CSH and many humanists need to repriortize
Posted: 14 January 2007 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve said elsewhere that we need to focus on humanism and not humanism’s components - atheism, science advocacy and/or secularism - alone, and there are many reasons for this…

Humanists need to have their priorities in order. 

During an interview with journalist Stephanie Hendricks, author of [i:2c83cdb300]Divine Destruction: Dominion Theology and American Environmental Policy,[/i:2c83cdb300] Hendricks talks about the religious Right and their assult on the environment thru the Bush admistration and correctly sees the forest for the trees:

Hendricks: "If we don’t deal (with) environmental issues, if we don’t deal (with) war and genocide that’s going on right now, the other issues like teaching intelligent design aren’t gonna matter because we won’t be alive to debate those issues.  Things have gotten down, in my opinion, to the point where we really have to hone in on basic survival…"

[i:2c83cdb300]ETFF: Do you think the ‘wise use’ movement and this whole fundamentalist movement to roll back environmental protections… Do you think it is shaped more by Dominionst theology or is the use of theology for (what you can call) Machiavellian ends?[/i:2c83cdb300]

Hendricks: "I say it’s the latter. I say it’s industry driven, a deliberate disinformation campaign while exploiting religion. There’s nothing new with this, this has been going in since time and memorial. This is where some hope (lies) because a lot of these religious people, let’s face it, are driven into religion [u:2c83cdb300]out of fear[/u:2c83cdb300] and their looking for a sense of community… They’re looking for answers, they want to be reassured (but) now they’re waking up and realizing they’ve been exploited, so we have an opportunity now to gain some common ground with them on these ... issues."

Fear is the key word in this last quote… and we need to address this fear before we can address religious fundementalism with any hopes of success. This is why Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and CFI/CSH are wrong in their apporach.  As Noam Chomsky says in a great interview with David Niose of [i:2c83cdb300]The Humanist[/i:2c83cdb300]:

"One striking element of this country’s culture, which is conceivably related to religious extremism, is fear.  This is one of the most frightened societies in the world.  Take the start of the war in Iraq.  A large portion of the American population, maybe 60 present, really was frightened.  You have to respect that fear as authentic.  They believed that Saddam was coming to get us, and we had to stop him before he did.  We had to defend ourselves.  Right now, I get letters from people saying, how can you support Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, when they are organizing to destroy us?  If you look at it objectively, their military forces are maybe 2% of ours.  But people feel they’re about to destroy us, that we can barely protect ourselves."

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Posted: 14 January 2007 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I wonder how we can address that fear? Rational analysis and statistics don’t seem to do it. Obviously, we’re all more likely to die from mundane stuff like car accidents and lifestyle diseases than airplanes flying into buildings, yet a national panic settles in after something like the 9/11 attacks and we give away our vicil liberties without complaint. The media is much more interested in selling fear because it moves their product better than in depth analysis. The only thing that seems to reassure people is some grandfatherly dimwit like Ronald Reagan telling us it’s “Morning in America” and if we all go back to good old fashioned 1950s Christian values life will be peachy. What should we do to replace fear with reasoned understading of complex problems?

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Posted: 14 January 2007 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In terms of addressing fear…

I just responded in one of my class sessions along similar lines, having recently read “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (2005).  The irrationality of the US populace, even in full view of objective information stating otherwise, is addressed in the following:

The book (Freakonomics) addresses issues such as what constitutes good parenting; including comparisons between child deaths by swimming pool (high) vs. death by handgun (low), and what is readily accepted as responsible activities or not - based on the risk. In the book, Peter Sandman is credited with having developed a rough equation that determines PERCEIVED risk as a function of hazard and outrage; or, “[w]hen hazard is high and outrage low, people underact…[a]nd when hazard is low and outrage high, they overreact.”

The freakish sells, truth be damned. Interesting read.

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"A man talking sense to himself is no more insane than a man talking nonsense, not to himself… or just as insane."  ~Tom Stoppard, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead"

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Posted: 10 February 2007 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Very few people understand risk.  Fewer still understand probability.  Maybe teaching people risk and probability would be a good start.

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Posted: 11 February 2007 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“Hittman”]Very few people understand risk.  Fewer still understand probability.  Maybe teaching people risk and probability would be a good start.

Excellent observation, and all too true. Unfortunately, as Kahnemann and Tversky showed in their Nobel-Prize-winning research in cognitive psychology, humans appear to be wired up to reason erroneously about probability.

It can be overcome, of course, but only imperfectly and with difficulty. It basically requires learning some statistics and probabilistic logic. I am not optimistic that this can be done on a large scale and with the depth necessary to overcome our standard human emotional responses. (E.g., fear).

But this is absolutely a BIG PROBLEM.

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