Wednesday, December 09, 2009

From Superstition to Politics: Following the Path of Fail

I was reading this article on Seung-Hui Cho. You know, that guy from Tech. Yes, that one.

His mother knew he had problems. Apparently, instead of seeking counseling for him, she went to a bunch of churches to pursue help because he was under the influence of demonic power. The attempted exorcism did a lot of good.

This is not uncommon. Instead of using science--a set of rigorously tested assumptions--people continue orthopraxic rituals and acknowledge shamanistic figures, practices spawning from ignorance and fear that was born in antiquity. They never question why these rituals are performed or with what authority these charlatans speak.

Astrology's among the worst of it. It has a wide and regular audience; horoscopes appear in newspapers around the United States regularly. I'd like to create a decisive, logical argument against it, but astrology is impermeable against--and beyond the realm of--logic. Therefore, I leave this task to a man far more eloquent than myself:

Here, Carl Sagan demonstrates astrology's downfall--results are not repeatable.

Repeatability is central to science. It's based on the assumption that an underlying set of laws guides how the universe behaves, and that this set of laws allows anybody who understands them to predict the behavior of the universe. If I do something--say, drop a rock off a cliff--then set things back up the way they were before I did it--pick-up the rock and bring it back to the top of the cliff--and do it again--drop the rock from the exact same place--the same thing will happen. I can't account for everything--minor fluctuations in airspeed between the cliff and the ground, irregular shape of the rock--but many of those things are insignificant. Not only will experiment demonstrate that fact, but I can calculate it through a language of pure logic--mathematics. As far as I can measure, the rock will land in the same spot time-and-time again.

Repeatability allows scientists to agree on a lot of things. They can verify one another's results and come to a consensus because their basis is reality, and that doesn't change from person to person. Astrology, however, changes from astrologer to astrologer. Their predictions contradict one another, showing they have no basis in reality, but from some personal, creative interpretation of an alignment of celestial bodies. Of course, this interpretation is always vague enough that it can't be proven wrong and can always be twisted into some kind of correctness--a correctness that suits the needs of those thirsty for mysticism.

Despite disagreeing, the predictions of astrology share one common thread. Astrology gives people what they want to hear--that the burden of responsibility for the events of their lives lies beyond themselves, and that life will drop good and bad things into your lap whether you like it or not. Nothing could be further from the truth. If astrology gave accurate advice, it would tell you to work hard and smile.

Reality's too harsh for most people.

More threatening than astrology, religions actually have a common basis--generally a book or set of books. The books, however, are archaic copypasta of already inaccurate eye-witness accounts. Worse yet, people accept these things because these things say they should be accepted. It's as if, instead of presenting to you an argument here, I simply said, "fuck you, I'm right." Anger causes me to degenerate near that point at times. Nobody bases their life around those blog posts, but people base their lives around books whose foundation is of equal academic merit.

In history, such primary sources are often all there is to describe a historic event and can qualify as evidence. Even then, they are taken in context--the speaker is considered and analysis reflects this. In science, eye-witness accounts mean nothing. Reality requires repeatability. In religion, however, claims are made about reality without evidence, furthermore proclaiming that it itself is the precise word of God, issuing no proof but a threat against your soul--whatever that is. Some sects have a theology that actually addresses the context of the writers, but few attempt to tackle the recursive "word of God" claim.

People forget that someone had to sit down and write the book, and that it's incredibly easy to write the phrase "this is the word of God." Even if it's not explicitly written, it's easy to read into something, and if you really want the Bible to be the precise word of God *poof* divine insight.

If you don't think it's easy to delude yourself, then I'll show you that a particular document is clearly socialist. Before you read the original, I'll interpret:

--
The author begins by introducing a new nation--a unification of people. Socialists use "people" in conjunction with their beliefs as frequently as they use the word "share." For example, America is to United States of America as China is to People's Republic of China. He then states that all men are equal, another piece of ideology befitting Communist swine.

The author then states he stands on a battlefield where a battle testing that nation took place, and he embraces the sacrifice of thousands of lives so that the nation may live. He poses the nation as a greater power, one more important than life itself. State worship is a frequent theme in Socialist propaganda, so it's no surprise he should justify slaughter in this way.

He passionately restates his justification, then states that we should use these deaths to inspire the continued existence of the work of the nation. He says the nation shall have a new birth of freedom--what freedom is he talking about? Freedom of speech? The people would never stand for that. He is talking about freedom from bourgeois oppression.

"Under God" is just a figure of speech.

He concludes with something so damn Communist, the black print becomes red. "A government by the people, for the people, of the people shall not perish from the earth." The Socialist "people" here is used with emphasis. The people create the government, the government serves them, the government is made of them. It is a "People's Republic," and this document is a staple of Socialist doctrine.
--

Of course, this analysis is botched. The document is famous as all hell, and if the ending didn't give it away, here's a link to the original. My point here was not to show that Abraham Lincoln is Socialist, but that it's easy to read into anything however you damn well please.

This problem extends beyond religion or superstition. People ruin politics this way. By cementing in the idea that one side is an enemy, they can read the actions of their opponents as automatically wrong without looking into the benefits or consequences.

The result is non-sense. Their judgment is without reason, instead based on impulse no deeper than attaching their opponents name to the word "bad;" they've accepted their own party's name on faith.

It's an ignorance rooted in superstition, a fundamental flaw of the entire human psyche, and I'm certain it will be rooted out of thought someday. I may be wrong, but I'm willing to admit it because I know that's the stronger position. Time is the sieve of truth.

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