Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #444 (November 29th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


An interviewer has asked Einstein if his idea of God is Spinoza's God. [Baruch Spinoza, 18th century philosopher who taught that reality is one substance with an infinite number of attributes of which only thought and extension are capable of being apprehended by the human mind]

I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things.

Obviously, I consider any form of pantheism to be misguided and I think if you believe in the soul and body as being one (which I definitely don't believe) instead of two then you have effectively turned your back on monotheism. The quick leap from "fascination" to "admiration" I find troubling as well and I see it as a systemic poison in our society. There are many fascinating theories of creation and the nature of reality but I think the core reality is which one of them do you believe? Otherwise you just go through your life successively fascinated by Mother Nature, Kali, the Easter Bunny and whatever science fiction novel you read last week. Which leads into the next question:

Do you believe in immortality?

No. And one life is enough for me.

I'd see that as having a couple of different comedic layers to it. I think "No" is Einstein's sincere answer to the question, both as a human being and as a soul. The second part of the answer I think comes from the demon that would have been inhabiting him because of his atheistic/agnostic ways which left him vulnerable to incursion which then became permanent because of his choice not to pray or engage in any sort of acknowledgement of God's sovereignty. The demon was obviously prevailing (easily!) over Einstein's God-given soul and was therefore in the pilot seat and could say that his/her/its only concern was Einstein's one life. If he/she/it prevails (as he/she/it presumably did: Einstein never shifted his focus to prayer, Scripture or any other than a "dim awareness" of God, then Einstein's soul wasn't going any further) ("One life is enough for me."). Even in terms of forensic accuracy, the correct answer would be "As a human being, I think one life is enough for me." That might not, however, have been how God planned it. Einstein's life in this world might have been just the first stage in a multi-stage upward progression that Einstein's aborted through his conscious choice to do so.

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

Well, in that case I wouldn't describe him as devoutly religious at all. As I keep trying to emphasize, submitting yourself to the will of God isn't the same as understanding God or (as Einstein suggests here) "grasping" God. Wonder and standing "rapt in awe" are good first steps, but if the entirety of your life unfolds and all you've managed to do relative to God is stand in wonder and awe at the immensity of His works then I don't think you will have fulfilled your potential in His eyes. I think you have to start with submission to His will and then aspire to fulfilling your potential there and to keep your eye on the ball and to realize (as Einstein must have consciously realized better than most) that virtually everything you see that appears real is strictly illusory and transitory. If you can mentally eliminate all of those things from your top priorities and replace them with He whom "our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly" then I think that can take you in a far more positive direction.

Boston's William Henry Cardinal O'Connell addresses this pretty directly (as he is quoted in the article):

The outcome of this doubt and befogged speculation about time and space is a cloak beneath which hides the ghastly apparition of atheism.

It's a good way of putting it. Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, an Orthodox Jewish leader in New York sent a very direct telegram to Princeton, "Do you believe in God? Stop Answer paid Stop 50 words Stop" That is, he prepaid for a return telegram. Einstein answered

I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself (sic) in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.

Well, in that case, you don't believe in God, as far as I can see, at least not in a Scriptural God who revealed Himself to man through His Scriptural revelations. The use of the male gender pronoun is a convenience that you can use or dispense with because you take it as an agnostic given that the answer is impenetrable. There is no difference between that God and Mother Nature. Or Nature as a neutral reality of symmetrical and orderly happenstance. Your God can be a he… a she…or an it…or all three simultaneously. And to me that's the point of the (presumably) cosmos-spanning debate in which, here on our lonely little blue pearl of an outpost, our local YHWH is the primary proponent of the infernal view. If you believe in the Scriptural God, the infernal view isn't possible. Definitively in the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran, God's gender is definitively masculine which rules out "she" and "it" as accurate pronouns.

A Bronx rabbi asserted that "Cardinal O'Connell would have done well had he not attacked the Einstein theory. Einstein would have done better had he not proclaimed his non-belief in a God who is concerned with fates and actions of individuals. Both have handed down dicta outside their jurisdiction."

I would disagree with that because I believe that belief is within each individual's jurisdiction. Einstein pronounced "What I Believe" which to me is sacrosanct. If he sincerely believed in the "unknowability" of God and could bring himself only to believe in a nebulous unknowable force behind "the lawful harmony of all that exists" well that's a free will protected choice, however uninformed and self-destructive I – or any Cardinal or Rabbi – might deem it to be. It was Einstein's choice and he'll pay the price for it if there's a price to be paid (which I think I and the Cardinal and the Rabbi would agree that there will, indeed, be a price that needs to be paid). Just as the Cardinal will pay the price if his beliefs prove to be unfounded, as the Rabbi will and as I will. I also think the Cardinal was on solid ground establishing that – whatever else it may be -- "speculation about space and time" constitutes "a cloak" for intrinsic atheism (I thought he was being diplomatic in keeping it as an "apparition"). In Einstein's case, his conclusions led him to infer that there was no need to have a relationship with God and to advocate that as the sensible way of dealing with reality.

The Theory of Relativity=Spinoza's God. QED.

Well, by stating it that overtly what Einstein is doing is endorsing a viewpoint and tipping however many people in a direction away from God, or at least away from Orthodox Catholic or Judaic observance and, arguably, away from a conscious sense of morality. I don't think he meant to do that but most people at the time just assumed that Einstein was the smartest person who ever lived so if he told you that God was this remote unknowable force uninvolved and unconcerned with mankind that carried a lot more weight than I think he intended it to carry (and a late realization of that might account for his anecdote about his uncle "Ah, but you never know," that is, admitting that he had no actual knowledge on the subject himself, one way or the other). Even if my own theories of the structure and nature of reality prove to be unfounded, I think I'm on safer ground counselling submission to the will of God as a first priority: counselling a reality which holds God as a complete irrelevance to individual men and to mankind in general seems to me self-evidently infernal in nature. No good can come of it, in my view.

There are people who say there is no God, but what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.

Tomorrow: My view of Einstein's assertion: There are people who say there is no God, but what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.


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