July 30, 2013

"Truth" Or "Goodness" - The Difference Between Science And Religion

Issues in Science and Religion
Issues in Science and Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Somebody said Oscar Wilde said, "Old people believe everything; middle aged people doubt everything, young people know everything." Based on this quote, I found I was quite "normal" to doubt lots of thing these years, because I am middle aged!

Things I've doubted the most were science and religion* (or faith). When I was young I was a science "believer", but later I found the science had its limit, and realized that believing science was not much different from believing "God". So, it seems to make sense to say, that there is not much difference between science and faith. But I am not satisfied with this thought. I found these two fields are still essentially different: one is derived from an objective thinking style: to know, or to understand how the world (universe) works; another is derived from subjective thinking style: to wish, to hope, so that human kind would be mentally in a better condition, either during or after our lifetime. Science respect facts  ("fact", or "truth" here mean anything that can be verified by our sensory organs), regardless they are good ("good" means "favorable") for humans or not; on the other hand, faith focuses on humans needs, regardless what they believe are true or false.

From this point of view, we'd better not ask truth in religion, nor, seek morality or emotional comfort in science, though these two fields do cross each other at some points. Take the human origin as an example. Both science and religion have their interpretations on this subject: science says human evolved from lower life forms, religion says humans were created by God. People from different sides always demand each other for proofs. I would say, please don't ask science to provide evidences for evolution, because if there were no evidences, there would be no such idea; also please don't ask believers to provide evidences for God, because the beauty of faith is "blind". To say evolution is completely an objective view, not only because it was based on evidence, which means no one would just invent such idea by imagination, also because no human being would be "spiritually" or "emotionally" benefited by knowing we evolved from lower life forms. On the other hand, to say faith is subjective, not only because we got this idea out of our imagination, but also the idea makes us feel good. Imagine, if the story of Adam and Eve was true, would we not feel much better by knowing we are protected by God, and a guaranteed life after death? So, from this view, science and faith, which one would be "truer" should not be a dispute, and which one would make us feeling better but may not be true is also obvious.

Science doesn't always do "good" to human, because it does not mean to - it is out of our curiosity, an instinct that is like our sex drive, or our appetite for foods. To simply put, we just need to know, regardless of the outcome; faith is not always truthful because it doesn't care about truth, it was created for consoling our desperate living situation. The reason that science and religion fought so violently for centuries, by my opinion, is because most people confused by the essential difference of these two fields, so they ask science for "good", religion for "truth". When people found that science can do "bad", they think we should not at all believe whatever science says, and when people found faith is not "true", they would think we should be completely cynical, not to have faith at all. They forgot that these two fields derived from different side of our brains, serve for different purposes, and they have their respective necessities for humans. Unfortunately, I found many people, probably majority, due to many reasons - possibly both natural (biological) and cultural (educational) reasons, only possess one type of thinking style, either subjective, or objective. Only in minds of some, maybe minority of population, these two thinking styles can coexist peacefully.

By saying "these two thinking styles coexist peacefully", I did not mean they (science and religion) should negotiate with each other, thus lose their own attributes, rather, I mean their difference is granted by their "owners", and the owners know how to use them for different purposes, such as, when concerning about "truth", or facts, they go to science; when talking about value of our life, struggle in despair, fighting with injustice, pursuing happiness, they would hold faith without hesitation.

So, science and faith, rather than letting them fighting with each other, we probably should realize that they can be "friends" to each other, and leave them as they are, without change their identities.

Hope I don't sound so confused after all. :-)


*In this article, "science" means scientific spirit, or an objective attitude towards the world, doesn't include all contents under the full definition of "science", such as scientific knowledge, discoveries and technology, etc.; "religion" here means faith, or spiritual attitude towards the world, doesn't include religion institutions and doctrines.
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July 28, 2013

Disappointment And A "Period"! -- My Battle With Confucianism Is About to End

Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother's meal
Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother's meal (Photo credit: Claremont Colleges Digital Library)
It has been frustrating. After I initiated two blogs and one facebook page for Su Li's Day (a day for remembering a girl who was tortured to death by her own mother, also for all child abuse victims in China), a netizen friend suggested that I should write a petition (a joint signed letter) to legislature in China, to appeal for actions in Chinese government to concern this issue, to establish a more executable law and some organizations for children's protection. I thought this was such a great idea. Though I knew this may not work out, I wrote a draft nonetheless, just to see how far this could go. However, after I posted the draft in the forum of CND (Chinese News Digest) and another Chinese popular website, asking for advices or suggestions, and support (by sending me their "signatures", basically just names), the responses were very disappointing. Only a few people responded, most of suggestions were neither geniune, nor relevant. And needless to mention some of them were scornfully discouraging. Even though dozens of people supported the idea before I made draft, only two people sent me their signatures after 3 days since I posted draft.

In 2011, some school activity: washing parents' feet. Serving 
parents (like "slaves") is the primary teaching of Confucianim. 
Personally, I do not believe China has much hope from within. If we want to see some progress in humanity in this society, some fundamental cultural ideology has to be changed, even eliminated, but very few Chinese people would agree on this view. Many people (include some none-Chinese) might see China appears to be very strong now, but please be aware, that the recently decade of soaring economy was promoted by international markets, together with all imported technologies. Under such glowing surface, the disparity of rich and poor, the degeneration of morality accelerated by the same speed of economy rising. And for solving moral problem, again, Chinese society turned to Confucianism, an ancient outdated yet lifeless ideology based on ancestor worship. This ideology was superficially "destroyed" by Mao, especially during Cultural Revolution, but after economy "prospered" during recent couple of decades, Confucianism not only did not weakened, but revived. I was saddened a few days ago when I heard that "24 Filial Piety Exemplars", a notorious traditional Chinese moral teaching text, virtually nothing more than a book of child abuse, again appears in some elementary schools' textbooks in China.

After being disappointed by all of these, I realized, that this open letter I drafted, which nonetheless will be read by some people, would be a "period" of my over ten years serious thinking about this subject - how the widely spread child abuse in China relates to Chinese tradition. As an individualist, I have no interest, nor energy to involve in any social activities, writing this petition letter was completely motivated by my own personal conscience. And I am fully aware of that this petition will be like a water drop in ocean, soon disappears without any trace of it. I am just fine with that, because I understand, when facing such a stubborn tradition, the real solution lies in collective effort. And if the society doesn't make any effort, or if the collective effort went to wrong direction, the solution would have to rely on some natural/historical mechanism, which doesn't always favor human-interest (if you know what I am talking about).

Yes, I am disappointed, but not personally unhappy, because my interest will move on, from this "Chinese problem", to some much more fascinating "human problems". (Oh boy, I am certainly not a problem solver, but a problem finder. :-))

*The illustration above is one of 24 Filial Piety Exemplars which tells a (adult) son lying down on icy surface of river, using his body temperature to thaw the ice, in order to get fishes for his mother to eat. So please don't be fooled by the beautiful art style, the content is sticky!

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July 8, 2013

Quote From "Story of Civilization"

... in calling other human beings "savage" "barbarous", we may be expressing no objective fact, but only our fierce fondness for ourselves, and timid shyness in the presence of alien ways. ---Will Durant, Story of Civilization.

July 7, 2013

Two Different Kinds of Human Problems

There are two different kinds of human problem: the problem of human, and the problem of cultivated (or civilized) human.

Who was Su Li? What is Su Li's Day?

(Caution: If you are emotionally fragile, this post may not be suitable to you.)

After I posted my article "'Filial Piety and Child Abuse" - an article I wrote two years ago, in a Chinese forum, an online friend suggested that I should initiate a community to memorize Su Li and promote the awareness of child abuse situation in China. I thought it's a good idea. After I initiate two shared blogs, I also started a facebook page "Su Li's Day - Chinese Child Abuse Awareness Day". Below is what I wrote in "About" page in facebook page:

Su Li
Su Li (1988 - 1993, "Li" is first name, I put her name in the order of Chinese custom just for the a better recognition by pronunciation) was a little girl who lived in Xining city, Qinghai province, China. Through her young life, she was abused and tortured daily by her biological "mother" Yan, Zhiyun (I have to put quotation marks simply because this woman is not deserved to be called as "mother"). How she was tortured was beyond any humans' imagination - not only being beaten up and given little or no foods at all, her mouth was - at least twice - sewed together with needle and thread - only because she was so hungry that she stole some  chicken feed. During the last several days of her life, just because she begged for foods, she was fed with hot boiling cooking oil, and together with other physical abuse. She finally died.

After she died, the coroner from police department found no intact skin or flesh on her body, inside and out!

This monster Yan, Zhiyun, the women possibly committed one of the worst crimes in entire human history, was only sentenced 7 years in prison. This may sound strange to a country that still practices death penalty to murders, but the reason for Yan, Zhiyun's special sentence was simple, because she is the mother of Su Li. Parents do everything for children's good. Does this reason make sense to you?

After Yan, Zhiyun got out of prison, she went straight to destroy Su Li's tomb, to release her immense hatred or rage, whichever, that no humans could comprehend.

Su Li's situation was not hidden from society, it was known to the neighborhood and once even was reported by a newspaper. Yet, her "mother" never was punished, and no one thought of rescuing Su Li from her evil "mother". Su Li was left alone, lived in the living hell until her young life could not bear anymore. I understand that "evil" like Yan, Zhiyun can be traced anywhere in the world. but only in China, she (or/he) could go this far without hiding herself. For me, Su Li was more a victim of society, a tradition, than a victim of an "evil" individual.

In China, for thousands years long, under principle of "filial piety", children are "belongings" or "properties“ of their parents. Parents have absolute power over children. Parents are entitled to "teach" their children in anyway they think is "appropriate", include corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is totally encouraged, if not advocated directly, by Confucianism - the mainstream Chinese ideology, which still dominates Chinese people moral thoughts and behaviors. This tradition has been ingrained inside most Chinese people's mind so deep that even a sacrifice like Su Li doesn't seem to be enough to make it shake.

Su Li died over 20 years ago, yet numerous similar stories are still witnessed, heard, and thousands, millions of Chinese children are still being abused by their biological parents, everyday, more or less by different means. That's why it becomes so necessary to do something, call all the people, Chinese or non-Chinese, to remember a life like Su Li, to remember what she suffered,  and think about what we can do to make a change.

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