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Tony Grist

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A Clarification [Sep. 19th, 2008|10:38 am]
Tony Grist
"And what they're running scared of is the truth."

That was a glib formulation. Or else shorthand.  Because "What is Truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer". None of us knows what the truth is. And if it came down the pike today we wouldn't recognise it.

Perhaps I should have written not "the truth" but "the quest for truth" or something like that. What fanatics of either or any party are turning their backs on is the need for painful thought, research and the sort of debate that actually listens to the opposition.  I can understand why they get into that sclerotic condition; it's horrible to be in a state of doubt. But being in a state of doubt is the human condition.

The scientific method, the philosophical method- I think one might add the theological method- is to take a proposition and test it and test it and test it to destruction. If it survives all one's best assaults it acquires the status of a provisional truth.

This is how humankind inches forward. How it becomes better informed, wiser, more moral. The person who insists his "truth" is inviolable is standing in the way of this process.

Faith isn't knowledge, nor is scientific fact ever anything more than a working hypothesis. We know what we know, but we don't know what we don't know. At any time a new truth- one of Dick Cheyney's "unknown unknowns"- could cross the boundary and knock all our certainties skew-whiff. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-09-19 12:07 pm (UTC)
I recently read a fluffy book about "the other side" by Sylvia Brown. She claims that "the other side" exists exactly three feet above our own dimension.

Being a medium means you can say anything as an axiom: you've been there and seen it for yourself.

Actually, I like the tension of not knowing, of seeing through the glass darkly, but now, having been through the trauma and gift of watching someone die, I have the increased tension of hoping there will be a face-to-face, the Other Side, and God.

The only thing I'm certain about is that, Sylvia Brown included, no one knows anything here with certainty. The Other Side is at best seen as metaphor by us three-dimension beings.

Michael Crichton in his autobiography Travels talked about going to various psychics as a test, and he said the best ones, the real talents, seemed to see their glimpses as dream pictures--for example, one woman saw a "basket of snakes" surrounding him and said with some horror, "What DO you do for a living?" not understanding that part of his job lately had been daily editing of films, which including dumping parts of film reels into the trash...

We're not going to get a clear look at anything from here, so it's all guess work.

Except for science, and why are we so sure that that science and religion don't mix--finding out about DNA, the blueprint of us, for example--doesn't that make us more meaningful, and less random?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-19 01:09 pm (UTC)
But where does our dimension end exactly? Is it at the level of our heads, or the level of the top of the Empire States Building, or at the level of the top of the physical universe (wherever that may be)?

But perhaps she's trying to tell us something that corresponds to a truth- only it doesn't really work because our language isn't up to it- and it comes out sounding all funny-peculiar.

I have never understood why science and religion can't be friends. They're asking different sorts of questions. And I suspect they utilise different parts of our brains.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-09-19 01:14 pm (UTC)
Well, exactly.

Too often, science is held up as some ultimate repository of truth, yet in reality there is no such thing as truth in science. What science offers, as you say, is a method for arriving at falsifiable hypotheses that, so far, have not been disproven. Science is the business of doubt, not certainty.

Here in the States at least, any consideration of creationism cannot be separated from its political ramifications. If the creationists want to live in a world free of doubt, then that's their business, I suppose. The problem is that certain elements over here wish to harness that religious belief and use it to undermine any rational critique of their right to do whatever they please. Global warming is a good example. If it's socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory as just someone's opinion, then it's a short leap to dismissing the scientific consensus on global warming as just someone's opinion as well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-19 01:50 pm (UTC)
Over here- in the words of Tony Blair's right hand man, Alastair Campbell- politicians "don't do God". If they did they'd be laughed at. Blair is a religious man, but kept a lid on it- and delayed his formal conversion to Roman Catholicism until after he'd left office. A British Palin is, I think (and hope), inconceivable.




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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-09-19 03:04 pm (UTC)
I think that's because Britain is a civilized nation.

While there have been improvements since H L Mencken's savage critiques of the early 20th, I feel his observations still hold true. The culture here in the US is based on Puritanism, with all its insecurities and fears of the unknown. Alas, what England rejected centuries ago found fertile ground here in the New World.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-20 08:55 am (UTC)
I'm very fond of Willian Carlos Williams' In The American Grain- a series of prose-poetical essays which take the Mencken line.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-09-20 12:58 pm (UTC)
Suddenly, I feel a bit illiterate. Hadn't discovered Williams before and thanks for the suggestion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-20 09:07 pm (UTC)
He seems to be a bit out of fashion these days- at least, I don't often stumble across his name- but he was a good writer I think.
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[User Picture]From: richenda
2008-09-21 08:07 am (UTC)
Do we know that it was he who delayed it or inded whether there was a delay? It's usually guides/mentors/sponsors who advise whether and when to rspond to the request for reception.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-21 09:44 am (UTC)
It had been an open secret for years that Blair leaned towards the Catholic Church. Of course, the only people who know exactly why his conversion was delayed are Blair himself and his immediate friends and advisers- but I don't think this affects my basic point- that it would have been political madness for him to make the move while still in office. Britain is still, in its instincts, a Protestant nation- and not yet ready for the idea of its top man being answerable to the Pope.
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[User Picture]From: richenda
2008-09-21 03:48 pm (UTC)
well - you are welcome to call me naive - but my experience was that I was asked to wait until I had completed various family and public commitments
That' s why I'm suggestng the possibility that he was asked to wait.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-09-19 02:12 pm (UTC)
First thought of several, and this is about Sarah Palin and dinosaurs:

"The next day Matt Damon, looking more shell-shocked by the possibility of Palin sitting in the Oval Office than the amnesiac Jason Bourne was by the revelation that he was a trained assassin, told CBS, "I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago - I want to know that, I really do, because she's gonna have the nuclear codes."

You mentioned in an earlier post that Palin wasn't stupid, and could hopefully learn and grow in wisdom; apparently she is no longer wedded to the idea that the earth is 6,000 years old and that we shared the earth with dinosaurs in our early human days, but still believes the End is coming soon--that's from Google research I just did...

The End may indeed come soon if she turns out to be President.

Just a first thought, sort of about evolution, and about my knee-jerk contempt for those who think science is unGodly and antiBiblical.

Maybe I need to grow, too, but I'm prejudiced. I need to work on this.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-19 02:25 pm (UTC)
I saw that interview with Matt Damon. It was funny.

If Palin has wised up about dinosaurs and the "young earth", maybe she'll also wise up about Armageddon and the Rapture.

I do think she's intelligent. And I'd like to think she only believes in this silly stuff because she's never been exposed to anything else.


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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-09-19 03:24 pm (UTC)
This is probably a bit harsh, but from what I've seen of Palin so far, I suspect she accepts the silly stuff as part of the greater narrative of her own exceptionalism, the cherished belief that God lies awake at night fretting over her. She really does seem to believe that she's qualified to assume the helm of a nuclear power, despite the fact that Palin, to most rational observers, possesses no obvious qualifications whatsoever. You see, it's all just some mysterious part of the Almighty's grand and inscrutable design.

I see this same kind of exceptionalism in Bush and it's proved disastrous. Instead of coming to grips with the realities of this world, or making an honest attempt, or even recognizing the need to do so, he retreats into the belief that God has made His will plain to the one He's chosen to lead this country. Problem solved.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-19 07:49 pm (UTC)
You could well be right. But I'm hoping Palin will turn out to be smarter than Bush- and will make an effort to learn...

Bush is a dynastic president. He got where he is because he's the designated heir of a very powerful family. Palin- I'm assuming- has no such privilege of birth and has got where she is by her own efforts- and a certain ammount of outrageous luck.

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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2008-09-20 01:59 pm (UTC)
Palin may well be smarter than Bush. It certainly wouldn't be too terribly difficult. Since she's an empty vessel, I'm sure she will learn quickly. Sarah is already spouting neocon cant as if it were gospel.

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, was the heir apparent of the dynasty. "W" sort of fell into the presidency by accident more than family design. While the name was certainly used to his campaign's advantage, there's little indication that Bush carried on the family's traditions or policies.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-09-20 10:48 pm (UTC)
'...hoping Palin ...will make an effort to learn."
I wonder - do you think McCain is going to win this election? That would be disaster. We cannot stand another four years of Republican policies in this country.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-21 09:49 am (UTC)
I've absolutely no idea who's going to win.

Of course, if McCain loses, Palin's personal belief system ceases to matter to anyone except herself- and, I suppose, the voters of Alaska.
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From: senordildo
2008-09-20 09:49 pm (UTC)
Well, there are some truths that are pretty much solid beyond a doubt, such as the fact that it was Rumsfeld who coined "unknown unknowns", rather than Cheyney. Despite disliking Rumsfeld as much as any sane human being, I always sort of liked that phrase. It just wasn't appropriate coming out of his mouth.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-09-21 09:46 am (UTC)
Of course.

Old Rummy had quite a way with words, didn't he?
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From: senordildo
2008-09-21 09:58 am (UTC)
Indeed. He's apparently at work on his memoirs, which I await with horrified anticipation.
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