Gazette Interview: Part 2
Some propose constructing a new language to be taught internationally, designed specifically to be easy to learn and understand, would you support such an idea?
The idea of creating a new language was tried many years ago, and it was a dismal failure. Esperanto is now considered to be a joke among philologists (people who study languages). Generally speaking, it would be unrealistic to assume that anyone would take the idea seriously enough to devote the time and resources necessary to do this. For the most part, human beings deal almost exclusively with people of their own country. Think of how seldom even the most cosmopolitan individual encounters impenetrable language barriers. It seems wiser to invest ourselves in teaching a multitude of languages to young children, who seem to have no real trouble in memorizing many simultaneously. If we each were trilingual, the odds of not finding a common language base would be rare indeed.
Rarely do children part from the religion they were raised in, and with all the different religions around the world there’s apparently never been much evidence that people will all reach the same answer with the right education. Considering 9/11 and the many other religiously motivated modern tragedies, can we afford to keep fighting it out, hoping that the truth will prevail?
You claim people rarely venture away from their faith, but there is no real way to measure faith in each human being. How can you differentiate between people who truly believe, and those who are culturally bound to their native religion? In other words, there may be a significant portion of individuals who identify themselves as religious only because they find it convenient to do so. I have many friends who call themselves Christians who don’t believe in a Triune God, and there is a long history of secular Jews who found comfort and solace in the traditions of their institution without the added religiosity.
It’s true that proper education may not dispel powerfully held superstitions; the perpetrators of 9/11 were almost all college graduates. A person can be taught to build a nuclear weapon without first being taught of the moral and ethical problems it entails. How long do students in high school and college study philosophy and civics? Can we honestly claim our education system is sophisticated enough to be producing rational, intelligent, and enlightened human beings? A significant proportion of American students leave High School with very low scores in reading comprehension. I would venture to say there is little being done in teaching children the proper fundamentals of morality, ethics, and philosophy. It is generally assumed that religion is enough to fulfill the role of making good citizens, but there is still more that can be done.
Most of the world is religious, and some of them see modern science as a rival to their spirituality. What do you say to the supporters of homeopathic medicine, who often see a lack of evidence to mean very little, or even to be a good thing?
There are many different individuals who are mistrustful of science, and some of these people regard spirituality and religion to have more objective truth. It would be impossible for me to try and make them doubt their belief, since they have already decided it is true regardless of any evidence. People who believe in homeopathic medicine have a great deal invested in the idea; some in manufacturing it, and others in distributing it. We practice skepticism every day of our lives without a second thought. If I was to buy a car and the dealer informed me one of his minivans could fly, I would demand that he produce evidence of this before I gave him any money. It wouldn’t matter how offended he might be that I questioned his assertion; the burden of proof is on his to prove his claim, not for me to disprove it. It’s just common sense. The idea that some things are immune from scrutiny seems to indicate they are very fragile indeed. I don’t know about you, but I typically like the things I believe in to have some degree of evidence to them, rather than have proof to the contrary.
The Internet is obviously a very important part of the world today, and you said our future lies in our ability to maintain neutrality of information, but does net-neutrality not infringe on the rights of private corporations to regulate the Internet in whichever way they want? Does the government have the right to step in and decide when it would be in our best interest to give up our freedom?
Consider how airwaves are managed; in order to be able to broadcast, a person must first pay a huge sum of money to gain a specific frequency. Even if they can afford the exorbitant sum, their content is constantly monitored and policed by the FCC. Radio is no longer a source of innovation precisely because the rules of the game have been engineered to make corporate interest the only viable way to have a radio station. Corporations can no more lay claim to radio waves than they can claim the distribution of information. Net neutrality ensures that no rights are infringed, since no one monopoly can control the distribution of content. This means that private interests of any size have the same access as everyone else. Imagine if highways were sectioned off, making most lanes only accessible to private enterprise, and limiting public access of the highway to only one lane. How could you ensure you can make a living if you cannot get to work on time due to huge traffic jams?
If a private company wanted the chance to run their own police stations rather than let the government handle this essential service, we would be right to be concerned about whether or not abuses in power may occur. This is because private corporations are liable only to shareholders, while police are liable to the public which they serve. We would not qualify government keeping certain services public as an infringement on the liberties of corporations. Net neutrality only ensures that service providers don’t preferentially distribute traffic in such a way as to limit the availability of bandwidth to others. While some may feel as though it should be their right to control the Internet, ensuring the internet is still a public domain is critical if we want to ensure the fair and equal distribution of information to all citizens.
Under certain extreme circumstances, you say comforting lies can be better than the truth, so why shouldn’t we all be blissfully ignorant, if there really is no hell to be punished in later, even if it means the end of the world?
Humans are inherently driven to seek the truth. This is why we have been probing the secrets of nature for all our lives. It’s what allowed us to manipulate and change our environments so drastically. I know of no one who would rather trade comfort with the truth, especially when our survival as a species is at stake. I do not need to believe in God to think that life is fighting for, and I certainly don’t think we should close our eyes and bury our heads in the sand. We tell white lies because we realize the truth is not always pleasant to hear, but it does not mean we continue to lie when the stake is something as serious as our survival as a species. You probably wouldn’t mind if your spouse lied to you about your weight, but it would be grossly negligent not to mention anything if your weight problem was suddenly causing massive health risks. The truth can hurt, but we cannot sacrifice the most important truths simply for the sake of blissful comfort.
Zoophiles claim that certain animals can consent to sexual relations with a human as much as a human can, pedophiles claim that the difference between a mature 17 year old and an immature 18 year old should be taken into account. Our current laws of consent sometimes are seen to be justified by their simplicity, even if they can be unfair, but is it not oppressive for a majority to ignore the potential damage they cause to minority groups by deciding their pain not worth the cost of fixing? Should a majority vote be able to remove the rights of a minority, such as the recent passing of Proposition 8 in California? Or should a government step in and overrule the majority, despite the people’s democratic ideals? What laws should restrict those who can engage in civil union? Homosexuality, polygamy, zoophilia, pedophilia, where should the line be drawn, and who gets to draw it?
It is insulting to compare homosexuality with zoophilia and pedophelia. A dog or a cat can no more consent to sex than can an infant. The laws created against these two sexual offences are based on the idea that animals should not be subject to sexual torture, and that although it is difficult to estimate the age in which a person can become an adult, they are only legally recognized as independent at the age of 18. This is not what is being debated with votes such as Proposition 8 in California. There is no significant difference between homosexual marriages and heterosexual marriages apart from the fact that some people feel prejudicial about such unions.
If you ask me what I thought of government interfering with the rights of people to marry, my question would be: what if heterosexuals became a minority tomorrow? How would we feel if a majority vote had decided that we were no longer able marry people of opposite sex? Our argument would be the same as gays and lesbians fighting for the same rights straight people already have; that the tyranny of the majority cannot be allowed to rescind the rights of others, especially when those very same rights are already enjoyed by the majority. If any American feels that there are segments of the population who cannot enjoy the same rights and freedoms as they do, then I suggest perhaps they revise the Constitution. The idea that people have equal rights is not up for debate. The concept of marriage is not being radically changed here: the parties involved are still just two consenting adults, with the minor difference that they are the same sex.