The Gospel According To Steve

Boriss helpfully quotes, from Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford in 2005:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

Except one man. Who taught that, in a world created by God, “following your own heart and intuition” – the secular gospel of self-fulfillment and turning your back on your Creator – is a path to slavery, and eventually eternal misery, disappointment, loneliness and regret.

Contrary to what Steve says, I want to go to heaven, and my death will probably be sooner rather than later and for the same reason, but I have no problem with dying. Death has no sting and the grave has no victory for those whose trust is in Jesus.

Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

This was said by the man whose company made some of the most unhackable, locked-down, choices-made-for-you-by-other-people pieces of phone hardware the world has ever seen. If I bought an iPhone, I would have to “live with the results of other people’s thinking” in a myriad of different ways. Some or even most of their decisions might be good ones – but they would be their decisions, not mine.

When someone says “don’t be trapped by dogma”, they usually mean “don’t believe anyone’s dogma – except mine”. You also see this with the New Atheists such as Dawkins, who argue that “Christianity (or any other religion) shouldn’t be taught as truth in schools”, which is another way of saying that “I, and not the parents of a child, should decide what they are taught, and what they are taught will be atheism and/or pluralism”. In other words, don’t believe or teach anyone’s dogma – except mine. It is claimed that this position is ‘neutral’, but there is no such thing as neutrality.

Steve’s gospel doesn’t save and, like his products, it won’t set you free. Think different, and choose the alternative (and no, I don’t mean Android).

43 thoughts on “The Gospel According To Steve

  1. You’re misrepresenting the intent of Dawkins, et al., with respect to school curriculum.

    Scientists can explain adaptive mutation, have observed (and caused) speciation, have a rich geological and fossil record to observe millions to billions of years of the history of life, and can now study, at a molecular level, the relationships between vastly different forms of life. There is no rational controversy in evolution: It is a “theory” in the same way that gravity and the wave-particle nature of photons are theories.

    There is no plurality in fact. Facts do not contradict or disagree with each other. If new observations disagree with an accepted theory and if their results can be replicated, then that theory is modified or abandoned. Nobody (at least nobody rational) “believes” in a fact; they accept it because it can be rigorously demonstrated to be true.

    You are conflating your belief in the existence of a singular benevolent creator God and the salvation of mankind through his son (or incarnation, depending on your interpretation), Jesus, with facts. I respect your right to hold these beliefs, but not any choice to treat them as equal or superior to fact for the purposes of science education.

    It is precisely because there *is* no proof for (or against) the existence of any supernatural force or being that Dawkins rejects including spiritual beliefs in classes that purport to focus on fact and science.

    If a parent wants their child to share their faith, they have plenty of non-school (or private school) options to achieve this. I will not stand for them wasting my child’s school time “teaching the controversy” or otherwise pretending that belief is proof.

    He can learn about how competing religions think the world came to be in his history or humanities courses. In his science class, I want him to learn actual science.

      • That’s an arrogant statement. You imply that Andy doesn’t love his children (which is impossible) and that faith has to be established in childhood or earlier (which I think is also impossible).
        I personally think that Andy’s practice is a wise one.

        Most children I know are afraid of -God-. That’s not what faith should be about. I’d prefer if my children learned all about different views on the world. If, at some time in the future, they decide (or get “enlightened”) to become faithful in -God- or the teachings of -Jesus-, who am I to criticise their faith. I’m not allowed to do so. Nor am I to make them “believe” in something.

        I personally don’t believe in -God-. But the good thing is, that in our dimensional universe it’s impossible to proove her existence. The mathematical probability of -God’s- existence is 50%, “common sense” tells me the chance is even less. But we can’t know, but there is a chance. That makes me happy. And should be enough for any faithful person.

        If you believe and that makes you happy. It makes me happy as well. But don’t try to make be believe.

    • The problem with this worldview is that it’s materialist – you are claiming that what we can see, touch, feel and measure is all that there is. And that idea is not provable within its own system. If accepted, it is accepted as an article of faith. Therefore, a materialist claiming that “we need to keep faith out of science” is being incoherent, and their worldview is attached to skyhooks.

      It is not possible to separate “fact-based classes” from “non-fact-based classes”. If God exists and created the world, his influence extends to every square inch, every class, every piece of knowledge. It makes no sense to have “classes which are the same whether or not God exists” and “classes whose content may vary depending on whether or not God exists”. All classes are in the second category.

      • But science is about what we can measure only, by definition. There is no faith involved in saying that we shouldn’t conflate faith with science in education.

        Science does not say “there is no God”, it says “it doesn’t matter, we have this thing we study and try to model, the measurable world.”

        We have actually been quite successful at modeling it too, so I’m not sure I’m following the argument saying we cannot do it because God’s influence is in every square inch. I thought the whole premise here was that God’s action were not directly measurable (or else we would not need faith). So it would appear that the measurable and unmeasurable worlds are separated enough to allow for science to exist in the first place.

        • Science does not say “there is no God”, it says “it doesn’t matter, we have this thing we study and try to model, the measurable world.”

          But if God exists, you can’t say it doesn’t matter. If you ask me, as a Christian, “how do you know the value of g is going to be 9.81 m sec-2 tomorrow?”, I would say “because the universe was created by a God of order, who made it to work by physical laws which remain the same”. What would an atheist scientist say? “Because it was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, so we expect it to be the same tomorrow.” But that’s not a certain argument, it’s a probability. And there’s an enormous difference between the two viewpoints.

      • I agree that there is no way to prove conclusively that our observations of the universe are not influenced by something external to the system (supernatural).

        An omnipotent God could have created an internally self-consistent system that only appears to be billions of years old. In fact, that God could have created all of us a second ago, complete with memories that cause us to believe we existed and experienced life prior to that. I could be replying to a comment that God made you think you wrote.

        Because we do live in a world where effect has never been shown to not follow cause, though, this God must have created a world where we do not need to explain anything material with “because God did X”. He would appear to have created a universe that runs on rules and given us the ability (and desire) to try and understand the rules.

        There is no way to disprove the existence of God, but there is also, short of an objectively verifiable Act of God, no way to prove it.

        I don’t think I did a good job in my first comment of stating this: I absolutely respect the rights of believers to believe. I also understand and respect that you believe wholeheartedly. I can also put myself in your shoes and see how, once you believe in the ever-present influence of God in all things, you might believe that any teaching which fails to mention God is materialist or pluralist (all “truths” are equal).

        I can do that because it is how I was raised.

        What I am trying to say is that you cannot prove you are correct. Billions of other people on Earth, in fact, believe you are incorrect. As such, I don’t see how anyone’s strong faith gives them the right to dictate education policy to everyone else.

        I even think that rational believers should draw the same line in the sand for at least one reason: What if the religious beliefs included in public school begin to contradict your own? The shoe feels a bit different on the other foot.

        My son’s (public) schooling *should* focus on teaching kids about the material world. Science is the only (almost) universally accepted source of explanation for how that world works, regardless of who you believe is sitting outside of it, pulling its strings.

        • There is no way to disprove the existence of God, but there is also, short of an objectively verifiable Act of God, no way to prove it.

          Quite so. But God has intervened in history many times, most supremely in sending Jesus to earth.

          As such, I don’t see how anyone’s strong faith gives them the right to dictate education policy to everyone else.

          Then we must have no education policy at all, because all education policies are based on faith. Faith in God, faith in the non-existence of God, faith in the natural goodness of children, faith that all religions are the same – each of these leads to a different education policy.

  2. Gerv, I appreciate your comments on both Steve Jobs and his desire for us all to live in his version of a perfect world. I first became interested in Mozilla precisely because of the idea behind it – that we should not voluntarily let some big, selfish corporations control and limit what I do on the internet or what the internet can one day be. Thanks for your work, Gerv!

    Also, if some people choose to place science and scientifically provable facts as the basis of their life and worldview, that’s fine. But it’s no different than when you or I choose to base our lives and worldview on the historical person of Jesus. Just because something is scientifically provable (or isn’t) doesn’t automatically mean that it is the ultimate explanation and meaning of everything. When people in our society presume that their belief in no god is somehow superior to our belief that there is a God, I feel a little confused. I see no reason to force my Christian belief of people in schools, but I won’t stand by while someone claims that their scientific worldview is somehow more valid than mine.

    Thanks again, Gerv!

  3. You know, if they taught “cult awareness” in schools, kids might not only learn how to recognise and avoid the seriously destructive “religions” like Scientology, but also learn how to avoid becoming an Apple fanboi

    • I think if your going to teach religion in schools you have to cover the whole gamut.

      I also think that children should be free and encouraged to look at all religions and come to their own judgments.

      // Paul Booker

      • Paul: your suggestion implies that there is a “neutral place to stand” from which to evaluate or teach religions and so pick one. But that’s just not true. Check out the “there is no such thing as neutrality” link above.

        Gerv

        • It’s true that there are some in every direction who could never accept a position of “neutrality”. I could for example adopt the position that all schools should actively teach that religious belief is stupid and damaging; that position would then conflict with any idea that schools should not specifically teach for or against religious belief.

          But such a position would be counter-productive and damaging for society as a whole. We all have to get along with each other and it’s better that my children are educated alongside children with Christian parents, than that each grow up ignorant of the other.

          The position of neutrality is one of compromise, not one that somehow magically fulfills everyone’s requirements simultaneously.

          • It’s not about “accepting” a position of neutrality, it’s about the question of whether such a position even exists or not. If it doesn’t exist, we can know that anyone who claims to be taking it is incorrect, whatever the details of their position.

            My assertion is that it doesn’t exist. The position that “schools should not specifically teach for or against religious belief” is one in which the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things is denied. Therefore it is not ‘neutral’, it is taking a position.

            As well as not being neutral, that position also happens to be impossible to achieve. There is no “not specifically teaching for or against” answer to “does God exist?” Answers of the form “well, some people think X, and others Y” have an unavoidable accompanying sense of “…and either choice is equally valid” – which is taking a position of pluralism, in conflict with the Lordship of Jesus.

            • There is a well-defined position of neutrality, it’s just that you aren’t willing to accept it as a compromise, which is a shame.

              • My point is not that the position isn’t well-defined, just that it’s not actually neutral :-)

  4. So if not Android, what do you mean? As far as I know, there is no mobile OS that’s really free (by which I mean, not free as in free beer, but free as in Richard Stallman).

    • I think you have missed the point of my last sentence a little bit – I wasn’t talking about mobile operating systems, I was talking about worldviews. :-)

  5. Gerv, this post is not worthy of you. The death of a human being is not the time to indulge in political sniping about why Mozilla has a better approach to software and technology than Apple. I’m no Apple fan, I own no i-anythings, but I don’t post essays about what I think was wrong with Jobs’ philosophy just a few days after his untimely death.

    Besides, the religious claims here don’t make sense. Plenty of Christians produce and use proprietary software. And a religion which insists that people must choose Jesus or suffer eternal torment is hardly Free or Open!

    • I take criticism coming from you seriously, but I think your objection is a little unfair. There have been uncountable blog posts (of which Boriss’, linked above, is just one) saluting Jobs as a great man with a wonderful life philosophy which we should all emulate – often quoting that very Stanford Commencement Address paragraph. Is there not room for one dissenting voice? Pointing out the inconsistency between that philosophy and his own actions in creating products?

      I am not saying it is un-Christian to produce and use proprietary software, although I do think Christians should prefer free software here are my more-formed thoughts on that). Perhaps my tying together of the two points I was making wasn’t done as well as it could be.

    • Does christianity *insist* that people must choose Jesus or suffer eternal damnation?

      // Paul Booker

      • Ever since Adam and Eve, humans have by default turned their back on their creator and refused to give him his due – praise, worship and obedience. None of us live a perfect life, however hard we try. The right and just thing for God to do in that circumstance would be to punish us for our rebellion. But, wonderfully, he didn’t leave it there – he sent Jesus to earth, who lived a perfect life and then, deserving no punishment of his own, took the punishment we deserve when he died on the cross.

        God must punish sin – the only question is, will you take your own punishment, or trust in Jesus and have him take it for you?

        So yes, Christianity teaches that you need Jesus – he’s not an optional extra. But the fact that he can save us is good news :-)

        • Thanks for sharing your position. I have to say that i honestly could never see myself taking up these views but i will take the time to learn a little more thanks to you. Hope everything works out with your illness.

          Best , Paul

            • You should take up these views, or not, based on whether or not they are true, not on personal preference :-)

              .. i don’t take up a lot of the views of christianity and those of many other belief systems as to my mind they are just clearly wrong and just some fiction of history.

              Thanks for the link.

              Best, Paul

  6. What dawkins is sayin is stop filling your kids heads with junk fairy stories not based on any fact we now know to be completely false. (walk on water anyone) These stories we sholud have left at the cave door. Do you also belive in Santa Clause? As we progress/move thru time all these religions will become obsolete YaY!

    You Sir will not be going to heaven, you shall return to the earth that bore you and grew you for all these years. For you and the earth are the same, your made of exactly the same parts, you are a child of the stars. ~revel in your time (Blade runner)~

  7. Just thought i would add some thoughts coming from the standpoint of theoretical physics and someone who draws spirtually from buddhism(s), hinduisum(s), eastern philosophies and the ideas of plato.

    First thing i’ll say is that in science we not really trying to prove anything in fact normally in science were looking to to disprove any *established* theory as quickly as possible. If any theory has not been disproved we ca temporarily consider it to be true but we can never prove it to be true because some future experiment may show the theory to be wrong well actually not wrong just not the whole truth.

    Second thing i can say is that science has very little to say right now about consciousness even the very fundamental questions like what is consciousness? so science can’t really have much to say about ethics, morals, .. However there are clear arguments from within mathematics that we do something with our minds that is beyond computability which seems to point the direction towards the new physics of consciousness. Interesting this also suggests that we’ll never have AI in the sense of a computer (what we call today a computer) being self aware and who could understand the fundamental theorem of arithmetic or appreciate a piece of music by Mozart, … My current thinking is that we will need fundamentally new physics to explain consciousness, .. and that all of our views on science, spirtuality, .. should all pull together as a whole but i may be wrong and i can always my mind with good reason.

    Lastly the term God means different things to different; personally i have no problem with idea of something beyond our comprehension that is love, wisdom ,.. The only thing i can see that may be a problem for others is that it can feel like it’s all or nothing with religion in general; the sermon on the mount is *inspiring* who wouldn’t want to be a christian after reading that but then later may feel uncomfortable with the idea that jesus is god incarnate, the resurrection, .. Hopefully you can be a christian by believing in God and Jesus as a very wise man who may or may not be god incarnate and may or may not have been resurrected.

    // Paul Booker

  8. “Hopefully you can be a christian by believing in God and Jesus as a very wise man who may or may not be god incarnate and may or may not have been resurrected.”

    Paul, that would be acceptible to some, but not to others, including, I suspect, the host of this blog.

    Jobs was not the sort of man, with his well espoused non-christian beliefs, most Evangelical Christians I know would praise.

    The saccharine outpouring over the last week has been kind of nausiating to me. So I’m glad Gerv spoke up. I don’t share Gerv’s religion, but I share and appreciate his willingness to say that all was not perfect with Mr. Jobs.

    – A

  9. Speaking of nausiating… I’m religious but the idea that religious concepts should be taught in schools has so much wrong with it. One simple reason? There’s thousands of unique holidays/genesis stories/etc, if you’re being generous. Millions, if you’re not.

    Secularism is not an issue of religion versus non-religion. I think I’m safe in saying the majority of people from my religion are highly secular.

    Comparing science as one faith against others is incorrect. Science, by definition, re-evaluates its position. It is not a dogma because it moves position. Science is a methodology (specifically, the scientific method, a methodology for avoiding dogma) – not a creed. To teach science is to teach the best knowledge of the world we have garnered, not a fixed position. If we taught religious dogma over science we would not have Mozilla. We would not have the web. We would be living according to the Bible and technological progress would not be a concept of worth. Biblical education, taken to its logical end, would actually be very much in direct confrontation with what Mozilla do.

    Regardless, hijacking somebody’s death for a religious message to a forum that is clearly not looking for this manner of philsophical discussion is in poor taste, regardless of your culture. Do you really think Planet Mozilla would appreciate me dragging witchcraft discussions here on the back of somebody’s death – because their values didn’t suit mine? I hardly think so.

    • If you think that what Mozilla does is in conflict with the Bible, then you have either badly misunderstood Mozilla or (more likely, from your other comments) the Bible.

      Christianity has always had a very productive relationship with scientific discovery. Many scientists have been spurred on by their Christian faith, undergirded by the belief that if there is a Creator God then the world must work according to natural laws rather than be capricious and arbitrary. Euler, Pascal, Kelvin, Stokes and Maxwell… There is no conflict between the scientific method and Christianity. There is only a conflict between Christianity and scientism/materialism – the faith that what we can see, touch and measure is all there is.

      • “There is only a conflict between Christianity and scientism/materialism – the faith that what we can see, touch and measure is all there is.”

        This universe is much more that what we can see, touch and measure since the advent of quantum mechanics we know at least that much :-)

  10. Thanks Asa,

    To be honest I don’t know anything really about Steve Jobs the man beyond the words he spoke at his commencement address at Stanford. Do you think he was the same man in the last 5 years of his life as he was when he started Apple?

    // Paul

  11. > Contrary to what Steve says, I want to go to heaven
    I don’t think Jobs said you didn’t want to go to heaven. He said you didn’t want to die to get there, and I think he’s probably right. Even if you’re not scared of dying, it doesn’t mean you *want* to do it. I genuinely hope you don’t want to die! Anyway, that’s really just semantics.

    As for your comments on Dawkins saying that Christianity shouldn’t be taught as truth in schools, I disagree strongly with you. You’re right, there is no such thing as neutrality, but if something’s going to be taught to children as the truth, then I think we have a duty to make sure that it’s something that the strong majority of people think (/accept/would accept) is the truth, or else put heavy disclaimers against it. We have faith schools for those parents who feel the need to expose their children to more of their religion and I don’t think we should go further than that (aside: good schools at that, and ones that my children won’t be allowed to attend because of my lack of religion…).

    Oh, and I didn’t think it was unreasonable to make your post a few days after Jobs’ death. You’re not commenting because of his death, you were commenting because these quotes were suddenly very popular. Now was the only time you could really meaningfully respond.

    • but if something’s going to be taught to children as the truth, then I think we have a duty to make sure that it’s something that the strong majority of people think (/accept/would accept) is the truth

      So truth is decided by majority voting?

      • No. Truth is an absolute, but what we believe is our interpretation of things. If we’re going to teach something as “truth” then I think it has to be something that is widely believed to be the truth. It’s tough to decide exactly how to set that level, but I believe strongly that Christian beliefs don’t make the cut. Not quite as strongly as you believe they do I’ll admit.

        Let’s spin this around. What do you think the criteria should be for things being taught to schoolchildren? What does Christianity have over the other religions of the world that makes it special? Answering “it’s the truth” is too simplistic. Why should I treat you different from someone who believes in Islam and says their religion should be taught as truth in schools?

        • You think that if something is true, that means it will be widely believed – and I don’t agree, both from historical example and theologically.

          Romans 1:18-21 explains that people actively suppress the truth about God:

          “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

          You suggest that I am asking for special treatment; but in fact, the current situation is that all government schools in the UK teach the same faith – that of pluralism/agnosticism. So let me ask you: why should we teach this faith as truth in all schools? “It’s the truth” is (apparently) too simplistic to be a valid answer…

          • “You suggest that I am asking for special treatment; but in fact, the current situation is that all government schools in the UK teach the same faith – that of pluralism/agnosticism.”

            I believe the (state sponsored) faith schools don’t teach agnosticism, although I could be wrong. It would seem strange to have a CofE or Catholic school teaching agnosticism.

            I still think you’re asking for special treatment though. I think we should teach that there are lots of different people with different beliefs. As I see it, that’s not agnosticism, that’s teaching the truth. What you want (I think) is for Christianity to be taught as the truth in schools. In a society where there are lots of different religions, teaching what the religions say seems the best option. How you go about removing any bias there is a tough question of course.

            Ken

            PS Is the rapidly narrowing comment block a feature to prevent discussions going on too long ;-)

  12. Evolutionary genetics have allowed for much greater understanding of cancer than any other religion — sure, it has not produced a cure, and it did not save Steve Jobs’ life. But it is an integral part of a scientific and medical field — which has so far, unfortunately in my view, kept YOU alive and even allowed YOU to reproduce. I am no fan of Steve Jobs and Apple, but using his death as an opportunity for sniping and point-scoring is just pretty tasteless — “Christian” indeed! Since you obviously do not feel bad about using a dead man as a foot-stool to get on your hobby-horse, I do not feel bad using the chance to snipe at you and your cancer either. Have fun!

    • I have no objection to large chunks of evolutionary genetics. Populations change under pressure – nothing objectionable about that. What I object to is the faith that is evolutionary abiogenesis.

      Gerv