Friday, August 15, 2014

Alpha and Omega?

Alpha, and the Omega

 - ah moral boondoggles. .   

In the beginning there was a massive cloud of dust coalescing, . . no, no .. .before that, no keep going back, ah, a big bang! Possibly not the only, but the only one we know about, so far.

Of course we don’t know what we don’t know yet do we? So maybe scientific advancements will give us evidence of another universe like a beautiful bubble next door, or maybe it will reveal what caused the big bang, or maybe the universe is inside of something else, maybe many layers like some epic fractal matryoshka doll, or some other thing that we don’t have a word for yet.
Thinking like this we could imagine that we’re as tiny on a macrocosmic scale as we perceive the smallest microscopic particles are to us. (Horton hears a hoo, Anyone?) Do you feel small yet?, because just from what already has been revealed about the massive size of the Universe, I know I can’t help but be filled with awe. We are, from what scientific observations have shown, very small, very insignificant. The scale is so vast that if discovery of another Universe requires us to travel to the edge of our own then you won’t have to worry about it happening anytime soon because on that scale we won’t be the same species by the time we do manage to cross that distance, if our species hasn’t snuffed out like a birthday candle. Yes life is that fragile when you think of things on a cosmic scale. When you think like that, the time evolution takes to happen seems like a summer romance. 

(Here have a video or two to help you feel the awe of the size:

those are three of my favorites, though there are more. . . )

Do you feel the awe yet?
Now imagine if you will, that in this vast universe if there’s anything we on our one small blue world could do that would hurt the Universe? Is there anything that might be changed about the vast reaches of space that I’m talking about by simply your existence? If theists truly grasped the size of the Universe, their conception of a petty, jealous “God” would seem a tiny worm of a thing, unless they possessed the capacity to expand their idea of “God” to match that scale, a scale you won’t find in the Bible, or Talmud, or Torah, or any other holy book, or indeed even these writings.
You are not a stamping butterfly to the Universe, but in that our world is a part of this massive place, you are a part of that Universe and what you do or say might make a difference right here, right now.
Since we only have here and now: we should make the best of it that we can, we should value anyone else who we find sharing this place with us, and when I say “place” I mean Earth. To be expanded to mean any human occupied space we might someday have to think about as home.
Oh I’m not under any illusions. Human nature hasn’t stopped us from finding reasons to hate each other just for innocuous differences that don’t really matter, at least not to space and time, but this is how it should be if we were to think it through at all. To think that unpleasantness on the other side of the world doesn’t really impact your life is foolish. It does in many ways that you just aren’t aware of and if we could bridge that gap. . . well maybe someday with the way technology is going the six degrees of separation will open everyone’s eyes. And if it does then we should just try it out, just one month of no violence. Really, we should stop because it’s like shitting where you sleep.
I know!, a radical idea to think that we as a species might someday actually achieve world peace. What would it take? And why hasn’t religion made this happen? Even theists have difficulty with explaining why peace hasn’t come about with a sad if only this, or if only that, or an explanation of why it hasn’t happened yet in the cop out of God wants us to have free will. (oh I will ream that concept at a later date, don't worry!)

What if we could all think of our species as a part of our own Earthly body? Would that open up a whole bundle of other issues?, such as the health of our planet and what responsibility we should bear for that, or what we should or shouldn’t do in our technological progress to keep our home nice?
These are all moral issues, moral questions which is an area that Theists still seem to think they have the keystone on. They are wrong.

(Here's an excellent video or two on Morality

 or this:  it’s long ~30 minutes, but it’s good and the subject deserves at least that much time.)

Too often morality seems to be portrayed as right and wrong, black and white but this narrow view is not helpful. I prefer the word integrity. Making decisions about what is the right course of action requires integrity and prudence, not a bullet point list of thou shalt nots provided by some “higher authority”.
Like the potential cost of technological advancements, making moral decisions is about weighing benefit versus loss. Weighing risk benefit always enters into the decision. That may seem callous but when you count among the risks and benefit the impact it will have on people, on someone’s emotions, if someone will be physically injured? Will there be suffering, and pain? Does it still seem cold? Where this breaks down is when we lack information about all of the consequences or if we forget a consequence. When we don’t know or can’t foresee the effects of our choice then we trust our gut.
What is this gut thing you ask? (Theist’s just went Ah Hah!) It’s part of what we would call the difference between us and computers. It may seem indefinable but it’s not a soul. It’s your empathy, your compassion plus all the many previous experiences with making choices in the past that influence you on an unconscious level. Note, I didn’t say Artificial Intelligence, I said computers. This indefinable difference is part of what we’re looking for in any test for Artificial Intelligence, otherwise computers could potentially be better at making moral choices than humans because, if their data was complete, they would never forget about a potential consequence. However, because of the “gut” factor, that means a computer essentially would be working from a bullet point list.
The very same thing that gives us an advantage over computers when making a prudent choice also encompasses our biggest hurdle when making choices: our emotions. All too often we allow ourselves to make decisions from an emotional point of view. The same emotions of fear and helplessness that cause domestic abuse, also motivate the family members of victims to strike out in violent retribution. Too often human beings seem locked into a never ending game of balance, of accounting for who is harmed and who is responsible and with ever increasing stakes of escalation.
If you accept that there is no final judgment that will justify, or balance the debt then nothing will ever completely clean the slate. This means it is up to hurt parties to forgive the debt if you want to ignore the past and start fresh, if you want to eliminate data points. It takes wisdom on the part of the victim to realize that if they don’t forgive then they are tying themselves to the pain, anger and helplessness. It also means human law is the highest authority. ( I realize it's difficult to let go of that sense of karma and the idea of the foulest of people ending up in hell, but really, if all they have to do is accept your lord god and they're forgiven? then wouldn't there be more of them in your heaven than actual, truly good people?)
In nature it is the threat of violence that keeps the peace. A wolf encountering a human in the wild makes the decision on whether or not to attack based on what it knows about humans, and if the human in question looks capable of doing the wolf harm, again: the benefit or risk associated with attacking that human. The primary benefit is survival.
With humans the social interactions are much more complex and again survival is primary or whatever the human’s in question identify as “survival.” For Example; a bully approaches a weaker kid in the school yard, threatens him and this is witnessed by an authority figure such as a teacher – if the teacher is unsure what they are seeing and asks for confirmation from the kid being accosted, he’s just handed that kid a threat of consequences which can be used right then, or not. Usually, if the kid is smart they play it cool and don’t use that threat, which means they can expect some deference from that bully for perhaps quite a while, at least until the bully figures the teacher has forgotten about the incident, or won’t believe the kid’s story. The bully may not be smart but holding something over someone as a threat is the bully's idiom. Bullies are skilled in intimidation and so naturally the balance of power always swings back to them, unless the threat of consequence is used or increased. Usually the bullying only stops when the kid fights back.
Oh, look at that, the kid threatens violence and wins peace. Human beings are a part of nature you know. We shit, fuck, eat and drink just like animals. We are animals but more intelligent and able to hold in our superior brains a longer list of potential consequences in order to weigh risks and make prudent choices.
People may choose to ignore their animal heritage by interpreting their behavior as divinely inspired, socially purposeful, or even self-serving, all of which they attribute to being human; but they masticate, defecate, masturbate, fornicate and procreate much as chimps and other apes do, so they should have little cause to get upset if they learn they act like other primates when they politically agitate, debate, abdicate, placate and administrate, too.
Arnold Ludwig, King of the Mountain
Negative consequences aren’t the only consequences. Now we are entering the greyest of moral areas, where the toughest decisions reside, and where the question of whether the ends justify the means will come up again and again. If your village is beset by bandits (a group of bullies) but no one in the village is capable or willing to defend the village, and this leads you to hire some tough guys to fight for you, then when these hirelings kill, maim, or die are you morally culpable for these consequences? What if you achieve your goal and the bandits stop attacking, was it worth it? Were the ends a justification for your means? How about if you instead appeal to your local Magistrate, sheriff etc. to decide what should be done, and they bring the fighting men in and violence still happens, people still die. Do you feel any less culpable?
This raises all sorts of questions about circumstances and how those would influence your feelings on guilt or lack of guilt. (The guilt is assigned responsibility for the consequences.) What if the bandits were people who for some reason were rejected by your village and having no where else to go and no means of support always “raided” your village? Sure they might even be violent and angry about their situation, but that knowledge about their motivations makes them more sympathetic, it changes the culpability. It also raises still more questions like why were they rejected? Why is there no other means of support for them? Did the Magistrate/Sheriff have all the facts to make their decision?
Now imagine instead of a village, that it’s planet Earth, and the bandits are coming from the Moon, or Mars. Does that change your perspective? Or just make it easier to believe they’d need to raid Earth?
Recognition of our fallibility
We are beset by all manner of illusions and delusions. Often, we are prisoners of our own (limited) experiences. We need to create situations and encounters that bring these forms of error into the open, make them subject to debate and render them dispensable.

From: Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense: Why Some Organisations Consistently Outperform Others

by Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles

So if we fail to ask questions and think things through, and instead make edited decisions based on fallacies or wishful thinking, and if we then when seeing the resulting misfortunes of these questionable choices, if we then fail to examine our process for making decisions but instead seek to blame someone else for the guilt we naturally should feel? Shouldn’t we seek to change that bad habit? I know it’s not easy but as individuals and as a people, as a society, shouldn’t we strive to clean up our faulty thought processes? Shouldn’t we assess those decisions that are often founded in what we forget or don’t know? Shouldn’t we try to learn to recognize the signs of our own stupid blind spots in our thinking? Or in our culture? Isn’t it time we learned to ask the hard questions of ourselves when making decisions?
In today’s society some folks don’t even ask questions, - why is that? I suggest it is because they’re afraid of the answers, and they’re afraid of facing these decisions that grow in difficulty with every piece of information that is gained. It would be so much easier to say 2+2= 3 if we ignore that one number, you know, the one we don’t like. Still, math can’t be quibbled with in that way. Science and math are both quite indifferent and outside of your emotional problems.
This weak decision making, this greedy wishful thinking is why climate change on this planet is the crisis that it is, and why an organized and concerted effort by all countries must happen at least enough to save the planet, even if it doesn’t create planet wide peace. The numbers keep coming in, - science keeps showing us where we’re headed and there’s still time to do something about it, but not if the right people don’t decide that the risk vs. benefit of doing something is worth the effort. If too many countries decide that their GNP is more important than investing in a future post their hydrocarbon economic bubble, then we’ll all be screwed. Too put a finer point on it, waiting for this bubble to burst is super stupid since it would lead to a new dark age for our species, if we even survive.
To put it in a metaphorical way, imagine that you’re aboard a ship headed over the edge of a fall into a chasm and certain death. Your captain is steering the ship right towards it – what do you do? If you’ve tried everything else and it’s clear he’s not going to change course unless you force him to, then the only moral decision you can make, is to mutiny.

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