Thursday, 6 October 2011

The more things change....

It's not always good to see things from the good old days. 30 odd years ago i bridled at my teachers introducing politics into their lesson plans. I argued too, and my marks suffered. Now my kids tell me about their teachers doing the same thing. Mostly it is disguised as current events but sometimes it is more blatant. Teachers prattle on about 'stupid george' (bush) because he fought a war for oil. ( I guess that's true in a way, since the americans get less oil from Iraq than they did before the war.) Or stupid 'Harper'  because he didn't ratify kyoto. This coming from a high school biology teacher in a backwaterish northern BC town. My son would love to argue but he is smarter than i was. Also, he cares more about marks. 
  It is annoying as hell. I am not all that worried  since i have always taken a keen interest in brainwashing my kids. Thus they already know how to tell sh-t from shinola before they are exposed to  educators who overstep their bounds. The same approach should be taken to protect our kids from the ridiculous lesson plans in gender, reproduction and virtually every other subject. While it is good to be exposed to new ideas and different points of view, it is essential to have had some exposure to critical thinking first.
    Parents: take responsibility and teach your kids how to think. A lesson or two on right and wrong, responsibility and self respect wouldnt hurt either.

On Faith

I recently read a blurb on Pascals Wager. If you are not familiar with it i can summarize: Pascal decided that belief in God was the safer (better) bet than unbelief. He decided this as follows: If you believe in a god and there is none, when you die you lose nothing. If there is a god then you win. If you choose not to believe then you lose if there is a god (you will be sorry) and you break even if there is no god. Wikipedia summarizes it better
 Pascal's Wager, also known as Pascal's Gambit, is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal that even if the existence of God could not be determined through reason, a rational person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.
   On the face of it this seems like the ultimate cynical attitude toward faith. At least I thought so. Now I am not so sure. But more of that later. I found what I believe to be an  even more cynical religious approach.
    Some of the blogs I visit take a more muscular view of christianity. The approach taken is to blend science and religion to arrive at a logical proof of the existence of the christian god. I got into some of the nuts and bolts of the thing after reading a guide on how to ensure your potential wife is a 'real christian'. Suffice it to say that I did not pass the test, being ignorant of almost all of the arguments involved. I am not concerned, however since I am not insecure about my being a christian ( I certainly am one) . Also i am not looking to be some guy's wife.  I do feel , however that the whole idea of proving there is a god through science (or conversely disproving scientific theories which cast doubt on god's existence) is wrong headed. The flaw relates to security of position. Scientific fact is fleeting, religious belief , if it is to be worth it's salt, is unchanging.  Science is a two handed sword that way. Just as buddhists could claim that the old theory of an expanding and contracting universe supports their cyclical existence beliefs, the recent evidence that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate could be used to prove that they are wrong (as one blogger has suggested). If one or two major scientific break throughs can disprove your god and abolish your faith then you are on shaky ground religion wise.
  Science is, of course a kind of gnosticism. It's acolytes believe that everything can be explained and thus that we will someday know it all. It is a good working premise and it has the ring of intellectualism but it sucks as a religion. While people who 'believe' in science get intellectual entertainment and a feeling of superiority, they derive no comfort. There is a void there. Science can perhaps explain how everything works. It can not explain why anything is. I think human beings need to know that there is a why out there, even if they will never know what that why is. Who better to know why everything is than god, it's creator? Thus our belief in god gives us comfort. The fact that this is so is probably the strongest evidence of god that there is.
   Which brings us back to belief and Pascal's wager. The reason that the wager is more than an exercise in cynical self preservation lies in the nature of belief itself. Belief is a choice. How we make that choice is immaterial. What matters is whether we believe or not. To suggest that one needs proof in order to believe is a non sequiteur. If you have proof then you don't need to believe, you know.  One believes because one is willing to accept, on faith the existence of something or someone far greater than oneself. Your god is that someone. In the case of the christian god that belief includes the trust in god's wisdom, and benevolence. Religious belief by definition needs no supporting rational. One can chose to believe 'just because'. However, it is not possible to fake it. One cannot actually choose to believe without following through.  I believe therefor that Pascal's wager has little to offer people who do not already believe. Of course it is a pretty good way to antagonize atheists and shut agnostics up.