Links and Comments: Science v Stories; Religion, Conservative Resistance, and Reality; a Freeway

Science Fiction, Science, and Storytelling Nancy Kress: Science and Science Fiction: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Many, many more people see science fiction movies than read print SF.

Almost all SF movies, and much print SF as well, depicts science that is misleading at best, harmful at worst.

The misleading first. Whenever I have taught science fiction as literature, I have had students who believed the following…

She goes on with examples about clones, alien contact, settling other planets, and black holes. And how “Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain.” (She doesn’t mention Michael Crichton, but he made a career off that theme.)

My take: this is because the protocols of storytelling — conflict, a threat that must be vanquished — are fundamentally at odds with the goals and conclusions of science. Human culture, politics, and especially religion are all powered by stories, that satisfy psychological needs, while science tries to identify the reality that exists aside from human psychological needs. Yet there are SF stories (even a few films) that manage to satisfy science and psychology. (That’s what my book will be about.)



The Secular Web, essay by Matthew Wade Ferguson, Griffin Beak, Mermaid Fin, and Dragon Blood Stew, about what could possibly be considered sufficient evidence for believing in, for example, the resurrection of Jesus. With the Bayesian thinking.

Vox, Sean Illing: Can we be religious without God? Alain de Botton on “atheism 2.0.”.

Subtitle: “Why ‘is God real?’ is the most boring question you can ask.”

Because it’s not really about metaphysical truths; it’s about shared myths that bind together communities and tribes, especially in spite of outsiders (intellectuals, the elites) who try to tell you different.

Religions are not just a set of claims about the supernatural; they are also machines for living. They aim to guide you from birth to death and to teach you a whole range of things: to create a community, to create codes of behavior, to generate aesthetic experiences. And all of this seems to me incredibly important and, frankly, much more interesting than the question of whether Jesus was or wasn’t the son of God.


Anti-Intellectualism; Conservative Resistence

Not unrelated to the previous items:

Salon: America hits peak anti-intellectualism: Majority of Republicans now think college is bad A Majority of Republicans Think Higher Education is Bad for the Country

Because education dispells the myths and narratives that conservatives live by, especially religious conservatives; myths and narratives that by definition are known to be true and cannot be affected by evidence.

The best colleges teach students to think critically and ask tough questions. They bring together a diverse student body to offer different perspectives. They make it difficult for anyone to remain in an ideological bubble. Sure, there are exceptions to all of that — we often hear examples of liberal students refusing to listen to (and/or outright boycotting or disrupting) conservative speakers — but those are the ideals.

No wonder today’s Republicans don’t like that. They thrive on misinformation, isolation, and Jesus. They can’t handle facts and assume reality is a conspiracy theory. They dislike colleges for the same reason evangelical Christians dislike public schools — they fear exposure to people whose values differ from their own because they know they’ll always lose a battle of ideas. It’s easier to demonize the other side and create a bubble of their own.

Hmm, “Evangelical Christians dislike public schools — they fear exposure to people whose values differ from their own because they know they’ll always lose a battle of ideas.” Thus home-schooling, I imagine.

And how tribalism and allegiance to one’s ideological tribe trumps acknowledgement of reality.

Vox, Brian Resnick: Trump supporters know Trump lies. They just don’t care.

The backfire effect, yes; but also reluctance. With examples of things Trump has said that aren’t true. “Facts sink in. But they don’t matter. Let that sink in.”

My take: another example of how the human mind, and human nature, isn’t optimized to seek out truth, or reality: it’s about aligning with others in one’s community or tribe.


Personal History

On a completely different matter, the San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial last Sunday called High Desert Corridor project could transform California.

This is striking because I just mentioned in my Trip Report: Apple Valley 2017 a week ago that there had been talk for decades about building a freeway to connect Highway 14 in Palmdale to Interstate 15 at Victorville. Apparently they’re still talking about it!

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