Friday, April 2, 2010

Scientism and false dichotomies

Maror, one disallowed type and two acceptable ...Image via Wikipedia

Jewish date:  18 Nisan 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Pesaḥ (AKA PassoverJudaism), Day 3 of the ‘Omer (Judaism), Good Friday (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “ Political Action: Say no to off-shore drilling”, “Take Action: No legitimacy for Bashir | Save Darfur”, “ | Sign the petition to President Obama: Say NO to offshore drilling”, “Invest in America's Clean Energy Future: Join the Earth Day Revolution - The Petition Site”, “GOP hate intensifies” and Retire Ronald [McDonald].

Topic 1:  “Survivors”.  This Dry Bones cartoon justifiably attacks Barack Obama for complaining about Israel when he should be worrying about Iran.  (And, as I have mentioned before, expect material complaining about this to keep coming until Obama stops following the tradition of US presidents as far back as I can remember of trying to get Israel to be suicidally stupid.)

Topic 2:  “Blinded by Scientism” and “Recovering Sight after Scientism”.  One of the claims sometimes made by militant atheists is scientism, the belief that all belief systems other than science are invalid.  These two articles correctly note that science itself cannot support scientism.  This requires support from a system other than science to demonstrate scientism—a contradiction with the premises of scientism itself.  I cannot say I agree with everything in these articles (though to be fair, I think I need to educate myself further on philosophy), but at least some of the reasoning is sound.

Topic 3:  “Seeing Secular Zionism in a Positive Light”:  This article is a great reminder to beware of false dichotomies.  It is very easy to forget that human-created categories are not rigid or real entities in themselves.  This article complains about the dichotomization of the world of many (or at least many vocal) Ḥaredhi Jews into Ḥaredhi-good versus non-Ḥaredhi-bad.  This artificial division blatantly ignores anything good done non-Ḥaredhim, be they religious, secular or Zionist, and everything bad done by Ḥaredhim.  This division also ignores that religiousness is not Boolean (true versus false), but rather very much a multidimensional continuum of shades of gray; statistics are given in this article on Pesaḥ observance in Israel, and clearly most Jews considered secularists in Israel observe Pesaḥ to some degree.  While people on the edges of the continuum tend to make the most noise, almost everyone is somewhere closer to the middle.  As far as I can tell, this lesson holds true in general, not just in discussing Judaism in Israel.

Topic 4:  For today’s religious humor, in the spirit of Pesaḥ:  “Passover Videos on YouTube”, courtesy of Jacob Richman.  This should keep you busy for a long while.

Peace, ḥagh sameaḥ, and Shabbath shalom.

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