Wednesday, 28 March 2018

On Belief


Thoughts as a River
Yes, my own thoughts on the subject meander some, as usual.

If belief is the consequence of our interactions with observable reality before we are even conscious enough to be aware of either ourselves or observable reality, then no wonder it's no wonder that belief is so foundational as to be practically unnoticed within our own minds.

An infant cries from instinct and is fed, and so believes if it cries it will be fed. The interaction with observable reality forms the belief, and the belief is reinforced as true. That this is selective in an evolutionary sense is clear; the parent who does not respond to the cry permits the infant to die from hunger and the genetic material of the parent is removed from the gene pool.

Perhaps belief is the foundation of observable reality for the individual. That our earliest beliefs matched observable reality before we were even conscious seems clear enough. When an infant make a noise the infant will get fed. Belief in that is reinforced with repetition. A different noise gets the infant cleaned so that sores do not develop, become infected and kill the pre-conscious individual. Belief then, might be said to be selective. When belief did not match up with observable reality, the individual died and the genetic material of the neglectful parent disappeared.

Belief that a noise in a tone of voice would get one cleaned and fed so that continued life occurred is foundational to experience. Further interactions with observable reality laid down further beliefs.

Belief can then be considered as the banks of a river though which our thoughts process. The more experience, the more interactions with observable reality, the more substantial and fixed the banks of the river of our thoughts.

Inevitably, some beliefs will not match up with observable reality though the individual continues to survive. Some beliefs are not selective, at least not immediately. The belief you can fly unaided is usually immediately selective when tested against reality. The belief that it is possible to lie without consequence is not usually immediately selective, though it is corrosive to society. The belief that you can lie to yourself about being able to fly unaided may eventually prove to be so, if ever tested against reality.

As the individual develops and encounters more ideas, often in fragmentary, unconsidered form, beliefs are added to the banks that channel our thoughts. Our thoughts erode the bank and our beliefs shift and adjust. Ideas are what we think with, so exposure to an idea can build up and channel our thoughts in new directions, linking up with other ideas and making firm channels. A good deal, perhaps even most or even all of this shifting of our beliefs may happen without conscious direction by the individual.

In the information age it is possible to be bombarded with ideas contextualized by other peoples beliefs.

Sometimes the banks of the river wear away completely and our thoughts flood. What is real? What is true? What is good?

Belief, the banks of the rivers of our thoughts, gets worn away here and reinforced there by interactions with observable reality in a process that is only sometimes selective. A belief may be initially harmless to the individual, yet harmful to others when applied to reality. For example, a belief in Global warming-Climate Change is not immediately selective to the individual, yet the decision to burn grain to produce energy has the immediate causal effect of reducing the amount of grain available to the market, the law of supply and demand kicks in immediately and the price of food increases, subsidized exports cease and a number of countries who relied on cheap grain imports find themselves unable to supply sufficient food to their domestic markets, the population finds itself unable to purchase the more limited supply of food, food riots follow, suppression of food riots follow logically - as burning down the bakery is never a successful strategy... and yes, I'm talking about the middle-east here, though I'm not going to go into it further as I suspect my point may be made. Belief can be selective on those who do not hold the belief when those who do believe test their belief against reality.

Causality is often obscured by its own existence. As individuals we move through time at one second per second though a sea of perceptions, many of which bare little or no relation to each other. Without notice, belief can build up from fragments of ideas that appear to link to others the mind has already been exposed to, each snagged from the sea of information that washes past our senses in a constant stream. AGW, or Climate Change, is a fair example. To the best of my knowledge, from some thirty years of paying attention to the subject, there is exactly zero evidence supporting AGW and an absolute mountain of evidence which causes the belief to dissipate like morning mist exposed to sunlight (ironically enough); yet the belief persists in the minds of a multitude of people for a variety of reasons almost as plentiful as the individual who hold the belief. Had every individual who believed in AGW had the idea tested against reality in a fashion design to be selective in evolutionary terms the belief would have faded from reality almost immediately. The actions taken to combat this demonstrably false belief have been selective, and will continue to be selective, over time. Nations that continue to pour hard won resources into imaginary methods of producing energy will decline economically as lower production increases price – when the price of energy is increased due to lower production the price of every single commodity is increased and the methods of generating wealth to purchase commodities is also increased. That cannot end well.

And I think that is where I am going to stop for now, partly because I just read this:The more I contemplate the universe, the more I am convinced that the fundamental core of Man's philosophy must revolve around a single question: to pretend or not to pretend. So much human evil stems from the fact that we deceive ourselves, we deceive each other, and we seek to deceive God.* And one of the primary locuses of deception is the language we choose to employ.” - Vox Day

What Vox says here neatly expresses an idea that I have been struggling to tease to the fore sufficiently clearly to state succinctly. I'm just as happy to see someone else get there first as it saves me the bother of getting the idea crystal clear so that I can think with it.

*The whole of Society, past, present and future has been for me a very useful conceptualization of the many meanings of the word God and is useful in this context. I should say that the work of Jordan B. Peterson is quite simply full of useful ideas.

Just to finish up here for now, the subject is belief and selectivity. The meaning of a given word is a belief as well as being a deliberate structure to express meaning. A fair example is the word discriminate, a word that is now generally used to be, and therefore believed to be synonymous with prejudice. Society has long accepted that prejudice is bad. Discrimination is prejudice. Discrimination is bad. The bank of the river of belief is shored up in one section and the thoughts of the individual are channeled. Belief is selective. The word discriminate has a primary meaning which is now no longer to the fore of those who accept the belief that discrimination is wrong. Discriminate means the ability to tell the difference between one thing and another and make value judgments between them.

If a man believes discrimination to be bad then he might neglect to discriminate between boiling and warm water taking a dip at Yellowstone Park. When I heard the story of a group of youths literally diving into boiling water when there was warm water to swim through just a few yards a way I did wonder how it was possible to be so willfully negligent of their own survival potential. They did not take time to discriminate between boiling water and warm water. That lack of discrimination killed them. Being negligent of discriminating between snakes with similar markings to a Copperhead might well also lead to negative consequences. There is a mushroom that looks exactly like a button mushroom but is deadly poison, and it would clearly be wrong to discriminate between them. The use of the word discriminate as only synonymous with prejudice is insidious and undermines the individuals relationship with observable reality.

Belief is not some bolt on optional extra to existence.
Belief is instinctive and initially in accordance with observable reality.
Belief is selective in an evolutionary sense.

That is clear enough. Where things get muddy is in the established fact that evolution favors good enough solutions and that false belief need not be immediately selective. Existence would be a good deal simpler if belief that was not in accordance with observable reality were immediately selective, though if it were I seriously doubt any of us would survive to adulthood.


I really don't care what people think. I really do care that people do think. Most of what we call thinking isn't. 


Friday, 2 February 2018

Why Do We Tell Stories?


Why do we tell stories?

It's a fair question and I guess the answer is clear enough from our evolutionary biology. Once our species grasped the idea that the future is real, that the fat lion under the shady tree will tomorrow be hungry and we might be its prey, then we needed a way of conveying the idea of what might be done about that fact, especially to our children, in a form they would accept and remember. A story.

JBP (link below) has shown clearly that the idea that the future is part of reality was selective in evolutionary terms, that our distant ancestors who planned for the future were more likely to nurture children to adulthood. So telling stories about that is clearly also selective in evolutionary terms. We express ideas in stories – such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf. A child who hears and understands that story, who acts the principle out in reality, is literally more likely to survive to adulthood than a child who does not.

Stories are thus demonstrated to be selective in evolutionary terms, and brain functionality follows trends that are selective. We likely evolved to accept the premise of a story and act it out in reality. True stories clearly lead to better results than false stories, and when evolutionary pressure was high this would have become a dominant trait. Societies who tell true stories, that acted out improve life for everyone, succeed, while societies that tell false stories break against reality, they fracture, fragment and collapse, often with great loss of life. But there are always survivors, and evolution favours 'good enough' solutions. Survivors of failed communities, built on false stories, will still reproduce. The trait of accepting a story as true and acting its premise out regardless of how it resolves itself in reality is a good enough solution.

As a species, we literally evolved to accept stories as true and act them out in reality. Results of this vary, but those who have a feel for or who tend to analyse a story for factual accuracy and imagine forward before acting it out in reality, are apt to be more successful. As a consequence, there are more people who have a feel for the truth of a story than not... but the trait to uncritically accept any story will always be part of the whole of a given society and part of the brain functionality of the individual.

The tendency to compare the consequences of a story acted out in reality, say stories in history, with a currently prevalent story and imagine the story forward to its consequences should become dominant over time. Fact checking, comparison with the known consequence of similar stories recorded in history, critically analyzing a story and rejecting or accepting it accordingly is also selective – those who do this would literally be more likely to produce children who survive to adulthood and perpetuate the trait. I say 'would' here because we now effectively live in a human version of Mouse Utopia (link below), a situation where practically all individuals might well survive to reproductive age regardless of what survival strategies they are taught and adopt.

With this in mind, it might be as well to now take a look at what is frequently called 'the sacred narrative of the left' and dig into the foundations of that collective story to see for yourself what veracity the story might contain.


Friday, 29 December 2017

The Lindsay Shepherd Affair: Context & Analysis

These matters are not simple and straightforward, and I am glad that there are those with developed skill, knowledge and understanding who are shining a spotlight on these matters.

There is a historical context here - to large degree, the west is struggling through the long term consequences of recent history. The threads are often tenuous, tangled, and reach back decades. It takes time and effort to follow them back to their origins, and some of the origins go further back, they are ancient, seemingly written into our evolutionary biology - which would neatly explain why these issues continue to reoccur in one form or another throughout human history.

Though small groups, such as a family, can and do work according to the underlying ideas of socialism, the connection between effort and gain within that unit is still understood - children gain much but can contribute little, the family exists exactly because of this reality. That situation is transitory; children grow, contribute more over time, become self-sufficient, self-supporting adults. The connection between gain and effort, between effort and gain, re-establishes itself over time. In any larger society, should the principle be applied, that connection becomes increasingly tenuous, (the connection between effort and gain is not re-established over time), and as soon as it becomes invisible (through distance between members of larger society) the whole social system collapses. In short, when it is possible that an individual gain from the efforts of the group while contributing little, it is entirely consistent with human nature that they do so, and that the inclination then spread through the group as it becomes more obvious that some gain as much as others through little effort. The whole output of the group declines, eventually to the point that there is no output and the whole group suffers the consequences of that.

There are so many examples of collectivist principles applied to societies of various sizes, including but not limited to entire nations and empires that failed - every single time - that it seems incredible to me that it is not generally accepted common knowledge. Here is just one example... yes, it is a long piece by Stefan Molyneux (who has a problem being brief, but these matters are complex and require full analysis) but worth your time:



Now, back to the title.

"During the proceedings, Shepherd was accused of breaking the law, both federal (Bill C16) and provincial, violating Wilfred Laurier's standards of conduct, and of being actively transphobic. Rambukkana compared me directly to Hitler (and Milo Yiannopoulos, to be fair), failing to recognize that what I predicted would happen in the aftermath of Bill C16 (see http://bit.ly/2AZqj4B) was exactly what was undertaken by the tripartite disciplinary panel he headed."

Yes, this is also long, but also very much worth your time.


If you tend to feel you don't have time, then here's something shorter and more fun. I'm pretty sure that no one who reads my very occasional posts will fall into the snowflake category of human being, so I'd guess you are more likely to laugh than be offended.



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

Though we never met, I find I feel the loss quite personally.

We have lost a Champion of Reason.

Dr. Pournelle's blog holds a wealth of insight and information spanning many years. You will not have to spend much time there to realize that we have lost someone far more than significant that those who think of him primarily as a writer of Science Fiction.

Chaos Manor

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Libertarian Game of Thrones

Stumbled across this today and thought I would post it here. Yes, it is as funny as you might think, but...


... but there is as deep a flaw with Libertarianism as any there is with other ideology. Real world functionality relies on all members of a society understanding, accepting and acting on its principles at all times. And that isn't going to fly.

There are several reasons why, but the most obvious is that the Big Five personality traits exist - they are real - and we are each born with a propensity toward a mixed bag of those traits, which leads to us each being unique, especially when factors of environment and personal experience are figured in. In short, getting a society to abide consistantly by the same set of rules is no easy task. Bad enough, but worse when it is clear that our species has a desire to control its environment... a passive, non-controlling ideology is about as contra-evolutionary reality as you can get. As a species, we did not evolve to be Libertarians, and attempting to adopt a philosophy that is fundamentally against our evolutionary biology is just about as futile an objective as I can imagine. A significant percentage of people wil work against it, work to influence, control, steer the ship, grow their following, and utliamately dominate.

Yes, it's a shame. But we are what we are and need something a little more robust and structured to keep more-or-less all of us more-or-less in line within a functioning society more-or-less all of the time. One society, one set of rules, within which we can compete without violence.

I don't think I'm going to explore that line any further, right now. Instead I'll pass you on to someone else who has a few thoughts to express that might be useful in developing or refining your own ideas: /Before western civilization - sowing the wind

There is more to the article than I reproduce here, and I recommend the visit required to read the whole piece.

"It is self-evident that men and women are not equal in all respects. It is self-evident that all men are not created equal. It is self-evident that all women are not created equal. The Bible exhorts us to be kind to strangers – but not submissive to them. Western tradition tells us to act as if it were self-evident that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; those principles became the common heritage of much of the west, but they are only an assumption; we have no proof, only the observation that things work better if we accept them.
That, of course is not strictly true; there is a great history of philosophy that leads to modern Western ethics and moral principles; but the average citizen of the west does not know this, other than having a vague knowledge that those who should know can teach it to those smart and interested enough;  but for practical discussion, the fundamentals of Western ethics and morals are assumed. We assume these truths to be self-evident even though it is really self evident that they are not literally true.
But like all rules contrary to observable facts, it is easy to carry them too far – and to assume that others share them when they do not."


Sunday, 9 July 2017

That's Not Fair!

Stumbled across this vid' just a little while ago and had some thoughts about it. Probably best watch it first or you won't know what I'm talking about. It's short but sweet.


So, something we probably already knew is demonstrated fairly well. What child hasn't spontaneously put together the concept of 'That's not fair' all by themselves?

What this Vid' demonstrates is that the concept is built into our evolution at a very early stage. In a natural environment, effort and reward would be fairly equal. When inequality is artificially introduced, it is noticed really fast.

For me, this is kind of a wasted experiment, though. Wouldn't ti be interesting to push the boundaries a little? What would be the response if the greater reward were given for greater effort, or a more complex task? What response without access to the tools of that task, and then with the needed tools? With and without the ability to watch and learn the complex task? I think a good deal more insight into our own nature could be squeezed out of a series of experiments building on this theme.

I was instantly reminded of the story of Cain & Abel, for reasons which will only perhaps become clear if you invest the time in watching a much longer and more complex Vid' - but I do recommend it. The insights here have great value and are worth your time.




Friday, 9 June 2017

What is God? What is Religion?

These are questions we tend to answer flippantly, if at all, but given that every single culture in the whole of human history has proposed answers the questions must be rather more important than we might tend to think from a modern perspective.

Here are the answers I think are most useful, a condensed subjective view derived from the work of Jordan B. Peterson (I'll link below because I really think that JBP's work has practical value for any individual).

God

If we conceive God as the most ideal, moral leader possible then a couple of useful things happen. One, there is an ideal to aim for, whatever that ideal may be. Two, that spot is already taken by an abstracted ideal so that any given living glorious leader cannot delude themselves that that are that perfect ideal - the top spot is already taken. Nor can the people, or any substantial percentage, think that their glorious leader is God.

A good deal of historical nastiness could have been avoided. A good deal of potential future nastiness can be avoided.

Religion

If we conceive of Religion as a blueprint for 'how society should be' then it is literally possible to look around the world and see which blueprints are most successful when mapped onto reality. It is even possible to break that down into subsets of a given religion. Even done in a cursory kind of way, some useful results can be gained.

Adopting the most successful blueprint might be an idea. Consciously attempting to improve that blueprint might be a better idea. Discard all such blueprints look to me to be a ludicrous waste of a great deal of effort expended over a long long time.

One other useful aspect of religion is that it provided moral absolutes. Without those, morality within a culture becomes subjective, each individual making unique decisions about what is and is not moral. It doesn't take much thought to see where that path leads; the first and most obvious consequence being that every single individual you meet would be an unknown interaction of potentially conflicting moralities. The word 'Dangerous' doesn't even begin to cover that situation.

Maps of Meaning