Links and Comments: Pale Blue Dot; 10 Commandments; Evolution; Tribalistic thinking; Answers for Creationists

I have a batch of links with notes from almost a month ago that I never got around to posting. Let me catch up.

On the theme in recent posts of awe-inspiring graphics or videos, here’s a piece by Phil Plait in Slate about Pale Blue Dot + 25 Years.


Resource: Richard Dawkins’ site: Five Stupid Things About the Ten Commandments (a video from May 2014). This is not by Dawkins; it’s by some guy names Steve Shives.

  1. They’re unnecessary; why did God wait so long? Territory marking?
  2. They’re repetitive.
  3. They’re poorly prioritized. Why not condemn many other things, like slavery?
  4. They’re an inferior moral guide. [As I’ve discussed here, morality doesn’t derive from religion; morality derives from the evolution and social growth of humanity, and the morals in religious texts reflect only the thinking of ancient tribes, primitive and even barbaric by modern standards, who wrote them.]
  5. They’re anti-democratic. The Constitution and the Commandments are very different [a point that never ceases to amaze me: people who claim the Commandments are the basis for our culture, without noticing that only a few of these are actually enshrined in our law; on the contrary…]


NY Times article: Conservative Politicians Abroad Seem More Accepting of Evolution.

The US is the outlier concerning politicial acceptance of scientific facts; it’s not such an issue in most of the rest of the world.

Two interesting points raised by this article. First: it’s common for cultural critics of the US to cite Scandinavian countries as models of progressive societies with higher standards of living, by virtually every criterion, compare to the US. But one key difference that plays into the comparison: the Scandinavian countries are far more *monocultural* than the US…

Second, rejection of evolution by evangelicals is rote. They don’t understand it. (Of course.)

“When the people on the school board were asked to explain in Dover what they took the theory of evolution to be, they couldn’t,” Mr. Humes said. “Nor could they explain the intelligent design theory they were embracing.”


One more political post, which echoes previous items I’ve mentioned about how tribal allegiance trumps acknowledgement of scientific understanding. Joel Achenbach in National Geographic, as modified for Washington Post: Why science is so hard to believe.

In the United States, climate change has become a litmus test that identifies you as belonging to one or the other of these two antagonistic tribes. When we argue about it, Kahan says, we’re actually arguing about who we are, what our crowd is. We’re thinking: People like us believe this. People like that do not believe this.

Part of my refinement of my Provisional Conclusions is to take these kinds of thinking into account. In the long run of the human race, it’s not necessarily about the advance of science and the increased understanding of humanity’s place in the universe. We will always be hobbled by tribal thinking inherent in base human nature — the default thinking in every newborn child — that, in the absence of a strong culture that acknowledges reality, and an educational system that strives to understand reality and overcome that base human nature, humanity will not necessarily ‘advance’. We may be stuck in a perpetual cycle of culture wars.

Though in a strict sense, perhaps it doesn’t matter. If survival of the species means denying or dismissing reality… then maybe all of science doesn’t matter.


Another resource:

Phil Plait’s Answers for Creationists.

And a prime example of the No True Scotsman fallacy, from Bryan Fischer:


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