Fundamentalism as limited reading

From Douglas Rushkoff’s “Faith = Illness: Why I’ve had it with religious tolerance“:

When religions are practiced, as they are by a majority of those in developed nations, today, as a kind of nostalgic little ritual – a community event or an excuse to get together and not work – it doesn’t really screw anything up too badly. But when they radically alter our ability to contend with reality, cope with difference, or implement the most basic ethical provisions, they must be stopped. …

As I’ve always understood them, and as I try to convey them in my comic book, the stories in the Bible are less significant because they happened at some moment in history than because their underlying dynamics seem to be happening in all moments. We are all Cain, struggling with our feelings about a sibling who seems to be more blessed than we are. We are always escaping the enslaved mentality of Egypt and the idolatry we practiced there. We are all Mordechai, bristling against the pressure to bow in subservience to our bosses.

But true believers don’t have this freedom. Whether it’s because they need the Bible to prove a real estate claim in the Middle East, because they don’t know how to relate something that didn’t really happen, or because they require the threat of an angry super-being who sees all in order behave like good children, true believers – what we now call fundamentalists – are not in a position to appreciate the truth and beauty of the Holy Scriptures. No, the multi-dimensional document we call the Bible is not available to them because, for them, all those stories have to be accepted as historical truth.

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Culture, values, & designing technology systems

From danah boyd’s “G/localization: When Global Information and Local Interaction Collide“:

Culture is the set of values, norms and artifacts that influence people’s lives and worldview. Culture is embedded in material objects and in conceptual frameworks about how the world works. …

People are a part of multiple cultures – the most obvious of which are constructed by religion and nationality, but there are all sorts of cultures that form from identities and communities of practice. … Identification and participation in that culture means sharing a certain set of cultural values and ideas about how the world should work. …

Cultural norms evolve over time, influenced by people, their practices, and their environment. Culture is written into law and laws influence the evolution of culture. Cultures develop their own symbols as a way of conveying information. Often, these symbols make sense to those within a culture but are not parsable to those outside. Part of becoming indoctrinated into a culture is learning the symbols of that culture. …

… there are numerous cultural forces affecting your life at all times. How you see the world and how you design or build technology is greatly influenced by the various cultural concepts you hold onto. …

… algorithms are simply the computer manifestation of a coder’s cultural norms.

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To counterbalance that last one

From Ben Jones’s “Benblog“:

That is our challenge, unique in the cosmos, to know that our own brief existence is simply a moment in time, and to experience that breath in the universe with a smile, knowing that we will fade once again into the oneness, floating someday, cosmic dust in a snowflake, minerals floating the phloem, breathed ourselves in and out of the ever unfolding universe.

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Four principles of modernity

From “Relativity, Uncertainty, Incompleteness and Undecidability“:

In this article four fundamental principles are presented: relativity, uncertainty, incompleteness and undecidability. They were studied by, respectively, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing. …

Relativity says that there is no privileged, “objective” viewpoint for certain observations. … Now, if things move relative to each other, then obviously their positions at a given time are also measured relative to each other. …

Werner Heisenberg showed that if we built a machine to tell us with high precision were an electron is, this machine could not also tell us the speed of the electron. If we want to measure its speed without altering it we can use a different light but then we wouldn’t know where it is. At atomic scale, no instrument can tell us at the same time exactly where a particle is and exactly at what speed it is moving. …

If this system is complete, then anything that is true is provable. Similarly, anything false is provable false. Kurt Gödel got the intuition that traditional mathematical logic was not complete, and devoted several years to try to find one thing, a single thing that was inside the mathematics but outside the reach of logic. … Gödel’s incompleteness means that the classical mathematical logic deductive system, and actually any logical system consistent and expressive enough, is not complete, has “holes” full of expressions that are not logically true nor false. …

Turing’s halting problem is one of the problems that fall in to the category of undecidable problems. It says that it is not possible to write a program to decide if other program is correctly written, in the sense that it will never hang. This creates a limit to the verification of all programs, as all the attempts of building actual computers, usable in practice and different from Turing machines have been proved to be equivalent in power and limitations to the basic Turing machine.

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Relativism in political institutions

From "The Habit of Democracy" by Adam Gopnik in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, a review of two books about Alexis de Tocqueville:

"There is nothing absolute in the theoretical value of political institutions," Tocqueville wrote. "Their efficiency depends almost always on the original circumstances and the social conditions of the people to whom they are applied." 

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