Because I’m so full of myself and love to hear myself babble, I’m reposting a comment I made on Mark’s blog (http://newsojourn.blogspot.com/2005/06/certain-uncertainty.html), here.
Enjoy. (ROTFL. God, I’m so conceited!)
Hi, Mark! Great to see you back! Glad to see the new blog and new direction.
Well, as a somewhat believer of that syllogism, I feel compelled to respond.
That quote comes from Universism founder Ford Vox. Specifically from a speech as found here:
Origins of the philosophies of Universism and rejection of absolutism: http://universist.org/120703speech.htm
The new battleground is Uncertainty versus Certainty. Faith claims knowledge of absolute Truth; Universists claim knowledge of absolute spiritual and intellectual liberation, of the empowering fact that there is no universal Truth. It is Certainty that drives people to fly planes into buildings, and it is Uncertainty that drives people to fly rockets to the moon. We must protect humanity’s mysteries as we would protect our lives. At our most fundamental level, we wake up in the morning to see what will happen today. Faith is a cancer draining the vitality of the human spirit and our potential and future greatness.
For a little more on the Universist stance of relativism and absolute truth:
OK, now my thoughts.
I think the point of the Certainty/Uncertainty arguement is simply to point up an philosophical problem in the general. Not the specific. Vox came up with that as he, like so many other people, were trying to find meaning behind the tragedy of 9/11.
Why would someone do that?! Not just 9/11, but every act of violence for “moral” reasons. Why must people in Israel live every day in fear of being blown up? Why do Christian counterparts to Muslem fanatics blow up abortion clinics, often with people inside? Why do cults like the Branch Davidians stockpile weapons and survivalist supplies? Why do KKK/supremists burn down churches with black congregations? Why do religious zealots like the HUNDREDS of followers of Jim Jones willingly kill themselves as in Jonestown?
It’s too easy to say Jihad. Too easy to say hate. There’s so much more, such a bigger explanation that’s more complex than we would like it to be. What’s the underlying cause for atrocities like these?
OK, let’s backtrack a second. The reason the certainty/uncertainty-plane/moon statement can’t be and isn’t meant to be taken completely literally and as an absolute is because any reasonable person understands that you HAVE to have some certainty in your life. Especially if you’re going to the moon! If you’re going to strap yourself to the end of a rocket and fly to space, you are probably pretty darn well certain it’s going to work! If you don’t wake up in the morning with SOME amount of certainty that you’re not going to die today, you’ll likely stay in bed clinically depressed. A Deist (as myself) is pretty darn certain that God created the universe, but isn’t a humanoid being that plays some direct role in it. A molecular biologist is certain of what reaction she will get when she adds chloralhydocarbon to amonium nitrate.
On the other hand, it’s moralistic certainty that underlies atocities like murder and suicide in the name of God/Allah/Jesus/Mohammad. Moralistic certainties that CREATES Jihads in the first place!
Hate is a part of it. It’s the spark that gives flame to the fuel that moralistic certainty provides. 95% of conservative Christians/Muslems are moralistically certain, but only 5% have the impitus to bomb something. Hate indeed makes people do bad things, but if hate is the only cause, we’d only be talking about crimes of passion and in the heat of the moment. It has to be something more than simply hate that drives a person to spend MONTHS preparing to murder thousands of people.
Be it with an airplane, a dynamite covered vest, or with the 101st Army Airborne.
It’s all relative and subjective. Hundreds, thousands of fanatic Muslems are absolutely 100% certain that murdering Jews and Americans is moralistically right, and they will find Paradise in Heaven for continuing the cause.
Hundreds, thousands of fanatic Christians believe it’s morally appropriate to bomb or at least praise the bombing of an abotion clinic or go back a few hundred years…and burn a “witch” or heretic or raze a villiage or send in the Crusades or Inquisition.
We Americans and Jews can’t understand why fanatic Muslems see us as sinfull infidels that must be killed. We can’t comprehend that. We write it off as simply hate, fanatacism.
But the tough question is what CREATES that hate and fanatacism?! It doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.
In the Old Testament. What allowed there to be SO MANY instances of the Jews performing scorched earth campaigns of destruction against so many towns and cities? Killing every man, woman, child and animal even? (Except for the ocassional permission to keep and distribute the virgin girls among the priests.)
Religious, moralistic certainty. Do you think the thousands of people the ancient Jews slaughtered felt the same objective morality the Jews did?
Do the people in Palastine feel the same objective morality as the People in Israel? Vise versa?
Do you as a moderate Christian feel the same objective morality as a David Koresh or Jim Jones or bin Laden? I didn’t think so. But you each believe in a certain moral certainty that you feel is 100% “right” and in keeping with what “God” commands.
It took Kennedy to say we had to reach the moon by 1969 to actually push us to do it, but you don’t think the drive and desire and want was there in the first place? Kenndy didn’t just pull that request out of the air, he had advisors and the Air Force to let him know that we were developing the technology and the posibility was there. We’d already been sending satalites up and low-orbit planes. Heck, we as a human race have been looking up to the stars in wonder and desire for millenia! Decades of sci-fi stories of travelling the stars and encountering the wonders and amazements of space pre-date Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon in 8 years.
Religious certainty kept us from accepting for centuries that the Earth was not the center of the solar system much less the universe. Religious and moralistic certainty, on its own, prevents us from finding answers as we think we already know them. All answers are found in our respective religious texts–there’s no need to see if there are other planets, alien intelligence, cures for diseases, causes for earthquakes….
Taken as an absolute, “certainty causes people to fly airplanes into buildings;
uncertainty causes people to fly to the moon,” indeed doesn’t work. But the underlying message I believe is quite valid.
Certainty causes hatred.
Uncertainty causes the need for better answers.