Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “Religious Criticism”

God –The Ultimate Meme, or The Problem of God

In Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019], the epistemological concept of memes was used to “tie together” the basic concepts of Perception Theory, “circling back” to the beginnings of the theory. This tying-together of memes into Perception Theory, if you will, was done within the group of related posts having to do with Perception Theory.

Similarly, this is the tying together of two groups of posts, one again being the Perception Theory group (Group II.) and the other being the origin of Christianity group (Group I.)  Both groups of posts share constituent subjects of God, religion, or, to use my phrase, god and god stories.

Group I. consists of Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].  It is a personal journey of religious belief utilizing history as a forensic science and my own “spiritual” experiences as a guide toward understanding how Christianity (and, by extrapolation, all religious systems of belief) came about.  It utilizes modern biblical criticism and the application of philosophy’s Occam’s Razor.  Conclusions gleaned in this group of posts rest upon the separation of theology and ethics, the former seen as mostly epistemologically and intellectually toxic, and the latter seen as epistemologically, intellectually, and socially essential and vital.  As the title Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] implies, Christianity’s value (and by implication the value of all religions) lies in the time-proven ethics of the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity, not in theology.

Group II. is much larger numerically, which correctly implies its greater subject breadth and depth.  It consists of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018], Going Global, [March, 2018], AVAPS!, [May, 2018], Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018], The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018], and, as indicated above, Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019].   This group develops a universal ontology and epistemology under the heading “Perception Theory.”  Perception Theory is a combination of rationalism and existentialism which enjoys a wide range of applications, as demonstrated in Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016] and The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018].  In addition to illuminating directions of modern political and economic theory, Perception Theory particularly sheds light on topics from Group I., as shown by Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017],  and Prayer, [Feb., 2017].   Hence, from the perspective of sorting out “god and god stories,” much of Group II. seems like a continuation and elaboration of Group I. (as the posting dates of publishing on www.ronniejhastings.com (site name Beyond Good and Evil) above might indicate).

Memes blending “full circle” with Perception Theory (Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019]) indicates that a common theme woven throughout both groups, the “what” and “why” of gods and god stories, will also have a “full circle” of its own.  Philosophy of religion often posits the “problem” of God.  As in the “problem” of free will (The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018]), a question is begged:  is there need of a “problem” at all?  The epistemological questions surrounding the formation of Christianity (and all religious sects, for that matter), coupled with the suggestion that ontological differences among theists, atheists, and agnostics are silly and absurd (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), imply, in my opinion, a resolution concerning any such “problem” is highly plausible.

{Here it is necessary to interject that the more familiar the reader is with the content of all the posts referenced above, greater and swifter will be the understanding of that which is to follow.  Bear in mind that, as always, “understanding” is not necessarily the same as “agreeing.”  Listing all the posts above emphasizes that the “full circle” attempted hereafter is not some momentary epiphany, revelation, emotional experience, recent whim, or musing, but, rather, is the result of years of methodical, careful thought leading to satisfying  personal conclusions.  That they would be satisfying to anyone else is unwarranted speculation on my part.  Achieving understanding (not necessarily agreeing) with others may be a forlorn hope (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), but achieving any understanding from others at least would provide relief from any lingering angst over my personal “subjective trap” (See Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) — adding to the personal relief memes give (See Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019]).}

In dealing with gods and god stories in terms of memes, we do not start “from scratch;” all terminology has been defined in the above posts in both Groups I. and II.  The context of our start is 1. We are star-stuff in self-contemplation.  2.  Math is the language of the universe.  To this context is added 3.  God is a looped non-veridically based concept in our heads, or meme having no resonance with the “real” veridical world or universe outside our epiphenomenal minds contained in our veridical physiological brains. (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Therefore, God exists as does a unicorn, as does Santa Claus, as does the tooth fairy, as does Satan.  The same existence applies to the generic term “gods” as well as to stories about God, or god stories.

Memes or concepts of the veridical world outside us, like the idea of “rock” or “dog,” are non-veridical, like the memes of gods, but with a very important difference: they are resonant memes, resonating with the empirical data bombarding our senses when we experience a rock or a dog.  We use our epiphenomenal  imaginations to create memes of both looped concepts (non-veridically self-contained in the imagination) and resonant concepts (non-veridically related with the veridical “outside” world indicated by our continual “pouring in” of empirical sense data).  Imagined worlds in science fiction are looped memes and scientific theories are resonant memes.  “Scientific” objectivity is making memes as resonant as possible, or as veridical as possible (AVAPS!, [May, 2018] and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).

Certain looped non-veridical memes, like Santa Claus and Satan, are made to appear resonant by saying Santa Claus is the “personification” of Christmas giving or Satan is the “personification” of human evil.  Personifications are like avatars, or manifestations of something else.  If the “something else” has a veridical existence, again, like a rock or a dog, then it would not be looped.  The behavior of giving at Christmas and acts of human evil are real enough, just as human values like “love” and “freedom,” but equating the spirit of giving with a human form or evil acts in general with a human form is as absurd as equating all the facets of human love to a single form (like a pagan goddess) or all the facets of freedom to a single form (like Miss Liberty).  Therefore, just like a goddess such as  Venus or Aphrodite does not exist like a rock or dog, or a historical woman named Miss Liberty does not exist like a rock or dog, Santa Claus does not exist, nor does Satan.  As extant beings, Santa Claus, Satan, Venus, and Miss Liberty are looped memes; the phenomena of which these four are personifications, giving at Christmas, human evil, love, and freedom, respectively, do exist as scientifically observable distinct acts in the veridical real world, and, therefore, are resonating, non-veridical memes (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Personifying (or making gods of) real human activity is a primitive habit of human imagination that probably began with the earliest forms of animism, and is linked with the origins of religion and its ritualization; personification was and still is a method of making sophisticated memes understandable for children; as adults it is strange today that in Christian civilizations we shed the notion that Santa “really” (that is, veridically) exists, but many of us still believe Satan “really” (i.e., veridically) exists.

What about the looped meme God, a.k.a. Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah in Judaism, God in Christianity, or Allah in Islam?  To what would God resonate to make God a resonate meme, like love, evil, or freedom?  To the whole world, being that God is the creator god?  Would that not be pantheism, meaning we worship the universe? (How odd would that be, in that we are part of the universe?  To worship the universe is to make the matter and energy of our bodies also objects of adoration, along with mountains, stars, animals, etc.)  To worship any part of the universe is, again, returning back to primitive religion, to idolatry.  It seems clear to me that we have made up God as the personification of everything, as the answer to any question we may pose.  As I said in Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], God is the Grand Answerer, Super-friend, and Creator.   God, once believed in within the individual heads of worshipers, can be used to any end by the clergy, from yesterday’s shamans to today’s popes, ministers, priests, mullahs, etc.  It seems easy for us to forget that just because we can imagine X, that does not mean that X exists like a rock or a dog (Remember, a rock or a dog exists in our head like any other non-veridical meme — in the form of a concept stored as memory built by perception.)

God, therefore, is the ultimate meme, the meme beyond which nothing can be imagined.  The meme of God is seemingly a tribute to the power of our imagination, but the history of humanly imagined religion shows this tribute to be simultaneously a problem — a flexible meme easily twisted into a “pass” to do evil to each other; this is the toxicity of most, if not all, of theology; this is why Richard Dawkins describes religious, theological memes as agents of a chronic mental disease; this is why I separated ethics from theology in Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].

But have I not described God as the atheists do?  No, not quite.  Perception Theory allows existence in the real, veridical universe outside our minds (which includes our bodies, including our brains), but also allows the epiphenomenal, non-veridical existence of imagined memes inside our minds, which are, in turn, inside our brains.  In other words, an imagined entity, like a unicorn, if defined in any mind, can have an ephemeral existence as stored data in the memory of the brain of that mind; in this sense looped non-veridical memes exist.  A very weak existence compared with the strong veridical existence of a rock’s meme or the quickened and strong veridical existence of a dog’s meme (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), for sure, but an existence made possible by our imaginative, epiphenomenal mind.  According to Perception Theory, then, an atheist recognizes only strong veridical existence, whereas a theist thinks that a weak existence is as strong as a strong existence.  An agnostic does not take either position, but Perception Theory would say all three positions are in denial of the ability of the mind to be both objective and subjective.  Theists, atheists, and agnostics can all agree that some form of God exists in the heads of both believers and non-believers (Atheists have a meme of a god that does not exist in the real veridical world like a meme of a rock or dog that does exist in the real veridical world.), and that existence of god has no basis outside the human mind; all can agree to the statement, “God exists!” in the dual veridical/non-veridical definition allowed in Perception Theory.  All the conflict, blood, and death perpetuated over disagreement as to what kind of God is “real” throughout the terrible annals of historical warfare, pillage, incarceration, and personal violence were never necessary, and in the long run silly; what still goes on today is folly, absurd, and unjustified.  How less amazing are the billions of concepts (memes) of God in the imaginations of humans worldwide compared to the consensus, imagined Creator God of, say, Genesis, Chapter 1?

In order for theists, atheists, and agnostics to agree on the existence of God or of the gods, atheists have to compromise but very little, while theists will have to move their position a great deal.  To agree that God exists in the imaginations of individual heads into which no other but that individual can “see,” due to the subjective trap, is not that far away from the “classic” atheistic claim that there is no supernatural deity or deities in the “real,” veridical universe.  The theist “classic” claim is just the opposite that of the atheist — there IS WITHOUT DOUBT a God that exists outside human imagination, just like some part of the universe or the universe itself actually exists.  If one listens carefully to the worshipful words of praise of theists (at least, this has been my experience), the existence of God is affirmed “within the heart” of the believer — affirmed by an epiphenomenal feeling of emotion fueled by faith (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]).  That is about as far from objective evidence as one can get.  This, instead of affirming God’s existence, affirms what Perception Theory identifies as a looped non-veridically based case for existence.  That is, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is no stronger than that of affirming the existence of unicorns or tooth fairies, and is much weaker than affirming the existence, of, say, freedom.  And, of course, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is minuscule compared to the strong veridically based cases for existence of, say, a rock or a dog (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  As for agnostics, I would speculate that some would welcome the compromise about God’s or the gods’ existence with the “little-to-lose shoulder shrug” of the atheists, or some might remain skeptical and non-committed, not willing to come close to agreeing with theists, who they see as gullible and naive.  All in all, I would speculate that at the “table” of agreement of all three groups over Perception Theory’s compromise possibility of the existence of God, it would be disproportionately made up of atheists, with a smaller group of agnostics, followed by an even smaller group of theists who have bravely changed their ontological thinking a great deal.   The future success of Perception Theory might be measured by seeing if the population at the compromise table might approach equal proportions from all three groups.  (No matter what the proportions at the table might be, Perception Theory might take credit for the absence of evangelism among the three groups, as, by definition, the table is one of agreement.)

Stated directly and succinctly, God or gods exist(s) only in our imaginations; we made up all deities, past, present, and future.  Most theology is not only useless, it can often be dangerous and even lethal.  Not all of religion is useless; part of religion is vital — the ethical part based upon the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  In Western culture this means a deliberate separation of ethics from theology in religions like the three Abrahamic ones, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; this separation is already done in some religions of Eastern culture, like Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  We have met the Creator God, and it is us; there is no problem of God or of the gods — just like all memes in our heads, the ultimate meme of God or the gods is at our disposal; we can do with theology what we will; we can make it impotent and irrelevant, just as we have made memes like pseudoscience, superstitions, and unwanted or uninteresting fantasies.  Just as was done by so many Americans in their revolution for independence, religion must be relegated and confined to individual minds, not made into social and sacred creeds demanding conflicting evangelism (The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012]).

 

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now deal with god stories and the lessons they teach with historical utilitarianism.  Like so much of “ancient wisdom” from our distant past, such as the humanistic Principle of Reciprocity, we can both individually and collectively judge the god stories and their lessons without fear of supernatural reprisals.  For example, in Christian culture, from which I come, I can now see that the Old Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by Hebrew scholars and priests to teleologically justify the invasion and conquest by newly independent nomads of what we call the Holy Land, all under the theological guise of the Hebrews being God’s “Chosen People.”  I can now see that the New Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by the scholars of a new sect to teleologically justify the execution of their leader as a common criminal (See all of Group I. for details).  The New Testament is to Christians what the Icelandic Sagas were to many Scandinavians of the Viking persuasion.

Erich Fromm, a Jewish humanist philosopher, who describes himself as a “non-theist,” has done something very similar way before Perception Theory.  In Ye Shall Be As Gods (Fawcett Premier Books, New York, 1966 — ISBN 0-449-30763-8), Fromm “radically” interprets the Old Testament as the evolution of the relationship between the meme (concept) of God and the entirety of mankind, not just the “Chosen People.”  He offers understanding into the “God is dead” meme and gives insight into the New Testament’s Passion of Christ, using Psalm 22.  The rabbinic teachings of the Old Testament during the centuries of the Diaspora are also employed.  By critically looking at the Old Testament, Fromm has, in my opinion, created paths toward its greater appreciation. (Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump, [Dec., 2018])

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now investigate why religion sprang within the heads of our species in the first place.  The reasons why belief in some form of supernatural entities or spirits in the real world became, apparently, necessary for human survival in our cognitive revolution during our species “hunter-gatherer” stage can now be studied and be made into a consensus of anthropology.  Elements dealing with the origins of religion from Groups I. and II. have already pointed the way (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015],  Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016],  and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).  The physical and cognitive attributes that were passed on from generation to generation over thousands of years contributing to our species-wide universal “religiosity” will have to break down the elements of our survival, such as cooperation, altruism, and the necessity of suspending doubt and questioning in times of emergency, such as discussed in I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], wherein our ancestors having to deal with a “leopard problem” is offered as a “thought scenario.”  How did religion evolve from simple appeasement of a local “leopard god” to the continual sacrifice of thousands atop Aztec temples in Tenochtitlan?  How did we get from admonishing our children to be quiet when the shaman is speaking to the eruption of the Thirty Years War?  What a difference between believing a god or gods causes thunder/lightning and calling the faithful to the Crusades!

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now see how important the separation of theology from ethics is.  Moreover, such a separation is conveniently seen as a sorting of memes.  When the origin of religion, with its subsets of theology and ethics, is couched in terms of memes, I would suggest that the vital “good” memes, those of ethics coming from the human mind and necessarily developing in the longest childhood of all primates, if not of all mammals.  That is, the memes of ethics for human beings necessarily formed on the “template” of the development of the nuclear family — mother, child, father, and extended family, including friends.  The rules of behavior taught to a child are extrapolated to apply not only to the mother-child relationship, but to all other possible relationships within the hunter-gather group, and these rules collectively are treated as social norms applied throughout childhood and adulthood.  In turn, these norms were justified upon the authority of the group.  This collective authority became more than “what our mothers and older siblings told us;” it became the authority of the political leaders and the authority of the “spiritual” leaders, the shamen, the beginning of politics and the beginning of religion.  But now, without the necessity of religious memes, only those of politics and ethics are still needed.  (Recalling a point germane to the “need” for religion shown by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – that religion is a meme that can motivate many more than a leader within shouting distance, once that meme is transmitted to other minds — I would hasten to add that today’s almost instant electronic communications over the world wide internet has taken over religion’s communicative skill and can spread memes much, much better; spreading theological memes using the internet only accelerates the spread of the “poison.”)  Religion and theology memes are not needed any more; only ethics memes are needed.

Gods as fantasy has at least one ancient precedent.  In India, in the 3rd to 6th centuries, BCE (or BC), the original form of Buddhism, called Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism, basically ignored the question of the existence of the gods (curiously non-theological) and concentrated on the human, inner, existentialist self (Jainism, contemporary with the founding centuries of Buddhism, could be spoken of in a similar vein, and could even be seen as outward looking, not for the gods, but for practicing an extreme reverence for life).  Hinayana Buddhism dealt with attaining Nirvana, or enlightenment as demonstrated by Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism; dealing with gods took a back seat to struggling with inner human desire; the gods were not germane to Siddhartha’s original teaching.  In time Mahayana Buddhism (along with other forms, like Zen) became the dominant form of Siddhartha’s teaching, in which Siddhartha himself, or Buddha, became deified as a god — much as Jesus himself became deified as a god in Christianity (Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015]).  Imagery featuring the statues of Buddha are found at Mahayana sites, but sites featuring simple imagery such as Buddha’s footprint are Hinayana or Theravada sites.

Note the “direction” of Hinayana Buddhism, though admirably unhindered by the gods, is inward, toward the non-veridical, not outward, toward the veridical, as are science, technology, math, and engineering (the STEM subjects in US schools), which are equally and admirably unhindered by the gods.  The success of studying “outward” toward the veridical is another way of repeating the message of AVAPS!, [May, 2018] — As Veridical As Possible, Stupid!  Hinayana Buddhism took its lack of theology and went the “wrong” direction!  Hinayana Buddhism should have done “a 180,” (180 degrees) and gone the opposite direction.

Without the threats of punishment after death or fantasies of paradise after death germane to much of theology, religion becomes transparent as many, many forms of the sociological phenomenon of a cult.  At every religion’s beginning — more finely, at the beginning of every denomination’s sect — it is a cult.  If I in another time had acted upon my “visitation” from my deceased great uncle in the form of a vivid dream, as described in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and had convinced others around me I had communicated with the dead, I would have formed a cult.  Great religions of the world throughout history are successful cults, their “truth” erroneously measured by their success, and large subsets of great religions are smaller successful cults.  Cults venerate a “great” being (usually a god or person of “special” powers) through the leadership of a cult founder, who also can be the venerated.  Thus, Judaism can be seen as Moses founding the veneration of Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah, and Christianity can be seen as Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene venerating Jesus (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]).  Smaller successful cults in the Christian vein include cult leaders such as many Popes, many Orthodox archbishops, many saints, Martin Luther (Lutherans) , John Calvin (Presbyterians), Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer (Anglicans in U.K., Episcopalians in U.S.), George Fox (Quakers), Jane Wardley, Ann Lee, and Lucy Wright (Shakers), John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Roger Williams (Baptists), Charles Wesley, John Wesley, and George Whitefield (Methodists), Joseph Smith (Mormons), Christian Rosenkreuz (Rosicrucians), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientists), William Miller and Ellen G. White (Seventh-day Adventists), Barton W. Stone (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), Alexander Campbell (Church of Christ), Charles Fox Parham and William Seymour (Pentecostals), 1914 General Council at Hot Springs (Assembly of God), and Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church) — just to name a few with which I am familiar.  Two non-Christian examples of small successful cults are 3 Roman Emperors (veneration of Apollonius) (See Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015])  and Scientology (veneration of L. Ron Hubbard).  Two unsuccessful cult leaders and their cults here in the United States are Jim Jones (Peoples Temple) and David Koresh (Branch Davidians).  The toxicity of theology throughout history has been carried out through cults such as these.  The ethical kindness, love, and care of one group of humans to another group has also been carried out through cults such as these, but what has been overlooked is that ethical behavior needs no theology or organized religion to spread from one human to others.  When Jesus taught his version of the Golden Rule, he talked not of loving your neighbor as yourself through the social vehicle of the synagogue; the foundation of ethics, our caring for each other, has no origin in any religion or any theology; the Principle of Reciprocity began within each little hunter-gatherer group that successfully struggled for survival.  If theology exists as a meme in an individual, there it must stay — it should not be passed on to others; mental health services can help individuals for whom resisting that passing on is a struggle.  On the other hand, if ethics such as the ethical teachings of Jesus exists as a meme in an individual, by all means it should be passed on, as ethical memes were passed on in the little hunter-gatherer groups.  To be ethical in the manner spoken here is to be human, not religious or theological.  We are not human to each other through the imagined groups to which we belong, but, rather through the fact we are homo sapiens.

The general “shedding” of religion and its toxic theology, then, is seen as a veridically-based “enlightenment” which follows AVAPS toward more anthropological memes.  Imaginations young and old, fueled by the ethics of reciprocity (The Golden Rule), cannot but generate memes fired in the scrutiny of scientific consensus that will solve problems and heal wounds both for our species and for our planet and the universe beyond.  We are tweaking our inner-star-stuff to resonate more with the star-stuff that makes up the rest of the universe.

I would suggest that any reader who thinks this is but another announcement of another religion, of another cult, is victimized by her seemingly genetic tendency to think in terms of gods and god stories.  He needs to go back and read or re-read Groups I. and II.  God as the ultimate, unnecessary meme is NOT a new religion, NOT a new cult.  Rather, it is a veridically-directed philosophy transcendent of theism, atheism, or agnosticism.  Using the combination of rationalism and existentialism provided by Perception Theory, it suggests an expansion of anthropology to deal with the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence; the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence used to be handled by religion and its attendant theology, and I am suggesting that they have failed miserably.  The “should” statements used above are not evangelical pontificates, but, rather, are calls to consider looking at existence veridically, to look at existence in the opposite way Hinayana Buddhism did.  When I followed my own “shoulds” of Perception Theory tied to religion, I found the intellectual and emotional personal satisfaction I had been seeking for years. (“Personal satisfaction” does not mean I’ve not continued to question “everything,” especially this meme like Perception Theory that my imagination conjures.)  Perhaps my own intellectual adventure might be of help toward others finding their own version of personal satisfaction.  Or, perhaps not.  I’ve written it down compelled by an ethical Principle of Reciprocity tens of thousands of years old and taught by Jesus and so many others.

RJH

 

 

Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump

White evangelical Christians who apparently were “one issue” voters willing to sell their morality and soul by supporting Trump over an issue like abortion, prayer in schools, secularization of society, too liberal SCOTUS, demonization of liberals like the Clintons and Obama, etc. are in my experience not as dense as their stance might portend; there had to be some “sacred” reason(s) they would knowingly be supportive and culpable of the bigotry, immorality, and intellectual bankruptcy of Don of the present White House. Finally, I have discovered at least one such reason.

 
Up until recently all the clues I had from evangelical Christian friends and family, always reluctant to talk politics and/or religion with me, were comments like “God moves in mysterious ways!” (from the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper (1774), based upon Romans 11:33) or “Hillary is evil!” Then my friend and former student Dr. John Andrews sent me a link entitled “The Political Theology of Trump” by Adam Kotsko, which begins with the question “Why do evangelical Christians support Trump?” Kotsko, who is apparently white and an evangelical Christian, pointed out something concerning the Old Testament that “clicked” with my life-long experience with white evangelical Christians. Turns out, for some white evangelicals, to support Trump is to support God’s will; to not support Trump is to work against God’s plan!

 
First, let’s be clear about whom I’m writing. I am not talking about all Christians; I am not talking about all evangelicals; I am not talking about all white Christians. I am talking about a minority within a minority within a minority…, like the innermost figure in a Russian matryoshka doll, or nesting doll, or stacking doll. This minority group is mightily qualified and nuanced. White, Protestant, evangelical, biblical literalist, apocalyptic, and often holier-than-anyone-else describes this group well. I need an acronym to cover efficiently all these qualifications — White, Evangelical, Protestant, Christian, biblical LiteralistS, or WEPCLS, pronounced “wep-cils.” (I’ve not included the nuance of politically conservative, which I assume is obvious.) WEPCLS vote for and support Trump with hypocrisy so “huge” and blatant they seem unaware of it, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

 
Here in the “Bible belt” part of Texas, it may not be apparent that the WEPCLS constitute a minority. After all, the large First Baptist Church of Dallas with Dr. Robert Jeffress, well-known Trump supporter, as pastor, is seen as a beacon of WEPCLS values. But even this congregation is not 100% WEPCLS. When all Christians nationwide and worldwide are taken into consideration, then even we Protestant Texans can see WEPCLS as a minority.

 
Second, the reason something “clicked” about the Old Testament with me is that, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve lived my whole life among WEPCLS; many of my friends and family are WEPCLS and, therefore, voted for Trump. (Personally, I “got” the “W” in the acronym down pat! 23 and me showed me to be Scots-Irish, English, French, German, and Scandinavian; I’m so white I squeak!) The denomination in which I grew up, Southern Baptist, was and is replete with WEPCLS; not all Southern Baptists are WEPCLS, but every congregation in which I have been a member contained and contains not a few WEPCLS. Why did I not over the years join the WEPCLS? Because, briefly, I early on asked questions answers to which were NOT “Because the Bible said so,” “Because the Church, Sunday School teacher, pastor, your parents, etc. say so,” “Just because,” “Because God made it that way,” “You shouldn’t ask such things,” etc. These woefully inadequate and empty answers made me take a closer look at the Bible, and by the time I went to college I had read both testaments and began to see why so much of Scripture was not the subject of sermons or Sunday School lessons. (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012] on my website www.ronniejhastings.com) In short, I did not become a member of WEPCLS in large part because I did not become a Biblical literalist, and over time the idea of evangelizing others based upon faith that had few if any answers added to the social divisiveness around me — added to the “us vs. them” syndrome, the bane of all religions.

 
In addition to WEPCLS’s Biblical literalism, which is the clue to their support of Trump, it is my opinion the WEPCLS have sold their birthright from the Reformation with their emphasis on conversion and conformity. The Reformation gave birth, it seems to me, to a Protestantism wherein congregations are not groups of sheep (pew warmers) led by shepherds (the clergy), but, rather, are groups of meritocratic believers, each one of which has his/her own pathway and relationship to God. Moreover, WEPCLS have turned their backs on the great gift of the Enlightenment to everyone, including all believers — that everything is open to question, including this statement; there are no intellectual taboos. The human mind is free to question any- and everything, in the fine traditions of Job and doubting Thomas. It has not been that long ago a WEPCLS friend of mine referenced Martin Luther negatively because the Reformer was not godly enough and blamed the Enlightenment for the blatant secularism of today. To ignore both the Reformation and the Enlightenment categorizes the WEPCLS as woefully anachronistic — downright medieval even.

 
Incidentally, the mixing of politics and religion by so many WEPCLS (an attack on separation of church and state) is very unsettling because it is so un-American. As Jon Meacham, renowned American historian, said in his book American Gospel (2006, Random House pbk., ISBN 978-0-8129-7666-3) regarding the Founders’ view of the relationship between the new nation and Christianity, “The preponderance of historical evidence….suggests that the nation was not ‘Christian’ but rather a place of people whose experience with religious violence and the burdens of established churches led them to view religious liberty as one of humankind’s natural rights — a right as natural and as significant as those of thought and expression.” (p. 84) (See also my The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June 2012] at www.ronniejhastings.com.)

 
Back to the clue of why WEPCLS support Trump. If one is a Biblical literalist, chances are you have to hold the Bible as your sole source of truth — the source of true science (creationism and intelligent design) and of true history (Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Adam and Eve were actual historical beings, Joshua actually commanded the sun to stop in the sky, Mary of Nazareth was impregnated through some form of parthenogenesis, Jesus was resurrected back to life after crucifixion, etc., etc.). As time went on it was to me like adult Biblical literalists actually believe Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Satan, the Easter bunny, ghosts, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Uncle Sam all exist just like the live friends and family that surround them instead of as concepts in their heads. As I studied epistemology in college, it became obvious one could justify and believe in literally anything through faith. Evidence-based truth is non-applicable to a Biblical literalist, and therefore is not applicable to WEPCLS.
Eventually, I became a physicist who likes to teach, instead of a WEPCLS. This post represents how the teacher in me compels me to pass on knowledge as best we know it at the present; to not be skeptical as all good scientists should be, and to not pass on what evidence-based skepticism cannot “shoot down” as all good teachers should do, is for me to fail my family, my friends, and all my fellow homo sapiens.

 
Recalling my days as a Sunday School teacher who relished the rare lessons from the “histories” of the Old Testament (like I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles), let me give you in brief outline the Biblical history that animates the WEPCLS (especially if Old Testament history is not your cup of tea):

 
1.) After the reigns of kings David and Solomon, the Israelite kingdom (consisting of the 12 tribes associated with the 12 sons of Jacob) split in twain, 10 tribes in the north known as Israel and 2 tribes in the south (close to Jerusalem) known as Judah. Each new kingdom had its own line of kings. The split occurred around 930 BCE (Before Common Era) or B.C. (Before Christ).

 
2.) Beginning about 740 BCE, the Assyrian Empire, which replaced the “Old” Babylonian Empire, invaded and overran the northern kingdom of 10-tribe Israel over some 20 years under the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul), Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, and Sennacherib. The 10 tribes were scattered in an Israelite diaspora and became known as the “lost tribes” of Israel. Assyria replaced the displaced Israelites with other peoples from the wider Mesopotamian region who became known by New Testament times as Samaritans. Sennacherib tried unsuccessfully to conquer 2-tribe Judah in the south, being killed by his sons. These events are covered in II Kings, Chaps. 15, 17, & 18, in I Chronicles Chap. 5, and in II Chronicles Chaps. 15, 30, & 31. The prophet known as “early Isaiah” from the 1st of three sections of the book of Isaiah is the major “prophet of record.”

 
3.) The Assyrian Empire was replaced by the “New” Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar II and by 605 BCE the kingdom of Judah was succumbing to Babylon in the form of three deportations of Jews to Babylon in the years 605-598 BCE, 598-597 BCE, and 588-587 BCE, the third resulting in the Babylonian Captivity from 586-538 BCE following the siege and fall of Jerusalem in July and August of 587 BCE, during which Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. The end of II Kings and II Chronicles record the fall of Judah, and the Book of Jeremiah, Chaps. 39-43 offers the prophetic perspective (along with the book of Ezekiel), with the addition of the books of Ezra and the first six chapters of the book of Daniel.

 
4.) After Cyrus the Great of Persia captured Babylon, ending the Babylonian Empire and beginning the Persian Empire in 539 BCE, the Jews in exile in Babylon were allowed by Cyrus to return to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and eventually rebuild the Temple (II Chronicles 36:22-23 and “later” Isaiah). The book of Daniel records Cyrus’ (and, later, Darius I’s) role in the return and the book of Ezra reports the construction of the second Temple in Jerusalem begun around 537 BCE. Construction, toward which contributions by Nehemiah were incorporated with Ezra, lasted at least until 516 BCE.

 
The Biblical histories and books of the prophets concerning the historical events described in 2.) through 4.) above show a “divine pattern” which WEPCLS have seized upon. The great cataclysms brought upon the ancient Hebrews after Solomon were orchestrated by God as punishment for the sins (turning from God) of His Chosen People, and, moreover, God used pagan, heathen kings like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people and a pagan heathen king like Cyrus for the restoration of His people. For instance, Nebuchadnezzar is called God’s servant in Jeremiah 25:9 and is promised that the Babylonian’s land will be wasted only two verses later (Jeremiah 25:11). Later Isaiah calls Cyrus God’s “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1) and promises Cyrus God’s divine favor (Isaiah 44:28 & 45:13), while nonetheless declaring that Cyrus “does not know” God (Isaiah 45:4).
In other words, the WEPCLS have been swept up in the “divine revelation” or “special knowledge” that whatever happened to the ancient Hebrews (all the death, destruction, and utter humiliation), God was always in control of both punishment and reward, using unGodly evil empires as his tools to chastise His wayward “children.” Being Biblical literal-ists, the WEPCLS “naturally” transfer these Old Testament revelations to the present day, seeing “evil” Trump as God’s tool to punish the secular world for resisting God’s plan according to the interpretations of the WEPCLS. Trump as God’s tool is WEPCLS’s “special knowledge” through which all their issues like abortion will be “taken care of” without regard to the pagan, heathen, and evil attributes of that tool — just like the pagan, heathen, and evil actions of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian rulers were disregarded by the prophets.

 
Trump is a tool all right, but not God’s tool.

 
Before applying “higher” Biblical criticism (or just biblical criticism) to WEPCLS’s interpretation of scripture, look at the conundrum the WEPCLS have created for themselves. Trump is so unGodly the absurdity that evil can be a tool of good is somehow proof that this must be, in the end, of God; Trump must be God’s President. And the more unGodly the tool, the greater proof that the tool must be of God! It reminds me of the Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard’s assertion that the absurdity of accepting Jesus as God on nothing but pure, blind faith is all the more reason for taking the leap of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. Or, on a more mundane level, it reminds me of the creationist scientist on the banks of the Paluxy River announcing that the absence of human prints in the Cretaceous limestone alongside those of dinosaurs must INCREASE the probability that human prints ARE to be found; in other words, absence of evidence means presence of evidence! One can’t help but think of an Orwellian “double-speak” mantra “Bad is good!” and “Good is bad!”

 
Faith, like falling in love, is irrational, but falling in love is not bat-shit crazy!

 
The epistemological problem with faith-based religion is that any one religious belief cannot be shown to be better or worse than any other. By faith the WEPCLS believe the Bible is the Word of God established as everlasting truth about 1600 years ago (when the biblical canon was finally hammered out by acceptance of some books and rejection of others). For them truth is “set in concrete,” never to be altered by facts thereafter. despite the uncomfortable truth that God’s “concrete” of Jesus being God in the Trinity was not established as truth until about 400 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. What became amazing to me is that such canonization into unmoving, unchanging truth can only be defended by ignoring hundreds of years of new facts. If I were living in Europe around 1500, the fact that the Bible does not record the existence of a whole New World of two huge continents would make me revisit the rigidity of my faith and my beliefs. Nor does scripture mention all the scientific facts that evolve with ever-increasing evidence year after year, because the Bible is pre-scientific and written way before widespread literacy.

 
Because Christianity is “set” in history for biblical literalists, and because history has become a forensic science, Christians such as the WEPCLS do not have history on their side, just as all other believers who believe solely on faith. The forensic science of biblical criticism shows that literalists such as the WEPCLS do not have to become atheists or agnostics if they seek the most reasonable and probable view of what must have happened in the past for the Bible as we know it today to be in our hands. They must accept more historical facts than they presently do — facts that are compatible with as objective a view of the past as possible, facts that conjure the broadest agreement across Christendom, facts that place Christians in a majority armed with modern techniques of forensic history and forensic science, like archaeology and the history of Judaeo-Christian scripture (See the Dec. 2018 issue of National Geographic).

 
What then does biblical criticism have to say about WEPCLS’s interpretation of the Old Testament stories involving Assyria, Babylon, and Persia? Note the span of years covered by the events 1.) through 4.) above — essentially 930 BCE to 516 BCE. If you look at faith-based, conservative listings of the books of the Bible covering this span (I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah) and when they were written, you would be told the books were written contemporaneously with or soon after the events with which they deal. But biblical criticism, which we have had since the 19th century or earlier, is, through archaeology and study of the origin of scripture (Dec. 2018 National Geographic), finding that they were all written well after the events as rationalizations or apologetics for the tribulations of what are supposed to be God’s Chosen People who He loves. (To say God employed “tough love” dealing with the ancient Israelites is a gross understatement indeed!) For a fairly well-established example, the book of Daniel was not written during or soon after the Babylonian Captivity or exile (586-538 BCE), but rather was written in the 2nd century BCE, circa 165 BCE. Further, it appears the author of the book of Daniel was writing about the 2nd century persecution of the Jews under the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes using the prior persecution of the exile as a cover. The same dating fraud is committed concerning the books of the New Testament, especially the Gospels. Faith-based conservatives such as the WEPCLS want the Gospels written well before the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 62-70 CE (Common Era or A.D. , anno Domini), as close to the life of Jesus as say, Paul’s letters. But biblical criticism based upon historical research shows the Gospels to be written during or after the Revolt (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012]).

 
As we enter the 21st century, we know much, much more about the origins of the Bible than ever. What is needed in Christian scholarship of the scriptures is more polemics, not more apologetics. For WEPCLS to ignore this new wealth of historical findings for the sake of their medieval-like literalism is intellectually anachronistic and irresponsible. Consequently, the WEPCLS give non-Christians a bad name, as many non-Christians erroneously think WEPCLS represents all Christians.

 
Epistemologically, the WEPCLS commit the intellectual fraud of decontextualization, the practice of plucking a source out of its context so that its plucked state of being ripped from historical references makes it applicable to any time whatsoever, even a time bearing no relationship to its original intended applicability. The WEPCLS have decontextualized much of the histories and major prophets of the Old Testament so that they can be used for their conservative, Trinitarian, evangelistic purposes. Higher Biblical criticism has exposed their attempts to relate Old Testament references to Old Testament historical individuals as being references to the coming of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. To relate God’s use of Godless leaders in the Old Testament to today’s situation is not the WEPCLS’s first “fraudulent rodeo.”

 
I urge everyone in Christendom to apply biblical criticism to expose WEPCLS as a corrosive influence to Christian evangelism. I urge believers of all religions to use the same techniques of biblical criticism to their own faith-based creeds and/or practices. I urge non-believers to apply these same techniques to combat the politicization of theologies of organized religions.

 
My own experience in biblical criticism suggests it does not necessarily mean the WEPCLS retreat further from intellectual inquiry nor mean that it drives one away from Biblical consideration forever. The Bible itself often is all that is needed for its foibles to be exposed; often the Bible is its own best critic. For instance, I found that by comparing pre-exile-written II Samuel 24:1 with post-exile-written I Chronicles 21:1, one discovers how the concept of Satan, a parallel to the Zoroastrian (Persian) evil co-god Ahriman (counterpart to the good god Ahura Mazda), was introduced into Judaism by the exile (and later into Christianity). Calling upon other sources from archaeology, the Christian scrolls found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt show that there were at least 21 possible Gospels, not 4. These scrolls also show how the early Church bishops strove mightily to suppress and destroy these “lost” Gospels and also perpetuated the besmirching of Mary Magdalene’s character. To my surprise, when I placed Genesis 1 in its literary context, I saw it was not a history of the beginning of the world at all, but, rather, a comparison of the “superior” Hebrew Creator god with the “inferior” gods of neighboring peoples; my respect for Genesis 1 has risen considerably. Biblical criticism opens your mind to broader horizons not suggested by the Church, and helps to understand the archaeological findings relating to ancient religions.

 
Biblical criticism and its related readings applied to consensus world history has led me to work through a “most probable” scenario of how to me Christianity came into human history (Read in order on my website www.ronniejhastings.com Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I The Great and His Momma Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus [July, 2015],  At Last, A Probable Jesus [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper [Sept., 2015]). Any person so “armed” and inclined can come up with their own scenario as well or better than I.

 

 

Regarding this matter of Biblical or biblical proportions and votes for Trump, I hope I have not failed my family, my friends, or my entire species in passing on what I see as the best of a growing majority consensus.

 

RJH

 

American Conservatism Belies History

[Waxing philosophically right now, so……CONSERVATIVE DISCRETION ADVISED!]
Seen as a parade of good and bad (and in-between) ideas instead of a parade of good and bad (and in-between) people’s lives, history reveals definite directions of advancement over, say, the centuries since the “discovery” of the American continents. These directions are easy to detect following the rise and fall of ideas along time’s arrow using a broad time scale (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]). Also easily detected are peoples’ ideas discarded along the way, ideas that didn’t “make it,” that didn’t “stand the test of time,” that history “left behind in its wake.”

For instance, the two world wars of the 20th century left in their wake discarded ideas such as monarchism and fascism (and certain forms of government they imply, like theocracy and oligarchy). Another resulting discarded idea was that of empires like the Roman, the Mogul, the Mongol, the Ottoman, the Spanish, and the British. The final “victory” of WWII was the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the idea of Soviet communism collapsed. These wars sent history toward liberal democracies (or democratic liberalism) in the form of republics (Reference former Republican Steve Schmidt for this terminology.). The economy of the victors was capitalism (witness how China today is employing a form of capitalism). But non-liberals (especially American conservatives) strive against the liberal capitalism that emerged victorious by practicing a perverted capitalism (They should read their Adam Smith.), wherein not enough profits are plowed back into business as capital and too much of the profit is selfishly stagnated as personal wealth — all of which opens the doors for oligarchy (striven for by Donald Trump) and its ancillary kleptocracy (striven for and practiced by Vladimir Putin). Autocracies of many forms, including “banana republics,” however, have yet to disappear.

(If you think democratic republics are “safe,” having been given the “nod” of 20th-century history, think again. Who was the only democratically elected President of Russia after the Soviet Union? Boris Yeltsin and Russian democracy are now gone. And just in the second decade of the 21st century, Turkey has collapsed into a form of fascism Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito would easily recognize.)

Also left behind by history are the ideas of the Luddites and those of American Tories at the end of the American Revolution (also called loyalists). Yet these are the same ideas animating the Republican Party led by Trump. (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017], and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]) Despite history’s harsh lessons, “Trumpies” today fail to grasp workers adapting to new ongoing technology and even to what it means to be a citizen (“citizen” being well-defined by the blood spilled in the American and French Revolutions (Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018])).

Generally speaking, American conservatism has clung to antiquated, outdated, and anachronistic ideas history has “shaken off” like water off a dog’s back, such as isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sacred political states, tariffs, elitism, class hierarchy, nepotism, non-universal health coverage, and non-universal suffrage. (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], and Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016])

The xenophobic “circling-the-wagons” mentality of so many American conservatives is based upon the human tendency to take on the “us-versus-them syndrome,” which served us well when we were all hunter-gatherers (about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago). That is, “They over there don’t look like us, so there must be something wrong and possibly dangerous about them.” The “sacred” “us-versus-them syndrome” serves all religions, ancient and modern, including Christianity, well: “They don’t believe the same things we do, so we must convince them to believe as we do or rid ourselves of them.” Here in the 21st century, I think there is no longer any need of the “us-versus-them syndrome,” nor of its attendant bad ideas of nationalism and evangelism; history has passed them by. (Going Global, [March, 2018], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Towards an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018])

Speaking more specifically, it even seems Trump’s administration, in the name of historically despicable and bigoted immigration laws, is now using our tax money for systematic child abuse. (I have visions of him going down to the detention centers and throwing scraps of food and rolls of paper napkins over the edge of the cages and into the flaps of the tents — similar to his condescending actions in Puerto Rico.) The June 30, 2018 protests across the nation speak loud and clear: the crying two-year old trumps Trump and all his zero tolerance.

Some of the Trump supporters who have not repudiated him and would vote for him still, despite his despicable words, actions, and inaction, such as “evangelical ‘single issue’ Christians” who turn a blind eye to his plethora of “sins” so they can have their conservative SCOTUS in the name of anti-abortion or pro-life (or immigration, or campaign finance, or some such). Pro-life is such a historically unsustainable position, much like creationism and intelligent design. These positions place their proponents at loggerheads with nature, and just like “history bats last,” “nature bats last.” As opposition to evolution is without evidence and completely useless, so is risking future babies to the horrors of genetic defects, when such risk is so unnecessary. I’m angry that sex education courses in schools and sex education at home and in places of worship do not inform future parents that already we have the medical skills in place to assure every pregnant mother she has the right to have a genetically healthy baby. Yet the pro-lifers, by denying mothers the basic right to control their reproductive cycles, force the possibility of tragedy upon families — tragedy that can with certainty be avoided. (It is like inequality of wealth forcing poverty upon countless people of minimal means, which also can be avoided.) The modern technology of human birth and “natural abortions” — miscarriages — compel history to give pro-choice the “nod.” If expectant mothers want to go ahead and take to term a baby with genetic defects, detected early in gestation, that is their choice; there is a chance in future such defects can be rectified either in womb or just after birth. But such a choice is risky, especially based upon a religious belief. (The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013], and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013]) To cling to pro-life is like clinging to slide rules and horse collars; it is out-of-date.

And moreover, such Christians as described above risk, by clinging to pro-life, walking into the theological quicksand of redefining Christianity (“You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.”), just as the creationists and intelligent designers have done (“You can’t be a Christian and ‘believe’ in evolution.”). (Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012]) You do not have to be anachronistic to be a Christian (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) Nor do you have to be historically clueless to be a Christian. (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012])

Historically, American conservatives has lost their way. History is not on their side. And it is their own fault. They let their own credulity get the best of them, and then somehow become too lazy and/or too busy to vet any and all political statements. And today with the sources we have at our fingertips, thanks to the social network, it often takes only seconds to vet almost anything. Liars like Trump thrive because not enough people, regardless of political leanings, vet what he says. What do you think history will do with the “birthers?” Like the flat-earthers, history, I think, will fling them into the dustbin of bad ideas, worth only a laugh or chuckle if ever remembered.

American conservatives, unless they start reading some history instead listening to Fox News exclusively, risk, in the long run, going the path of the Luddites, the American Tories, the flat-earthers, the creationists, the intelligent designers, the pro-lifers, and the birthers. Unless they start reading some history they risk becoming pawns of revivalist fascism, organized crime, communism, nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, and/or colonialism; they risk “warping” in their heads back into 1950’s America.

RJH

Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) defines human existence in terms of the products of our imagination, products formed by the non-veridical, subjective mind mixing veridical, empirical raw data from our senses with previously formed non-veridical subjective ideas, concepts, and perceptions. These products “appear” on the world display “screen” of our mind’s consciousness (Figure 1 in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]). These products can be conveniently classified as “imagined orders,” after Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow).  Any products of the human mind that have been shared partially or wholly across the species throughout cultural history can be called imagined orders, such as plans, ideas, conceptions, inductions, deductions, scientific theories, political theories, economic theories, philosophies, religions, and ideologies of all ilks.  Since Perception Theory postulates that “Perception is everything” and since all perceptions are products of the non-veridical imagination, it follows that Perception Theory itself is an imagined order.

Using anthropology, archaeology, and history as forensic sciences, directions of human betterment and human progress can be ascertained by comparing the historical effects of different imagined orders across time.  In other words, there are better imagined orders than others, measured in benefits to the species; we need to follow the directions suggested by the “better” imagined orders.  In AVAPS! [May, 2018] it was suggested the “better” imagined orders were those as veridical as possible; in other words, the “better” imagined orders resonated strongly with the veridical, “real” world.  For example, the toxic theology attributed to all religions based upon gods and god stories (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) is not one of the better imagined orders upon which we should base future imagined orders.  In his song “Imagine,” John Lennon was right to suggest we should imagine no religion.

 

Perception Theory came not only to using Harari’s terminology, but originally came from questions taking years of off-and-on reading to resolve in my head questions like:  “What were the major historical events contributing to the modern world?” (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]); “Is the United States a Christian nation?” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]); “Why did the US-like ideals in France devolve during the French Revolution into the Terror?” (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012]); “Why was I never in my 40-year teaching career (within both public and private schools) never intellectually reconciled with the educational system I was supposed to be a part of?” (What is Wrong With Public Education…and What To Do About It, [April, 2012], What is Wrong With Public Education…Briefly Revisited, [April, 2012], 1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014], and “Campusology” at Texas A&M and in Education 6-12, [Nov., 2016]); “Why am I so critical of American political conservatism?” (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016]), 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017],  21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]); “How did Christianity (and by implication other ‘world’ religions) come about?” (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]); “What are the historical and political effects of globalization?” (Going Global, [March, 2018]).

The results of reading summarized in the above posts indicate the possibility of talking about an “imagined order of everything,” or “universal imagined order,” or “global imagined order” made of component imagined orders seen as “good” for mankind and devoid of imagined orders shown by anthropology, archaeology, and history as “bad” for mankind.  Indeed, is it possible to imagine such a universal order?; is the indication valid?  What follows is the attempt to answer “yes.”  Many of the posts cited above correspond to “good” component imagined orders making up parts of the universal imagined order.

So far, Perception Theory, as developed by the above sources, suggests the global imagined order should include the following component imagined orders (in no hierarchical listing):  a) ethical, b) political/social, c) economic, d) ecological/environmental/agricultural,  e) educational, and f) scientific.

The imagined structure of the global imagined order has to be applicable to all humankind all over the globe and all humankind who will in future leave the planet to live and work in outer space, and, epistemologically, the components of the global imagined order must not conflict or contradict each other, just as we have today in modern science; the physical sciences do not say one thing while the life sciences say another, conflicting, contradictory thing.  The inclusive group of all of us will be thought of as the “ultimate family” and the components of the global imagined order must be also inclusive, compatible, and cooperative.

 

a) Ethically, individuals need to relate to each other via the Golden Rule, the Principle of Reciprocity — like the philosophy of the ethical teachings of Jesus (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  As Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] points out, many other thinkers throughout human history — both sacred and secular — before and after the beginnings of Christianity, taught the ethics of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity.  Emphasizing that the Principle of Reciprocity is its own reward, no in-life or afterlife punishment need be taught to young minds.  For this reason and for the sake of avoiding hurting each other due to non-veridical epiphenomenal overload in individual minds, all supernatural gods and god stories should be phased out. (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  John Lennon in “Imagine” sang of not only imagining no religion, but also “no hell below us and above us only sky.”

Harari classifies “religion” as any ideology (non-veridical concept) as anything that can bring together a human group of roughly 150 or more to agree upon a common purpose or action.  He therefore goes on to say that the “religion” of the enlightened West is liberal humanism, wherein the feelings and insights of the individual are supreme, replacing gods and god stories. (For comparison he reminds us of evolutionary humanism, the ideology or “religion” of fascism — which lost out in WWII — and of social humanism, the ideology or “religion” of communism — which collapsed beginning in 1989.)  I prefer to relegate “religion” to any ideology involving gods and god stories; animism and any thought system involving “spirits” (imagined non-veridical concepts) are also relegated to “religion.”  Any form of humanism is, at best, an ethical ideology, in that it attempts to suggest how we should behave toward each other as members of our species.  Therefore, my choice of Jesus’ (and others’) teachings of the Golden Rule could be considered humanistic.  However, I prefer to divorce “religion” from both “ethics” and “humanism.”

All religion, with its gods and god stories, is based upon the dangerous and deplorable “us-them syndrome,” which sooner or later fosters animosity between believers and non-believers.  This syndrome dooms all theologies to toxicity.  As Diderot said, “Sooner or later the moment comes when the concept [of God] that prevented the theft of one ecu [French coin of face value of about $30] causes the cutting of the throats of a hundred thousand men.” [parentheses mine]

Ethics fosters no “us-them syndrome.” (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015])  And to me the Principle of Reciprocity is the ethics for us all.

This is not to say that religion and its accompanying theology, as I am defining it, will not be part of human culture eventually.  Being religious is a genetic tendency “built in” by our evolutionary past, but has become unnecessary to our survival, as other assurances have been developed by our minds that contribute reliably to our survival (e.g. science and medicine).  Therefore, religion is delegated to the individual mind henceforward; theology is limited to the individual, thanks to the subjective trap (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Religion, with its theology, gods, and god stories is a personal matter for the single member of the species.  I have my own personal theology, for instance, and can say, along with Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], and Prayer, [Feb., 2017])

b) Regarding political and social organizing of the human species, whatever avoids war, colonialism, and imperialism of all forms must be avoided.  No grouping of humans must advance itself at the expense of another; exploitation of one nation of another must cease.  The imagined order of egalitarianism must be expanded so that nations cease to be independent of all other nations; we are all stuck on the same planet with, at this time, no alternative; this earth is all we got.  Therefore, egalite must be expanded from egalite only among citizens of a single nation to egalite of every Homo sapiens on the planet  (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).

The imagined order of the UN needs expanding into a more global UN composed of every nation, nations which cease to have political borders.  All military forces of each nation join the single global UN force for the purpose of keeping the peace worldwide and of responding to human need created by natural disasters anywhere in the world.  Similar to the way individual States in the United States relate to the national federal government, all nations relate to the global government, with responsibilities, resources, and money separated into regional and global designations.  The global government will be a republic both capitalistic and representative similar to those imagined at the births of the American Republic and the French Republic (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], For Your Consideration, I Give You…..Tom Paine, [August, 2014], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  No nation needs its own militia anymore, as danger to one UN member is danger to all; the peace-keeping global UN force, with no peer anywhere, will assure the protection of life, liberty, property, and rights the world over.

Health care, education, and housing will be provided by the global UN.  (Members in health care will be on a worldwide payroll, supported by worldwide competitive drug manufacturers, cutting-edge medical schools all over the earth, and globally reviewed medical research.)  The legacy of both UNICEF and UNESCO will be strengthened and widened.  Suffrage, the right to vote, will truly be universal.  The whole world will democratically vote to see what behaviors are deemed criminal enough to deny individuals of such rights as freedom and the vote.

The chamber of world representatives as well as the head of the executive part of the world government (a President, General Secretary, Prime Minister, etc.) shall be elected for finite terms by a democratic worldwide vote (not by electors).  A world court shall be periodically reformed from a cadre of elected judges (judges-in-waiting) from each former-sovereign-nation, or nation-state.  The court shall be appointed by a vote from the chamber of representatives (Congress, Parliament, Convention, Assembly, Althing, etc.) and shall preside and settle all disputes between or among nation-states.  All three branches of the world government, the legislative (chamber of world representatives), executive, and judicial (world court) shall be subject to limited terms, ceilings for years of service, and prohibitions to personal gain beyond their salaries.  Conviction of accepting bribes, accepting payments/perks from lobbyists, both corporation and/or political lobbyists, or committing criminal/civil crimes shall result in immediate termination and swift replacement by the germane nation-state government.

All nation-states will be required to limit campaign and election time for choosing members of all three branches of world government to one year or less.  (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012] and Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013])  In addition, within every nation-state, campaign contributions must have a universal limit per person and must come only from individuals, not corporations or political organizations.  Exceptions to these campaign contribution rules will result in the candidate’s expulsion from the race.

c)  The economic organization of the global UN implies a global economic system — a worldwide capitalism regulated to create both capital to build business and personal wealth.  Taxes on personal income  and investment requirements will be structured to make personal wealth limited, assuring capital will be reinvested into economic growth. (Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013])  Businesses will have incentives to operate with the partnership of the employees (mandatory employee stock ownership and mandatory retirement fund for all employees), so that all within that business have the same incentive to succeed.

Worldwide trade will be the primary modus operandi to insure perpetual world peace.  War to any degree hurts everyone, the least of which way is cutting off trade (death and maiming being the greatest way), but, at the same time, probably the most important way for the species at large.  (Going Global, [March, 2018] and 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017])  All economic barriers will come down; there will be no need for tariffs.  There will be a worldwide currency, similar to that in the European Union.  All stock markets will resonate to operate as if at one single site, as world trade makes every regional economy in business partnership with the rest of the world.  Highways on the land, sea, and air will perpetually be filled with exchanged goods.  Hunger, disease, and poverty will become things of the past (like smallpox, polio, and yellow fever) through trade.

d) Ecologically, environmentally, and agriculturally speaking, the home to all of us, the earth, needs to be treated as our one and only hope and treated holistically.  I’m not talking a cult-like worshiping of our planet as some living Gaia, but, rather, the development of a worldwide respect for not only the biosphere, but the great oceanic and geological processes that make our existence possible.  This respect is admittedly teleological, even selfish, as we have to use this planet to generate all the sustenance our species and our fellow species need both now and in the future.

Therefore, agriculture must be guided by environmentalism and ecology, as suggested by the warnings of both Harari and of Mann (1491 and 1493).  The vision of thinkers like Michio Kaku must engage thinkers and planners of the world government.  The world government has to allocate its efforts and resources toward making the land, sea, and air more productive without placing more of our fellow species (both plants and animals) on the endangered list.  Projects of converting sea water into fresh water should dominate most of the future seashores.  The possibility of turning the Sahara and other world deserts green should become more feasible.  All ocean shallows becoming underwater farms should be forthcoming.  Orbiting agricultural stations wherein food is perpetually grown in ideal conditions to feed the entire planet should become commonplace.  In addition, synthetically produced food, such as animal tissue, should be grown in “giant test tubes,” with the goal of not having to eat our domesticated sources of meat; genetic engineering is just as important in agriculture as it is in human medicine.  Synthetically produced food, especially large-scale synthetically product animal protein, can mean the land now needed for pasture can mostly be turned back to natural processes, producing through evolution more genetic vigor needed for the future.

As I said in  AVAPS! [May, 2018], “The world needs more marine biologists, not more missionaries!”

e)  Education needs to become an egalitarian worldwide phenomenon, particularly the education of young minds as practiced in American public schools (Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  This means educational funds for the entire world will come from taxation of personal property in all nation-states and distributed fairly to all nation-states by an educational arm of the the world government.  However, public education as practiced worldwide must be freed from “professional educators” and applied as in undergraduate and graduate college and university faculties, exemplified by such faculties in the United States.  (1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014])  A system of public schools from kindergarten level to grade 12 and at least one major four-year research college or university will be established in every nation-state, if not already in place in a given nation-state.  Through school taxes in every nation-state the education of each child from kindergarten through four years of university shall be offered free of charge (provided the student successfully fulfills the requirements of each previous level in college).  The deficiencies of a nation-state to provide such free education to a qualified student will be made up from a world education fund managed by the world government and contributed to annually by all nation-states as part of “membership dues.”

The worldwide curriculum used by all the planet’s schools will feature general physical and cultural anthropology, which will be focused on the cultural history of the particular nation-state.  World history touching upon the cultural histories of every nation-state will be taught in every nation-state.  The language of each nation-state will be taught locally, but the languages designated as “world languages” (how many?) by the world government will be taught in every nation-state.  (Presumably, these world languages, like the languages chosen in the UN today, will be the official languages used in the world government.)  All sciences and mathematics will be taught via a worldwide curriculum; math is treated as the “language of the universe.”  Engineering will have a local focus within a nation-state, along with an engineering curriculum of worldwide scope.  Philosophy curricula will have their universality supplemented by the works of local philosophers within each nation-state.  As part of the worldwide philosophy curriculum, comparative culture over time, including comparative religion, will be offered.

Cooperative research at the university level, which would inevitably be international cooperative research, will emphasize dealing with the challenges of climate change, of artificial intelligence, and of mankind traveling into space.  Architecture, also a worldwide endeavor, will work on novel housing for a presumably increasing global population — housing able to adapt to possible rises of ocean levels; living under the surface of the oceans as well as in space colonies in orbit, on the moon, on Mars, on moons of the gas giants, in interplanetary space, and in interstellar space will be worldwide endeavors.  Funding for all this research will come from local nation-state and worldwide dues contributed to the world education fund, not to mention research grants from corporations.

A given student’s education toward a college or university degree will normally be peppered with study programs abroad in other nation-states and with opportunities throughout to develop artistic and athletic skills.  Academic contests, art expositions, and athletic contests among teams of students from all nation-states will be preludes to worldwide Olympic-style events that include not only athletics, but academics and the arts also.  With sponsorship from their native nation-state, outstanding performers in these areas could be professionals in these areas, expanding the number of such professionals today.  A worldwide educational system will provide stage and lighting for ever-amazing intellectual and physical achievement.

f)  Science and math requirements characterize every level of every student in a worldwide educational system.  The philosophical assumptions and underlying concepts of science and math are replete in the philosophical studies of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and anthropology.  Children learn to count as soon as they learn to speak and read; children learn to test, experiment, and answer their own questions as soon as they are rationally able.  Truth based on evidence rather than authority is taught as early as possible, and scientific skepticism is practiced as early as possible.  Teachers will need to be trained to expect everything they teach be questioned by their students.  History of science will be taught as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great people.

Next to the classrooms, the most important part of higher education will be scientific research.  It will be up to teachers to develop a science of education, if that is possible.  It will be necessary to develop a robust ethics for science and engineering, presumably based upon the Golden Rule and a dedication to protect and advance the integrity of science itself.  Done right, these precautions will assure that areas such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and robotics will not run amuck with dire consequences for our species.

Most of all, science must be remembered as a non-veridical enterprise of our imaginations, just as theology is.  All areas of study, including science, must function in such a way as to develop the imaginations of all people of all ages; all curricula and all teachers who teach young minds need to stimulate the imaginations of young minds; those who don’t need to be rewritten or asked to find another job, respectively.  And, it almost goes without saying, science needs to be AVAPS; the star-stuff we are must keep focused upon the star-stuff we are not.

 

In summation, then, an imagined order of everything or a global imagined order for all mankind should include:

a) A specific, non-religious ethic of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

b) A UN-like world government wherein all nations function like States of the United States in a federal government.  This world government has the three branches of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.  Members of these branches are democratically elected by a worldwide body of voters wherein suffrage is distributed as wide as possible.  It will have jurisdiction over a single, global military force to keep worldwide peace and respond to emergencies everywhere.

c) A planet-wide economic system of regulated capitalism engaged in worldwide free trade within a single universal market.

d) An environmentally conscious planet-preserving agriculture utilizing the best potentials of bio-technology.

e) A worldwide educational system offering a free universal education and funded by a world education fund governed by the world government, offering a globally coordinated curriculum.

and f) A commitment to progress indicated by an imaginative, respectful, and ethical worldwide scientific endeavor.

 

RJH

 

 

 

Going Global

In addition to being possible 21st century Luddites and possible 21st century Tories, early 21st century American ultra-conservatives, such as those brought “out of the woodwork” by the Donald Trump administration, display other facets worthy of condemnation (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017] and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]).  A common thread running through American ultra-conservatives very different from, say, lifting up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a sacred call to own as many powerful weapons as possible {Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Second), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third), [April, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fourth) — the “Smoking Gun,” [May, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fifth) — “Four Dead in O-HI-O,” [June, 2013]}, is categorically demonizing globalization.  Why?

First, I had to find out what is the consensus definition of “globalization,” when did it begin, and what is its history.  Two paired books helped me do just that:  1) 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 2nd edition, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1, and 2)  1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 1st edition, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1.  The two titles tell the reader a lot.  They sandwich the year before and the year after Columbus “discovered” America.  (Of course this language we learned in school discredits historical characters like Lief Erikson, and, worse, an entire people who migrated across the Bering Strait into the two continents of the New World thousands of years ago.)  Clearly they compare the “before” and “after” of the European discovery of the New World; the pair present a measure of the impact of that discovery, an impact that echoes across centuries to the present.  Mann’s major theme is that globalization as we know it today began with Columbus’ first voyage.

The year 1492 ushered in a world-wide exchange of cultures, knowledge, foods, diseases, wars, and forced labor in the form of slaves.  As technologies of transportation improved, worldwide trade and colonial exploitation integrated the planet Earth into a global market.  Projecting this sweeping historical view into the 21st century, Mann, in my opinion, suggests that the lesson of globalization is that trading with each other is better than exploiting and killing each other.  A rather obvious good lesson, I’d say.  So, why would anyone be against globalization as defined by these books?

Look again above at the grossly over-simplified list of what was and is being exchanged in globalization; not all of them can individually be labeled as “good.”  Sure, to take one many foods from South America that “saved” Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment Europe, the potato, the “spud,” became the basis of the diet of the poor, and, later, the middle class.  Yet also from the New World came venereal disease and to the New World came European diseases to which native Americans had little or no resistance.  European diseases were even more devastating to the New World people than the Black Death was to Europeans about 150 years before Columbus sailed westward. However, economies based upon world-wide trading were spawned, economies like which are expanding to this day.  For example, the gold and silver mined by the Spanish with native American slave labor in Mexico and the Andes went not only east to Europe, fueling many national economies, but also went west across the Pacific to the Philippines, where Chinese traders traded Chinese goods like silk for the precious metals; this westward movement fueled the economies of China and the Philippines, as well as that of colonial Spain.  Foodstuffs like the potato and corn (maize) also went west.  Black markets and pirate economies sprung up in the Caribbean and in the waters off China as a result.  Another example was the flow of furs and timber to Europe from colonized North America.

But human beings, especially those from Africa, became commodities of trade to work the sugar cane and tobacco industries in the New World, later followed by the cotton industry.  Tropical diseases, such as malaria, killed off European overseers so badly, sometimes slave populations literally disappeared off the plantations into the interior to form new, independent, and undocumented societies often of blended heritage from native Americans — societies of mulattoes and maroons for example.  Because of sickle cell anemia from Africa, more slaves survived the ravages of disease than did the Europeans.

These examples are but “the tip of the iceberg” found in Mann’s books, but they are enough to clearly show that globalization is a mixed blessing; its contributions to our species often came at a considerable price of human suffering.

The more I knew about the history of globalization, the gift of hindsight compelled me to say the price mankind paid was more than worth it, given how global trade of resources back and forth across the oceans made possible the worldwide improvement of life compared with that hundreds of years ago.  Much of this improvement, like the establishment of democratic republics and the march toward universal suffrage and social justice, the rejection of monarchies, and the rejection of slavery, centers around making sure the price paid for globalization is more humane than ever before.  Yet, ultra-conservatives speak of globalization as if they wished it had never happened, even while speaking in an environment filled with comforts and advantages made possible by globalization.

Could it be that conservatives don’t know enough history to appreciate what globalization has done for us?  Possibly, but there are lots of ultra-conservatives, like Steve Bannon of Trump administration infamy, who appear very smart and well-educated.  So, the question begs itself — why, when you know the effects of globalization throughout modern history, would you despise it so?  Why are so-called liberals pro-globalization while so-called conservatives seem anti-globalization?  Those conservatives who still prefer war over trade are getting fewer and far between, as they are symptomatic of vestigial colonialism and imperialism, which began disappearing after WWI and WWII.  So it is possible a conservative might be both anti-war and anti-globalization.

I suspect the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is found in the phrase above containing the words “mulattoes and maroons.”  Ultra-conservatives equate globalization with the mixing of races, and, as a result, become usually political isolationists.  In a word, they are racists at the core; they are xenophobic toward persons not like them.  It is true, much mixing of races came with globalization; Spaniards and Portuguese with American Indians became Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans; Europeans with Africans became mulattoes; Chinese with Filipinos became Sangleys, or Chinese Filipinos.  It is no accident that even in “progressive” societies like the U.S., many family trees were produced by brides and grooms marrying “one of their own.” Not that all who want to maintain a strong connection to the “mother country” are racists.  Rather, that the attachment to the “mother country” is psychologically based upon a racist xenophobia for some of them.  Ultra-conservatives have politicized this racism and politically express their racist bias by opposing globalization.  Their economics resemble that of a long-past colonialist, imperialist overseer.

RJH

P.S.  Lest you, the reader, think my linking anti-globalization with racism is but fanciful whimsy or giddy rationalization, consider how a growing number of historians and anthropologists are agreeing that the concept of “racism” was not a concern in Western civilization until it was clearly possible European and non-Europeans would be living together in an ongoing situation; that is, until different races lived together to make interracial mixing possible.  In other words, racism was not a considerable problem in Western culture until very different groups were shuffled across oceans; racism became synonymous with globalization when globalization began such shuffling, when the New World was “discovered” by Columbus.

Prayer

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), after being applied to, among other things (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]), the existence of God (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), was taken to the subjects of belief (I Believe!, [Oct., 2016]), hope, and faith (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]). Could prayer be far behind? Of course not.

Rev. Paul M. Burns, son of my good friends Dr. Jim Burns (Ph.D in physics and retired Presbyterian minister) and Judy Burns (award-winning retired public school teacher), has written the book prayer encounters (ISBN 978-1-4497-5194-4, WestBow Press, 2012), whose subtitle is “Changing the World One Prayer at a Time.”  The importance of prayer in the life of so many believers seems obvious; a prayer life is vital to an individual’s faith.  Prayer not only is found in some form in most major religions and in our common exchanges of concern (“I’ll pray for you,” “Pray that will not happen,” “We need to pray together as God’s people,” “I pray, God, You will lead me to understand,” “I pray You will lead me to someone who..”, etc.), it is, as the book’s subtitle suggests, a teleological tool in nature — one means to change the world.  I have prayed with a congregation, lead small groups in prayer, said grace at the dinner table, and had a secret place near where my grandparents lived where I regularly prayed in private.  I have encouraged others to pray for my son Dan when he was hospitalized for a closed head injury years ago responsible for, I think, PTSD effects in his brain today (We All Can Have PTSD, [Jan., 2017]).  Prayer is something with which I am not unfamiliar.

Paul’s book is a series of individual cases in his ministry where prayer was applied toward making someone’s life better, as would be expected.  The days when we pray for our enemies and adversaries to be “smitten” I trust are few, far between, or non-existent.  Each case in the book is engaging, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and inspiring; the book is a good read.  What struck me was that in each case the prayer was not always answered, but in all cases the answer or non-answer is seen, in hindsight, as understandable by faith.  Those emotionally involved in the case praise God if the prayer is answered and explain no answer to the prayer by referring to God’s will.  The spectrum of prayer results in the book triggered my own recollection of personal prayer results — results of praying to which I referred in the previous paragraph.  Ambiguous and sometimes inconsistent outcomes of prayer had triggered my curiosity for years, but I never focused on the question of prayer ontologically until now.  So I ask, what is prayer?  What are we doing in our heads when we pray?  It seems to me Perception Theory can be of help.

I will try to avoid two extremes concerning prayer.  On one hand, prayer is skeptically and/or atheistically dismissed as nonsense, and on the other hand, prayer is communication with God, with gods, or with saints as if you are talking to a deity or a holy one across the breakfast table.  Neither extreme makes sense to me.

From the introduction of Perception Theory to its application to faith (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], and (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), prayer can be inferred as a non-veridical activity relegated or looped inside the mind.  It might have reference to parts of the real, veridical world outside our heads, but like all ideas and concepts, these references are not the actual real world, but, rather, are processed perceptions of empirical data from that world created by the blending of the data and the non-veridical proactive mental processes of the mind confined to the brain.  In the end, prayer is part of the epiphenominal menagerie of creations of our evolved, “big” brain.  Since the existence of God in Perception Theory strongly suggests God is like an “imaginary friend,” then prayer might be as simple as talking to the imaginary friend we carry around in our head as the concept of God.  We confide in real friends out in the veridical world around us as well as idly chit-chat with them; so it is with children who create imaginary friends in their heads.  Communicating with real friends can not only be fun and helpful, it can be downright therapeutic.  Prayer, communicating with our concept of God (or of gods or of saints) in our heads, can also be fun and helpful, but since prayer is seen as “serious” business, then prayer is usually therapeutic.  Hence, along with our capacity to make up gods and god stories, to be religious, came the capacity to make those gods our imaginary, surrogate friends to whom we take our thoughts, mental conflicts, and struggles with the veridical world outside our heads for a “help session.”  We take our burdens, our wishes, our hopes, and our need for answers to the “feet of the Lord,” to the “listener” inside our head, our imaginary friend.  Prayer, therefore, functions as a self-induced psycho-therapy with a modus operandi of confiding in our imaginary God in our head.  As the old Christian hymn to prayer says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Prayer has survived as a coping tool in our heads, a part of the evolved epiphenominal “baggage” around the concepts of friends, gods, and god stories.  Its survival value is proportional to the importance for the species of individual self-introspection and self-analysis (self-induced psycho-therapy) within our heads.

In Julian Jaynes book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (ISBN 0-395-20729-0, Houghton Mifflin, 1976) a fascinating hypothesis was put forth:  Before about 500 BCE, we had evolved a brain with two copies, the left and the right hemispheres, which could communicate (or “talk”) with each other; we had a spare brain, in other words, in case something went wrong (brain damage) with one of them.  This “talk” between hemispheres was like the gods within us — the origin of gods, god stories, theology, and religion; the gods talked to us all the time.  Around 500 BCE human culture had become so complicated and demanding, division of labor had to be relegated out to the different hemispheres of the brain, ceasing the talk of the brain to itself; the gods stopped talking to us in our heads, explaining why so many great religions in which we had to find the gods’ voices outside us (or try and re-find them inside us) arose around this time — Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, great Prophets of Israel, and Confucianism.  I am not saying I subscribe to this hypothesis, but its similarity with the idea of “talking with God” when we pray seems to me very compelling.  Prayer is, like the gods very ancient — an epiphenominal, non-veridical means by which we furnish ourselves with “bootstrap” sessions of psycho-therapy, or an evolved tool to keep ourselves sane, perhaps because, as Jaynes suggests, the gods stopped talking to us long ago.

Like religious belief, hope, and faith, prayer is confined within the individual’s “subjective trap” (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Praying together assumes others’ minds are like our own, something we can never know with any degree of certainty.  Making that assumption, our group prayer sessions (at least two persons) are like mutually agreed-upon group psycho-therapy.  It is understandable how a group prayer can be answered differently in the minds of the group, given the differences of expectations among the individuals’ heads within the group.  If a group explodes in agreement that the prayer is answered, such as when my son came out of his week’s coma that followed his closed head injury, it can be assumed the expectations, hopes, and supplications across the minds in the group during the prayer were very similar, though, of course, that can never be objectively demonstrated (at least not yet).  In this sense, prayer for something explicit to occur is like making a bet, like predicting the future, whether as an individual or as a prayer group.

Let’s say a drought-stricken individual or group prays to God (or to a saint) for rain.  In the “old days” sacrifices of the fruits of the harvest, of animals, or of humans would be offered to induce the deity or deities to answer the prayer for rain.  Today, we’ve pretty much gotten past those requirements, to the “relief” of our fellow plants and animals, I’m sure.   The psycho-analysis model of prayer predicted by Perception Theory would say the prayer for rain serves as a self-induced assurance not to worry so much about the drought, as religious belief and hope transforms into faith the prayer will be answered.  That assurance is not nothing to the supplicant, though any effect of the prayer out in the real veridical world cannot be demonstrated; the assurance is the value and justification of prayer; without it we would worry ourselves silly asking questions for which we cannot possibly find an answer.  Whether it rains or not is really incidental, and simply a matter of chance involving local meteorological conditions, conditions presumed to “play out” whether rain is prayed for or not.  The epistemological/ontological mistake of the supplicant or supplicants is to attribute rain or no rain, attribute the outcome of prayer, to the god or gods inside the brain(s) of the supplicant(s).  The non-veridical concepts of the human mind had nothing to do with what transpired in the veridical world, except to be the non-veridical processed perceptions produced partly by empirical data bombarding the body’s senses for each individual.  It was going to rain or not rain, prayed for or not.  Yet, the religious believer says rain was the answer to prayer, or says no rain is the “will of God” beyond human understanding (or due to some flaw in the prayer and/or in the “hearts” of the supplicant(s)).  No wonder many thinkers are of the opinion religious belief is like a mental illness!  I say that prayer is its own reward, providing therapeutic assurance and lowering stress, regardless if the prayer is “answered” or not.  Seen this way, prayer is neither the hollow nothingness of the atheist, nor is it communication with anything outside the heads of the believer.  It is something in between.

To suggest, as Paul Burn’s book does, that prayer changes things is, therefore, correct in one sense, in my opinion.  It can bring on therapeutic healing inside the mind(s) of the supplicant(s).  My experience is that when I pray, I feel better afterwards.  And though I cannot ever know for sure what is inside the heads of my fellow supplicants because of the subjective trap, the behavior of my fellow supplicants after prayer is consistent with their feeling better also.  In other words, prayer can create “good vibes” in the social collective minds of the supplicants, as it did when family and friends near and far prayed for the recovery of my son.  No wonder back in 1986 when my friend Rev. John Armstrong of Canada asked if I would welcome a Muslim friend to join in the widening circle of prayers for Dan, I said something like, “Absolutely!”  I wanted Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists — anyone of any faith — to join in praying for Dan.  I know two things about the outcome of Dan’s ordeal in 1986:  a) the more prayer, the better all of us felt, and b) in the end, Dan made a full physical recovery.

We now know (National Geographic, Dec. 2016) that having faith that healing will come (often fueled by prayer) will trigger the “natural pharmaceutical shelf” in our bodies toward healing with the biochemistry we all inherently have, even if no real medicines (placebos) are only employed.  This could be the key to understanding how the tendency to become religious, along with its attendant prayer, had evolutionary survival value in our deep past.  It therefore is possible that the non-veridical healing inside the minds of prayer supplicants can, if the “good prayer vibes” resonant in the minds of those deemed in need of prayer, has a veridical, real world link (Part of medicine is “bed-side manner.”).  Perhaps prayer can in this way positively change things outside our heads as well as inside, at least to the boundary between our body and the world surrounding it.  Ironically, however, credit for the healing is usually given to the god(s) in our heads thought to be outside our heads, not to the non-veridical tool of prayer in our heads correlating with our biochemistry, or to the attendant physicians plying their skill with modern medicine.

If what is prayed for has to do with something outside the body in the veridical world, like the rain example above, obviously triggering natural pharmaceuticals is not directly germane to the answer or no answer to the prayer (e.g. rain or no rain).  But these biochemicals, like endorphins, could be germane to the therapeutic lowering of stress in the supplicant(s) brain(s); they could be connected to the “real” reward of prayer (self-induced psycho-therapy), which has nothing to do with the prayer’s outcome.

In summary, then, prayer is not nothing, according to Perception Theory.  But it also is not contact with anything outside our bodies; ultimately, it is contact with ourselves within the subjective trap.  That it has value to our well-being has a strong case; psycho-therapy is as important as physical therapy (the two possibly linked by our own body’s physiology), as we’ve known from the days of Freud.  Perception Theory would say that the psycho-therapy of prayer demonstrates this importance back to the dawn of our species.

RJH

 

Hope and Faith

I remember singing in Sunday School, “Have faith, hope, and charity, That’s the way to live successfully, How do I know? The Bible tells me so!”   I assume the song’s words are taken directly from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13:13, KJV).  The three words faith, hope, and charity are called the “three theological virtues” or just the “three virtues.”  Having sorted out what Perception Theory tells us about “belief” (I Believe! [Oct., 2016]), two of the three, faith and hope, or, in the order I consider them here, hope and faith, will be considered.  Both are related to belief and though both are “separate virtues,” the pair, I intend to show, are very similar in Perception Theory, yet are very distinguishable from one another.  (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Indeed, they are paired conceptually in Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)

Despite my skepticism Paul should even be call an apostle, much less an accurate describer of Jesus (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012]) and despite the consensus Paul did not write Hebrews (Priscilla, Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, and Apollos of Alexandria have been proposed as more likely authors of Hebrews than Paul.), the presence of the same two words (hope and faith) together in both KJV verses provides a convenient “cutting board” upon which to dissect the two with Perception Theory.  In I Believe! [Oct., 2016] belief is far from having anything to do with evidence, yet the Hebrews verse links “substance” and “evidence” with faith.

Hence, if this linkage is accurate, faith has more to do with evidence than belief.  In fact, starting from absence of evidence, starting from belief, and heading in the direction of evidence, I see hope first, followed by faith, with evidence (“I know” statements –I Believe! [Oct., 2016]) coming only after faith.  “I believe” statements and “I know” statements, with hope and faith “sandwiched” in between, are all four non-veridical activities of the brain, with “I believe” statements devoid of resonance with the “outside,” real, veridical world beyond the volume of our brains and “I know” statements as resonant with the real, veridical world as they possibly can be (as possibly allowed by the “subjective trap”).  This would suggest that both hope and faith exist as resonating non-veridically based concepts, “in between” the looped non-veridically based existence of “I believe” statements and the strongly veridically-based existence of “I know” statements.  In other words, belief is looped non-veridically based, like God, and hope and faith are possibly resonating non-veridically based, like freedom (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]); both hope and faith at first appear to “reach out” to the veridical world in a way belief does not bother to do.

To Perception Theory, however, hope is like a “wish statement” that may or may not resonate veridically.  To hope God hears our prayer is looped non-veridically based, but to hope your sick loved one gets well is resonating non-veridically based.  Hope statements can be in either non-veridically based camp — looped or resonating.  To Perception Theory faith leans strongly toward the resonating non-veridical, like having faith that your sick loved one will actually get well, which means the loved one’s health will be described with “I know” statements of wellness in the future.  If the sick one does not get well, the hope still seems justified, but the faith seems ill-placed; hope cannot ever count on “I know” statements to come, but faith risks counting upon “I know” statements coming.  One’s hope can never be squelched by the real veridical world (it is so looped); one’s faith can (it is so resonate).  Faith, then, is like a “prediction statement,” a declaration that something will in future be supported by evidence, and by, therefore, “I know” statements.  With hope I wish, and with faith I predict or bet.  Moreover, faith is embedded with a confidence in a “real world” outcome, whether justified in hindsight or not.  This confidence reinforces the resonance of faith with the veridical.

Hebrews 11:1, therefore, is way off-base.  Faith cannot be substance or evidence of anything.  I can believe or hope in just anything (wishing); conversely I cannot bet on just anything (predicting) and be considered sane, no matter how confident my faith.  Based upon what we know about the universe that seems to be outside our heads, hoping that unicorns exist can be seen as “cute and charming,” while confidently predicting that unicorns exist will probably been seen as silly.  Stating I have faith that unicorns exist is not evidence that unicorns exist, but stating I hope unicorns exist “gets a pass” from those who demand evidence.  One is simply not taken seriously when hoping, like he/she is when bestowing faith.  Hope is more like belief than faith; faith is more like predicting freedom in a veridical society than hope, but with a confidence often falsely interpreted by others as connected with evidence.

An analogy might be in order:  I am about to witness the results of a wager I’ve made at a casino in Las Vegas, say.  It’s the results of a pull of the handle of a slot machine, the final resting place of the ball in a roulette wheel, a roll of the dice at the craps table, the revealing of the cards at the end of a round of poker, or the public posting of the results of a sporting event I have bet on.  Normally, I hope I win (which is not the same as saying I predict I will win), but if I don’t (if I fail to win), the worst that can happen is the loss of my wager.  However, if I win, any conclusion other than to realize how lucky I am would not be warranted; I happened to beat the odds, the probability of which I knew was very low when I made the bet.  But if I have bestowed faith in winning the wager, as we have seen above, it is almost redundant to say I am betting, that is, predicting that I will win.  (Recall I can place a bet with hope, which is not a prediction.) If I have faith that I will win, predicting that I will win, then the amount of the wager, the bet, relative to my gambling budget, is a measure of the strength of my faith.  If I fail to win, my faith will be seen as ill-placed and in hindsight unnecessary; confidence in my winning (in my faith) in hindsight might seem cruelly laughable.  However, if I win, my faith, along with the confidence attending it, seems (irrationally) justified.  In minds wherein suspension of rationality seems commonplace, the human mind tends to think that the win might not have happened without the faith and its attendant confidence.  But the win would not have happened without the bet, and the confident faith before the results had nothing to do with the win, but too often the faith and its confidence are seen as the “cause” of the win!  Such an irrational conclusion is nothing short of believing in magic; it is a view of the win that is all in the head of the winner, and has nothing to do with the evidence from the real world that actually determined the mechanics of the results.  Perception theory would say that veridically the results, win or lose, were the outcome of random probability; any hope or faith put in the results are non-veridical processes inside the brain (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).

Now, let’s get to the “elephant in the room,” the “gorilla sitting in the corner.”  Believing that God exists is just like hoping God exists — neither tells one anything about God’s existence, except that God is a concept in the head of the one making the belief statement or the hope statement (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Having faith that God exists in the real veridical world bets that, or predicts that, God exists like freedom, a dog, or a rock.  Bets and predictions can fail (as in gambling), as have all bets and predictions concerning both unicorns and God, so far.  Faith in God outside our heads, as faith in unicorns outside our heads, is ill-placed — in terms found in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, it is absurd.  Unlike freedom, God and unicorns do not resonate with the veridical.  I can think of at least one statement about God in which we can all make an “I know” statement — God is a concept in our heads.  It is curiously difficult not to say we can all have faith that God is a concept in our heads.  Also, curiously, I am betting, have faith, that the concept of God, under “high resolution,” is different for each and every head.  Perhaps this “God difference in every head” will one day be shown to be only a hope (an inescapable belief) or. even perhaps be another “I know” statement.

RJH

I Believe!

I must count myself in that school of thought which has asserted that everyone has to believe in many things, but the “trick” is to believe in things that are true. Yet, it seems obvious to me that one can believe in anything.  And, since not just anything can be true, it must be equally obvious that mere belief is no reliable means to finding out the truth.  Curiously, the ability to believe seems basic to the human mind. In my opinion, the pervasiveness of belief among the species Homo sapiens indicates that belief was at the origin of our species necessary for survival, just like our propensity to be religious, or to be ethical, or to be evil.  The evolution of these last three propensities, based upon both physical and cultural anthropology, was a major vehicle in the development of the ideas, themes, and conclusions of 1) my series on the origin of Christianity (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012]; Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015]; Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015]; At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]; Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) and of 2) the first of my series on Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  The discussion of human belief seems a good addition to 2) above, given the very broad applicability of the theory.

For every human mind there seems a hierarchy of importance of beliefs.  Whether or not one believes their sports team is going to win an upcoming contest seems pretty trivial compared to whether or not one believes their partner in life truly loves them; whether or not one believes they can accomplish a challenging task seems pretty trivial compared to whether or not one believes in God.  Moreover, human belief seems intimately entwined with human faith and trust.  Belief in an expected event, in the words of someone else, in the truth of ideas and/or assertions of all sorts, in anticipated future states of the world, and in the truth of past events all involve faith that the object of the belief is worthy of one’s trust.  In other words, I have faith that the resources leading me to believe in X, whatever X may be, are worthy of my trust to the extent I tell myself that X must be true; X is true to me because I have faith in the trustworthiness of believing in X.  Admittedly, this epistemological dissection of belief sounds esoteric, convoluted, and nuanced.  We do not normally think about either the hierarchy or the underlying philosophical assumptions of belief; we just believe, because we come into the world “wired” in our brain to do just that.  What I propose to do is to make thinking about belief less esoteric, convoluted, and nuanced — to make serious consideration of what it is we do when we believe more normal in day-to-day thinking.

In the context of expounding upon freedom of the press in the United States, Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America (The Folio Society, London, 2002) said that a majority of US citizens reflecting upon freedom of the press “…will always stop in one of these two states:  they will believe without knowing why, or not know precisely what one must believe.” (p 179)  It seems to me any area of reflection, not just freedom of the press, could have this quote applied to it, given how muddled together “thinking” and “believing” have seemingly always been in common rational mentation.  So basic is our habit of believing without intellectual meditation and discrimination, being caught between the dilemma of the two states quoted above becomes seemingly all-to-often inevitable.  The hierarchy of importance among beliefs as well as consideration of the roles faith and trust play in belief become lost in an intellectually lazy resignation to the dilemma, in my opinion.

I think we can know why we believe.  I think we can know precisely what we must believe.  Note I did not use “I believe” to start the first two sentences of this paragraph; instead, I used “I think.”  So many thinking people tend to use “I believe” in sentences the same or similar to these and thereby fall into a trap of circular reasoning; they mean “I think,” but utter “I believe.”  I think Perception Theory can help to sort out any nuances associated with belief and point the way to how believing in things that are true is no trick at all, but, rather, a sensible mode of using our mind.  And the first two sentences of this paragraph contain strong clues as to how to relieve “I believe…” and even “I think…” statements from ambiguity.   We just simply give them reliability with the beginning words “I know…,” instead of “I believe…” or “I think…”  Herein I hope to lay out the epistemological process by which statements become reliable and thereafter merit the beginning words “I know…”  At the same time I hope to show that in the name of truth, “I believe” and “I think” should not be necessarily be thrown away, but, rather, used with reticence, care, and candor.

 

I submit that the statement “I believe the sun will appear to rise in the east tomorrow morning.” is fundamentally different from the statement “I believe in the existence of God.”  Neither is irrefutable as, presumably, the speaker cannot deliver an image of a future event, nor is anything remotely resembling a deity alongside the speaker.  According to Perception Theory, any belief statement, certainly including these two, is non-veridical (At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]; Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), as a belief is a descriptive statement of some result of the mind, imagination, and other epiphenomenal processes operating within the brain.  As shown in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], such statements can resonate strongly, weakly, or not at all with the real or veridical world from which comes all empirical input into the brain through the senses.  The sun rising tomorrow resonates strongly or weakly with the veridical real world (depending upon how skeptical and/or cynical the speaker is), based upon previously experienced (directly or indirectly) sunrises; in terms of Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], it is resonating non-veridically based.  God existing is, conversely, looped non-veridically based, as defined in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016].  The second statement is purely epiphenomenal, while the first hearkens to a real empirical world; the second is a naked product of the mind, while the first links an epiphenomenal product to a presumed reality (phenomena) outside the brain.  Belief is in both cases epiphenomenal; the first is based upon empirical, veridical, phenomenal past perceptions; the second is based upon imaginative, non-veridical, epiphenomenal intra-brain biochemical activity.  In other words, sunrises are non-veridical images based upon empirical data, while God is non-veridical imagery based upon other non-veridical imagery.

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating that why we have the ability to believe in the two manners illustrated by the two belief statements of the previous paragraph is easily understood.  When our brains evolved the complexity making self-consciousness possible, assuring our survival as a small group of especially big-brained members of the genus Homo, applying our new ability to imagine ourselves in situations other than the present was not practically possible at all times; we still had to react instinctively in threatening situations, without pausing to think about the situation, else we might not survive the situation.  With, say, leopards attacking our little hunter-gatherer group during the night, to question or think about alternatives to proactively defend ourselves potentially would have made the situation more dangerous, not safer; in other words, often whoever hesitated by thinking about the situation got eaten.  Those who came up with or listened to a plan of defense without argument or disagreement tended to assure the success of the plan, as the group agreed to act quickly to avoid future nights of terror; or, often acting unquestionably directly led to successfully solving the leopard problem.  To justify ourselves individually joining the plan, we used our newly complex, self-conscious minds to suspend judgement and believe that the originators of the plan of defense, whether we ourselves, the leaders of the group, the shaman of the group, or just some unspecified member of the group, had some seemingly good idea to deal with the leopard problem; without rationalization of any sort, we believed the plan would work.  Without hesitation, we often believed out of such desperation; we had no choice but to believe in some plan, to believe in something, else we might die.  Hence, those who developed the ability to unthinkingly believe tended to be those who survived in the long run.

I submit that as human beings began civilizations and culture over the last several thousand years, the need for “knee-jerk,” unthinking belief has overall diminished.  Outside of modern totalitarian political, sectarian, or secular regimes, our brains can safely be used to question, scrutinize, vet, and adjudicate ideas, plans, positions, conclusions, etc. as never before.  As knowledge continues to increase, we can without desperation hesitate and “think it over;” immediate belief is not necessary any longer in most situations.  Belief continues to be an option we all use at one time or another, but on important issues we no longer have to suspend judgement and “just believe.”  Don’t get me wrong — spouting beliefs “right and left” on issues of little or no importance, such as what I believe will be the outcome of upcoming sporting events or of the next pull on a slot machine in Las Vegas, can be fun.  What I am saying is that we do not have to agonize over what we believe, as long as the consequences of that belief portends little or nothing at all.  What this means is that we must train ourselves to start serious, important, and substantive declarations with “I think” rather than “I believe,” as I did above, which indicates some rational thought has gone into formulating those declarations.  Moreover, it portends that “I know” is even better than “I think” in that the rational thought going into “I know” statements is so substantive and evidence-based, the statement is reliable and feels close to the “truth.”   It also means we can suspend belief indefinitely, if we choose, or we never need think belief is necessary.

Admittedly, belief does have use in motivational rhetoric, which may not be so trivial in many different individual minds.  Often consensus of agreement for group action relies upon conjuring in individual minds belief that the action is in the group’s collective best interest.  Halftime speeches in the locker room by coaches to their teams is one example that comes to mind; such locker rooms rely upon words and signs exhorting belief; evidence and reflection need not be evoked.  This common use of belief hearkens back to our evolutionary need to believe, as discussed above, but today compelling emotionally-charged adrenaline in a group is more a matter of avoiding losing a game or avoiding falling short of a group goal than it is avoiding being eaten by leopards.  The outcome of the game or striving for the goal determines if the belief was fun and justified, or disappointing and misleading.  Neither outcome might seem trivial to many, but neither outcome would justify the belief conjured to be “true” or “false.”  Locker room belief shown justified or not justified by subsequent events is merely coincidence.

We can now list some characteristics about human belief:

1)  Belief is a non-veridical activity, existing in our minds as either a) resonant non-veridically based  or b) looped non-veridically based.

2)  Belief involves a denial, suspension, or avoidance of judgment, bypassing all forms of adjudication involved in rational scrutiny; it is lazy mentation.

3)  Belief has decreased in importance as culture and knowledge has increased in importance.

4)  Belief is bereft of epistemological value; just because one believes X is true does not necessarily make X true; just because one believes X is false does not necessarily make X false.

5)  Belief is an epiphenomenal, evolutionary vestige of the human mind; it has value today only as an amusing tool in trivial matters or as a rhetorical tool in matters many consider not so trivial.

6)  Beginning with “I think” rather than “I believe” is stronger, and can indicate a closer proximity to the truth, but “I think” does not evoke the confidence and reliability of “I know;” “I think” leaves room for reasonable doubt.

7)  On statements and issues of portent, they can be consistently begun with “I know” rather than “I believe” or “I think.”  Just how this is possible is to follow:

 

Knowing why we believe, we now turn to what we should believe.  Clearly, merely believing in non-trivial matters carries little weight, and is hardly worthy of consideration in epistemological discussions.  Important ideas, plans, and systems of thought do not need belief — they need rational adjudication; we no longer need say “…we need to believe in or think upon what is true;” rather, we need to say “…I know X is true beyond reasonable doubt, independent of what I may believe or think.”  So, we actually now turn to what is worthy of our thought, trusting that in future we will say, instead of “what we should believe” or “what we should think” say “what we know is true.”

Let’s say I want to unequivocally state my conviction that my wife loves me.  To say “I believe my wife loves me.” belies the fact I have lived with the same woman for 48 years and counting, as of this writing.  To say “I believe” in this case sounds like we have just fallen in love (I fell in love with her when we were sophomores in high school together.).  It sounds as if there has not been time to accumulate evidence she loves me transcendent to what I believe.  The truth of the matter is beyond belief, given the 48 years.

If I say “I think my wife loves me.” it can sound as if I may have some doubt and/or there is some evidence that I should doubt, which are/is definitely not the case.  Clearly, in my view, to say “I believe” or “I think” my wife loves me does not do the truth of the matter justice; neither is strongly reliable enough to accurately describe the case from my perspective.

So, it is the case “I know my wife loves me.”  How do I know that?  Evidence, evidence, evidence.  And I’m not talking about saying to each other everyday “I love you,” which we do, by the way.  I am talking evidence transcendent of words.  For 48 years we have never been apart more than a few days, and at night we sleep in the same bed.  For 48 years she daily does so many little things for me over and beyond what she “has” to do.  She is consistently attendant, patient, gentle, caring, and comforting; she is true to her marriage vows daily.  I’ve joked for many years that either she loves me, or she is collecting data for writing a novel about living decades with an impossible man.  Truly, love is blind.

This example illustrates the 3-step process that has come to work for me at arriving at personally satisfying truth.  I’ve even personalized the steps, naming Step 1 for my younger son Chad when he was an elementary school student; Step 2 is named for my younger granddaughter Madison, Chad’s daughter, when she was in the 3rd grade; Step 3 is named for my older granddaughter Gabriella, my older son Dan’s daughter, when she was about 3 or 4 years old.  Hence, I call the process the Chad/Madison/Gabriella Method.  The Chad/Madison/Gabriella Method, or CMGM, bypasses “I believe” and “I think” to “I know.”  Transcendent of belief or speculation, CMGM allows me to arrive at the truth; I can confidently achieve reliability, conclusions I can count on; I can and have arrived at decisions, conclusions, and positions upon which I can not only stake my reputation, I can, if necessary, stake my life.

Yet, CMGM does not provide absolute truth, the corner into which so many thinkers paint themselves.  The results of CMGM are highly probable truths, worthy of ultimate risks, as indicated above, but never can my mortal mind declare 100% certainty.  There is always the finite probability the 3-step process CMGM will yield results shown to be false with unknown and/or forthcoming evidence in the future.  The foundation of CMGM is based upon the philosophical premise of the universal fallibility of human knowledge.

How do we arrive, then, at what we know is true, realizing it really has nothing to do with our careless believing or casual thinking?  What are the “nuts and bolts” of the 3-step process CMGM?

Step 1:  When my son Chad was in elementary school, he discovered he had certain teachers to whom he could direct the question “How do you know?” when information was presented to him; for some outstanding teachers he could ask that question without the teacher becoming upset or angry.  He also discovered you could not ask that of certain family members, Sunday School teachers, or other acquaintances without upsetting them.  It is a courageous question, one conjuring in me, his father, great pride. “C,” Step 1, of the method is a universal skepticism declaring literally everything in questionable, including this very sentence.  From the simple to the profound, whenever any declaration is stated, ask “How do you know?

If no evidence is given when answering the question in Step 1, it is the same as if it was not answered at all.  Answers like “Just because…,” “I just believe…,” “I just think….,” “They say that….,” or similar vacuous retorts are no answers at all.  Or, it is possible that some evidence might be cited.  If that evidence is presented as if it should be accepted and be beyond doubt and question because of the authority or reputation of the source of the evidence, that outcome would be taken to Step 2 just like no answer at all is taken to Step 2.  Therefore, after Step 1, one either has 1) no answer or a vacuous answer or 2) cited evidence for the answer.

Step 2:  When my younger granddaughter was in the 3rd grade and I was the subject of a family conversation, she, Madison, said “Papa Doc is big on knowledge.” (Instead of being called “Granddad, Grandfather, or Grandpa, my granddaughters call me “Papa Doc.”)  In other words, gather your own evidence in response to the results of Step 1; “get your ducks in a row” or “get your shit together” or “get your facts straight.”  If you received nothing in response to executing Step 1, then decide if you want to accumulate evidence for or against the original declaration.  If you don’t, dismiss or disregard the reliability of those who made the original declaration; “reset” for the next declaration.  If you decide to accumulate evidence, it is just as if you received evidence cited in support of the original declaration.  Evidence given in Step 1 needs a search for other relevant evidence and, if you decide to respond to no evidence given in Step 1, the same search is needed.  The ability and quality of getting your “ducks/shit/facts” in a row/together/straight is directly proportional to your education (formal or not) and to the amount of personal experience you have.  “M,” Step 2, of the method is identifying reliable information as evidence for or against the declaration in Step 1; it requires not so much courage as it does effort.  Intellectually lazy persons seldom venture as far as Step 2; it requires work, time, and personal research skills whose quantity, price, and outcome are often unknown, so some courage in the form of confidence is needed to accomplish Step 2.  It is the personal challenge of every successful scholar on any level from pre-K through days on Medicare.  On some questions, such as “Should women be given equal rights as men?” or “Who were the United States’ founding fathers?” it takes but moments for me to identify the reliable information, given my long experiences reading US history.  On other questions, such as “How did Christianity originate?” or “Why did the American and French Revolutions proceed on such different paths when both were based upon similar ideals?”, it has taken me years of off-and-on reading to identify the reliable information allowing me, in my own estimation, to proceed to Step 3.

Step 3:  Way before she started school, my older granddaughter Gabriella, listening carefully to family plans casually mentioned for the next day, voluntarily said, “Actually,…..” such-and-such is going to happen.  And, she was correct, despite her extreme inexperience.  “G,” Step 3, is boldly and confidently stating the results indicated by the evidence from Step 2 applied to the original declaration in Step 1.  If the original declaration in C, Step 1, is “X,” and if the evidence from M in Step 2 is “a,b,c,d,…..,” then Step 3 is “Actually, it is not X, but, rather Y, because of a,b,c,d,…..”  Step 3 takes both confidence and courage.  In Step 3 you are “running it up a flag pole to see who salutes it;” you are taking a chance that of those who listen, no one will agree or only a few will agree, and it is almost infinitesimal that all will agree.  Step 3 exposes you to both justified and unjustified criticism.  Step 3 “thickens your skin” and, if critical feedback to your Step 3 is justified and makes sense to you, that feedback can be used to tweak, modify, or redefine Y.  Justified critical feedback possibly can change Y so that the new version is closer to the truth than the old.

Hence, the way to reliable knowledge I’m suggesting , the way to truth, is essentially an internal, personal, mental adjudication; your head is your own judge, jury, prosecution, and defense.  CMGM is suggested as a possible “instruction list” for this adjudication; CMGM works for me, but others might well find another “formula” that works better for them.  CMGM, Steps 1,2,& 3, conjure(s) X and usually change(s) X to Y, based upon a,b,c,d,…..  Y is usually closer to the truth than X, but it is possible X “passes muster” (Step 2) relatively unchanged into Step 3.  It is not unlike how reliable knowledge is accumulated mentally in all areas of science, math, and engineering.  The advantage these three areas have over CMGM is that Y MUST be successfully tested by nature, by the real world, including the “real world” of logic in our heads, and independent investigators/testers also dealing with Y must corroborate with the same independently derived results; some Y’s from CMGM might not be as easily tested, such as “Men and women can never completely understand each other.” or “A different set of universal physical laws were required to create the present set of universal physical laws.” or “At least one other universe exists along with our own.”

 

If I want to make a truth statement, I need to begin it with “I know.”  I need to have “I know” statements backed up with evidence accumulated by personal adjudication produced by mental steps similar to CMGM.  If reliable knowledge and/or truth are not germane to my statements, then I can use “I believe” or “I think,” depending on how close to being important to me these statements are; “I believe” and “I think” have little or no epistemological content.

How do I know X is true?  Chad-as-a-child makes me ask that very question.  I can say “I believe X is true,” as a knee-jerk, off-the-top-of-my-head statement, just to add to the conversational mix; I feel no need to justify it.  Challenged to justify X, Madison-as-a-child reminds me I’ve got to do some scholarly work.  With some brief, cursory thought I might say “I think X is true,” maybe with a piece of evidence ‘a,’ but neither I nor my fellow conversationalists would think such a statement has much epistemological clout worthy of truth seekers.  With Madison’s work and Gabriella’s courage and confidence I sooner or later can say “I know Y is true, to the best of my ability;”  Gabriella-as-a-child tests my intellectual acumen; I must at some time bravely state Y publically, regardless of the consequences.  In all probability X has morphed into Y thanks to the accumulated evidence ‘a,b,c,d,…..’  Y has “epistemological meat” on its “bones.”  Y has brought me closer to the truth; it is a stepping stone with which to draw even closer.

Yes, I do believe all the time in lots of things.  But I think about certain things in whose reliability I’m more confident.  However, I can know a few things in whose reliability and truth I have as much intellectual and emotional confidence as I can muster.  For me, it is better to know than to just believe or to just think.  I am drawn to what you know, not necessarily to what you believe or what you think.

RJH

 

Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God

Development and application of perception theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016] & Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]) has opened up for me seemingly unending possibilities of understanding better almost any aspect of human knowledge and experience.  Among my favorite areas of philosophy is ontology, the philosophy of being — what is existence?, what does it mean “to be?”, etc.  Modern existentialism has sprung from ontology, now armed with human psychology, cultural anthropology, and evolutionary psychology.  Perception theory thrives upon the notion that objectivity (the veridical) and subjectivity (the non-veridical) are not “at odds,” but, rather, exist in an evolutionary symbiosis via and upon our “world-view screen of perception” within our heads (See At Last, A Probable Jesus, [August, 2015] & Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  (Another way of thinking of this screen is that it is synonymous with the German Weltanschauung.)  What this work focuses upon is the light shed upon the question “What does it mean to exist?” provided by perception theory.

For anything to exist, there must be some perception, conception, or idea of that thing on the non-veridical side of the screen — in the human mind embedded in the human brain.  I recall several years ago finding agreement with a former friend and fundamentalist Christian on this universal premise of “knowing” anything — e.g. to know God is to have certain brain activity within your mind; to know anything else is to have different brain activity within your mind.  Not having worked out perception theory at that time, I only remembered the novelty of agreement between the two of us.  I now know this novelty was but an unrecognized feeling of the compatibility of the objective and the subjective; had the symbiosis between objectivity and subjectivity been clear to me back then, our discussion would have gotten much further than it did.

The definition of existence in the first sentence of the previous paragraph must not be mistaken for an affirmation of Bishop Berkeley’s ontological “proof of God” based upon “To be is to be perceived.”  The good bishop declared that God must exist because He is the Universal Perceiver keeping the world in existence around us, even when we are not directly perceiving it, such as when we are asleep.  Perception theory declares, on the other hand, that existence creates perception, not the other way around.  Existence is a processed quality actively attributed by the non-veridical upon both the veridical (empirical data bombarding the senses) and the non-veridical (ideas generated or processed by the mind using veridical data, other non-veridical concepts, or both).  All things perceived existent either in the outside world or in our heads must be non-veridical products, even though the genesis of all things perceived lies ultimately but indirectly in prior and/or present empirical data.

 

To demonstrate all this with examples, consider the existence of four non-veridical products — the idea of a rock, of a dog, of freedom, and of God.  In other words, how does perception theory describe the existence of a rock, a dog, freedom, and God?  Four ideas are chosen in anticipation of existence falling into four distinct categories.  Perhaps other ontologists using other theories would choose another number; perhaps other ontologists using my exact same perception theory would choose another number.  Moreover, the list of possible examples representing each category is virtually endless.  No doubt every single reader would come up with a completely different list than rock, dog, freedom, and God.

First, how do we know a rock exists?  Its existence is inferred by our minds from strong, direct empirical signals sent by our senses of primarily sight and touch.  If it is a relatively small rock, we can pick it up and collect even more empirical signals; we can, for instance, measure its size and we can weigh it.  A rock does not move of any volition from within; if broken apart, and if not a geode, it seems uniformly hard and dense throughout, etc. etc.  Each rock we investigate, even if only one in our entire life, contributes to an idea of a rock that becomes a non-veridical image on our perception screen in our head, an image reinforced by subsequent direct empirical experience of any particular rock “out there,” outside ourselves; typically this subsequent empirical experience could be our picking up a rock we’ve never seen before, or someone purposely or accidentally hitting us with a thrown rock, etc.  Finally, we know a rock exists because empirical data from other human beings having to do with rocks seems to correlate with the notion that their non-veridical perception of rocks is nearly the same as our non-veridical perception of rocks.  In fact, I have never seen a human holding a rock denying it is there.  This, despite the impossibility of our ever experiencing others’ non-veridical perception, due to the subjective trap (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  In other words, other apparent perceptions of rocks assure me I am not “making rocks up” in my own head, or “If I’m crazy to say rocks exist, then apparently almost everyone else must also be crazy!”  Beings like me also behave as if rocks exist.

[Here I pause to interject and define a useful “test” to aide in contrasting and comparing the four examples of existence (the first of which is the existence of a rock just discussed).  I am going to employ three sentences with blanks to fill in with each of the examples, one at a time. The three sentences are: 1) “_______ helps me to understand the universe better.” 2) “Wars over _______ are sometimes justified.” and 3) “I have a personal relationship with ________.”]

Let’s “test” the existence of a rock with the three sentences:  1) “A rock helps me to understand the universe better.”  That is hard to argue against (i.e. there is little or no absurdity in 1) about a rock.)  Contemplating a rock is “classic” starstuff interacting with fellow starstuff (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  One of my many favorite photographs of my elder granddaughter when she was a toddler is her sitting on the patio holding a fallen leaf with both hands and staring at it intently — if that is not starstuff contemplating fellow starstuff, I don’t know what is!  Just like my granddaughter left that patio so many years ago with “leaf,” apparently, as a new non-veridical concept in her brain, my holding and staring at a rock not only reinforces my catalog of non-veridical rock concepts in my brain, my understanding of the place of rocks in my universe, the universe I assume we all share, is enriched further.  So, yes, 1) about a rock seems to be clearly true.

2) “Wars over a rock are sometimes justified.”  This one seems totally absurd, as if it is a theme of a classic Monty Python skit.  There may have been a time at least a hundred thousand years ago when a group of early Homo sapiens attacked a neighboring group that had stolen the first group’s “sacred stone,” or some such, but to kill each other over a rock is today considered insanity.

3) “I have a personal relationship with a rock.”  Again, this reeks strongly Phythonesque, but at least no one is getting hurt, it is assumed.  One thinks of the absurd fad a few years ago of owning a “pet rock.”  Good fun, if one is not serious about it, but the ones who had the most fun were the sellers of pet rocks making deposits in their bank accounts.  Similar to the pet rock “relationship” is a person’s attachment to tools, equipment, houses, automobile, etc.  For instance, in the building projects I have done, I’ve grown “attached” to tools such as my Dremel-brand rotary multi-tool.  But, like a pet rock, these inanimate objects can be replaced if lost, stolen, or worn out; replacements give the same attachment as the tool they replaced.  Hence, the relationship is to any tool that can do a specific job, not to a specific one — to the idea of efficient and practical rotary tools; to emotionally attach to a worn-out tool that no longer does the job is absurd.  I “loved” the old Dremel I had to replace, but as soon as the new one “fired up,” I no longer thought about the old one — I immediately “loved” the new one.  However, I often fondly think of a 1966 red Ford Mustang I used to own and later on sold, but from the moment I sold it, I no longer had the personal relationship with that particular car — I had and still have a “love affair” with the idea of owning a red Ford Mustang, since I never replaced the one I sold.  3) speaks of a relationship with a particular rock, not with the idea of rocks in general.

Since 1), 2), and 3) for rock responses, are, respectively, “very true,” “absurd,” and “also absurd,” we can infer something about the type existence exemplified by the existence of a rock.  If I label this type existence as strongly veridically-based, as it always harkens and focuses back to the empirical, veridical source of the non-veridical concept of rocks in our heads (“rocks in our heads!” get it?……..never mind……) — namely, the universe outside our heads that we assume exists, else we would not behave the way almost all of us do and all existences conjured in the contemplation of the universe — again, anything outside our heads — is/are strongly veridically-based existence(s).  This means existing as science assumes existence to be; the existence of a rock is a scientific example of “scientific existentialism,” a basic ontological assumption of the philosophy of science.  Strongly veridically-based existence suggests that objects like the rock exist independent of our perceiving them.  We logically infer the rock existed before anyone alive today (unless it is a man-made structure like a brick recently kilned), and, long after we are gone, long after the non-veridical perceptions, conceptions, and ideas of rocks have ceased to exist inside our heads, the rock will continue to exist.  (Even if the rock erodes considerably, we normally consider it to be the same rock; we could conceive of its deliberate or accidental destruction, such as being thrown or knocked into the magma of a volcano, but most rocks seem to survive for eons of time.)  Strongly veridically-based (rock) is the first category of existence.

 

Second, how do we know a dog exists?  Most of what is said about the existence of a rock above applies to the existence of a dog, with at least one obvious difference.  That difference is the reason I chose the idea of dog as another existence example instead of lumping the canine with the rock.  That difference is best illustrated by an event that occurred not long ago in a favorite pub I frequent:  Early one afternoon in this establishment the lady co-owner walked through holding her newest family member — a puppy that looked like a wired-haired dachshund.  We all reacted as if she was carrying a new grandchild of hers; “how cute!” and similar exhortations abounded.  The evolutionary reasons we naturally respond to puppies is not germane to the point here, but imagining how different it would have been if she had walked through holding a rock is.  Had she walked through with a rock rather than a young dog, many would have not noticed at all; if they did notice, perhaps they would have dismissed the observation immediately as not noteworthy, or again if they did notice, would think it odd for the situation and would either ask her about the rock or say nothing.

It seems obvious that the difference is that the dog is alive (“quickened”) like us while the rock is not.  Being alive (being “quick”) and animate portends a brain, and a brain portends some non-veridical potential such as humans have.  (Clearly, though plants are alive, the life forms I’m here describing are animals.)  So the strongly veridically-based existence of a dog (We can empirically interact with a dog just like we do the rock.) is modified, tweaked, or nuanced slightly; it is a somewhat different kind of veridically-based existence.  I label this type existence as quickened & strong veridically-based.  Another ontological difference between a dog and a rock is that, like all living beings, there is no notion of extended prior or future existence; like humans, dogs have very limited, terminated existences compared to rocks; brains are very finite.  Quickened & strong veridically-based (dog) is the second category of existence.

1) “A dog helps me to understand the universe better.”  Again, for the same reasons as those of 1) for a rock, this seems very, very true.  Perhaps human understanding of the universe is furthered more by the dog than by the rock because we are physically closer related to dogs than rocks; a dog’s starstuff strongly reminds us of our own starstuff — both of us are mammals, etc.

2) “Wars over a dog are sometimes justified.”  Once more, unless we are talking about an imagined early, early time of Homo sapiens, this statement cannot be considered meaningful in our modern, civilized times.  Once again for 2), absurd.

So far, the three-statement test’s responses for the dog are just like the rock’s.  But a difference appears in 3):

3) “I have a personal relationship with a dog.”  Even if one has never owned a dog, one surely has observed dog owners and knows this statement has to be very true, and not absurd. We now know that just like perception theory describes a symbiotic relationship between objectivity and subjectivity, human cultural evolution now describes the symbiotic relationship between humans and their domesticated animals, especially dogs.  (Cat lovers undoubtedly would have chosen a cat instead of a dog in this work.  I have just as undoubtedly exposed myself as a dog lover.)

Summing up, 1), 2), and 3) for dog responses are, respectively, “very true,” “absurd,” and “true.”  This shows that the difference between strongly veridically-based existence and quickened & strong veridically-based existence is simply the difference between “alive” and “not alive.”  Strong veridically-based existence of these two slightly different types is firmly planted in empirical data focused upon by perception; the rock and the dog exist scientifically, or, as we say, “The rock and the dog exist.”  Anyone who seriously disagrees with this statement is a hopeless solipsist doomed to self-exile from the rest of mankind.  Also, most of mankind would find the dog more interesting and emotionally satisfying than the rock for obvious reasons; we ontologically have more in common with a dog than with a rock.  We naturally quicken the dog, not the rock.

Before we continue, keep in mind these two slightly different forms of existence, though veridically-based via being scientifically objective, have to be generated as all human knowledge — subjectively and non-veridically generated within our brains and attributed to the perceptions from our senses we label as “rock” and “dog.”  We are convinced non-veridically that rocks and dogs exist veridically.

 

Third, how do we know freedom exists?  There is nothing “out there” outside our brains that we can see, touch, smell, etc. and label it “freedom.”  There are plenty of symbols of freedom “out there” that fire our senses, to be sure, but we would never hang a giant “FREEDOM” sign around the neck of, say, the Statue of Liberty in the harbor of New York City and declare Lady Liberty equivalent to freedom; a symbol of freedom stands in for the idea, concept, or perception of freedom, reminding us what freedom is.  Freedom, then, is not only non-veridical in origin, like all knowledge and perception (and therefore a product of our imaginative, creative, and calculative capacities inside our brains), it never corresponds one-to-one to something “out there” outside our brains existing strongly veridically-based or quickened & strong verdicially-based (existing like a rock or dog).  Yet most astute observers think of freedom as a quality and/or constituent of the “real” world of the veridical.  Freedom, then, has to be linked to the veridical universe outside our brains, but not as directly as the idea of a rock or of a dog.

Perception theory suggests freedom resonates with the veridical universe outside our heads (a universe assumed, as science assumes, to exist independent of our perception) through not only objects designated as symbols of freedom (e.g. Statue of Liberty) but through observable actions and language (citizens deciding for themselves, and political speeches and books waxing long and eloquently about freedom — the latter of which are more symbols).  In other words, we say non-veridical freedom exists indirectly in the veridical real world by resonating with objects and actions that would not logically exist without the non-veridical concept of freedom in our heads, much like unseen moving air molecules cause seen leaves on a tree to move.  Remove the wind, and the leaves don’t “move in the breeze;” if freedom did not exist, we would not see different people respond differently, as if by “free choice,” to the same situation, and we would not have Thomas Jefferson’s words in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  Freedom, then, exists as a resonating non-veridically based existence.  Resonating non-veridically based existence (freedom) is the third category of existence.

The example of freedom suggests all political, economic, artistic, and ethical theories are resonating non-veridically based.  The same goes for all scientific and mathematical theory; numbers are non-veridical constructs in our heads that resonate strongly (I don’t know an example stronger) with the veridical “real” world; mathematics is the “language of the universe;” the universe appears to us to behave mathematically, thanks to this strong resonance.  As anything non-veridically based, we make these theories up in our heads, but they are distinguished from strictly fanciful ideas by our ability to appeal to the real world of the universe and the human culture inside the universe (cite evidence, in other words) and point to objects and/or social behaviors that correlate logically with the theories in our heads, all leading to a necessary consensus in a majority of heads around us.  Without the consensus of others, resonating non-veridically based ideas remain eccentric musings, speculations, or hypotheses.  If the resonating idea did not exist, there would be no consensus evidence to cite.  The vehicle of this resonance of the non-veridical with the veridical might very well be Richard Dawkin’s “memes,” or bits of human culture that spread throughout humanity like genes or viruses or bacteria.

[We can now illustrate literally the three categories of existence so far listed.  Look at Figure 2 — A Model of the Subjectivity of Perception (The “Screen”) in Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  Rocks and dogs (processed, veridical, and empirical screen results) would be drawn in the figure in a solid font, while freedom (a subjective, non-veridical, and algorithmic screen result) would be written in the figure as the word “freedom” in a “dashed font,” if I could do such using Word.  Everything on the screen is non-veridical in origin (“made up” in our heads), but the “solids” are direct products of our senses in contact with the “real world,” and the “dashed” are indirectly but firmly connected to the “real world” (idea of a horse) or not connected at all to the “real world”(idea of a unicorn).  Again, in the world of Figure 2, rocks and dogs are solid, and freedom is dashed.]

Back to our ontological “adventure,” how do freedom’s 1), 2), and 3) read?

1) “Freedom helps me understand the universe better.”  There has to be agreement to this statement, even in disagreeing minds; leaders of democracies see freedom as something to be provided for the people and despots of all ilks see freedom as something to be denied the people.  The non-veridical concept of freedom is very useful and motivating in the real, veridical world.

Speaking of the really veridical, 2) “Wars over freedom are sometimes justified.”  So much of history screams for agreement to this 2) sentence.  No need to elaborate upon how much blood has been sacrificed in wars in which somebody’s freedom was at stake.

3) “I have a personal relationship with freedom.”  Plausibly, there would be a lot of agreement here too, even in disagreeing minds.  Citizens have a positive relationship with freedom, while despots have a negative one.

Interestingly, freedom’s three responses to 1), 2), and 3) are three resounding “true’s.”  a) Could it be that a general characteristic of resonating non-veridically based existence is the absence of “absurd” from the answers to the three questions?  (Same for other ideas like freedom?) b) Is the absence of “absurd” in the answers always characteristic of any kind of non-veridically based existence, not just the resonant kind?  Take the resonant non-veridical case of “love;” I suspect that “absurd” would probably be the logical response to 2) in the case of love (all types, including eros, philos, and agape).  Imagine the insanity of making war on a group because they refused to love your group, or, conversely, because you refused to love them!  Therefore, the answer to the a) question of this paragraph is clearly “no.”  When it comes to scientific, resonating non-veridical ideas, the answer to a) is also “no,” as fighting wars over a scientific theory (whose existence is definitely resonating non-veridically based) is as absurd as the craziest Python skit. [Imagine testing somebody’s new theory in quantum mechanics by rival, skeptical departments of physics of major universities attacking the claimant’s department instead of “hashing it out” at a conference of presentation of lab data.]  Probably it is just coincidence, then, that freedom’s responses are three “true’s.”  Perhaps the proper conclusion to draw on this matter is that responses for the resonating non-veridically based (freedom) are more varied than the responses for the strongly veridically-based (rock) and the quickened & strong veridically-based (dog).  Getting ahead of ourselves, the idea of a unicorn mentioned above is clearly non-veridical and suspiciously looks non-resonating.  Answers to 1), 2), and 3) for a unicorn must contain at least one “absurd,” if not two or three, so “no” also must be the response to b).  For all possible resonant non-veridically based existences, responses 1), 2), and 3) should be “True,” “True/Absurd,” and “True,” respectively.

 

Fourth, we come to the question of God.  I use the generic “God” to include all monotheistic and polytheistic views, in order to address the views of theists, agnostics, and atheists.  If God is used in the context of a specific religion or religious philosophy, I will naturally use the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, as this is the religious culture in which I have lived.  However, my tack in this ontological “trek” is to come up with as widely applicable conceptions as possible, so that I could just as well use “deity” instead of “God.”  So, how do we know God exists?

God exists, like the rock, dog, and freedom, as a non-veridical construct of our brain.  God is different than the other three in that God not only is not empirically verified in the “real” world outside our heads, God cannot “escape” our heads via resonance. (Symbols, words, and actions purportedly representing God’s presence can be sensed all around, but like symbols and actions for freedom, they are NOT God — if they become God to certain worshipers they are NOT ontologically God; they are idols and/or icons or rituals.)  That is, the concept of God is so epiphenomenal (a secondary, coincidental, and unintentional by-product of brain activity), there is no world-wide consistency and agreement among these symbols, words, and actions, as there are for freedom, love, or ethical behavior. The non-veridical creation of God does NOT resonate with the universe, because God is like an ultimate non-veridical heat sink or dumping ground in our minds of as much definition, blame, credit, love, mystery, origin, power, thought, etc. as we can bestow.  No resonant non-veridical existence, like the idea of freedom, is like that; resonant concepts are definitely defined and predictably correlated to specific objects and actions, not to just any and to just all objects and actions, as is the case for God.  God is said to be the answer for everything, which is absurd, as it says nothing.  God is said to be in everything, which again says nothing, as we have discovered something in everything (We call them elementary particles.), but do not worship elementary particles as God.  Therefore, the non-veridical existence of God does not resonate; it “bounces back” or loops back into the brain’s fanciful, imaginative, creative faculties.  God, then, exists as a looped non-veridically based existence, a concept perpetually defying definition out in the real world outside our heads.  God is epiphenomenalism run amuck.

God exists as Santa Claus, Satan, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, ghosts, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and fairies exist in our brains, and in our brains only.  (It is possible that some, perhaps not all the non-God listings in the previous sentence are resonant and exist as resonate non-veridically based, as will be shown below.)  Theists love and atheists despise the two words “God exists” near the beginning of the previous sentence; atheists love and theists despise the entire sentence. I would speculate that agnostics would be uneasy that theists and atheists could “sort of” agree upon something as “important” as God existing.  I just may have angered all three groups!  I’m not sure any of the three would be happy for me to join their group.

Things that exists as looped non-veridically based entities in the human brain, like God and Arthur Conan Doyle’s English garden fairies, remind us of our “imaginary friends” so many of us imagined as children.  Having imaginary friends probably evolved as culturally advantageous to psychologically deal with stressful loneliness, which is a life-long problem for such social creatures as we; hermits are not the normal examples for Homo sapiens.  The modus operandi of creating imaginary friends is related to attributing human characteristics to non-human veridical and non-veridical entities.  We call this anthropomorphism or personification of phenomenon.  Personification of looped non-veridically based entities in our head is a hallmark of our epiphenomenal abilities.  Thus, Santa Claus is the personification of the very veridical altruistic behavior of giving at Christmas time; Satan is the personification of the very veridical phenomenon of human evil.  In this sense, Santa Claus and Satan very “weakly” exist, or superstitiously exist — exist as psychological “crutches” to “handle” not-so-simple observations in the real world.  Santa Claus and Satan, as superstitious personifications, enjoy in our heads the ontological label of resonate non-veridically based, as the desire to give and human evil are both very real.  But God could be seen as the superstitious personification of everything and anything, the ultimate “imaginary friend,”  or “super-friend,” if you please.  And as a looped non-veridically based entity, God could also be an “all answer” friend, the “answer” to any and all unanswerable questions.  (Recall the analogy of the ultimate heat sink — actually, functioning like an imaginary “black hole” in our head.)  It is but a short step to God being “the” answer to all we see, to being the origin and Creator of the universe, as well as our super-friend.  This is exactly what theists do; they pray to God one moment and are speechless with pious awe the next as they stare into a telescope at the clear night sky.   What a trick we do in our heads — God is not only “with us,” he/she/it is simultaneously somehow controlling the entire universe!  At one extreme God seems close to being the same as the universe (pantheism) and at the other God seems to be the perfect “person” we wish we could be (wishful narcissism).  Effortlessly swinging back and forth between these theological extremes, we don’t have to think; we only need one answer — God.

[The only way God could be added to Figure 2 in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] would be the word “God” in dashed format; there would be no world-wide consensus on any dashed object that would represent “God.”]

Thoughts applied to this “whatever and everything” looping non-veridical entity form theology, which varies and correlates with the particular culture of the brains producing the thoughts.  “Looped” is another way of saying “faith-based,” so it is easy to see that theology is a “sitting duck” destined to become toxic due to faith-based epistemology as described in Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept. 2015], Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016], and Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016].

Now to sentences 1), 2), and 3). 1) “God helps me understand the universe better.”  Definitely not, as “the” answer to every question is no answer at all.  There is no definition, comparison, or contrasting possible with God.  Even most theistic scientists agree here.

2) “Wars over God are sometimes justified.”  Apparently so!  As the history of Europe and the Middle East (not to mention events today in the Middle East) attest.  However, this may be the response only for today’s theists.  Today’s modern atheists would definitely say “no.”  For lack of certainty, agnostics could not justify any “holy war.”

3) “I have a personal relationship with God.”  Theists say “You ‘bet-cha’!”  Atheists say “Hell, no!”  Agnostics say “Who knows?”  The looped non-veridically based existence of God placed into 3) may very well render 3) non-applicable or nonsensical.

So, for God, the three responses in possible theism, atheism, and agnosticism “triads,” are “No!,” “Yes/No/No,” and “Yes/No/?”  (Or, to correlate with the other three sets of responses, “Absurd,” “True/Absurd,” and “True/Absurd.”)  An astounding assortment of ambiguity, to say the least.  Ontology shows us, then, that God does not exist like a rock or a dog; nor does God exist like freedom.  God exists only in our heads; we have made he/she/it up, and he/she/it is so purely epiphenomenal that he/she/it becoming even weakly veridical (becoming resonant) seems impossible, even oxymoronic.

 

We can construct the following table of ontological results of this “adventure” for convenience:

CATEGORY OF EXISTENCE                       EXAMPLE          1), 2), 3) RESPONSES

Strongly Veridically-based                         Rock                   True, Absurd, Absurd

Quickened & Strong Veridically-based   Dog                      True, Absurd, True

Resonating Non-Veridically based          Freedom           True, True/Absurd, True

Looped Non-Veridically based               God      Absurd, True/Absurd, True/Absurd

Clearly, there are two main divisions of categories — the first two are veridical and the last two are non-veridical.  This is to be expected from perception theory with its assumption of “balance” between the objective and the subjective.  The veridically-based categories of existence indicate learning about the universe and avoiding war, while the non-veridically based indicate no definite pattern except being ambiguous on war and personal relationship.  Correlation between the two “veridicals” is strong, and correlation between the two “non-veridicals” is non-existent, or, at best, really weak.  Reliability, not surprisingly, seems to lie with the universe outside us, not with that within our heads — with the two “veridicals” and with the non-veridical that resonates with the real world.  Nor is it surprising to see that if you want to know about the universe, direct the non-veridical toward the veridical in your head (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  And, war is clearly a function of our heads, not of the universe.  In my opinion, war could also have more favorability with theists than with atheists or agnostics (Perhaps I’ve not met enough Quakers.).

The astute reader of perception theory might have noticed I’ve interchangeably used, pretty much throughout, the terms “mind” and “brain,” as if they are essentially synonymous.  They can be distinguished, but for the purposes of perception theory they obviously go together.  For completeness, let me mention their distinction:  perception theory is compatible with the idea that “mind” is an epiphenomenal by-product of the physiological complexity of the brain, mostly the complexity of those “johnny-come-latelys” of the brain, the  frontal lobes; the “mind” is an incidental effect of the complex brain, which originally evolved for survival of the species.  We needed to be cleverer than the animals competing for our resources and/or trying to eat us, so with the addition of animal protein from dead animals, our brains enlarged enough, on the average, to be just that — cleverer.  Human birth canals did not enlarge enough to “keep up,” so big-brained babies had to be born less mature than the babies of our primate cousins, chimps and gorillas.  This gave Homo sapiens a “long childhood” and child rearing to physical independence became a necessary part of developing human culture, contributing to the advancement of the “nuclear family” and necessarily cooperative groups, usually of extended kinship.  The imaginations of our “new” big brains had a long time to exercise in this long childhood — so much so, in my opinion, created imaginary concepts based upon veridical perceptions lead to a self-concept of “that which imagines,” or, the mind.  Our brains did not evolve “intentionally” to form a mind; they just happened to be complex enough to form a mind.

The astute reader also no doubt noticed that I described the looped non-veridical based concept of God in our heads as being epiphenomenal, a clear unintentional by-product of brain complexity — a product of our mind.  Perhaps I should have throughout the presentation of perception theory used the descriptor “epiphenomenal” with all non-veridical existence, both resonating and looped.  Our ideas and concepts exist as epiphenomenal products of our epiphenomenal mind.

As I began this “ontological adventure” of comparing the existence of a rock, a dog, freedom, and God as suggested by perception theory, I could see that the adventure had to end talking about theists, atheists, and agnostics.  Frankly, I did not at first see exactly where the adventure would leave me, a “perception theorist,” or “perceptionist” in relation to these three groups of thinkers.  Would I come down agreeing with one of the groups or two?  To my surprise, perception theory both agrees and disagrees with all three.  God exists all right, which makes the theists glad but the atheists furious (agnostics would not like this certainty of God’s existence), but God exists confined in our heads as, again, “epiphenomenalism run amuck” — a dashed word on the perception screen of our mind — as a Grand Answerer, or super-friend so super we don’t have to struggle with where we and the universe came from, as God also is the answer to that also; he/she/it is not only the Grand Answerer and Grand super-friend, he/she/it is also the Grand Creator.  God is all we need in one Grand Epiphenomenal Package, saving us from having to mentally struggle, think, and/or worry.  God only being in our heads infuriates the theists and delights the atheists (and again is too certain for agnostics).

Perception theory, then, in a way, makes the clashes, conflicts, debates, and ill feelings among theists, atheists, and agnostics seem rather silly.  The differences among them are interesting, but not worth fighting over.  Taking my cue from Arian Foster, NFL running back formally with the Houston Texans, who is the only NFL player I know to have the courage to “come out” in favor of freethinking amidst a locker room and overall profession teeming with theism, Arian says it is better to have friendly, respectful dialogue about religious beliefs than trying to convert each other.  He is, in addition to being a free agent as of this writing, in my books a perfect candidate for being called a perceptionist.

 

Finally, I want to establish that despite a lot of correlations with perception theory in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (2006, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-618-91824-9 (pbk.) or 0-618-91824-8 (pbk.)), I had developed perception theory before I read this book, and this book was written about a decade before my perception theory.  I am delighted at these independent correlations, as I’ve met Dr. Richard Dawkins personally and spent a few hours with him one-on-one, in which we did NOT discuss our religious positions.  I consider him a friend of casual acquaintance, but it is possible he has no recollection of meeting me.  I met him years ago as part of the cast of a BBC film featuring Richard that was part of the debunking of creationist fossilized “mantrack” claims along the Paluxy River near my home in Texas; my role was the “intrepid amateur paleontologist (with son),” among many amateur and professional scientists, who were showing evidence these claims had no scientific merit whatsoever. (See Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012])  I recommend all Dawkins’ books to the readers of perception theory.  The God Delusion presents the case for atheism very well for theists, atheists, and agnostics; I can only hope my presentation of the case for perception theory does something similar for all three groups.  I agree with Arian Foster: I hope in future to have meaningful, respectful, and friendly dialogue among all three groups, during which I’d love to renew my acquaintance with Richard Dawkins and start one with Arian Foster.

[Incidentally, the BBC film done along the Paluxy River, entitled “God, Darwin, and the Dinosaurs,” was so “controversial” in the U.S., it was never aired on TV’s “NOVA” PBS scientific series.  It was, however, shown in Britain (I think) and Canada.  I got to see it only because a Canadian friend of mine mailed me a VCR videotape copy he recorded off his TV!  I can only hope that public scientific sensibilities in the U.S. are now less “medieval” than then.]

RJH

 

Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications

In the presentation of a theory of human existence, Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016], it was suggested the theory could be applied to almost every aspect of human experience.  The model paints the picture of the objective/subjective duality of human existence as the interactive dual flow (or flux) of real-world, empirical, and veridical data bombarding our senses and of imaginative, conceptual, and non-veridical data generated by our mind, all encased within the organ we call the brain.  The two sides of the duality need not be at odds, and both sides are necessary; the objective and the subjective are in a symbiotic relationship that has evolved out of this necessity; what and who we are simultaneously exist because of this symbiosis that dwells in the head of every human individual.  No two humans are alike because no two symbioses in two brains are alike.

This post is to briefly demonstrate how the perception model of Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016] can be use to contribute insights into I. Development of Self-Consciousness in a Human Infant, II. Education, and III. The Origin of Politics.

 

I. Development of Self-Consciousness in a Human Infant – That the human mind has the ability to develop a concept of “self,” as opposed to “others,” is commonly seen as fundamentally human.  It might not be unique to our species, however, as we cannot perceive as do individuals of other species.  Often pet owners are convinced their dog or cat behaves as if it is aware of its own individuality.  But that might be just too much anthropomorphism cast toward Rover or Garfield by the loving owners.  So fundamental is our self-consciousness, most views would assert its development must commence just after birth, and my perception theory is no exception.

The human baby is born with its “nature” genetically dealt by the parents and altered by the “nurture” of the quality of its gestation within the mother’s womb (or within the “test tube” early on or within the artificial womb of the future).  The world display screen in the head of the baby (Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016]) has to be primitive at birth, limited to whatever could bombard it veridically and non-veridically while in the womb (Can a baby sense empirical data? Can a baby dream?  Are reflex movements of the fetus within her which the mother can feel before birth recorded in the memory of the fetus?)  Regardless of any answers to these questions, perception theory would describe the first moments after the cutting of the umbilical cord as the beginning of a “piece of star-stuff contemplating star-stuff all around it” Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016].  The event causing the baby to take its first breath begins the lifelong empirical veridical flux entering one “side” of the baby’s world display screen, triggering on the other “side” of the screen an imaginative non-veridical flux from the other “side.”  The dual flux has begun; the baby is “alive” as an individual, independent of the symbiosis with its mother’s body; its life as a distinct person has begun.

The unique “long childhood” of Homo sapiens (due to the size-of-the-birth-canal/size-of-the-baby’s-skull-after-9-months’-gestation consideration), the longest “childhood” of any species before the offspring can “make it on its own” —  a childhood necessarily elongated, else we would not be here as a species today — assures the world display screen is so primitive that the first few days, weeks, and months of each of us are never remembered as our memory develops on the non-veridical side of the screen.  It takes a while for memory generated from the empirical veridical flux to be able to create a counter flow of imaginative non-veridical flux back to the screen. Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016] indicates the dual flow is necessary for the screen to become “busy” enough to be noticed by the “mind’s eye,” that within us that “observes” the screen.  No doubt all of us first had our screens filled by perceptions of faces of caretakers (usually dominated by our mother’s face) and sensations of sound, touch, smell, and taste as our bodies adapted to the cycles of eating, eliminating, and sleeping.  Waking hours during which we were doing none of these, we began to focus on the inputs of our senses.  These are the indicators we inevitably process non-veridically how we are aware of these inputs; and just as inevitably we at some point become aware of a “perceiver,” an observer of these inputs; we have an idea of “something” is perceiving, that “something” is relating to our caretaker(s) (whose face(s) we always feel good seeing), and that “something” is us.  In each individual, the development of a subjective “I” is normally “there” in the head in a few months (exact time interval different, probably, for each individual); a distinction between “me” and “not-me” begins.  This distinction is self-consciousness in-the-making, or “proto-self-consciousness.”

That distinction between “me” and “not-me” is vital and fundamental for each piece of star-stuff beginning to contemplate his or her “fellow” star-stuff — contemplation that is constantly painting an increasingly complex world display screen inside his or her head.  Early on, anything that “disappears” when eyes are closed is “not-me;” anything that is hungry, that likes things in a hole below the eyes to quench that hunger, that experiences discomfort periodically way below the eyes, and that feels tactile sensations from different locales in the immediate vicinity (through the skin covering all the body as well as the “hole below,” the mouth) is “me.”  Eventually, “me” is refined further to include those strange appendages that can be moved at will (early volition) and put into the hunger hole below the eyes, two of which are easy to put in (hands and fingers) and two of which are harder to put in (feet and toes).  That face that seems to exist to make “me” feel better and even happy turns out to be part of “not-me” and it becomes apparent that much of “not-me” does not necessarily make “me” feel better, but are interesting nonetheless.  Reality is being sorted out in the young brain into that which is sorted and that which sorts, the latter of which is the “mind’s eye,” self-consciousness.

In time, “me” can move at will and that which can move thus is the “housing” and boundary limiting “me.”  As soon as the faces “me” can recognize are perceived that they represent other “me’s,” then the distinction between “me” and “you” begins, soon followed by “me,” “you,” and “them.”  Some “you’s” and “them’s” don’t look like other “you’s” and “them’s,” such as household pets.  Still other “you’s” and “them’s” don’t move on their own like “me, soon to be ‘I'” does, such as dolls and stuffed animals.  “You’s” and “them’s” separate into two catagories — “alive” and “not-alive.”  As quantity becomes more a developed concept, it soon becomes apparent that there are outside “me” more “not-alives” than “alives;” “not-alives” soon are called “things” and “alives” take on unique identities by learning to recognize and later speak names.  Things are also non-veridically given names, and the genetic ability to quickly learn language “kicks in,” as well as the genetic ability to count and learn math.  In a few months’ time, existence for “me” has become both complex and fixating to its mind/brain, and growing at an increasing rate (accelerated growth).  The name non-veridically given to “me” is the subjective “I” or the objective “myself” — both of which are understood to be self-consciousness.

This clearly is an approach similar to a psychology of infants, which might deal eventually with the development of the ego and the id.  This approach using perception theory allows a seamless tracing of the development of the human mind back before birth, employing a more objective approach to talking about subjectivity than possessed by some other psychological approaches; it is an approach based upon evolutionary psychology.  In addition, it is clear that the emergence of self-consciousness according to perception theory demands a singular definition of the “self” or of “I” or of “myself,” in order to avoid the problems of schizophrenia and its multiple personalities.  Perhaps the widespread phenomenon of children making up “imaginary friends” is an evolved coping mechanism in the individual child’s imagination to order to avoid schizophrenia; an imaginary friend is not the same as the self-consciousness producing such a “friend.”  Just like the individual brain, self-consciousness is singularly unique, in ontological resonance with the brain.

 

II.  Education – Perception theory is compatible with the idea of what education should be.  Education is not a business turning students into future consumers; education is not a sports team turning students into participants; education is not training to turn students into operators of everything from computer keyboards to spaceship control panels.  Instead, education is but the development of students’ minds (1. Education Reform — Wrong Models! [May, 2013], 2. Education Reform — The Right Model [May, 2013], 3. Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need [May, 2013], & Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) — A List for Their Students, Too! [Dec., 2014]).  The word “but” here is somewhat misleading, as it indicates that education might be simple.  However, education is so complex that as yet we have no science of education (#1 on the “List” in Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) — A List for Their Students, Too! [Dec., 2014]).  Perception theory indicates why education is so complex as to defy definition and “sorting out,” Defining education is like the brain trying to define its own development, or, like a piece of star-stuff trying to self-analyze and contemplate itself instead of the universe outside itself.  At this writing, I am inclined to say that a more definitive sorting out of what education is and how it is accomplished inside individual brains is not impossible, as an individual seeing his/her own brain activity is impossible, or, as another person seeing my subjective world display screen in my head is impossible (the “subjective trap”) [Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016]].

Following this optimistic inclination, education is seen as developing in individual brain/minds a continuous and stable dual flow of veridical flux and non-veridical flux upon the individual’s world display screen (Perception is Everything [Jan. 2016]).  A “balance” of this dual flow in Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016] is seen as a desired “mid-point” of a spectrum of sanity, the two ends of which denote extreme cases of veridical insanity and non-veridical insanity.  Therefore, the goal of education is to make the probability of becoming unbalanced and away from this mid-point in either direction as small as possible; in other words, education attempts, ideally, to make in the student’s mind the concentration and focusing of the non-veridical upon the veridical as much as possible.  The non-veridical vigor of “figuring out” the veridical from “out there” outside the brain is matched by the vigor of the empirical bombardment of that same veridical daily data.  Making this focus a life-long habit, making this focus a comfortable, “natural,” and “fun” thing for the non-veridical mind to do for all time is another way to state this goal of education.  Defining education in this manner seems compatible and resonate with the way our mind/brain seems to be constructed (with the necessary duality of the objective and the subjective); our mind/brains seem evolved to be comfortable with being at the mid-point without struggling to getting or staying there; self-educated individuals are those fortunate enough to have discovered this comfort mostly on their own; graduates of educational institutions who become life-long scholars have been guided by teachers and other “educators” to develop this “comfort zone” in their heads.  Education, in this sense, is seen as behaving compatibly with the structure of the brain/mind that has assured our survival as a species over our evolution as a species.  In order to successfully, comfortably, and delightfully spend our individual spans of time in accordance to the evolution of our mind/brains, we must live a mental life of balance of the two fluxes; education, properly defined and thought upon in individual mind/brains, assures this balance, and therefore assures lives of success, comfort, and delight.  He/she who is so educated uses his/her head “in step” with the evolution of their head.

We evolved not to be religious, political, or artistic; we evolved to be in awe of the universe, not to be in awe of the gods, our leaders, or our creations.  We evolved not to be godly, patriotic, or impressive; we evolved to survive so that our progeny can also survive.  Religion, politics, and the arts are products of our cultural evolution invented by our non-veridical minds to cope with surviving in our historical past.  In my opinion these aspects of human culture do not assure the balance of the two fluxes that maximize the probability of our survival.  Only focusing upon the universe of which we are a part will maximize that probability — thinking scientifically and “speaking” mathematically, in other words.  Education, therefore, is properly defined as developing the scientifically focused mind/brain; that is, developing skills of observation, pattern recognition, mathematical expression, skepticism, imagination, and rational thinking.  But it is not an education in a vacuum without the ethical aspects of religion, the social lessons of political science and history, and the imaginative exercises of the arts.  In this manner religious studies, social studies, and the fine arts (not to mention vocational education) all can be seen as ancillary, participatory, and helpful in keeping the balance of the two fluxes, as they all strengthen the mind/brain to observe, recognize, think, and imagine (i.e. they exercise and maintain the “health” of the non-veridical).  I personally think non-scientific studies can make scientific studies even more effective in the mind/brain than scientific studies without them; non-scientific studies are excellent exercises in developing imagination, expression, senses of humor, and insight, attributes as important in doing science as doing non-science.  The “well-rounded” scholar appreciates the role both the objective and the subjective play in the benefit of culture better than the “specialist” scholar, though both types of scholars should understand that the focus of all study, scientific or not, should be upon the veridical, the universe “out there.”  Not everyone can development their talents, interests, and skills in the areas of science, math, engineering, and technology, but those who do not can focus their talents, interests, and skills toward toward developing some aspect of humanity-in-the-universe — toward exploring the limitless ramifications of star-stuff in self-contemplation.

Therefore, education, Pre-K through graduate school, needs a new vertical coordination or alignment of all curricula.  ALL curricula should be taught in a self-critical manner, as science courses are taught (or should be taught if they are not).  An excellent example of what this means was the list of philosophy courses I took in undergraduate school and graduate school.  Virtually all the philosophy courses I took or audited were taught in a presentation of X, of good things about X, and of bad things about X sequence.  In other words, all courses, regardless of level, should be taught as being fallible, not dogmatic, and subject to criticism.  A concept of reliable knowledge, not absolute truth, should be developed in every individual mind/brain so that reliability is proportional to verification when tested against the “real world,” the origin of the veridical flux upon our world display screen; what “checks out” according to a consensus of widely-accepted facts and theories is seen as more reliable than something that is supported by no such consensus.  Hence, the philosophy of education should be the universal fallibility of human knowledge; even the statement of universal fallibility should be considered fallible.  Material of all curricula should be presented as for consideration, not as authoritative; schools are not to be practitioners of dogma or propagators of propaganda.  No change should occur in the incentive to learn the material if it is all considered questionable, as material continues often to be learned in order to pass each and every course through traditional educational assessment (tests, exams, quizzes, etc.).  And one does not get diplomas (and all the rights and privileges that come with them) unless one passes his/her courses.  Certainly the best incentive to learn material, with no consideration of its fallibility other than it’s all fallible, is the reward of knowing for its own sake; for some students, the fortunate ones, the more one knows, the more one wants to know; just the knowing is its own reward.  Would that a higher percentage of present and future students felt that way about what they were learning in the classroom!

The “mantra” of education in presenting all-fallible curricula is embodied in the statement of the students and for the students.  Institutions of learning exist to develop the minds of students; socialization and extracurricular development of students are secondary or even tertiary compared to the academic development of students, as important as these secondary and tertiary effects obviously are.  As soon as students are in the upper years of secondary schooling the phrase by the students should be added to the other two prepositional phrases; in other words, by the time students graduate from secondary schools, they should have first-hand experience with self-teaching and tutoring, and with self-administration through student government and leadership in other student organizations.  Teachers, administrators, coaches, sponsors, and other school personnel who do not do what they do for the sake of students’ minds are in the wrong personal line of work.

Educational goals of schools should be the facilitation of individual student discovery of likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, tastes, and tendencies.  Whatever diploma a student clutches should be understood as completing a successful regimen of realistic self-analysis; to graduate at some level should mean each student knows his/herself in a level-appropriate sense; at each level each student should be simultaneously comfortable with and motivated by a realistic view of who and what he/she is.  Education should strive to have student bodies free of “big-heads,” bullies, “wall-flowers,” and “wimps.”  Part of the non-academic, social responsibility of schools should be help for students who, at any level, struggle, for whatever reason, in reaching a realistic, comfortable, and inspiring self-assessment of themselves.  Schools are not only places where you learn stuff about reality outside the self, they are places where you learn about yourself.  Students who know a lot “outside and inside” themselves are students demonstrating the two fluxes upon their world display screen in their heads are in some sense balanced. (1. Education Reform — Wrong Models! [May, 2013], 2. Education Reform — The Right Model [May, 2013], 3. Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need [May, 2013],  Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) — A List for Their Students, Too! [Dec., 2014], & Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) — A List for Their Students, Too! [Dec., 2014])

Consequently, the only time education should be seen as guaranteeing equality is at the beginning, at the “start-line” the first day in grade K.  Education is in the “business” of individual development, not group development; there is no common “social” mind or consciousness — there is only agreement among individual brain/minds.  Phrases like “no child left behind” has resulted in overall mediocrity, rather than overall improvement.  Obviously, no group of graduates at any level can be at the same level of academic achievement, as each brain has gained knowledge in its own, unique way; some graduates emerge more knowledgeable, more talented, and more skilled than others; diverse educational results emerge from the diversity of our brain/minds; education must be a spectrum of results because of the spectrum of our existence, our ontology, of countless brain/minds.  Education, therefore, should be seen as the guardian of perpetual equal opportunity from day 1 to death, not the champion of equal results anywhere along the way.

[Incidentally, one of the consequences of “re-centering” or “re-focusing” the philosophy, the goals, and the practices of education because of perception theory may be a surprising one.  One aspect of a scientific curriculum compared to, say, an average “humanities” curriculum, is that in science,, original sources are normally not used, unless it is a history and philosophy of science course (Is history/philosophy of science a humanities course?).  I am ending a 40-year career of teaching physics, mostly the first-year course of algebra-based physics for high school juniors and seniors, and, therefore, ending a 40-year career introducing students to the understanding and application of Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion and Newtonian gravitational theory.  Never once did I ever read to my physics students, nor did I ever assign to my physics students to read, a single passage from Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Newton’s introduction to the world of these theories.  Imagine studying Hamlet but never reading Shakespeare’s original version or some close revised version of the original!

The reason for this comparison above is easy to see (but not easy to put in few words for me):  science polices its own content; if nature does not verify some idea or theory, that idea or theory is thrown out and replaced by something different that does a better job of explaining how nature words.  At any moment in historical time, the positions throughout science are expected to be the best we collectively know at that moment.  Interpretations and alternative views outside the present “best-we-know” consensus are the right and privilege of anyone who thinks about science, but until those interpretations and views start making better explanations of nature than the consensus, they are ignored (and, speaking as a scientist, laughed at).

Though many of the humanities are somewhat more “scientific” than in the past — for instance, history being more and more seen as a forensic science striving to recreate the most reasonable scenes of history — they are by definition focused on the non-veridical rather than the veridical.  They are justified in education, again, because they aid and “sharpen” the non-veridical to deal with the veridical with more insight than we have done in the past.  The problems we face in the future are better handled with not only knowledge and application of science, math, engineering, and technology but also with knowledge of what we think about, of what we imagine, of the good and bad decisions we have made collectively and individually in the past, and of the myriad of ways we can express ourselves, especially express ourselves about the veridical “real” world.  Since the original sources of these “humanities” studies are seen as applicable today as they were when written, since they, unlike Newton, were not describing reality, but only telling often imaginative, indemonstrable, and unverifiable stories about human behavior to which humans today can still relate, the original authors’ versions are usually preferred over modern “re-hashes” of the original story-telling.  The interest in the humanities lies in relating to the non-veridical side of the human brain/mind, while the interest in the sciences lies in the world reflecting the same thing being said about it; Newton’s laws of motion are “cool” not because of the personality and times of Isaac, but because they appear to most people today “true;” Hamlet’s soliloquies are “cool” not because they help us understand the world around us, but because they help us understand and deal with our non-veridical selves, which makes their creator, Shakespeare, also “cool;” the laws of motion, not Newton, are today relevant, but Shakespeare’s play is relevant today because in its original form it leads still to a myriad of possibly useful interpretations.  What leads to veridical “truth” is independent of its human source; what leads to non-veridical “stories” is irrevocably labeled by its originator.

To finally state my bracketed point on altered education as begged above the opening bracket, science, math, and engineering curricula should be expanded to include important historical details of scientific ideas, so that the expulsion of the bad ideas in the past as well as the presentation of the good ideas of the present are included.   Including the reasons the expunged ideas are not part of the curriculum today would be the “self-critical” part of science courses.  Science teachers would be reluctant to add anything to the curriculum because of lack of time, true enough, but the clever science teacher can find the few seconds needed to add by being more anecdotal in their lessons, which would require them to be more knowledgeable of the history and philosophy of science.  Hence, all the curriculum in education suggested by perception theory would be similar — cast in the universal presentation of X, of good things about X, and of bad things about X mold.]

 

III.  The Origin of Politics (The “Toxic Twin”) – Perception is Everything [Jan., 2016] makes dealing with human politics straightforward, in that politics not only originated, in all likelihood, just as religion and its attendant theology originated, it has developed along the same lines as theology so similarly that politics could be considered the “toxic twin” of theology, in that it can turn as toxic (dangerous) to humanity as theology can turn. (Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform [Jan., 2013], The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1 [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism – Part 2 [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3 [Dec., 2012], Sorting Out Jesus [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus [Sept., 2015], & Jesus — A Keeper [Sept., 2015]) In order for us to survive in our hunter-gatherer past, leaders and organizers were apparently needed as much as shamans, or proto-priests; someone or a group of someones (leader, chief, council, elders, etc.) had to decide what would be the best next thing for the collective group to do (usually regarding the procuring of food for the group’s next eating session or regarding threats to the group from predators, storms, or enemy groups over the next hill, etc., etc.,); just as someone was approached to answer the then unanswerable questions, like where the storms come from and why did so-and-so have to die, leaders of the group were looked to for solving the group’s practical and social problems.  In other words, politics evolved out of necessity, just like religion.  Our non-veridical capabilities produced politics to meet real needs, just as they produced religion to meet real needs.

But, just as theology can go toxic, so can politics and politics’ attendant economic theory.  Voltaire’s statement that those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities applies to political and economic ideology just like it does to gods and god stories.  Anything based purely upon non-veridical imagination is subject to application of Voltaire’s statement.  However, I think politics has an “out” that theology does not.  Theology is epistemologically trapped, in that one god, several gods, or any god story cannot be shown to be truer (better in describing reality) than another god, other several gods, or another god story.  Politics is not so trapped, in my opinion, as it does not have to be “attached at the hip” with religion, as has been demonstrated in human history since the 18th century.  Politics can be shown to be “better” or “worse” than its previous version by comparing the political and social outcome of “before” with “after.”  No political solution solves all human problems, if for no other reasons than such problems continually evolve in a matter of weeks or less, and, no political installment can anticipate the problems it will encounter, even when it has solved the problems of the “before.” Nonetheless, I think one can argue that the fledgling United States of America created by the outcome of the American Revolution and the birth of the U.S. Constitution was better than the colonial regime established in the 13 colonies by the reign of George III.  The same can be said about the independent nations that emerged peacefully from being commonwealths of the British Empire, like India, Canada, and Australia, though the USA, India, Canada, and Australia were and are never perfect and free from “birth pangs.”

What are the political attributes that are “better” than what was “before?”  Many of the references cited just above point out many of them, a list I would not claim to be complete or sufficient.  Overall, however, the history of Western and Eastern Civilization has painfully demonstrated, at the cost of spilling of the blood of millions (Thirty Years’ War, Napoleonic Wars, World War I, World War II, etc.) that theocracies and monarchies are “right out.”  [Here I am applying the philosophy that history is not so much a parade of great individuals, but, rather, is more apply seen as a parade of great ideas — a parade of non-veridical products much better than other such products.]  Democracies only work for small populations, so a representative form of government, a republic, works for larger populations of the modern world.  Clearly, secular autocracies and dictatorships are also “right out.”  Class structure of privilege and groundless entitlement still rears its ugly head even in representative republican governments in the form of rule-by-the-few of power (oligarchies) and/or wealth (plutocracies).  To prevent oligarchies and plutocracies, elected representative government officials should be limited in how long they can serve so that they cannot become a political professional class (limited terms of office); in other words, politicians should be paid so that they cannot make a profit.

[Almost the exact same things can be said of government work staffs and other non-elected officials — the bureaucrats of “big government.”  Terms of service should be on a staggered schedule of limitations so that some “experience” is always present in both the elected and their staffs; bureaucrats should be paid in order that they cannot become a professional class of “bean-counters” at tax payer expense; public service should be kept based upon timely representation, and civil service should be kept based upon a system of timely merit; politicians are elected by voters, and bureaucrats are selected by civil service testing — both groups subject to inevitable replacement.]

This, in turn, calls for severe restrictions on lobbying of elected officials of all types (making lobbying a crime?).  Preventing oligarchies and plutocracies of any “flavor” can only be effective if the overall political philosophy applied is a liberal one (“liberal” meaning the opportunity to achieve wealth, power, and influence while simultaneously working so that others around you (all over the globe) can achieve the same, all without the unjust expense to someone else’s wealth, power, and influence).  The philosophy of such a liberal posture I call “liberalist,” meaning that freedom, equality, and brotherhood (the liberte, egalite, and fraternite of the French Revolution) are all three held constantly at equal strength.  When one or two of the three are reduced at the relative boosting of two or one, respectively, then things like the atrocities of the French Terror, the atrocities of fascism, the atrocities of communism, or the atrocities of unregulated capitalism result.

[The word “equality” in political philosophy as used above must be distinguished from the “equality” issue of education in II. above.  When the US Constitution speaks of “all men are created equal,” that does not mean equal in knowledge, talents, and skills; rather it means a shared, universal entitlement to basic human rights, such as, in the Constitution’s words, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  We all have equal rights, not equal educational results; equal rights does not mean equal brain/minds — something the Terror tragically and horribly did not grasp; equal rights to education does not mean equal knowledge, talents, and skills for graduates — something too many “educators” tragically do not grasp.  Perception theory would suggest political equality is different from educational equality; the word “equality” must be understood in its context, if the appropriate adjective is not used with the noun “equality.”  The difference is crucial; political equality is crucial to the healthy social organization of the species, while educational equality (equal results, not equal opportunity) is tragic and harmful to the individual brain/minds of the species.  Awareness of this difference, or always making this semantic distinction, should avoid unnecessary confusion.]

Certain Western European countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, have shown the future of political systems toward which all nations should strive in accordance to liberal, liberalist views.  If anything is needed by the population at large, then a socialist program is called for to deal with all fairly — such as social security, free public education through university level, postal service, public transportation, universal single-payer health care, public safety, state security, and “fair-share” taxation of all who earn and/or own.  No one is allowed to achieve personal gain through regulated capitalism or through leadership in any of these socialist programs except upon merit, meaning his/her gain (in wealth, power, and/or influence) is not at the unjust loss of someone else, and is based solely upon the successful individual’s talents, skills, and knowledge; competition in capitalism and program leadership is both necessary and in need of limitations. It is OK to “lose” in the game of capitalism, as long as one loses “fair and square;” every business success and every business failure must be laid at the feet of the entrepreneur.  The political system with its social programs is merely the crucible of both individual success and individual failure, continually monitoring and regulating the crucible so as to assure perpetual and equal opportunity for all.  Regulation of the political system crucible is achieved by electors of political leadership and program leadership — regulation keeping the programs, like capitalism, perpetually merit-based, fair, and just.  This is a system of “checks and balances” toward which every political system should strive.

History has taught us that the foregoing is not a description of some “pie-in-the-sky” Utopia; it is a description of what history has painfully taught us as “the way” of avoiding a theology-like toxicity for politics.  Politics is not doomed to be theology’s “toxic twin;” it will be so doomed if the bloody lessons of its past are not heeded.  In my opinion, it really is not complicated: it is better to liberally trade, tolerate, and befriend than to conservatively exploit, distrust, and demonize.  Politically speaking, we need to securely develop a xenophilia to replace our prehistoric and insecure xenophobia.  This “xeno-development” is one of the great lessons taught by the modern world over the last 300 years, and this “xeno-development” is begged by perception theory.

RJH

 

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