Salubrious “Storm”

In this animated short, Australian singer, songwriter, poet, and comedian Tim Minchin has a cocktail conversation with Storm, a woo peddler. Storms come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Here in the United States, 150 million creationists fit the bill.

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12 thoughts on “Salubrious “Storm”

  1. Bob Cranmer

    Entertaining Chris but they both are wrong. There are absolutes in life just as there are in the science of the universe. It’s all too much for our limited abilities (and perspectives) to begin to understand, – let alone figure out.

  2. Cris Post author

    I agree that neither is entirely correct, but one is more correct than the other. It is, in my estimation, best to work from an empirical and parsimonious base and work outward from there. We should, in other words, begin by inducing from the prosaic rather than deducing from the fantastic. If we don’t follow this procedure (or some variant of it), then anything goes and one story is just as good as another.

  3. Bob Cranmer

    Concerning day to day events I agree completely. But when it comes to our “existence” my opinion is that we don’t (or can’t) comprehend our “empirical” starting point to begin with. It’s beyond our intellectual capabilities. Somewhat like the movie “The Matrix”. We can comprehend that 2+2=4 on our flat blackboards, but in a world that we can’t comprehend 2’s and 4’s may not represent the same values, or exist at all for that matter.

    In your own way Cris you remind me a lot of the modern day theologian RC Sproul. He and I have had some interesting written exchanges. After the last one he sent me two of his books to read – they didn’t change my mind, nor address my challenges to his positions. You and he both are confident that your education and intellect have it all figured out, guess what – neither of you do. But I’d certainly love to listen to an exchange between the both of you! :)


  4. Cris Post author

    I don’t think I have everything figured out, nor do I think that science has everything figured out. But just because we don’t have everything figured out, it doesn’t give us warrant to tell fantastic tales or supernatural stories. We should just accept the fact that given the current state of our knowledge, some things are not yet known and may not be known for quite some time.

    Until such time (which may never arrive, but I’ll be long dead so I won’t know), I’m comfortable not knowing and don’t need confabulations to compense for current limitations of knowledge. While I acknowledge gaps and unknowns, I don’t feel any need to fill them with myth or speculation.

    Having said this, I find a priori metaphysical positions, such as “when it comes to our existence we can’t or don’t comprehend” completely unacceptable. This flatly ignores or refuses to acknowledge a great deal that is known; I realize, however, that most people can’t be bothered with the hard work (or rigors of thinking) required to grapple with the known.

    Moreover, asserting that anything is “beyond our comprehension” prejudges the issues and forecloses possibilities. Two hundred years ago, about 99% of what scientists and scholars know today was “beyond comprehension.” Two hundred years from now, people will look back on today’s knowledge and say the same thing. What we consider to be modern or cutting-edge science will, hundreds of years from now, most likely be considered “primitive.”

    Today’s incomprehension is tomorrow’s comprehension. Or so we can hope without committing ourselves to a gloomy position of ignorant incomprehension.

  5. Bob Cranmer

    I agree completely Cris, but your consistent denial that powers much great than we do exist flies in the face of your argument. You present “faith” as something that is based solely on some uneducated, uninformed, superstition, while real “faith” is based on a belief which is generally supported by empirical “evidence”.

    As I once presented to the renowned agnostic Bart Ehrman, the African slaves brought to this country had their own belief systems that they turned to for support as they were faced with terrible oppressive conditions. As I researched why in the world would these oppressed people take on the religion of their oppressors? I found case after case where “wearing a particular root around ones neck” didn’t stop “masser from wupping me.” (From primary source interviews.)

    But when they, with no alternative, decided to pray to this person called “Jesus”, the “wupping” in fact stopped. And as they continued to call upon him for relief – “gunmen finally came and put an end to it all.”

    This belief was based upon “evidence”, just as those in antiquity turned to that same Jesus, many who would be put to death for it. They believed because it “worked”, how or why can’t be defined by our limited understanding, but therein lies the difference when it comes to Jesus, – He works. So the faith is based upon evidence, not just a belief system.

  6. Jonathan

    I enjoy Tim Minchin, but I do have to point out that, in the context of Dr. Seuss’ story, Horton did in fact hear a “Hoo!” (check the 5:00 minute mark). In that story, it was the single individual with an extraordinary claim that was rejected by the mass of people who ended up being proved right in the end. I like the fact that this example supports an idea almost exactly opposite to the rest of the story, so I come away from it with the lesson “Don’t be too dogmatic in your skepticism – you may miss something real.”

  7. Joe Miller

    “why in the world would these oppressed people take on the religion of their oppressors?”
    This much has been addressed by historians before. Amongst other things, the Old Testament provides a lot of metaphors that give a clear expression of the plight of oppressed peoples. The story of David and Delilah was very popular with the slaves, as James Baldwin explains here.

  8. Dominik Lukes (@techczech)

    I found myself increasingly annoyed as the video continued. The problem is that this was an exchange of cliches. Sure, Storm doesn’t put forward a very coherent argument for her position, but neither does Minchin. His description of science vs. faith is laughable and nowhere does he display any nuance nor, frankly, that he is doing anything other than parroting what he’s heard on an interview with Dawkins. I have much more sympathy with the Storms of this world than these self-styled defenders of science whose only credentials are that they can remember a bit of highschool physics or chemistry and have read an article by a neo-atheist in Wired. It’s halfwits like him who do science reporting for major newspapers or the BBC.

    And I find it distasteful that he chose a young woman as his antagonist.If he wished to take on the ‘antiscience’ establishment, there are so many much better figures to target for ridicule. Why not take on the pseudo spiritualists in the mainstream media with their ecumenical conciliatory garbage. How about taking on rags like Nature or Science that publish unreliable preliminary probes as massive breakthroughs. How about universities that put out press releases distorting findings. Why not take on economists who count things that it makes no sense to count just to make things like scientific and wiping out people’s savings. Or, if he really has nothing better to do, some creationist pastor. No, none of these captured his imagination, instead he chose to focus his keen intellect and deep erudition on a stereotype of a young woman who’s trying to figure out a way to be taken seriously in a world filled with pompous frauds like Minchin.

    There’s a debate to be had about the limits of knowledge but this is not the occasion. There is no need to adjudicate about which of these two is more ‘on to something’. They’re not touching on anything of epistemological interest, they’re just playing a game of social positioning in the vicinity of interesting issues. But in this game, people like Michin have been given a lot more chips to play with than people like Storm. It’s his follies and prejudices and not hers that are given a fair hearing. So I’d rather spend a few vacuous moments in her company than endorse his mindless ranting.

  9. Cris Post author

    While I agree with your criticisms (or rather, don’t disagree), I think it also important to realize that there are different levels of critical commentary and targeting. For instance, I find the atheist-creationist debates appalling, but I understand the need for those debates. They take place in the gutter, but someone needs to get down there and do the dirty work. This is low level and crude criticism, but it has its place.

    I can’t help but think that part of your reaction is due to the fact that you live in relatively rational and non-religious Europe. Things are dramatically different here in the US. The big issue here is not the limits of science or knowledge; this debate doesn’t even strike people as making sense, given that knowledge and science are held in relatively low esteem, if not positively rejected.

    Your reactions seem targeted at a higher level of discourse or culture; and while I very much appreciate that, there are other levels (including gutters) that require a different level of discourse.

    I’m pretty confident that many of us, at least here in the US, have attended cocktail parties and been subjected to this sort of talk, which is entirely consistent with the kind of talk we get from the 150 million creationists in the US, 40 million of whom believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ. The primary problem here is not the limits of knowledge or science; to have that conversation (which I quite enjoy), knowledge and science need to gain a foothold.

    Anything that challenges the mindsets that contribute to this sort of nonsense is okay by me, even if it’s not what I would say or do, and even if it is crude, boorish, or a bit offensive, and even if there are other worthy targets.

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