Who moved my brain?

Throwcase casts aside the satirical mantle to passionately implore us all to stop sharing stupid memes. If only the article could be turned into a handy, brain-infesting image or slogan, so we needn’t have to actually read the whole thing or even really understand what is being said!

It is supposed to describe a real scientific experiment that was performed on a group of monkeys, and it is supposed to raise profound questions about our tendency to unquestioningly follow the herd. Unfortunately it is complete and utter nonsense, because no such experiment ever happened. However, so many people are sharing this unverified crock of shit that it really does reveal our tendency to unthinkingly follow the herd; after all, why would you bother verifying an article about monkeys that literally has the tag line “think before you follow”?

http://throwcase.com/2014/12/21/that-five-monkeys-and-a-banana-story-is-rubbish/

Incidentally, I’ve never come across the ‘five monkeys’ thing before today, but I’m sure we’ve all seen the likes of it before. It reminds me of a particular class of corporate management/self-help literature such as the “Who moved my cheese?” book and video.

In other words, it’s the kind of thing that people in positions of minor authority like to use to ‘inspire’ and ‘challenge’ their subordinates or charges; the kind of message that is immediately undermined and made violently intolerable by the context and medium in which it is presented. Look children, I have a cartoon about rats in a maze, a story about monkeys in a cage, and you will learn so much from it!

Clearly I’m not the intended audience for this kind of demeaning tripe, but I can’t help but wonder why these stories are not immediately seen to be deeply insulting. You in your work environment are a tiny humanoid rat lost in a maze, chasing after cheese. Your life, your struggles, your motives and your goals are ultimately absurd. You are an animal, and not even a noble one but the kind commonly used in experiments for their convenience, ease of manipulation, and close relationship to real humans – but not so close that we feel bad when we have to ‘sacrifice’ them.

I think I should write a little book about a plough-horse that slaves away for many years to benefit its owner, and after making its owner rich is replaced with a tractor and sold for dog-meat. The moral is “you’re lucky you got to work as long as you did.”

Does anyone feel inspired yet?

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Evolution and the Catholic Church

Earlier I posted a lovely piece of satire: ‘The Pope on Evolution‘.

Amidst the media inanity TIME was one of the few outlets that saw through the haze of collective stupidity, with a story titled:
Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull

But it’s not really good enough to have to rely on occasional media sanity – we should be able to see through the nonsense for ourselves.

It’s hard to seen through the nonsense if you don’t have any indication that it is nonsense, so it helps first of all to have enough general knowledge to know that something doesn’t add up. You might have to know, for example, that unlike the American Creationists who pushed Intelligent Design, the Catholic Church has a proud history of philosophical and scientific engagement. When it comes to ‘faith vs science’ the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in ‘versus’.

If you knew that, you would be immediately suspicious of the claim that Pope Francis’ comments to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences signaled some kind of revolutionary change in the Church’s attitude to evolution.

For more detail, the now outdated Catholic Encyclopedia is a great source of information on what the Church thought circa 1909. On ‘Catholics and Evolution’ the Encyclopedia states:

One of the most important questions for every educated Catholic of today is: What is to be thought of the theory of evolution? Is it to be rejected as unfounded and inimical to Christianity, or is it to be accepted as an established theory altogether compatible with the principles of a Christian conception of the universe?

We must carefully distinguish between the different meanings of the words theory of evolution in order to give a clear and correct answer to this question. We must distinguish (1) between the theory of evolution as a scientific hypothesis and as a philosophical speculation; (2) between the theory of evolution as based on theistic principles and as based on a materialistic and atheistic foundation; (3) between the theory of evolution and Darwinism; (4) between the theory of evolution as applied to the vegetable and animal kingdoms and as applied to man.

Unfortunately this is already too much detail for most media outlets, and perhaps most people generally. If you can’t for example, understand why the simple question of “Does the Church believe in Evolution” has suddenly branched off into a series of complicated distinctions and definitions, this path of inquiry might not be for you.

The Encyclopedia post is too big to reproduce in its entirety, but it notes along the way that

As early as 1877 Knabenbauer stated “that there is no objection, so far as faith is concerned, to assuming the descent of all plant and animal species from a few types”

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.

The Encyclopedia doesn’t show an unconditional acceptance of the theory, but rather an intelligent philosophical engagement with the varieties of evolutionary theory and the theological implications and ramifications, appropriate to a point in history that predated much of the supporting evidence and relevant biological discoveries such as DNA.

Read enough of this stuff and it becomes clear that whatever one might think of the Catholic Church and its teachings, it has historically exhibited a level of intellectual engagement that puts to shame our contemporary media outlets and our uncritical reliance on them.