Scientific fidelity vs narrative; anti-gay bigotry and socialism; the ecology of faith; Valerie Tarico on religion; Hans Zimmer and conceptual breakthrough

Here’s one of several articles in the past week or so about why we should not nitpick the science in Interstellar:

Slate: Back Off, Scientists: Don’t be so nitpicky about the technical details of sci-fi movies like Interstellar

I have yet to see the movie so this is not about that. It’s about a larger theme: why human beings value *story* over fidelity to the real world. Again and again, Hollywood science fiction films that are dumb to some degree about how the universe actually is, are forgiven by apologists who say that it’s really all about the story, that’s what’s most important.

In my thinking the larger theme is why we so value story over reality, and this keys to the psychological biases discussed by David McRaney (and Jesse Bering and EO Wilson and many others), about how we interpret the world in terms of narrative. (Aside from the fact that it’s just so much simpler to defer one’s intellect to whatever holy book is at hand, rather than engage in a life-long thought-process about the ever-expanding and at times changing evidence for what is true about the real world.) This is also, of course, a primary underlying explanation for why the vast majority of the human race prefers religion — stories — over understanding of the real world. (The secondary explanation is that this narrative mindset truly does enhance reproductive fitness. Humans don’t need to ‘understand’ the real world as it actually is, in order to survive and reproduce; they only need to interpret it in the context of stories that play to their sense of worthiness and superiority compared to other family groups or social groups, providing them an incentive to perpetuate their line.)

Towleroad has this interesting profile from a few days ago: Meet Cathi Herrod, Arizona’s Leading Anti-gay, Pro-Discrimination Bigot: VIDEO. Quoting her:

The social science data shows that marriage between a man and a woman is still the best family unit for men, women and children. This is never aimed at any individual, but it’s aimed at what’s the best public policy.

There are two problems with this. First, the social science data does *not* show that. She is lying, or is misinformed. (See my blog post Regnerus, Same-Sex Marriage, and False Witness and its reference on Slate, The Shamelessness of Professor Mark Regnerus.)

Second, she is taking a socialist stance — a huge irony, given that most right-wing/conservative/evangelicals bristle at anything they can condemn as socialist, like healthcare. She is saying we need to deny certain rights to gays *for the good of public policy*.

Needless to say, she does not perceive the irony. She implicitly presumes that Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness applies only to people she approves of.

The ecology of faith: what makes societies religious?

Jerry Coyne chimes in about the recent study that examines religious beliefs as a function of social dysfunction. The more uncertain and worse off a society is, the more religious it is. (One might also observe the US states that are relatively poorest in terms of social standards – those in the South – are also the most religious.) Much more detail at the link.

[Not mentioned by Coyne, but this is consistent with the evidence that many countries in Europe, including the relatively, er, socialist Scandinavian countries, score highest on various standards of living and health, while having the lowest rates of religious belief, across the entire world.]

Meanwhile, here are two articles by Valerie Tarico, on Alternet and Salon, who valiantly explores the interfaces of religion and society.

6 Ways Religion Does More Bad Than Good

With a provocative subtitle: “What if harming society is part of religion’s survival strategy?”

(Of course the strategy suggested here makes sense in terms of EO Wilson’s dialogue between individual and group selection; religion is about enforcing conformity within groups…but only small groups that can withstand variation among larger groups, and their interaction with the real world.)

Her points:

  1. Religion promotes tribalism
  2. Religion anchors believers to the Iron Age
  3. Religion makes a virtue out of faith
  4. Religion diverts generous impulses and good intentions
  5. Religion teaches helplessness
  6. Religions seek power

Another Valerie Tarico article: 10 signs that religious fundamentalism is going down

One can only hope.

Again, to bulletize her points (though of course the complete article is worth reading):

  1. Coming out atheist is up and coming
  2. The cutting edge of freethought is less cutting and edgy
  3. Biblical sexuality is getting binned. Finally
  4. Recovering believers are reclaiming their lives
  5. Communities are coming together
  6. Secular giving is growing
  7. The Religious Right is licking wounds
  8. Texas is evolving!
  9. Millenials are taking up the torch
  10. Rebuilding the wall of separation isn’t the only place Millennials are leading the way

Finally, here is the best track from Hans Zimmer’s score for The Da Vinci Code.

In science fiction there is the idea of the conceptual breakthrough — the moment in which one’s world opens up and expands to something previously unsuspected, into a grand and glorious greater reality. This is music for that.

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