ANOTHER EXCHANGE WITH DAVEO
This exchange began with a complaining letter I sent about one of the Spokesman Review’s columnists. She wrote an essay about evil and seemed to give credence to such religious nonsense as exorcisms and etcetera. That, of course, fired me up and my letter followed. Then Dave jumped in and off we went to the races. Hope you enjoy our titanic struggle:
Dear Editorial Board,
Rebecca Nappi’s muddled and uninformative essay on Wednesday about “evil” is a clear example of what I’ve been saying about the fact that no one on your paper represents a rational, useful and clear-eyed point of view on current events. She added nothing to anyone’s understanding of human behavior and so her column was a waste of everybody’s time.
I read a few of [Scott] Peck’s earlier works, when he was still a bit more sensible, but he’s fallen off the edge now, so to speak. S. J. Gould did a good job of picking apart Peck’s theories of human behavior quite some time ago, and I wish I could recall which of Gould’s essays performed the vivisection so that I could recommend it to the Board.
Who cares whether we call an act “good”, “evil”, “cute”, “bad” or “criminal”? Labeling an act by any name yields not the slightest information of why the act appeared in the behavior repertoire of an individual human being. None whatsoever. Historically, labeling never stops an act from occurring again, never has, and it doesn’t really explain the behavior. If it did, the human race would have had only to experience one Hitler. So Rebecca’s column was just an exercise in futility and commiseration. She waved a soggy handkerchief at the problem of human behavior and turned her back on some potentially real answers.
I’ll cut to the conclusion that Rebecca should have arrived at. An appeal for more funding for the scientific research of evolutionary psychology and a genetic understanding of the real causes of human behavior. In those fields some real understanding of human behavior is already being uncovered. Over and over I’ve recommended to your august company some of the names of those books for your reading pleasure. However, none of the solid and useful information from those books seem to be getting into your paper.
Human behavior does not occur in the way that most under-educated Americans think it does. Really, to hear most people talk, you’d think that all the sensory data which bombards the human animal every second goes to some little room in the brain where sits a homunculus (or soul, armed or unarmed with moral imperatives) which reviews all the arriving data for its moral content then selects from a repertoire of action levers on the wall beside it and pulls one or another to achieve some moral purpose. You’d also think that two other creatures also inhabit this control room, one which tells the little homunculus to chose the good action lever and one which urges it to pull the other lever. If you listen to most babble and commiseration about human behavior, you’ll see that’s what underlies most people’s simplistic idea of how behavior erupts from the human psyche. Nothing could be farther from the truth. How stupid, uninformed and actually immoral in it’s callous disregard for the knowledge being developed that could eventually change human behavior to more constructive ends.
I’ve got a lot more to say about the hows and whys of human behavior, but why should I bother? No one listens down there anyhow and we get the same old religious nonsense to explain everything. I’ll once more recommend a book by a scholar in behavior: Stephen Pinker’s “The Blank Slate”. Then when you finish that book packed with information, look in its index for other books about the whole issue of the evolution of human consciousness and the solid information being developed about human behavior. Anything less on your Board’s part is criminal neglect of your job or, at least, dereliction of duty. I keep appealing to your duty to inform your readers rather than to stroke their ignorance.
PS: Really, Rebecca, a Yale graduate, you should be ashamed of yourself for supporting such superstitious nonsense to explain human behavior. Could it be correct that George Bush was right when he said the admission of women into Yale was the downfall of that institution? Please don’t make Bush and Harvard’s current president right nor let us male supporters of feminism down. Show that you do have the ability to think scientifically. I’ll support you one hundred percent.
george; do you ever just let it go? what's your point in your constant carping? do you believe we listen when you rip a respected colleague? or do you prefer to be further marginalized in our sight? you have been relentlessly nasty to our board for years. i don't understand your strategy. you've turned off even those who might agree with your humanistic view of the universe. you're too intelligent to behave this way. you amaze me -- dfo
I just reread my comments about Rebecca Nappi’s column. It barely touches her, Dave. It’s mostly an appeal for someone with a scientific knowledge of how the world works to get some space in your paper. I was specific about the issues which troubled me and with how Rebecca Nappi failed to satisfy even a moderately scientific view of the universe. I even bothered to write a paragraph or two showing the clear clash between her view of the world and what science shows us so that she would see where I’m coming from. You media conservatives are in power, Dave. You get all the ink. To me, even most liberals, who still cling to only moral arguments, are conservatives. Way behind the curve. Therefore, as I also note with the situation with other minorities, since we rarely see our views represented in media pages, of course all our comments will, by necessity, sound negative. I’ve written in to praise some of the paper’s political positions when I’ve agreed.
I’m in constant communication with John Hill too, and you guys down there give him a bad rap. Most everything he writes is informed, accurate and telling. It’s the truths he tells which insult the uninformed and isn’t that how it’s always been? Right now the government is forcing scientists to lie just as the Vatican forced Galileo to lie. Isn’t that interesting? Where’s the outrage down at your paper? And, by the way, it’s Bush and that Harvard president who deep down insult women. All I did was challenge Rebecca to do some research. For Pete’s sake, Dave, I was in my 60’s before I started to really get into this science thing. It’s never to late for anyone who’s still rational.
I did not insult Nappi’s character. I was specific in pointing out just where she fails IN HER RESPONSIBILITIES AS A JOURNALIST to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us. To me, to not know anything about evolutionary psychology and what hard science is showing us about consciousness and behavior is a significant failure on the part of those in charge of our media. It keeps us talking about behavior as if it were 10,000 bce. We’re not making any progress, and we never shall if one can’t tell the difference between an Imam’s and an American Christian columnist’s view of reality. America is incredibly dumb when it comes to science, and that’s a crime in my book.
I suggest you read my comments again, and note that I didn’t just rant on about Nappi’s ignorance. I didn’t call her stupid. I suggested she was uninformed, which is true when it comes to science, and superstitious which she is when she talks about things which don’t have any evidence to support them. When I was in college, Dave, and someone pointed out how uninformed I was, which I often was and can still be, I was also hurt and still am when caught out, but I redoubled my efforts to know more about the subjects under discussion. Thus I’ve delved more deeply into Bible scholarship to understand the debate between Bible scholars on both sides of the inerrancy controversy. Etcetera. My goal is to keep knowing more each day until my mind gives out. Else why waste my time being alive other than the procreative (i.e. family values thing) and survival (work) drives which come from my evolved animal nature”
Shoot, Dave, I wanted to be short, but no discussion with me is short because my thinking is nuanced and layered and one thought is connected to another in a logical manner by the synapses of my brain. I think that means I have a connected and sensible view of the universe, at least as far as my chemical self goes.
Take ‘er easy,
george; you... are so passé in your embrace of atheism. even the scholars and philosophers are passing you guys by because findings in science point to creative design, not away from it. here's an article from the washington times backing that up: http://www.washtimes.com/world/20050303-115733-9519r.htm . you and hill remind me of the guys described in the Bible who are always seeking but never coming to the saving knowledge of the truth. trouble is, God has set eternity in your hearts ... a deep-down knowledge that this ain't all there is ... and you two have to find a way to scratch that itch to bring some meaning to your lives. so, you acquire knowledge. others, like hagadone in coeur d'alene, can't get enough of things. still others can't get enough of women. or sports. or drugs, etc. in the end, it's so much chasing the wind. if you're right re: the lack of a God, you're existence is meaningless. so you might as well fill your hours until the grave by keeping your mind busy. what futility. what a waste -- dfo
Look, I’m well aware of those who are after getting intelligent design into the mix, so that they can bring god back into the picture, but, so far, the best scientific minds don’t buy the argument. But, Dave, you’re missing something. Those respectable scientists who are considering intelligent design don’t go to anything like the god of your Bible. I read one of those articles you sent me awhile back, and that philosopher (not scientist), who supposedly went toward “creative design” away from traditional theory, pointedly pointed out that what he was suggesting was a plan which had nothing to do with a god like in the Bible. He was talking about some mechanisms in the process which forced the universe to end up so that consciousness could understand it. He’s talking way beyond where you’re at, Dave. You need to read and understand the stuff you’re passing on. According to the best minds who are considering intelligent design, the “designer” could just as well have been a germ from Mars as a creature from Jupiter or a purely mechanistic process without any spiritual content. None of them is predicting anything like a god with a will and consciousness so very much like us as to allow for us to have created it as well as it having created us. Only those already convinced of an answer without an open mind go to the god of your particular limited religion.
Please understand what you are talking about.
doggone it, george, quit this condescending horse crap. of course, i knew the folks i sent you were talking about a God other than the one I believe in. the point is ... they believe in something. which is light years ahead of your enlightened foolish position. i wanted to show you that very educated people believe in something out there. and so do you -- deep down. i saw it in your eyes when we chatted at starbucks. you'd like to slam the door on a monotheistic God because of all the relatives who let you down over the years (save your grandmother). but it's under your skin. i'll take my limited God and the abundant life He's given me any day over your broad-minded hopelessness. Why would anyone ever trade for so-called enlightenment that must hope that life ends at the grave? you have nothing to offer but the vanity of acquiring knowledge for knowledge sake and believing you're intellectually superior to others. pride cometh before a fall, pal -- dfo
This one is insulting. My only reason for believing the way that I do is because, believe it or not, I honor the truth and believe that the human race will get nowhere if they are living with false gods. And, please don’t bring in that family stuff. That’s underhanded and untrue. I’ve faced all those demons and won through to science. That little story I began to tell you has three more parts. They document my journey to the truth, only as I see it. I believe you are sincere in your truths too. Our only real conflict is I say there’s no proof of a god anywhere that can be tested. You say there is. Other than that, I honor your positions as having the same integrity as mine.
george, i despair. everything around you should tell you how wrong you are about a superior being of some kind. the fact that we're here. and everything else is, too. i don't think it's an intelligent position to say it all just happened. that flat doesn't make sense. you can't prove where it all came from scientifically; yet, you hold on for dear life to an impossible position. that's fine. but don't be so dang condescending with your religion of unbelief. scripture dismisses your position rather succinctly. i can't prove God scientifically. and you can't disprove Him scientifically. He's in a different realm. He's like the wind. You can feel it. See its results. But you can't see it. In the form of Jesus Christ, however, you have God in the flesh, with plenty of Scripture to foretell his coming and even pen down where He was going to be born and how he and why he was going to die. but enough of this. you don't buy a word. and we've plowed over this ground. i don't mean to be insulting. but you are, too. i suppose you want me to turn the other cheek. i'm not good at doing that. i respect that you're a decent guy who truly is seeking truth. i continue this conversation for that reason only. i would not be having this conversation with your friend. although i believe we're wasting each other's time, i like you -- dfo
That was the end of our conversation. I let him get in that last word, but here, I must prevail. On his own blog site, he always gets in the last word when he wants to. But I don’t want to actually argue with him in this place. What I do want to point out is how we both go around and around, and every thing he says, I’ve heard a million times. And I agree, when it comes to stuff outside of space/time where a god would have to be in order to have created space/time, neither of us can prove anything. So that brings us back to science which only claims to measure and explain what’s inside the space/time envelope. It’s when religionists of any world religion try to tell us that their tale-telling religious books better describe the material phenomena of this realm than does science that I say “poo poo”. Always and ever, when push comes to shove, science has always been right whenever scripture and science have clashed over the physical universe.
Wheeew! (Wipe brow.) A long one, eh?