Political Science

I know, I know this is a bit of a trash-rant and many people have complained about similar things, but I haven’t yet. So, I’m going to. Politics, science, and religion are a sticky dessert ready to explode in microwaves around the world. In fact, I think sales of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are supported strictly by this contentious cocktail. I’d like to say I don’t have a side here, but I’m sure I’ll be pegged as having one by those people that do that sort of thing. Because, to some people, it’s very important that we’re all glommed together.

Religion and politics have a long-standing relationship. They have for many years, from the days of God-chosen Kings to modern-day theocracies, and not always in the straight-forward sort of way people seem to think. I can’t help but wonder how pious the kings of old were, considering that their power-base relied, in part, on the people’s belief in their divinity. Religion is a fact of life, belief, at least, and so it makes sense that it should have a presence in politics. In a society based, ostensibly, on rationalism, though, it shouldn’t have any place in policy. Creating laws based around religious beliefs makes about as much sense as making laws based around the values of nihilism. That’s another rant, though. My point here is merely to point out that politics interact with every aspect of human life because it is necessarily involved with the people involved with those aspects. As such, it will bleed into and affect it. However, we’re not just  bio-chemical reaction machines; humans have brains and consciousness that can be utilized for exactly this sort of thing. We need to recognize when we’re putting a set of beliefs above the reality of a given situation, because situations change, beliefs don’t always.

Religion and science is a popular topic!  As such, I’ll give it very little mention here. The thing is, they’re not mutually exclusive. They’re only at opposition when one seeks to interfere with the other. Or, more precisely, with the lives of people involved in the other. For example, if you’re going to outlaw abortion, then you’d bloody well better be prepared to feed, clothe, and love those children who might be born into situations that would be unlivable. Science, in its purest form, seeks to investigate and explain. If it explains something better than another system, then that’s great! You don’t have to let it threaten your beliefs, but you might want to take it into consideration when making your decisions. You might be a little off-put that it is affecting your life with its paradigm, and that people are making decisions that are infringing on your personal beliefs, but that’s not really an issue, unless you were planning on making your decisions based on your belief-system that might infringe on theirs. Then again, most of science doesn’t infringe, really. It simply makes available. There are entire ethical counsels that exist to ensure that you aren’t being affected without volunteering. They are systems of knowledge, of knowing; they can co-exist peacefully. I mean, unless people put them at odds with each other for some stupid….

Politics and science really make me throw up in my mouth. Here is where things get really ridiculous. You see, science and religion are not natural enemies. In fact, a lot of scientific and philosophical knowledge comes from the work of God-loving men. What does put them at odds is someone saying they can’t both exist. Every scientist should know that there are greater mysteries and more practical systems of behavior that exist than they themselves are aware of. Darwinism and Creationism are both theories. They are NOT equally good, by the standards of what makes a good theory, but they are both there. There’s no need for them both to be taught in school. Modern-day schools are creations of the state, based on a model largely concerned with vocational and educational training centered around cerebral enhancement and intellectual exposure. In other words, they exist simply to teach ideas and procedures. Once, they were institutions with a far broader concern, the purpose of which was to culturally educate children on how to behave, think and believe. This may seem to be what they do now, but there are stark differences.

Schools no longer teach proper behavior, aside from enforcing behavior that is necessary to enable learning (being quiet and sitting down) and attempting to avoid harassment that would make education untenable. In my personal experience, there was very little cultural indoctrination. I wasn’t taught that Canada was awesome. I wasn’t even taught what it meant to be Canadian. Or what it meant to be an academic. Or a citizen. Or even a man. I learned how to read, write and question. I learned a thing or two from high school culture, but that’s just something that happens when large numbers of people get together. Not once did my school set out to teach me how I should live or what I should do. They just gave me the tools to do it. What does this have to do with teaching creationism? Everything.

Creationism is a religious artifact. It stems from and enforces, necessarily, an understanding of how the world works: God is in his kingdom and all is right with the world. Evolution, on the other hand, is a process. It’s an idea that explains how organisms change over time. If I support evolution, I can still believe in God. If I learn to believe in creationism, then, based on some of the dogma surrounding it, I can’t possibly believe in evolution. The time frames creationism presents is far too narrow for it to take place. Still, one can believe in both. Honestly, it’s totally possible if you’ve got your own point of view. The thing is, evolution is empirically supported. It exists apart from the culture and politics. The ideas and evidence support themselves, albeit with a couple requisite axioms, eg. causality. Beliefs do not. They require the right emotional encoding at the right time in the right way.  There is zero existing evidence to support creationism. Sorry. And, if you point to our existence, then I’ll face-palm on the spot. Creation and evolution are processes that lead to a final product. While we can find clues within our physiology to support evolution, the true support of it as a process comes from witnessing its effects in action. Simply pointing to an end-result and positing a cause is conjecture and, without further evidence, that’s all it is. If you’ve got evidence, then I’d love to see it. I really, really would. Not a story, though, or a piece of text out of context. That’s hardly admissible in a  poetry class, you’ll receive no quarter here.

That’s what is being taught: the evidence and the processes used to understand. It’s secular. If you want your kids to learn about creationism, there are Sunday schools for that.  The best creationism can offer is fodder for how to make a circular argument. I know, because I went to Sunday school for years and the whole thing is bullocks. That’s just my opinion, though. Catholic church, catholic school and catholic programming and a little bit of critical thinking later (by myself as a fourth grader) and I was out of the program. That’s neither here nor there, though. Because, I was laying a not-so-subtle trap there. My opinion immediately affected your opinion of my writing. I’ve seemed a little biased to this point, haven’t I? That’s because I am. However, that doesn’t mean I have an agenda. Politics is the great story-machine. It creates narratives based on loosely-connected events in order to sell you something. How could I possibly write fairly on science and religion with a bias towards science? Caught you again. They aren’t dichotomies. From my point of view, they are completely different parts of the same thing: the human experience. Science is a process that seeks to understand the natural world using a set of procedures and assumptions around causality and mathematical experimentation. Religion is a belief-system around which our understanding of the world is spun. Both have their so-called cultures and dogmas, but they don’t have to starkly oppose each other. One can alter the other, one can obliterate the other, but that’s the experience of a discrete human-being. Politicians tend to make it a sensationalized phenomenon.

Politics would have you believe that science is making war on religion and vice-versa.  It divides, categorizes, and bolsters vaguely related thought-patterns into stories. Science has explained something that religion once claimed dominion over. Suddenly, these ideologies must clash! Now, we’ve divided people into camps. NOW! These two camps have agendas. Well, of course they do, they’re opposed! Are they? We started with one group: everyone. Then, we made a pretend problem: they’re opposed because they don’t agree. So, we made it clear that they should be opposed and told people they were in groups according to their beliefs. Now, we’re telling our groups the other group is working against us with every move they make, because they’re in the other group. We must be contentious, lest we lose support. Wait, they’re only there because we said they were there. Are they actually there? Are we really here? Wait, I know… Keep your BLOODY POLITICS OUT of my SCIENCE! I don’t care if people believe in God or a time-travelling-gopher causality-matrix. There are times we will butt heads, but that doesn’t mean there are battle lines. We can work this out with honest dialogue. We demean ourselves as people when we resort to slander and double-talk. I’m looking at you, Bill.

There are, occasionally, ethical questions around the directions science takes. There are days we will oppose each other as people when it comes to how our society grows. We should have the communication lines open and a discourse already created to work this out. Better yet, we should talk about things realistically. We are not religious zealots and cold-hearted scientists, we’re people. We are a society. Politics divides us just as much as it unites us against each other. If I had my way, every decision would be a referendum. It wouldn’t be that difficult, considering our techno-prowess in relation to tracking people and creating electronic devices. That’s relatively speaking; it would still be a great under-taking.

That doesn’t eliminate the problem, though. The problem lies at the heart of people telling us we’re in different groups to begin with. I may think you’re an idiot and you may think I’m a raving lunatic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get along. Some of my best friends disgust me in ways I’ll never admit to their faces, but I don’t focus on that. That’s not who they are; that’s just a part of the person they have become in totality. Every once in a while, I pray to God, because why not? Now and again, I’ll commit a severe act of blasphemy because, why not? That doesn’t make me a certain kind of person. That just means I’m a person and I do certain things. You don’t know what. I have tendencies, but it’s not all input-output. I’ve got a mind to think with. So, I do.

Lastly, numbers have no agenda. Reading numbers and interpreting data can, but you can’t change what the numbers say, merely how they say it. Transparency is lovely. So, the next time you want to say that scientists have some kind of agenda when they’re drawing conclusions. Please, go read the article, and try to understand the logic. Maybe there is an agenda, but I’ll bet there’s usually not. I’ll bet you’re creating a narrative to make sense of it. Or, at least, someone else is. That’s why politics and science don’t really mix well. Science wants impartiality, it seeks the truth as it is. Politicians want you to believe the truth they created.

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