Friday, June 13, 2008

The Simple Life

In his response in the negative to the Templeton Foundation question, “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?”, Cardinal Schönborn writes,

The increase in leisure and health brought about by our increasing mastery over Nature has not resulted, as the ancient sages supposed, in an increase in wisdom and the contemplation of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Instead, our technology-based leisure is more likely to result in quiet hedonism, consumerism, and mind-numbing mass entertainment. While many still claim belief in God, the course of their lives reflects de facto agnosticism in which the “God hypothesis” is far from everyday experiences and priorities.
A few times I’ve started, but never finished, A Canticle for Leibowitz. Six hundred years after a nuclear holocaust, an abbey of Catholic monks survives during a new Dark Ages and preserves the little that remains of the world's scientific knowledge. “Preserve” meaning they’ve turned found objects into relics, they don’t themselves retain any scientific knowledge. This is because after the nuclear holocaust, those that remained blamed science and intellectuals for their condition and purged humanity of both during the Simplification. What very little knowledge that remained was “preserved” in monasteries.

The world we live in now, at least the U.S., appears to be in danger of undergoing a Simplification of its own. The majority of consumers of technology-based leisure, indeed the majority of people in general, do not have the education level to understand what or how all that technology exists. There aren’t gangs of Biologists shooting it out in territory battles with gangs of Geologists. The tools of our destruction are in the hands of those who didn’t create them. Education does lead to “wisdom and the contemplation of the good, the true, and the beautiful”, and not enough of us are getting that education. Neither our leaders nor our voters are equipped with the education necessary to get us through the complex problems that face our society. Those that do understand the complexities of both the problems and the answers lack the power to act on those answers and are ignored or attacked by those that don’t.

The Discovery Channel, which I love, had to toot its horn over,
“an average audience topping 1.34 million. First quarter was the youngest ever for Discovery, with a median age of 36 largely thanks to hit series Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters.” (Cable360.Net)
With a U.S. population of over 301 million, that’s whole lot more people whose myths aren’t getting busted. I don’t care that more people have the choice to watch So You Think You Can Dance, I care that more people actually choose to watch it. The educated are “elitist”; a word that’s certainly getting thrown around to vilify Obama. The love of learning, of appreciating the world around us at a level that requires our active engagement, isn’t spreading to enough people. And respect for science and those that understand science isn’t either. It isn’t religion that the mind-numbed masses need. What we need is a way, or the will, to un-numb our minds.

Nielson Ratings this week:

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