Agape, Authoritarianism, Becky, Belief, Brett, Christianity, Citizenship, Class War, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Conservative, Democracy, Fantasy Based Community, God(s), Guilt, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Late Night Thoughts, Liberal, Love, News and Current Events, People, Philos, Play, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Progressive, Reality Based Community, Regret, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Society, Work

Late Night Thoughts (Reposted from February 20, 2011)

There are few noises at this hour.   A car passes in the distance.  The house creaks.  The furnace starts.  I have not heard a dog bark in hours.

◄►

…”It is really annoying when people, particularly those in positions of power, can’t even be bothered to take the trouble to lie well.” — Yves Smith.

◄►

…To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.

◄►

…It seems what’s happening in Wisconsin is part of the class war in America that’s been going on for sometime now.  As Warren Buffett pointed out, the war was begun by members of his class, and his class is winning it.

Unfortunately, if rich billionaires like the Koch brothers win the Wisconsin round in the class war, that means they will have managed to break the Wisconsin public service unions.  And if they manage to do that, then the Democratic party will be left as nothing more than a paper man in that state.

◄►

…The other day, I noticed an advertisement that claimed the Bible was, of all the world’s wisdom literature, the most profound.  Now, I’ve heard that claim made before in various ways and places.  But, I confess, I have never understood why anyone would make that claim.

As wisdom literature, the Bible seems to have been often surpassed. And not just by many of the ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, or Chinese authors.  But also by more modern authors.

To give some of the Biblical authors credit, though, their concern for social, political, and economic justice was remarkable for their time, and — thankfully — very influential on the West.

◄►

…There seems to be a sense in which almost all complex, hierarchical societies — even going as far back as to the origin of complex, hierarchical societies some 5,500 years ago — have been scams.   Moreover, it’s been the same scam perpetrated again and again.  And, in essence, that scam has been to fool the masses into believing the society’s elites have the backing of a supernatural order.

◄►

…There are many people in this god-drunk town who cast their blurry vision on science and declare that it, too, is a religion.  The last drunk to tell me that declared, as his reasoning, “Religions are based on beliefs. Science is based on beliefs. Therefore, science is a religion.”

By precisely the same “logic”, “Cats are furry.  Dogs are furry.  Therefore, dogs are cats.”

But, even if his reasoning was logically valid — which it is not, unless dogs are cats — what would not then become a religion?  Indeed, even one’s overwhelming desire to take a shower after hearing him espouse his drunken  “logic” would, according to his drunken  “logic”,  become a religious act.

◄►

Just now, a motorcycle started up, then sped off.  In the day, it would be just another cycle.  But in the night, it seems a story in itself.

◄►

…Humans are natural born cartographers.  We make maps of the world, which we call “beliefs”.   It’s what our species does.

Sometimes, our maps are more or less accurate.  And sometimes, they are fantasy maps, like the ones we made as children to show where a pirate’s treasure lay buried in our backyard.

The accuracy of our maps often matters less to us than the fact they are ours.  Because, for most of us, our maps are something we think of as us.

Now, when we fall in love, she sooner or later challenges our maps…

And, if our love survives those challenges, there’s a chance that our love is true.

◄►

…Tonight, I came across in a faded notebook a line from a poem I once wrote to a woman: “No one has made me wish / To face with grace the challenge / of her morning breath like you, Joelle.”   And consequently, reading that line, I had a sudden and abrupt realization of precisely how it is that I have managed all these years to remain celibate despite the occasional woman who’s now and then been interested enough in me to even read my poems.

◄►

…Once I saw a Seven-Eleven that was closed.  Locked up and abandoned.

Since everything inside the impossibly dark store windows was in place and intact, I eventually concluded it must be a clerk who didn’t show up for work.  But I at first thought: “Not even a president’s death can close a Seven-Eleven. It must be something.  It must be big.”

Perhaps there is inside all of us a thing — a strange, hard thing — that now and then longs for an event so big it will close even the world’s Seven-Elevens.

◄►

…When I met Becky she was in her 30s and would now and then do something completely spontaneous: Always some little thing, but it was an attractive quality.   Even in a city, birds from a branch put to air like her.  So, though they live like the rest of us amongst the concrete and noise, you can see how those birds are beyond the artificial world we have created for them — how they are still native to the earth and sky.  Some people are like that.

◄►

…So far, I have found only three things with power to redeem the human condition: Love, work, and play.  And of those three, love is the greatest.

◄►

…Brett called to invite me to lunch the other day  (Brett was 15 the year we first met at the coffee shop.  I was perhaps 40 or 42).   So, we met at a tavern where the beer is watery, but the food is good, and I enjoyed talking with him so much the time slipped past on rabbit’s feet.

At some point in the afternoon, after we had exhausted half a dozen topics, Brett said he suspected the reason quite a few kids had hung out with me years ago at the coffee shop was because I was for the most part nonjudgmental.   So I told him that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard from a fellow human, if indeed he was actually human. So, I thanked him for confirming a suspicion I’d had.  Then, being an insufferable old fart, I told him a story he’d already heard at least twice from me, and one he probably didn’t want to hear again.

After we had parted for the evening, I reflected on the fact that Brett had certainly been one of the most intelligent people at the coffee shop, and very likely one of the wisest.  Yet, it had never been any one thing that led me to those conclusions.  Like a stream of gold dust, Brett is someone who stands out from the crowd not for any one big thing, but for the cumulative impression made on you by a thousand glittering details.

◄►

…My second wife had a taste for dresses by Ungaro.  Is Ungaro still around?  That Italian knew how to make a woman wearing silk look like a nude.

◄►

…This night, for the first time in ages, I recall once a woman and I spent nearly two years laughing together.  No, she was not my wife, but a co-worker.  We worked together in the evenings, and we’d spend every moment we could with each other.  Then, when I moved on to a day job, I still dropped by her workplace in the evenings to laugh with her.

One day, I invited her out to a movie.  But by the time she got to my place, it was too late to catch a show.  At a loss for much else to do, I tried nibbling on her ear.  Consequently, two years of laughing together led to her having three explosive orgasms: The best in her life, she told me.  After that, you might think she’d be happy.

Yet, somehow, by the next day, she had translated everything — all of it — into guilt and regret.  “You must think I’m a slut”, she said, “because I slept with you on our first date.”

“No, I feel as if I’ve been courting you for two years”, I said, “Besides I’m in love.”

“Even if you don’t think I’m a slut”, she said, “When I saw you this evening, it made me think of myself as a slut, and then my heart sank to the floor.  I can’t see you again.”  And she meant it.

It was much later I realized that, despite our rapport, only one of us had been in love.

◄►

It is almost dawn.

Alienation From Self, Belief, Consciousness, Education, Fantasy Based Community, Human Nature, Ideas, Ideologies, Learning, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Living, Reality Based Community, Skeptical Thinking, Spiritual Alienation, Thinking, Truth

Only a Child Can Believe

(About a 3 minute read)

The next time someone gives you directions, take a moment to notice how you feel about them both before and after you have taken them and discovered for yourself they got you where you wanted to go.

Did your feelings change a little bit?  My own feelings change.  Not much, but still perceptibly change.  Near as I can figure, that’s the difference between my believing that something is true and my accepting that something is true.  It’s the difference between my conscious mind believing something, and my whole mind — including my subconscious — believing something is true.

I have a friend who is in the habit of saying, “I believe you, Paul”.  I have known him for at least a decade, and I have yet to see evidence he has believed me even once about anything!

Continue reading “Only a Child Can Believe”

Bad Ideas, Belief, Biases, Communication, Conversation, Creative Thinking, Delusion, Education, Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Human Nature, Intellectual Honesty, Judgementalism, Learning, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Living, Magical Thinking, Obligations to Society, Quality of Life, Reason, Self-Flourishing, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking

Willful Stupidity and the Good Reader

(About a 4 minute read)

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  — George Bernard Shaw

I suspect future historians will now and then speak of us as an “Age of Wonders”.  The wonder of our electronics.  The wonder of our communication technologies.  The wonder of our medical advancements —  especially in the field of mental health.   And so forth.

But sadly, I suspect future historians will also speak of us as an “Age of Willful Stupidity”.

If so, they will doubtlessly say our age began over 100 years ago with the Stupid Bolshevik Revolution in Russia that was soon enough followed by the Rise of Stupid Fascism in Italy.   And the historians are bound to point out that the willful stupidity has continued largely unabated straight through to today’s many Stupid Denial Movements.

I suspect future historians will write whole libraries on that one theme alone — willful stupidity.  And I expect — I actually expect — that somewhere in those libraries there will be a book or article with an insightful footnote saying, “The first casualty of willful stupidity is the art of listening.”

Continue reading “Willful Stupidity and the Good Reader”

Abuse, Bad Ideas, Competence, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Ethics, Fairness, Fantasy Based Community, Freedom and Liberty, Guilt, Honesty, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Justice, Liars Lies and Lying, Morality, Morals, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Oppression, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politics, Privilege, Quality of Life, Racism, Reality Based Community, Reason, Shame, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Truth, Values, Village Idiots, Work

Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?

(About  5 minute read)

Growing up, I had a keen sense that I could get away with a good amount of rule-breaking.  Not just little things, but some fairly sizeable offenses too.  I didn’t usually push things as far as I sensed I could, but I did have the perception I could get away with a whole lot of things — if only I wanted to.

The sense stayed with me when I got older, although it became a little vaguer.  When I was in my late teens, early twenties, majoring in philosophy I was aware that I wouldn’t have much trouble getting a good job upon graduation — despite some warnings that my major was impractical.

Continue reading “Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?”

Bad Ideas, Community, Conservative, Cultural Traits, Culture, Donald Trump, Ethics, Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Intellectual Honesty, Liars Lies and Lying, Morality, Morals, News and Current Events, Political Ideologies, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Reason, Science, Society, Truth, Values, Village Idiots

“Truth Isn’t Truth”

“Truth isn’t truth”  —  Rudy Giuliani, NBC “Meet the Press”,  August 19, 2018.

(About a 4 minute read)

In Western philosophy, the notion truth is relative dates back at least 2,400 years to the sophist Protagoras, who is stated by Plato to have said, “What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.”

In the East, the notion goes back perhaps another 100 years earlier to the Jain teacher Mahavira, who seems to have been the first to teach Anekantavada, a doctrine that has been described as advocating religious pluralism.

Continue reading ““Truth Isn’t Truth””

Alex Jones, Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Censorship, Citizenship, Community, Conservative, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Ethics, Fairness, Fantasy Based Community, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Idealism, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Intelligentsia, Internet, Justice, Law, Liars Lies and Lying, Liberal, Libertarianism, Logic, Morality, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Oppression, People, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Reason, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Truth

Alex Jones and the “Paradox of Tolerance”

(About a 7 minute read)

I think it can be said of Alex Jones that he is the poster-child for the “American disease” of tolerating the intolerable.  Perhaps out of all major democracies, America’s democracy is the most susceptible to the disease.  That’s because we tend to be extremists when it comes to protecting freedom of speech.

To be sure, America does limit free speech somewhat, but the limits are absolutely minimal.  You cannot advocate physical violence against someone and/or their property, nor can you “yell fire in a crowded theater” for the mere sport of it, since that might lead to physical injuries.

Continue reading “Alex Jones and the “Paradox of Tolerance””

Bad Ideas, Belief, Creative Thinking, Culture, Fantasy Based Community, Fundamentalism, Idealism, Ideologies, Memes, Political Ideologies, Politics, Reason, Religious Ideologies, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking, Truth

Why I Always Need a Shower Whenever I Study an Ideology

(About a 4 minute read)

“Since opposed principles, or ideologies, are irreconcilable, wars fought over principle will be wars of mutual annihilation. But wars fought for simple greed will be far less destructive, because the aggressor will be careful not to destroy what he is fighting to capture. Reasonable – that is, human – men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.” ― Alan W. Watts

 

It is a tragedy of human nature that it is more than fair to describe all ideologies — even the most accurate and most decently motivated — as inimical to the very best efforts of humans to think.

Of course, that raises the question of what it means to  “think”, and I certainly do not mean in this context to define “thinking” in any way a psychologist would recognize the term.  That’s too narrow here.

Instead, perhaps the minimum standard — in this context — for ‘thinking” is open-minded skepticism.  And perhaps the highest standard is creative, but truthful and accurate, out-of-the box thinking.  If so, it should be fully appreciated by all of us that ideologies invariably fear and fight against such thinking in the same way snakes fear and fight pigs, their natural and inevitable predators.

People who say an ideology “got them thinking” are flattering themselves in the same manner as anyone using a map would be flattering themselves if they claimed they were — not a mere map user — but a cartographer.  Ideologies are not intended to get you thinking, they are intended to get you motivated.  They are the philosophical equivalent of a sales pitch.

One thing any successful salesperson knows is, speak all you want about how much your product or service will do for the world.  Speak to both individuals and crowds. Even shout the news from a mountain that yours will save all of humanity, and lead to much whiter teeth, too.  But whatever you do, don’t forget to close the sale on narrow self-interest, because it is narrow self-interest that does the real selling — that is always and ever the real motivation for adopting an ideology.

People like to confuse themselves about that.  But while people can at least now and then do things for selfless reasons, they simply do not adopt an ideology to help their brother or sister more than themselves.  Ideologies are just as opposed to selfless motives for believing in them as they are to genuine thinking.

Although most of us don’t hang around our hammocks all day long thinking about such things,  to act without any selfish motive at all is to act spontaneously without thinking about it.   That’s because the psychological self or “ego” crucially rests for its very existence on thinking, on symbolic thought.  Hence, there is a profound sense in which it can be said that you cannot think about saving the girl without in some significant sense thinking about what saving the girl would mean to you personally.  In other words, self-interest will factor into every calculation you can make of the value of saving the girl.

But to me, the biggest objection to ideologies is that they are so full of themselves.  Basically, they are “systems of thinking that explain to their deserving adherents why they themselves are clearly right and why everyone else is clearly wrong, yet systems which are always significantly wrong about always being right., and everyone else wrong.’

Arrogance is a form of blindness to one’s blindness to nearly everything.   As opposed to true humility (which is claiming what one deserves — no more, no less),  arrogance lacks sufficient realism to either understand itself or others.  It’s like living in a fantasy world.

Beyond that, ideologies, when approached carefully and cautiously can help make sense of the word.  But damn, there are just too many ideologically-deranged people willing to do the equivalent of bomb an abortion clinic in the name of Jesus.

Alienation, Belief, Emotions, Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Human Nature, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Late Night Thoughts, Liars Lies and Lying, Reality Based Community, Reason, Scientific Method(s), Thinking, Truth

That’s Bullshit!

One of the more obvious things about life is that some people are more intolerant of bullshit than others.  By “bullshit”, I don’t mean using big words or fancy phrases.   Nor do I mean any particular philosophical, political, or religious ideology.  I don’t even mean showing up to a sex orgy dressed in a chicken outfit with a bible underarm and a feather duster stuck up your ass.  All of those may be called bullshit by some people, but they are not what I mean here by bullshit.

“Bullshit” in the context of this post means a poorly grounded claim or proposition that is being asserted as established truth.  “Conservatives are racists.”  “Progressives hate the rich.”  “Priests molest children.” “Atheists feel empty and unfulfilled.”  If you take those statements to mean, “all” — in the sense of, “All Conservatives…”, or “All Progressives…” — then those statements are pure, liquid bullshit.  And some people are more intolerant of those kinds of statements than others.

Indeed, some people have almost violent reactions to bullshit.  Or, at least to what they think is bullshit.  They become visibly upset or angry.  Other people — or maybe some of the same people — flinch or cringe.  Bullshit strikes them like fingernails dragged across a chalkboard, like the “wrong” kind of music, like one of my poems.

Maybe the intolerance some people have for bullshit is partly explained by the fMRI study Harris, Sheth, and Cohen did which found,”The acceptance and rejection of propositional truth-claims appear to be governed, in part, by the same regions [of the brain] that judge the pleasantness of tastes and odors” (p. 146 .pdf).  That is, more or less the same brain cells are being used to decide whether some claim is true as are being used to judge whether something smells or tastes foul.  If so, that might be part of the reason some of us have such visceral reactions to what they think is bullshit.

Of course, I’m not saying that people who are highly intolerant of bullshit always know what is or is not bullshit.  Perhaps ironically, being intolerant of bullshit seems to have little or nothing to do with being right about whether or not something is bullshit.

People who accept evolution often enough think Creationism is full of bullshit.  But some Creationists have the same gut reaction to the Theory of Evolution.  Apparently, it annoys, angers, and exasperates them.  So, what matters is not whether something is bullshit or not, but whether one thinks something is bullshit or not.

If our bullshit meter were a reliable truth detector, we could throw out all the scientific methods.  We wouldn’t need such cumbersome, laborious methods to determine whether we had arrived at reliable fact.

I think most of us are in the middle when it comes to tolerating bullshit.  We put up with it to get along, and we put up with it to a point.  Now and then, we reach our limit for the day.

Our neighbor, though, might be someone with a much greater tolerance for bullshit than we have.  The other day, someone was telling me he didn’t care whether his religious beliefs were true because their truth or falsity was less important to him than their contribution to his “self discovery and self-realization”.  “I don’t want to know if I’m right or wrong.  I want to know who I am.”

I wonder if our tolerance for bullshit more or less matches how conscientious we are at trying to establish the truth of a matter?

  • If I am highly tolerant of bullshit, am I relatively less conscientious at establishing truths?
  • And if I am highly intolerant of bullshit, am I relatively more conscientious?

I don’t know of any studies done on that subject, but my guess is that it is not as simple as that.  That’s just an intuition, though.  And I can’t come up with any good reasons in support of it, so maybe there are none.  Maybe it’s just as simple as it looks: People who dislike bullshit are relatively more careful not to indulge themselves in it.

My last question is: Do we become numb to bullshit?  Is it possible there’s so much bullshit today that it numbs us?  That we scarcely notice most of it anymore, and sometimes hardly respond to what we do notice?  What do you think?

 

 

Bad Ideas, Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Intellectual Honesty, Liars Lies and Lying, Logic, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Reason, Thinking, Truth, Values, Village Idiots

A Man’s Strange Hard-on and His Even Stranger Sermon on Logic

After a friend of mine changed his college major to accounting, I wanted to know why.  “I’m going to be a CPA”, he said.

“What’s a CPA?”, I asked.

“Certified Public Accountant. Do you know what that is?”

“A book keeper?”

He got a look of disgust on his face — so I quickly decided it was best to distract him before he gathered the steam to lecture me on my ignorance: “Well, can you explain it”, I said.

He paused for a moment, thought about it, then turn cheerful.  “Sure”, he said, “A business owner puts an ad in the newspaper.  ‘Help Wanted: Need a CPA’.  When the first applicant shows up, the owner asks him, ‘What’s 2 plus 2 equal?’.”

The applicant says, “Four”.

The owner says, “Nope.  You’re a bookkeeper.  I need to hire a CPA.”

When the second applicant shows up, the owner asks him, “What does 2 times 2 equal?”

The second applicant says, “Four”.

The owner says, “Nope.  I don’t need a bookkeeper.  I need a CPA”.

When the third applicant shows up, the owner asks him, “What does 2 minus 2 equal?”

The third applicant says nothing.  Instead, he stands up, takes off his jacket, and crams it in the space between the office door and the floor. Then he goes over to the windows, closes the blinds, draws the curtains.  Last, he comes back, leans into the owner’s ear, and whispers, ‘What do you want it to equal?'”

“At last!”, says the owner, “A CPA!”

I was thinking this morning that — when it comes to reasoning things through logically — many of us are like the “bookkeepers” in that joke when we don’t have an axe to grind, and like the “CPA”, when we do.

Or, at least I am. If I don’t take a deep breath and step back from an issue, I usually don’t reason it through as logically as when I remember to step back from it.

I think that might be because logical reasoning is for me a process of first tossing out an idea, then checking its logic.  That is, I don’t think like a Vulcan.  I don’t unfailingly toss out logical statements.

Instead, I toss out all sorts of statements to myself — both logical and illogical —  and so I have to then check those statements for logical validity.  When I forget to step back from an issue, I usually forget to check, too.

I don’t think I have a favorite mistake or fallacy.  I prefer to make them all.  But I have come to know a guy on the internet who very strongly favors a particular fallacy.  It’s true he now and then commits others, but he is downright revival-tent religious about committing this one.  He doesn’t just commit it — he preaches it.  Preaches it!

Naturally, I’ve been wondering why he has a such a hard-on for that phallacy.

His fallacy is called “The Red Herring“:

The red herring is as much a debate tactic as it is a logical fallacy. It is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic. This can be one of the most frustrating, and effective, fallacies to observe.

The fallacy gets its name from fox hunting, specifically from the practice of using smoked herrings, which are red, to distract hounds from the scent of their quarry. Just as a hound may be prevented from catching a fox by distracting it with a red herring, so an arguer may be prevented from proving his point by distracting him with a tangential issue.

And this guy has a little twist to it that I’ve personally never seen before.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, let me give you the setting.

I know this guy from watching him discuss politics on the net.  And here’s how he operates: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you were to state that Glenn Beck falsely characterized Obama as a Socialist.  He will come right back at you by stating that, while Glenn Beck might have done so, Rachel Maddow routinely does much the same thing, and neither one can be believed.

Or suppose you say Ayn Rand had a poor understanding of economics.  He is likely to return that Paul Krugman has just as poor an understanding of economics as Ayn Rand ever did.

And most people fall for it.  They quickly get sidetracked into defending Rachel Maddow or Paul Krugman.

The little twist he puts on it is self-righteousness.  He will freely admit to purposely sidetracking the argument.  But in his world, he is justified in doing so because you, according to him, are trying to suggest that things are one-sided.  That is, he insists that you believe Progressives are above making mistakes because you have stated that Glenn Beck, who is a Conservative, made a mistake.  He, on the other hand, is only restoring balance and fairness to the conversation.

He is passionate about that.  He is absolutely certain that you unfairly believe all Conservatives are jerks if you say even one Conservative is a jerk (thus, he commits an additional fallacy or two).  And he is absolutely certain it is his duty to correct you.  He delivers that news like a  sermon. He preaches it at you.  And he is often enough sanctimonious when preaching it.

I’m intrigued by his misuse of logic.  I wonder whether he does it intentionally to deceive people, or because he doesn’t step back to check his work, or for some other reason that I haven’t guessed.  Since my pocket tMRI scanner is broke, I am not able to look inside his head, and I may never know why he does it.

Yet, regardless of why he loves that fallacy, he sure preaches the gospel of it.

Authenticity, Education, Eric, Ethics, Fantasy Based Community, Free Spirit, Intellectual Honesty, Internet, Learning, Morals, People, Reality Based Community, Teaching, Values

What the Hell is Wrong with Eric?

Every now and then, I try to learn patience from Eric.  I’ve known Eric since he was an underclassman in high school habitually sneaking out of his parent’s house at night to visit a friend.  Eventually, the friend became his wife.  The two of them combined have enough brain power to light a small city, but what really marks the couple in my opinion is something that marks a lot of less intelligent couples — they are fundamentally decent people.  Kind, compassionate, open-minded, and honest people.

If there is any significant difference between Eric and his wife, it might be that Eric is significantly more patient than her.  I wouldn’t bet my last dollar on that, but Eric is significantly more patient than most people.  So, it seems possible he might even be more patient than his wife.

As it happens, Eric needs every ounce of patience he can get, because he has a trying hobby.  Eric likes to go online to engage Creationists, Climate Change Deniers, and many other often willfully ignorant people in rational, evidence-based debate.  And he’s amazing to watch.

The “Deniers” — for they are all deniers, in a way — inject whole oceans of nonsense into the threads.  Stuff like Darwin recanted his Theory of Evolution on his deathbed.  There is no consensus on climate change among climatologists.  Or, public health care systems are more expensive than private ones.   I no longer bother with such folks other than — at times — to demand they cite peer-reviewed sources.  When they refuse (often enough in a huff) to cite peer-review sources, I ask them to drop the subject or move on.  But now and then, I wish I had Eric’s patience.

He is all but unfailing polite — even courteous.  He sticks to well grounded evidence woven together by hard logic, and he does not indulge himself in personal attacks.  He does not condescend, but treats everyone with dignity.  He looks for what little common ground he can find.  When he makes a mistake — as we all do — he readily admits it.  And he does that stuff almost regardless of how inane his opponent’s points or reasoning become.

Don’t take away from this the notion Eric is perfect.  He is not.  He screws up now and then.  He sometimes betrays his own values. But I’m pretty sure he’s more often like I’ve described him than not.

In other words, Eric has so many of the virtues of a gentleman that I am left with no other option but to conclude he’s nuts.  The man is bonkers.  A lunatic.  Almost no one behaves like him anymore, and by 2015, he threatens to be the last true gentleman left on the internet — the last one of us able to hold his own while showing an appalling generosity of spirit.  Like any true gentleman, Eric is no push-over, but in light of today’s hyper-aggressive society, he appears to be…unusual.

Which raises the question, are his values really increasingly rare? Are there more or fewer people who practice those values today than there were, say, a few decades ago?  And were those values ever widely held to begin with?

Last, can you learn such values — can they be taught — or are you born with them?

Altruism, Brotherly Love, Christianity, Compassion, Ethics, Fantasy Based Community, Fundamentalism, Giving, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Kindness, Liars Lies and Lying, Morals, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Politicians and Scoundrels, Reality Based Community, Religion, Society, Values, Village Idiots

Is it Moral to Take Advantage of an Idiot?

Is it moral to take advantage of the village idiot?

Suppose on Friday, your local village idiot signed over the deed to his house to you, thinking he was going to be raptured yesterday (Saturday, May 21, 2011), would you now be under any moral obligation to return his house to him?

Should banks forgive the credit card debts your local village idiot racked up in anticipation of his not having to pay them off?

In general, to what extent should politicians, preachers, pundits, corporations, neighbors, or society as a whole be allowed to exploit the world’s village idiots?

Should the world’s village idiots now be allowed to sue Harold Camping for damages to them?

Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Community, Fantasy Based Community, Fundamentalism, Giving, Intelligence, Late Night Thoughts, Mental and Emotional Health, Obligations to Society, Politics, Reality Based Community, Reason, Science, Society, Thinking, Village Idiots, Wisdom

Late Night Thoughts (March 5, 2011)

I understand a rational person to be a person who, for the most part, sustains an intellectually honest effort to base their views and decisions on reason — that is, on the weight of logic and material or empirical evidence.

I don’t think any of us are purely rational, but I think some of us are more rational than others of us. Moreover, I think the more rational someone is, the more likely they are to — in ways both great and small — contribute to the welfare, not just of themselves, but of others too.

So far as I’ve seen, noticeably irrational people — such as drama queens, authoritarians, and the emotionally and mentally ill — are most often high maintenance.

That is, they are dependent to an unusual extent on other people and require inordinate amounts of time, effort, and resources from those other people without giving back nearly as much as they consume. It seems that a measure of rationality is more than merely desirable — it is actually required — if one is not to become an unusual burden on others.

I don’t think people always — or even perhaps very often — chose how rational they are relative to others. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that most authoritarians did not chose to be relatively irrational.

Our species seems to have a very long history of cooperative living — including a very long history of taking care of those who are less fortunate than the rest of us.  There is strong evidence, for instance, that our direct ancestors had already evolved that kind of behavior well over two million years ago.  To take care of the less fortunate is a very human thing to do.

◄►

Three questions for Spinoza:

As I understand it, it used to be the tribe that took care of its own.  When someone fell sick or injured, the tribe looked after them.  When someone had much less than others, too little to live on, the tribe looked after them.

But the tribes were destroyed — wiped out by nation-states.

So, today, it’s the nation-state that has inherited those duties.  Spinoza saw that earlier than most, more clearly than most.

Yet, today, a lot of people in America don’t like that even one bit.  Which makes me sometimes wonder:  Are we becoming a nation of shirkers who won’t even take care of our own any longer, or are we becoming a nation of sociopaths who can’t even see why we should be taking care of our own?  Or, in fairness, is some third or fourth thing happening that I myself don’t see yet?

◄►

The one thing — besides the camaraderie and brotherhood — that I long ago most loved about fire fighting was sometimes being seized by the reality of the fire.

When it happened, that sense of being seized by the reality of the fire was almost mystical in its intensity.  Some rock climbers here in Colorado tell me of experiencing similar feelings while hanging off cliffs hundreds of feet up mountain walls.

Once, thinking about those feelings, it occurred to me I had never yet in my life witnessed a political discussion in which the folks — myself included —  came even half close to the realism demanded of a fire fighter in knocking down a simple blaze.

On the other hand, I thought, I had routinely seen folks get orders of magnitude more “emotionally involved” in discussing politics than a fire fighter gets even when his life balances on a thread pulled taunt between fates.  Discussing politics, we humans are ever a bit like bowlers who frequently make “passionate”, but entirely useless, gestures in an attempt to control the ball — even when it is already thrown.

But I observed we are also far too often political hypocrites who fail to walk our talk, though a fire fighter unwilling to walk their talk is rare.  So, for all of those reasons, there seemed to me more than a mere whiff of bullshit present in even the cleanest political discussions.

Those thoughts then all but left me homesick for a good, honest twelve foot high wall of white flames.

◄►

In matters of love, “surrender” can be a beautiful word, but “submission” is most often an ugly one.

◄►

It seems unnecessary for us to believe a map is infallible in order to make cautious, but good, use of it.  But we seem to require that our preferred wisdom literature be infallible before we can feel entirely comfortable ignoring its advice.