Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quadrennial Milestone and Beyond....

It has now been a day over four years since I initially started this blog. I never had a cohesive strategy as to what direction the articles would flow, or the topics that would be covered. Along the way, just as is the case with any writer, I've been influenced and inspired by vastly different sources. Whether there were books I was reading, movies I was watching, conversations with people both supportive and detractive, or even moments that came out of sheer boredom, there have been countless extrinsic influences that have helped shaped these posts. Some, naturally, are a bit polemic and combative in tone (in the case with religion, spirituality, antiscience, etc.), others are more introspective, while the rest run the gamut from philosophical perspective to scientific understanding, and even the realm of language and grammar. Generally though, the common thread among these blogs is the importance of evidence, critical thinking, testing, reasoning, and ultimately using the scientific method towards achieving a cohesive picture of our place in the universe. Generally, it is possible to develop a comprehensive and fulfilling philosophy that is grounded in reality, and not within some imaginary realm.

From the general tone and direction of the last few months, it has become obvious to regular readers that there's more anger, frustration, fire, and some even call arrogance towards obtuse beliefs and ideas. It must be understood that coercing and indoctrinating an individual who remains ignorant of critical thinking is not difficult, but those who have developed the knowledge and understanding that only empirical processes can reveal are well suited towards navigating these complex lives we lead full of misleading and conflicting information. These topics are not meant to proselitize or convince others of their mistaken notions overnight. First, it is more of a personal catharsis towards developing a wholesome and realistic perspective in life. However, as is often the case when I debate my views, I'm labeled as a fundamentalist, no different then religious zealots out to convince others of their superiority. In fact, there's a law that relates to this illogic called "Blake's Law". It states that the longer a conversation between a believer and atheist lasts, it's almost 100% certain that the believer will call the atheist a fundamentalist. Fortunately, a response to this logical fallacy has already been alluded to by P.Z. Myers (an evolutionary/developmental biologist with one of the most popular science blogs online). His response is:
"The "new atheism" (I don't like that phrase, either) is about taking a core set of principles that have proven themselves powerful and useful in the scientific world — you've probably noticed that many of these uppity atheists are coming out of a scientific background — and insisting that they also apply to everything else people do. These principles are a reliance on natural causes and demanding explanations in terms of the real world, with a documentary chain of evidence, that anyone can examine. The virtues are critical thinking, flexibility, openness, verification, and evidence. The sins are dogma, faith, tradition, revelation, superstition, and the supernatural. There is no holy writ, and a central idea is that everything must be open to rational, evidence-based criticism — it's the opposite of fundamentalism."
Some people are happy living a fantasy and lying to themselves about the nature of the world, but others are curious creatures, investigative in nature, and generally enthused about the universe, reserving imagery and fantasy to realms that are fun in small doses or for amusement, but in normal daily practice, are useless. Every infant is an explorer, intrigued about the surroundings, and investigative in their nature. Once we reach a critical age, perhaps through our educational system, or rigid religious dogma, most of us lose our sense of wonder and fulfillment. We stop asking questions, and settle with substandard answers because we fear the truth.

However, atheists as a whole, although sharing the common bond of living in reality and functioning with a great deal of skepticism when faced with non-testable predictions, are often divided among many other topics. The philosophical views for example among atheists are ubiquitous, with some agnostic about the proper philosophy, while others seek to find philosophical satisfaction from obscure sources. One major disagreement I have with some atheists is the fact that they feel the word "atheist" carries too much negative connotative baggage, and therefor must be discarded for something more pleasant and friendly to the ear. The eminent biologist Richard Dawkins, among a few intellectuals have been pushing for the "brights movement". In this case, they want to relabel atheists as brights, and in doing so, hope that more come to embrace it. In my opinion, this relabeling seems too patronizing and condescending towards those who are ready to release their dogmatic faith-based beliefs. Another disagreement is on how to introduce these concepts to children. Their natural curiosity and imagination should not be limited, but at the same time, they must understand at an early age to be skeptical of certain beliefs may try to reinforce. In this instance, I believe raising children to embrace agnosticism is far more beneficial. A time may come when their perspective develops to the point where they choose to become atheist, but until that moment, they must be able to process the universe skeptically, but less rigidly. Christmas presents, and Easter egg scavager hunts should not be denied to children (after all, childhood has to remain fun and exciting), but they should be told that no matter how convincingly an adult tells them they know the truth, they must always maintain some skepticism. If a child asks if God is real, then a good response from this open perspective would be "to some people, they think God is real, while others, they aren't so sure, but nobody really knows the absolute truth. Anything you believe is equal to anyone else, but remember that the best way to investigate the world around you is through science." Ask any atheist, and their reply to children regarding this God question will be different. Here again, being an atheist doesn't necessarily mean we're all in agreement about everything. Unlike rigid political parties, we're happy to debate our differences, and perspective within a framework of reason, critical thinking, and the exchange of different opinions grounded within reality.

Ultimately, the future direction of this blog is up to the whims of reason, critical thinking, and the countless sources of information that help us maintain a grounded world view. True inspiration does not come from imaginary beings that mean something to someone and remain completely unknown to others, but to our inherent inquisitive human nature. It is our physical and cultural evolution that leads us to reach for goals and objectives far beyond our limited scope. It's the embrace of these ideals that will define our future.

No comments: