Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Quote of the Day!!

Taking a break from the nightmare that is my week to bring you a bit of quotey goodness...

"Pain is life's way of telling you that you are in extreme agony..." - Johnny Bravo

In light of the discussion that has been had (sorry I have been so busy, but will return soon) and Craig's great post...

"Above all we need better schools and teachers. I hope it will not be too late for the US to undo the damage wrought upon it by fundamentalist fanatics, Creationist crazies, and New Age nitwits. Such people are a greater menace to open society than the paper bear of communism ever was." - Sir Arthur C. Clarke - "Scenario for a Civilised Planet"

Well that just about tells us all we need to know about the state of the US and US government from the view of one of the most brilliant men in history...maybe we ought to start listening. Ironically, in the same piece he talks of how he has been credited with the idea of mutually assured destruction...an idea that he totally opposed and that came out of a manipulation of his ideas (how often do you see science manipuated for nasty uses by idiots who are only out for power and money...Einstein was anti-nuclear weapons, which is why they would not let him near the Manhattan Project). Leading to...

"Too much thinking about MAD is liable to induce that dislocation from reality, the Strangelove syndrome, for which there is no cure." - Clarke - "Scenario for a Civilised Planet"

Clarke added to his thought that the only defense against weapons of the future is to prevent them by being used...BY NOT BEING BUILT!! Not by building so many we ensure our destruction...deterrence proponents have IQs as big as their shoe sizes. His ending quote for the piece...

"You damn fools! I told you so!" - HG Wells

"This nonsense up with which I will not put." - Winston Churchill, memo on the necessity of ending sentences with a proposition - quoted by Clarke to articulate his position on religion.

"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion. However valuable, even necessary, that may have been in enforcing good behavior on primitive peoples, their association is now counterproductive. Yet at the very moment when they should be decoupled, sanctimonious nitwits are calling for a return to morals based on superstition." - Clarke - Credo

"Unfortunately, most people do not understand even the basic elements of statistics and probability, which is why astrologers and advertising agencies flourish. If you want to start an interesting fight, say in a loud voice at your next cocktail party; 'Fifty percent of Americans (or whatever) are mentally subnormal.' Then watch all those annoyed by this mathematical tautology instantly pigeonhole themselves." - Clarke - Credo

OR

"Take a look around you and figure out how stupid the average person is...then realise that half the country is even stupider than that person...in other words, there are a hell of a lot of f***ing stupid people!!" - the immortal George Carlin - Complaints and Grievances

Oh - on the god note - Clarke's advice is to read a bit of Kurt Godel, whose "incompleteness of knowledge" theorum (yet to be disproven or even remotely argued against) quite obviously rules out the existence of an omniscient being. As Clarke rightly notes, however, logic and rationality get you nowhere when dealing with blind faith and trying to prove a negative. This faith seems ingrained at an early age and is almost impossible to overcome through external influence...which is why I think the bast stance to take is that religion is great as long as one uses it for pursuit of peace and human rights for all of humanity...and does not impose it IN ANY WAY on anyone else...meaning that one can use religion as long as one is partaking in an activity that is purely individual and will have NO ramifications on the rest of humanity, or impose that ideology on those in the immediate vicinity. More on this when I publish my book in response to Craig's brilliant post.

A quick aside here for posters...note that Craig and I are not vituperous towards one another in any way...we both recognize the brilliance in one another (well...his brilliance...my flounderings and attempts to keep up with him) and respect each others positions completely. We obviously disagree on a couple important philosophical positions, but recognize that both of us are out for the betterment of humanity and the protection of human rights and peace recognized by all faiths, cultures and creeds. This discussion...and those who we invoke in support...is all about a common dialogue and getting the positions out so that we can critically examine them. Will we come to a common understanding beyond the agreement to disagree? Who knows...but we will have fun discussing it!

Returning to the quotes:

"I have been appalled by the way in which the US (and much of the world, East and West) appears to be sinking into cultural barbarism, harangued by the fundamentalist ayatollahs of the airwaves, its bookstores and newsstands poisoned with mind-rotting rubbish about astrology, UFOs, reincarnation, ESP, spoon bending, and especially "creationism" [AUTHORS NOTE: now "intelligent design"]. The last, which implies that the marvelous and inspiring story of evolution, so clearly recorded in the geological strata, is all a cosmic practical joke [NOTE: be careful not to misinterpret here], helps me to understand the revulsion that a devout Muslim must feel towards the Satanic Verses. If there is such a thing as blasphemy, it is here..." Clarke - Credo

"Masses of evidence render the application of the concept of evolution to man and other primates beyond serious dispute." - Pontifical Academy of Science

"Life started millions of (expletive) years ago and is a process that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling...without any help from any invisible man (or woman)...and humanity is just part of the story...humanity as the ultimate in evolution? What a (expletive) joke!" - George Carlin - on the idiocy of anti-abortion and anti-contraception "pro lifers" who usually favor the death penalty...

"Men have debated problems of existence for thousands of years, and that is precisely why I am skeptical about most of the answers. One of the great lessons of modern science is that millennia are only moments. It is not likely that the ultimate questions will be settled in such short periods of time, or that we will really know much about the universe while we are still crawling around in the playpen of the Solar System. So let us recognize that there is much concerning which we must reserve judgment, and refuse to take seriously all dogmas and revelations whose acceptance demands faith. They have been proved wrong countless times in the past; they will be proved wrong again in the ages to come." - Clarke - Credo

That last quote just about says it...ironically the quote is absolutely in line with Buddhist philosophy (not those idiots who turn it into a faith..as will be demonstrated in the next quote). by the way...Einstein (who also rejected religion) is on record as saying that Buddhism is closest to the line of thought of true scientists...those who do not believe that science can show everything, but that recognize the vastness and beauty of the universe and realise that it does not need a crutch like religion to cheapen it or help support it.

"Who can forget Jacob Bronowski, in his superb TV series, The Ascent of Man, standing among the ashes of his relatives at the Auschwitz crematorium and reminding us: 'This is how men behave when they believe they have absolute knowledge.' This is how they are still behaving, in Ireland, in Lebanon, in Iran, and at this very moment, alas, in my own Sri Lanka." Clarke - Credo

One can also add the US, Israel, Palestine, and many other places who place their faith in various religions, not just those involving a deity, but also the religions of neo-liberalism, capitalism, the nation-state, utilitarianism, legal positivism, communism and many other -isms.

To conclude, I must again acknowledge what a pleasure and honor it was to attempt to glean whatever brilliance I could from Sir Clarke when I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with him when I was in Sri Lanka. I wish that it had been more frequent, and hope to get back soon to see the feisty old man once again. He truly is one of the greatest minds of this or any era, and I find it fascinating that so many refuse to take to heart the wisdom of Clarke, or other great minds like him. The Dalai Lama is fond of pointing out that there are so many scientific discoveries and logical proofs that, if people viewed them as consequential, instead of looking at them as nice academic discoveries, would force individuals to drastically change the way they lived their lives and looked at the world. My favorite example is the proof that we as individuals have not independent existance (read: there is no way of holding up any argument of us having souls) but only exist because of our relationships with other entities and the environment. How would application of that FACT change the way we dealt with people and other cultures? The other example is that, at its very essence, nothing truly exists...there are no "basic particles"...only relationships...quantum theory is so mind blowing that I am convinced that, were more international lawyers and legislators to take the ramifications of the findings under consideration, the international landscape would be quite different than it is today.

I highly recommend a couple of books to all of you...
1) Arthur C. Clarke - Greetings Carbon Based Bipeds - a fantastic text, although you can't go wrong with any of Clarke's non-fiction - and can learn a lot from his fiction as well - as an aside, one would do well to read the non-fiction of Asimov, Verne, the fiction of Wells (Utopia is fantastic) and Roddenberry
2) Albert Einstein - The World as I See It - Einstein was not just a brilliant scientist...he was a brilliant philosopher and human being as well
3) Matthieu Ricard - The Quantum and the Lotus - especially the chapters on the impossibility of individual entities and the impossibility of a monotheistic deity - I will quote from this text in the near future

One last quote for all the Zionists out there who I am sure will rush to bash me at some point...

"Anti-semitism is anything that the fundamentalist Israeli Jews decide they don't like on a given day." - Clarke - quoting his good friend and Rabbi - at a lunch date with several witnesses in Sri Lanka

NOTE: Its a joke!! Any truth in it is tongue in cheek and designed to entice some of the bottom 50% of society to take a good hard look at some of the atrocious causes they support.

"How hard is it to be a human rights scholar and activist who is convinced that humanity is one of the lower forms of existence? I could just stop and become self interested and greedy like everyone else, but then I would become just as much of a hypocrite, and I just don't think I could like with that..." - Chris Pettit

(This is a teaser...more from Clarke and others on how humanity is definitely not one of the more advanced creatures...)

On readers muttering "You can't change human nature"..."As if it exists!!! PERHAPS the only characteristic that distinguishes humans from the other animals is our infinite flexibility (and science is starting to disprove this sentiment as well), and our ability to take for granted changes that once seemed inconceivable. Not so many centuries ago there were societies in which a gentleman would feel naked without a sword, and was prepared to use it. There was a time when public executions, for crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread, were common entertainments. We still have a long way to go, but those who deny that homo sapiens is capable of making the adjustments necessary to survive are traitors to their species." - Clarke - on pro gun nuts, military nuts, and those who advocate MAD and support nuclear weapons - Scenario for a Civilised Planet

CP

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats one hek of a long quote by way of a break from your nightmare of a week.

I can hardly keep up.

SG

7:43 PM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

What's the publication date on the Clarke quotes? I'm just curious about the context -- hindsight or projection -- of his comments.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Nellie the Ellie (C.Pettit) said...

Aha...the quotes are from a couple essays...one from the late 80's (scenario) and one from the mid to late 90's (credo). That being said...these themes have been a consistent thread in both his fictional and non fictional writings for much of his writing career. He has recently (circa 2002) written on the brilliance of HG Wells, and after Spetember 11th has only started promoting his ideas and themes more strongly through WICPER and several other organisations. I state this thinking that there might be those misguided individuals out there who want to claim that "Sept 11th changed everything" in the usual mis-guided proto-nationalistic style that so many Americans seem happy to adopt these days. They are themes that seem to overcome historical and social fluctuations in Clarke's writings...as well as in the writings of several others. Should there be any requests for more recent stuff, I would be glad to post more sources...not just Clarke, but some of Wells' stuff that truly transcends time and space. For instance...go back and read War of Worlds...maybe its only detrimental aspect is that it presents aliens as nasty and the "enemy." Beyond that, it is a brilliant book that effectively critiques the uselessness of weaponry, war, and several other themes prominent in our present unenlightened discourse that exists in our world's governments and societal outlets.

CP

4:02 AM  

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