I just ran across this great quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.
I’ve come across the name Jared Diamond a few times in the last year or two, and he sounds intriguing, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading any of his books. So, I was excited to hear that a three-part PBS documentary based on his book Guns, Germs and Steel would be broadcast starting this week.
So, I watched (most of) the first part this week, and the show disappointed me in several ways. First off, as noted elsewhere, it was slow (which is the primary reason I didn’t quite make it through the entire broadcast). But mostly, I found the presentation of the ideas insulting. The first episode explains how the availability of different resources (plants and animals to domesticate) led to different levels of cultural change in different parts of the planet in early human history. Good thesis, but it’s presented in two insulting ways: 1.) as if it is some revolutionary theory, and more importantly, 2.) as if Jared Diamond devised this theory all on his own. In fact, this is a long-established, uncontroversial academic theory, and Jared did not discover it; he is merely the popularizer.
If you like to shop at warehouse ‘club’ stores, and have a CostCo in your area, I urge you to support them over Sam’s Club because CostCo is a forward-looking corporation that views better pay for its employees as an important part of its corporate strategy.
Fred Clark, self-avowed liberal evangelical Christian and one of my all-around favorite bloggers, has posted about a series of ‘snapshots’ of experiences with creationists that he has had over the years (read posts one, two and three). In the latest one, he shares a good insight into the mind of Biblical literalists:
The most dangerous thing about fundamentalism is not that it sometimes teaches wacky ideas, like that the world is barely 6,000 years old or that dancing is sinful. The most dangerous thing is that it insists that such ideas are all inviolably necessary components of the faith. Each such idea, every aspect of their faith, is regarded as a keystone without which everything else they believe — the existence of a loving God, the assurance of pardon, the possibility of a moral or meaningful life — crumbles into meaninglessness.
My classmate’s church taught him that their supposedly “literal” reading of Genesis 1 was the necessary complement to their “literal” reading of the rest of the Bible, which they regarded as the entire and only basis for their faith. His belief in 6-day, young-earth creationism was not merely some disputable piece of adiaphora, such as …
Well, for such fundamentalists there is no “such as.” This is why they cling to every aspect of their belief system with such desperate ferocity. Should even the smallest piece be cast into doubt, they believe, the entire structure would crumble like the walls of Jericho. If dancing is not a sin, or if the authorship of Isaiah turns out to involve more than a single person at one time, or if the moons of Jupiter present a microcosm that suggests a heliocentric solar system, then suddenly nothing is true, their “whole groundwork cracks, and the earth opens to abysses.”
I’ll try to keep this in mind next time I’m inclined to try to persuade a literalist of the fallacy of his views on a particular topic.
I’ve fallen off the face of cyberspace the last two days. I was in San Antonio because my mother had surgery to implant a device that will hopefully reduce her Parkinson’s disease symptoms. The surgery went very well, but they won’t turn the device on for six weeks, so we have to wait until then to know how much it helps with her symptoms.
In honor of U.S. Independence Day, Matt Haughey posted the entire Declaration of Independence to his blog. I hadn’t read it in years, and when I did so this morning, I was struck by two points: first, what a prime example of Enlightenment thinking the document is, and second, in a related matter, how it refers directly to “Nature’s God”–the god of the Enlightenment–not the Judeo-Christian god.
Re-reading the document makes me proud to live in a country that was founded on such high ideals, even if we so frequently don’t live up to them.