It’s very nearly the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s 67th birthday.1 Earlier this week, WC received a long email from a reader accusing WC of not having any principles.2 WC will celebrate Sir Terry’s birthday by responding to that email and citing to Sir Terry in support of his points.
Ambivalence towards technology
WC’s correspondent accused WC of ambivalence towards technology. It’s true. Technology has its limits. Among them:
Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. —Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
Or, in the phrase of Andy Hertzfeld, the problem with “foolproof” is that fools are so ingenious. Technology is both humanity’s curse and salvation, often at the same time. Science is generally a pretty accurate business; scientists, not so much. And technologists far too often leap before they look. Think about thalidomide for a while and you’ll agree. Ambivalence, or at least a healthy skepticism, is appropriate. WC bows to no one in his technogeekery, but tries to consider the risk, too.
I’d rather be a rising ape than a falling angel. —Terry Pratchett, for the Guardian Book Club
WC’s parents tried to make WC religious; they failed. WC’s religious skepticism began in Sunday School and slowly evolved into full-blown atheism by high school. And while the Fairbanks school system tried its best to hide evolution from its young scholars, the truth wiggled out. The story of the evolution of life is much more interesting – and much more probable – than anything in the Bible.
Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to. – Terry Pratchett, Snuff
WC is admittedly intolerant of hypocrisy, and religious hypocrisy in particular sets his teeth on edge. It’s probably a character flaw, but so much that is fundamentally wrong in this messy old world is a consequence of hypocrisy, and especially religious hypocrisy. The whole LGBT marriage debate is a consequence of selective reading to an allegedly infallible book. They pick the passages they want – LGBT is wrong – and ignore the bits that are inconvenient – slavery is great, stoning folks is just fine, and women are property. Bah.
Intolerance and Closed Minds
The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it. – Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment
WC cultivates an open mind, a skeptical view of unsupported claims and a firm belief that man’s capacity for self-deception is nearly boundless. WC doesn’t always succeed; see the comments on Pious Hypocrisy above. But WC aspires.
WC’s correspondent accused WC of upsetting people. Heh.
It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it. —Terry Pratchett, in the foreword to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by David Pringle
The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head. – Terry Pratchett, Once More, with Footnotes
It’s nearly impossible to change people’s minds without upsetting them. It’s very nearly the first step. WC will grant that he may not succeed all that often. Someone who voluntarily puts on blinkers to walk through life isn’t going to easily be persuaded to take them off. But unless you upset them, you’ll never have a chance.
Complaints about fantasy literature – which WC admits he enjoys – are a bit ironic coming from a biblical literalist.
Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one. – Terry Pratchett, Slip of the Keyboard
Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. – Terry Pratchett, Slip of the Keyboard
WC has defended his delight in fantasy literature before and won’t bore you with it again. And, as Pratchett would say, it’s not so much what escapist literature takes you from as where it takes you to.
Obsession with Science
WC is accused of being “obsessed” with science. That’s a bit of a non sequitur, following an accusation of being obsessed with fantasy. But set that aside.
It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done. – Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Understanding the how makes the thing better. Knowing the jigsaw puzzle pieces that are geology makes your appreciation of the landscape that much deeper. Knowing the biology of birds makes your appreciation of their staggering diversity that much richer. Too little knowledge, not too much, is what hurts people and cultures.
Insufficient Focus on the Spiritual
WC supposes it depends on what you mane by “spiritual.” The closest WC ever came to a religious experience was in an upstairs bedroom on 8th Avenue, while her parents were away. If you mean obsession with souls and religious mumbo-jumbo, then WC pleads guilty. If you mean life lessons, well.
There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this. – Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
The entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks. – Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard
If that’s not spiritual enough, readers should probably try a different blogger.
Too Many Personal Stories
WC’s correspondent dislikes WC’s Epic Fails threads.
If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story. – Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
Oddly, they are WC’s most popular posts, after anything involving The Quitter. De gustibus non est disputandans. And, who knows, the stories may keep others from stumbling into the same folly as WC.
Too Many Different Subjects
Finally, WC is accused of trying to address too many different topics. There’s no question WC’s magpie sensibility impacts the blog. WC will only say in his defense,
So much universe, and so little time. – Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard
Since Pratchett is patently right, WC makes no apology for the somewhat . . . diffuse . . . subject matter of this blog.
If WC has missed any of his correspondent’s complaints, no doubt his correspondent will be in touch. And no doubt Pratchett will have an aphorism to address it.