Wisdom 2.0 Conference

If you're in the bay area you may be interested in the Wisdom 2.0 conference coming up at the end of April at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It promises to be

"a one-of-a-kind event that brings together
people from a variety of disciplines, including technology leaders, Zen
teachers, neuroscientists, and academics to explore how we can live
with deeper meaning and wisdom in our technology-rich age."

I've written a bit before about Buddhist approaches to technology and I think it can be an interesting area of thought (as it's been explored by philosopher David Loy, for example). On the other hand there's a lot of crap out there in the form of spiritual workshops, etc.

Some of the speakers for this do sound interesting…

It's $200 if you register early.

Galileo Goes To Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion

Galileo Interesting new book edited by historian Ronald L. Numbers: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. From the publisher's page:

Chris Hedges on Atheism, Science, and Moral Progress

Chris Hedges's When Atheism Becomes Religion* might be of interest to readers of this blog for its critique of the scientistic thinking underlying recent books about atheism by the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens.

The book is not a defense of religion (and Hedges wrote a previous book criticizing Christian fundamentalism) but a defense of moderation. He sees these new figures as scientific utopians who have an irrational belief in moral progress and are just as dangerous as religious fundamentalists.

A quote from the last chapter:

The contemporary atheists, while many are noted scientists, are deluded products of this image-based and culturally illiterate world. They speak about religion, human progress and meaning in the impoverished language of television slogans. They play to our fears, especially of what we do not understand. Their words are sensational, fragmented and devoid of content. They appeal to our subliminal and irrational desires. They select a few facts and use them to dismiss historical, political and cultural realities. They tell us what we want to believe about ourselves. They assure us that we are good. They proclaim the violence employed in our name a virtue. They champion our ignorance as knowledge. They assure us that there is no reason to investigate other ways of being. Our way of life is the best. They indulge us in our delusional dream of human perfectibility. They tell us we will be saved by science and rationality. They tell us that humanity is moving inexorably forward. None of this is true. It defies human nature and human history. But it is what we want to believe.

*This is the title of the new paperback edition of a book published in hardcover with the too-clever title I Don't Believe in Atheists. He should have retitled his War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning while he was at it.

There's more info about Hedges at Truthdig, where he writes a column.

Googling God

Googlinggod I find this title amusing, though I know nothing else about the book: Googling God: Searching for a Faith You Can Believe in.

Further investigation, via Google of course, leads me to The Church of Google, a group of people who believe Google is God (or at least make this argument for the purpose of appearing clever on the internet).

It’s apparently not just the kooks who think this, though.  New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has made the same argument — see his 2003 column Is Google God?.  Okay, maybe Friedman is a kook.  Novelist Douglas Coupland has also compared Google with God (see this Time magazine article).  Coupland may be a kook but he’s a better writer than Friedman.

And one can’t forget Ray Kurzweil, who has said that Google’s database may evolve into a god (see this 2006 CNN Money feature that imagines four possible futures for Google, one of which is Google is God).

See also: Google image search on Google and God.

What are the True Threats to Reason?

Dan Hind writes in New Scientist:

The Enlightenment is in mortal danger from irrational forces. We know
this because its self-styled defenders continually tell us so.
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins declares, in tones which make
the flesh creep, that "primitive darkness is coming back".  Politician Dick Taverne warns that "the new Rome that science built is under siege by the barbarians". […]

No one would want to deny the challenges to the Enlightenment that are
posed by fundamentalist religion and the other forces of unreason. But
if we consider the facts dispassionately, it becomes clear they do not
deserve top billing among the enemies of free inquiry. In fact, the
institutions that noisily lay claim to the enlightened inheritance –
the corporation and the state – pose a much more serious, pervasive
threat to reason.

Link: What are the true threats to reason? (subscription required)

The article is based on a talk that Hind gave last November, and he has posted a transcript and audio of the talk at his blog: The Threat to Reason.  That’s also the name of his book, from which all of this is drawn: The Threat to Reason.  He describes it as "still the best book-length attempt to prise the Enlightenment
from the grasp of Richard Dawkins, Dick Taverne and Christopher
Hitchens."  Sounds like a fine endeavor.