Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The F*cking for Chastity Award Goes to....

It really is unbecoming to present oneself (even implicitly) as the defender of reason and science while spewing irrational and unscientific nonsense. It's also really pathetic. Rather than demonstrating intelligence and capacity for rational thought, such behavior proves beyond doubt that the subject's "defender" status is simply a pretense for engaging in immature, narcissistic, masturbatory rants that (readers willing) can become one big pseudointellectual circle jerk.

Yes, I've said this before. Unfortunately, having said it doesn't free me from encountering such behavior on a regular basis. So, I'm instituting the "F*cking for Chastity Awards." The FCA's will be granted to columnists, authors, journalists, bloggers, et al who insist on blowing their rather unsubstantial wads in public. My first award goes to Cenk Uygur for his recent "dishonorable discharge" on the Huffington Post.

Now, what's the problem with the latest by the almighty Cenk, defender of reason, protector of science, master baiter extraordinaire?

You people are seriously disturbed. You think a magic man is going to appear out of the sky and grant you eternal bliss. If the man's name was anything other than Jesus, that belief would get you locked up as a psychotic. And the fact that you have given him this magic name and decided to call him your Lord doesn't make it any more sane.

Imagine for a second if instead of Jesus, some psycho was waiting for a magical creature named Fred to come save him this year and suck him up into the sky. Now, who doesn't think that man needs serious counseling and perhaps medical supervision? Now, you change Fred into Jesus, and you have 25% of the country.

Sometimes the world scares me. It is full of psychotics who go around pretending to be rational human beings. You think that's offensive, then prove me wrong. I dare you. Show me Jesus in 2007 and I'll do whatever you demand of me.

Fortunately, I don't have to produce the Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef to prove Uygur wrong. The forces of science and reason have already done it for me.

Lists of logical fallacies and the rules for rational discourse were prepared long before I was born, so I take no credit for being able to point out that appeal to mockery, ad hominem attacks, false analogies, etc. do not a rational argument make. (Yes, I realize I've just engaged in some rather rude behavior myself, but that's not the rational argument part, just the fun for Melinda part of the show.)

The illogic of Uygur's arguments is self-evident, but what about the extraordinarily limited understanding of science underpinning his claims? Are Christians who believe in divine salvation and the return of their messiah "seriously disturbed"? Does hearing voices make you certifiably insane? Would you be locked up as a psychotic if you believed in Fred? No.

First, and forgive the cheap shot, true psychosis is a far cry from simply believing that a "magical creature named Fred" is going to "suck you into the sky" and prevents functioning normally in day to day life. Untreated psychotics can't hold jobs, maintain personal hygiene, interact in normal social environments, etc., all things that even the most fervent evangelist can accomplish rather easily.

(I must interject here that I love the oft-repeated claim that religious beliefs are "crazy" because people would think you were insane if you screamed them on the street. Personally, I think screaming on the street alone would make people think you're a bit crazy, drunk, or drugged. However, I'd like to point out that if you were to scream the theories of quantum physics on that same hypothetical street, most people would think you were a refugee from the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, especially once you got to Schroedinger's cat and its half-dead/half-alive state. The "screaming on a street corner" experiment would hardly be an adequate test for the validity of ideas.)

So, I digress. Back to the science:

The study of the relationship between religion and human biology is relatively new, but preliminary studies demonstrate that religious belief and mystical experiences are hardwired into the human brain and make up part of the mind's NORMAL functioning and may be either an evolutionary adaptation in and of itself or a byproduct of other cognitive adaptations.

Normal functioning brain/mind equals not certifiably insane. While some biological and psychological abnormalities as well as some hallucinogens can produce mystical experiences and can cause a person to bring religious belief to extremes, the average everyday religious believer is perfectly normal and perfectly sane (even those who believe that Jesus is going to return soon, a belief that has more to do with the current state of world affairs and the tremendous anxiety it naturally provokes than with the sanity of the believer).

Now, for hearing voices. Uygur doesn't specifically mention hearing voices, but as it's part of the whole religious people are crazy mythos, I'll throw it in for lagniappe. This passage, taken from the latest issue of Scientific American Mind is particularly enlightening:

Perhaps no other symptom is as instantly ­associated with insanity--some 70 percent of schizophrenics hear voices that regularly interrupt their thoughts, as do 15 percent of those who have mood disorders--but auditory hallu­cinations are not necessarily a sign of mental ­illness. They can arise as symptoms in any number of conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and temporal lobe epilepsy. In addition, episodes can occur in the absence of any physical or psychological problem. (Emphasis mine.)

Although such experiences are heavily stigmatized today, many famous thinkers, poets, artists and scholars of earlier times described hearing voices: a wise demon spoke to Socrates, the saints emboldened Joan of Arc, and an angel addressed Rainer Maria Rilke, inspiring his Duino Elegies. The list goes on: Carl Gustav Jung, Andy Warhol, Galileo, Pythagoras, William Blake, Winston Churchill, Robert Schumann and Gandhi, among others, have all reportedly heard voices.

Interesting, no? As much as Uygur would like to believe that he and other atheists are the sole possessors of sanity in the world, it's just not true. Believing it proves that, while he may be perfectly sane, Ugyur has fallen far behind in the fields of reason and science.

I think the tone of the post and Uygur's particular style of "communication" demonstrate his immaturity, narcissicm, and tendency for pseudointellectual masturbation without any further comment from me.


Anonymous dan from ideasandhowtheyspread.com said...

Atheism is a religion.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's totally misssing his own point. Cenk thinks that a person is crazy simply because of their beleifs and nothing more. Just because some psycho was waiting for a magical creature named Fred to come save him this year and suck him up into the sky is not what makes him crazy (even if Fred's name is changed to Jesus.) Instead, it's about the majority. That's how realigions prevail, because a majority of folk back it up. It's not the rational vs. the irrational, but one against a million.

Though a question to ask, are religions validated only because a majority backs it up?

5:37 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

I'm not touching that one.

something being accepted by a majority doesn't validate it as an idea. Nor does it invalidate it. We have to turn to other factors/ measuring sticks to determine the validity/usefulness of religious ideas.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:08 PM  

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