Monday, May 3, 2010

Suppose This Machine Kills Fascists

I had already applied a 'like' flag to the video posted below, as I almost always do with videos uploaded by Thunderf00t, but this one highlights an idea I had been toying with myself before he expressed it more clearly and cogently -- the idea that the free-wheeling, open nature of the internets makes it a terrible place for religious ideas.

My take on it departs from his a little, but in a complementary way. Out here, we can be assured of more than our fair share of trifling, useless, idiotic dreck, but that experience itself --- the brute agony known to every web browser, we who must learn to wade through and eventually navigate the endless deluge of shit as a condition of finding anything worthwhile, ever --- turns out to be a serviceable exercise in critical thinking.

Yes, I said it: the internets as it presently exists serves as a winnowing mechanism that aids good thinking. It either sharpens the end-user's alertness to pointlessness, bullshit, and twaddle, or the experience ends with the end-user's exasperated withdrawal. And how many people do you know choose to renounce use of the web? I can name two or three, and I'm pretty sure they don't actually exist in the real world.

I know, I know. You're giggling. You think I'm off my rocker, over the line, and trying out the bounds of my padded room. You are trying to suppress a slightly nervous laugh at my expense, perhaps not trying very hard (and fair enough). But consider that as you do so, in a small way, you are confirming the point.

Both by dint of the structure of the hermeneutic experience it tends to foster and in the overtly skeptical ideas the experience churns up, the web is an inhospitable place for faith-based ideas.

The internets also feeds confirmation bias as nothing else heretofore and helps spread slightly-plausible bullshit far and wide of its natural reach, so it's probably a wash. But when you narrow the question to whether, in a culture bound to the norms and practices of web culture, religion as we have known it would persist, it's difficult to believe it would. I have been wrong before -- giggle, but take time to set me straight.

(via PZ Myers)

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