[FoRK] Science and Even Sci-Fi Make Us Better People

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Tue Mar 24 15:29:24 PDT 2015

On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 07:10:18PM -0700, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
> I like these points.
> " which argues science and reason are responsible for most of humanity’s moral progress. "
> http://www.wired.com/2015/03/geeks-guide-michael-shermer/
>     Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Entertainment
>     03.14.15
>     7:00 am
> Science and Even Sci-Fi Make Us Better People
> Michael-Shermer_by_Jeremy-Danger
> Jeremy Danger
> Michael Shermer is the editor of Skeptic magazine and the author of
> over a dozen books, including The Moral Arc, which argues science
> and reason are responsible for most of humanity’s moral progress.
> Before the rise of science, says Shermer, many people participated
> in grotesque evils like witch burning simply because they lacked a
> reliable method for identifying false beliefs.

Oh, I don't think it was about beliefs. More like about money and
taking over someone else's business.

Besides, the guys had no television those days. Nowadays, their
descendants are all reasonable, so they watch tv. They don't mind if
actors shoot each other with blanks or with sharps, as long as there
is enough blood. It may sound like I criticize it but I really
appreciate the triumph of the reason. After all, they use blanks and
artificial blood. So after 200ky we are making some small progress,
finally. Progress is inevitable so lets rejoice, brother.

> He also points to Star Trek as an example of how science fiction can
> promote moral progress. Creator Gene Roddenberry’s show frequently
> questioned war and bigotry, and also championed reason and logic
> through beloved characters like Mr. Spock.
> “Roddenberry was a humanist,” says Shermer. “He believed we get our
> morals from reason, and from that you can expand the moral sphere,
> which he did in his vehicle, the magnificent starship Enterprise.”

Uhm. While I was never avid ST watcher, I watched quite some episodes
and now reading about "morality" expanding there... Amusing, I tell
you. If they said Universe was inhabited by immoral creatures on every
development level and Enterprise could survive from one ep to another
only thanks to laser guns against the weak (those were lasers, right?)
and machiavellian tactics against the strong. I could swallow it. But
expunding mohrahlitee? Hehehehe...

> Another advantage of science fiction is that a fanciful setting can
> make controversial statements more palatable to a hostile audience.
> “It’s a way of sneaking past the censors and the executives the
> message you really want to deliver,” says Shermer. “But nevertheless
> the message is delivered, and the public gets it, even if it’s on a
> subconscious level, and that effects social change.”
> Listen to our complete interview with Michael Shermer in Episode 141
> of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), and check out some highlights
> from the discussion below.
> Michael Shermer on The Day the Earth Stood Still:
> “My favorite all-time film is The Day the Earth Stood Still. Most
> people don’t realize that it’s a Christ allegory. Klaatu comes down
> to earth … and he wants to deliver this warning that we have a
> sinful nature—like original sin—and we have to repent or else. …
> Then the authorities—like the Romans—the government tracks him down
> and kills him. … So Gort the robot … takes him back to the spaceship
> and resurrects him. And in the original script the Patricia Neal
> character, who’s sitting there watching this with her mouth open, is
> like, ‘Whoa, that’s amazing! He’s alive again. He was dead. You mean
> this is the power that science and technology have in the future?’
> And in the original script he says, ‘Yeah,’ but in the film he says,
> ‘No, no, nobody has that sort of power. It’s reserved for the great
> spirit in the sky,’ or some such thing. And the reason for that is
> that the Breen censorship board in 1951 said, ‘You can’t say that to
> American film viewers. They’ll freak out.’ Because we’re such a
> religious nation.”

But other than this small glitch, s-f can circumnavigate censorship,


Actually, from what I have heard, it happened sometimes, in the past,
in those parts of the world where even censors wanted the message to
be sent. At least on their subconscious level.

> Michael Shermer on the end of war:
> “I think it’s possible to get to a point where there are no more
> major inter-state conflicts. I mean, look at what’s happened in
> Europe. For 500 years the major powers of Europe were at war with
> each other almost every year, and that all came to a stop, in 1945,
> it ended, and the great powers have not fought one another since
> then.

Yugoslavia was never part of Europe. I guess it was somewhere below
equator initially, but during last 20-umpty years it broke and then
slowly moved north, soaked in blood... Scary! Now there is another
conflict cooking in the pot, just nobody wants to name it.

Looking from certain perspective, Cold War was one long proxy war,
live chess played in real (and by great powers), only "somewhere
else". And I am grateful I haven't lived "somewhere else". OTOH, being
happy just because no city evaporated is rather shallow, IMHO.

> Michael Shermer on utopias:
> “I don’t think it’s possible to genetically engineer people to
> become angels, or even structure society in a way that would make

On the contrary, I postulate that anybody who read this article
without his guts revolting is an angel, no doubts. Therefor we have
plenty of angels on this planet, long before genetic engineering.

> Michael Shermer on advanced civilizations:
> “I disagree with people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk and
> others that have commented on artificial intelligence and/or
> extraterrestrials being evil, being colonialists.

Lots of people woke up recently and started sending those fancy scary
messages to the rest of the world, like mice squeaking.

> It’s sort of a guy’s way of looking at the worst parts of history
> and projecting forward. Hawking makes this point, well, how do the
> Native Americans feel about the ‘advanced extraterrestrials’ coming
> from Europe, so to speak—I guess they’d be advanced
> ‘extra-continental’ intelligences—coming from Europe? Not so
> good. Yeah, but that was a different time in history. I don’t think
> a ‘colonial empire’ kind of society could sustain a long-term—by
> which I mean thousands of years, or tens of thousands of years—space
> exploration program. … It seems to me that to get to that point you
> would have had to solve a lot of these social problems that we’re
> currently facing, and are now solving, to get there.

Yawn. Just wait and see what they are up to. You wouldn't believe it
even if I told you.


> So look at how far we’ve come in just two centuries, in terms of
> rights for more people and more places, and the decline of violence
> and so on, just project that out another 200 years — or 200,000
> years—into the future. You can only imagine how much better it could
> be.”

Excuse me? Somebody should wash his mouth with a soap.

Overally, what a strange thing. Nobody cares and s-f is land of the
dead already. You can push hordes of zombies into cinema, but you
can't make them dream big. Not anymore, and even then such effect was
limited to certain personalities.

Wait, what you say, this is advertisement. What?

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at bigfoot.com             **

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