Clinging to relevance

14 12 2010

I have been thinking about the relationship between religion and science lately. It has always been a strained, complicated relationship. To be honest, I really have never understood the conflict. They seem to deal with two very separate areas of human thought. Then it struck me, this was not always the case. During the Dark Ages, the church dictated what science could and could not say. Today, we have a battle for relevance between science and religion and religion is losing.

There is a long history of religious institutions acting as a road block to scientific or social progress. The Catholic Church censured Galileo for his scientific conclusions. Baghdad was the center of scientific discovery on Earth for centuries until conservative Islamic forces took hold. Then there is the Catholic Church’s stance on contraception, claiming that it is sinful because it prevents new life. (This seemed like an odd argument, seeing as that is the explicit purpose of contraceptives.) In 2009, the Pope went as far to say that condoms help spread the AIDS virus. He said this on a trip through Sub-Saharan Africa, where about 22 million people are infected with HIV. There are a host of other examples.

Really, what we can see here is a religious establishment, centuries old, that is finding its ship in shallower and shallower waters. With the increasingly educated global population and the persistent advance of scientific knowledge, it is harder for them to maintain previous public opinions. There is little religious leaders can do about this trend except try to modernize their respective faiths much as possible.

In a world where fewer and fewer of our problems can be solved with faith and spirituality, religion can no longer offer us the advice or insight we need. If anything, it is doing the exact opposite at a time when we cannot afford many mistakes. Humanity needs clear thinking and a sharp turn toward rationality if it is to survive.

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It’s obsolete when I say it is

23 11 2009

When does something become obsolete? I suppose the simplest definition of the word is when that thing becomes completely useless.

I collect old Macs. The oldest one that I own is a Macintosh SE which was manufactured in 1988. It is nearly as old as I am, yet it still functions perfectly. While are networking cards available for the model of Mac, this Mac does not have one. The computer cannot connect to the Internet directly, which we generally consider to be the benchmark of usefulness for modern computers.

The Internet, however, is not the only way a computer can become useful. I used my Mac SE to type out this blog post. Granted, it was necessary to transfer the file to a more up-to-date computer with a high speed Internet connection and blogging software. All I needed to write this blog was a 21-year old computer, an 800L floppy disk, Microsoft Word 4.0, and an ADB keyboard and mouse.

My attachment to old things does not end there. I have been driving a 1986 Honda Accord for the last five years. More than three of those years were spent commuting twenty-five miles per day between home, work, and campus. I have not moved on to a car that was built more recently because there has been no need for me to. The car that I drive right now is still perfectly suited for the task that it was built for.

My car consistently fails to break down and always gets me to where I need to go. My old Macs provide me with a distraction-free place to get some writing done. I suppose my point is that it does not make sense to throw something out or replace it if it still has utility.