Building the Tower of Babel…REALLY???

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~ A few days ago I was having coffee with a client of mine who was lamenting to me the loneliness he felt when it comes to stimulating conversations, “Kenneth, hardly anyone I know is interested in having conversations with me about intellectual subjects. Doesn’t anyone else care about these issues?” he said

If you are someone who is passionate about politics, the environment, religion, science, or other important philosophical issues, the Western World can in some ways feel like a lonely place. I relate to what my client said in that a great many people appear to be more interested in zoning out in front of the television or getting drunk than engaging in thoughtful dialogue.

And then, when you do finally get someone to sit down with you at coffee to have a conversation about life you can run into some of the cultural dilemmas that plague our society;

–) When people sit together face-to-face, the little damn cell phone seems to pop up like a plague, and it seems like people spend more time looking at their cell phone then they do looking at each other

–) People in the Western World trend towards argumentativeness. Rather than looking at issues with more open-ended questions and thoughts, people begin with very biased premises which lead them to being tremendously argumentative and combative

The Genesis story recounting the Tower of Babel tells a tale of a people who were entirely united in mind toward one purpose; building a modern marvel of technology that would reach to the heavens. The writer of the story infers the idea that the people had it in mind to be equal with God (or equal with the gods), or in other words, they had decided that they wanted to be the center of the universe themselves, they wanted to use technology to declare their preeminence the universe.

For the builders of the Tower, the tale ends with God intervening to save the people, “If I don’t act, there is nothing these people cannot do” and there is a concern that the people might end up destroying themselves because they never asked themselves the simple question, “Even though we have the ability to build this tower; should we built it?”

Life in the Western World is in many ways very similar to what it must have been like to have been a visitor to the ancient city of Babel. Imagine walking into town and seeing the entire mass of people united in one purpose, building a tower, but none of the people ever asking if that tower could end up bringing destruction to the entire human race!

Modern zombie movies often tell stories about scientists, who are obsessed with their ongoing cult of researching anything they are able to research; and it results in the creation of a disease that ends up destroying most of the human race.

While movies like 28 Days Later, or I am Legend, might be a bit fantastical regarding the bad side of scientists, when you look at the way the smartphone has dramatically changed the way we talk with each other, one starts to see the truth behind the Tower of Babel story.

–) Have cell phones helped society in many ways; sure! But at what cost?

–) Is text messaging convenient when you need your roommate to pick up a couple things at the grocery store; sure! But at what cost?

Text messaging is literally changing the words and manner in which young adults (and older adults) talk and connect. It doesn’t take a social scientist to recognize that modern dialogue and communication has begun to suffer thanks to technological inventions such as text messaging and cell phones.

Social networks have redefined our entire values. Gossiping on Facebook or being disrespectful to total strangers on Twitter has become acceptable forms of behavior. Stalking people on social networks has become a way of life for many people.

It seems like I fell asleep one day like Rip Van Winkle of old, and woke up in an entirely new society where everyone is engaged in building a massive tower that has the words DOOM FOR THE HUMAN RACE, printed in bold letters on the side of the building. It seems like hardly anyone is asking the questions, “should we keep using cell phones?”, “Maybe it’s time to stop using Internet social networks” and other simple observations.

Common sense as they say, seems a lot more uncommon these days.

I can’t help but believe that the argumentative and combative nature people are displaying in so many areas of life is rooted in the idea that these people refuse to accept the possibility that the premises they rest their entire worldview on; may not be good premises, or they might be entirely false premises.

You see, when people are building a tower, the last thing they want to hear is the suggestion that the tower might not be a good idea.

If you are the type of person that questions your premises on a regular basis, then you are not someone who believes “the debate is over”. Instead, you are someone who questions the “facts” that scientists, educators, and politicians proselytize.

Unfortunately, most people have bought into the Religion of Facts. Most people are proud, card carrying members of the Religion of Facts.

“But Kenneth, what is this Religion of Facts you’re talking about?” you ask

Well I’m glad you asked.

–) If you are the type of person that believes it is a FACT beyond discussion that the world was created in six literal 24 hour days, and there is no other possibility, then you are a member of the Religion of Facts.

–) If you are the type of person that believes Darwinian evolution is a proven fact beyond dispute and that there is no possibility the world came into existence in another manner then you are a member of the Religion of Facts.

–) If you are the type of person that believes there is no possibility that humans are contributing to major aspects of climate change and to even consider the possibility, then you are a member of the Religion of Facts.

–) If you are the type of person that believes global warming is fact beyond dispute, and that the majority of climatologists who do not believe fossil fuels are as serious a threat to the environment that the minority of climatologists claim, then you are a member of the Religion of Facts.

Do you see the common threads between what we popularly call the “Left” and the “Right”? Do you notice how each of these sides are obsessed with the Religion of Facts?

During the 20th century a number of prominent political scientists and philosophers began to realize that this “Facts” based worldview was actually contributing to a deconstruction in the way people think. Instead of education being a positive element of Western Society, the “facts” based worldview was causing people to think improperly.

Suddenly, by the dawn of the 21st century, men and women throughout the Western World were thinking more and more like children. The Religion of Facts has produced an entire society of anti-philosophers and anti-truth seekers.

Instead of creating a culture of adults who are truth seekers and beauty makers, we are an entire mass of people involved in erecting a hideous tower that looms over all of the world, and unless someone up there comes down and prevents us……we are at the precipice of bringing about our own doom.

 

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,

 

Kenneth



Categories: Culture & Society

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7 replies

  1. I agree. We, as human beings, have an amazing propensity to let the trapdoor of our mind swing shut whenever we hear something that’s different than what we believe. Our “fact-based” world must give way to a relational one. Unfortunately, we’ve proven we’re very poor at actually being relational. Ironically, Facebook proves this, as you pointed out.

    On your “Religion of Facts,” two quotes come to mind…

    “There are three kinds of lies…lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Will Rogers

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal.

  2. Many people turn to religion to provide a sense of security and a foundation upon which to build their life around. They will ardently defend the beliefs touted by their religion of choice because to do otherwise would destabilize their foundation and leave them insecure and vulnerable. The exact same thing could be said for the people who build their foundation on scientific facts. They feel like scientific facts give them a sense of security and they’ll do anything to defend it. Now anyone who builds literal foundations has learned that combining materials can create some of the strongest bases. Stones without mortar will fall apart. Steel tempered in water becomes stronger. Concrete with rebar can provide more stability of structure for when it cracks. Discarding alternate possibilities (ideas, information) when building your own foundation will leave you forever vulnerable and create the exact situation you were trying so hard to avoid. The paradox of humanity.

  3. All this is merely the first fruit results of the dumbing down of america . . .where we are systematically being morphed into citizens where nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care
    . . . . welcome to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

  4. I really like this post. It opens with a frustration with how modern, interruption/substance addicted people are incapable of having intelligent conversation. How childish the youth are. Then we move onto the next issue, beyond the mere lemmings of society who let the tides of politics wash over them, you have the Zealous Liberal. Blind to his creed of science and fascination with ‘Fact’.

    You see, this is what’s so great about ideology. One side pretends to be ‘open minded’ and ‘willing to see the truth’, whereas the other side is simply a zealot of a fanciful reality. As you put it, the opponent is in the ‘religion of facts’ camp and requires enlightening. However, no one is fooled by this. The reality is that both sides think they are open minded and that the other person is who needs re-education. Which spins back to the very beginning of the post; that people are incapable of argument. It’s great because it plays into the very faults that you claim your opponents to have!

    That is how tricky ideology is, it’s the very basis on which you assume the axioms of your political world. These supposedly intelligent conversations that we all crave are pointless, they are like leaves on a very large tree representing the collection of our political beliefs. Stop picking the leaves with climate change, abortion, and nature of biological evolution. These conversations have to start at the roots.

    Do you believe that human beings are endowed by existence to have inalienable rights. If yes, explain.

    What is your stance on the condition of humanity? Is a child a blank slate (tabla rasa, for our fancy ‘intellectual’ friends) or merely a product of biology? Or both?

    What is your stance on the existence of hierarchical power (family->community->government), is it a necessity? To what extent?

    As a follow up, who has authority over whom? Does the parent have absolute authority over a child? Does a policemen have authority over a citizen?

    Each question can take months, that’s why no one has them.

    • In the history of the Peloponnesian war, one of the things that stands out to me is that when Sparta deliberating whether to go to war against Athens, there were a couple Athenian businessmen visiting the city at the time, hearing about the deliberations over the possible war, the businessmen asked to speak to the assembly on behalf of Athenia..and Sparta being based on the principles of democratic discussion allowed them to speak before the assembly.

      Now we know the ‘rest of the story’, Sparta ended up declaring war anyways, and a long and bloody war ensued. Nonetheless, I find it interesting that that there was more opportunity to discuss and debate in ancient Greece than their is in the modern Western World.

  5. Very interesting observations. I want you on my read feed… Thought provoking. Thank you

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