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Archive for Februarie 2008

Creationism versus Evolutionism (II)

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UPDATE (03.03.2008). It seems that the problem of teaching religion in school was settled reasonably well, at least in my opinion. Romanian readers might want to take a look here. Does anybody know something about evolutionism?

Yes, George, there are two theories:

(a) The Dawn of Man („2001: A Space Odyssey”, Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

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(b) The Creation of Adam (Leonardo Da Vinci, „The Creation of Adam” Sistine Chapel, c. 1511)

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You are free to choose whatever theory you like – and I think that, choosing one (or choosing none) does not by itself give anyone the moral right to ridicule the other one (or both).

I think Kubrick himself is an exponent of epistemological neutrality – or, if you want, of agnosticism. Remember that, in his movie, man evolves from the monkey – but this evolution itself is made possible by a superior intelligence (remember the monolith!)

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In rest – I know: my way – the third (fourth??) way – is (politically and psychologically) the worst…

Creationism versus Evolutionism (I)

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UPDATE.  A trecut o luna de la postarea acestui articol, si se pare ca discutia a fost reluata. George o continua si el pe blogul lui, aici. Personal am considerat aceasta discutie foarte relevanta, pentru ca, in primul rind, mi-am clarificat si eu unele lucruri si petru ca, in al doilea rind, am demostrat ca putem dezbate civilizat o problema fata de care avem pozitii diferite. Dar prelungirea la nesfirsit a unei discutii a carei solutie este atit de simpla devine plictisitoare…

Pentru ca George, aici si aici, discuta de zor acest subiect, ceva imi da ghes sa imi spun si eu parerea 🙂 Ok, deci iata ce se intimpla acum in Romania. Pe de o parte, Guvernul a scos obligativitatea predarii teoriei evolutioniste in scoli. Pe de alta parte, orele de religie sint obligatorii. Pe de (inca) alta parte, anumite organizatii politice si non-guvernamentale (printre care si Consiliul Europei) cer reintroducerea acestei teorii in manuale. Discutia se pare ca a inceput in SUA prin anii 1999-2000, dupa care a fost exportata in Europa si, mai apoi, in Romania. Sincer, mie mi se pare stupida intreaga discutie. Cred ca, rational vorbind, situatia e simpla si sta in felul urmator:

1) Avem doua teorii despre aparitia vietii pe pamint si a omului. Aceste doua teorii au, fiecare, proprii sustinatori, si se bazeaza, fiecare, pe zone diferite ale experientei umane.

2) Ambele teorii pot si trebuie prezentate elevilor

3) Am spus ca cele doua teorii se bazeaza pe zone diferite ale experientei umane. Ceea ce inseamna ca cele doua teorii trebuie prezentate si in materii diferite: evolutionismul in orele de biologie, creationismul in orele de religie.

4) Aceste din urma „ore de religie” pot fi impartite in doua tipuri: „istoria religiilor” (curs obligatoriu, pentru a echilibra obligativitatea biologiei si a prezenta elevilor principiile generale ale religiilor) si cursuri axate special pe o religie sau alta, in functie de confesiunile existente intr-o scoala (cursuri optionale)

5) Concluzie: in acest fel, un guvern neutru fata de cele doua teorii poate oferi elevilor nu numai acces liber la informatie, dar poate asigura si diversitatea informatiilor. Desigur, e de discutat daca un guvern trebuie sa fie neutru fata de aceste doua teorii. Asta e o alta discutie, iar eu unul cred in aceasta neutralitate. Uitati-va la motto-ul blogului meu si hai sa ne linistim, fratilor, bind (inca) un paharel de vin…

6) PS: scoaterea capitolului „Dumnezeu” din manualul de filosofie (un capitol bine realizat, cu prezentarea unor opinii pro si contra, si cu prezentarea variatiunilor din cadrul acestor doua tendinte) mi se pare un respectabil examplu de idiotenie care poate fi – si este – periculoasa

God is Dead (Gott ist Tot)

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Well, it seems that, at least prima facie, Nietzsche was right. But there is something more dangerous and humiliating than being dead. This is when you are considered as being trash. Just take a look here:

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Atheists and religious people – the floor is yours! I am speechless…

Written by Andrei Stavilă

Februarie 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Postat in De risul curcilor

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Freedom of Expression in Romania: Not Bad, Indeed!

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My friend Marian Coman is editor-in-chief of the „Obiectiv” newspaper in Braila, Romania. He was accused of defamation and libel by a businessman (which is in the same time a member of the liberal party!). The public prosecutor decided that she will not press charges. She wrote: „the journalist enjoys the freedom of expression, which includes not only the information and ideas that public opinion welcomes or treats with indifference, or considers as being inoffensive, but also those that offense, shock or disturb. These are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance and of an open mind, without which there can be no democratic society”.

Sometimes I become optimist and I start to think that we are on the right way.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

Februarie 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

The “Romanianization” of the United States of America

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In the year 2000, Romania confronted itself with a very nasty political situation: in the second tour of elections for the Romanian Presidency, we had to choose between a former communist leader (Ion Iliescu) and the leader of the far-right party (Corneliu Vadim Tudor). The situation was awful indeed: we hated them both, but we still had to vote for one of them. So we elected the one that seemed, at that time, the lesser wrong: we elected the former communist leader. Cynical as it were, many people who suffered under the communist regime were then obliged to vote for a communist, because of the fear of the far-right policies.

The USA seems to be in the same political situation now. On the one hand, there are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – who are better suited to be TV stars, showmen or whatever – but not presidents! They look so weak, a sort of “crash test dummies”, or actors begging for audience. Now, in the actual context, where Russia is going to be governed in the next 10 years, in a way or another, by the same unmerciful and strong “Tzar” Putin; where terrorism has become a real threat to all of us; where extremism and xenophobia undergo a strong revival all over the world; where USA must continue to be the guardian of liberal values and individual rights in the world – in this context, the president of the USA must be a strong person – not a crash test dummy. USA needs a new Margaret Tacher – not a Hillary Clinton. USA needs a new Ronald Reagan – not a Barack Obama.

On the other hand, there is John McCain. He is not a TV star – on the contrary, it seems that he lacks a lot of charisma. He seems – at least prima facie – to be a strong person (well, he fought in Vietnam, right?). But just take a closer look at his political opinions. He strongly opposes gay marriages. He strongly opposes abortion. So McCain (and many republicans, as a matter of fact) don’t give a damn on liberal rights: he denies to some people the right to marry whomever they wish; and he denies others the right to do with their bodies whatever they wish. The USA led by John McCain cannot be the guardian of human rights. It cannot be the champion of democracy and liberalism in the world.

So it seems to me that the USA undergo this year a process of “Romanianization”: the Americans have to choose between two wrongs: Clinton or Obama, on the one hand, and McCain, on the other hand. Ho is the lesser wrong? What will the Americans choose, between the Muppets show and the potential dictator? I’m afraid this time the answer is not that easy anymore…

La multi ani, Alin!

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Am invatat impreuna cum sa mizgalim linii pe hirtie: intii drepte, apoi culcate, si pe urma oblice. Au urmat bastonasele, prima litera a alfabetului, primirea cravatei rosii de pionier la Cetatea Neamtului, intrarea in clasa a cincea la „Negruzzi”. Pe urma cartile citite si discutate (parca „Sera” de Brian Aldiss a fost printre primele, nu?). Liceul, cu primii doi ani in care am fost „cumintii” clasei, pentru ca mai apoi sa ne dezvirgineze „Garofita” si „Zoiosu'”… Si muntii pe care i-am urcat impreuna (in Apuseni mi-a placut cel mai mult!). Si olimpiada la romana dintr-a unspea cind l-am chemat la o sedinta de spiritism pe Eminescu, de ne-au scazut astia nota la purtare mai rau decit batausilor liceului, si apoi – cum as putea sa-l uit? – „Saprosan”-ul, prima revista din Romania editata in intregime de liceeni, si necontrolata de directiunea liceului (la care Marian a avut o contributie extraordinara)… Am intrat apoi la facultate, ne-am exersat amindoi nervii cu jeanpierre, le-am explicat noaptea politistilor la Constanta ca plaja nu este totusi granita si noi nu am fugit in Turcia, ne-am baut bursele pe o luna intr-o noapte intreaga in care am colindat, programatic, toate barurile din Copou. Am pierdut oameni dragi: pe profa de filosofie Rodica Vosniuc, la mormintul careia ne intilneam o vreme in fiecare luna sa bem o sticla de vin. Pe dirigul nostru, proful de romana Gheorghe Antoce, care intotdeauna ne scapa din bucluc si care s-a stins rapid in urma unui cancer pe creier. A murit bunicul lui. A murit si bunicul meu. A murit Catalin Bicu.

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De patru ani a plecat din Iasi. La citeva luni l-a urmat si Raluca, si un timp m-am simtit despartit de mine insumi. Apoi mi-am impus sa accept situatia, faptul ca asta e lumea in care traim, o lume care ne arunca pe toti in cele patru zari. Il vad rar de atunci, cam de doua ori pe ani. Ceva din mine s-a dus la Bucuresti cu el – si totusi, intr-un mod ciudat, ma simt implinit. Iti multumesc, Alin, pentru ca ca am crescut impreuna, pentru ca mi-ai fost prieten o viata intreaga, pentru ca pentru mine definitia prieteniei se leaga de numele tau. Si chiar daca te vad asa de rar, chiar daca vorbim rar pentru ca tu nu prea ai chef de telefoane si mailuri lungi, chiar daca nu vei citi acest post pentru ca din principiu nu citesti bloguri, eu tot vreau sa iti urez, din toata inima, „La multi ani!” si la inca de 30 de ori 30!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

Februarie 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Gender Fundamentalism and Hate – part II

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UPDATE. George has also commented Iddo Landau’s talk and the reaction of gender fundamentalists here.

The first example of political correctness and gender stupidity (this is taken from a serious philosophical text):

“One way to flesh this idea out is to pretend that there is a superbeing, GOD, who can comprehend very complex patterns. SHE alone grasps in full the pattern in the way that moral matters connect with descriptive ones” (Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit, and Michael Smith, “Ethical Particularism and Patterns”, in B. Hooker and M. Little, Moral Particularism, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 90; capital letters are mine)

Two days ago I had another two examples of gender fundamentalism and gender hate. I attended two conferences at Central European University: the first was offered by the Gender Department, the second by the Department of Philosophy.

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The first talk was given by Gail Weiss (George Washington University) and its title was “Intertwined Identities: Challenges to Bodily Autonomy”. She discussed the problem of surgical separation of conjoint twins. She is against this separation, because she thinks it is based on: (a) “the dominant logic of identity” – that is, “one identity – one body”; (b) the idea that “conjoint life is not a worthy life”. As an argument in her favor, she says that in the majority of cases, adult conjoined twins refuse to undergo such an operation. The conclusion is that all these can show us an alternative theory of identity, which goes beyond the “dominant” one – that is, “one identity – one body”.

Now this idea strikes me as simply false. I propose the following counterfactual situation. Suppose that a physician tells the twins: “Look, because of the very advanced technology, we assure you 100 % that the operation is totally harmless to both of you; moreover, after the operation, you will live happily until the age of 99”. Now, my question is: what would the twins say? I am sure that they would like to undergo the operation. This shows that they refuse to be operated not because they have some strange philosophical notion of identity, something like “one identity – many bodies”, but because they fear that they would not survive the operation. In what concerns the fact that the separated life is worthier than the conjoint one, I really do not think that this is necessary or logically related to the social and cultural norms of our societies, as Gail Weiss sustains. If we set aside some perverse ideas, what is so worthy in being obliged to “shut down” yourself when your conjoined twin makes love with his wife??? I think the whole talk was a good example of empty words. I mean, if you want to present me just a nice story with metaphors, then it could be interesting. But if you present me this story with propositions like “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” (Noam Chomski) as being a scientific truth, then you have to do much more than using metaphors. That is, metaphors like this: “intercorporeality as a basic condition of human existence that doesn’t undermine identity but makes it possible in the first place”. Some of us are not that stupid, Mrs. Gail Weiss!

landau.jpg Iddo Landau

The second talk was given by Iddo Landau (University of Haifa) and its title was „Should Marital Relations be Non-Hierarchical? Issues in Distributive Justice and Love”. Some of the members of the Gender Department came too. Basically, Iddo Landau wants to argue against the idea of the Marital Non-Hierarchy Standard (MNHS). He says that in every human associative venture there are hierarchical relations (“in almost all associations, including many financial, professional, educational and recreational ones, in almost all spheres of life”). Because of this, it is odd to claim that one such human association – that is, marriage – should be exempted from the rule. His idea is this: if I am married and I stay with my wife in her parents’ house, it is normal for her parents to have the last word in what concern, for example, their house. Here is a hierarchy in the family, based on the fact that we stay in your parents’ house. This does not run against justice and does not diminish family love. Again, if we are married and we have a child, and if you read a lot on child rearing it is absolutely normal for you to give me directions in what concerns this domain, and it is absolutely normal for me to listen to you. This is yet another type of family hierarchy, which is based on knowledge. But this does not run against being justice and does not diminish our love towards one another. In consequence, it is absolutely normal for hierarchies to exist in a family. So MNHS, which has a strong egalitarian claim, is false.

Unfortunately, after the talk, four representatives of the Gender Department (three “female” students, one “female” professor) demonstrated that they understood nothing from this talk. Very hysterical and very aggressive, they monopolized the discussion for more than one hour, attacking Iddo Landau. The only thing they understood from this conference was that the poor guy wanted to legitimate the hierarchical status of man over woman in a marriage, and that he does not recognize the importance of the academic literature written by “female” authors. The poor man really tried to explain what he was talking about – with the only result of a considerable increase in hostility and agressivity. That was very telling, in fact. Gender hate and fundamentalism is jointly nurtured by violence and stupidity. It is sad, because this is very detrimental to the receptivity of serious academic writers in gender studies as Martha Nussbaum, Susan Moller Okin, Uma Narayan, and many others.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

Februarie 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm