CNN has put up a poll asking readers if they think time travel will one day be possible. And they qualify the results by stating that “this is not a scientific poll.” And here I was thinking the interns at CNN were all part-time physicists. Boy, do I feel ignorant. For tomorrow’s poll, I suggest the question – Will broadcast news ever recruit talent directly from high-school newspapers? But I’m also left wondering what would have happened if the readers had mistaken it for a ‘real’ scientific poll. Pandemonium, perhaps? I guess we’ll never know.
Will time travel be possible some day?
This is not a scientific poll
This is not a scientific poll
One example of the inconsistency of religion
Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.
At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.
As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.
Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.
Supporters of waterboarding, or “enhanced interrogation”, or plain old, let’s-get-medieval-on-your-ass torture –if they’re willing to call it what it is– often put forth the argument that causing pain and discomfort to a terrorist will save lives by preventing an imminent attack. They might say something along the lines of “What if a terrorist knew the location of a soon-to-be-detonated dirty bomb. Wouldn’t torture be OK then?” But while they may be sincere in their belief, their little scenario is self-serving and false in the extreme.
The proponent here presumes to know what the suspect knows before the torture has even commenced. Well, they don’t know the mind of the suspect; he may, in fact, be completely innocent. This hardened thinking reminds me of Bill O’Reilly when he said all the prisoners at Guantanamo should have been shot. Did he mean to include the ones that were eventually released?
Terrorists also tend to work in groups. I don’t know about you, but if I were a terrorist, my planned attack would be postponed if one of my brethren suddenly went missing or were captured by the authorities. And I’d hit the road and look for a new headquarters. The CIA has already admitted that none of the information gained by torture thwarted an actual attack. Most of it was about the structure of Al-Qaeda’s as an organization.
Life isn’t a TV melodrama. Jack Bauer isn’t going to save the day by beating the crap out of Nina, no matter how much we despise her. Presuming to know the mind of a suspect only leads to repeatedly asking the suspect the same question, over and over again, and torturing them for the “correct” answer, whatever that may be.
In the 1990’s there was an infamous case in California of a teenage boy who was questioned for hours by police in the murder of his sister. He confessed and was convicted, even though it was later determined with compelling DNA evidence that a stranger had committed the horrible crime. Pressuring a person for the answer you want usually gets you what you want; it doesn’t get you what you need.
The ambiguities of real life make torture seem cartoonish and black-and-white, and part of a worldview credulous conservatives can get behind.