Faith, wikis and human nature

Two seemingly disconnected conversations have my interest today. At Poynter, Steve Outing takes an important and critical look at the dream of Wikis. Citing Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ comments last week about tightening control over some aspects of content, Steve makes an important observation:

I wonder if this will lead the way toward a new wave of partially closed wikis. The pure wiki concept represents complete openness. But perhaps Wikipedia’s experience is showing that alternatives should be explored. I can envision wikis written and edited by vetted groups of experts. Human nature being what it is, perhaps the ideal of complete openness is a pipe dream.
Meanwhile, Dan Gillmor continues to howl at the notion of President Bush’s approval of the idea of teaching “intelligent design” in science classes. Dan zings the San Francisco Chronicle for making it appear that creationism is the “other side” of evolution.
This is exactly the misguided journalism the creationists want. It presents creationism as “the other side” of the debate, as if the two explanations of humanity’s rise are scientifically equivalent in terms of the evidence.

They are not remotely equivalent. Evolution is scientifically serious and backed by overwhelming evidence. Creationism is faith, backed by faith. Science teachers who are forced to teach it as a viable alternative in science classes are being forced to violate their duty to students.

Both of these posts/discussions involve — at core — one’s view of human nature and how that nature influences behavior. In my view, every controversy seems to find its root here, which is why it’s so important for us to talk about it. We don’t, because it’s messy. Is man (or woman) inherently inclined to do good or otherwise?

If you believe the latter, then your view of law enforcement takes on a very rigid, black and white edge. If you believe the former, you’ll look for external causes to explain man’s inhumanity towards man. Which is right? Perhaps both or neither.

I used to run an online community, so I know well of Mr. Wales’ frustration. Despite the best intentions of the many, the few are always around to destroy everything. It got to the point that we were spending all of our time policing bad behavior, and so we gave up. Wikipedia is a fabulous expression of community, and I hate that it’s being picked at by people with nothing better to do. Is this human nature, as Steve notes?

The older I get, the more profound my belief in a Higher Power. The chicken and egg question is an easy one for me, because I think it’s much more useful to just turn the page and move on. “The secret things belong to God,” and I’m comfortable with that. It’s one of the things that helps me always point forward. I don’t know everything, and I don’t need to know.

Yet, I’m in complete agreement with Dan on his position that this shouldn’t be taught next to science. Why? Human nature. Here’s the problem, you can’t teach this alongside evolution without teaching somebody’s version of it, and I don’t trust anybody to get that one right. Science is science. Faith is faith.

While the view that mankind is inherently corrupt is more conservative than liberal, it’s always amazing to me that the right doesn’t view themselves or their policies with the same jaundiced eye. They’re too busy being human to do that.

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