Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the tag “politics”

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

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.

Egalite: A Qualified Virtue

For years I’ve pondered why the French Revolution devolved into the Terror despite the fact its values (liberte, egalite, and fraternite) paralleled nicely those of the American Revolution (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The answer came slowly to me with further reading (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist [March, 2012]).  In a nutshell, the Terror destroyed the idealism of the French Revolution over the “middle” virtue, egalite, or egalitarianism.  Robespierre’s regime began labeling anyone who was different, who stood out from the crowd for any reason (greater skill at something, for instance), as being counter-revolutionary, and, as such, he/she became a potential victim of “Madam” guillotine.  In order to avoid the possibility of the “middle” virtue being elevated at the expense of the other two a la Robespierre and have such a tragic event be associated with the term “liberal,” I suggested in the post cited above the political position of “liberalist,” wherein all three virtues must be held co-equal; one or two cannot dominate at the expense of two or one.

Another horrific example of mutilating the intended meaning of egalite is the history of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, outlined from “the inside,” from personal observation, by Chenda Tom in her book He Knows The Plan, Lulu Printing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-387-47663-3.  In the 1970’s the radical left-wing Khmer Rouge group, led by the despot Pol Pot, suddenly took over Cambodia and destroyed the country’s society in the name of forcing everyone to be “equal.”  The entire population was stripped of professional and occupational designation and forced to live and work in rural camps reminiscent of the Japanese determent camps of WWII.  Khmer Rouge “soldier/overlords” allowed the sick and starving to die, as well as killing indiscriminately at any provocation they imagined, resulting in the filling of mass graves wherein countless skulls began to accumulate; over two million died, one quarter of the entire Cambodian population.  One died in the Killing Fields if one was not judged “equal.”

Over my teaching career of 40 years, both in public and private school, I was fascinated how parents expected their student children to emerge as intellectual equals, as if the high school diploma made a given student equally as smart as the next.  Many schools resisted ranking students academically, though not successfully, as colleges and universities wanted to know how applicants compared with their peers in the classroom.  Though not as egregious as the Terror or the Khmer Rouge, this resistance is also indicative of a misunderstanding of equality in the education of young minds.

So terribly can equality be distorted, George Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm as a satire of egalite and equality well before the advent of the Killing Fields.  This classic is summarized in the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Clearly, the ideal of egalite or egalitarianism needs to be qualified.

 

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are

endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..”

Note the Declaration does NOT say that all Men will turn out equal, just that we all START OUT equal.  Thus our society and its sub-units, like schools, are obliged to give all of us equal opportunities and rights AT THE BEGINNING of our citizenship or school, NOT at the end.  How we end up is up to us, and our government will not, presumably, behave to give certain citizens advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; in other words, in terms of the French Revolution, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.  Exceptions to both American and French egalitarianism for all citizens are instances when the citizens forfeit their opportunities and rights given them at the beginning by violating the law — committing a crime, say.

It is like a race where everyone lines up at the same, fair starting line understanding there is no assurance that everyone will win; breaking the rules of running etiquette during the race will disqualify a runner or runners from winning the race.  The parents of school students I mentioned above are like spectators of the race expecting all runners or most of the runners to cross the finish line at the same time.  The Terror or the Khmer Rouge is like forcing the entire entourage of racers to step across the finish line simultaneously.  If the race is a metaphor of life, the Terror or the Khmer Rouge prevents the racers from “living.”

So, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen give the citizen a QUALIFIED equality — the right not to be handicapped at the start of citizenship and the right to achieve as much as possible without violating the rights of fellow citizens.  Chances are our crossing the finish line — making the most of our citizenship — will be a solitary one, with many ahead of us and with many behind.

Just like liberty or freedom is not absolute (We cannot do anything unlawful and/or at the expense of the liberties of our fellow citizens.), egalite is not absolute (We are equal only in opportunity and rights.).  Take advantage of your egalite if you are a citizen of the United States or France; your rights and opportunities at the start are indeed the same; how and when you cross the finish line is up to you; if you do your best, you can celebrate the finish line regardless of how your finish compares with others’.

 

As we physicists like to say, “That is the theory.”  Often theory and experiment, or theory and practice are far from being the same.  Ideally, the movement of establishing equality in the newly formed United States would begin as soon as the American Revolution ended.  Just look at the history of women and of African-American former slaves in the United States to see how far from ideal was the progress of egalite in our country.  Slavery was not abolished until 1863; women were not able to vote until 1920, after WWI; widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community did not enjoy the protection of law until the 21st century; reparation to Native American communities did not begin until well into the 20th century; women still do not enjoy equality with men in the work force; xenophobia seems to trump xenophilia still as the reaction to immigration into the US.  The road to equality in the USA is still filled with roadblocks of misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, traditional unjust entitlements, and irrational, a-historical nationalism.

As inertia-filled the movement toward equality is, the good news is that there has been reformist progress — the liberal spread of rights and privileges despite conservative resistance — in our country over the last 242 years.  I do not know enough modern French history to know how liberal reform and progress in the brain-child of the French Revolution compares, but I think France can make similar claims.  I am sure that in the long run both countries have avoided the horrors of Robespierre and Pol Pot — avoided the distortions of an unqualified egalite.  Just remember, you two countries, keep all three, liberte, egalite, and fraternite, equally important and equally strong.

RJH

 

To Run or Not to Run, That is the Question

Recently I turned down an opportunity to have my name put on a Democratic ballot for an office whereon a Republican is running unopposed. This is part of the Democratic strategy in Texas to eventually turn the State blue, a strategy I see as the Texas plan to organize the Resistance to Trump on the way to getting our country progressive again. Why would I turn down participating in a cause in which I believe so strongly? As the new year 2018 ushers in, to try and answer this question would be cathartic to me personally and perhaps interesting or entertaining to my readers.
As I told Dr. Jon Reese in my “no thank you” Facebook post, I appreciate the flattering thought that young activists in the Democratic Party would think me worthy. But I cannot run for any public office without the full, enthusiastic support of the love of my life, my wife Sylvia. Briefly, Sylvia simply cannot function as a politician’s wife; she avoids the give and take of differences of opinion, belief, position, and philosophy. This is not to blame her at all for my declining. The better reason for my not running is the subject of the rest of this post.
Let me quote at length from my reference to Jon, the post Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, which I posted on my website www.ronniejhastings.com in March of 2012:
“Beginning as far back as high school, I have been called or labeled a progressive, a liberal, a pinko, a communist, a socialist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Democrat, a secular humanist, a scientific revolution freak, a political revolution freak, an agnostic, an atheist, a Christian, a Texas-phile, a Texas Aggie, a Marxist, a liberation theologian, a Southern Baptist, an anti-cleric, a nuclear physicist, an arrogant high school teacher, a great teacher of math and physics, an unqualified math teacher, a painter of Texas flags on barns and sheds, a history freak, an American Civil War buff, an unintentional expert on Cretaceous fossil fish teeth, a barbed wire artist, a country redneck, a designer and builder of porches and decks out of composite materials, a male chauvinist pig, a land owner, a student of comparative religion, a gadfly, a Teutonic freak, a Napoleonic freak, a lover of ’66 red Mustangs, a coon hunter, a rock mason using only unaltered, natural-shaped rocks, an optimist with rose-colored glasses, a member of a sneaky group of pranksters, an amateur dinosaur track hunter, a militaristic war-hawk, an Obama-phile, a dinosaur freak, a rock-and-roll freak, a painter of the Lake Cisco dam, a heavy metal music freak, a cancer survivor, an anti-creationist, an evolutionist, an anti-intelligent designer, a hippie, a PhD, an absent-minded professor, an empiricist, a philosophy-phile, an epistemology freak, an incurable screamer of rock songs in karaoke bars, a beer connoisseur, a protester of stupid rules, a feminist, an insatiable reader of non-fiction books, a war gamer, a lover of all things Cisco, Waxahachie, or College Station, an astronomy teacher, a fanatical football and baseball fan, a driver of tractors and trucks, and a writer of ‘improbable histories.’” Since then I’ve been called on social media an “intellectual” and an “idiot.” I’ve even recently been called “narcissistic” because I had the “gall” to write my take on the origins of Christianity, which I wrote to my personal intellectual and emotional satisfaction (also found on my website); I didn’t write it to convince or convert anyone — I thought it might help others to do something similar and give me some feedback (Talk about cathartic! I highly recommend it.).
Now, imagine someone with all these labels, given sincerely, or as a joke, or anywhere in between, running for public office! An opponent could just go down the list throwing mud, and my campaign would be spent putting out “brush fires” caused by one or more of these labels. Even if my wife was an enthusiastic supporter of my campaign, I had all the campaign money I needed, and I had a great and massive PR staff eager to do battle with all the barbs that would be hurled, it would be exhaustive, even if fun, with little time, effort, and money available to get my message and position out to my constituents.
And I am to blame for being such a nightmare candidate.
Yeah, I admit I’ve spent most of my life cultivating my image as being hard-to-label. I never sweated the contradictions with which I was described, as I’ve always figured that if it was important for someone to know the real me, they would approach me and I would be happy to oblige them. It all is based upon the fact I’ve never known anyone, living or dead, like whom I would want to be; I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin, never envious of anyone; I’ve never worried much about what others might think of me. Instead of having heroes in my life (The only exception I’ve claimed is the great Brave slugger Hank Aaron.), I’ve cherry-picked attributes from other people’s lives which I admired and tried to make those attributes my own.
Example of cultivating my image: As a Senior in high school, I was reading a copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” a paperback copy with a big honking swastika on the cover in the athletic field house while waiting on a washer of players’ clothing to finish up. In comes a visiting team to use the field house and gazes suspiciously at my reading selection. When asked if I was a Nazi, I answered in a non-committed way, and my good M-4 buddy Bob Berry and fellow athletic trainer/manager, who knows me very well and who arrived upon the scene, did not blow my ambiguous cover toward the strangers.
Example of cherry-picking attributes: Despite the causes they fought for, I always admired the strategic and tactical skills of such leaders as Hannibal, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel. Such admiration (bolstered by the fact they are all studied in classes of military strategy in all countries) has nothing to do with my admiration or condemnation of the causes for which they fought.
Little did I know that I’ve lived a life making me a maverick political candidate, a candidate making maverick politician John McCain look like a “yes” man. Psychologically, I suppose, it all stems from the fact I am an only child not wanting ever to be like anyone else, and relishing the thought that I am seen by others as being different. I really think that the more perplexing I seem to others, the more different I am to them. I don’t think this is narcissistic at all, as self-deprecation and self-denigration have always been tools at my constant disposal; I think I take criticism from my friends well; I could not have executed the things I’ve done without both their encouragement and their criticism.
Put succinctly, a candidate needs to sow the seeds of transparency; but I have a tendency to sow the seeds of opaqueness — of being hard to figure. Looking at me is like looking through a glass darkly; my waters are muddy — you can’t see very far. I hold my cards close to the vest. Good candidates make listeners and readers clap; I would more than likely make them scratch their heads.
I feel comfortable with self analysis, unafraid of what I might find. For instance, I’ve discovered recently why I like the game of American football, and the reason is not pretty. It’s the violent collisions of blocking and tackling. Give me a game of rugby over a game of soccer any day! I never played the game of American football and I tried to keep my sons from playing it; I don’t want to violently collide with others — I want to (voyeuristic-ally?) watch others do it.
In that vein of self-analysis, as I also told Jon, I consider myself an independent, not a Democrat or Republican; I am democratic, not Democratic. And, this stems from the fact I tend not to be a “company” guy, a “party” guy, or a “team” member. Needless to say, I am not a “yes” man; if anyone wants my respect, they must earn it; I do not give respect just to anyone. In spite of the fact I’ve never voted for a Republican candidate for President in my life, I’ve never supported every plank of any Democratic platform. Should I serve as a Democratic office holder, I would never support an issue the party touts if I did not personally agree with it. An office itself is no more worthy of respect than the person occupying it at any particular time. The American Constitutional political ideals establishing the office ARE worthy of perpetual respect. I support many causes and organizations, always tentatively, but am most loyal to the M-4, the group of high school buddies formed while we were in high school, as well as my life-long friend Dr. Bill R. Lee. (See Fun Read on my website.)
I am a septuagenarian, a peer of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of Donald Trump — a “baby-boomer” forged in the three fires of the three social revolutions that exploded in the 1960’s — 1) civil rights movement, 2) women’s movement, and 3) anti-war movement; I was inoculated by all three revolutions, and all three “took.” Religiously, I use the phrase by Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” I think the same thing could be applied to me politically, “I am a party of one.” I don’t know of anyone who agrees with me in the areas of religion and politics. And, again, I don’t try to convert or evangelize any to my views, but I do try unashamedly to get all to think and research. But, and here is where I hope my difference makes a difference: It’s OK if no one agrees with me. I’ve laid out my positions on religion, politics, and philosophy on my website if anyone wants to label me with “applicable” labels. (See Sticks and Stones…. referenced above, my five-part series on the origins of Christianity, and my six-part series on Perception Theory, all on the website www.ronniejhastings.com) I can be accurately labeled; you just gotta read what I’ve laid out for any to consider.
For anyone wanting a candidate, I, again, am probably your worst nightmare.

 

However, living as long as I have, I am not a political virgin. 1) I was in student body politics throughout high school in the 1960’s through the Student Council, including multiple class presidencies, and Vice-President and President of the student body. 2) I was department chair for both the science department and the math department in Waxahachie High School. (‘70’s through ‘90’s) 3) I was on the Texas State Textbook Committee during the ‘90’s, including the chair of the physics committee, selecting textbooks for all Texas public schools in the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics.
In these capacities, it must be said, I was accused of falsehoods, which I politically handled through a combination of humor and self-denigration. Contact me if you want details on these events. Like the Farmers Insurance commercial, “I’ve seen a thing or two.”
If my political experiences could be of help in the progressive movement in local, State, or national politics, I would be more than happy to serve behind the scene as an adviser and strategist.
If a miracle occurs and my wife changes her mind and becomes the ideal politician’s wife and if a second miracle occurs and somehow some savvy political caucus discovers I’m not going to be controversial after all, then I would consider running in a local school board election or running for the Texas State Board of Education, both positions in which I would relish fighting for a couple of my all-time political passions — rights of students and reform of teacher certification.

 

Whew! Sorry for the lengthy self-analysis………I think I feel better…………………….
RJH

21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”

 

I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.

RJH

Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election

As I join all those who want our President-elect Donald J. Trump to successfully represent all Americans, regardless whether or not we voted for him, I would be disingenuous were I not forthcoming with some observations suggesting themselves in the wake of his election.

I hope my remarks here will supplement those made on Facebook already by fine contributors such as Dr. Rick Covington, Kyle Kent, and Ronnie Applewhite.
First, some particulars:

1) Polls in this election seemed out-of-sync with the population supposedly represented by the sampled. It was as if Trump supporters either avoided being part of the sample or gave false information to the sampler.

2) I think there was a false equivalency developed between the liabilities of the two top candidates fueled by misogyny. Paraphrasing Joy Behar of ABC TV’s The View, “This election shows men can get away with anything, while women can get away with nothing.” Seemed like a double standard to me. In other words, being reckless with e-mails pales in comparison with talking about grabbing a woman’s you-know-what.

3) Trump’s many liabilities were scandalously overlooked if even only one of his positions was zealously supported. A great example was his pro-life position. Pro-life, evangelical, “one-issue” Christians actually supported him, overlooking his tendencies of demeaning women to the point of sexual assault. These Christians, in my opinion, prostituted themselves — “sold their soul” if you please — because “the Devil” said he was against abortion. In this manner, they also “sold out their American citizenship” by siding with the intolerant pro-life position that denies women the right to make their own decisions about their bodies; pro-choice does not force an action or inaction on a woman concerning abortion; it is up to the woman; pro-choice protects women’s Constitutional rights. (See The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013] & The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013])

4) It seems to me that anyone who listened to Trump’s speeches and who took any history in school would see clear parallels between his campaign and that of a fascist dictator. His disdain of our time-honored peaceful transfer of power (if he lost) was incredibly and unprecedentedly disrespectful to our remarkable democratic traditions. Many of his poses behind the podium reminded me of Mussolini. I would encourage any of you who have not done so to read about Hitler’s rise to power in William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Incidentally, it seems that Trump is not as bright an intellect as Mussolini or Hitler, as shown by Trump’s uncanny susceptibility to Putin’s pandering to Trump’s ego.)

5) Just like Al Gore in 2000, Hillary Clinton won the overall popular vote in 2016, but lost the election. Has American universal suffrage progressed enough to here in the 21st century for us to consider doing away with the archaic Electoral College and replace it with a nation-wide final tally?

6) The “racial vote” of white votes against Clinton in 2016 reminded me of the “racial vote” of African-Americans for Obama in 2008 and in 2012, and, curiously, to the white votes, “racial votes,” for segregation in the 1960’s, in the attempt to thwart the Civil Rights movement.

6) above is a nice transition to my final, more general and philosophical point:

One way of looking at our country’s history is to see it as a slow progression toward universal suffrage for everyone above voting age. As we were all reminded recently, when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908, neither women could vote nor were black players or players from Latin American countries allowed in the major leagues.

The 2016 Presidential Election reminds us that it possible to step backwards in this progression, even in the 21st century. I say we went back to parallels with the 1950’s, when white men ruled in the United States. I am embarrassed to say that I am now in the same demographic as the political “rulers” of the ‘50’s — an old white fart! However, I am proud to say that I am a Baby Boomer for whom the three social revolutions of the 1960’s, 1) the women’s movement, 2) the Civil Rights movement, and 3) the anti-war movement, “took.” (Historically 1) was the most successful of the three, in my opinion.) As I’ve said elsewhere, I can consider myself a reformed high school male chauvinist pig, who “saw the light” on a university campus.

In case you haven’t noticed, “We’ve come a long way, baby!” White men don’t rule anymore; nor do all whites or skins of any other hue. We have become the vision of our progressive Founding Fathers: a social melting pot of many, many diverse and different origins, colors, cultures, creeds, views, affiliations, bank accounts, and opinions — each group with exactly the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as any other group.

Hillary Clinton failed to “break the glass ceiling” for women in our country, I am sad to say. The opportunities for my granddaughters may not arrive for them as soon as I had hoped, I’m also sad to say. We now have to work our way out of the “new 50’s” back to the true equality for women in our country the election of a woman President will portend. May this “breaking” election come for the generation of my granddaughters, if not sooner.  (See You Go Girl! (II), [March, 2012])

For the sake of our country, Mr. President-to-be-inaugurated-in-Jan-2017, please try and be the President of us all, and may we all unite to help you be so. Given the media and the plethora of hacked e-mails in our midst, we will know if you are trying or not.

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

 

Presidential Election 2016 — NOT Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils

I am trying to project myself forward to Election Day in November emerging from the voting booth having voted for Donald Trump.  I can only imagine emerging in that scenario in an extreme state of self-loathing.  How could I live with myself after that?  Certainly not with a clean conscience!  I understand the President of Mexico comparing Trump with behavior reminiscent of Mussolini or Hitler; El Presidente is not alone.  I am no expert on fascism, but I do know enough (See Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012] &  The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]) to recognize demagoguery, cult of personality, propaganda, the police state, flip-flopping on issues to accommodate the immediate audience, and pandering to the vulgar, violent, and uninformed.  And like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is like a “whiny little bitch” (to use Bill Maher’s words), spreading fear, insecurity, and intimidation wherever he goes.  (He had to be a playground bully when he was in grade school.)  Moreover, Trump admires the heavy-handed despotic governments of Russia and North Korea; Putin knows all he has to do is flatter Trump and Donald will roll over like a puppy to get his tummy scratched; DJT is like “Putin’s Puppy.” And, as if this is not enough, Trump would have a religious test for entry into the country, and, perhaps, and ideological one as well, using, presumably, something he calls “extreme vetting.” (My granddaughters know what that means — torture.) I join Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in asking Donald Trump, “Have you ever read the US Constitution?”  Trump must have been asleep in his American history, world history, civics, and government classes and had someone else take his exams for him!

Trump’s base of support is sadly all too familiar to me — all I have to do is look in the mirror.  His base is what used to be called the Tea Party, mostly made up of old white farts like me.  Trump’s base is made up primarily of my generation with whom the three-pronged social revolution of the 1960’s — 1) the anti-war movement, 2) the civil rights movement, & 3) the women’s movement — did not “take.”  That all three “took” with me marks me as one of the fortunate of we “Baby Boomers,” we “children of the ’60’s.”  I’m truly sorry more of my generation did not become politically informed, enlightened, and “savvy.”  We should know better than paying attention to a whiny little bitch.

My mirror also reminds me Hillary Clinton is also a “child of the ’60’s.”  But all three prongs of the revolution “took” with her also; she is also one of the fortunate.  I would have voted for her just on the basis she declared herself a Beatles fan.

Those for whom the 3-pronged revolution did not “take,” like Trump, are anachronistic — living in the past, longing for the “good old days” of the 1950’s in which we Baby Boomers grew up.  Ah, yes, the 1950’s, when white males “ruled,” Jim Crow laws were the norm, and you couldn’t even own your household telephone; people like Trump, in my opinion, long for the days depicted in the annual movie classic A Christmas Story.

Hillary Clinton and I know the world can never return to the 1950’s.  White males are not the majority in power today, as our national demographics indicate it should be.  She began as a “Goldwater girl,” and was smart enough to “see the light” early on.  Her record parallels the optimism of JFK’s Camelot years, LBJ’s vision of a war on poverty, Jimmy Carter’s faith in American ideals, her husband Bill’s golden touch with the economy, and Obama’s ability to transform society toward a just universal suffrage on the wings of a surging stock market.  She is the same person today as she was so many years ago before she married Bill and was registering Latino voters in far south Texas.  Witnessing from the other side of her marriage the inner workings of the White House, serving as a US Senator, and serving as Secretary of State, no living politician has had more preparation to lead than she.  I agree with those who say that never in the history of the US has there been a person more qualified to be our President than Hillary Clinton.  On top of all this, she is a grandmother.  We’ve needed the wise hand of a bright, gifted grandmother in the Oval Office for centuries.

Yet, the election is cited as the choice between two terrible alternatives, two evils, if you will.  Clinton is demonized (Trump calls her “crooked,” a “liar,” and even a “devil.”) as if she is as culpable in awful social prejudices as Trump.  But Trump appears racist and misogynous, while she appears tolerant and inclusive.  Why is this?  My generation, Trump’s base, is full of what we called back in 1960’s “male chauvinist pigs.”  And my generation is famous for passing down anti-women bigotry to its sons and grandsons.  A few years ago, when Hillary was running for the Senate, I was standing in line waiting to be transported to my seats at a Texas A&M University football game, when I overheard a couple of men in their late 20’s or 30’s trying to outdo each other in accusing Hillary for sins that seemed to exceed those blamed on her husband when he was President.  The only reason I could see these two sinking into such fanciful hyperbole is that they were scared, scared of a smart and powerful woman.

The liabilities of Trump to me are personally and politically unethical, and detractors of Hillary want her to have the same kind of liabilities.  That simply doesn’t wash, in my opinion.  Hillary’s liabilities, from the days of Whitewater to today’s accusations around servers and foundations seem strained and “spun” to sound much worse than they turn out to be under adjudication.  Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent (in my opinion, wasted) on Whitewater and on Benghazi and on her e-mails as Secretary of State, trying to find “dirt” on her — all to no avail.  Yet, her political enemies assume she HAS to be guilty, as if she is held to some other standard than the rest of us.  Hillary’s only “sin” is that she is a smart, powerful woman.  She intimidates so many men, so many “male chauvinist pigs,” just as Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel did and does.

On the other hand, a failed businessman like Trump (check into his bankruptcies) only needs to be gently “spun” and out will fly dirt on his outsourcing business to foreign countries, his hiring of alien workers on his projects, and his refusal to pay contracted companies for work claimed unsatisfactory to the point the companies are forced out of business.  He is a bad example of a businessman; imagine how bad a President he would make!  So many of my generation think we need a businessman as President.  That is almost insane to me; we need a statesman and a leader of fellow elected officials, not a businessman.  Our Constitution is about a unique social experiment of democratic government operating as a representative republic, not about business.  Hillary is that statesman (stateswoman?) and leader we need.

Hillary is her own person; she would be intimidated or manipulated by no one, so powerful and smart is she.  She will never be fooled by flattery, like you-know-who, like “Putin’s Puppet.”  I remind you just how far-sighted and wise she is.  Had she not forgiven him and divorced Bill over the Monica scandal (nothing impeachable about all that; Bill Clinton did not violate his oath of office), she would never have been able to run for President.  This country has not progressed enough to accept a divorced woman as President like we’ve accepted a divorced man (e.g. Ronald Reagan) as our leader.  She has always known that and has risen above such double standards.  Her personal example, as well as her career, is a beacon of hope, inspiration, and encouragement to young girls and women worldwide, not least of which are my two granddaughters.  It is my hope that Hillary is the harbinger of a day when in the US we have universal suffrage and equal rights for all.  I want my duo of precious young women to have every reason to expect equal pay for equal work, to see in their lives the same opportunities as their male peers.

 

I think I agree with Dr. Rachel Maddow with her historical analysis on MSNBC about the “rise” of Trump.  His emphasis on the immigration issue is a dead give-away.  When in our political history the two-party system falls apart or is severely weakened, what arises is an alternative party or movement, usually from fringe or “secret” societies, riding into influence via xenophobia, via “blaming our troubles” on aliens and foreigners in our midst — on immigrants.  In the 1850’s the Whig Party collapsed, giving rise eventually to the modern Republican Party (the party of Lincoln, a former Whig).  From the ashes of the Whig Party rose for a short time the “Know-Nothing” party (arising from secret ultra-patriotic societies, who became named for their common response to political questions — “I know nothing!”).  The Know-Nothing Party scapegoated in Massachusetts immigrant Catholics (mostly Irish), while in California the Know-Nothings scapegoated Chinese immigrants.  In the wake of World War I (the 1920’s), when Republicans ruled the road to Prohibition and the Great Depression (Harding, Coolidge, & Hoover), the racist KKK movement scapegoated African-Americans as well as newly arrived immigrants from Europe and Asia, accumulating for a while an alarming amount of political acumen.

Post “W” Bush Republicans weakened themselves via their conservative policies so severely, anti-government societies such as the Tea Party pushed the Republican party so far to the right, their champion, a narcissistic demagogic businessman, was able to steal the Republican Presidential nomination from “establishment” Republicans, including from a Bush brother named Jeb.  Remarkable, sure, but remarkably bad for the country, as was the case in the 1850’s and in the 1920’s.  Note how Trump was reluctant to immediately repudiate the endorsement of former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke.  The source of the endorsement and Trump’s reluctance to repudiate both make sense in light of Dr. Maddow’s historical reminders, for — who are Trump’s scapegoats?  You got it — immigrants, this time illegal immigrants primarily from Mexico and Central America.  When it comes to xenophobia in American politics, it seems, what goes around comes around again.  If so many lives were not lost or ruined due to racial and national xenophobia, it would be almost laughably ludicrous, given the fact that, outside Native Americans, we all in the US, if you go back far enough, come from immigrants of some sort (If you go back enough millennia, even the Native Americans were immigrants!)  Right-wing bigoted scapegoating of immigrants is laid bare as Americans turning on proto-Americans (new arrivals becoming American citizens).  Saturn eating his children, as depicted in Goya’s painting, comes to mind.

[I would feel remiss not mentioning here that European anti-Semitism and Nazi race theory were based upon similar racial and national xenophobia as described above, even though they were not a direct part of American xenophobia.  Nonetheless, it would seem too naive to assume some seeds of scapegoating from the legacy of Nazi Germany did not find fertile US soil in the 1930’s and 1940’s, contributing (as examples of radical political methodology) to the rise of McCarthyism and Neo-Nazism in the latter half of the 20th century.  Without sounding too conspiratorial, these seeds could, therefore, be possibly culpable in the remarkable theft of the Republican nomination by Donald Trump here in the early 21st century.]

 

As a scientist, seeing Trump being anti-science (on issues like global warming), like the Republican Party platform, is, sadly, expected and not surprising.  Hillary Clinton is certainly not anti-science.  No elaboration here, in my opinion, is needed.

 

This Presidential election is more a “no brainer” than in 2008 and in 2012.  Like we did eight years ago, let’s make history!  Vote Hillary Clinton!  I’m with her!

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

 

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