Thursday, September 3, 2009

~ knowledgeporn

These days, as I may have previously mentioned, I cannot imagine getting into bed of a night (or an afternoon) without my ipod and the growing store of utterly fascinating wisdom contained within. Constantly, I am discovering new podcasts by brilliant commentators and thinkers. Constantly, I am driven to my books or to the net to research things I’ve never heard of before. The universe is an utterly fascinating place, if you are interested in it, if you are in your manic phase and not weighed down by the leaden disinterest of depression.

I’ve added new list of links to the Sails of Oblivion sidebar. It includes all my current favourites like Reasonable Doubts (anyone conflicted about religion should listen to this – the mental agility of these guys is sometimes breathtaking), Skeptoid (The slow pitiless torture and execution of urban myths, alternative health nostrums, historical shibboleths and general wrong-headedness by the infuriating Brian Dunning), and Skeptics’ Guide to The Universe (the predominant sceptical podcast which, besides being rather entertaining, updates the progress of scepticism-related issues and advises on critical thinking).

I realised yesterday, when the new episode of The History of Rome appeared in my pod, that I’d been looking forward to it at least as much as the latest True Blood. There’s something about ancient Rome that does it for me. Simple as that.

And similarly with The Bible. Having been brought up a strict Catholic, The Bible was first presented to me as immutable, flawless and sacred. Consequently, in these latter days, I love seeing it picked apart and revealed as the imperfect work of fallible human minds. The related history and mythology is also captivating, as is the language - and in these regards, The Bible Geek is uber-knowledgeable, a talking concordance.

Sometimes, I wonder if anyone else is having the same experience as me. My delight in this newfound voluptuary of knowledge is a solitary vice, yet the net is a social phenomenon. There should be other lazy brains out there being driven to thought …

As regards the New Scepticism (or ‘Freethought’ as it is often described in the US) this really seems to be the case. There is a bone fide movement fomenting over there, spawned in the dark years of the Bush administration - when science found itself beholden to the madnesses of the extreme Christian right - and then set free to prosper with the rise of Obama. The nation’s freethinkers have organised themselves and are raising a loud, clear, measured voice against the powerful kooks that plague that country, be they conspiracy theorists, the anti-vaccination lobby or young Earth creationists.

Predictably the effects are spilling over into our fair land - despite our tendency to apathy and our lack of hugely influential maniacs against which to fight. Sceptic and atheist groups in Australia are feeding off the clamour in the US and consequently finding their feet. New web presences of a sceptical bent are always appearing, often produced by students. The Skeptics In The Pub phenomenon is catching on. And, excitingly, Melbourne is hosting The Global Atheist Convention in 2010. Its rubric is ‘The Rise of Atheism’. Let’s hope there's truth in that title.

As a young teenager, shortly after I lost my faith, I looked forward to many things: flying cars, the colonisation of Mars, and a world free of religion. Naively, I believed that by the turn of the century humanity would have developed sufficient intelligence to abandon such childish comforts as faith in an afterlife and a caring omnipotent god.

Naturally, as the years passed, my hopes were dashed. I had to recalibrate my opinions regarding humanity.

But now, I wonder, I just wonder, whether we might be seeing the glimmerings of a new Enlightenment.

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Dangerous Meredith said...


Matt etc said...

Hey Sam
Thanks for the links.
In regard to skepticism I found jurisprudence to be a pretty interesting topic.
Always a pleasure to read your blog, wish I could write like you too.

Sam Sejavka said...

Hey, Matt and thanks for the flattery.

Jurisprudence! You're telling me. I've been having to drag myself out of deep thought on the question of determinism and free will to address some very jurisprudential matters. It becomes very confusing, in our shared reality, when logic dictates that one has very little free will at all.

Are you thinking of going to the Atheist Convention. Today, I was thinking about who might want to go and your name flashed though my head. Dawkins will be there.


Matt said...

Hi Sam,
I've definitely had the same experience as you with regard to podcasts. There's an incredibly broad range of fascinating stuff out there ... just not enough hours in the day!
And 'Reasonable Doubts' is definitely one of my favourites. As a recovering Christian, it's a genuine joy to listen to intellectual knives being taken to my old sacred cow.
I'll definitely be going along to the Atheist convention next year. The opportunity to meet Dawkins and PZ Myers is just too good to pass up!

Ann oDyne said...

You are not alone - I have learned more from the www than from 3 levels of education and an 'interesting' life.

I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil.
- Albert Einstein

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever - this is a somewhat new kind of religion.
- Albert Einstein

Special K said...

Glad to see you're listening to Stephen Fry; interesting chap.

Matt etc said...

Hey Sam
Just to make sure that there's no confusion, it looks like you have two commenters by the name of Matt. Just to clear things up the Matt that commented at 10.09 is not me, I don't have a profile. I only came across your blog a short time ago, the first time I commented was August 23, 2009 11:54 PM.
I don't know much about the Atheist Convention yet, but I will certainly look into it. I'm sure I still have Catholic guilt issues somewhere and going to St. Kevin's didn't help.
I only mentioned jurisprudence because it's kinda similar to religious type arguments in some ways.
I don't know there always seems to be someone ready to pontificate.

Vita said...

Oh yes darling Sam we are on the up old paradigms are falling part and the world is in renewal our generation just had to fly of the mountain more often to love and climb closer to the pinnacle and indeed Dolores is correct you are indeed having a renaissance of a life fantastic... you have done the hard yards and have got to camp 2 on the mountain
Love and light
a wee Goddess *Vita"

Anonymous said...

itunes podcast
Series 2 Episode 3, Language Stephen Fry 22/12/08 Stephen Fry discusses his language. This is a podcast version of the blog.

BwcaBrownie said...

Mr Fry is fairly beloved.
His website is worth the clickthrough too.

regards to you dear Sam

Sam Sejavka said...

sorry for getting you Matts mixed up. The Stephen Fry postcast on Oscar wilde led me to download the text of the happy prince and read it to Polly. She was asleep by the end, but i found myself in tears. My parents had an LP with a reading of it which they used to play me, and I recalled some of it with amazing clarity.