at least in my own personal experience I have not encountered people deserving any of that as persons.
Of course it is obvious that the slamming tone in your last exchanges referred to nothing nearing the tone just imagined, and it is even more obvious that what you said to each other amounted to nothing nearing over-exertions and over-implications of one’s convictions like the ones just worked out. So I post all that as an exaggeration with some food for thought and some collectively educational potential.
Maybe even more educational will be the following ready-made sequel from other contexts:
The above was issue 1 I proposed as relevant to the argument between you. For issue 2, Lorenz’s views on religion, please just go to the comment I wrote recently to another ZSpacer’s article, Gary Olson’s review of a book by Frans de Waal on October 13. For issue 3, de Sade, I just copy-paste some points from a wider discussion included in a more complete presentation of the correspondence, of the type of the present letter, that I post elsewhere because of some limitations, of either me or ZSpace or both, that do not allow me to include pictures in the texts written:
“…Let’s take the film “Quills”, about de Sade, who is played by Geoffrey Rush, the same actor who played the pianist in “Shine” and whom I like very much for the additional reason that he played that pianist with the same body language of my best American friend when I was a student in US. Now de Sade himself is a person whom I personally detest, despise and loathe, literally and absolutely, for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the point I’m going to make, so let me not mention them, and let’s stick to the very sympathetic personality of the film’s de Sade who like …(a poet& activist who after an abortive attempt with explosives on a junta leader) in junta’s prison lived both of the well known Chinese proverbs:1) May God not give you the things that you can stand 2)If, to silence truth, you put it in jail then the jail’s walls will become loudspeakers shouting it; as we saw in the case of this activist some of his guards seeing what he chose to go through and did go through unbroken, felt like so total zeroes that they risked sharing his fate, smuggling his verses out of the prison. In de Sade’s case a priest, who at first fought him, at the end not only suffered his fate but also propagated his pornographic work and a psychiatrist who considered his work as a sick symptom to treat him for, and with very brutal methods, and was responsible for his death, first of all propagated his work selling it for money and also lived it by using postures etc from it for the sexual pleasure of himself and of a spinster lady who detested de Sade when he lived. OK, de Sade used those writing-pen feathers, quills, in order to write, he steeped not in ink which was denied to him, but in his blood , he did write like that activist did sometimes. OK, the analogy that we see with him is of course not made by us in order to belittle the activist or because this film can make us so stupid as to confuse his ideals with de Sade’s. But let’s ask ourselves why functions like those of the two Chinese proverbs were presented through de Sade and not through some of the activists in the history of the world. The answer is rather clear: In the one case, if one asked “but are we here to see a film on functions and mechanisms of how forbidden ideas propagate or to at last hear the content of these ideas too?” the answer could afford to be “Are you serious wanting to really hear the ideas of de Sade? Go to a library and you’ll freak out, and you will thank us for not presenting them and you will admire us for making such a lovely film without mentioning anything of his but only some of our own, or our age’s, ideas. We don’t silence him, we did him enough of a favor mentioning him, what more would he want from us? To be realistic in depicting him himself?”. So in the one case the answer could afford to brazenly be “Oh, well, we just meant to make a film saying absolutely nothing about nothing”. In the other case the answer to “But, at last, what were the ideas of this person who was willing to go through so much for their sake?” would be “His idea was to show that it is possible to stand the consequences of conscientious objection to a to a junta, which is the only way for soldiers to disarm it”. So “Quills” functions to divert the consciousness of the public from the fact that this kind of saint’s sufferings and fate and silencing has been reserved for, and is still exerted on, innumerable people, either still anonymous or well known after martyrdom , fighting for ideals very well known and not at all extreme and idiosyncratic like de Sade’s, but quite everyday and relevant to the changes all would want and everybody would wonder why it’s so difficult to implement. It’s something done not having in mind anything at all for the benefit of the viewer’s soul, not even entertainment, it’s something done not having in mind anything at all for the benefit of the viewer but only things for the benefit of the persons who would write it, sell it, get prizes for it etc…” By the way let’s see some upshots of the catapult-like oration of this (Greek) activist (Alexandros Panagoulis*) in the court martial**:
(* Books on Panagoulis have titles like “The cell of poetry”, “Rehearsals of death”, “A man” (the last one was in English, written by O. Falacci)
**Unfortunately, here too, pictures are to be missed. To see two of them see page 148 of the entry “Correspondence so far…” at the beginning of my site www.johnalevizos.net)
“…In one sense I was happy my bomb missed his car by one meter. I’m not a killer, I’m a fighter. And to fight against a junta doesn’t mean to kill its leader who is just a puppet buffoon played by foreign interests, nor to kill some of its quite replaceable policemen or soldiers ,whom I would not stand the remorses to kill. To fight a junta means to disarm it, and disarming it means that a great number of soldiers will not obey their orders, and somebody telling them to do so means he proves to them that it is humanly possible to stand the consequences, as I did prove by only writing to your leader that he is a buffoon and a clown on all grace pleas and petitions you brought me to sign, in order for you not to expose your regime in front of international organizations which objected to my execution, and at the same time for you not to look powerless in front of the people that you wanted to terrorize. My oration is not contempt of court martial , because you are not a court but bosses of torturers some of whom even have a sick thwarted surgeon’s sexual imagination; and you are not martial either since you are deserters not soldiers; I deserted your army to serve my country, as I do serve it everyday in the torture chamber; you deserted your country by not deserting an army that receives orders against its country and its people. Alas to a nation not giving birth to a tyrannicide when giving birth to a tyrant.”
Since we cannot end our comment here, like in the site, with one more picture, the famous picture of Allende and his companions coming out of a door and looking at the plane that will open fire at them, let’s end it with some excerpts from Neruda’s “Canto General” the music for which (by the famous activist composer who also put to music the poetry of the activist we saw above) would first be performed some weeks later in a stadium of Chile, if Pinochet’s coup had not intervened. We choose the excerpts with a view to one more practice question: Is poetry like the following religious? Biblical? Atheist? Hawkish? Terrorist? Pacifist?
“When the trumpet blared, everything on earth was prepared and Jehova distributed the world to Coca Cola Inc., Anaconda Ford Motors and the other entities. United Fruit Inc. reserved for itself the juiciest, the central seaboard of my country, America’s sweet waist. It rebaptized its lands the “Banana Republics”, and upon the slumbering corpses, upon the restless heroes who conquered renown, freedom and flags, it established the buffoons’ opera, it alienated self-destiny, gave as gifts Caesar’s crowns, unsheathed envy, attracted the dictatorship of flies, fly Truhillo, fly Tahos, fly Garias, fly Martinez, fly Ubico, flies soaked in humble blood and jam, drunk flies that drone over the common graves, circus flies, clever flies versed in tyranny. Among the blood thirsty flies, the Fruit Co. disembarks, ravaging coffee and fruits for its ships that make disappear like ghosts on serving trays, the treasures of our lands that are submerged. Meanwhile in the sugary abysses of the seaports collapsed Indians , buried in the mist of the morning: a body rolls down a thing without name, a fallen number, a bunch of lifeless fruit dumped in the rubbish heap”, “badgers scratch the river’s feet, sniff out the nest whose throbbing delight they’ll attack with red teeth, and in the depths of the almighty water like the circle of the earth lies the giant anaconda covered with ritual mud devouring and religious” .“Before the wig and the dress coat there were rivers, arterial rivers, there were cordilleras, jagged waves where the condor and the snow seemed immutable, there was dampness and dense growth as yet unnamed, the planetary pampas. Man was dust, earthen vase, an eyelid of tremulous loam, the shape of clay he was Carib jug, Chibcha stone, imperial cup or Araucanian silica tender and bloody was he, but on the grip of his weapon of moist flint, the initials of the earth were written. No one could remember them afterwards: the wind forgot them, the language of water was buried, the keys were lost or flooded with silence or blood. I, Incan of the loam, touched the stone and said: Who awaits me? And I closed my hand around a fistful of empty flint but I walked among Zapotec flowers and the light was soft like a deer, and the shade was a green eyelid. My land without name, without America, equinoctial stamen, purple lance, your aroma climbed my roots up to the glass raised to my lips, up to the most slender word as yet unborn in my mouth”.