As comment etiquette requires brevity I chose to create my own post to discuss the issues raised in this post. I can’t fathom why set theory would rejected from a math textbook on some religious grounds – how neutral the topic seems (evolution, OK, get it, but set theory!) If the war on science by religion has escalated to the point where such a silly piece of censorship is deemed appropriate where does this all end? The explanation is that modernity is an “opposing worldview” to religion and somehow set theory falls under the umbrella of modernity and thus must be stopped.
But the scary part to me is that censoring a religious version of a math textbook isn’t likely to stop modernity in its tracks and progress in knowledge, at least somewhere in the world even it could be suppressed in the U.S., will continue to mount this challenge. Where does it stop? Already algebra is on the chopping block. Do we ban geometry because it recognizes pi as a different value than the biblical value of exactly 3? Do we ban any astronomy because it shows geocentrism is wrong? Do we ban weather photographs from satellites because they show the earth isn’t flat? New knowledge is almost certain to defy old and incorrect knowledge of ancient texts.
Now if this were just some isolated case who cares, let the wackos do what they want. But these people have political power. They’ve intimidated the Louisiana governor into providing vouchers, from public tax money, to go to religious schools that will teach the Flintstones theory of biology, that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. It is estimated that 20% of the U.S. actually believes in geocentrism and I thought that fight religion picked with science was settled in Galileo’s day. This futile attempt to discard actual facts that are inconvenient contradictions to the ideas of illiterate goatherders can only pick fights it can never win, at least on the facts and logic. So what do these people expect they could do, if suddenly (as could happen in 2012) they have the political power to do their wishes to force the rest of us to accept their worldview? Censorship of all news would be required because China and many other countries will continue to acquire new knowledge, and if set theory is frightening to them then most modern science done elsewhere in the world will be too. Will we build a fence around the country so evil outside ideas can’t penetrate? will then Americans are banned from travel because they might learn something in Norway that defines the edicts of a theocracy? Boy, are we going to have an impoverished economy when we cut ourselves off from the world because modernity scares us.
I’ve lived long to know a time when there was no terrorism (or at least that got on the news in the U.S.) Then there were the hijackings, Rome airport killing, the Munich Olympics massacres – not a few random acts of crazed individuals but a systematic “worldview” that believed terrorism was an appropriate tactic to pursue their goals. With each shock we responded with security and then more security when the earlier security was circumvented. But more security doesn’t seem to have worked and terrorism continued to escalate. The accomodationist POV suggested terrorism was merely response of disaffected groups to inequity but oil wealth merely seems to have paid for more terrorism. And in some cases where independence from historic colonialism didn’t seem to do much good. So anti-terrorism responses, while perhaps not directly causing more terrorism, is clearly correlated with more terrorism, a linkage in what looks like a postive feedback loop.
Likewise, when I was young, in the south, religion was everywhere but it wasn’t in my face the way it is now. Maybe because the religious already ran everything they didn’t have to proclaim it so much, but I don’t recall politicans ever putting out the stuff like Santorum, Fox and O’Reilly, Perry and Bachmann do. But I also don’t recall the non- or anti-religious making much noise either. So over time the intensity on both sides has risen. Is this the last grasp of religion, now realizing the scale is beginning to tip and thus their oft-stated paranoia is justified since they are losing? Or is anti-religion merely responding to increased religiosity that was cultivated in the public domain for the selfish greed agenda of the Repugs, starting with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”? Or is it just a positive feedback for both? as one side gets some traction, as in platform of the Repug party, the other side feels embattled and seeing freedom lost and so rouses its own support. Cause-and-effect in any feud is hard to assign, but escalation usually occurs until one side finally overcomes the other, or in worst case, both sides are destroyed.
The fight over evolution vs creationism is old and obvious. And enlisting religion to fight the Kochs’ self-interested war on climate change is just an outcome of the coalition of the rich and religious already consummated by Reagan. But bringing set theory into it is a strange (and pathetic) new battlefront for religion. Again is it losing the battle against modernity (for sure) and critical thinking (maybe) and so wants a new bogeyman? or is it emboldened by past success and steady gains in Repug party and just ready for a new encroachment on rationality for the whole country. No matter what explanation may apply some aspects of the deadly embrace religion has with rationality has created this positive feedback.
I was surprised by the RedC poll, by Gallup International and see the strong correlation, both in the U.S. and across the world between lack of education and religosioty but also lower income and religiosity (neither is surprising to me per se, just I didn’t think there were facts to prove this). Since religion is the key source of votes for the very Repug program that is anti-science and anti-education and anti-99%, do they realize a more ignorant and poorer population is a fertile recruiting ground? so chipping away at math restrains critical thinking? Less knowledge is then lowered incomes. This then, too, is another positive feedback loop. The more people believe in religion, esp. the most radical kind, the more education and income will decline, leaving yet more disaffected to adopt religion and so the loop continues.
So where does it end, or for that matter where is the balance now? Are we rationalists winning or losing? And if modernity has its inevitable success do this just increase the intensity of opposition and craziness of religion to escalate the war? Not that I’d want to stop, but are we breeding religious terrorism because we’re forcing them into the bubble, with their ears stopped up, so they can deny all of modernity? How can set theory, or any math for that matter, have a connection to religious extremism, yet somehow the wingnuts perceive the connection and so launched this attack?
As hard as religion will try it simply can not deny facts. And as much political power as it gains in the U.S. and executes its anti-science crusade it can stop the world (although much of the islamic world is pitching in to help in the part of the world they control). Is China with its strong atheist tendency thus going to become the bastion of rationality and freedom in the world as little by little religion uses its political power, obtained by being the votes for the rich, who are also concentrating the wealth at the same time?
Where does it end? I fear, at least in the U.S. it will end badly. Poorer and more ignorant may be more followers for religion but at the tremendous price to the rest of us of economic decline and loss of freedom.