Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Crazyness and losses

By Martín Bonfil Olivera
Published on Milenio Diario, september 16, 2009

In memory of Antonio Sánchez Ibarra

Yesterday, Roberto Garza in MILENIO DIARIO proposed that the activation of the pleasure brain centers that make people become drug addicts –or alcohol addicts, I might add- can explain why frequently "the most compulsive drug addicts are 'saved' by throwing themselves into a sudden religious conversion".

On the same page, religion expert Roberto Blancarte judged that the important thing is not whether we are dealing with a crazy person or somebody that really "talks with god", but to value their actions and sanction them in consequence, whatever their motives.

The truth is that the actions of evangelic priest José Mar Flores Pereyra, "highjacker" of a Mexicana airplane on 9/9/9 caused direct damages -and also indirect ones, through the wild speculations they generated.

Some people would like to directly blame his religious beliefs. I think this is a non-justified generalization that can spur discrimination against those who profess non-catholic religions.

We atheists and freethinkers tend to think that religions foster superstition and magical thinking. Personally, I think that religious thinking and rationality are not compatible (the great biologist Richard Dawkins, a furious promoter of atheism, of whom recently Blancarte spoke in his column, argues that to indoctrinate kids in religious faith is a form of child abuse).

But I think we have to distinguish between individual actions and group actions. (Although we have to, also, be careful with fanatics: the mother and wife of "Josmar" unconditionally approve of his craziness. And France is having serious problems with sects such as scientology, as reported yesterday in Milenio Diario.)

It is not a minor problem. Without a doubt, part of the solution lies in the promotion of scientific and rational thinking (which are, actually, the same thing).

That's why I am very sorry for the loss, last Sunday, of a great friend of mine and a great Mexican promoter of science: Antonio Sánchez Ibarra, from Sonora, a state in the northern part of Mexico, winner of the National Prize for Science Popularization in 2000, and an enthusiastic promoter of a lot of projects for the diffusion of astronomy, not only in the North of our Country, but in all of Latin America as well.

We certainly could use more promoters like him in our country.

(translated by Adrián Robles Benavides)

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