Friday, December 25, 2009

Who Of Us Makes Mistakes?

It is often said the man who makes no mistakes is the man who does nothing. Why would this be so?

Because just about everything any of us does is fraught with "mistakes" from somebody's point of view. The reason this is the case is that reality is or certainly seems to be predicated on a duality of opposites. Meaning something considered good is only good if there is something bad to oppose it, and vice versa.

But depending on the point of view espoused, good and bad can simultaneously be bad and good. Hence, no matter what action is taken, it is a "mistake" to somebody. Abstaining from action seems to produce no mistakes because of this "point of view" dilemma, hence the implication that the inactive man makes no mistakes.

But of course from a certain point of view it can be said that inaction itself is an action meaning even inactive types are prone to making "mistakes" as well.

So what is the best course of action then? Do 1) X,2) its opposite or 3) "nothing"? Why that is left to the discretion of the individual.

Whichever way, one's inevitable fate is that of making a mistake, or many I suppose. But of course the opposite seems true as well.....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Apparently It's OK For Poor To Shoplift From Big Stores

That's not me saying this but rather a priest from England. Apart from the absurdity inherent in this kind of "thinking" that goes without saying, I have two simple questions:

1) What is poor?
2) What is a big store?

Simple to comprehend but impossible to answer!

Who Among Us Causes Wrecks?

Some will say it's the slower of us, others the faster. But in the end, it is essentially neither. How can this be so if wrecks happen with such reckless abandon?

Because it is neither fastness nor slowness in itself that causes wrecks* but the duality of two starkly different and hence contradictory behaviors!

It seems much like politics and religion. Whereas many identify with one belief or style, the remaining must be made wrong or bad because these contradictory beliefs or styles do not lend themselves to cooperation.

*Though once they happen, it is likely fastness or slowness will greatly affect the severity of the wrecks

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Insanity And Absurdity Of Life

How do we determine the "right" course of action with "something" that more often than not seems neither "right" nor "wrong" but merely "liked" or "disliked"?

Since the "something" is not likely good or bad in itself, it needs to be "made" good or bad to provide the necessary moral justification for argument and conflict.

On the other hand, I understand that acknowledging the lack of goodness or badness in the "something" itself is not constructive because then HOW THE HELL DO WE DETERMINE WHAT THE "SOMETHING" SHOULD BE IF IT IS ULTIMATELY ARBITRARY?

Hence, in order to choose the "right" arbitrary decision, an ideological war must be waged. This is where politicians, talk show hosts and war mongers, notably, come into the fray. They (attempt to) recruit people to their arbitrarily chosen "something" by deluding others into believing there is either their "right something" or somebody else's "wrong something". People thus choose sides and war is waged.

Remember, people actually believe the "something" is over "right" and "wrong", not over mere preferences. But in the end, the chips "fall as they will" and the winner of this arbitrary decision "decides" what is "right".

Think of wars and conflict that result from argument and disagreement over mere preferences (of course it is by definition always believed to be over right and wrong). For if societies at large became aware that they were killing or fighting each other over mere preferences, they would likely cease fighting because of the lack of moral justification. But then how else would we determine what the "something" should be without waging wars or other forms of conflict?


Friday, December 18, 2009

Think Think

Is double think any less insane than going about murdering people simply out of prejudice? Any sort of ideological militant driven by a pathological propensity to commit murder or some other such dehumanizing act is insane, in my opinion.

On the other hand, what about one who claims to uphold grace as the ultimate law of God who then goes on to claim these militant criminals should be judged to the full extent of the law? How can one uphold the ideal of grace yet simultaneously believe these criminals should be judged maximally? This, among many other sentiments, is double think.

Since it is wholeheartedly believing 2 opposing ideals, is this thinking not clearly insane as well? Certainly much less destructive than fanatics going about committing their egregious acts. But insane nonetheless.

In much the same way it is often said that “sin is sin”, perhaps “insanity is insanity”!

Hope A Bit Off The Beaten Track

What is hope to me? To see life for what it seems to be and through this attaining peace and happiness through a perspective that comes to terms with this.

Hope to me is not deluding myself with some warm, fuzzy account of life very unlikely to be true merely because it sounds warm and fuzzy. Acknowledging that bad outcomes could only have been worse (this itself usually unconsciously implied), is a decidedly warm, fuzzy account of life.

For if one sees things as they truly are, is it not patently clear things could easily have been better as well? As such, my quest for knowledge and truth does not discriminate against ideas thought to be sad and hopeless or seemingly “inferior” in other ways.

For instance, many see Friedrich Nietzsche's ideas as not worth following only because he led such a seemingly tragic life. But maybe he stumbled upon some real truths and it is only because of this that he became so depressed?

As I seek truth, I refuse to suppress or deny ideas solely because I do not like them.....that would be incredibly irrational and discriminatory. Perhaps rationality is depressing?

Might this be why irrational thinking (a seeming oxymoron?) seems to be the order of the day?

Capitalism's And Socialism's Mutual Shortfall

Although capitalism, at least initially, encourages innovation and maximum effort, it seems to devolve into something else after sufficient time. When just 1 competitor starts "cutting corners" to cater to the cost conscious among us (who of us is not), this in turn seduces others to follow suit. In effect, it leaves something to be desired*!

Socialism leads to "cutting corners" no less because there is no "force" as it were to encourage innovation and maximum effort**. We are once again left wanting!

Regrettably, wanting seems to be life's greatest unquenchable desire. Perhaps we should just accept what is?

*Examples: customer service being automated (though I do love that sexy woman's voice!), decreasing quality of many products or their almost instantaneous obsolescence (presumably this is very deliberate, as it goes hand in hand with capitalism itself. For it "beautifully" necessitates a continuous need for more "stuff")

**Examples: any "to do" with the Department of Motor Vehicles, procuring a business license in the city of Atlanta

I will end with a bit of a pipe dream. What if we as a society were just motivated to work hard simply for its own sake? Like I said, a bit of a pipe dream.....or perhaps far more.

If I Were Him, I Would Blah Blah Blah!

But you are NOT are you. If you were him, presumably you would do EXACTLY as he does!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Is The Greater Good For Society?

By honoring the brave men and women who fought and died for "our" country, might we simply be perpetuating resentment and conflict? By not honoring these brave men and women, might we curtail the sowing of resentment and conflict and as a result progress toward world peace? What if history stopped being taught?

Aside from the "immorality" of not honoring "our" brave forebears, what other detrimental consequence might result? Perhaps ignorance of history? But does not much of history seem very subjectively written (especially by winners of wars)? Might we be wise to question whether being taught history actually does make us less ignorant if much of it is overly subjective anyway?

Imagine Palestinian and Israeli kids no longer being taught (perhaps indoctrinated with might be more precise) their vile history. Might they become amiable to one another? Is this more or less a societal priority than honoring "our" brave forebears which seems to, among other things, perpetuate resentment and conflict?

What is the greater good for society?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Correlation Between Disbelief And Dislike

Do you agree with much or even any of my writings? If yes, so be it. If no, why? Do you (want to) disbelieve them because you dislike them* or do you (want to) dislike them because you disbelieve them**?

On the other hand, might disbelief and dislike be interchangeable? Perhaps disbelieving something is but a proxy for disliking it? In this sense, much of our argument and conflict could be over mere preferences, not over right and wrong.

It is very reasonable to ask the inverse as you (want to) believe "x" because you like "x" or do you (want to) like "x" because you believe "x"?

In this case, from what do we derive our moral justification for fighting and arguing over mere preferences?

Notice this makes no attempt to discern what is actually true. Rather, it is merely an attempt to explain why one might choose to believe or disbelieve something.

*If you disbelieve them because you dislike them, this categorically denies what might be true simply because it is disliked. This is a decidedly subjective verdict, devoid of objectivity. Which brings us to a very critical you seek to believe what your intellectual honesty can afford or what you want?

**If your disbelief in them inclines you to dislike them, this will inevitably lead to argument and conflict because disliking "x" has a way of making "x" wrong or bad. At which point the purported right/wrong dichotomy is fabricated to provide the moral justification for argument and conflict.

Everything Is A Trade-Off

Cities around the country are finding out their energy saving LED traffic lights (which use up to 90% less energy than the conventional incandescent type) are not producing enough heat to keep them sufficiently thawed during winter months. As a result, they are crusting over and becoming invisible. This oversight is implicated in many accidents and at least one death! What to do?

Well, how about installing heaters on the lights to prevent this from happening*? Of course this will bump up energy usage thus making the environmental impact of the switch futile. Though they do look pretty cool, I don't think that was a consideration in their implementation.

On the other hand, they could employ crews to thaw them out, making any sort of cost saving benefit futile once again.

It just goes to show, although we strive to do things with the utmost of honorable intentions, we mustn't forget that good intentions have a way of going horribly awry. Alas, everything is a trade-off!

*A client of mine had a most sensible about cities in, say, Minnesota trading their LEDs with cities in Florida that have not yet upgraded from conventional types?

The Paradox Of “Good" Guys Using War For Peace's Sake

It is often resentfully claimed that when “good” guys are "forced" to attack “bad” guys, these “bad” guys routinely resort to cruel and sadistic methods to tip the scale in their favor. They even use innocent women and children as shields! Can you believe that? Innocent women and children as shields!

Well, since they have already been labeled “bad”, why should they be dissuaded from using any strategy which might afford them an advantage over the “good” guys. What do they have to lose in the way of reputation at this point? The best they can hope for in not using women and children as shields would be for others to view them as merely “bad” instead of something much worse. In essence, this would assure their defeat but be mitigated by the fact that others will see them as only “bad”.

This does not sound particularly alluring even to me. And I have little or no proclivity to get angry or violent when confronted by people that accuse me of being bad! What does one suppose a person with this proclivity will do if he is accused of being “bad”. If I had to guess, he will become really bad!

This is perhaps the most fundamental dilemma in trying to reconcile war to morality and peace. Labeling people negatively will only further aggravate them, in turn dragging them into an even deeper state of unconsciousness thus prompting their use of more and worse defensive measures.

Using violence under the guise of upholding truth and righteousness is yet more unconsciousness fighting unconsciousness*. This cycle will only ever manifest itself as more unconsciousness.

War is like a pendulum. No matter how out of equilibrium it might be at any given time (this being analogous to lulls in violence and conflict), if left untouched for sufficiently long, it will reach equilibrium (war)!

*Am I saying "we" should NEVER go to war? Decidedly not! Herein lies the most fundamental insanity and absurdity of existence.....fighting wars while claiming (and presumably believing) they will eventually lead to peace! If "we" choose to go to war or it is chosen for us, "we" should harbor no such pretense that peace will ever avail. War is what it is. Though there does not seem to be moral justification for it largely because of the indiscriminate death and destruction it leaves behind, many times it seems "we" must declare it. Once again, this is life's most insane and cruel irony!

If Only Everybody Believed The Same Thing, Things Would Be Fine!

"Well," it will likely be retorted, "I don't think things would be fine if everybody was a militant Muslim!" But if everybody was a militant Muslim, would anybody be a militant Muslim? It seems a militant Muslim would have nobody to be militant toward and hence no reason to be militant at all. Which just begs the question, how could a militant mindset originate without a purported enemy?

It takes an opposing view, not necessarily any more right or wrong or good or bad than another, to foment conflict in the first place! So once again, if only everybody believed the same thing, things would be fine.

I must confess, however, I'm not quite that naive. After all, I'm pretty certain if we did not have religion or politics or alma maters or whatever else to fight over, we would "find" as-yet-unknown things to fight over. After all, we must fight. It's that pesky ego!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The High Cost Of Belief

There was a time not long ago when the Catholic Church held Jewish children ransom until the parents agreed to have them converted to the Catholic faith. But most of the Jewish parents allowed no such thing! Of course the "evil" of extorting the parents to begin with need not even be mentioned, but something else should. Had the Jewish parents simply acquiesced to the demands of the Church, their children would have been promptly returned after said religious "conversion" rites were performed.

I know the idea of the Jewish parents conceding to the demands of the Catholic Church angers many because it "holds hostage" their cherished Jewish beliefs. And rightfully so, they should have been allowed to "believe" whatever they so chose, free of intimidation. Then I'm afraid SO SHOULD HAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!

Of course many, including myself, will claim the Catholic Church's intimidation tactics were beyond reproach. But I think this "blackmailing" tactic was a genuine, even non-malicious part of its doctrine, or so the Church believed.

Herein lies the dilemma: if one sympathizes with those that choose to "believe" in Judaism or anything else for that matter, he should likewise sympathize with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Which in this case compelled it to hold the children ransom for their own sake: TO SAVE THEM FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION! Or so the Church believed.

This example perfectly illustrates how contradictory beliefs create conflict which would otherwise be absent. Eliminate either (or perhaps ideally both) of 2 contradictory views and there is no conflict!

A most important consideration needs to be addressed. Since most people "respect" some but not all beliefs, what does this really say about belief itself? That the goodness or badness of any given belief has NOTHING to do with the belief itself. IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE BEHAVIOR IT ENGENDERS. This is why most people feel compelled to "respect" a kind and generous person's Islamic or Christian beliefs but NOT the beliefs of an Islamic terrorist or Christian abortion clinic bomber!

Furthermore, if it is belief that is respected, what of the uncommonly kind and generous types that essentially believe nothing? Are they to be unrespected? I think not. Reason being, it is ultimately and only one's behavior that earns respect. Respecting belief is superficial. It is nothing but a distraction from respecting the only thing that matters: behavior.

How About Illegalizing Indoctrination?

Where does much of society's conflict and strife seem to originate? Perhaps indoctrination explains much of it, most notably among its naive "little ones". For children will pretty much believe anything they are told to believe (sadly, many of us will too). If they are told in the crib that certain races or cultures are inherently evil or inferior or that others with divergent beliefs or cultural practices are wrong or weird, they will have little gumption not to believe it.

Much of this indoctrination will sow ill feelings in the years to come, creating conflict which would otherwise be absent. Should "we"* forcefully prevent the kind of indoctrination that leads to terrorism, this being perhaps the worst of its many ill faces? Certainly it can then be argued that this would be an affront to the basic freedom of allowing a person to "believe whatever he wants to believe". However, the ill consequence of "protecting" this freedom is that it seems to create or at least magnify wars and other such conflicts thus providing the ultimate trigger to kill and maim.

What is the imperative? To provide the freedom of allowing a person to "believe whatever he wants" knowing full well its negative consequences or simply banning the kind of indoctrination that creates such violent division in the first place?

*"We" is highlighted to differentiate its many faces. Ask "we" in Iran or North Korea or Afghanistan or Iraq or Papua New Guinea or Scandinavia or France or wherever else and "we" will have many divergent goals and ideals. So the relevant question might be, "whose indoctrination should be censored?" It seems wars and violence are predicated not necessarily on clear right/wrong dichotomies but on the simple principle that peoples' opposing views and preferences create contradictions and hence conflict when "forced" to live side by side. At this point, "creating" enemies out of "others" (herein enters the purported right/wrong dichotomy into the conflict, thus giving the "good" guy moral justification for it) is obligatory when it becomes apparent that any attempt to "intertwine" these contradictions is destined to fail.** And so ensues tension which manifests itself as at best simple conflict and disagreement, at worst war. Much like the AIDS virus being viewed as "bad" from our perspective, it is only "bad" because the both of us cannot peacefully coexist. But ask yourself this: in the grand scheme of things, do you really think there is anything particularly "bad" about the AIDS virus in itself? Decidedly not! It is just trying to make its way about the world like the rest of us! But it causes US harm so we think it fair to label IT "bad" and believe this to be an objective judgment. But of course it is anything but objective! Once again, as per my hypothetical idea of censoring certain types of indoctrination, which types then? Perhaps those with uncontested control of the world should make this decision for everybody else, as has always been the case. But these days, I don't know? Who might this be?

**This is a rather silly argument to illustrate my point. I ask you to think more deeply than seeing this only as an argument between 2 young boys fighting over a most trivial matter. As such, project the following parable onto almost any argument and I believe there is relevance: I have never met anybody that believes colors to be intrinsically "good" or "bad". Imagine 2 brothers are going to share a Nintendo DS for Christmas. Peter likes blue but Sam likes red. Each is so compelled to get the device in his chosen color that it becomes an obsession. As a result, they become so identified with their chosen colors that they actually convince themselves their favorite colors are "good" in turn making other colors antithetical to "good" and hence "bad". If you're not with me you're against me! It's that vexatious war mindset so commonly used to justify conflict in the first place***. Since the other brother wants a "bad" color, he is "bad" and thus an enemy. Once again, the purported right/wrong dichotomy creeps into the conflict because it provides moral justification. With this then, the "good" guy is justified to fight because he is "right". And which one IS the "good" guy? Why that's simply a matter of perspective.

***This "if you're not with me you're against me" dichotomy preys on human instinct with reckless abandon. Since we are social animals, we have a need (or perhaps just an irresistible instinct) to be part of clearly defined groups to give us a sense of social identity. What does this compel us to do? Choose sides. In which case people "join" either the "with" or "against" group and conflict is thus born! Note that without this "choosing of sides", there would exist no with/against dichotomy and hence conflict would be avoided altogether! It is also important to note that most of us are compelled to choose one or the other because it "seems" as if those are the only two options. Politicians, talk show hosts and war mongers, notably, love to delude us (and themselves of course) into believing there is only "with" and "against" because they are always looking to recruit people for their "sacred" cause(s). Of course if you choose "against" them, they are morally justified in criticizing you! However, this with/against dichotomy is usually untenable. Almost always "with" and "against" are simply opposite ends of a spectrum. In which case there exist many subtle combinations of "with" and "against" along this spectrum. Upon recognizing this "truth" in a given conflict, I myself choose the "middle", in effect doing my part to "strip" the conflict of its "identity". This is what politicians, talk show hosts and war mongers, among others, live for: to recruit people for their cause(s) in order to give the conflict(s) "identity".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Could Jesus Have Been A Capitalist?

What did Jesus imply by his outburst in the temple? Apparently his disdain for "moneymaking" within the confines of his Father's house. In the grand scheme of things though, I can't help but think these "opportunists" were just trying to make a few bucks by selling religious "trinkets" and other indulgences to a willing audience. Is this not the epitome of capitalism?

Apparently Jesus did not very much like this and made it known by turning over the tables and accusing these merchants of "mocking his Father". Perhaps many will claim Jesus was only against this "moneymaking" mentality within the confines of "God's house". However, this seems curiously analogous to the idea that followers of Jesus are expected to be "churchy" and on their best behavior only within the confines of "God's house". Should this be the mentality of His followers? Sadly, it oftentimes seems so. In any case, could Jesus have been a capitalist?

On the other hand, I can't help but think of the parable Jesus told about the servants entrusted with a landowner's talents. Whereas one servant held onto it out of fear he would lose it and was subsequently vilified, another servant "invested" it to earn interest and was thus praised. Could Jesus have been advocating capitalism? Was this really about investing money or more about investing oneself selflessly? Hmmm? Could Jesus have been a capitalist?

I'm puzzled how so many people that "study" Jesus so nobly imply that He was, or at least would be, a capitalist? Could it be predicated on His messages of "a man shall reap what he sows"? If this is true, where does grace fit into this?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What Do We Do?

Housing prices have tumbled in many areas. How should assessed valuations be determined such that property taxes are handled "fairly"? How should current homeowners who have experienced devastating losses in value wish this issue to be handled? Perhaps an even more challenging question, what about investors who have purchased greatly distressed properties? Should those who purchased a dwelling for $50,000 previously valued at $200,000 pay property taxes based on an assessed value closer to $200,000 or $50,000? What's "fair"?

I am afraid this is the most highly subjective of questions. Of course the buyer of a greatly discounted dwelling (and those who have experienced significant losses on their "investment") will in all likelihood claim it is more fair to pay taxes on an assessed value closer to $50,000, to him at least. Why should he pay taxes on an amount in excess of its purported value?

Conversely, a struggling municipality will likely claim it is more fair to pay taxes on an assessed value closer to $200,000, to it at least. After all, the buyer is getting such a steal of a deal that he makes up for the taxes he's paying in excess of its perhaps "truer" value.

So in a sense, it could be construed as unfair (in the buyer's favor) for getting such a deal on it which can be mitigated by making him pay taxes in excess of its value (to the buyer's detriment). In this way, the unfairness seems more or less neutralized.

To the municipality then, it continues to collect property taxes close to what it was previously (giving it no "free lunch"), allowing it to maintain essential services and other "quality of life" necessities.

Imagine buyers paying taxes on houses' "actual" values. What would happen to the municipality? It would likely collapse, creating perhaps even more loss of value! In short order, the bitching and complaining would focus on the quickly decaying municipality INSTEAD OF THE UNFAIR TAX ASSESSMENTS!

In the end, I am afraid NOTHING is "fair" when the shit hits the fan! Apparently, we ALL must get F_C_E_ up the you-know-what!

How then should tax valuations be "fairly" determined?

Perhaps they should be valued somewhere in the MIDDLE?

Or perhaps it should depend on whether the losses in value are predicted to be short-lived or long-lived? If this is a very temporary blip, it seems more "fair" to leave the assessed values closer to their original values. On the other hand, if they are predicted to be protracted, perhaps they should drop correspondingly? But what if these predictions are wholly inaccurate?


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No Faith Or The Wrong Faith?

It is often claimed by those certain of God's existence that atheists are unwise not to have faith. But then it is just as easily stated that "it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God". So is the issue that atheists lack faith or that atheists simply have the wrong faith?

In the end, whether one chooses to place his faith in God or atheism, the problem is the same: they are both blind assumptions. Hence the need to make faith commitments. How much faith does it require to concede uncertainty?

The Problem Of Complexity

Believers in God often claim that atheism is problematic because how, without a divine Designer, could we, let alone other less complicated things, exist at all*?

Implicit in this question is an attempt to explain how complexity arose by positing that God minimizes this "problem". But how? From where did God come?

"He is uncaused! He needs no explanation!" Really? How would we know this to be true? It is but a blind assumption, tantamount to believing everything is WITHOUT God. Furthermore, if it is assumed that something infinitely complicated requires no cause, why should it be anymore assumed that something merely finitely complicated requires a cause?

At this point, might it be less absurd to believe a finite thing (like atheism) requires no cause than to believe an infinite thing (like God) requires no cause?

In the end, how does God minimize the problem of complexity? Might He actually MAGNIFY it?

*Might God ever ponder who or what designed Himself? If He does, this puts Him in the very same predicament as us, attempting to appeal to someone or something beyond Himself. If He does not, doesn't this make Him just like an atheist?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Questioning Our Place In The Cosmos

What if we found out we were far from alone in the universe? Would we embrace a "universal" view of our existence or continue to harbor very anthropocentric views?

This question would become infinitely complicated if we human beings were called to make a most supreme sacrifice: suppose there is a void collapse in our nearby galaxy cluster sure to destroy the ENTIRE universe and the only way to stop it is to obliterate our cluster thereby saving others but sacrificing ourselves.

Would we be game for this? What might God think?

Conflict Is, Therefore, Inevitable

If a society is allowed "free thought", there is not even the slightest chance that this would produce a uniform thought and ideology in all of its citizens. Conflict is, therefore, inevitable.

On the other hand, as has been done many times before, a society can have its thought strictly controlled by an "oppressive" government as a means to create or perhaps force an agreeable, cohesive society. However, at some point there are citizens that break free of this "control of thought" and as a result become mutinous and start an uprising. Conflict is, therefore, inevitable.

This uprising spreads like a wildfire and the government ultimately loses its control and "free thought" is thus born. Refer to the beginning of this paragraph.....conflict is, therefore, inevitable.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What Is Wrong With Our Society?

The standard answer seems to be that it is its leaders. Perhaps the real answer is that it is its citizens. It seems most of us are willing to sacrifice little or nothing (we seem to totally loathe even the idea of increased taxes or reductions in our "entitlements") and readily punish politicians that have the audacity to ask us to make these kinds of concessions. Hence, politicians typically do NOTHING and are thus criticized.

Of course doing something would elicit criticism just the same, as anything they possibly do could only ever be loved by a distinct few and hated by everyone else for the simple fact that FEW agree about anything! Coupled with the belief that any form of compromise is simply "selling out" and what is the inevitable consequence? I think we as citizens need to realize that this is NOT my country but rather OUR country.

Why, we exasperatingly ask, are politicians so apt to make such daft, short-term policy decisions? Well, firstly, most of the time they seek reelection in which case they want the effects of their policies to manifest sooner rather than later (hence the daft, short-term decisions), otherwise people will look at them unfavorably when reelection approaches.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, PEOPLE DO NOT LIKE LONG TERM SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS BECAUSE THEY WANT THEIR PROBLEMS ADDRESSED PRECISELY RIGHT NOW! One need only ponder this with regard to our economic problems. I don't want things to improve in 2 years, I want them to improve NOW! What is the only kind of politician this mentality will ever afford us? 

Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly! Think!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do We Truly Regret Our Supposed Regrets?

When you find yourself regretting something, ask yourself this: if I could go back to that pivotal crossroads knowing only what I knew when I made said decision, would I do anything different than before?

How could you without additional information?

On the other hand, my own suspicion is that most people view regrets from the "safety" of retrospection. As in, "if only I had known BEFORE I started playing the lottery that I would win EXACTLY NOTHING after dumping thousands of dollars into it, I would NEVER have played it to begin with!" But this, when analyzed rationally and objectively, is NOT regret. It is essentially COMMON SENSE!

After all, it does not require regret to state the obvious: a rational person would NEVER knowingly throw money away (I apologize to those that view the lottery as a noble tool for funding schools and other such social goods, so for the sake of argument, suppose lottery proceeds are akin to throwing money into a bottomless pit!) As such, is the idea of regret really tenable?

Examples of "regret":

A girl regrets having a one night stand only after she finds out she is pregnant or has contracted an STD. But her regret is not really regret. It is resentment over the fact that the outcome is not in accordance with her expected outcome, which of course was that she could partake in a brief sexual tryst free of any long-term negative consequences. Once again, it is NOT regret. Sexual temptations know not regret! It is simply hoped they can be satisfied without inconvenient consequences. A rational person would NEVER engage in risky sexual relations if it was known pregnancy, assuming it is unwanted, or disease would result.

Somebody regrets going through a yellow light only after he is involved in a wreck or perhaps handed a traffic citation. Once again, it is not regret, rather it is resentment over the inconvenient and expensive consequences of the unforeseen result. Would anybody regret getting through a yellow light unscathed? Of course if a crystal ball revealed the forthcoming collision or citation, he would have stopped. This would simply be a rational act of using additional information to make a more informed decision.

Some people are regretful we went to war with Iraq only after our supposed pretext for it (WMD) appeared to be erroneous. It is not regret, rather it is resentment over the fact that our supposed pretext was unfounded.

Somebody regrets studying a "dead-end" discipline only after the technology industry exploded with prosperity. Once again, it is not regret, rather it is disappointment that this was not known beforehand.

Somebody regrets not studying harder and taking education more seriously only much later in life (I find myself in this very predicament at the ripe age of 37!). But this is not regret. It is simply acknowledging a most annoying aspect of life: youth is oftentimes wasted on the young.

Many times I have thought that if I could go back in time KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW, I would do things somewhat/much differently. But so would everybody else! Once again, this is NOT regret! It is COMMON SENSE! Regret would be to claim that "knowing exactly what I knew BACK THEN, I would thus do things somewhat/much differently if given the opportunity to do it over". But how could I possibly do things ANY differently if I knew only and exactly what I knew BACK THEN?

Therefore, regret seems to me an untenable concept, perhaps stemming from the ego's tendency to deny things it doesn't like!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Funny.....

.....all the NIMBYs protesting the incarceration of terrorists with the absurd fear that they might become the terrorists' next targets. Of course this implies a terrorist or 2 would actually break free. Where then is the pride and confidence in our correctional facilities? Can't we emulate the pride and confidence we have in our military and EMBRACE the idea of having terrorists locked up right within our midst?

As in, "I dare you, you wicked terrorists! Just try to break out and come after my family!" This should be the ultimate wet dream for a gun-rights' fanatic.....imagine the honor of getting to shoot dead an escaped terrorist? Who of us could be so lucky?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From What Does Ignorance Stem?

Ignorance stems from lack of information and perspective regardless of whether it is imposed by an authority or even by self. It seems then there is only a minor qualitative difference between 1) ignorance arising from authoritarian censorship and 2) ignorance arising from self-imposed censorship.

For example, in today's ultra-convenient world (especially online) we can effortlessly custom design information flow such that only what we want to hear and identify with is acknowledged.* How is this much different than a government or some other such authority doing this for us? Seemingly not much.....except that we get to pick and choose what arbitrary rules and standards should govern our lives as opposed to an authority doing this for us. But there is oftentimes little agreement amongst our individually preferred rules and standards. What can we possibly do with this lack of agreement? The only thing we can do.....fight and argue over who is supposedly "right"!

*Custom designing information flow engenders very narrow-minded views of reality, thus leaving its proponents with much more "black and white" interpretations of society's most difficult issues. The certainty of these "black and white" interpretations provides illusory one-size-fits-all answers thus making it very easy to criticize "others". This in turn produces increased resentment, hatred, suspicion and other ill feelings within these "others". These "malcontents" will then return the favor and begin the cycle anew. At this point, it becomes a positive feedback loop. And here I leave you with our hyper-polarized society.....need I say more?

Friday, November 13, 2009

For The Sake Of Objectivity.....

I am more or less in favor of placing a disclaimer on the cover of science books that evolution is merely a theory and has not been conclusively proven. For the sake of objectivity, however, I also think it prudent to place a disclaimer on the cover of all religious texts stating in no uncertain terms, "the existence of God is just one theory among many about the origin of the universe. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God and any conviction(s) must be based exclusively on faith."

Would this be acceptable to society, especially its militant atheists and religious zealots? If not, this clearly exposes the inherent bias we all have, however unconscious it may be.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Inverse Proportionality Of Convictions And Their Likelihood Of Being True

It seems the more uncertain a belief, the stronger conviction it requires to be at all believable. This is likely due to the fact that the only way to overcome the discomfort of something's uncertainty is to convictingly declare it so hence rendering it essentially CERTAIN. "Reasoning" in this manner seems to elevate an unknown to a known, a contradiction at heart. For it is implying that something not certain IS certain.

What might motivate us to be so strongly convicted of the most uncertain things? To provide us with the illusion that we are in control of TRUTH. This is simply ego.

As much certainty as we have about gravity (not necessarily what it is but at least its effects on things we are familiar with), why do so few show their conviction of gravity and so many show their conviction of hypothetical God's or supreme beings of which there is scant evidence? It seems a conviction's very essence is that it BE unknown.*

However, the chance that any unknown is correctly "guessed" is remote because there are so many potential explanations for UNKNOWN things**. Arguing over an unknown is simply the ego "guessing" its way to the truth! And generally speaking, the greater the unknown, the more "guesses" it will beg for leaving any particular guess increasingly less likely to account for it. Which conviction/guess is correct?

*Few seem overly convicted of gravity and its predictable effects simply because it is well known (once again, not what it IS but its predictable EFFECTS). In contrast, the same way hell is reputed to be the most supremely awful place simply because of its uncertainty and thus unlikelihood, so too must an unknown be intensely believed so as to overcome its uncertainty and thus unlikelihood**.

**It is important not to extrapolate this argument on uncertain things known to be highly constrained. For example, I may be most uncertain as to whether a fair coin will come up heads or tails, but I can be most certain it will come up one or the other. This makes perfectly clear that uncertainty does not necessarily imply unlikelihood of a particular solution, rather, a particular solution should be treated as unlikely if the correct solution is not known to be highly constrained and potential solutions appear more or less equally untenable. Since there does not seem to be a valid reason to believe our existence should be based on only a very limited number of potential solutions, we should therefore be compelled to believe there could be innumerable solutions thereby making any particular "guess" as to our existence very unlikely to be true.

Convictions overturn uncertainties only by convictingly declaring them certain!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trouble With "The Middle"

Especially pertaining to religious and political persuasions, the fundamental problem with those in "the middle" is that they fail to stand for anything save "the middle". This is problematic because "the middle" is not a discrete idea per se. It is an amalgam of ideas, many of which are inconsistent with one another. In this sense, those in "the middle" have no absolute claim to uphold. For what do they stand for?

As an example, take the explosive issue of governmental intervention in our affairs. Those who despise its meddling with our affairs "courageously" vilify the government whenever the opportunity presents itself! In this way, it appears these staunch advocates of "freedom from government" really stand for something. They stand for the absolute belief that government should leave us the hell alone! However, this is absurd taken to its logical ramifications. Is it not readily apparent the government's intervention protects us from many out there who would otherwise exploit us?

Of course many will justifiably claim the government is the ultimate exploiter! Can it be acknowledged then that we are inevitably going to be exploited by somebody or something anyway? Is it not obvious that those who complain about the government's exploitative acts would just as surely complain about being exploited by non-governmental entities only because the government heeded our wish to be left the hell alone and hence chose not to prohibit exploitation via regulations?

It will be retorted by staunch advocates of "government, get the hell out of my life!" that of course some things need to be regulated, but certainly not near the plethora of things that actually are. But who among us shall determine which regulations are superfluous and which are not? Perhaps the "real" dilemma at this point is once it is acknowledged that some level of government intervention is "necessary", the original argument loses its "robustness" as it degenerates into another argument in favor of "the middle".

It seems all arguments, unless absolutely absolute, are in one way or another simply surrogates for "the middle". In this case "the middle" itself can be represented by a total of essentially "infinity - 2" arguments. The 2 arguments "the middle" could by definition never be represented by are, obviously, the extremes on the endpoints of the spectrum.

For instance, given our discussion on governmental intervention, the endpoints would be 1)the government regulating every aspect of our lives and 2)the government regulating no aspect of our lives. "The middle" can then be represented by every other conceivable combination of government intervention, however little or much. "The middle", it seems, is far more prevalent than one might imagine, especially amongst those that claim to "stand" for this or that cause!

Are most of us, if not all, simply in "the middle" on issues we so valiantly claim to stand for? This being the case, how many of us really stand for anything? Is "standing" for something merely an illusion projected by the ego in order to give us a sense of moral superiority through the belief that we are "standing" for something?

Examples follow:

- If one is to absolutely stand for the principle of "self reliance", then crippled retards should be afforded no support and hence left to simply "reap what they sow". Anything short of this standard would become something of "the middle".

- If one is to absolutely stand for and embrace God's grace, then serial killers and child molesters should be afforded it no less than Mother Teresa, especially if they are militant atheists. Anything short of this standard would become something of "the middle".

- If one is to absolutely stand for protecting human fetuses, then those that are products of violent rapes should be preserved too, as we can be certain they are just as innocent and deserving of life as fetuses that are not. Anything short of this standard would become something of "the middle".

- If one is to absolutely stand for "government, get the hell out of my life!", he should never hope the government would bail him out of his flooded dwelling if he had no flood insurance only because it was not considered to be in a flood plain. Anything short of this standard would become something of "the middle".

- If one is to absolutely stand for "government, get the hell out of my life!", he should refuse social services like police and fire rescue and rely on himself in dangerous situations. Anything short of this standard would, once again, become something of "the middle".

The point of obfuscating the issue of whether people really stand for anything is not to dissuade them of their convictions but to demonstrate that their convictions are not necessarily going to be consistent with that of others. We can then choose to see the validity of others' convictions or be arrogantly content with the belief that we are "right" and those with divergent convictions are simply "wrong".

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Trouble With Meaning In Itself

Of the things I most enjoy, I find meaning in the things themselves thus rendering them ends in themselves. Contrast this to the more typical notion, conscious or not, that the things we do are themselves simply a means to an end.

For example, many aspire to undergo years of schooling and vocational training so they can one day accumulate wealth and renown, something or other. Since I find meaning in knowledge itself, knowledge is the end. In this sense, I have little or no ambition to "use" my knowledge to some further end leaving me struggling with my finances and "making my mark on the world". If only I had ambition and vision to do something more with my knowledge than just enjoying it for its own sake! I believe this speaks to many of the "underachievers" out there.

On the one hand, there seems to be something respectable and "pure" about one who finds meaning in the things themselves as it is clear he is not driven by ulterior motives and other vain pursuits. On the other, it seems incessant "doing" and "performing" is necessary for our very existence (at least a respectable one), with most of these "achievements" motivated primarily by ulterior motives. But of course even one with ulterior motives can be seen as respectable just the same if his vain pursuits compel him to find the cure for cancer, something or other. For what will I, doing nothing but enjoying knowledge in itself, ever do for humanity?

However, as is the case with me and undoubtedly many others, there can be a heavy price to pay for experiencing intrinsic meaning in things: there is often little motivation to go any further as fulfillment is already achieved. How then is one to make a living?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's The Use Of Trivial Knowledge Or Any For That Matter?

Trivial knowledge seems, well, trivial. The issue I have with trivial knowledge is that there is little or no practicality to the knowledge itself. For instance, the fact that Venus is the only planet in our solar system that rotates clock-wise with respect to its axis is useless trivia to me unless, that is, one knows why it does so?

Another example, to know the author of a particular book but know nothing of the book itself.....meaningless I say! On the other hand, one could legitimately question why it is any more practical to know why Venus rotates clock-wise or what an author's book is all about? Perhaps trivial knowledge could be more practical than the more detailed sort?

It seems to depend on how practicality is defined. If practicality is defined as that which aids one's living, for instance, then perhaps trivial knowledge can actually be practical if one earns a generous living by being a repository of what I deem "useless knowledge". In this case, what I previously implied as being "useful knowledge" could easily be seen as having no practicality if it fails to provide something practical like "income". But I would then argue that the practical benefit of what I deem "useful knowledge" could easily be predicated on the notion that knowledge is practical in itself. In which case it would seem that knowing Venus rotates clock-wise but not WHY would be practical in itself just the same. As would knowing the author of a book but nothing of its premise.

So much for my argument that trivial knowledge is meaningless. I seem to have defeated my own proposition! In the end, one need not earn income off his knowledge in order for it to be practical because knowledge can be practical in and of itself.

On the other hand, if one fails to find practicality in knowledge itself, then perhaps he can find practicality in knowledge as a means to help him earn a living? This obfuscates any absolute claim as to what is or is not useful knowledge. It depends on one's point of view!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Skepticism.....Friend Or Foe?

What values can a skeptic reasonably justify? How can a skeptic justify any if he is skeptical? I can think of a value which systematically stems from skepticism and is thus implied.....humility. This further corresponds to open-mindedness.

What arises from those that are most certain about any given issue? Close-mindedness and hence lack of humility. Anybody who has chosen "once and for all" has forever closed off his mind. New found information which contradicts this "closed-off" mind will likely be seen as erroneous and hence disregarded.

How is one to progress in life if he does not acknowledge new found information which conflicts with his "closed-off" mind?

Monday, October 26, 2009

One Of The Many Problems Of Big Societies

Big societies expose the absurdity of absolutes and the necessity of relatives! Of course my own reasoning suggests that if things are relative, they can simultaneously be absolute. click here for clarification This then exposes the absurdity of relatives just the same. How then are we to address the problems of society, asks the inquisitive skeptic such as myself?

When societies reach a significant enough size, social issues can no longer be addressed with absolute, easily drawn lines to separate something from not something. For instance, if there are 15 members in a society, the difference between the goodness or badness of them can likely be interpreted fairly discretely. For example, of the 15 members, suppose 3 are really bad and 3 are really good with the remaining being of average morality. In this case, the 3 really bad members can be punished for being bad and every member in the group will agree. Just the same, the 3 really good members can be honored and every member in the group will agree.

But when a society numbers in the millions, there exists a more or less uniform continuum spanning goodness to badness making it impossible to reach a consensus as to how to distinguish between good and bad! As such, the discreteness of what makes somebody standout as being either really bad or really good, deserving enough of punishment or honor is LOST! This is the ideological war that is forever apparent in societies, especially large ones!

For example, at what point should one be considered worthy of an entitlement (think tax credits, welfare, scholarships)? At what point should we embrace what is best for the collective or what is best for any given individual (think health-care reform)? At what point should we sacrifice human pursuits for the sake of ecological balance (should we begin regulating population like China and/or lessening our relentless pursuit of "progress" which would in turn violate many commonly held notions of freedom)?

At what point does any given decision, all of which are inherently discriminatory, become what society would call "unfair" discrimination? For instance, it seems reasonable to discriminate against the crippled if I am interviewing candidates to work in a saw mill but is it reasonable for me to discriminate against Muslims or blacks if my patrons dislike them? These issues become impossible to answer with definitive moral standards.

It is my opinion that there is ultimately NO certainty and that ANY answer is merely arbitrary. The trick, if you will, is to get everybody to agree on ONE arbitrary answer to any given issue thus potentially leaving society with the false impression that the agreed upon answer is any more "right" than countless other arbitrary answers might be.* But once again, because society is so large, it will be very difficult to get it behind ONE answer to any given issue. Hence all the arguing and name calling and resentment and suspicion and labeling of dissenters as STUPID or EVIL only because they do not agree with their arbitrarily chosen answer to said issue!

Perhaps the only hope for large societies is to have one collective mind CONTROLLED by a benevolent dictator or any other for that matter? Maybe God or some highly advanced alien civilization or perhaps even our own technology of the future? To many this would seem despotic and evil, but what is the alternative? Incessant fighting and arguing over who is "right"! If we were unaware that our minds were controlled by a collective simply to engender agreement and hence peace, perhaps this ignorance could be the bliss we yearn for?

On the other hand, maybe incessant fighting and conflict is something we unconsciously yearn for and, dare I say, NEED? Might this be a vestige of our evolutionary past? Or perhaps it is God that has instilled in us a desire to be in constant conflict with somebody or something?

*This perhaps illustrates the societal benefit of the "herd mentality". For what will likely result from sheep not following this method of standardization? Anarchy. However, myself being a free-thinker with little or no inclination to side with a collective(s) simply for the sake of being "part" of something, I can honestly say I have never felt any compulsion to become anarchistic. Reason being, I see anarchistic thought as just another collective to be a "part" of and hence something less than free-thought. In my opinion, a "true" free-thinker sees everything as it is in its essence, thereby avoiding the distinctly human hallmark of placing LABELS on everything. For example, anarchists tend to be very critical of religious institutions and the "damage" they do as a result of effectively indoctrinating others with what they consider to be fallacious information. Notice how anarchists label religion as bad IN ITSELF similar to how religious zealots label atheistic thought as bad IN ITSELF. However, as per what I consider to be "true" free-thought, I label neither religious indoctrination nor atheistic thought as bad or good IN ITSELF because not all religious indoctrination and atheistic thought is bad or good and hence some forms of either can be beneficial or detrimental to society. But the "herd mentality" aspires to place labels on things IN THEMSELVES** most likely because they foster clearer, more concise answers when confronted with the most dubious of crossroads. This creates animosity within and antagonizes dissenters, in turn strengthening the identity of BOTH groups further perpetuating the conflict. Once again, because we are social animals, we have a need (perhaps more accurately just an irresistible instinct) to be "part" of groups to give us a sense of "social" identity. But this "need" to be "part" of clearly defined groups is antithetical to other groups. This in turn creates "artificial" conflict and disagreement.

**Once again, I find myself in contradiction. I seem to place labels on things IN THEMSELVES just the same. When I claim Jesus taught us to forgive not arbitrarily but absolutely, does this not imply that forgiveness is or at least should be good IN ITSELF? In this way I am claiming forgiveness should be unconditional and hence ALWAYS good. It matters not what extraneous circumstances there may be, JUST FORGIVE BECAUSE IT IS GOOD IN ITSELF! This is equivalent to claiming that both religious indoctrination and atheistic belief are good or bad in themselves, a notion I just finished criticizing!.....To experience this life fully seems to me a paradox.....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Drawing Lines_______ _______ _______ _______

This is a multiple part discussion on how we draw lines concerning any number of life's most contentious issues. Project your most passionate issue(s) onto this argument for maximal effectiveness. It will be most easily seen and understood by drawing the letters of the alphabet across a piece of paper.

By drawing lines (especially on the most difficult issues), there is a paradox which crops up with reckless abandon when analyzed rationally and objectively. O.K., take your piece of paper with the letters of the alphabet written across it. It is not difficult to imagine there being 26 people each with a slightly different viewpoint regarding any given matter on a spectrum represented by the letters A through Z. Slightly different in that, though each is certain as to the veracity of his view, he must realistically concede at least a small amount in order to come across somewhat humble and understanding. In this way, his view will likely be agreed upon by those who differ very little in their views.

Meaning, person A will be sufficiently in agreement with person B on any given principle, person B will be sufficiently in agreement with persons A and C on any given principle, person C will be sufficiently in agreement with persons B and D on any given principle, all the way through person Z such that those next to each other anywhere along this spectrum are in general agreement concerning any given principle. This is the inevitable paradox created when one attempts to intertwine discontinuities with continuities.*

As such, suppose person A might be considered a “bleeding-heart liberal" whereas person Z might be considered a “die-hard conservative". Is there anything person A will agree with person Z about aside from their contempt for one another perhaps? Hell no! But if each person agrees with his “neighbors” on either side of himself, amongst whom does this opposition arise? This is essentially what is known as the barber paradox! It can not arise but it must! Or if you prefer, it must arise but it can not!

People instinctively like to draw absolute lines which in turn create this paradox because just about every issue, especially the most difficult ones, brook no discontinuous solutions. They beg for and seem to require continuous ones. There is no discrete point at which any person on either side of himself becomes disagreeable. Yet person A and person Z will undoubtedly disagree on everything!

The answer to this “riddle”, if you will, seems to be either nobody should be in agreement or everybody should be in agreement! But if nobody is in agreement, how in bloody hell could anybody know who is “absolutely” right assuming anybody even is? On the other hand, if everybody is in agreement, it seems everybody can be right in spite of opposing views! HUH? Might it be wise to not care who is right as if rightness were anything more than an illusion created and projected by the ego?

Perhaps one should not let dogma drive his affairs? Stop trying to be right all the time! Many out there will now feel justified in accusing ME of being arrogant and self-contradicting to imply that I am right about nobody being right. I humbly concede that SO DO I!

Other examples of this type of paradox:

Assume the same kind of spectrum as before. Have the left side represent the idea that God will be gracious and merciful to everybody and hence “save” us all and the right side represent the idea that God will only “save” the cream of the crop, if there are any. Imagine, and this is not at all difficult, that people all over the world harbor views spanning this spectrum in a continuous fashion. What might God actually do? How could we ever know this side of death? This is the same problem as before. There is essentially an unbroken “chain of agreement” amongst nearby neighbors along this entire spectrum yet there will undoubtedly be disagreement amongst outsiders. (see next entry for clarification)

Suppose person B agrees with persons A and C and person D agrees with persons C and E. But suppose person A lacks sufficient concordance with persons D and E to agree. Do you see the problem? Apparently, unless an absolute is absolutely absolute, this paradox is unavoidable. But rarely if ever do people see anything as absolutely absolute because there always seem to be at least a few valid exceptions. But a few valid exceptions will only ever beget a few more valid exceptions. Where then must this inclusion of exceptions end? Presumably wherever somebody arbitrarily declares it must end. Will all these “somebodies” be in agreement with one another? Of course not! Who is right then?

*please see blog post entitled “More Uncertainty!” with following link:

The Status Quo Always Dies Hard!

Many are incensed that Barack Obama received a Nobel Prize for having accomplished little or nothing "tangible". After all, it's just rhetoric and intentions! And rhetoric and intentions don't change anything!

Oh really?

Being a cynic myself, I would concur that rhetoric and intentions rarely do anything useful, but are they always futile? Here is a consciousness raiser: being that the status quo (which often is or becomes harmful to society at some point in its life) dies hard, how are we ever to move beyond the most dangerous ones? By paving new and untraveled roads.

Because the status quo is so entrenched in the mindset of a society, rhetoric and intentions must be sufficient to sow the seeds of change. Since Homo sapiens seem motivated predominantly by reward, how then do we pave the way for change? By rewarding and honoring rhetoric and intentions! This will then attract others to travel these new and untraveled roads. Over time, the status quo relinquishes its unshakeable grip and tangible changes ARE accomplished!

The BIGGEST of all questions is, which status quos have overstayed their welcomes and which have not? A tempting question to be sure, but this is not what I am addressing here. I am simply addressing WHY it is or at least could be beneficial for society to REWARD rhetoric and intentions alone.

If there was never incentive to change the status quo, how would it ever have changed?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Makes Genocide So Heinous?

What's worse? Killing 100,000 people of a race numbering in the millions or killing the very last person of another race (for instance, European invaders killed the last Tasmanian man)? Most would undoubtedly claim that killing 100,000 of a plentiful race would be far worse than killing the last of another.

This then makes it wholly apparent that it is not the cleansing of one particular race that makes it so despicable but the act of murder itself, especially when it involves multitudes. So why all this talk of genocide in the world? Why not just call it murder?

In the same way, today's society seems determined to distinguish "hate" crimes from "non-hate" crimes. This would seem to discount the "awfulness" of someone murdered under the mere guise of "non-hate".

Another corollary to this line of thinking is how many view and respect other living things. Some just have a deep-seated respect for life in general, with seemingly no caveats. But what about mosquitoes? Or deadly bacteria and parasites? Hmm? At this point is it not sufficiently obvious that we are very arbitrary in choosing which life to respect and conserve? It is very anthropocentric but understood as we strive to better our odds. Hence the reason we seek to eradicate deadly pathogens and bacteria and parasites and so on and so forth.

But what puzzles me is how arbitrary it gets with other living things. For instance, if we hold dear particular species, certainly we make every effort to conserve those struggling to survive. But others we hold dear (or deer if you prefer) that happen to be plentiful, we show little or no inhibition in killing them more or less indiscriminately*

This seems to suggest that it is not the killing that makes it so bad, rather it is the eradication of the species or race. Which further suggests we care less about one particular animal and more about the perpetuation of the species or race itself. In which case, perhaps it SHOULD BE a lesser crime to extinguish 100,000 human beings of a plentiful race than to have killed the last remaining Tasmanian?

*Why do we hold deer, among many creatures, so close to our hearts when they are struggling to survive, but kill them indiscriminately when they become a nuisance? Why not do the same thing with humans? Well, perhaps we DO just that? Might this be the purpose of WAR? The question is, WHO gets to determine which is the nuisance among us?

Hmm.....I guess it depends on whom you ask?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tracking Our Anestors

There is an intensely interesting documentary floating around (perhaps Discovery channel) that traces the lineage of residents in Queens, NY (presumably because it is so diverse) and it is truly shocking what it reveals. In a nutshell, whereas many of us might intuitively believe our ancestry to be linked predominantly to physical features like skin color, a distinctly African, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, European, or far east-Asian look etc., this is not necessarily the case.

Because all of humanity originated in present day Ethiopia (or thereabouts), Africa actually has the most distinct and diverse populace. But they are mostly black? Yes, but many people (presumably including many racial supremacists) are closer in relation to the very people they despise and view as inferior than they are to the people they erroneously believe to be close in ancestry.

I see 2 possible ramifications that this relatively new-found knowledge will eventually have on society. 1) It will humble any feeling of racial superiority and supremacy and give us less reason to hate those simply because they are different (or at least appear so) or 2) it will so humiliate and infuriate the supremacists to learn of this that they will eliminate themselves from the gene pool!

Either way, racial superiority in the not too distant future should (my use of should as opposed to will is very deliberate because I am very cynical) become a thing of the past.

Just Damn!

I read an article by a technology guru (CEO of Nvidia) and he predicts GPU + CPU processing power (graphical processing units and central processing units together) will increase by 570 times in the next six years! Mind you, not 570% which is a tad under 6 times. 570 times! Do a search on GPU 570 times if you are interested!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh Mighty One, Who Is The Fairest Of All?

Suppose 10 lonely guys faithfully seeking God are pursuing the same female. If the female's chosen suitor is in any way orchestrated by God, on what basis could He possibly make this decision? If God bases it on anything other than the fact that the chosen suitor is the best match for her, we might suggest He is personal to him, perhaps because he is the most God-fearing of the lot, something or other.

But by being personal to him, it seems His decision becomes less than ideal and potentially even disastrous for the poor girl. For God has chosen this suitor not because he is the best match for her, but because he is the most faithful to Him. Thus, God's personal act bestowed on this suitor creates an inferior relationship because they are not properly matched. And all this at the behest of wonderful God!

On the other hand, if God bases His decision on the fact that this suitor is the best match for her, then this will create a healthy relationship sure to last a lifetime. But this decision does not seem personal to anybody. God simply orchestrated the best possible match based solely on compatibility. One would obviously be wise to question why this would not just as easily happen without God?

What is my point in all of this? That it seems to be a silly waist of time asking God to intervene in a personal way in our affairs. The proper suitor will, or at least should, find his soul mate based purely on compatibility, not by praying and pleading to God relentlessly. Project this onto countless other circumstances in life.

For instance, take job hunting. One will, or once again should, get a job based on qualification and personality, not by praying and pleading to God for a job that a bunch of militant atheists are much better qualified for. If God is in the business of discriminating against much better qualified atheists simply because they are atheists, many companies will be left to deal with faithful yet less than ideal employees. I fail to see how this would make God good except possibly to the faithful that are ill-equipped to get a job based on qualification and personality alone.

I now feel compelled to ask God a question from one of my most beloved movies which He is no doubt familiar with (Office Space). "You should ask yourself...for every decision you make, is this good for the company? Am I helping with the company's strategic vision?”

What If All Of Society's Leeches Got Jobs?

What might happen to our capitalistic society if, as its most vociferous followers steadfastly desire, all the “low-lifes” and other dregs of society were to get their acts together by focusing on education and vocation as opposed to idleness and mischief? It would create a more competitive landscape placing downward pressure on wages and pay, all things being equal. So the trade-off might induce lower welfare outlays but this in turn would create decreasing wages and pay. So there might be little effect on net pay.

For instance, if one earns $80/hour and is taxed for $25 of it, his take home pay is $55/hour. However, if the “low-lifes” and other dregs involved themselves in the civilized affairs of society (i.e. got jobs), perhaps taxes could decrease by $10 (due to decreased welfare outlays) but the downward pressure put on wages and pay due to the “low-lifes” and other dregs getting involved in the economy would likely drag the hourly wage to $70/hour. In which case, the net effect on take home pay is $0. Taxes are lower but so is gross pay.

Perhaps psychologically people feel they are being “cheated” less if their take home pay is closer to their gross pay? Apart from this, however, there is no quantitative difference. $70/hour is $70/hour. This is overly simplistic to be sure, but the point of my argument is that a balanced and well functioning society seems to necessitate 3 distinct classes being present, this being a high, middle and low one. We should never hope for anything but this.

To many this seems unfortunate and depressing. But I did not author the nature of reality. I am but one of its messengers! To summarize, all 3 classes complement the functionality of the whole. One must remember that when attempting to “perfect” something as complicated as a society comprised of millions and billions of citizens, there will be innumerable unwanted and unforeseen consequences. This is why from a very reflective perspective, I think it wise to accept many things just as they are.

This comes across very pessimistic to many, understandably, but not heeding this principle simply gives the “advocates of change” something to feel self-righteous and superior about of which in actuality there is no superior method of dealing with complex issues like this because they are all of them fraught with difficult and oftentimes painful trade-offs! This will not be at all obvious to those that identify with one and only one perspective.

However, it becomes readily apparent when one looks beyond his single perspective. Remember, truth is not a product of one perspective. It is an amalgam of oftentimes opposing perspectives!

Adversity Is Bad, But Good Too

“We finally did it, dammit! We finally found the long sought after cure for cancer once and for all!” Then a look of sheer terror overcomes Dr. Rosenberg as if he just shat in his pants. “Oh no! How can I ever expect to pay off my $500,000 in medical school debt without a cancer-stricken patient to treat?”

This seems to be the inevitable ramification of a world no longer vulnerable to calamities such as cancer. Extrapolate this onto every ill of society. Where would we be without them? This is hard to accept, especially if you or perhaps one of your beloved is stricken with some hideous malady. But it is an unfortunate necessity in a reality where the greatest of all needs revolves not around any particular individual but around a collective One, that which we might call Life.

Those that succumb to the most cruel tragedies are what we could call “collateral damage”. If one were to imagine all of life's ills forever eradicated, how would we bide our time? Twiddling our thumbs? Is this activity not pathetically below humanity's untameable spirit? How would we ever satiate our penchant, nay our lust, for victory and accomplishment without continual opportunities to defeat adversity?

Selling Ourselves

As we “progress” technologically, it seems we are forfeiting our individual identities. To what? An enormous, impersonal “pattern” of collective behavior which capitalism preys on with reckless abandon.

On the one hand, this seems to lend itself very well to efficiently and effectively addressing consumer demands thus maximizing each individual's utility. On the other, it seems to relegate us to that of mere machines whose only purpose is to produce and consume "stuff", lacking a distinct “human” element of individuality and identity. 

One of my concerns with regression analyses to determine consumer preferences deals with free-will. If a given analysis determines that it is likely I will make a certain choice and interferes in my life in such a way as to test this prediction, might this interference itself compel me to choose it*? In this case, it seems this prediction becomes self-fulfilled prophesy.

If so, is my free-will really free?

*Perhaps this is a nice corollary to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle?

Extremism's Different Faces

What typically becomes of so many “centrist” viewpoints? They become extreme in themselves within a supposedly moderate viewpoint.

In other words, because what is thought to be “moderate” can entail innumerable views, oftentimes people become so identified with their moderate view(s) that they fail to acknowledge other moderate views in turn creating the same kind of extreme views of which extremists are accused.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Questioning A Most Revered Friend

Capitalism troubles me. First off, what in God's green earth precipitated a highly industrialized country like ours to shift so much of its production of goods overseas? To get costs down thereby offering lower priced goods to consumers and greater profit margins to manufacturers. This noble intention was of course spurred on by hyper-competition, the essence of capitalism! After all, it is much cheaper manufacturing things in “decades-behind-us” countries where wages are much lower and unions nonexistent. This in turn gives us cheaper cars and goods.

But then what becomes of all our cities and more importantly our workers who are just so “wired” to work on assembly lines? The cities decay and the workers are then forced to find new skills based perhaps on service oriented tasks. This seems fine, except for the fact that it is now claimed we must maintain a strong manufacturing base if we are to uphold our position as the world's preeminent economy. So we say, let's bring manufacturing back

But with much higher wage standards in our society, costs will increase dramatically. How will we get them down? By procuring the services of 20th century's answer to the immorality of slavery. We'll get computers to do all the dirty work! In this regard, nobody has to pay a soul! Except the power companies and a tech nerd or two needed to maintain the computers. Isn't this ultimately what a genuine capitalist should hope for? A way to eliminate the need for employees and other "unnecessary" costs which will only ever disrupt his bottom line? 

Today computers are so powerful that it is not at all unrealistic to envision plants being operated solely by robots with perhaps a few rogue humans to prevent or address occasional malfunctions here and there. But what then becomes of all the ready, willing and able factory workers? Perhaps they will be forced to find jobs in the service industry?

But if computers can eliminate the need for factory workers, why would it end here? Perhaps today's in vogue service industry will be much more efficiently operated by computers making human beings nothing more than costly extravagances? (One need only take note of all those pesky automated call centers.....God curse them!) What then are these ex-service industry workers to do?

To me, capitalism seems to idolize personal gain at the expense of other human beings. This neither maddens nor depresses me. It just is what it is. I guess what bothers me most is that many people tend to, consciously or not, operate under the pretext that their capitalistic pursuits are not selfish.

I think it true to say that in spite of the fact that capitalism is ultimately driven by nothing but personal gain, it still seems to be a boon for humanity. Perhaps this is why many "liberals" seem to HATE it? For though capitalism doesn't give a shit about anybody or anything (except ITSELF/MONEY), it does seem to reduce poverty and suffering more than any other tried approach.

So am I implying capitalism to be the final chapter of humanity's pursuit of progress?

What do YOU think?

Before answering this, keep in mind that not so long ago, much of society thought (countless societies still DO) slavery was a boon for humanity. And presumably societies of antiquity (and of course MANY today) thought humanity was best served by women staying at home raising children and cleaning dishes. And what about many past societies (and of course, once again, many TODAY) that thought a man's greatest moral obligation and honor was his "barbaric" ability to eradicate other human beings? 

Apparently societal norms change over time? Perhaps, then, we should be a little more reluctant to espouse the virtues of capitalism as if it were the "final" moral solution for our progress?

A Verdict On The Issue Of Health Care

How could something like the health and well-being of our citizens be relegated to the arbitrary whims of bureaucracies? On the other hand, to view health care from the perspective of each human being's every specific need and desire, how are we to expect this kind of personal care to be at all affordable?

It is essentially a debate about treating health care in a utilitarian versus an emotional manner. This is difficult because though the well-being of human beings is perhaps the most sacred of life's issues, it, like any other difficult issue, has severe restrictions placed upon it because we live in a finite world. If only it was infinite!

Unfortunately, there is neither enough money, nor doctors, nor organs to be transplanted, etc. to meet every personal need and desire of every citizen such that we are all treated with the utmost care.

It may be difficult to stomach for many of you but the world does not revolve around you, your parents, your children or Grandma Gertrude. It might be true to say that your world revolves around them. The problem with this is that obviously we all have our own ideas as to whom and what the world revolves around, many of which are in opposition to one another as they are vying for the same limited resources.

Alas, the “world's world” revolves around a collective One, many people and issues of which you could not care less about because they are not part of your world! But the problem with trying to approach health care in a utilitarian manner is that it will by its very nature foment accusations of being cruel and callous simply because this is perhaps the most emotional and fragile issue known to man. How dare we dehumanize our fellow brethren like this!

But to approach it in a purely emotional manner seems to necessitate astronomical expenditures of which nobody seems willing to take responsibility. How do we address this utilitarian/emotional dichotomy? Any response to this that places the answer “somewhere in the middle” simply obfuscates the problem all over again. The middle means a thousand things to a thousand people!

My opinion on this, depressing as it may be for many, leans more toward the “coldness” of utilitarianism. Of course this view will likely incite feelings of dehumanization, but I see this trend taking shape quite nicely in many of our other affairs, so perhaps this is our inescapable destiny?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just The Way God Made Me

How did God fail me, one might ask? I would rephrase the question slightly. As in, how did my idea of God fail me? Because I believe whether or not a God of some sort actually exists, it is only one's idea of said God that can potentially offer life-altering benefits.

For me, in spite of the fact that I really believed (at least I think I did), this neither encouraged nor discouraged me from doing anything beyond which I would or would not have done anyway. For many, just the idea of a wonderful God cheering them on is encouragement enough to do amazing feats that would otherwise not be done. These feats then become the “proof of the pudding” that God had something, perhaps everything, to do with them. Voila, belief! But alas, this did not happen with me.

A quick appraisal of this may cause some to pity me because apparently my idea of God neither encouraged nor discouraged me from doing things I would or would not have done anyway.

However, I see something very encouraging and meaningful in this, to me at least. It suggests that I have only ever been myself, just the way God made me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God And Bioethical Considerations

The more I ponder the discipline of bioethics, the more I become dissuaded of the existence of God. At least a God that could reasonably intervene on our behalf such that He might be considered personal. The ironic thing is this comes in response to having read Francis Collins' “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”. Ironic in that he is a self-professed Christian.

In the end, trying to “fit” a wonderful, personal God into the obviously callous and cruel nature of reality seems to necessitate absurd explanations as to why a child would be born with cystic fibrosis, something or other.

Concerning the discipline of genetic engineering, it would seem that God can choose to be either personal to the wishes of those who believe genetic engineering in all its grandeur is an affront to His authority or personal to the wishes of those who believe He has given us the fortitude and perhaps even His blessing to reverse these genetic “oversights”. In other words, he can't be personal to both.

With this realization, it becomes difficult to endorse the idea that God is personal to us all. Perhaps He is personal to NOBODY?

If one outright rejects this supposition, a challenging follow-up question to the notion of this Creator being personal is personal to whom? I have pondered this extensively and have concluded, perhaps regrettably to many, that the idea of a personal God does not seem to overcome simple scrutiny. How can God be personal to all of us when it seems the vast majority of our prayers and desires seem to conflict with that of other faithful followers? For instance, how would God personally intervene in the lives of countless God-fearing males all seeking the affection of the same God-fearing female?

If one chooses to overlook this “problem”, he is burying his head in the sand like an ostrich to deny what is perfectly obvious.

Alternatively, if one believes God is personal, this would of course imply that He is personal to him. Does this not seem of utmost arrogance? Where is the humility?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fairness Or Simplicity?

An unavoidable and unfortunate side-effect of drawing lines is that fairness and simplicity seem to be inversely proportional. As such, they work against each other. “But I want all of both,” it will be exclaimed like an obnoxious, spoiled child. But seldom if ever can something be simple without it being unfair. Conversely, seldom if ever can something be fair without it being complicated.

Of course many unfair issues in life are easily overlooked because they are relatively superficial not worth obsessing over. To digress slightly, it is important to note that what is superficial or not is ultimately opinion anyway. But bear with my terms for the sake of the argument. For instance, getting stuck in a “slow” line at the supermarket. It is unfair but simple: you just wait longer than somebody else should. Supermarkets could implement what would be relatively complicated protocols for fairness' sake, though who really cares about such trivial issues? But what about other issues which are not so superficial? Take the inherent problem with our tax code, most notably its complexity. It is overly complicated because, it is thought, its progressive nature makes it more fair (assume once again this is true for the symmetry of this argument, for I know many will disagree with this because of valid disagreements as to what fairness can entail).

Let's introduce the idea of the Fair-Tax. For it to work in its purportedly simple manner, it must brook few if any exceptions, otherwise it will swell into another bloated gazillion page encyclopedia of exceptions rather than a few simple rules. But without myriad exceptions, people will instinctively bitch and complain that they should not be subject to the same tax or burden as somebody else.

For instance, if the tax is fixed, whether I buy a bag of raw broccoli or somebody else buys a pack of cigarettes, this does not seem fair to me (and perhaps even the smoker) as it is likely he will pose a far greater burden on society than I myself will eating broccoli. Of course most will justifiably claim that we must implement exceptions that are “obviously” reasonable. But which exceptions are “obviously” reasonable?

If you have a difficult time responding to this with anything but a smug, know-it-all grim, does it occur to you that there exist so many special interest groups only because each believes wholeheartedly that its cause is sacred and hence “obviously” reasonable? Where must we draw the line on what is to be considered a "reasonable" exception?

For the fair-tax to truly be what is claimed of it, it must be both fair and simple. But this seems problematic because of the inverse proportionality of these two variables. Must not fairness yield to simplicity or simplicity to fairness? Resolving society's most pressing issues with both fairness and simplicity is wishful thinking!

Alas, we as a society are faced with the confounding issue of whether to aim for more fairness or more simplicity in our affairs . The consequences of disagreement over this manifest themselves in ugly ways. Of course this very dilemma crops up with reckless abandon on many other issues.

For instance, if many believe God will eventually send each of us to either heaven or hell, will He handle this task with simplicity or fairness? Simplicity would dictate He draw 1 simple line. If one is lucky, he will make it. If not, he will inherit hell as his eternal rest stop. What if you or somebody you really cared about just missed this cutoff into paradise? How might you feel? “Don't have a COW God, I mean none of us is perfect!”

Conversely, what if somebody you really did not care for just made this cutoff into paradise? Certainly neither of these scenarios would seem fair, to you at least. Of course presumably it will seem fair to others, especially those which just made this cutoff into paradise but whose purported “enemies” did not!

Now on the other hand, we might suggest God will lean more towards fairness, in which case He can grade each of us on a “continuous” spectrum or what many might relate to far better, a “curve”. But this would be beyond complicated so much so that it would make any conclusion as to how He would do so pure speculation. And it is all but certain ego would corrupt the “worthiness” of any conclusion anyway, for the express intent of “covering its ass” so to speak. By this, I mean individuals "reasoning" how they and their “select” loved ones will inherit paradise whereas others seen as enemies or wretches will not.

Another valid consideration, what is fairness? Many believe fairness should be predicated on judging wrongs. This would then necessitate we all be judged. But this once again would be incredibly complicated. How might God do this? Any answer to this just begs another question. How could anybody possibly know? Presumably believers of “perfect judgment” see themselves worthy of being overlooked, but how do they discern this? Is this necessarily right or fair? To them it is.

On the other hand, what if God judged nobody? What if His love and grace and mercy were infinitely sufficient such that He had neither the desire nor obligation to judge anybody? Believing an all powerful God will step in as a proxy for all the wrongs done against us and our select loved ones seems to be our way of assuaging the anger and despair which naturally arises from being wronged.

What if those who believe God will settle wrongs done against them and their select loved ones reconsidered? Would they feel compelled or even obligated to personally avenge these wrongs if they ceased to believe God would?

But getting back to the idea that God might judge nobody, this seems fair to me and perhaps others but I know it will not seem so to many others. Once again, herein lies the most fundamental problem we face in existence: the most difficult issues in life are trade-offs! There is no absolutely perfect answer as to how we should balance fairness and simplicity!