Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lawrence Lessig on Obama

Lawrence Lessig, a guy who's ideas I respect, and who's book I have yet to read, despite it sitting on my shelf for three years, has created a video in response to a letter requesting an explanation of why he supports Barack Obama. His response is clear. He calls the Clinton campaign "Rovean." He explains what each campaign means by "change." Clinton wants change, but limited to the removal of George W. Bush, and the GOP from Washington, and Barack Obama, and other Democrats want a fundamental change. They want to change the way we do things. Are we going to keep taking money from large economic interests, because they represent, "real Americans?" Or, will we treat running a campaign, not as a means to censor suggestions or ideas from anyone, as Clinton may make the case Obama and others do when they refuse funding, but as a way to make the system more fair. The large financial interests already have the means to campaign for themselves, in the media and elsewhere. They are free to compete in the democracy of ideas at a level much greater then anyone else. Their voice is loudest. It has been this way through out our history. But, while the influence of large companies is strong, a candidate can make a stand regarding the impact of large corporate influence on their campaign. Does this mean that large corporations should be censored, that Barack and others are anti-business by refusing campaign assistance? No. Corporate interests already have such a large influence that they need no further help. Now, I do detest the treatment of "THE BIG BAD MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS," as something evil and wicked. Not every large organization is evil, and not every multinational organization wants to crush the worker. However, I do not find value in giving further influence and assistance to organizations who have such a great advantage in the marketplace as it is. These companies are made up of people, and doing what is right for the people who make up the company as a whole will benefit the company as a whole.

So, do we want the kind of calculated moral character of Clinton, or the principled decisions of someone willing to lead and inspire hope? I am far from a cheerleader and am always skeptical of anyone with power and influence. I do not like the idolization of political figures because is creates a sort of celebrity which involves dissection of each detail about an individual which I find unhelpful. However, this idolization at the same time simplifies a candidate. There are now single words to describe the campaigns of both candidates, we and she. It's this open ended simplification which allows people to make judgments in their own mind of how a certain person is personally, what they may do in certain situations and how they will be as a leader. Rather then selling you a complete story, it creates a pitch for a general idea you can stitch together and make your own.

Perhaps I'm wrong, and am being duped. At some level we're all exposed to a barrage of ideas, and select those ideas we value and give them a little more credit. I don't have the sense that voting for Obama is a safe vote, or a calculated vote. It just feels right. Some have argued that Clinton will be the strongest on defense and terrorism. They feel we'll be attacked again soon, and Clinton will give the strongest response. I see this as old thinking. Our strong responses do not prevent terrorism, but make it worse. Do our enemies attack us for no reason? Or, are we viewed as invasive, intolerant, and preemptive? If we had a fundamental change in our foreign policy, would that be better at preventing aggression against our interests? That's the hope.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Are Science and Religion Compatible

On Thursday Bjorn and I saw a fairly interesting and relevant "debate" at the University of Minnesota. I say "debate" because for the most part the two sides agreed with each other. The question was whether science and religion were compatible. Arguing the negative was PZ Myers, and on the positive was Loyal Rue, a non theist teaching at Luther College.
I'll start with the argument that Bjorn and I obviously agree with, that it isn't. PZ states one can be religious and a good scientist because people are complicated, and as humans we encompass many views at once. We are also very good at ignoring contradictions making science and religion able to coexist. As a scientist himself Myers believes that science is everything and that the world is material. The problem with religion is that it makes claims about the world, but we now are knowledgeable enough that these religious methods of viewing the word have become irrelevant and unnecessary. He thinks that religious thought is antithetical to scientific thought.
Rue states that religion and morality is naturalistic. Religion is a myth, meaning story. It brings facts together with values. Religion comes from the Latin word meaning to bind, which, to me at least, makes a lot of sense. To him, it binds together values with explanations for how things came to be. It unifies our vocabulary for talking about our world, and our values. It is the ultimate explanation for facts and ultimate justification for values. For this reason it is important to have this story, religion, to guide us. We still read Greek myths after all. There has to be a reason for it. He states that God is a metaphor of a person and explains how the world came to be as well as justifies what we do. Religion should help us achieve a personal wholeness, a sense of social solidarity. He also thinks that we have a need for ritual, that it is therapeutic, and that religion can fill that role. His solution is to borrow the pillars religion is based on, institutional, experiential, artistic, ritual, etc., and build a religion of a naturalistic cosmology and develop a new story which is more compelling then the dualistic cosmology we currently observe in major religions.
PZ Myers agrees that religion fuses truth and justice and that it brings us together. However, religion is a tainted word. He urges all of us to keep the bible because it is a part of our history. It shows us how people lived, and thought thousand of years ago. Place it between The Odyssey, and other great works of literature.
As for me, I definitely do not think that the two are compatible. I recently looked at the winners for a Creationist science fair. The second place winner for the middle school level was Why Women Are Good Homemakers. Needless to say that is the most insulting science project I've ever seen. The winners for the high school level proved that the Arc was scientifically possible by suspending mice in a cage, and that praying over bacteria will make them more resistant to antibacterial agents. Everything that science tells us spits in the face of every argument an ancient book claims about how things are. I won't go into those obvious discrepancies. I am interested in what you guys think. I'm really looking forward to some convincing arguments that the two are indeed compatible., I haven't heard one yet.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't forget your Mittens

CNN is reporting that Mitt Romney is suspending his campaign, after a disappointing Super Tuesday. John McCain has risen from the dead, almost being counted out in early predictions, now he's in the seat. What will we do without constant reminders about how crazy Mormonism is? How will I live without hearing "magic underwear" everyday? Romney was bred for the role, and will have to settle for a lesser political position, or bounce back into business. I just don't want to see him selling used cars. So, McCain, the darling POW who democrats are soft for, and the "Dittoheads" hate. Who would the red states back if not Huckabee?