Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rebuttal, extreme edition...

Professor Tom, who is one of the most consistent and withering of commenters on Militant Ginger, had such a brilliant response to my post 'Why Good Evangelicals Make Bad Americans' that I felt like I had to repost it here:
You know, it's a good thing that you marked this post as irrational, or else I would have thought you were serious.

We don't deny gays any basic rights. We're debating if we should extend them the right to marry, but that's something different.

We are one of the most generous countries in the world. US charitable spending, per capita, is more than double the European average. There's a difference between voluntary charity and the government taking money at the point of the gun. Indeed, the latter often takes from the poor to give to the rich (or at least, well-connected).

The funny thing is that, since evolution doesn't work on human timescales, it's pretty much the one bit of science that _can_ be ignored without ill effect.

And I love the idea that the "rest of the developed world is marching inexorably forward and we're stuck resolutely where we were".

From 2005 to 2007, three quarters of new drugs were first introduced in the US. (This is according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.)

When it comes to Mars rovers, the score is US 3, rest-of-world nought.

We've sent space probes to all the planets, and a couple of kinda-planets, like Pluto, Ceres, and Vesta. No other country had done that.

Most people don't remember how, a mere two decades ago, the idea of having a box that sits in your car and tells you exactly where you are would be science fiction. But now it's GPS, and GPS was made in the USA.

The Tesla Roadster, the first all-electric sports car: A US thing.

Google. Facebook. Yahoo!. Youtube. Windows Live. Wikipedia. Blogger. You have to get to the eighth largest website before you find one that wasn't founded in the US. And it's Baidu.com, an Chinese search engine, not something from Europe.

When it comes to the ranking of the top worldwide universities, the US has the top three, and 17 of the top 20.

And I think the reason for this is that the US has a tradition of idealogical freedom. I have a right to be wrong. And that means people can question the status quo, and come up with new ideas, and keep the US on top of the world when it comes to innovation.

And we do that while maintaing a religious pluralism that works in practice, one where people are free to worship what they wish without imposing their beliefs on others.

There's a reason why the British film is getting no distribution... it's because it's a boring period piece. US film distributors don't shy away from controversy, they relish it. There have been plenty of movies about evolution, including Inherit the Wind. And there have been far more controversial movies release.

No, the reason Creation lacks distribution is because the distributors don't think they'll make their money back. We don't have a socialist film board deciding what we _should_ watch, and subsidizing distribution. So movies have to make money. If nobody's going to see a movie, the distributor won't bother distributing it.

Of course, the filmmaker isn't going to admit this, so he'll try to blame it on someone else. And, well, you seem to have bought his spin: hook, line, and stinker.
Yes, I don't like getting nailed acutely and succinctly - but Tom's comment was actually as uplifting as it was withering. The United States is the nation I'm proud to call home - and it's a country I absolutely adore for a variety of reasons. And when stories like this force me to call my love of America into question, a refreshing bitch-slap from an objective observer is a welcome breath of fresh air.

It's deeply, terrifyingly stupid that only 39% of Americans 'believe' in evolution - but Tom unequivocally reminded me that this nation's still the top and instead of wringing my hands, I should embrace America's strengths and do what I can to help move thinking away from it's weaknesses (the embrace of evangelicalism.)

Cheers, Tom. Out of a lot of great comments you posted, this one is especially noteworthy.

6 comments:

Occasional Professor Tom said...

You know, it's more fun being a commenter than a blogger. You don't have to think of things to get worked up over, they come to you!

(If I known that this was going to be reposted, I would have spell-checked it harder.)

Looking into this a bit more, according to the al-Guardian, half of all Britons do not believe in evolution.

Again, I suspect this is because evolution is not something people deal with on a regular basis. I mean, when was the last time your belief in evolution _mattered_ at all.

The Wiccans have a saying: Ain it harm none, do what you will shall be the whole of the law.

I think that, in many things, Evangelicals are probably wrong. But I also think that of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Wiccans, Mormons, Atheists, Scientologists, Shintos, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Subgenii are also wrong.

And it goes beyond religion. I think that Democrats and Liberals are mostly wrong, while Conservatives and Republicans are only somewhat wrong. Communists and Marxists need not apply.

But the thing is, it's a good thing that other people are allowed to be wrong. I like that evangelicals can try to convince me and others of their beliefs, and I in exchange can try to convince them of mine.

You know, perhaps the greatest thing about America is that we can have people who disagree so much about such fundamental things, all living together in relative harmony.

I think that's what makes America great. We all have our differences, but (under our constitution) they're what make us strong.

I do hope in the future you'll cut groups you disagree with some slack. It's okay to disagree, but to try and blame them for imagined slights is kinda bad form.

As for me, I'm going to go back to what matters: watching the trailer for My Girlfriend is the President. (Slightly not safe for work.)

Joanna Cake said...

You know, perhaps the greatest thing about America is that we can have people who disagree so much about such fundamental things, all living together in relative harmony.

I think that's what makes America great. We all have our differences, but (under our constitution) they're what make us strong.


I think the same can be said of the UK. Freedom of speech and debating are key to our democracy and long may it continue.

As Ginger Militant said, the reason that film wont get much cinema time is not because of the subject matter but because it is so niche that not many people will turn out to watch it, therefore it wont make the distributors their money back.

This has become the problem with our society generally. It's all about what's in it for me. So you get GPs who hand out pharmaceutical drugs, rather than homeopathic remedies, because they have had/will get a kickback from the companies that sell those drugs.

You have to look at every health recommendation for the angle and the kickback. The same with major new building/scientific projects and even wars. So often, those who are pushing it forward hardest are those who are going to get something out of it, be it new business or just a nice little financial remuneration.

So often, it's not about creed or belief, but money.

Simple as that.

Great posts Mr H and Prof Tom!

Occasional Professor Tom said...

The thing about the UK is that it just finished (maybe about a decade ago) a low-level religion war, in Northern Ireland.

For whatever reason, the US has managed to avoid such religious conflict.

But when it comes to the positive things that America lead the world in, let me add one thing:

We were the country that gave birth to Norman Borlaug, who passed away yesterday.

For those who don't know of him (almost everyone), Norman Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for the farming techniques called the "Green Revolution".

When the Nobel prize people called, they got his wife. She had to bring the message to him, as he was out in the test fields.

The low estimate is that his work saved 250 million people, around the world, from starvation. The high estimate is over a billion.

To put that in perspective, he saved the world from the number of deaths associated with World War II... thrice over.

Paul Erlich wrote in 1968: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over" "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now."

Even as Erlich was writing that, Borlaug was embarking on a crash program. And that crash program more than doubled the productivity of wheat fields. And that productivity saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation.

Norman Borlaug, RIP.

Eve said...

I would like to make a small correction to Tom's comment, regarding the Wiccan saying he quoted. In Wicca, the saying actually goes, "An it harm none, do what ye will." This is known as the Wiccan Rede, and is not intended to be regarded as the whole of the law. Aleister Crowley (not a Wiccan) said, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" without much regard to whether or not harm is caused. Tom seems to have accidentally combined the two.

It's a small distinction, to be sure, but an important one, for accuracy's sake. (and now I'll step off my soapbox)

Occasional Professor Tom said...

Eve, fair enough. Either I accidentally combined the two, or one of my Wiccan friends did when telling it to me a decade ago.

Coffee Bean said...

I think I'm in love with Tom.