Friday, January 14, 2011

Departing from matters scientific

There are some things that science cannot determine.  That is something I realized when I read through a coin manual (I'm a collector) and it stated that there is no absolutely scientific way the condition of a coin can be determined, whether it is VG-8 (relatively poor quality, but you can still make it out) or varying degrees of "uncirculated" (starts at UNC-60, the highest possible grade is UNC-70).  It cannot be determined by any computer, however powerful it is, what the grade of both sides (and possibly the edge) of a coin, is.  It is up to a person or persons to determine such things, however imperfect the process is.  In a similar vein, neither man nor machine can be absolutely correct as to what speech goes "too far".

Of course, some standards have to be observed, particularly when there are children or otherwise feeble-minded people are involved, but the point here is that as a result of the horrific shootings in Tucson last Saturday, people on the political left are asking people on the right to "tone it down" and placing blame on people like Sarah Palin for her online map placing some congressional districts in "crosshairs".  My conclusion about that, the shooter did not need to see that map, and likely did not.  He had harboured a grudge against Gabrielle Giffords, simply because he did not like the answer she gave to a question at a similar rally a few years earlier.  There is ample evidence, some of which you can still easily access online that he had wildly incoherent political views and a "unique" way of seeing the world.

I can recall something I learned in history class years ago, about how the Crusades were almost singlehandedly started by a speech made by Pope Urban II in 1095 C.E., which so inflammed masses of people that anti-Islamic hysteria quickly spread, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homelands in Europe, and rescue the Eastern Roman Empire from those "heathen" Turks and Arabs.  It caused immeasurable death and destruction off and on for centuries until the Turks were able to take over Asia Minor and some of the Balkans.  It also created much ill-will and distrust that is still very much alive today.  THAT kind of speech is taking things too far.  Not some vitriol filled speeches and web pages that likely had NO factor in Saturday's tragedy.  That is my non-scientific take on this.  If someone incites unruly mobs to attack, THAT is taking things too far.  Isolated semi-random shootings by some lunatic cannot and should not be attributed to Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or anyone on the right or left.

Some thoughts from someone who actually believes that "bullets kill people", and someone from the Christian Science Monitor who also believes that heated words are not the problem, they're the solution.

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