Monday, February 27, 2017

For the sake of our children we must not suffer fools gladly
  What exactly does it mean to advocate "tolerance"

Wikipedia offers this definition:
Religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics, and societal organisation that relate humanity to what an anthropologist has called "an order of existence". Different religions may or may not contain various elements, ranging from the "divine", "sacred things", "faith", a "supernatural being or supernatural beings" or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life."
Take some time to digest that definition, because the entry goes on to say:
"With the onset of the modernization of and the scientific revolution in the western world, some aspects of religion have cumulatively been criticized."
In a different entry, Wikipedia too carefully offers this definition:
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.
"Science" allowed us to achieve landing on the moon. "Religion" allowed some to say and "believe" that didn't happen and all the evidence showing that it did was fabricated. "Religion" allowed people to say their family members who died from smallpox moved on to a better place. "Science" allowed us to eliminate smallpox.

Wikipedia also offers this definition:
Ideology is a collection of beliefs held by an individual, group or society. It can be described as a set of conscious and unconscious ideas which make up one's beliefs, goals, expectations, and motivations.
The entry explains further:
Even when the challenging of existing beliefs is encouraged, as in scientific theories, the dominant paradigm or mindset can prevent certain challenges, theories, or experiments from being advanced.
When I read the full entry on "ideology," what I see is a description similar to "religion" in that beliefs are passed on that are not knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Both religion and ideology require a belief at the core that does not permit a real world verification process that can be repeated by others. You either believe it or you don't.

Science is a curious "systematic enterprise." There are "beliefs" known as an "hypothesis" which is a suggested solution for an unexplained occurrence that does not fit into current accepted scientific theory.

Our common use of the word "theory" has caused confusion about science which those with political agendas have taken advantage of to advocate beliefs. From Wikipedia:
A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can, in accordance with the scientific method, be repeatedly tested, using a predefined protocol of observations and experiments. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and are a comprehensive form of scientific knowledge.

It is important to note that the definition of a "scientific theory" (often ambiguously contracted to "theory" for the sake of brevity, including in this page) as used in the disciplines of science is significantly different from the common vernacular usage of the word "theory". In everyday non-scientific speech, "theory" can imply that something is an unsubstantiated and speculative guess, conjecture, idea, or, hypothesis; such a usage is the opposite of the word "theory" in science. These different usages are comparable to the differing, and often opposing, usages of the term "prediction" in science versus "prediction" in vernacular speech, denoting a mere hope.

The strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain. As additional scientific evidence is gathered, a scientific theory may be rejected or modified if it does not fit the new empirical findings; in such circumstances, a more accurate theory is then desired.... They describe the causal elements responsible for a particular natural phenomenon, and are used to explain and predict aspects of the physical universe or specific areas of inquiry (e.g., electricity, chemistry, astronomy). Scientists use theories as a foundation to gain further scientific knowledge, as well as to accomplish goals such as inventing technology or curing disease.
There is confusion about this in "the public square" where many Americans have come to believe it is important that everyone has a right to say anything and offer there own untestable "theories" that are equal to scientific theories. Thus we have:

And so now we have come to the crux of the matter, for in that web page above is used the word "truth." From Wikipedia:
Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of "truth to self," or authenticity.

The commonly understood opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning. The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy, art, and religion. Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most (but not all) of the sciences, law, journalism, and everyday life. Some philosophers view the concept of truth as basic, and unable to be explained in any terms that are more easily understood than the concept of truth itself. Commonly, truth is viewed as the correspondence of language or thought to an independent reality, in what is sometimes called the correspondence theory of truth.
As the family curmudgeonly pessimist when I look at that definition of "truth" I immediately see a chance for someone to confuse "belief" with "truth" particularly because "belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty."

A fact is something that has occurred or is correct. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is, whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience. But people get these terms confused. The opposite of "fact" is "fantasy" which is not a "lie" but rather comes from  the activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable. When one asserts that a fantasy is "truth" that person is either crazy or is talking about their religion or ideology.

Thus someone standing in the deepest snow they've ever seen in their hometown will say there is no global warming. For them their "truth" ignores their assumption that their "local weather" must be the same as their "regional climate" which must the same as the "global biosphere." That's not a fact, it's their "truth." And in a Trump world they can correctly consider anything contrary a "lie."

Thus when the Center for Religious Expression states "we believe the Christian's right to speak in the public square about these vitally important matters is fundamental because justice - as it relates to any of these issues - cannot exist without truth" they are 100% correct that their viewpoint about abortion, same-sex marriage, etc., is based on the truth.

It's their truth, not my truth, and may not be your truth. That makes truth entirely subjective, and therefore meaningless in a discussion except with the like-minded who don't want to be confused by the different meaning of fact and science.

For this curmudgeonly pessimist, "truth" is a word that has no meaning mostly because it is and always was about a fantasy precept dependent upon belief.

If you must use it, you must understand that it has to do with the intent of "deception." Deception "is a trick or scheme used to get what you want, like the deception you used to get your sister to agree to do all your chores for a month." Deceive is a word that comes from the Latin de- meaning "from" and capere, meaning "to take." In Christianity Leviticus 19:11 provides the "taking" context: "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." You see, the truth about "truth" can best be understood in the context of the intent of its opposite - a "lie." And that is different from the opposite of "fact", the term "fantasy."

Last week on his "Real Time" show, one of Bill Maher's guests was journalist and author Asra Nomani. According to her web site, among other things, she is "dedicated to ... principles of tolerance in the Muslim world."

Her website also tells us she "was raised in the foothills of West Virginia in Morgantown" and attended West Virginia University. That was followed by a long career in mainstream media journalism. But recently her views have appeared in Breitbart News stories.

In watching Nomani on the show, she explained she voted for Donald Trump and she has strong concerns that were quickly picked up and fairly reported by Breitbart News:
Nomani, who voted for Trump, stated, “[T]here are two issues that the Dems lost on, and one was Islam, and the other was on identity politics, and that’s what I think…I’m afraid that they’re going to go to the extreme, and that would mean [Representative] Keith Ellison (D-MN).”

She added that if Ellison is picked to run the DNC, it would mean “more apologetics on Islam, and more identity politics, and what I would prefer as somebody who is in the middle. We have this mayor from South Bend, Indiana, who — Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] is his name, and we have [Representative] Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who was on your stage. she was amazing, centrist, a realist on Islam and extremism, and that’s what we need, civility, dignity.”

Nomani praised “true liberals” for giving her strength and courage as a Muslim reformer.

She further stated that a lot of liberals aren’t helping reform Islam, and are “selling America short. They are surrendering America.” Nomani criticized the Women’s March for “standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims that are on the far right of the Westboro Baptist Church.”

Nomani concluded by arguing that civility has to [be] demanded “from the White House to the streets.”
In a discussion about a basketball player thinking the world is flat, fellow panelist Seth MacFarlane asked how she can reconcile supporting someone like Trump, who rejects science. He said to her she seems more intelligent than that. Her response was that we must all come together.

Effectively she is advocating "tolerance" which means to not appear to dismiss people whose beliefs might differ from you. That is what Maher, MacFarlane, and the rest of the panel were doing regarding the guy who says he believes the world is flat.

Nomani attacks those who would not suffer fools gladly, which according to the Cambridge English Dictionary means those who have little or no patience with people who are stupid or have stupid ideas.

"Tolerance" is generally offered up as a virtue. According to Wikipedia:
The term “toleration”—from the Latin tolerare: to put up with, countenance or suffer—generally refers to the conditional acceptance of or non-interference with beliefs, actions or practices that one considers to be wrong but still “tolerable,” such that they should not be prohibited or constrained. There are many contexts in which we speak of a person or an institution as being tolerant: parents tolerate certain behavior of their children, a friend tolerates the weaknesses of another, a monarch tolerates dissent, a church tolerates homosexuality, a state tolerates a minority religion, a society tolerates deviant behavior.
Thus one might allow the young basketball player to express his belief that the world is flat in the context of "non-interference with beliefs, actions or practices that one considers to be wrong but still 'tolerable',” such that they should not be prohibited or constrained." After all it is an American value established in the First Amendment which says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And so it is absolutely clear that the American value is to let people blather about their thoughts and beliefs. But we are not obligated to embrace those thoughts and beliefs - we put up with them, we suffer fools gladly, but in the town square we disagree vehemently with them.

Thus if the "flat Earthers" want to express their beliefs which are fantasy they can. But we who do not suffer fools gladly fear the stupid serving as officials in government and public schools. We fear that if you a person who believes something is "right, just, and moral" then even though others might not believe as you, you believe you must advocate imposing through government what is "right or just or moral" on us all.

And that is the problem with "tolerance." You see, the population Nomani spent her childhood with doesn't believe in science. And here I am not talking about Muslims, but way too  many West Virginians. From the Charleston Gazette:
The West Virginia House of Delegates completed its latest attack on the state's education standards Friday, blocking new science standards from taking effect because they mention climate change.

The Republican-controlled House voted 73-20 for legislation (HB 4014) that delays implementation of the science standards at least a year.

Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, said the state's new science standards “expect students to believe in” global warming and “prove it with evidence.”
Nomani is a Muslim. She is seeking a reformation in the religion of Islam because she does not agree with how the vast majority interprets the faith with regard to women. And she opposes terrorists who are also Muslims who believe their faith requires their violence.

She is serious about her reformation effort. And she has written a book Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam in which she explores her ideas. In a review of the book that appeared in Comparative Civilizations Review reviewer Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, a writer and historian who formerly taught World History and Islamic Civilization at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, where she was also Executive Director of the San Francisco United Nations Association and was a frequent speaker for the World Affairs Council and the Commonwealth Club, observed:
Asra Nomani's pilgrimage opened her eyes to the discrepancy between what she thought was Mohammad's mission and the practices of fundamentalist Islam today. There is no such movement as "Reformed Islam," but because of her efforts and those of other American Muslims with liberal interpretations of their religion, there may soon be such a movement. Nomani has already staged sit-ins at her mosque, called upon American law to challenge her mosque's board on its discriminatory rules (it is a tax exempt organization), and banded with other liberal Muslims to create a new mosque where for the first time a woman led the call to prayer.

All of this is to be commended, but it is still just moving the furniture on the Titanic. Nomani approached her problems with Islam by picking and choosing among the commentaries in the Koran and its companion piece, the Hadith, in which are the memories of the family and friends of the Prophet Mohammad after his death. She did not even bother with the Sharia, which is the Islamic code of law that has no mechanism for change over time. Ninth century Sharia law is hopeless.

The only thing that comes through about the Prophet Mohammad's mission was summed up in the basic five pillars of Islam: affirmation that there is only one god, prayer daily, fasting one month a year, alms to the poor and widowed, and a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime. This is the core of a valid religion, and the rest is history and commentary. Even I, as a resolute secularist, find these rules impressive and think that if one must be religious at all, this is not an unacceptable modern choice.
That's fine. But whether it's a Muslim woman or a West Virginian Christian, arguing over interpretation of a religious faith falls into the category of arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. As Wikipedia notes the question has been "linked to the fall of Constantinople, with the imagery of scholars debating about minutiae while the Turks besieged the city."

When you believe in angels dancing on pin heads and you take over the government, one of your first legal priorities must be to protect pin heads.

And that is the risk with advocating tolerance particularly in the public square. That public square (or town hall) is the mechanism used by the stupid to take over your government.

You see, in the end if because of our belief structure we are fretting about tolerating the pin heads and not the collapse of the biosphere, then our children and grandchildren will likely not survive because of us.

It is urgent that we stop advocating "tolerance" as a primary value overriding any concerns about facts established by science through testing and observation of the real world.

The word "elite" meaning "a select part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities" is used as a pejorative accusation in the form of the term "elitist." Another word, "stupid" means "having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense."

An Italian economic historian Carlo Cipolla in his The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity promulgated five fundamental laws of stupidity:
  1. Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
  3. A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.
Because of that danger, I frequently say I have no tolerance for stupid people. That may make me elitist, but it doesn't make Cipolla wrong in saying "A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is."

To Asra Nomani I would say it is dangerous to try to find some middle ground between those who believe things such as the world is flat. I say that because the world is round. What is a middle ground, that the world is square? Maybe we should revise NASA and NOAH web pages to reflect a square world?.

While that may seem like a silly statement, the Earth's biosphere is in serious trouble and unemployed coal miners who worked in the Murray Energy Company's Monongalia County Mine (formerly Blacksville Mine) near where you were raised deserve assistance. They do not deserve us putting up with, countenancing or suffering their stupidity. They support a President who says we'll go back to prior levels of burning coal because of this lie (he said it with intent to take):

Ms. Nomani, Trump's Neoliberal Administration on behalf of your ex-neighbors (but mostly on the behalf of the entire fossil fuel energy industry) will have no problem at all revising NASA and NOAH web pages to reflect a biosphere free of global warming impacts.

And if you countenance that, you are equally stupid and dangerous, far more dangerous than the Muslims you seem to fear. This is foolishness that should never be suffered gladly.

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