Friday, February 13, 2009

St. Charles the Skeptic

This should have been posted yesterday... but that whole
Friday the 13th thing had me soooo freaked out.

Know Thyself
  Alexander Pope
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
  The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
  A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
  With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest,
  In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast,
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
  Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such
  Whether he thinks too little or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
  Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
  Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
  The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Remember, extinction happens.


  1. Timely post - excellent poem.

    There was a lot of coverage in the British press and on the BBC... but so little in US media. Wasn't there a Gallup poll that said that only 39% of Americans "believe" in evolution? The number of doubters is apparently pretty big in the UK too.

    Not to be smug - apparently the trend is growing in France, although less than 20% don't believe in evolution.

    Religion must be the only cause of such idiocy. I wonder what a poll which asked "Do you believe the Sun revolves around the Earth?" would get... maybe the question is too difficult. Maybe "are you geocentric or heliocentric?"... hmmm, still too technical. How about "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?". There - that might be simple enough. I'll bet there are some geocentrists out there - not as many as anti-evolutionists though.

    For me, the concept of evolution actually makes mysticism easier. When mankind is put in its place, its small and recent place in the scheme of things, it is SO much easier to begin to appreciate the grandeur and sublimity of the universe.

  2. The coverage here was predictable, largely covering the "debate". The Creationists have long dominated the discussion in this country, and they have established the principle that capital-J Journalism should not take sides. The "news" should only report on the competing visions of the world, who is winning/losing the political battle. That kind of freedom from fact-checking is termed "fair and balanced" reporting.

    In terms of taking science out of the classroom, they also argue (with far less success) that science classes should "teach the controversy", (i.e., be "fair and balanced") rather than teaching the science. This is analogous to Mary Greer's recent threads on Aeclectic, (which I characterized as the Sociology of Bullshit), taking the place of the ostensible forum topic, research into the History of Tarot.

    Regarding mysticism, false representations of the world must be abandoned and, from the mystical perspective, "false representations" is redundant. The map is not the territory, so there is no need to cling to a particular map simply because it has sentimental value. Rather, the maps with sentimental value should be burned -- as the 6th Patriarch showed by example, tearing up the scriptures.