Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Secular Tragedy - A response and rebuttal

"Nice work, enjoyed this."

-my mother.

If that's your opinion, then I'm sure that you didn't understand the story. Allow me to first recap the whole of the trilogy.

The Secular Tragedy - Non Poetic Form

This is the story of a man, a convicted pedophile and sexual assailant, an unkempt man who calls himself a captain (although captain of what we'll never know...until the prequel!), who, after escaping from the zoo in which he is inexplicably kept, hops (read: stows away) on a plane to what he thinks is Africa. He's going there to find some place in which he can live a life of normalcy, seeing that he is incapable of doing such in the US.

He is unable to find civilization for many years. He has been wandering through dense jungle, arid desert, and vast stretches of ocean, attempting to find the human interaction from which he so hastily ran in the first act. Suddenly, he finds the first example of civilization he's seen in his arduous journeys, and it turns out to be an amazing example. It's an absolute fairy tale of a village, seemingly perfect in every way. In other words, he finally thinks that his wanderings have led him to a home. But, turns out they're aware of his criminal record, and he is shunned from the paradise-candyland-esque village, just like he's been shunned from the rest of the so-called "normal society."

Fast forward a couple more years, he's been visiting village after village, being cast out of each and every one due to his past (and possibly present) deviant behavior. He's presumably an alcoholic, and even dirtier and more unsightly than ever. While trudging through the jungle, he's struck by a poisonous dart and captured. But what a surprise! His captors know of him! It's as if the greeks had captured Odysseus by a complete accident. It turns out that MacMuffin is something like the village idol, the way that basketball players used to look up to Michael Jordan...except in this case, it's not basketball, but pedophilia. He's found a village of pedophiles, get it? Long story short, he soon becomes their king, and, the first order of business? Revenge.

This is where the story starts to get good.

He launches a campaign which begins with the complete genocide of the surrounding tribes and cities, in retribution for MacMuffin's past discriminatory treatment. It's not all bad, though, the young girls are kept safe from harm. (Until, of course, they're presumably raped by the all-male pedo-village) Once that deed is done, and there is no one to disagree on the orthodoxy of pedophilia, it becomes the cultural norm for his part of the world, which turns out to be the only way in which he can live in peace. But he's finally found it, the normalcy which he had always sought, even though he had to go on an often brutal, sad, and bloody quest to get there. He remains this way, unapologetically until his peaceful, child-loving death.

And that's what I was trying to convey. But...

What does this say about me?

I'm not sure. I would have liked this story to have a happier ending, but this was the way it turned out. Underneath it all it has always been a story about redemption, but instead of the antagonist seeing the error of his way and conforming to the most correct worldview around him, he goes the other way, and says basically, "screw this, I tried to change (in act II), and you still won't accept me?" and then procedes to violently change the world around him to comply with his (admittedly twisted) views.

I also didn't, in any way, want to make it seem like I was condoning pedophilia or rape or genocide or any of the other horrible things that happen in the course of this story, but again, it's just how it had to be. There's a way in which things can be so over the top and absurd, that instead of being shocking or obscene (like they normally would be) they instead become comical (see: the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). That's part of what I was trying to do with this story, to provide an anti-hero who is so terribly awful, that you just can't help but like him.

And the third thing, I was thinking a lot lately about the state of sex offense in this country, and the social pariah you become after even the most minor of offenses (not that I would know, heh heh). I tend to think that, it's not the best thing to do, when you're considering the rehabilitation of a convict, to yell to the world, "This guy? Over there? He's a kid-diddler!" I just don't think that helps someone to get better, like our justice system should do with convicts. I mean, and this goes for any crime, it shouldn't just be about punishing a person for the wrong that they've done, it should be about making them a better person, or at least more normal in the cultural/societal sense of the word.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Epic Limerick - The Secular Tragedy Part III of III

For a better reference, see Part I and Part II

The end of our tale is at hand
and so, dear readers, come stand
at the foot of the mount
and my words you will count
among the wisest of those in the land

dejected and fearing the worst
his emotional wounds needing nursed
so he wandered alone
without cellular phone
and wondered at why he'd been cursed

after surveying dozens of places
and seeing the horrified faces
at one who'd done wrong
endured this torment so long
sadly buying his beer by the cases

and just as he thought to give in
and take his own life with a pin
that he'd stab through his heart
so that it shall never start
in his chest to beat ever again

but a dart was then stuck in his arm
which erased all his thoughts of self-harm
a blowgun he spotted
as his limb's blood was clotted
passed out when the dart worked it's charm

suddenly they found him awake
in a cottage not far from a lake
shouting, "You're one of us!"
he, in a state of nonplus
as giddy villagers started to shake

they said, "Yes, we've heard of your story,"
"of the details both lurid and gory"
you're the best that there is
at getting with kids
and here you can reap your due glory

yes, a village of pedos he'd found
and the -philia there with could abound
appalled and confused
for they'd shaken his views
that here, awful habits were sound

for miles you could hear the men sing
as he became their philosopher-king
using his powers for good
(at least, when he could)
though he needed to mend one last thing

other villages were then swiftly slaughtered
and his men ran away with their daughters
he laughed at them now
as he wiped off his brow
and pulled flaming boats free from their cotters

he lived there in peace for a while
enjoying the heights of new freedom and style
before passing away
MacMuffin was able to say
"never so proud to pedophile"

The End.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Argument From Design - Overview (Paley - Natural Theology)

Since I haven't been writing much lately, you'll have to make due with this. It's an assignment from Philosophy of Religion, in which I was called upon to write an exegesis for this particular article. Feel free to respond to the discussion questions below. **The opinions expressed below do not represent those of the author, or any of those with whom he is affiliated**

Reading Reflection Handout

William Paley, “The Watch and the Watchmaker” (1802)

Prepared by James Hazelton

Overview: In this reading, from Paley’s Natural Theology, or Evidences and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature, we are introduced to what is known as the “argument from design.” In it, he states that upon reflection and investigation of the natural world, it becomes apparent that the wonders of nature are actually the work of a grand designer, God.

He begins with an analogy, in which he finds a watch laying on the ground. Upon inspection of the foreign object, he concludes from its internal complexity that it must have been designed. He speaks of how, upon disassembling the watch, he finds that the parts found within contribute necessarily to the function of the watch, each part being chosen because of its attributes to perform a certain function within the mechanism. He describes the coiled spring which provides power, the flexible chain and systems of gears to translate the motion to the face, which is covered with a piece of transparent glass which allows the time to be read. He concludes from the thorough investigation of the watch that the object is too complex, and its motions and workings too accurate to have not been designed by an intelligence, in this case, the watchmaker.

He begins the next section by anticipating and answering the objections which can be raised against his argument from design. His inference of a designer would not be weakened, he argues, if before finding one on the ground we had never seen or known of a watch, nor would the argument be harmed if the watch were found to be imperfect, or containing extraneous parts. The design would remain evident if this happened to be only one of many possible forms of watch mechanisms, or even if the observer learned that the watch components, under a certain “principle of order,” could assemble themselves into a working machine. Even if the workings and assembly of the watch could be explained by the “laws of metallic nature,” these laws would still presuppose an agent. Just as an architect can produce flawless plans, yet see them come to life in a building which is imperfect in reality, so too can designs of the intelligent forces such as Paley describes give rise to imperfect creations. The fact remains that they are still, at their core, designed.

He then moves from analogy to nature, comparing the apparent design of the watch to that of the eye. He reminds the reader that there are examples of design in nature which, “surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtlety, and curiosity of the mechanism.” He then gives examples of the human eye and compares its function to that of other animals, pointing out, for example, that birds’ eyes allow them to see objects both near and far with clarity, that the eyes of a fish are efficiently adapted for sight underwater, and those of an eel are tough enough to allow the animal to dig through sand and gravel. He also points out that for the sense of human sight to work as well as it does, there are several biological systems which have to work in tandem: the brow, the eyelids, the tear ducts, and that these are all examples of design.

Having stressed enough the design of the eye, Paley moves on to the broader argument. He asserts that nearly everything in nature possesses in itself, a complete body of evidence for the existence of an intelligent creator. If the eye were not considered in the argument, for instance, the ear alone would provide ample proof, and so on.

Not only, once we accept the appearance of design, do these examples prove that there must have been an intelligent creator, Paley claims that they also prove the “personality” of such a creator. This designer would have to be an entity entirely separate from that which we call nature. Because anything that can contrive and create with intelligence must have a “mind,” and such a thing must be a “Being, infinite, as well in essence as in power.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Considering Paley’s evidence of apparent design, does the overall force of the arguments change given the fact that Natural Theology preceded the discovery of evolution and adaptation by natural selection? In the light of modern scientific understanding, is the argument from design still valid?

  1. Every year, millions of lives are lost due to the efficiency with which disease caused by pathogens such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, parasites, and cancer are able to spread throughout the body. Some claim that by criteria such as Paley’s, these examples can also point to deliberate design. If so, how does this fit with the idea or plans of a God who is “infinitely good” with respect to human life?

Figure 1

  1. Do you agree with T-Rex in his assertion that given enough scientific knowledge, explanations which are usually attributed to a God will become superfluous? Or do you side with Utahraptor’s Paley-esque refutation in the fifth panel?