Monday, June 25, 2012

My Inner Conflict with E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson
E.O. Wilson, a highly regarded entomologist, scientist and author has recently published an article called "Evolution and Our Inner Conflict."  The basic gist of the article is that our conflicting urges to compete and co-operate is not derived of kin-selection theory, but of multilevel selection theory.
"I am convinced after years of research on the subject that multilevel selection, with a powerful role of group-to-group competition, has forged advanced social behavior — including that of humans, as I documented in my recent book “The Social Conquest of Earth.”"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Venerating the Dead

St. Maria Goretti
It bothers me that people keep re-living their suffering, as if somehow, by re-living the events that caused them pain, they will be alleviated of that pain.  My own experience tells me that brandishing traumatic events in my life only adds depth to the pain I once felt; that is, it makes the pain more intense.  What it doesn't do is bring closure, or lessen the pain.  [I don't include the unfortunate victims of post-traumatic stress disorder in my observation.  They are re-living their pains against their choosing; I'm sure they would be happy to be rid of their suffering, just like any other sane person.]

What I don't understand, however, is the seemingly insane adoption of another person's pain, even long after they're dead. 

Take the example of St. Maria Goretti: she was 12 years old in 1902 when she was stabbed to death by a rapist.  A horrible tragedy, I'm sure no-one would disagree.  Now, 110 years later, Catholic devotees gathered by the thousands in Toronto to view her body, as if by doing so, their imaginings of her pain and heroism somehow effected their lives in a positive way; they were somehow blessed by looking on at her century-old corpse.  No doubt, Catholics also imagine Maria is considering each one of them from her extra-planar vantage, if not bending her knee to the Almighty as he sifts the sin from contrition and radiates the better portion to Miss. Goretti.

A Few Things Learned

Blah, blah, blah...
I've spent a few years participating on internet theology and philosophy forums.  I've assumed points of view opposite to what I hold, written crass articles, scholarly articles, argued with soft-boiled brains and bright-lights alike, and I've come to a few conclusions:

  1. It's a waste of time.  Everything that I've contributed to a forum, I could have better contributed to my ambitions to write a book.  By this point in time, I could quite reasonably have written a manuscript covering the kinds of topics I enjoy: religious claims, philosophy, history, and the rational mind.  As it is, I've got a laptop with links to sites where I've let myself be dragged into non-productive arguments with people who have no real connection to my life.
  2. 'Last-word Charlie' is a title that is apt for almost everyone with access to a keyboard.  Forget a graceful exit from a conversation.  Forget the social convention of stating politely that you really don't have anything more to say, and expecting that that will be alright with your dialogue partner(s).  That is not a privilege afforded the chat-forum community: you either get the last word in and really show those foot-suckers how stupid they really are, or you endure the brunt of everyone else writing in to you as if you're that stupid foot-sucker.  Someone always has to get the last word in.  It's insufferable.
  3. Anything of any real substance quickly degrades into something of no substance.  Conversations will come up that have a good lot of potential, and a few excellent comments will light the screen.  After that, it's like a sudden jump into being an octogenarian: everything degenerates faster than time-lapsed tree-rot, and you're left with a shaking head and a bevy of pills to quell the pain.
  4. Quitting is not so far-off of killing an addiction.  Most likely because it is an addiction.  In my case, at least, I crave the fight, the argument, the chance at coming out on top of a hard question.  I like being right.  But because my initial premise for participation is to be right, I'm wrong right from the start.  Even if my alleged facts line up better than another person's, my motivations for being there are not really the most salutary.  I like competition, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but when it comes from a place of scorn and derision (which, admittedly, in these past couple of years, it has), it's not really competition anymore; it's combat.  And no-one really likes to be pushed into a position where they feel they have something personal to lose by participating in a topic of discussion.
So, I'm coming back to my blog with a new perspective: I want to share the things I think and open the board to better discussion with people who enjoy a fair, and gracious exchange of ideas.


p.s. There will be no Saint Cynic forum.

p.p.s.  Articles will come via the treacle-down effect: slowly but surely.  ;)