Monday, July 21, 2003

Who's bright?

I won't deny that I can be an arrogant SOB at times. But I'm not proud of it. So I couldn't be one of the self-proclaimed "Brights" (I'm best described as what one commenter elsewhere called a "militant agnostic" - I don't know and you don't either).

Lately they've emerged, with the intellectually masturbatory name they granted themselves, claiming to be all but the saviors of society and for all their trouble being oppressed.

Such silliness is to be expected when you look at some of the other stuff they believe. But most troubling is the way many of them fail to understand their own faith - science.

I've written of such things numerous times before (1 2 3 4). The fact is that for all the good we have been able to do with science, we really don't know that much about ourselves, our ecosystem, our solar system, our universe, our history..... And what we do know is based on stretching a little data a long way. The proper reaction from those who love science thus is modesty, not vanity.

Yet we've had Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, two of the most insufferable people of our time, telling us implicitly that anyone who believes in anything supernatural is not "bright".

Based on what? That sliver of information we can derive via observation and logic.

If we had a million years' worth of observations and had fully analyzed them all, that would still only account for about 0.02% of the postulated life of the earth, and even less than that of the universe. And that has all been within that tiny chunk of the universe to which we have any sort of access. And that is via whatever limited means of detection we have - our senses and their extensions like microscopes, radio telescopes et al - to think that we can observe everything that is happening in the universe is an incredible leap of faith.

And logic itself is sorely limited - it appears otherwise only because there is so much work to be done in understanding our universe. Most fundamental of its limitations is that it has to start from some unquestioned postulates. To "prove" them is to use circular reasoning. To propose the wrong ones is to invalidate all that follows from them. Thus proposing them is a huge act of faith that goes unacknowledged by the "Brights" and their sympathizers. They claim "brightness" because they have arbitrarily ruled out some of these possible postulates.

Yet we have "brights" who can't know if they're seeing everything of relevance speaking with remarkable certainty of of "big bangs" requiring conditions never observed anywhere. We have "brights" who mock that which they cannot observe who are nonetheless willing to entertain theories that invoke unobservable "dark matter". We have "brights" who profess to understand science who take umbrage when a scientific theory (which is all science ever offers - there is no scientific "truth") like macroevolution is spoken of as being "just a theory". (That the person saying so is often clueless does not change this fact, and once science claims to produce "truth" it is no longer science.) A New Testament verse describes this perfectly: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (KJV Romans 1:22)

Yet I'm willing to humor them, besotted by hubris as they may be. Maybe, as someone else has suggested, they'll feel better if they have their own symbol to identify themselves with. I humbly propose this: *

Why? To them it will suggest the sun, the brightest object in our sky.

And to the rest of us it suggests a perfect characterization for them.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Which of the angels was the brightest?

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