Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things July 15, 2012

Andrew Brown: “What made the creationist footprints in the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre?

There is something uniquely dispiriting about young Earth creationism. It’s not just that it’s wrong — and wrong in ways that were entirely apparent to intelligent Christians in the 1860s, let alone the 1960s — but that it needs such a mountain of futile effort to maintain even the shadow of plausibility. It’s like pretending that George W. Bush wrote the works of Shakespeare.

If the YECs are right, almost every scientist in the world, since science became a profession, has been part of a deliberate conspiracy to distort and conceal the plain truth. It’s not just biology, but physics, geography, history, archaeology, chemistry and geology which are all arranged, deliberately to conceal and contradict the truth of the Bible. Oh, and biblical studies themselves, because these also suggest that the idea of “the truth of the Bible” is not as simple as it seems.

What would it be like to live in a world where all the authority figures were so determined to lie to you, solely in order to preserve their own authority? That sounds like a rhetorical question, until you realise that it has a horrible and disturbing true answer: it wouldn’t be too different from the world that many of us now live in. The paranoiac and mistrustful elements of creationism, and its stubborn rejection of the good faith of authority, are aspects of a much more general attitude towards society. Creationists look at scientists the way the world now looks at bankers.

Paul Campos: “The saint and the sociopath

One lesson to take from this disgusting and horrifying spectacle is a very old one, taught by among others the religion whose services Paterno is said to have attended regularly. It is that spiritual pride is a far more deadly and dangerous sin than the sort of ordinary greed and dishonesty that Paterno believed coaches such as Sherrill and Switzer exemplified.

A man who breaks some rules in order to win a few more football games is likely to understand himself to be nothing more exalted than a hustler on the make. By contrast, a man who talks himself into believing that he is running a uniquely virtuous Grand Experiment, rather than just another successful college football program that mostly avoids the most egregious forms of cheating, is far more likely to develop the delusion that he’s some sort of role model for his peers, or even a quasi-spiritual leader of our youth.

Paterno fell so completely into this frame of mind that it seems he found it impossible to face up to the consequences of revealing that the Grand Experiment had ended up shielding and indeed enabling a predatory pedophile. Unable to handle the truth, Paterno spent more than a decade engaging in behavior a hundred times worse than anything Sherrill or Switzer were ever accused of doing.

Tom Stafford: “Why I am always unlucky but you are always careless

When my wife can’t find her keys, I assume it is because she is careless. When I can’t find my keys I naturally put it down to bad luck. The curious thing is that she always assumes the opposite — that she’s the one with the bad luck, and I’m the careless one.

When we observe other people we attribute their behavior to their character rather than to their situation – my wife’s carelessness means she loses her keys, your clumsiness means you trip over, his political opinions mean that he got into an argument.

When we think about things that happen to us the opposite holds. We downplay our own dispositions and emphasize the role of the situation. Bad luck leads to lost keys, a hidden bump causes trips, or a late train results in an unsuccessful job interview — it’s never anything to do with us.

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