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".