August 5th, 2005

Exclamation point

The meaning of 'fascism'

I will throw in my two cents about the meaning of 'fascism', which is a popular topic of discussion these days. When I say two cents, I mean two cents. I don't think this topic deserves much more.

First of all, people use Mussolini's 'definition' of fascism. That's like using Hitler's definition of 'Jew'. Do not use the definitions of madmen, in whom the language is affected by their illness and vice versa. If you make a habit of using insane definitions, you will lose your sanity. Get your definitions from sane folk.

Second, 'fascism' doesn't really mean much of anything. It comes from the Latin for a bundle of sticks, so basically it can stand for anything. 'Democracy' actually means something; in common practice people fail to distinguish individual democracies and types of democracy, but my point is made. 'Kingdom' means something. 'Family' means something -- though, again, commonly there is the failure to distinguish families whether as individuals or subtypes. But 'fascism' means 'nothing'. It is like the corporate name 'Altria', which means 'nothing'.

On its own 'fascism' means 'nothing', and the starting point definition people use is from a madman, so stop trying to agree on a definition of 'fascism'. Use the term if you want to disparage authoritarian tendencies by likening them to Mussolini's rule, but either leave the term informal like that or forget about it.

My two cents.
Apollo 4 on column of fire

Opponents of Stupid Design also wish to undermine the teaching of science

I will assume the reader knows about Stupid Design, the latest incarnation of the movement to undermine the teaching of science in schools. Then let's move on. I am going to tell you that opponents of Stupid Design also are trying to undermine the teaching of science, just to a much lesser degree.

I have no tricks up my sleeve. My explanation will be 'common sense'.

Someone has sent me a copy of a New York Times editorial from the third of this month, prompted by some hoots of the White House chimpanzee, and opposing Stupid Design. Very good. But get a load of this: 'Faith is a deeply personal matter that defies scientific examination, and it is properly taught at home and at places of worship.'

Let's ignore the latter half of that sentence; I include it only for context. Here I'm interested only in the first half: 'Faith is a deeply personal matter that defies scientific examination' [italics mine]. Surely that is not true, and indeed there is no reason to suspect that religious faith will not one day be well understood by scientists. Indeed, probably we will at the same time develop effective medical treatments. So what's going on here is that the Times editorialists are trying to protect religion from science. Indeed, what they are calling for is that children be taught that the workings of the human 'mind' are at least in part outside the scope of science.

We can never overcome the Stupid Designers when we also oppose scientific orientation. We must remove from religion all of its protections against science. We must change, not in degree but in kind, our attitudes towards religion and science.

I am not calling for an end to religion, but an end to the protections. But a lot of people understand that this would mean an end to religion as we know it. That scares people, and so they throw up these defenses, just like a patient in psychotherapy.
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