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Thoughts of an Old Fart

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday was my fiftieth birthday. Yes, those of you who follow my blog now know that I am what many people have referred to as an “old fart”. But is 50 really that old today? I don’t think so, at least not in my case. But I do know some people who are a similar age and act like they really are old farts and I know a few who are older and don’t act that way at all.

Working in the IT industry helps, of course, because I am usually already involved in the latest tech trends before much younger people even find out they exist: blogging, podcasting, social networks, and Twitter would be examples. On the other hand my teenage son and daughter claim the stuff I put on Facebook is far too serious – they tend to use the word “lame”!

I think it is important to act the way that is natural for you and avoid as many social norms as possible. Who really wants to do things the same way as everyone else? Certainly not me. Naturally there are many social rules which are only sensible to follow, and the same applies to laws and regulations.

But I reserve the right to ignore any norm, rule, regulation or law which I disagree with. I do understand that if I break laws I might have to face the consequences but I won’t necessarily agree that what I did was wrong. Anyone who thinks that the law is automatically right is not only limiting themselves but they’re also not doing society a favour in the long term.

I have always been interested in debating controversial subjects (at least since my time as a student at university) but I have toned down my rhetoric a bit since I was younger. Yes, what I present in this blog is definitely less extreme than what I used to believe! I don’t think that’s a mellowing process associated with getting older, its a realisation that there are no black and white issues and there is always an argument which can be presented for both sides of any issue.

Actually I usually associate mellowing with ageing but when I think about it I realise that most of the people who have the most extreme and inflexible views are people who are older than me. At least that seems to be the trend with the people I debate. That could be because people usually become more conservative with age, and I tend to debate conservatives.

But what is it about conservatives which so often leads me to debate them? It generally gets back to their inflexibility and inability to cope with new trends. The most common topics I debate are global warming, liberal politics, religious flexibility and the value and accuracy of science versus other world views.

Few people would say we are 100% certain that global warming is happening just the way the scientific consensus thinks but that is certainly the safest view to take and is very likely to be close to the actual facts. So why do conservatives refuse to see this? Its because they were brought up in an environment where exploiting the environment was considered a noble thing (of course, “exploit” might not have been the word they used). Things have changed, and with very good reason, but conservatives haven’t.

Liberal politics is a bit less objective because its almost impossible to get unbiased and clear data on the outcome of various political interventions, but at the very least people should be prepared to compromise on this. But not the conservatives. Anything that is to the left of where they stand is communism! And Barack Obama is a socialist! Are they for real?

I think the data indicates that religion is on the way out as the major social and political influence in the world. It has already happened in Europe and has started in America. The third world is where most of the growth is now coming from but that will follow the other regions eventually. Its clear that no one religion has a special place in the world now but I do agree with the conservatives that we should be careful in giving certain religions (you know which one I mean) special benefits in an attempt at fairness. Giving a religious group special privileges when they demand them has nothing to do with fairness.

The rejection of science can be quite annoying. The same people who deny certain areas of science (creationists, new age medicine proponents, and global warming deniers are examples) seem to be happy enough to accept it in less controversial areas. Do creationists really think that scientists could get evolution wrong but still get the physics theories used in modern computing and communications (which the creationists use to distribute their lies) right? That doesn’t really make sense.

So that’s a few thoughts from an old 50 year old skepticism and science blogger. If I look at the classic skeptic James Randi who is now over 80 and still doing brilliant skeptical work I figure I’ve got a few years left yet!

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