Tuesday, March 30, 2010


by Steven Colyer, Author of The Origins of the Jews by a Non-Jew: Ur in Babylon; the Mitanni Kingdom of the Hittite Empire; and Khazaria

As an American born in 1956, I and my contemporaries grew up in the 1960's and 1970's on the comedy of the husband-wife team of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, a Jewish-American husband and Irish-Catholic-American wife, and they were delightful. They made us laugh, in a more genteel and bygone age when words like "fuck" and "shit" were not necessary to get the joke across.

More famous though was their son, Ben Stiller, whose last movie may have bombed, but we'll always have "There's Something About Mary" and "Meet the Parents." Gaylord Focker, indeed!

Anyone know what Ben Stiller looks like lately? Is this him?:

Well, no, that's not him. That's "New Atheist" Sam Harris of California, author of "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation".

If you don't know who he is, you should. Click here to read his Wikipedia entry. Ten bucks says he wrote it himself. Whatever, he's an interesting cat.

Here's another interesting cat, Temporal Physicist Sean Carroll of CalTech, another "New Atheist" and author of "From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time", and the current front-runner in the ongoing "Who will Replace Carl Sagan as The New Great Popularizer of Science ?" contest:

Click here to read Sean's Wikipedia entry. Ten more bucks says he wrote that himself too.

I like both these guys, even though I disagree with them on many fundamental issues that they deem important, and which I've "been-there-done-that" with during the 22-yr-period when I too was an atheist (age 15-37). I also agree with each on certain issues.

So who are these guys, other than devout followers of the fastest growing religion in America and on the planet: Atheism?

Well for starters, each is a highly intelligent and knowledgeable man with a Dale Carnegie-esque, Cicero-esque ability to speak well in public. I would pay money to see them debate in person, right after I watch a live debate between Peter Woit and Lubos Motl on Superstrings theory.

More importantly, they are having an incredible debate with each other based on a short talk Sam gave at TED, which is included in Sean's dislike of that talk in a blog entry by Sean, here.

Sam was not amused by Sean's words, and responded with an ungentlemanly slur, the details of which, Sam's response, and Sean's response to Sam's response, can be seen here.

What are we fellow intellectuals to make of all this? Will this brouhaha ever end? Will we get around to real work someday, or is watching this much more fun and entertaining in an exciting way such as having a front row seat at Wimbledon at the net? And if so, will our necks hurt afterwords?

What I get is that just as in every last religion, its members don't always agree with each other. Shrug.

In any event, it's entertaining. Pass the popcorn, please, it looks like we're in for a hell of a ride.

It's great to be an American. :-)


Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

It appears many intellectuals, which includes a growing number of scientists seem to feel that part of their mandate is to create a world that functions on secular ethics, as it being the natural reflection of some ultimate truth. However when it comes to scientists it has had the effect of them taking to the pulpit, while who they consider as their adversaries taking to the laboratories.

The end result of all this as far as I’m concerned, will only serve to leave the general populace to become even more confused than they already are, being left without any anchor to fix their position let alone having a compass to guide them from there. I wrote about this growing confusion awhile back and with what you mention here it appears to only be intensifying. I have long recognized that what both camps have forgotten or perhaps never known are the two most important things Socrates reminded of in such regard.

"Know thyself,"

"the unexamined life is not worth living."

It is bad enough that there are forces today high jacking religion for the sake of righteousness, which is to only have them to impose on the rest what they insist is right, rather than to search for what that be, to then be left totally abandoned by those who are suppose to be the thinkers of the world in having the same ends. However I remain hopeful in knowing that there still remain some intellectuals that have used their minds to have gone full circle as once again understand Socrates important lessons.



Steven Colyer said...

One of the oddest things about the growth of Science is that many feel it to present itself in antitheses to Religion. I concerned myself with these same issues in my 20's and 30's, then came to the conclusion that I will not have the answers until I reach the point that everyone reaches: Death, at which point the truth whatever it is will be revealed. I see no point in wasting what precious little time we have on this good Earth debating the unprovable. There's real work to be done. Let's do it.

Sabine Hossenfelder's review of Dawkin's book, The GOD Delusion, which can be found here, has a very wonderful passage that I will end with, which beautifully reflects up my feelings:

Richard Dawkins spends some time addressing the argument that religions offer comfort and inspiration, making the case that both come at the price of suppressing the own mind’s curiosity and shutting off its questions. What he does not address at all however is the sociological role that many churches play in our cultures.

Leaving aside the fact that churches have something to do with religions, they are basically large groups that offer its members a sense of belonging and acceptance. They offer a place to turn to in case of trouble, and they have traditions that strengthen the feeling of being part of something. If you move into a new country and don’t know anybody, you look for the next church with the right symbol on its door and find a community where you know the rules of the game. In most countries, major churches play a vital role for the social system, they take care of the sick and the poor, they offer advice and counseling, not to mention places to meet like-minded people. Dawkins does not comment on this beneficial sociological side at all which I find very disappointing.

... Sabine Hossenfelder

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

I’m aware of Bee’s excellent review and with the soundness of her reason why I feel so compelled to stay tuned to her thoughts on matters that extend beyond science. I have found her to be not only a very intelligent person, yet also one with a innate wisdom born of compassion that almost confounds explanation, especially as being as young as she is. This only serves to exemplify that truth is not only found in what we can prove, yet also in what we can do as being self evident. I f interested you’ll find my response to her post here, which was to later crystallize my thought for the piece I then wrote.