Letting Things Slide

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, May 21, 2017

Recently I told a friend they were letting things slide.

“What a horrible phrase,” they replied, “it sounds like I’m in a death spiral.”

“I didn’t mean you were going down the drain,” I said. “But you do keep pushing deadlines back.”

Psychology Today defines “letting things slide” as procrastination. Dictionary definitions include, “to ignore something, to not pay attention, put aside, write off, negligently allow something to deteriorate, allow something to go without punishment, to not do anything about something or someone when you should try to change or correct that thing or person.” Evidently, it’s a widely used phrase. By the last definition, if I hadn’t said anything to my friend I would have been letting things slide by not telling them they were sliding.

now-later

Often, offering helpful criticism means getting a foot stuck in our mouth. I then pointed out that one of the side-effects of getting older is letting things slide. My friend hates any suggestion that they’re getting older. They got even more annoyed with me. My wife tells me I’m too happy to accept aging. She says if I’m not going to fight getting old, I should at least not admit it.

I started thinking about causes of sliding not related to aging. I remembered that I started letting things slide more after I retired. I assume it was because I was getting older, but what if retirement causes sliding? What if not having a 9 to 5 structure promotes procrastination and delay?

When all your time is free its very easy to reschedule obligations. It’s also easy to choose pleasant activities over annoying tasks. I’ve known this for a couple years since I’ve been retired longer than my friend, so I was trying to pass on that bit of wisdom. Maybe people have to discover it for themselves.

I even wrote an essay, “Overcoming Inertia in Retirement.” I guess my friend didn’t read it. I often study older people when I get a chance to see if I can spot trends I might be following as I get older. And I do think letting things slide is an aging issue. Older folks generally do much less than younger people. We assume that’s because of health and energy, but what if it’s mental too? Life is about making an effort to get what we want.

What if the wisdom of aging is learning that some things aren’t worth the effort? Or is that a cop out? Maybe we just get tired of making an effort. I know I dream of arranging my future life so it requires much less effort. To put a positive spin on things, maybe we just streamline living as we get older.

Unfortunately, I think it’s more insidious than that. As we age our brains shrink, and we lose neurons and neural connectivity. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise can counter that trend. We actually grow new neurons and make more connections with exercise. I do very little aerobic exercise according to my FitBit. And I do feel I’m in a cognitive decline. That’s why I do things like write essays and solve crossword puzzles to keep what little brain matter I have oiled and active.

If we chart our activity levels across our 40s, 50s and 60s, we can probably plot a line that will show our activity levels for our 70s, 80s and 90s. Research shows we can tilt the slope of that line up if we exercise physically and mentally.

If other words, slowing the slide now means we’ll let things slide less in the future.

JWH

Baby Boomer Science Fiction

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

For a small group of aficionados of old black and white movies, there’s a tiny sub-genre called “Pre-Code Hollywood” that has a passionate following. I’m fond of a certain era of science fiction which I’m currently calling Baby Boomer Science Fiction. I feel it’s slowly being recognized as a distinct sub-genre, but it doesn’t have a name yet. I’m guessing it has about as many fans as Pre-Code Hollywood.

I got hooked on science fiction in the 1950s by watching old science fiction movies on television. I found books to read with similar themes in 1962. Then in 1964, I discovered there was a genre called science fiction. I began pursuing it with a passion. At the time, science fiction was a lonely, but exciting love. It wasn’t until 1967 that I found a friend who read science fiction. I discovered fandom in 1971, thinking I had finally found my tribe. And that’s when I first met women who read science fiction. In 1977 I met my wife and went to work at my last job. My wife had read Dune and loved J. R. R. Tolkien, but wasn’t a fan. Except for couple close friends, science fiction became mostly a solitary pursuit again.

IF - Jan53

In 2002 I joined Audible.com. I discovered I loved listening to the old science fiction I first read during 1962-1975. Because of the internet, I found other people like myself who were nostalgic for science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s. I joined a small online book club at Yahoo Groups, Classic Science Fiction about ten years ago, where many of the members remembered reading the same kind of science fiction I did when they were growing up.

And there were several women in the group. Back in the 1960s, I didn’t think women read science fiction. I used to pray my atheist prayers for a girlfriend who read science fiction. I now realize there were male and female science fiction fans all around me in school and I never knew it.

I figure all across the country there are folks my age, and a few from younger generations, who love a particular kind of science fiction. It’s science fiction that was mostly published in the 1950s and 1960s, but some from the 1970s. I’ve decided to call stories of this kind, Baby Boomer Science Fiction (BB-SF). It’s not a great name like the Lost Generation or the Beats, but it’s a useful enough tag.

There are two ways to explain my label. First, people might think of baby boomers who wrote science fiction, but that’s not where I’m going, although that could be another essay. No, I categorizing these stories by the science fiction old baby boomers are nostalgic for now. I’m wondering if every generation has science fiction fans who love a particular kind of science fiction. Growing up I met older guys who gushed about the science fiction from the 1920s and 1930s, but I found their science fiction distinctively different, even quaint and dated. I wonder if young readers today find my science fiction on the moldy side?

There are no official names or dates for generations, but I like those defined in “The Six Living Generations In America.” Other sources give other date ranges. Wikipedia has even different date ranges and names. I bet there’s science fiction sub-genre for every one of these generations.

  • The Lost Generation (1883-1900)
  • GI Generation/Greatest Generation (1901-1926) (1901-1924)
  • The Silent Generation (1927-1945) (1925-1941)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Generation X (1965-1980) (1965-1976)
  • Millennials (1981-2000) (1977-1995)
  • Generation Z/Boomlets/Centennials/iGen (2001- ) (1996- )

It has been said that The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. (Before that I heard 1939-1949.) For my purposes, I’m looking at baby boomers who turned twelve during 1958-1976 and got hooked on science fiction. I turned twelve three days after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. 1958-1976 roughly coincides with Sputnik (1957) to Apollo 11 (1969), which also happens to be my 1st-12th-grade years. So Sci-Fi Baby Boomers grew up with NASA and science fiction.

Even is we discount space travel and science fiction, those years were far out times, with memorable concurrent influences that felt just as radical as science fiction, such as classic rock, the Civil Rights movement, second wave feminism, the early Gay Liberation movement, the beginning of the computer age, and the Beats/Hippies/New Age counter-cultures. Really, a lot more. The 1960s would have been science fictional if written in a novel in the 1950s.

On the internet, the kind of “classic science fiction” I’m talking about has almost become a tiny meme. I frequently stumble across websites devoted to BB-SF, but without any consistent label. I used to call it 1950s & 1960s science fiction, but once I applied the Baby Boomer generation label, I realized it stretched a few years earlier and later. I thought of calling it Space Race Science Fiction because its fans grew up with Sputnik, Project Mercury, Project Gemini and Project Apollo. It was also the science fiction that was siblings to rock music, but “Rock and Roll Sci-Fi” doesn’t work. The earlier era of science fiction centered around pulp magazines and the heart of this era’s science fiction were the digest SF magazines. “Digest SF” doesn’t work either. So I’m going with Baby Boomer Science Fiction.

Even though all the members of my science fiction book club have decidedly different personalities, we tend to prefer science fiction published in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. We all dabble in newer SF, but with no consistent preferences showing up for later SF. You can see the club’s reading history here. Nor do we all share the same favorite novels from the Baby Boomer era.

What we do share is a wistful fondness for the Baby Boomer Science Fiction we grew up reading and watching. In that era, Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke were considered The Big Three of SF. Those guys were from the GI Generation. From the Silent Generation, we got Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, and Samuel R. Delaney. Those writers felt young, fresh, daring, and revolutionary when we first read their stories in the digests.

The BB-SF I’m talking about, the stuff we’re nostalgic for, was first discovered by Baby Boomers in four stages. Old books in libraries, cheap paperbacks, the Science Fiction Book Club, and the science fiction digest magazines.

Hardbacks

Before 1950 there was little science fiction published in hardback. Starting in the late 1940s a few small presses began publishing hardback SF which turned into a boom in the 1950s. These were the old books baby boomers discovered in libraries in the sixties that define science fiction for them for the rest of their lives.

Links are to sources where you can see titles and covers, and hopefully, trigger your nostalgia. The main publishers I remember were:

Paperbacks

Almost concurrent with the hardback boom, was a boom in paperback science fiction. Great reads could be bought with lunch money. I remember living in small towns in the 1960s, with a wire rack in a drugstore my only source of science fiction. Many baby boomers love to collect these paperbacks today. Others nostalgically remember their covers. The main publishers I remember were:

Science Fiction Book Club

The Science Fiction Book Club began in 1953. I joined it in 1967. That’s when I started reading new SF books the year they came out. The SFBC editions were not as well made as the publisher’s editions, but they still felt like owning a hardback. Looking at their publications schedules (Doubleday, Putnam) is a trip down memory lane, and probably a fairly accurate key to when I first read many BB-SF books.

I don’t think most fans of BB-SF books today were members of the SFBC. I don’t often read nostalgic blog essays about being in the club. I think most people who love BB-SF do so because of the books they found in libraries or the paperbacks they bought.

Digest Magazines

I discovered the digest magazines around 1965 and immediately began searching for back issues in used bookstores. I think very few BB-SF readers today got into the digests. They’ve never had a huge circulation, although for a while Publishers Clearing House pushed Analog, and I believe Asimov’s to over 100,000. I think their current circulations run 10-23k. If the digests even had that circulation in the 1960s, then the current population who might be nostalgic for BB-SF could potentially be around that size. I tend to think it’s in the hundreds, not thousands. But I’m not sure.

Another indicator of interest is websites devoted to pulp scans. IF Magazine was recently reprinted on Internet Archives. The most popular issues have had a few thousand people look at them.

I believe the definitive digest SF magazines for Baby Boomers were:

There were dozens of other titles, but most were short-lived. I subscribed to all of these at different times. Letters in Ted White’s Amazing got me into fandom. I collected F&SF, which was my favorite. I enjoyed Galaxy and IF a lot more than Analog.

Are You a Fan of BB-SF?

I believe younger science fiction readers prefer newer books. Science fiction should be cutting edge and old science fiction often feels dated, and sadly, alarmingly sexist. But science fiction from the Baby Boomer years does feel original in a way modern science fiction can’t. That’s because contemporary science fiction often feels like rewritten BB-SF. Newer SF stories are often better told, longer, and sometimes feel Baroque with details. At the online book club, many agree that we loved science fiction novels when they were around 200 pages long, and new science fiction runs several times that length, and usually the books are part of an endless series.

Plus with newer books, you seldom see little gems of weird speculation like Brainwave by Poul Anderson,  The Last Starship From Earth by John Boyd, Space Chantey by R. A. Lafferty,  or Mindswap by Robert Sheckley.

Here are the books I remember:

p.s.

If you got a better name, propose it in the comments.

p.s.s.

I wanted to use this photo from Getty Images, but it costs money. But isn’t it perfect?

JWH

Waiting for Heinlein

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, May 14, 2017

Are you disappointed your life hasn’t turned out like the stories you love? Would I feel this way now if I had loved literary fiction instead of science fiction? In the last third of my life, I’m cherishing nineteenth-century English novels and early twentieth-century American novels, realizing they would have been better preparation for my life – the life I got instead of the one I wanted. Science fiction is as wondrous as any religion but as frustrating as a Samuel Beckett play. Of course, doesn’t religion and science fiction promise futures that will never arrive?

Robert Heinlein

I’ve been waiting a long time for the future to get here – sixty years by one reckoning. And I must admit, sometimes I feel the fringes of Tomorrowland when I use my smartphone, but for the most part, I’m still waiting for Heinlein to show up. Other writers have complained about not getting their jetpack, but they had such foolish gadgets back in the sixties.

I’m waiting for interplanetary rocketships with long sleek hulls, that land on four fins with thrusters, or interstellar spaceships like the U.S.S. Enterprise. Reading about extrasolar planets is encouraging, but it ain’t what Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke promised with tales of visiting them.

I’m also waiting for robots like Asimov and Simak promised. I do talk to Alexa, but she has no soul. And I enjoy seeing the little robots DIY people make with a Raspberry Pi board, but I think we should have robots well beyond the ones we saw in Forbidden Planet and Lost in Space.

Do we screw up kids by letting them read science fiction and fantasy? Even before I discovered Robert A. Heinlein at age 12 in 1964, I had absorbed a great deal of science fiction via an old black and white television my family bought in 1955. Should we judge reality by our dreams? Would we have invented everything that makes us human by accepting reality as it is?

Maybe fantasies are fine except we should be more discerning when creating them.

I don’t know if this is too sick to admit, but as a kid, I was disappointed that WWIII didn’t happen. All those 1950s movies about mutants and last people on Earth had its allure. Living like Harry Belafonte in The World, The Flesh and the Devil seemed great, especially after Inger Stevens arrives. (Like Harry’s character, I could have done without the Mel Ferrer’s character.)

And even though the robots in Target Earth were scary, I liked them, although I didn’t love them like I loved Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was a shame learning in the 1960s that our 1950s flying saucers dreams were flaky and fake. It was somewhat redeeming when we got to see Closer Encounters of the Third Kind in the 1970s, but it really was too late, at least for believing in Have Space Suit-Will Travel adventures.

It was crushing in 1972 when we stopped going to the Moon. From reading Heinlein I was positive humans would reach the red planet by the end of that decade and build colonies there in the 1980s. I thought before I died (which I imagined being around the mid-21st century), I’d leave life knowing that interstellar travel was in the preparation phase.

I’ve written this essay before. I’ll probably write it again many times before I die. The feelings that inspire these thoughts come out again and again. I wanted more science fictional dreams to come true in my lifetime. Of course, I also expected more of my liberal dreams to unfold before I died too, but Donald Trump has crushed them. Books, especially those we read when we’re young give us a kind of hope that never goes away. I know the hopes I got from science fiction are no more practical than the hopes the faithful get from reading The Bible. Does needing the impossible mean we’re stupid? Or do those desires shape our souls?

The thing that distinguishes science fiction from religion is the belief that humans can build rockets that will take us to the stars. The faithful believe God will take them to heaven. Maybe my frustration with the future is it takes longer than a lifetime to get where I dream of going.

I still embrace three science fictional hopes that could come true before I die. The first is SETI. I’m not sure humans will ever travel to other star systems, but we might get messages from beings living light years away. Second, even if we don’t get a message from ET, I hope astronomy will eventually detect atmospheres with spectrographic evidence of advanced life on extrasolar planets. Finally, I hope AI minds arrive. Many people fear artificial intelligence will wipe out humans, but I hope they will help us evolve. Our species is smart, but I don’t think we’re smart enough to survive self-extinction. AI minds could save us from our own stupidity.

I’ve been waiting my whole life to live my favorite stories of Robert A. Heinlein. That’s quite childish of me. On the other hand, I could have followed in my father’s footsteps. He died an alcoholic at age 49. I always assumed he drank because he couldn’t achieve his childhood aspirations. I’ve often wondered if science fiction was my alcohol. At least science fiction has kept me alive longer.

Like Vladimir and Estragon, my old friend Connell and I have been arguing about the future since 1967, waiting for Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov to arrive.

JWH

Don’t Hate Me Because I Look Like Them

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I’m a liberal atheist who’s always voted Democratic – but I look like a Republican – an old white guy. That’s getting to be a problem. Women and people of color are being political disenfranchised by the current political regime. I don’t think I’m being paranoid when I think they’re starting to hate old white guys. I don’t even blame them. Not only that, I’m getting tired of old white guys coming up and immediately telling me their weird-ass political ideas assuming I’m a member of their secret fraternity. I’m totally freaked out people will think I’m a Trump supporter because of my looks.

13 white guys

It’s a good thing I don’t want to be a politician because this country doesn’t need any more old white guys wanting to run the joint. I do want to be a writer, and unfortunately, there’s a long legacy of wordy old white bastards hogging the literary canon. I write for a site that works very hard to promote diversity in reading. I feel guilty even submitting essays. Yet, I’m very thankful to be their token old white guy. I’ve always been for diversity but I’m learning even more by hanging out at Book Riot.

The trouble is there’s a large segment of our country that wishes we all looked alike. Yesterday, The Atlantic reported “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump” and not economic anxiety. These people want to return to a paternalistic white past where women and people of color don’t disturb their vision of a homogeneous America. Recently, I’ve heard second-hand personal stories and read many reports in the news about people going up to Hispanic folks and telling them they should go home. That’s incredibly shameful. Knowing the president and leaders in Congress inspires such horrendous behavior makes watching shows like The Handmaid’s Tale unnerving. I thought climate change was dooming our future, but alt-right politics is going to destroy us first.

Not only do the Republicans not see anything wrong in having all old white guy committees, they take pride in claiming they don’t play identity politics. They even jockey with each other to out-do their denials claiming nothing is wrong. But it’s very wrong! The fact they can’t see their evilness is equal to Trump’s own anosognosia. Their blind spots are so huge it’s surprising they can see at all.

What really bothers me is their claim to be Christians, a religion based on teaching compassion. If these old Republican white guys are really going to church every Sunday they should stop. If they haven’t gotten the message after all these years then they are wasting their time. I’m an atheist that quit the church when I was twelve, but I did learn this in Sunday school at age five:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Obviously, they didn’t. Women are half the world, and the whole world is diverse. Why can’t they see that? I think I know why, but it’s a terrible thing to think about another human being. Women, minorities, and immigrants tend to vote Democratic. Republican’s in their single-mindedness to lower their taxes will do anything, and I mean anything, to achieve that goal. In other words, greed has driven them blind, even to the point of abandoning their faith and becoming hateful.

They have sold their souls to lower their taxes.

I just want people to know that I might look like those zombies, but I ain’t one of them.

JWH

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, May 9, 2017 (reprinted from SF Signal)

[Because All the Birds in the Sky is up for a Hugo award I thought I’d reprint my review from last year.]

“Too late, too late” the birds chorused.

Our futures are different in every generation. Back in 1966, my generation, the Baby Boomers, feared nuclear annihilation, hoped for colonies on Mars among other dreams, but nothing was certain, and we were surprised by the Internet and the Hubble Telescope. In 2016, I am concerned for the current generation, because their futures of climate catastrophe and mass extinctions do seem inevitable. How do young science fiction readers find hope in their futures? And what unexpected amazements awaits them?

Is science fiction ever about the future? Isn’t it always about the present? Science fiction represents the hopes and anxieties of each generation about their future. Science fiction set in the far future, like stories about interstellar travel, represents a kind of extreme optimism, whereas science fiction set in a middling distance of interplanetary travel, represents another kind of hope, a hope that we can build that future today if we only would. Science fiction set in the near future, often explores our fears more than our dreams. Writing near future SF requires juggling the hard cold facts of today against dreams for better tomorrows. Science fiction is each generation’s barometer measuring its faith in their futures.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane AndersAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders walks the razor’s edge of a very near future science fiction, confronting the obvious dooms while still offering hopes. Anders impressed me with her faith in our future. She accomplishes her task with a light touch, producing a novel that is a joy to read, yet is as deep as you’re willing to dig. I expect many to speed along in this story because of its shiny science fiction bits, but those who read slower, analyzing its fantasy and literary symbolism will find deeper concerns to contemplate.

At the surface of this novel is a love story between Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead that begins in their troubled childhood. Patricia survives by discovering the old religion of magic, while Laurence endures by mastering technology and science. They cope emotionally by sharing their misery, until outside forces split them up. Years later they rediscover one another only to find they have taken radically divergent philosophical paths. Their beginning reminds me a of Among Others by Jo Walton, and how children of genre find themselves by finding people like themselves.

All the Birds in the Sky is getting great reviews and buzz. How you read this book will determine how you label it, fantasy or science fiction, because the story apparently asks us to take sides. All the Birds in the Sky is a horse of many different colors, making it hard to categorize.

At first, I thought All the Birds in the Sky as three weddings: a marriage of science fiction and fantasy, a marriage of YA and adult, and a marriage of genre and literary. The novel makes us feel Cory Doctorow and J.K. Rowling should have tied the knot long ago. It also feels quite natural to bolt a YA section onto the beginning of a novel that’s meant for adults.

All the Birds in the Sky is a fast, fun read, but it’s about children being bullied by their parents and peers, who become adults during the climate apocalypse. How fun can that be? It is. The story does have talking animals and intelligent computers that are enchanting, and a serial killer assassin that feels like someone from The Grand Budapest Hotel, which for me was the only weird thing in the story that didn’t work (but I might change my mind in later readings).

Because All the Birds in the Sky is set in San Francisco, it makes me wonder if it’s a counter-culture novel too, but not the counter-cultures I knew, of Beatniks and Hippies, but Geek counter-culture from Silicon Valley startups and Maker subcultures. I also wonder if the novel isn’t a jab at Silicon Valley, who some San Franciscans believe is destroying their city. (Watch San Francisco 2.0 on HBO to see what I mean.)

All the Birds in the Sky are about two forces at war: magic and science. The novel begins with Patricia as a small child learning she can converse with birds. This is a very strange way to begin a science fiction novel, but Anders eventually makes it work for me. I totally get the Wired-Maker-SF side of this story because of my background. I just didn’t understand Patricia’s story at first, of talking animals, magic and secret covens of witches and wizards. I never played Dungeons and Dragons or read The Lord of the Rings. My only knowledge of magic comes from reading the Harry Potter books. The whole magic angle didn’t work for me until I reread some chapters. Then it clicked. I don’t believe Anders added magic to her story just to have a genre mashup, its integral to her message.

Good writers make their stories ambiguous, which allows readers to find their own meaning. However, that leaves us never knowing if we found the meaning, if there truly is one. But once I found a symbolic way to interpret the magic in All the Birds in the Sky, I was quite satisfied with this novel. I’d love to read how others interpreted the magic, but to do so in public would create spoilers.

I believe Anders is offering philosophical inspiration to young people. She knows they face grim futures. She wants young people to have faith they can solve the problems they’ve inherited. To understand how we must save ourselves is to understand how we must change ourselves. Any current science fiction written about the near future needs to involve ideas from books like This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Not only is mankind the cause of our future doom, but so are our intellectual approaches to politics, economics, sociology, spirituality, psychology and self-expression.

Climate change is such a large bump in the road to the future that I’m not sure science fiction can ignore it. Anders knows that. To stop climate change requires changing ourselves, and how we interact with reality. There will be no wizards or scientists that can work that kind of magic, but Anders does offer hope in her ending. At least in the way I’ve read her story. I wonder what younger readers make of it. Birds and animals do have a say in Anders’ novel. Has Anders read The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert? Not only is human society altering the biosphere and climate, but we’re killing off all our fellow species. If animals could talk, what would they say? My guess is Anders knows about such books, but doesn’t feel the need to weave their heaviness into her story. Both rising seas and dying animals are on the perimeters of her plot. The real conflict is between two people who love each other but embrace opposing philosophies. So the story becomes fantasy v. science fiction, but not really. Isn’t it nature v. science?

“Almost too late,” the pigeon said.

I Was Wrong

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, May 8, 2017

Yesterday I wrote, “Are Republicans the Party of Darwin?” accusing conservatives of applying their understanding of Darwin’s observations on nature to justify the laws they were creating. Their laws always seem to back the strong against the weak. But I had a revelation in the middle of the night.

Everyone acts on their instincts, and those instincts are Darwinian by nature. Duh! Darwin’s theory is the most widely accepted explanation for our behavior. I was crediting Republicans for consciously using Darwin’s ideas in the formulation of their political philosophy, and this is where I’m wrong. It wasn’t a conscious decision. My essay was based on the irony that conservatives profess to be Christians but enact laws that reflect Darwin’s theory rather than Jesus’ teachings.

heaven and earth

My point being there’s no compassion in nature or Darwin’s observations about how nature works, and there’s no compassion in the laws Republicans want to support. You’d think people who follow a personal philosophy based on compassion would enact compassionate laws. This conflict of action and belief troubles me and I keep trying to figure out what causes it.

My revelation last night is everyone acts Darwinianly, despite what they profess philosophically. I am an atheist, but I give Christianity credit for inventing many compassionate philosophical concepts. I attribute those ideas to Jesus like we attribute other philosophical ideas to Plato or Aristotle, but I’m not sure they came from the man we historical think of as Jesus. Many of the ideas were developed by his followers and attributed to him in the first few centuries after his death.

Organized compassion for the weak is a relatively new idea in history. Limited forms of compassion have been around in evolutionary terms for a very long time, even in plants and lower animals, but to develop a religion, philosophy, or political system to protect the weak wholesale is relatively new.

I just think it’s ironic that the political party that claims to be the most Christian reflects it least in their laws, and the party that folks general assume is least Christian reflects compassion the most in their laws.

Our political divide really comes down to how much we want to support the common welfare over the freedom of the individual. The more socialistic we are, the more we want everyone to contribute to improving society, the less socialistic we are, the more we want to give the maximum freedom to individuals and ignore the suffering of the masses. Such socialism counters Darwin’s observations on animal behavior.

Thus Christianity is inherently anti-Darwinian. For twenty centuries it seemed like Christianity was catching on, especially in the Western world. But that’s probably an illusion. What really caught on was a belief in life after death via easy salvation. The idea of heaven on Earth hasn’t.

In other words, conservatives are Darwinian on Earth, but Christian in their hopes about an afterlife. Which might explain why liberals are more socialistic. Many of them doubt the afterlife, and thus they’d want to create heaven on Earth. The conservatives are more pragmatically Darwinian, they want all they can get while living, and then assume things will magically go great after they die despite what they do while living. Liberals evidently feel this is all there is so we better make the best of it.

This is a huge problem for liberals. To get more people to vote for social welfare might require convincing people to think less about an afterlife. In other words, the concept of heaven has corrupted people’s attitude towards Earth. This might also explain climate change deniers. They might unconsciously realize to think more about Earth means to think less about an afterlife.

JWH

 

 

Are Republicans the Party of Darwin?

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, May 7, 2017

As a lifelong atheist, I find most of my political convictions comes from the words printed in red in The New Testament. Shouldn’t unbelievers use Charles Darwin’s scientific insights to model how society should be governed? Yet, as I study Republicans, the party I oppose, I wonder why they act the way the do. I can only conclude they base their philosophy on the survival of the fittest.

Darwin-Jesus

I hate Republicans for not carrying about suffering, whether it’s the suffering of people, animals, plants, or the biosphere. If you study Darwin’s observations you realize that nature ignores suffering too. The Republicans work with all their might to create a political system that helps the strong while ignoring the weak. In fact, Republicans are the strong feeding off the weak. Yet, publically Republicans claim to be Christians. Shouldn’t a Christian political party promote the way of life Jesus taught? And wouldn’t that be anti-Darwinian?

If you study the Sermon on the Mount, you know it’s impossible for a Christian to own an AR-15. The meek will not be carrying Glocks when they inherited the Earth. Darwin’s red tooth and claw philosophy would embrace such weapons. Darwin would be pro-gun, but not Jesus. Yet, typically Republicans express a hatred for Darwin and a love of Christ.

The Democratic party which wants to feed the poor and heal the sick is labeled the Godless party. However, if the beliefs in The New Testament were converted into a political system it would be socialistic, and look much like the political goals of the DNC.

Is it possible to create a political system that reduces suffering while still encouraging all its citizens to become stronger? If Republicans were honest they’d admit they believe far more in Darwin than Christ. Yes, helping people can make them weak, but ignoring their suffering also makes you heartless.

Isn’t there some kind of compromise we could make? Can’t we start the competition for survival on an equal playing ground? Wealth inequality shows the competition isn’t equal like what Darwin saw in nature. Human intelligence allows us to multiply and horde our strengths, which is why we’re destroying all the other species, and why those humans on the receiving end of wealth inequality can so easily destroy those on the losing end.

Republicans appear to totally embrace Darwinism, including ignoring suffering. Democrats want to create a political system that eliminates some sufferings. I would think any political system that ethically allows for some members to become billionaires should allow for universal healthcare. How can any system that allows for some players to have everything and others nothing be Christian?

Isn’t Christianity about compassion? I can understand why conservatives embrace Darwinian actions. Republican ideals are very close to nature. And don’t Christian beliefs defy the natural? Isn’t The New Testament all about protecting the weak?

JWH