Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Arts And Sciences Require Wealth And Stability

This is a tiny bit of something I've been noodling over since the London riots. Artists and scientists are luxury goods. In the short- and medium-term, you don't need them to live. You only buy luxury goods when you've got plenty of disposable income and you're secure in the future. I think the London riots, in the context of massive social spending in England, are symptomatic of societal poverty and disorder.

I would further suggest that by fighting traditional societal mores, artists and academics in general* have cultivated the very conditions that threaten themselves. They've fought to overturn and subvert traditional institutions like churches and societal mores and have replaced them with the relativism that led to interviews like this.

Buildings burned, businesses ruined and no remorse. Where will the artists and academics get their money now?

Related and a very good read: Our Precentor of Measurements has a short post and a link to an excellent essay on being a Superversive. It was quite provocative and clarified things for me.

* - Originally I had called out scientists, but I think this is unfair. When I think about my own alma mater, I'm not sure the science and engineering departments cared a hoot about which way the societal wind was blowing.


tim eisele said...

Thanks for adding that final footnote. In my experience, engineers in particular (as well as "hard" scientists like physicists and chemists) are almost all in favor of traditional social mores, at least to the extent that they think of them at all.

K T Cat said...

I'm wavering on that point. You may disagree with this, but I would argue that the atheism movement in science and engineering is a major contributing factor here. To me, that video shows the end result. The interviewer has no foundation upon which to tell the lads that looting was wrong.

tim eisele said...

Well, I don't know. I would argue that, to the extent there is an atheism movement among scientists and engineers, it was initially a reaction to the more loud-mouthed religious fundamentalists, not a deep philosophical opposition to religion in general. If all religions had the relation to science that, say, the Catholic church has, then it appears to me that most scientists would just get on with their work without bothering themselves too much as to whether they were atheists or not.

I expect that, if the creationists and more extreme evangelicals weren't raising a fuss over scientific discoveries that they don't happen to like, then the whole "new atheist" movement would dry up and blow away due to lack of a reason to exist.

Foxfier said...

Dawkins is a "New Athiest," no? And he's very pissy about the Catholic Church in specific.

I think it's more a matter of penny wise and pound foolish-- or, to steal from a movie, cutting down all the laws of England to get at the Devil, then having nowhere to hide when he turns on you. Smart people are very prone to assuming that, if they see no use for something at this moment, then it doesn't have one.

tim eisele said...

If you read any of Dawkins' earliest books, you'll see that he didn't start out ragging on the Catholic church, he started out arguing against the kind of creationism and fundamentalism that denies that evolution happens. It was only later that he branched out to oppose all religion. And his popularity comes mainly from the strength of people's dislike of the fundamentalist creationists. If all he was doing was complaining about Catholic dogma, I expect that his books would barely sell at all.

K T Cat said...

I think Dawkins has two different criticisms and he confuses them sometimes. One is the frustration he has with creationists. The other is with moral restrictions. That's the part I'm more familiar with where he talks about the repressive sexual mores forced on people by religious folks. That's where he is self-defeating.

The problem is that while he thinks he is just removing sexual restraints, he is really rmeoving all restraints. While Dawkins may want license to get laid while on the road promoting his books, the kids in that video want to steal. Dawkins and the other scientific atheists have opened Pandora's Box and released wealth-destroying, amoral freedoms that will end up threatening their ability to do science and art.

Foxfier said...

They'll always find a reason to hate. Good heavens, they make up enemies-- such as defining "creationist" to mean anyone who disagrees with a godless universe. (Technically accurate, in that those who believe in evolution being under God's control thus believe God created everything, but not the seven-24-hour-days, cavemen-lived-with-dinosaurs meaning that tends to follow.)
Hatred is a reason to exist, sadly.

Human nature, yay. *depressed*

K T Cat said...

Foxie, your point is what makes me wonder about the leaders of the scientific atheism movement. Are they ignorant or insincere?

K T Cat said...

I think I'm also confusing Dawkins and Hitchens. I've not done enough research on this, so this comment thread is venturing into details I've not got off the top of my head. My real point in this post is that subverting order and structure in society is self-destructive for artists and academics.

tim eisele said...

KT: Yes, I think you might be confusing Dawkins with Hitchens, too. Your description of Dawkins isn't matching anything that he wrote in his first couple of books, anyway (which are the ones that I read - I haven't read his most recent stuff)

And Hitchens is no scientist. In my opinion, he's another one of those guys who makes a living by being a jerk. I think that such people are a pox upon the land.

And Foxfier: When I say creationist, I mean something very specific - people who insist that the earth was created recently in an unlikely fashion, and who believe that any evidence to the contrary must be shouted down. I never have, and will not ever, claim that Catholics are creationists. Saying that I am using "creationist" as a blanket term for everyone who believes in God is, quite frankly, insulting. And don't further insult my intelligence by saying you "didn't mean me". You clearly *did* mean me, otherwise you would have qualified your statement instead of saying "They'll".

Foxfier said...

You made your point very well-- enough so that it's mostly fiddling with it to see where the edges fit, instead of disagreeing with the whole concept.

Foxfier said...

If you're determined to be insulted, even though there's no reason I would say "they" rather than "you" or "people like Tim" if I were talking about you, then I can't help you.

Interesting how you're quite willing to insult my intelligence and manners, since you were quite clear about you drawing the creationist line in keeping with standard use and your striving to be offended would require that I suddenly start talking as if you were not here, even while I'm responding to you.

tim eisele said...

Foxfier: OK, so how about if we both just agree to watch the width of the brushes that we are tarring with?

Foxfier said...

how about if we both just agree to watch the width of the brushes that we are tarring with?

You want to yank the brush out of my hand and slap yourself in the face with it, I'm not going to agree that I should've been using a smaller brush.

Both Hitchens (I think you're right about him making a living by being a gadfly; OTOH, he is very good at it) and Dawkins, plus a host of smaller but still famous self-identified 'New Atheists' leader types, use non-standard definitions of creationism (most clearly shown by trying to use it as a synonym for intelligent design, a much different theory). From where I set, they look like the mirror image of the creationists you are speaking of.
("people who insist that the earth was created recently in an unlikely fashion, and who believe that any evidence to the contrary must be shouted down" )
I would no more consider them proper representatives of most atheists than I would consider creationists to be proper representatives of all believers. They represent those who follow them, and that's about it; calling it Atheist Fundamentalism isn't a new idea, but has that nut of truth. 'Most New Atheists' would depend on who's defining the term-- . Not like atheism has a ruling body who defines who is in or out of a group, although you can go off of history for some of the definition.... (Heck, I've been informed, by atheists, that there's no such thing as different atheist types!)

Dean said...

OK, off topic from the comment thread but the post reminded me of that quote from John Adams from the HBO miniseries of the same name. Totally paraphrasing:

"I study politics and war so that my sons can study science and engineering so that my grandchildren can study the arts and literature".

Loved it. The finer things in life that we enjoy in our spare time didn't just happen from chance. There was a price to be paid for it.

K T Cat said...

Tim, you're right, I don't know Dawkins from a hole in the ground. I didn't realize that Hitchens was regarded as a jerk by anyone by us religious nutjobs!