Israel Official: Strike on Iran Possible Friday, Nov 10 2006
LiveScience.com – Dolphin May Have ‘Remains’ of Legs Monday, Nov 6 2006
War (Crime) Sunday, Nov 5 2006
The screaming sound of rockets streaking through the air, followed by the loud resonance of their painless yet close detonation sending short lived sparks into the air produces a somewhat eerie effect onto the otherwise still night air of this Bonfire Night.
I imagine how in many other countries, this cacophony of screams and bangs is eerily synonymous to the very real situation of war that plagues many hotspots across the globe.
Here in England, for the time being at least, we make do with our pseudo barrage of light and gunpowder.
However, this scenery and these sounds serve as a reminder that we as humans, as clever as we are in many regards, still cannot shake off our somewhat childish preoccupation with things that go bang and violence. Indeed our undeclared favourite pastime seems to be the maiming and killing of our fellow humans.
In the theatre of war, all is fair, or so it is said, any conflict demands the utter destruction of the enemy, down to the last man if need be, and encouraged by propaganda, the urge to free ourselves from whatever oppressor we find ourselves entangled with elevates the act of dealing death to some valorous and vaunted position.
In the vicissitudes of war, typical human morality is not a virtue for the battlefield, back in the annals of time, when the Mongolian army met with the Japanese army, the Japanese sent an envoy to announce the leader of their troops as was tradition; however the Mongolians, knowing none such tradition shot the envoy dead with an arrow mid spiel.
The cold hearted dedication to the duty at hand, being it shooting an enemy sharpshooter or the systematic eradication of encamped enemy soldiers is where this is especially needed. The enemy will always look for a sign of weakness, so a faltering step at the sight of a dismembered corpse tactically placed in the path of advancing troops is the moment when the enemy will strike and fatally admonish that weakness.
As the slaughter of one of our own kind is viewed as an infringement of morality and a crime in every culture, I find the notion of war crimes a particularly curious phenomenon.
War is fundamentally a crime, so how can we define what is and isn’t allowed in war without subjugating the base concept at the same time.
Within the framework for war which is fraught with moral questions, the heinous and depraved extermination of the innocent such as in the holocaust is not justified. However, surely on the same moral level the killing of an enemy soldier is not justified.
Do our carefully created doctrines of war simply enable us to have bloodshed without engaging our moral consciousness?
The oft glorified despot and dictator Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to hang for his crimes against humanity, yet the main body of evidence which has resulted in the death sentence for Saddam Hussein is the slaughter of 148 Shia people in Dujail in 1982, the years he has reigned as president and administered his wars seems like an irrelevant fact.
Is it not somewhat strange to view all this from a detached point of view and think how ironic that such a comparatively small number of deaths has resulted in his sentence, despite the many years and vast amount of deaths that his actions have probably caused.
As Josef Stalin once said “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic”
The crackles of gunpowder and light scythe through the air above me, feeding my solace, but for someone else in the world, they are very real and herald a light of a different kind.
Being Human Saturday, Nov 4 2006
From early on in our lives we begin to question our own existence and what it means to be human. This question is often answered by one’s social environment and the ideologies that surround us. We are Americans, we are black and we are white, we are Christian, we are Muslim. We take on many identities and assume many roles as we progress through life. Indeed, they are what make us the individuals that we are today. Where within this hierarchy of identities does the “human” identity lie?
Humans have always been a highly social creature. It is our use of language and shared culture which has allowed our species to survive through even the harshest of times. However, as the culture mechanism has grown in complexity with the rise of civilization, our titles and allegiances have come to divide us more and more. In this modern age of states and nations, people are divided perhaps in some ways more than ever before. Despite this, since the end of the chaotic World War II there has been a movement among progressives towards a more common identity among men. Organizations like the UN and several NGOs operate off this notion and promote the vision of a global community where everyone is equal and entitled to human rights.
I didn’t want this to be so much as an essay as I wanted it to be the opener for a wider discussion. I shall spark the discussion with these questions:
What kind of ideology would it take unite human beings and put their “human” identity ahead of other allegiances?
How could such an ideology be propagated throughout the international community?
Cultural Imperatives Saturday, Nov 4 2006
This phrase is very useful when discussing issues involving topics like religion and culture. For those of you that are unaware, a cultural imperative is a belief or belief system that is unconsciously imposed on a group or individual by the greater society.
Here are a few common examples:
- Belief in various Gods and/or Goddesses
- Belief in the afterlife
- Concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’
Each society has default “answers”, if you will, for these different concepts. If for instance, you grew up in a place like Japan it would be likely that you would by default belief in reincarnation, whereas an America‘s default afterlife concept would be the Judeo-Christian heaven. This phenomenon goes generally unnoticed from the general public because it has become such an integrated part of their thinking. These imperatives can even cause mild trauma to individuals if they refuse to accept that which is so commonly accepted. In indigenous societies, you will see it is incredibly rare that a member of the society will question the existence of the supernatural. It is incomprehensible.
Personally I find this phenomenon quite intriguing. It is a testament to the complexity of human social behavior and the power that social norms and mores exert on the individual. Imagine a society where no one was ever told that Santa Claus was not a real person. What a blissfully ignorant society would that be!
Science and Religion: A Discourse on the Pursuit of Knowledge Saturday, Nov 4 2006
Since the resurgence of knowledge known as the Renaissance, the western world has become the battlefield of many ideologies. Most specifically, there has been a war between ideas relating to the existence of unforeseen forces such as God. As humans have continued their search for knowledge and truth, they have come to question the institutions which have for long had authority over their view of reality.
Science and religion have inevitably had many conflicts in the past and indeed they have carried on into the present day with debates of evolution, stem cell research, and other hot topics. The answer to the question on why such a conflict exists between these two camps is apparent when one looks at the foundation and underlying motives of both sides.
Religion by most accounts has existed thousands of years in some form or another (this idea is in itself a testament of scientific knowledge), and has served greatly in the development of human culture. Most indubitably it provided mankind with a sense of meaning in a world that was harsh and chaotic. Through art and storytelling primitive forms of religion evolved with the ever growing complexity of social society. It has served as a source of explanations of both natural and unexplainable phenomenon and has also provided a road map for humans how to live their lives. The power and strength of religion is often most evident is in times of social and personal crisis. In essence, religion has provided a secure, albeit often false, reality for sentiment animals trapped in an unpredictable world.
Science on the other hand has more ambiguous origins. Science is by default somewhat materialistic in that it seeks to explain natural phenomenon through natural phenomenon. When applied it has served humanity with a great wealth of knowledge and technology. Mankind’s first application of science goes back long before formalized religion and is often symbolized by man’s first use of fire. However, the root of science lies not just in mankind’s benevolent capacity for logic and reasoning it also springs from his profound hunger for truth and understanding. It is in this pursuit of truth that both religion and science cross paths and where from conflict arises.
In religion, truth is most often authoritative and there is little means for one to deviant from ritual and belief without extreme condemnation. Perhaps this has to do with man’s unwillingness to departure from a secure reality in which everything is set in stone. As evidenced by one’s own personal experiences in live, change is often difficult and takes a certain level of vigor to overcome. Ideologies such as the ones that religion provides make change at both the personal and social level more bearable. In this respect, religion provides a level of comfort that is not readily available with science.
This however does not undermine the value of science to the human experience. Unlike most religious dogma, science is open criticism and can be challenged by counter evidence and rational discourse. In this respect, science is much more reliable when it comes to uninhibited truth. It is through logic and reasoning that we have come to be the incredible animal that we are today. From the moment one wakes, they are reminded by what contributions science has made to modern society. The merits or flaws of modern technology are a separate debate however.
The inescapable truth is that science has helped provide a better understanding of the world, nay, the universe that surrounds us. Science does not claim to be flawless, nor does it need to because it does not seek to guard a presupposed view of reality. Mankind’s quest for truth is insatiable, but fortunately science has provided man with a powerful vehicle by which to embark on this unending journey.
What remains from here is the discussion on the role of science and religion in the future. Traditional religion is deeply embedded in the current social structure and thus is not something that will just fade over night. Science, as powerful as a force as it is, cannot by its own accord completely replace the institution of religion nor the comfort and perspective it provides millions of people. However logic and reasoning, the two fundamental principles of scientific thoughts, can.