Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Best Political Speech I've Heard In A Long Time

It's no secret that religion, and in particular our own American home-grown version of Christianity, has been a major source of division within American politics for the past 7 years or so. The rise in the Christianification of American politics has resulted in the aggressive counter movement of outspoken and outraged atheists and agnostics, giving birth to books like 'The God Delusion' and 'Letters to a Christian Nation,' which has then birthed the counter-counter Christian movements embodied by pundits like Ann Coulter, and her book 'Godless: The Church of Liberalism.'

It's a total culture war, where each side does very little to try and understand, let alone even tolerate, the other. But in a healthy democracy, isn't it a given that not everyone will share the same beliefs as you? and you accept that, live and let live, and do your best to increase the common good by way of discourse and conversation. Both secular and religious people have demonized their opponents, making each unable to listen to the perspectives of the other, resulting in two angry, brooding, militant, judgmental, self-righteous sides.

Considering this, I was inspired after I watched this speech by Barack Obama (himself a Christian), who is addressing a group of America's Evangelicals on what else, but the subject of the religious potency in American politics. To listen to Obama speak about religion in such a calming, intelligent, and pensive way is such a contrast to George Bush's thoughts that I can't believe Bush ever became a poster-child for a Christian in politics. If anything, the leader of a democracy has to recognize that he is governing a diverse body of people, and be able to bring people together despite their differences, instead of divide. Barack appears to be a reconciler.

Here's the speech. I got it off Barack's website. I don't know enough about the guy yet to fully endorse him for president, but it's nice to come away from a politician feeling lifted and refreshed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

‘Evolution and Politics’ is the new ‘Paris Hilton Goes to Jail’

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So just a week or so ago I posted this video of three of the Republican presidential nominees giving their two cents on evolution, them being (in order of appearance), Huckabee, Brownback, and McCain. Then back in late May, before these debates, Brownback wrote an opinion article for the NY Times (that bastion of liberal New Yorky nonsense) entitled ‘What I Think About Evolution,’ (which could’ve also been titled ‘What I Think About Evolution, Even Though I Don’t Think That Much About Evolution’).

Now this week The Times has released a whole Science Times section which could be titled ‘What Scientists Think About Evolution.’ How interesting it was to find a reference in one of the articles, ‘Science of the Soul? ‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ Is Losing Force,’ not only to Brownback’s comments at the Republican debate, but to his opinion article that had run in The Times just months before. Ahem, and I quote:

“Nevertheless, the idea of a divinely inspired soul will not be put aside. To cite just one example, when 10 Republican presidential candidates were asked at a debate last month if there was anyone among them who did not believe in evolution, 3 raised their hands. One of them, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, explained later in an op-ed article in this newspaper that he did not reject all evolutionary theory. But he added, “Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.’”

Anyhoo, aside from the politics of it all, the ‘Science of the Soul’ asks a lot of questions about what a soul even is, like, maybe it doesn’t have to just be your spirit. Does it have to be something separate from the physical brain? If not, then does anything with a brain have a soul? Can all our physical brain functions and machinery end up creating our soul, thus being more than the sum of its parts? As philosopher Dan Dennett playfully puts it, “Yes, we have a soul, but it’s made of lots of tiny robots.”