Patrick Swayze Lives, but Twitter fails

“The intelligence of the creature known as a crowd, is the square root of the number of people in it.”
- Terry Pratchett

Patrick Swayze has been fighting Pancreatic Cancer for months, struggling with chemotherapy and treatments for more than a year. He has also be fighting against tabloids and rumor mags, which have all run articles discussing how much weight he has lost and how close he is to death.

However, none of them have accidentally claimed he died. It took the idiocy of a single radio DJ and the crowd mentality of Twitter to proclaim the still living Swayze as dead.

It seems that after a radio DJ in Florida incorrectly pronounced Swayze's death this morning, the news spread like fire through the Twitterverse, soon becoming a trending topic and necessitating Swayze's publicist to come forward and clarify that he is, in fact, alive.

Admittedly, while it appears it was a convential news source and a professional news employee who failed first in this regards - it was an isolated incident that did not spread throughout the news services or even blogs. At news organizations and blogs, editors and authors took responsibility for finding out the facts before repeating errors and perpetuating rumor. Unfortunately, neither responsiblity nor fear of libel seems to have any impact on Twitter users.

In the past several months there has been great emphasis placed on the intelligence and dexterity of the crowd behind Twitter. Much of the focus has been placed on Twitter trends and search as a way to understand news and ideas faster than news outlets or even Google can provide. In some ways and some areas, this is correct and a new, fascinating tool. The first reports and photos from the plane crash into the Hudson river came from mobile Twitter users, a boon for citizen journalism. I have begun using a GreaseMonkey script to add twitter results to my Google results to add to the bredth of my results.

But at the same time that power of Twitter can be understood as an immense network of intelligent and connected individuals, Twitter is also a mob. A mob has no ability or desire to take responsiblity for it's action, nor are there any checks or rational moments to verify that the corredct course of action is being taken. Twitter is and will remain immensely powerful, a tool to see into the online psyche at a moment's notice. But we cannot forget that the psyche we are appearing to is the dumb, irresponsible mind of a crowd.

Is religion 'Built to Last'?

I am currently reading the book Built to Last right now and something keeps pestering me about a connection between the concepts in the book and organized religion.

I am still reading the book, and may post a longer follow-up once I finish. The book focuses on the histories of 18 "visionary" companies (not leaders or ideas - an important distinction), ones that have met continued success and are regularly regarded as being Best-in-Class in their industries. It seeks to understand what separates these companies and figure out which traits can be used in other companies or institutions to make them "great."

One of the pinnacle unique traits these companies share, according to the authors, is the definition of core beliefs, but the flexibility to change non-core practices and beliefs throughout the lifespan of the company. The book describes it as "Preserve the core / stimulate progress!" An example is Walmart, which has a core belief that "The customer is always right." This core belief allows the company to be nimble as it moves through time and across markets - what the customer wants in Suburban Chicago is not necessarily the same as Rural Nebraska or even Urban China.

What is most critical about these "core beliefs" is that they are distilled and seperated from more general and reflexive company policy. In bringing Walmart stores to China, the company did not just bring American brands (although those came along) but also supports national and local food and goods at each of it's Chinese stores. You won't find the same huge barrels of pickles or bajillion-pound bags of chips. Instead, the focus is on fresh food and produce. Walmart adapted.

The adaptation, as well as the heavy distinction between policy and core belief is what makes me think of religion. Religions don't do that seperation. Sure, you have variations of a religion that are more or less strict like Reform vs. Orthodox Judaism. Or you have multiple flavors, like Protestant, Lutheran and Catholic Christianity. But, these seperate "choices" are not grouped together under one banner with a focus on doggedly pursuing our protecting belief in "The one god, our Lord" that the Shema talks about for Judaism or the virtues of love and forgiveness that Jesus emphasizes throughout all the Gospels.

Taking Judaism as an example, is the daily requirement to say the Shema as important as avoiding eating pork? Historically, the avoidance of pork was probably put in place for health or economics reasons - not to declare the greatness of God. Now, thousands of years later, that same caution is unnecessary, so how does this pertain to God or even the community?

I don't think the world has ever seen a religion that is "Built to Last," one that has core beliefs but the designed flexibility to remain relavent and important despite changing environments. The more modern or flexible sects of religions that have sprung up, have been created as a response and are not full-hearted efforts but more a tactic to keep parishoners and followers in the seats of the holy house. Can a flexible religion exist? Would it fall inwards on itself under the weight of change or would it coast along on top of the tides of progress? I would hope for success, but with no example its hard to say.

Pope Benedict Disses Creationism

The Vatican has announced that it will host a world conference centered on the works of Darwin next month. The conference will hold a session on Creationism, but only viewing the idea as a "cultural phenomenon" rather than a valid scientific theory or branch.

As the story over at The Register points out, this is not the first disagreement between the Vatican and other modern divisions of Christianity, nor is it representative of shift in the Vatican to supporting major science initiatives - stem cells, etc are still on the "we don't like you list" for the Holy See.

Jesus Camp: Horror Film [Soapbox]

**This is not what I plan on using this blog for every day or for every post, but once in a while I may use it to express my opinions about religion. I will label all these posts [Soapbox] to give fair warning.**

I just saw Jesus Camp. I know I'm jumping on this bus pretty late, but that was my personal nightmare. Many of the beliefs possessed by the stars of the documentary bothered me - mostly however out of disagreement.

Stances like a rejection of evolution, pr0-life soap-boxing, and the belief that America should be Christian bother me, but do not worry me. I simply think they are wrong, and I am fine disagreeing with them. My being "wrong" may bother them, but that is also their issue. What scares me to death is the way this community uses indoctrination instead of though, especially among the young.

As a humanist, and a scholar, I value nothing higher than the human intellect. It doesn't have to be logic, it doesn't have to be expressed rationally, but our ability to think and to listen is our highest power. It is an atrocity to me when people decide to turn this off. Whether it be their choice, as it seems with some of the adults in the film, or chosen for them.

I was especially discouraged by the scene where one of the young stars, Levi, is talking to his mother during his home schooling. His mom asks why global warming isnt a big deal, and he immediately spouts off the statistic that the average temperature has only risen 0.6 degrees. This is not thought, this is not a reply - its just a knee jerk trained reaction, with little more complexity than training a dog.

This disheartens me so much, but it also makes me hopeful that we have moved away from this over the past several years.

About this blog

Good afternoon, my name is Jordan and this is my space to discuss religion, technology and progress. I plan on writing here regularly to discuss issues and articles about events or situations where religion collides with either technology or "progress." Enjoy!