Saturday, January 13, 2007

If I Had to Do it Again

Not sure if this image is large enough to read clearly. (Click for larger image)
I have a fair job. Ultimately it is not really fulfilling, but one good thing about it is, when the day is done I don't have to bring it home with me. I reserve the fulfilling stuff for later.
I often wonder what I would have done career-wise knowing what I know now about things. I think I would have went into sociology/neuroscience to study human behavior and the irrationality of human belief systems. The chart here is a case in point. Why these trends exist is endlessly fascinating to me. If you want an analysis go to Pharyngula.
I think that the primary desire of people who study sociology/neuroscience like I would want to do it is to somehow reach the ability to quantify the fact that certain belief systems are false in a manner so simple that anyone can plainly see it.
2A= 3X+ 4, therefore You're wrong BITCH!
Of course, the chart clearly shows that no amount of information can ward off psychological trends/memes which are firmly rooted. They slowly erode away, and only in an environment of relative surplus and affluence (people tend to be more honest when there is food on their table). But the part showing that the "American conservative mindset" (a pathology based largely on "the belief in belief" and science illiteracy) is deeply against the well established fact of evolution. Even the spokesperson for faith Francis Collins says in an interview- you won't find a more solidly established theory anywhere than evolution and the fact that certain believers need to use deception to attack it is disgraceful blah blah blah (not a perfect quote, but almost).
What drives someone like Tony Snow for instance to dismiss evolution with a wave of the hand when "you won't find a more solidly established theory anywhere"? To me it is endlessly fascinating. If I were a social scientist I would want a huge grant to study talk radio. I would quantify the lies. I would publish something in lay terms which anyone could understand, but which had hard irrefutable science behind it to show these bitch monkeys that they are false, should be ashamed, and if any reasonable person were suddenly trapped in their body they should immediately jump off a high building, swimming towards the ground to end the humiliation as quickly as possible. Let me take a deep breath. I must admit, I live a life where nearly every waking second I am aware of the deep preposterousness of it all. People wonder why I care so much about these things. Why did I go from a believer in life after death to someone who finds it very unlikely? Why do I care?
I've asked myself that and have distilled an answer for everyone. I care because I want there to be meaning in life. I DESPERATELY desire there to be some ultimate congruency. What privately irks me is that by using irrationality, asinine stories, evidenceless dogmas, and wishful thinking to "create" meaning, it shouts loud and clear to me that there is no meaning. You are shooting a squirt-gun and pretending that I should wear ear-plugs. There's no sound. Changing the semantics of squirt guns and water, triggers and bullets and shell casings and velocities doesn't do anything to make a sound, as much as you insist.
Maybe I feel like Francis Collins in a way, seeing his fellow believers try to attack evolution with outright lies in order to defend what Collins sees as the very creative mechanism god used to create. The blessed mind of creation, as he may see it. What absurdity! I suspect Francis Collins has asked himself on occasion something like, "what kind of God would exist which would not inform his most adamant heartfelt supporters that they are lying egregiously about evolution"?
When I see people try to create explanations and meanings and correlations and ideas which go strictly counter to the blatantly obvious, all with perfectly good humanistic intentions mind you, my mind says "what kind of universal force of consciousness inundating the universe would make it so that the only sense of meaning people could squeeze out of the dirty washcloth of human existence is based on pure unabashed falsehoods?"
And what of that slanderous crap written about Sam Harris recently on Alternet? How does any honest and reasonable person look in the mirror and take themselves seriously after writing something like that? But they do, and that's why it is so fascinating. Every one of us, in some way, maybe many ways, are just as irrational, every single day (although hopefully not on many big issues).
This is why a dogma-free spiritual practice can be so helpful. As Ken Wilber says, the only real injunction of Buddhism(minus the dogma)- is to "SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LOOK". There's no substitute.
It saddens me that so many people who reject religion don't understand why Harris takes such an injunction seriously as a tool for truth discernment. More words and debates create more memes. Nothing wrong with that at all. But nothing replaces the tool of "shut the fuck up and look". Call bullshit on yourself. The honest skeptic continuously asks "am I missing something here? Am I deceiving myself? Maybe I should shut the fuck up and look again". In that way skeptics can be more Buddha-like that many people.
The art of shut the fuck up and look has saved me from the cults of Christianity, New-ageism, and biotheism. Many of my friends are still in various states of delusion because they have decided that it isn't good to think any thought or read any book or consider any idea which- makes them feel uncomfortable. The basic tenant of the cults is that truth=serenity. Therefore, anything which "lowers your energy" is bad and false. It's a meme almost as powerful as religion's heaven and hell algorithm for thought control. A good dose of shut the fuck up and look is just what the doctor ordered. I think shut the fuck up and look should be considered as important as regular exercise.
Studying the human mind and human behavior leads to a greater understanding that the human mind is not only susceptible to error, it is designed to be in error when it is convenient. It promotes error, and groups of people echoing their delusions in unison are like a catalyst to this reaction of error promotion, thus the above chart. But humans have an amazing out. A handful of us, through some combination of genetic fluke and/or environmental circumstance, are able to shut the fuck up and look, and for some reason, we don't mind seeing clearly.
If there really is a soul or separate consciousness, this is where it would be.

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