Thursday, August 10, 2006

Some musings...redux

I realized a while back that sometimes one can take their background and life experiences for granted. And once in a while, you get some time to really think and, in some cases, realize all over again that everyone's history and life experiences are truly unique.

I wrote something a couple nights back to someone that I thought would also be of value in shedding light on my background and core beliefs. In other words, get to what motivates my thoughts on religion, science, and history more deeply, delving into who I am as the political/economic creature you read and see here today.

Altogether, it's sort of a redux of my other blog musing. So here goes:
  • My grandfather was a general in the Taiwanese army who marshalled the front lines, later emigrating from Communist China to Taiwan as Mao slaughtered millions. I know many stories of what our family experienced; many in our extended family were left behind and suffered Mao's reformation labor camps and torture. (Eerily, my grandfather went to the same high school as Mao). We were fortunate enough to escape. Thus, we were all instilled with a strong sense of duty, honor, self, and the recognition of the importance of knowledge, history and one's critical thinking. However uncomfortable, many Chinese know Mao's red book mesmerized countless to kill millions (estimates range between 40-80 million dead during his reign).

  • Growing up, I experienced poverty first-hand and saw those without, regardless of merit, who just didn't have a shot at opportunity. And as a Christian for 10 years, then full of hope for true salvation baptized and seeking redemption as a confessed sinner who believed, I witnessed how people who in Christ's name acted less than what Christ would've liked. It all only increased my resolve to find things out for myself, with science as guide - open and self-critical, and providing a consistent model to compare and contrast things as they were, not how they should or claim to be.
  • Throughout my life, I've always respected people of faith. There are many of faith I've come to known whose deeds follow principled actions that I've always had the most sincere and utmost respect for. Charlie Rose recently interviewed notable scientist Francis Collins (38 minutes on), Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, whose book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief", speaks to the meaningful coexistence of science and faith. It is an open assessment and would be a good counter to my musing; his assertion that science has no domain or relevance in things religious and vice versa is central to faith and one's religious beliefs.
  • In recent years, I've just grown increasingly concerned about the religious extremism in this country that has fomented as an ex-ante response to Muslim fundamentalism. When we happen to be the superpower, every step we take wields enourmous influence to literally uplift or destroy millions of lives in our lifetime. The musing was essentially a reactionary piece arising from today's proponderance to treat science and critical reasoning as throw-away commodities.
  • ...Science is about bearing repeatable, testable experiments to expand and apply our body of knowlege for the betterment of mankind, and making predictions that verifiably withstands serious, repeated and transparent peer review and scrutiny.
  • I strongly stand by the scientific method and its processes, which however seemingly mundane, has afforded humanity in a relatively short time of less then a hundred years to control the wanderings of the smallest electrons and photons. Or comprehending the nuances for preventing the spread of malaria which kills thousands of African children nightly. Or allowing mothers of sick newborns to bear hope that one day we'll bear witness to humanity stopping AIDS and its various mutations in its tracks, and in such a way that everyone will be able to afford a vaccine treatment.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates deserve superlative kudos for their efforts, both in deeds and in principles. Not many people (Warren Buffet excepted) in their position have stepped up like they. Perhaps as a economics afficiendo, like Jeffrey Sachs and Bono, those numbers are more real to me than most - many are lives that could be saved for a quarter a day. And if someone gave up a quarter of their food a day, they could save more than 50 souls. It troubles me that that isn't the case, despite our best stated intentions and promises as a nation and people.
  • I've come to believe that society suffers a lot more than is obvious when religion and science mix, especially when one claims to be the other and vice versa, using each as pawns in a larger political battle to undermine each other.
  • ...Very particularly when a growing number of extremists absolve or ignore suffering and violence as part of a necessary God-given, Calvinistic, order, e.g. the numerous end-times prophesies that see a holy war between Christendom and Islamists as an inevitability versus heeding Christ's words of "loving one's neighbors" or "let those without sin judge..." or that "noone will know the hour or the day" of Christ's return.
  • ...This includes not seriously moving the mideast peace efforts forward today in a real attempt to stop the bloodletting of innocents, thus implicitly acknowledging such war as a natural order of things to come, etc.
  • At the end of the day (no pun intended), this slippery slope mutes if not deadens a society's will and aspirations, as JFK put it, "to lift all boats" irrespective of religious creed, race, color, sex or geography (or as Warrent Buffet deadpans "womb-based economics"), and subverts the positive forces and developments accrued thus far this past hundred years, parlaying it instead into increasing cynicism and despair.
  • Since when I was a deeply religious Christian to present-day, I've always passionately believed in a liberal democracy and deliberation between its body politic and sciences, e.g. stem cell research is not the next a-bomb but should be carefully regulated to avoid human cloning. And liberal in the political science sense of minorities having an equal of a voice as the majority.
  • I believe that we disregard extremism's slippery slope at our own peril; accepting such cases as [inevitable] reality is catostrophic for humanity. Just in the last ten years: in Yugloslavia where a democracy let its majority vote for and carry out genocide on its religious minority slaughtering hundreds of thousands or over a million and a half people dead in Rhwanda or the 5,600 civillians who were killed in Iraq for May/June alone or 9/11's 3,000 dead.
  • ...They're all based on distorted belief systems and stories that do little else but perpetuate hate that infects subsequent generations, where the horridly wrong acts of killing and slaughtering become a righteous one with rewards to be had in the afterlife - an unbeatable promise and operational war doctrine.
  • We dare not stand by and do nothing. And here at home, secular science and critical reasoning and all the benefit that it affords is losing ground to all our detriment because society's grown complacent and come to take its fruits for granted as the British, French, Spanish and many before have, with similar belief that God was on all their side(s) as well.
In conclusion, society's at its best when religious expression thrives in coexistence with a secular society that firmly respects it, and vice versa. An imbalance is in no one's interest. Christianity as it stands today is very different then where it stood when I attended a Billy Graham crusade in Anaheim, California more then a decade ago and was deeply touched by his message. I still prefer Billy Graham but his is a waning voice seldomly heard today.