pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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Just the Facts.

I’m going to say something here that is sort of unpopular right now among the people I know.

Science is not the place to debate theology.

Just quit it. Stop debating Creationists.

Bill Nye, I love you. I love what you stand for. I love science and reason. Heck, to be quite honest, I even love theology and world religions. But please, quit it. Stop giving airtime to theological belief structures that have been patently disproven.

Creationism isn’t a competing scientific theory. It can not stand on the same platform as evolution, or membrane theory, or the big bang theory, or the laws of thermodynamics, or the search for the unified field theory, or any of the thousand and one different scientific theories that work at explaining our universe and it’s rules. To pretend otherwise elevates it beyond what it is, and lowers all of those.

Creationism is a belief structure. One that at it’s heart relies on ignorance or cognitive dissonance towards the facts as they are known and proven.

If you’re hoping to catch people before their ignorance trips them into Creationist beliefs, debating those that have a theological imperative to believe in Creationism is not the way.

Teaching is the way.

And you know that. You know that, especially Bill Nye. Hell, that’s the entire life purpose that you have operated on. Teach them. Teach them about rational thinking. Teach them about science. Teach them about the passionate love of learning the mechanisms of observation and rational thinking.

Don’t try to go head to head with their belief structures. There can be no quarter there. And when you back them into the corner of pro and con that debate makes, where science stands on one side, and belief on the other? You lose. And in losing, you will lose them.

Fairly soon, March 2014, a new generation will be exposed to a new iteration of Cosmos. Sagan’s great work, and a true labor of love will again light sparks in people’s heads. Your bromance love, Neil deGrasse Tyson will present what is not a debate, but instead, intriguing answers and intriguing questions.

Because that’s what science does. That’s what science is. 

Creationism has no place there. It’s not science. It’s flat-earth mumbo jumbo. You might as well present it along with heliocentrism if you go that route.

Theology goes about explaining the Why? That’s not science. Science asks What? and How? Leave the why to the theologians and storytellers. Don’t debate them.

Just stick to the facts.


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The Anarchy of Subjective Opinion

“The South sucks, and I’m from here born and bred. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have good or even great things — but it still sucks.” – my friend, Michael.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in an environment that is openly hostile to reason and compassion. Maybe it’s really just my roots being shocked with the transplant. You’d think it wouldn’t still hurt two decades later, though, wouldn’t you?

It hasn’t always felt like this, either. I think that’s the really striking thing. What I first noticed when I moved to the South was that it wasn’t really Hazzard County, and it wasn’t really overrun with either Dukes or Boss Hoggs. That sounds awfully obvious and dumb, but the South isn’t precisely like the rest of the country. The same way no region is really like any other region.

It’s a whole different place. Sometimes filled with beauty, but often that beauty is haunting. Sometimes only for the reason that it is framed in a backdrop of terrible tragedy and suffering. It’s really hard to forget the Civil War when every few miles there’s another sign on the side of the road telling you the particulars of that war in that location. It’s this echo that won’t go away.

You can’t tell me it’s just about history, though. If it was just history there’d be more of those signs at the old slave auction sites, more signs that tell you about the forced marches of the people of the First Nations. Sure, both exist. Those signs are there, but they aren’t as ever present in the way that the Civil War markers are.

And yes, here in the South, there are quite a few people who happily wave their rebel flag and proclaim that the South will rise again. There’s quite a few who really do call it the Northern War of Aggression.

When I tell you that the culture is different, what I mean to say is that even the history that is taught is different. I have had credibly educated people tell me that they had never heard that carpetbaggers were taught about in other parts of the country as a pejorative term for a mixed bag of people who moved to the South on the back of Reconstruction, some who were literal abolitionists looking to improve racial equality (and some who were led by financial motives to leverage their own monetary endeavors).  Here, the carpetbaggers were those damn Yankees who came to loot. Period, the end.

That’s really just an example, too. For me, though, this clash of subjective views of the historical and political timelines has really brought me to a crashing halt.

This is a long way to go to say that I feel like I’m standing on a ledge when it comes to simple debate. To say that it feels like we all are. I don’t even know what to say about it anymore, yet here I am at nearly 500 words in, and I have a feeling I’m going to be going a good deal longer.

I have a friend who recently started a tiny debate cabal. Her intentions seemed noble. Bring together people of opposing view, a small handful, who were clear headed and were not given to low attacks. See if a dialogue is even possible.

Our first issue at hand was Gay Marriage (or as I like to call it “Marriage, as an equally accessible civil right”). The first shot out the gate was a recounting of Leviticus. I returned fire with the First Amendment. They returned fire with… Leviticus. I returned fire by calling into question the status of Leviticus by their own doctrine’s standards. Then they returned with incest, bestiality and pedophilia as the natural result of gay marriage.

And I paused unsure of what to even say.

I can’t with that. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t pretend that’s a valid argument, and I don’t know how to.

And I think that’s where a lot of us are, on either side of this quicksand avalanche of a divide between ideologies. This inability to even grasp the other side’s subjective understanding of science, ethics, civil rights, civic duty, or well, just about anything… it’s gotten really  out of control.

But I don’t know what to do about it. I just don’t. I can not address an assertion that permitting homosexual marriage is the slippery slope to non-consensual abuse of legal minors and animals. That just seems like a break in reality to me. Like a true psychotic slip into hysteria.

How can I make a bridge between us when the side your standing on all looks like crumbling cognitive dissonance?

And that worries the hell out of me. What worries me equally is that if it looks like that from my perspective I know my ground must look dangerous from your perspective, too.

I can’t pretend, though. I can’t bring out numbers and graphs and history and psychology and show you facts, because you seem to have abandoned facts entirely in favor of doctrine. To the point that when I point out that this is doctrine, you simply restate it as fact, and if pushed further, restate it as just your opinion and how you’re allowed to have your opinion.

It’s not opinion, though. It’s doctrine. It’s doctrine to believe the world is objectively 6000 years old, and not the scientifically known 4. 54 billion reality. At least state that as an article of your faith and not an article of objective reality.

And I am surrounded with this. Surrounded with people who believe that homosexuality is objectively bad for people and society. Surrounded with people who believe the world is objectively 6000 years old. Surrounded by people who believe that dinosaurs were planted in the earth as some sort of religious test of will by their god.

And I wouldn’t say it precisely scares me. Scare isn’t the right word. I don’t fear. I worry. I worry about how much further we will slip into the anarchy of subjective opinion.

Hell, if it was pure subjective opinion, I’d even be okay with that, but we’re talking about subjective opinion that has been used to specifically cause genocide, slavery, child abuse, and all manner of harm upon this world and it’s populace.

I have no wish for people to abandon their belief system. I’m just confused as hell as to when belief systems took such a jarring turn to the right, away from established knowledge.

And I’m left here. Feeling like I’m in hostile territory, with no idea how to even reach the other side.


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Brave New World

On November 4th 2008 I was just a bit over 2 weeks into recovery from the emergency c-section that had brought P and Pie slip-sliding into this world.
I was determined to vote, and left my wee babies for either the first time or one of the first times with my husband. I showered and dressed, excited to not be wearing house clothes that were mostly determined by their function and ease of use. I put on socks and shoes, brushed my hair, kissed my family and walked to the driveway to get in my little car.

I drove to the local polling precinct (a local Baptist church, as are most of the polling places surrounding me), prepared to stand in line for hours.

This was a pretty unnecessary mental preparation. There wasn’t much of a line, but the poll workers took one look at me and pulled me to the front of what meager line there was.

This is pretty embarrassing if you think about it. I had showered, for cripes sake. Clean clothes were on my body. I was not wearing yoga pants, and my shirt had not been marketed in any way as a nursing accessible shirt. I felt the very best I had felt post-natal. Yet, I  still looked so much like death warmed over that they carefully walked me to the registry, and to the voting stall. They gingerly held my hand as though I might fall down or start spitting pea soup at any minute.

Nevertheless, I found the strength to do my bit and even enjoyed a tiny afternoon out afterward.

The rest of the day is lost to memory for me. What I do remember, though, is watching the returns that night. Myself and my husband watched as the votes were counted and history was made. Our babies slept peacefully through the process.

When the election was called and it became apparent that our 44th President would be Barack Obama my heart swelled. I did not have any incredible great hopes or expectations tied to that feeling. I voted for him because I thought his was the best and most credible plan. I considered his personal history and life record and thought that they embodied something worthwhile for the Oval Office.

That wasn’t what the heart swelling was about, though. It was about the fact that we had managed to elect a black guy. Not just any black guy, though, a black guy with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. During a time when a name like that should have basically been the end of any political career.

I didn’t think that racism was over or that xenophobia was now a thing of the past rather than a force that was alive, well and still kicking the shit out of a lot of people.

What I did think was that the odds had just gotten pushed into a slightly better arrangement. That was worth a bit of heart swelling. So swell my heart did. I held my children and my heart swelled and I kissed their heads and whispered into their ears that they were alive and here when something amazing happened.

This time around, my heart was slower to swell. I wanted the outcome that happened, sure, but what happened had already happened.

Halfway into the night, though, I had a realization.

The newborn infants that I had whispered into the ears of four years previously were gone. In their place were two rambunctious four year olds. In four years when this happened again, those preschoolers that I knew would be gone. In their place would be two eight year olds. Instead of sleeping while this happened they would likely be awake and present for most of it.

Not only that, but, and this is where my heart started to swell, the only President they had ever known would be about to be replaced. For the first eight years of their life the head of their country will have been President Barack Obama.
They will not be children of Johnson, Nixon and Ford as myself and my husband are. They are not the children of Carter, or Reagan, or Bush one or two. They are not the children of Clinton.

I don’t really entirely know what that means or will mean to them. It does feel more hopeful in this age when we are looking forward, though. The landscape and possibilities of humankind are changing at a drastic rate right now, at speeds that I can’t even quantify.

The invention of the silicon chip followed by the invention of the Internet has laid a new field down. Science and research are taking jumps that seemed to be previously mired in treacle. The political implications have already been earth shattering and somewhat unpredictable all around the world. We’re still trying to get our feet out from under us as to what the social landscape is in this new world.

To our children, though, this isn’t a new world. It’s just the world. There has always been internet. Phones were always flat things that one carried in their pocket. We’ve always had a map of the human genome. It’s always been possible to video chat with someone across the world. Barack Obama has always been President.

Will they someday look at the family’s new 3d printer the way my brother, sister and I looked at our family’s new microwave? Will it also be incorporated into their lives the way the microwave was incorporated into our lives? Will they print out models for school assignments? Will we use our phones to take a quick scan of their bodies instead of going to the doctor?

I do know, already, that their friends will be here, there and everywhere the way my friends are. Not because my friends migrated, but because the Internet makes it possible for me to befriend someone from New Zealand even though I never left the US.

Now, all that has little to do with our 44th President. His re-election made me consider that, though. The current hand wringing and grief over losing the election, typified by Bill O’Reilly saying on air that “the white establishment is now the minority” and “it’s not a traditional America anymore,” points out how tied to the past we were. The election went to the youth, to the minorities, and to the women who could no longer stand by while they lost all that their mothers and grandmothers had fought for.

That’s a really good thing. You can’t step forward when you’re satisfied with where you are standing. The white male establishment was, as a whole (though not necessarily in parts), satisfied with where they were standing in the US.

My children strive forward into a future that I do not know.

I sort of think that’s a good thing.


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Hey, Right-Wing America, think about this

Speaking of crazy times…

Barack Obama is still our President.

So, that happened.

Here’s something to think about, though: the Romney campaign was supremely wrong in their assessment of what would happen. They were completely taken off guard. There was serious amounts of information collected and they were unable to decode it for meaning.

Really stop and think about that when you’re considering whether the GOP is paving a path somewhere you want to go.

Sure, there are plenty of campaigns that fight hard and lose, and a great deal of campaigns still have more than one runner. No one would run if they thought they were going to lose, so most people that run think they have a shot at winning, and sure, a lot of them do.

In these modern times, with the polling, market data, campaign strategists, intense focus groups and statisticians, being taken off guard so completely like that on the actual day of the election is near impossible.

It’s not like they thought it was going to be a squeaker. They thought it was going to be a landslide for Romney.

The truth was completely opposite.

They did not win the popular vote and they did not win the electoral vote. The popular vote was closer, but still a very comfortable victory for Obama. The electoral vote was no contest. It was a slamming defeat of Romney.

Meanwhile, the information was so stunningly available that it was absolutely no surprise to everybody else when President Obama won a second term.

So.

Stop. Think again.

What does that mean?

You wanted a President of the United States who, together with people he hand picked for their ability to shoot straight with him and present him with the best information possible, could not decipher poll data. Could not understand gathered intelligence.

If you’ve been listening to the right-wing think tanks and their ideas on what works, derived from their own intense investigation of the data that all the other scientists, economists and statisticians disagree with, perhaps it’s time to consider that your data is bad. 

Maybe trickle down economics really just doesn’t work. We’ve been trying it for 30 years, after all. We have the lowest tax burden we’ve had for generations and it doesn’t seem to be actually making the much ballyhooed “job creators” create jobs.
Maybe jobs happen when a business has higher demand for their product than their current workforce can produce, and not when there is simply more profit (as there has been a greatly increasing profit in many business indexes for years now).  Maybe continuing to coalesce more and more profit to the top has simply created a larger bottom and a smaller top.

Maybe climate change is real.

Maybe reproductive rights really do help create a culture that is more successful overall.

Maybe civil rights for gay people really won’t in any way effect heterosexual marriage.

Maybe the acrimony and anger and fear and bitterness that you, you personally, have been dealt a harder hand than anyone else, and you, you personally, have played it more responsibly and more true while everyone else coasts along on your hard work and the hard work of the other responsible Americans is really more about your own feelings and less about reality.

Maybe, perhaps, it really could be that you’ve been functioning on bad information and you need to reassess.

Or you could just blame everyone else. Your call.


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Heretic

I am a heretic.

I am a Catholic who does not believe in Jesus, a Pagan who does not worship any pantheon, a Jew who did not finish converting, and a believer who believes in no religion. I elevate Scientific Theory as a god of sorts.  The closest I tend to get with embracing a whole doctrine is Discordianism. If laughter and confusion are not The Way to enlightenment, it certainly is A Way.

I have a tendency to let my right brain hang out in space declaring the beautiful oneness of all things while my tightly controlled left brain is busy screaming bullshit to everything but the highly peer reviewed views of reality. When my two sides try to battle it out for supremacy, I make them have a group hug and tell them to sit down and shut up.

A man I have often considered my teacher (and more often, my friend) once told me that I was never very good at being a polytheist because I place no other gods before myself.* I never really consider this the horrible critique that he seemed to feel it was. But then, if  such a thing applied to me, how could I?

It does apply, too. I can’t take the word of someone else before the processes of my own brain. Doctrine and dogma have a tendency to be dress-up clothes for me. I try on a myth from here, a practice from there, and a piece of dogma from over that way, sewing them up into a patchwork outfit of sense and nonsense. It isn’t that I don’t take them seriously or with reverence. It’s more that I am both contrary and a peacekeeper by nature.

Still. Walking a middle path by keeping one foot firmly on either side does not make for a comfortable gait. I often look as idiotic from the outside as embracing either side completely feels from the inside.

I want to neaten this up and make some point with it. Edit it. Make it clear and concise. What you see here today will likely be changed to make some sort of essay on something or other. How religion, politics and philosophy intersect and the ways in which it maybe should or shouldn’t. Or perhaps the political and social climate of the place I call home nowadays, and how uncomfortable that makes me.

I always want to straighten things for outside consumption. Keep a curtain over the disarray that is the spectrum of my thinking while revealing well constructed dioramas of thought that I have built.

Perhaps for once I should just leave it as the mess it is. A tribute to the fanatical heretic that is my innermost self.

For now, I am a contrary peacekeeper. I am she who laughs. I am a heretic.

*paraphrased so completely that I won’t even put it in quotes as I can never remember the precise way he said it. He’s also recanted it many times and said it was a truly terrible thing for him to say.


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The Dude Abides

Speaking of objective, let’s look at what the word means.

3  a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations

(you can look at the whole definition here)

Now, let’s look at subjective.

3  a: characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind

(again, the whole definition here)

The distinctions are self evident. There’s been a great deal of equivocation in the topics of science and history. I want to say this has been lately, but the truth is that there has always been a certain amount of equivocation about the difference between subjective and objective. We have actually gotten to the point where opinion has been given as much weight as objective reasoning, though, and that’s inherently problematic.

I’ve often had a discussion with someone, or overheard a discussion, that reached an impasse with a Dude-esque “yeah well, that’s just like your opinion, man.”  Maybe it was them, and maybe it was me, but as mothers everywhere say “I don’t care who started it. I’m stopping it.” This has really got to end.

No one is asking anyone to give up their fundamental beliefs, practices, philosophies, affiliations and ideas but they’ve got to be questioned when they can’t stand up to objectivity.  We all do. Part of being a fully functioning human is questioning and evaluating. Then reevaluating, constantly. If this is contraindicated by any particular belief, affiliation, practice, philosophy or idea then all I can do is side-eye the hell out of it.

But that’s like, just my opinion, man.