Worth Repeating

  By Shamus   Feb 4, 2007   34 comments

I have no desire to incite another skirmish like the one we had last week. However, I do want to point out that there was, in the midst of the exchange, a great comment that flew by. Now that it’s all cooled down, I thought I’d draw some attention to it, since this is particularly worthy. Andre said here:

As an example, I always experience a bit of shock when I’m reminded that my absolute favorite living author, Orson Scott Card, is both a devout Mormon and a social conservative. His writings usually speak to me so deeply that my brain begins to believe that he MUST think exactly like I do, but then there are these rare instances in some of his books where he gets just the tiniest bit preachy, or I read one of his numerous editorial columns, and my illusion is shattered and I’m left shocked and awed.

Ultimately, I treat the phenomenon (as it occurs in my own mind) as a testimony about the diversity of the human brain, that we all have the potential to be so brilliant and yet so kooky at the same time.

I have gone through this same thing myself, many times. I won’t list the authors here, lest we all get dragged back into that debate from which we have only recently made good our escape. It’s always disorienting when this happens, like finding Willie Nelson listening to techno music and waving a couple of glowsticks around.

201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Kevin says:

    I completely understand what Andre is saying.

    I’m also a fan of Orson Scott Card, and rarely in his books have I picked up anything related to his stated personal beliefs. I’ve also read his two books on writing (the titles elude me now, but one is on Characterization and the other is on general writing) and there was no indication (beyond a few examples) of his personal beliefs in those books as well.

    The ability to take a personal ideal, set it aside temporarily, and then consider a completely different point of view is an ability that a very small percentage of people are willing to (or can) do. With the end result being more conflict being introduced into the world as people branch out and explore new ideas, ideas that run counter to someone else’s beliefs.

    Hopefully people (in general) will learn how to consider another person’s view more often…I think it’s the only thing that will help the human race survive in the long run.

    Peace.

    –Kev.

  2. Michael says:

    It’s always disorienting when this happens, like finding Willie Nelson listening to techno music and waving a couple of glowsticks around.

    Will his reggae work with Toots Hibbert, his reggae album (Countryman), or Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other) do that? Don’t pigeonhole Willie.

    I can’t completely separate a work of art from the creator and his or her history. It’s also a line that I can’t point to firmly and say ‘this but no more than this’. Sometimes it adds to the whole experience of the art, sometimes it detracts.

    The Diary of Anne Frank, Picasso’s Guernica, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin are more important as works of art because of the situations they were created to respond to. In a purely objective “New Criticism” model, where artistic merit is a universal constant, that can’t be considered. However, I can’t not consider it. Not to acknowledge that is to reject part of what makes the works important to me. Without historical context, I consider Uncle Tom’s Cabin to be poorly written. As an artifact of literary history and cultural change, I consider it very important and wouldn’t want it removed from the literary canon.

    If context can add import to a work’s artistic value, it can also remove it. Prussian Blue is a duo of child performers making pro-racist music. I haven’t heard it. I’ve seen snippets of lyrics and comments by the performers. I’d have a hard time listening to the music, much less liking it. It wouldn’t matter if someone better than Jimi Hendrix was playing guitar for them, I couldn’t enjoy it because of the context of the work. If I didn’t speak english and didn’t know what the words meant, I might enjoy it (given the hypothetical Jimi clone on lead).

    I can’t comment on Card. I stopped reading him because I found Tales of Alvin the Maker unenjoyable about book 2 or 3, long before I found that I disagreed with Card’s politics. I think there is a spectrum between Harriet Beecher Stowe and Prussian Blue, and somewhere in the middle are the interesting cases, but I can’t define anything really specific about when something moves across the line in each direction.

    Leni Reifenstahl is over the line for me, because of the Nazi propaganda. I understand it’s marvelous and groundbreaking filmmaking. H.P. Lovecraft is not, despite his Nazi connections (which are not as strong as Reifenstahl’s, of course).

    I think it’s a broader question than one purely about art, too. How and when we judge someone’s work in an unrelated area based on something we know about them is a huge tangled mess and is often tied up in difficult-to-articulate portions of our internal moral compass.

  3. Telas says:

    Odd. I have read a few of OSC’s books, and didn’t get much out of them. Ender’s Game was decent, but not really worth a re-read.

    However, I do tend to agree with some of his opinions on international affairs. I’m not going to debate them here, but I did want to point out that not everyone shares the above opinion.

    Now if you want to see a controversial writer whose work and personal life did not compute, I suggest Ayn Rand.

    Having said all that, I’m going to go strap on my asbestos full plate…

    Telas

  4. I fall in the “Telas” camp. I only liked Ender’s Game, but I agree with most of his opinions. I wonder if that’s a theme. You can like his opinion or his books, but you can’t like both.

    And Ayn Rand is just about the perfect example of that too.

    It is always nice to find someone whose personal life makes me think MORE highly of them when discovered, though. Like Shamus. ;)

  5. Ermel says:

    I find that I’m completely untouched by differences I may have with the authour of a given work. It’s the work that matters. Cat Stevens (or Yusuf, as he calls himself now) may or may not be a radical Islamist (I don’t really know where he actually stands), but I still can enjoy his music. Same goes for other religions, political beliefs, sects, you name it. I’d not shy away from Leni Riefenstahl just because of her Nazi connections (although chances are I’d not like the films, bacause of what they are). Heck, if Hitler had written humourous poetry in his youth, I’d probably like to read it. And if any of my favourite authors were tried and convicted for child abuse, I’d still keep liking his books (though I might be convinced not to buy new ones by him).

  6. Dave Godfrey says:

    MIchael: “I think it’s a broader question than one purely about art, too. How and when we judge someone’s work in an unrelated area based on something we know about them is a huge tangled mess and is often tied up in difficult-to-articulate portions of our internal moral compass.”

    I’ve been going over the same thing in my mind this weekend. Riefenstahl and Wagner came up as examples of artist where I find it difficult to separate their politics from their art, falling into that grey area where I admire and like their work, but cannot silence that small voice in the back of my head that says “yes, but…”

    That and laughing at Gimli’s really walking stick with a really big headpiece…

  7. Dave Godfrey says:

    Sorry, …really heavy walking stick…

  8. Ichigo says:

    Personally, I have to draw a line somewhere, and Card’s remarks on gay people drew the line for me. He doesn’t get any more of my money, even though I liked _Ender’s Game_ and was amused (as a former Mormon) by the way the Homecoming series mirrors _The Book of Mormon_. Politics is one thing to me; preaching hatred is another.

  9. Yahzi says:

    As long as we’re discussing writer’s poltical leanings – how about Tolkien? He wrote LOTR in part as a screed against modernity, which is pretty ironic given that D&D and computer geekery go hand-in-hand.

    I think the answer is that true art escapes the artist, and comes from the depth of human experience, unfiltered by the consciously chosen blinkers we all wear. Seriously, that’s why DMOTR is so funny. It comes from the depth of geek experience.

    :D

  10. JD Malmquist says:

    Yeah, I have to agree with Ichigo.

    I used to be an Orson Scott Card fanatic. I read just about everything he had written.

    In fact, I was describing the ongoing plot lines of Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide to my father while we were on a road trip a few months ago. I’m a 32 year old guy, and I was having trouble keeping tears back at various points.

    But I won’t buy any of his new books. He fits right in line with a whole group of smart people who seem to have convinced themselves that they are right about everything. They are unaware of their own incompetence and inadequacies.

    Another person I’d use in this example is Michael Crichton. The guy went to medical school and decided to be a novelist. Then he spent so long pretending he was still a doctor that he became convinced that he knew science.

    Enter State of Fear, in which he damned those who think global climate change is a problem by labeling them profiteers. Then Mick Crowley of the New Republic wrote a cover story that laid out the science and, presumably, attempted to shame Crichton a bit.

    At the same time, however, the forces that don’t care one bit about scientific _truth_ made sure that the novelist got to advise our president on matters of climate science.

    And to top it all off, Crichton wrote a minor character into his latest novel. Mick Crowley, small penised toddler rapist. He’s a minor character who is there for only one scene, and whose only purpose in the book is defamation of someone who disagreed with the author.

    Lastly, we come back to Scott Adams. He wrote a fairly absurd argument in favor of Creation on his blog. Many have pointed out that Adams probably doesn’t believe it himself, and that he is merely pulling an internet prank.

    If that’s the case, then I have even less respect for him. It’s one thing to have faith that a greater being started this universe. It’s another to pretend to a crowd of readers that your idea is in any way new or valid, and word things in such a way that they walk away thinking they have learned something. If it is NOT the case, then he should consider reading a few books on philosophy before posting his thoughts. He should have both the time and the money for this.

    All I learned from it is that Scott Adams doesn’t really care what effect he has on the world around him any longer. This, too, is fine, as I’d realized a long, long, time ago that he was essentially talentless. He made a moderately funny, poorly drawn comic strip that happened upon the scene at precisely the right moment.

    If only he’d realize that, maybe we’d have less flame wars between people egged on by ridiculous notions of an intelligent explosion.

    He no longer draws the strip. He threw as much merchandise at the marketplace as he possibly could. He made a boatload of money.. and now does nothing but tweak people he has no respect for. Way to go.

    I’d stopped reading Dilbert years ago. If I happened to be glancing as a comics page, I’d still read it. I won’t do this with Peanuts, which should have ended long ago. Or Family Circus. Or Dennis The Menace. All of these are strips that should be long since dead. I don’t want to know what Dennis thinks of the Internet. I don’t want to hear Jeffy’s pun on the iPod. Jeffy is older than I am, and Dennis should be nearing retirement age. I shouldn’t even need to mention B.C.

    These are obsolete strips. I do not begrudge them their past successes.. I just wish that they would move on and let new artists and fresh ideas get more of a chance at acceptance.

    So I stopped reading Orson Scott Card after I realized that his personal politics were abhorrent to me. That his beliefs are that I should have less rights. That a war is coming, and that his kind will prevail over mine.

    I stopped reading Michael Crichton because his work was entertaining, but scientifically weak, and the world had begun to perceive him as an authority just as his work became more commercial and less interesting.

    Far as I can tell, Shamus, you’re a good and thoughtful guy. I read Pharyngula, and I am an atheist. Your name got dropped in a heated debate about the specifics of belief in Creation, and your specific beliefs never became an issue. But that segment of my brain that makes me want to stop supporting mental inflexibility didn’t fire.

    The thought that DID fire went “But.. why would I stop reading DM of the Rings? It’s too damned funny.” I can guarantee you that the bewildered expression of an ant in B.C. never made me laugh so much as Gandalf’s did the other day.

    The thought that followed went something like “I wonder how a role player conceives of Creation.” And then I started giggling.

    But there’s only one religion that would have made me stop reading your site.

    Scientology.

  11. “Cat Stevens (or Yusuf, as he calls himself now) may or may not be a radical Islamist (I don’t really know where he actually stands)”

    He’s an ordinary Muslim. Doesn’t like terrorism; big fan of Allah.

    (He was erroneously put on a no-fly list and libelled against, which is where some confusion might come in about his politics)

  12. Thad says:

    There’s a term for all this, “feet of clay”, the unpleasent(*) moment when you find out the person you admire is human as well.

    (*) It feels that way, which says a lot about our psychological make up that we try not to think about admirable people as human at all…

  13. Scott says:

    Gosh, I sure hope noone noticed that Battlestar Galactica is full of Mormon references!

  14. My wife was offended by a couple of Card’s works… and we’re both practicing Mormons. :)

    It really comes off as being close-minded when insinuating that thought-provoking and intelligent writing is created in spite of the creator’s beliefs. There are many Christian (and Creationist!) scientists and engineers out there who see the discovery of truth about the nature of reality as not only consistent with their religious beliefs, but actually a mandate of their religion.

    In many ways, I feel Card’s works are very much a product of his beliefs and personal philosophies. I see several elements of Mormon doctrine hidden in many of his books – not overt, but rather speculation (especially in the Ender Wiggen series), based upon the principles he believes in carried out far beyond the concievable boundaries that we have today. Xenocide, in particular, deals with such issues as blind faith based on the absense of evidence, and speculates / fantasizes on the spiritual nature of the physical universe.

    Not that philotes or philotic connections are in any way something he (or Mormons) believe in, but rather they were something of a thought-experiment that he was playing with and thought it’d make an interesting subject for a story (not one of his best, IMO, but that’s my opinion).

    “Brilliant Yet Kooky” is just another way of describing that old poem about the blind men describing an elephant. Each of the blind men experienced a different aspect of the elephant, and so they all generated their own – but different – mental model to help them understand what it was they experienced. And then they argued with each other over the conflicts in their understanding.

    But in my mind, the only real conflict was the failure to recognize that they could all be in possession of some element of the truth.

  15. Michael says:

    Yahzi:I think the answer is that true art escapes the artist, and comes from the depth of human experience, unfiltered by the consciously chosen blinkers we all wear.

    So is a poem still true art if we don’t know the language?

    scott:Gosh, I sure hope noone noticed that Battlestar Galactica is full of Mormon references!

    I’m sure people have, and that for some it’s the tipping point and for others it’s not. The lead writer on Superfriends was a Scientologist. Sometimes he used themes from his experiences, but it was subtle, and (as far as I can tell) harmless.

    I’d like to correct my prior statement. The middle isn’t interesting, the edges of the middle are interesting, where externalities affect my judgement.

  16. Jaquandor says:

    JD Malmquist: I won’t do this with Peanuts, which should have ended long ago.

    I grok your main point, but I just want to point out that Peanuts did end years ago. Charles Schulz died almost seven years ago, and what appears in your paper are reprints!

    I won’t read Card either. The anti-gay stuff got to me, as well.

  17. RHJunior says:

    I’m forced to point out that Micheal Crichton’s “State of Fear” used actual scientific and cultural data to address the issue of the Global Warming debate…. that in his later book he was petty enough to respond to an obnoxious boob by using his name detrimentally is only proof that the man has flaws just like his detractors.
    And I would hotly dispute the notion that one must needs be a laureled and lettered member of academia to contribute to a scientific debate– or, for that matter, to spot a bullshit artist. Most of our greatest scientific strides forward, after all, were made by people who would never in a million years be granted the standard of “scientist” by their peers and competitors. Mendel, Edison, Einstein, etc. And often, when the Emperor has no clothes, it is only the one in the crowd who has nothing to lose who can dare to say anything… or even has the simple clarity of sight to say it.

  18. Andre says:

    I just wanted to elaborate on something before part of my comment gets taken out of context.

    I’m not sure, but I think I may have offended RampantCoyote, and possibly some other folks as well, and I didn’t mean to at all. When I said “brilliant and yet so kooky”, I wasn’t referring to Card or to Mormons; the comment was made with tongue in cheek, poking fun at (and at the same time sympathizing with) Dave Godfrey. I understand that sometimes people whose beliefs differ radically from our own come off, at least initially, as a bit off their rockers.

    So, when I said “brilliant” and “kooky”, I meant myself as well as Card, and Shamus, and Dave, and Jerry Falwell, and the Ayatollah, and… well, I meant everyone. We’re all kooky, from someone else’s perspective. And when we realize that, I think it makes us a little more tolerant of the kooks we encounter in our lives.

  19. Andre – I actually kind of agreed with your point. No offense taken! My concern was more on the possible assumption that artists such as Card (or, for that matter, Shamus!) necessarily put their beliefs to the side to create something that is intellectually stimulating to someone who doesn’t share those same beliefs.

    If one takes that particular train of thought to its conclusion, then it would follow that following of any kind of relgiious faith precludes freedom of thought. Sure, that’s a popular characterization, and does have historical precedent (poor Galileo), but it’s demonstrably inaccurate throughout history.

    We’ve all got different viewpoints, lifestyles, and beliefs – many of which must be radically different from each other. If we refuse to listen to those whose viewpoints aren’t identical to our own, we doom ourselves as a race. Which is kind of the point I thought you were trying to make, and if that’s the case, I cannot disagree!

  20. Teddust says:

    I think it is silly to stop reading an author whose works you enjoy just because you disagree with their beliefs (political or otherwise). To do so is to miss out on a lot of great stuff, because most people are going to disagree with a least a few things that you believe in. Also, I think it’s important to expose oneself to other viewpoints. For one thing, you might be wrong, and if so you are never going to find that out from the people who agree with you. Also, how are you going to find out why someone would disagree with you if you avoid any discussion with them? Finally, a lot of people mischaracterize the beliefs of others. When someone tells you, for example, that Scott Adams is a Creationist based on an entry in his blog, maybe you should try reading some more of his blog to find out what he really believes.

  21. CaptainBooshi says:

    To clarify for Teddust, its not usually that you stop reading an author because you disagree with their beliefs. It’s that your knowledge of their beliefs taints your view of their work as you read it so much that you no longer enjoy it at all. I also believe that its best to seperate the author and the work in cases like these, but its not possible for everyone to do.

    Regarding Scott Adams, I actually did that, and I have to say that he lost any respect I had for him when he responded to the Pharyngula post by saying that people should try to be reasonable, and PZ Myers was a self-righteous, humorless, asshat for not completely agreeing with him (I’m not joking, look it up). I also read the post in question, and thought that it was based on some very odd assumptions, and not very well thought-out, but didn’t see how it was supporting Creationism. Adams had done so in the past, but it didn’t seem like that was the case here. It was more like a warped version of Taoism.

  22. Steve says:

    [RHJunior] “Most of our greatest scientific strides forward, after all, were made by people who would never in a million years be granted the standard of “scientist” by their peers and competitors. Mendel, Edison, Einstein, etc.

    Not sure I agree with that first statement. Of the examples you cite, only Edison might have been given trouble by his peers, and that mostly because he had a nasty habit of “acquiring” oddly similar ideas to theirs shortly after seeing them from some accounts. Mendel was a monk, but that didn’t stop the value of his work being recognised, once it was rediscovered, and the accademic world beat a path to Einstein’s door after he published the Special Theory.

    But I think I have a bigger problem with the “most of our greatest…” part. Hooke, Boyle, Davey, Steinmetz, Kelvin, Avogadro, Lavoisier, Planck, Michelson, Moorley, Newton, Watson, Crick, Tesla, Dirac, Heisenberg, Pauli (to pick a handful at random) all were regarded as scientists by their peers (although the name would have probably been “natural philosopher” for some of them since they were then at the dawn of the scientific method). It is true that new ideas often have to be proved beyond all doubt to dislodge earlier and well-regarded ones that purport to explain the same phenomena – plate tectonics springs to mind, but that doesn’t mean that the scientific community as a whole “doesn’t work” or is a bad thing.

    I think it’s more fair to say that the vast majority of our great strides forward in understanding How Things Work were made by people regarded as peers by scientists and/or mathematicians. After all, if you want to persuade people that your idea has merit, you have to be able to explain it to them. To put it another way, you have to speak their language.

    The outcast-entrepreneur stereotype is better looked for in matters of techology rather than those of science. Rich pickings there (Edison more properly belonged in the technologist pidgeonhole than the scientist one in my opinion).

    Steve.

  23. Dave Godfrey says:

    Its only been in recent years that scientific work has become restricted to professionals working in universities. A large part of this is because many discoveries made today can only be made using expensive equipment. Astronomy and geology are notable exceptions, though it is true that amateurs tend not to publish.

    “Gentlemen of Independant Means” (such as Darwin, Boyle or the geologist Murchison) who don’t have to work for a living, and can indulge their copious free time in pursuing scientific discoveries no longer really exist. While these people weren’t professional scientists they were certainly an important part of the scientific community of their day (Boyle was one of the first members of the Royal Society.)

  24. JD Malmquist says:

    Jaquandor: Yeah, I’m aware it’s all reruns, and that was actually part of my point. We’re reprinting something that is no longer original, and the works are readily available in book form. The daily newspaper space _could_ be used for newer, better, and more relevant work.. but some people can’t bear the idea of a comics page without Peanuts on it.

    RHJunior: I haven’t actually read State of Fear, nor the one that came after that. I _think_ the last I read of his books was Timeline, which I thought was poorly thought out and weakly written. I really did like some of his earlier books, but when I think about them in retrospect, I was young and they were filled with cliches.

    So maybe State of Fear was a good book.. I don’t know, and I don’t much care for inflammatory scientific arguments being made in a fictional context. That the author believes his own arguments to be true and presents them in such a way is more telling.

    It has nothing to do with whether the author is from academia or not. It has everything to do with the fact that this is not his area of expertise and he is not contributing to the scientific discussion. He’s just saying that the other side is crooked and can never be trusted.. because they don’t agree with him.

    Thus, I see his attack on Crowley to be quite similar. He doesn’t agree with me, now I must present him in a context that would lead people to not trust him.

    Lastly, I’m going to say a little more about Card. There comes a point where I must decouple the author from his opinions, and if Crichton’s writing were stronger I might be able to look past it.

    But not with Card. I have, as I said, read almost everything he had written up to a point. Honestly, I may still end up picking up the newest book in the Ender’s Shadow series.

    But Card has made it quite clear that he has no tolerance for homosexuality. He has done this in his non-fiction writing, in public appearances, and in several of his books.

    In fact, one of his series, The Ships of Earth, is a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon. I actually quite liked the series at the time, and had no idea of the origins of the story. One of the characters, however, exists solely to be the gay guy that must become straight so that he can help save all of humanity. (Slight exaggeration.)

    As much as one would like to pretend that this (homosexuality can be cured) is a stance of both tolerance and compassion, but it is not, just as “I’m so sorry that you’re wrong” is not an apology.

    To me, this becomes a simpler matter: Do I want to financially support an artist who acts to further political views I find abhorrent? No, of course I don’t.

    In regards to Scott Adams, this was a no-brainer. I don’t find enough value in his work to go out of my way to read it.. and he has plenty of money already.

    In regards to Michael Crichton, again, it wasn’t a difficult choice. He’s advising politicians about science when he neither a researcher nor a scientist. I would even object to him being referred to as an M.D., given the age of his degree and the fact that he has never practiced medicine. He is a novelist. And an educated one. If he’s publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers, I’ll pay attention to what he thinks about the state of science in the world today. I won’t pay attention to his novels about what he thinks the motivation is of the people whose science he cannot refute .. scientifically. And again, while I have not read State of Fear or the science he presents in it.. a novel is not the proper place for peer review. Plus.. like I said, I’m no longer in love with his writing style.

    Orson Scott Card was the tough choice for me. I love his writing. I wish he was as open, loving, and tolerant as was the image of him I conjured as I read his earlier works. But I can’t support one who vocally calls out a private, non-violent segment of the population and essentially calls them an evil that must be redeemed. I’m sure he’s a rich enough man by now. He and his family will not suffer for my restraint, but I feel a whole lot better trying to avoid supporting viewpoints that are antithetical to my own.

    This isn’t something I say because I wish any of these people the slightest bit of harm. I’m just deeply saddened by a lot of what I see going on in the world around me, and if Fred Phelps was the worlds greatest writer of prose, I would have to stay true to my morals and not support him, just as I would be truly amazed if any deeply religious person read, for enjoyment, an author who believed that all believers should be jailed, killed, or exiled.

    And now I’ve run out of time. I was going to read over this a couple of times to check for consistency in my tone, etc. Just wanted to add a note to the end. Thanks for this discussion, Shamus, and thanks also to the people who responded to what I had to say. I’m sorry if anything I’ve written here seems like an attack on anyone in here; that isn’t my intent in the least.

    I’m just a weird guy who has, for many years, kept my thoughts to myself.. and now I’m writing more. I’m working on a novel, writing more on boards and blogs, and considering starting a blog of my own. Thoughtful groups like this one are a great find.

    JD

  25. Stark says:

    Huh? Darwin and Boyle not proffesionals? By what measure?

    Boyle was one of the founding council members (appointed by Charles II)of the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Philosophy… now simply known as the Royal Society and arguably the oldest organization of scientist in the world. He was certainly considered a professional natural philospher in his day.

    Darwin… well, while he was realtively unknown prior to the voyage on the Beagel he was most certainly trained in scientific mehtod and considered to a be sicientist by his teachers – upon his return to england he was elected onto the Council of the Geologic Society… hardly something done for an amateur!

    As for Murchison – yes, he started as an army officer but he did end up part of the British Association for the Advancement of Science – and in fact presided over it for a time. He also happend to found the Royal Geologic Society and was head of the Geological Survey of the UK. He was harldy a maverick outsider and was most certainly viewed as a professional scientist by his peers.

  26. Stark says:

    Oy! Sorry for the typos! Typing while on a conference call does nothing for my proofreading skills. I imgaine it does nothing for my retention of the content of the call either… but I don’t care about that! ;)

  27. Dave Godfrey says:

    I don’t see any of the people I mentioned as “maverick outsiders”. They were all part of the scientific establishment, but by “professional scientist” I meant someone who earned their primary income from an academic position, something Darwin, Muchison and Boyle didn’t do, but T.H. Huxley, Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley did.

  28. Rebecca says:

    And naturally the discussion has degenerated into a discussion of OSC’s beliefs about homosexuality. That was predictable. :)

    One of my favorite composers, Richard Wagner, was a huge anti-Semite. His grandchildren (or was it children?) supported the Nazis, and Hitler had wounded German soldiers shipped out to Bayreuth to see Wagner’s opera (when the soldiers probably would have preferred to visit their families). I’m no fan of Nazism, but I still think Wagner’s stuff is brilliant, and I’ve long reconciled myself to the idea that the writers or artists I admire aren’t going to agree with me politically.

    I think this sort of mental block extends from the idea that people who don’t agree with us are EVIL somehow.

  29. Andre says:

    We like to deny it, but I think we live in some pretty intolerant times. There’s been a resurgence in all sorts of extremism in the past ten years. I’m not just talking about religion, either. Just about any kind of ideological thought process can be subject to extremism. It’s sad, too, because when you’re only exposed to a particular ideology through it’s extremists, you get a very skewed picture of what that ideology represents. How many people in America got their first real exposure to Islam through the terrorist attacks of 2001? And now how many people out there believe that all Muslims are terrorists? Using another personal example, the majority of my exposure to the animal rights movement is through the news coverage of the whacked-out stunts that extremist groups like PETA pull off for attention. As a result, I have to fight hard with my assumptions to take someone seriously after they tell me they’re interested in animal rights. Our brains are designed to make these sorts of connections, and in most day-to-day cases, these connections are a helpful thing. I think it’s the same kind of connection that teaches you as a child that fire burns, or that falling down is a bad thing, or that the smell coming from your grandmother’s kitchen is always good. With people, though, holding onto these connections is not always a good thing, and when you allow yourself to make those connections without challenging and revising them every once in a while, you find yourself crossing the street when you see a black man walking toward you on the sidewalk, or suspiciously eying the luggage of a brown-skinned man with a turban who’s waiting to board the same plane as you (and never even considering that he might be a Sikh). If you’re not careful, then pretty soon you’ve built up this world of assumptions around you, and you find you’ve become an extremist too. And then you go all God Warrior on your family when you find out that someone you just met might (GASP!) not believe in Jesus.

    That’s in all of us, but I believe we all have the potential to overcome it, with hard work and perseverance.

  30. Andre says:

    But unfortunately, lately, not many of us bother to try.

  31. Andre says:

    …but now I realize all of that doesn’t really have anything to do with this discussion, does it? I had a more relevant point to make before I started writing, but now that I’ve written all that, I can’t remember what it was. I’m sorry guys, It’s late and I’m tired. Maybe tomorrow.

  32. Deoxy says:

    “Enter State of Fear, in which he damned those who think global climate change is a problem by labeling them profiteers.”

    People who THINK global warming is a problem are generally badly misinformed (the rsults would be almost universally good for humanity, oddly enough).

    Those who make thir business that of screaming to the world the evils of humanity and the human-caused global warming are either usually profiteers of some kind, a well-meaning but deluded moron, or stark raving insane. The “science” does not remotely back them up (notice that Mars is going through global warming as well, for just one of many, many, MANY examples).

    “As much as one would like to pretend that this (homosexuality can be cured) is a stance of both tolerance and compassion, but it is not, just as “I’m so sorry that you’re wrong” is not an apology.”

    Many forms of depression can be cured, and it affects MANY more people than homosexuality. That homosexuality is something that is inherently wonderful is a rather odd thought, actually, rather like deaf people wanting to have deaf children. In the case of homosexuality, I’ll grant that it doesn’t hurt other people, but again, neither does depression. I’m not saying that, from a societal standpoint, that everyone should viw homosexuality as a problem in need of a cure, but that was the dominant viewpoint for a long time, and for rather well-established biological reasons. I’m not familiar with his actual comments on gays (they could be quite hate-filled and violent, for all I know), but simply wishing to correct a biological mistake that makes society quite a bit more complicated is not inherently evil, or anything.

    “[Cat Stevens]’s an ordinary Muslim. Doesn’t like terrorism; big fan of Allah.”

    Tell that to him. Seriously – go check out som of his responses in interviews. I’m not saying he’s a terrorist personally, or anything (no idea), but if he is “an ordinary Muslim”, then the people expecting the great “clash of civilazations” because all the muslims will get together against the west are pretty much spot on. Seriously – go look up Yusef’s own words.

    “And now how many people out there believe that all Muslims are terrorists?”

    I don’t think thy are all terrorists, but I think those who aren’t supporting terrorists eithr a) haven’t read their own holy book very well, or b) think that the terrorist method of achieving that goal is not as effective as other means.

    “As a result, I have to fight hard with my assumptions to take someone seriously after they tell me they’re interested in animal rights.”

    Possibly because there’s not a lot more room in our society as is for more rights for animals without going to PETA-level psychosis?

    “There’s been a resurgence in all sorts of extremism in the past ten years. I’m not just talking about religion, either.”

    That I can wholeheartedly agree with, but I’d put it to more like 25ish years.

  33. Ryan says:

    I don’t comment on here often, so there’s not much for people to use to draw conclusions about myself and my personality, so I hope I don’t come off wrong here, but I have to disagree with a part of Deoxy’s comment.
    “…I’ll grant that it doesn’t hurt other people, but again, neither does depression.”

    Have you ever dealt with someone that suffers from depression? Perhaps you should talk to someone who’s spouse, or parent, or child has depression, they might be able to explain how difficult it can be to deal with them at times.
    It’s harder than I will go into here, and while it hasn’t ever caused me to bleed, there are more ways to hurt people than physically.

    I’m not trying to argue, or be offensive, or even disrespectful of your comment, I just want you to be aware that there is more to it than just the person with depression.

  34. Card’s songbird cycle is interesting and mutable.

    His big problem comes with his response to some of his critics — he called them hypocrites and they didn’t like it.

    But Adams … if you’ve read him in context you wouldn’t be critical. It reminds me of when Gary Gygax said “don’t take me so seriously” and then said “ok, I really mean it, and dwarvish women have beards” — which he said purely to get people to quit taking him so seriously.

    Adams, on his humor themed web-site, is kind of like Shamus in some of his D&D comments.

    But I’ve liked Card, and like a lot of other writers, feel he deserves more patience.

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