Media is as much a curse as it is a boon.

berserkerich
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Media is as much a curse as it is a boon.

I was fortunate enough to read this in the local paper this morning when I returned from work. An article like this irritates me because I'm aware that the majority of people don't understand how absurd it is.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YWNkYTQ2NWM3N2M5NGM4MDk0NTAyODAyYmM2OTZkYTQ=

I am CERTAIN this guy is a toolbox.


Vastet
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I nearly fell off my chair

I nearly fell off my chair laughing at that article. Yeah...people are turning athiest just because Bush is an idiot.

 As for the Star Wars reference, that guy apparently never understood the story to begin with. Heresy! The Force will have his head.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


AModestProposal
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I find his misinterpretation

I find his misinterpretation of Star Wars most offensive of all.


xCrimex
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Hmmm...I dunno. What I got

Hmmm...I dunno. What I got from it was that the person was attacking the absurdity of being certain that others certain believes are wrong. When you think about it ...I think it kinda makes sense or maybe I just gotta read it again. So being certain about something is a good thing but it can also be detrimental such as fundimentalist religious peoples certain beliefs....f*** I'm just gonna have to read it again.

"Admittedly, once one decides in one’s own mind to reject the fallacy of God, the world indeed becomes a scary and lonely place, but one of truth not delusion."


MattShizzle
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Dumb fuck. Isn't the

Dumb fuck. Isn't the National Review an extreme right wing magazine?


Hambydammit
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I'm reprinting my response

I'm reprinting my response to this article as posted on my myspace blog.

 

There's just too much stupidity out there. It's hard for me to wade through all of it. Editorial by Jonah Goldberg (extreme right wing turd) with my comments in parentheses and a different font.

Are You Certain About That?
Disbelief.

By Jonah Goldberg

Have you heard the news? Belief is bad. (Right from the get-go, this turd isn't using the right word. Read on... you'll see he's talking about something other than belief.)

Pick up an eggheady book review, an essay in Time magazine, or listen to a thumb-suck session on National Public Radio for very long and you'll soon hear someone explain that real conviction — dogmatism! — is dangerous. (Bear in mind that he started by talking about belief, and now he's insinuated that those thumb suckers {ad hominem!} are equating belief with dogmatism. Already we've been deflected twice and we haven't even gotten to his argument yet!)

Andrew Sullivan, in his new book The Conservative Soul, declares a jihad on certainty, by which he means the certainty of fundamentalist "Christianists" — the allusion to Islamists is deliberate. The New Republic's Jonathan Chait proclaims that liberalism is the anti-dogmatic ideology. Sam Harris, a leading proselytizer for atheism, has declared a one-man crusade on religious certainty. Intellectual historian J.P. Diggins writes in the latest issue of The American Interest that there's a war afoot for "the soul of the American Republic" between the forces of skepticism and infallibility. And so on. (Once again, the question is begged. Are we talking about belief, or dogmatism, or certainty? If we're talking about certainty, do we mean it in the colloquial, or the scientific sense?)

Much of this stems from the popularity of Bush hatred these days. Bush's alleged "messianic certainty" — to use Sen. Barack Obama's words — is dangerous and evil in the eyes of supposedly meek and nuanced liberals. (Interesting claim... resurgence of skepticism because of Bush? I might agree with him on this point. Bush certainly has been a case study in the danger of blind allegiance and unfounded trust.)

The rot, not surprisingly, has reached Hollywood. For example, in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas caved to the fashionable anti-absolutism that comes with Bush hatred by having a young Obi-Wan Kenobi proclaim, "Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes!" Translation: Only evil people see the world as black-and-white. This signaled that Lucas's descent into hackery was complete, since it was Lucas himself who originally explained that the entire universe is divided into light and dark sides. (Star Wars sucked for many reasons. Lucas's insertion of a metaphorical jab at absolutism into the dialog has little or nothing to do with the suckage.)

Longtime New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis captured the thought nicely a few years ago when he said that a primary lesson of his entire career was that "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft." (Sounds like a smart guy.)

Whenever I hear people say such things, I like to ask them, "Are you sure about that?" When they say yes, which they always do, I follow up by asking, "No, no: Are you really, really certain that certainty is bad?" At some point even the irony-deficient get the joke. (Ok. Here's where the joke's really on Mr. Goldberg. Remember the bit about the colloquial vs. scientific definition of certainty? When we say that certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity, what we mean is dogmatic certainty. The unspoken implication here is even deeper... RELIGIOUS certainty! What do Osama Bin Laden and John Ashcroft have in common? They both have dogmatic certainty that everyone who doesn't share the same faith as them is wrong... and worse than that... EVIL!

Scientific certainty comes from empirical evidence and falsification. We form a theory based on evidence, and then we try to prove our theory wrong. I'm sure all my readers are familiar with this, so I won't go into any more detail. What the bleeding heart liberals are trying to say (but they're afraid to say it because they'll be crucified if they do) is that certainty based on faith is a very, very, very bad thing.

Faith is a very tricky word. Again, there are two definitions that are bandied about interchangably, and this is one of the reasons that religion is often given a free pass on intellectual criticism. Technically speaking, I don't have "faith" that my chair will hold me up or that I won't fall through the floor to the center of the earth, or that the sun will rise tomorrow. In all of those cases, I have a reasonable expectation based on empirical evidence and repeatable patterns. This use of faith is colloquial, and literally means "reasonable expectation."

The other kind of faith, whether you want to admit it or not, means "Belief in something despite evidence to the contrary, or no evidence in support of it."

This kind of faith, which is what religions say you must have in order to be a true believer, is the root of irrationality because it encourages people to accept things that have no evidence, or worse... that the evidence disagrees with.

So, Mr. Goldberg, let's be intellectually honest for a moment. Am I certain that certainty is bad? Yes, but it's not as ironic as you think. I am sure that dogmatic certainty without scientific certainty is bad.

Ok... back to the drivel...



But they still don't understand that the joke is on them. Virtually every hero in human history has been driven by certainty, by the courage of their convictions. Sir Thomas More and Socrates chose certain death, pun intended, over uncertain life. Martin Luther King Jr. — to pick liberalism's most iconic hero — was hardly plagued with doubt about the rightness of his cause. A Rosa Parks charged with today's reigning moral imperative not to be too sure of herself might not have sat at the front of the bus. An FDR certain that certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity might have declined to declare total war on Nazism for fear of becoming as bad as his enemy.
(Do I even need to comment on how inane this is? When did we equate certainty with actions? Have you been 100% certain of every scary thing you did in your life, or did you do what you felt was right even though you had doubts? Should I even point out that Hitler was at least as certain of his "rightness" as FDR?)

The fact is that unless you know where you stand, it's unlikely you'll have the courage to understand where someone else is coming from.
(And what is wrong with standing on the bedrock of skepticism? Demanding proof for what people tell you instead of believing blindly seems like a good place to stand.)

Obviously, there's more than a grain of truth to the view that closed-mindedness is bad. Immunity to new facts and a smug confidence that you couldn't possibly be wrong are serious character flaws and the source of grave mistakes. Yes, of course, dogmatism can be very bad, if the dogma in question is bad. But, as Chesterton teaches, a dogmatic conviction can also be morally praiseworthy and socially valuable. If you doubt that, let us now commence the war on the certainty that murder is wrong, that racism is bad and that a parent's love should be unconditional.
(I wonder if Mr. Goldberg supports the war in Iraq. Is he certain that every one of the murders America has committed are wrong, or does he actually believe that murder is sometimes justified? Does he believe in the death penalty? Is he happy that Sadaam is being executed? His argument is defeating itself if you just read between the lines.)

This ultimately is my problem with the anti-certainty chorus: They aren't offended by conviction per se, but by convictions they do not hold. Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote that "hell is other people." Well, for the new "liberal" champions of skepticism and philosophical humility, hell is the certainty of other people.

"Closed-minded" has come to mean "people who disagree with me." (This is a corollary to the popular tendency of defining "diversity" as a bunch of people who look different but think alike). So, for example, pro-lifers have an unshakable "dogmatic" and "faith-based" certainty that abortion is wrong. But, we are told, pro-choicers are merely open-minded and realists. People who are certain gay marriage is good are "enlightened" people, while those whose convictions point elsewhere are zealots.
(Please refer to my previous blog where I properly re-defined religious freedom as "freedom to discriminate." Open-mindedness comes from uncertainty, strictly speaking. If I'm not sure of my position, I shouldn't enforce it on you, particularly if you disagree with me. Doesn't that make sense? If I'm sure because of my "faith" -- in the religious sense, then I'm sure because of blind belief, and that's dangerous.)

In other words, certainty has become code among the intellectual priesthood for people and ideas that can be dismissed out of hand. That's what is so offensive about this fashionable nonsense: It breeds the very closed-mindedness it pretends to fight.

It scares me that many people will read this and not see through the bullshit. Definitions, people! If we allow disingenuous turds like Mr. Goldberg to freely toss around multiple definitions so they can make their points, we're as intellectually dishonest as he is.

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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todangst
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Nice post. Newspaper writers

Nice post. Newspaper writers and editors should stick to reporting the news (they still get half of that wrong) and avoid pontificating like this, because it exposes just how little it takes to be a journalism major.....

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


olivergringold
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Not so sure about that,

Not so sure about that, Todangst.  Keith Olbermann does spectacular public good with his Special Comment segments that occassionally come up during his show on MSNBC.  Just head to the network's webpage, click on MSNBCTV, and go to Keith's corner of the internet.  The unflinching power of an educated mind awaits.

"No end justifies the means of lying."
-Penn Jillette


berserkerich
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The Star Wars reference was

The Star Wars reference was uncalled for. The force is not strong in that one.