Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Monday, December 19, 2005

A word about this blog

My Mirecki posts came in for a bit of flack on several sites. I expected this. Of course they took suggestions about inference and hypothesis to be substantive claims. I did not say that I thought the police were involved. In fact I think it unlikely, but more likely than the much less probable claim that Mirecki made it all up.

But reasoning isn't a major virtue in the worldview of some, so let it pass. One criticism I got a bit was how I know that it's hard to be an atheist in Kansas, sitting over here in Australia. That's a good question - I know it because atheists from Kansas who I know in correspondence say it is, and based on similar experience here in Australia about how those who fail to adhere to the prevailing religious line are treated, including myself to a limited extent (I'm not an atheist but an agnostic. Try explaining that difference in suburbia, where I have lived for the past 30 years).

I have seen kids isolated, beaten and bullied by students and teachers alike. I have seen this with my own kids in an Anglican school (worst mistake I ever made was to believe the "policies" of a Christian school about tolerance). I have every good reason to think it is harder in Kansas. I'm not making it up - I am basing it on evidence.

Finally, I am challenged to explain how I know that Mirecki was forced down from the chairmanship of his department, and there I can only say, try working in a university environment. Anyone who thinks it was all sweet reason and manners has never seen academic viciousness. I am presently the collateral damage in a case of it.

On this blog I post stuff I have passing through my head. Some of it is well thought through, some isn't. If I am wrong about Mirecki - and I'm going to need a lot more than the unsupported assertions of the conservative side of things (which is funny, because I'm what an Australian would call a conservative, which has nothing much in common with what American's call conservative these days) - I'll retract and revise. A reasonable person does this.

What interests me so much more than the asseverations and tribal loyalties of this side or that is the nature of knowledge about the world. Hume set that agenda and that is what I am most concerned to explore. We do not know the world by stating our beliefs forcefully and refusing to tolerate dissent. We know it by testing our claims against evidence.

And I agree with one comment on a blog that I shall not dignify with a link (you can find it by Googling if you need to) - my tautology FAQ on talkorigins.org is terrible. I was an undergraduate when I wrote that, struggling to deal with the literature. One day, when I get the time, if ever I do, I will rewrite it completely. But anyone who wants to do so can do so.