Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You don't really believe that so why are you saying it?

This is going to be short.  I saw the latest PBS News Hour broadcast tonight, where they were lamenting the way all Muslims are implicitly held responsible for the Orlando Idiot, because he happened to be Muslim.  Well, that's true, people do tend to generalize in that way.  I will mention, however, that when a Christian extremist has been responsible for killing a large number of people (yes, it has happened, look up "Heavens Gate"), I do not believe that any large number of people held all Christians responsible.  Why not?  It's the same situation, isn't it?  Well, not exactly.  Just keep count of the number of people killed each week by so called Muslims in the name of their religion, and keep count of the number of people killed by people professing to be of other religions.  You'll quickly see what I mean.  People don't hold all Christians responsible for the actions of one idiot, because it's not the norm.  It definitely is the norm in Islam in many parts of the world.  There's a difference there which can't be denied.  For all of the talk about Islam being a religion of peace, it's kind of like those saying that a gun is not a violent thing.  Well, it can be a non-violent thing, but that's not the norm, is it?  Just keep a tally.  You'll see.  No, this doesn't give us the right to treat Muslims differently.  We should still treat all people the same until they point out why we should treat them differently.  I'm simply stating the reason why we see the mistreatment, not justifying it.

But what really struck me as odd was the video of a Muslim woman's prepared speech about how her community sees the Orlando killings as a bad and unfortunate thing for all involved.  She wanted to express remorse over the incident, which is fine, but I guess she wanted to end saying something which would be on an upbeat note.  What she ended with, however, didn't make sense, for the person saying it.  She said that those killed are in a better place!  What place would that be?  According to her beliefs, they're either in heaven or in hell.  Since they were gay, and since gay people are considered "sinful", in Islam, then she would have to admit that she believes those killed are in hell!  I realize that gay life can be harsh, in our world, but how is hell a "better place"?  As I stated in the title, "You don't really believe that, so why are you saying it?"  Doesn't this type of dishonesty simply lead to more distrust? Anyone who is listening, and who thinks about what they're hearing just a little bit, knows that this young lady, while trying to be nice, is being dishonest.  In the immortal words of Thumper's Rule, "If you can't say somethin' nice ... (And, in this case, your religious views do not allow you to do so) ... then don't say nothin' at all."  By all means, don't be dishonest about your own views in front of the world!

Doesn't it all come back to the same point in both parts of this posting?  What we hear and see isn't agreeing with what we know to be true.  That leads to distrust.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vulnerabilities of the Human Brain

Just yesterday, I watched the movie "Regression".  The reviews were just a little above 3 stars, but really, you should watch it.  It states at the beginning that it's based on a true story.  It definitely is.  (Spoilers ahead!)  I remember living through the period when it seemed every day or so you could easily read an article about yet another person who underwent hypnosis therapy, only to find that they were sexually molested by their parents, a friend, a relative, etc.  I remember thinking at the time, "This is ridiculous!  Maybe some of these are true, but really, don't we all know that you can get a person to say or do just about anything under hypnosis?"  Sure enough, it took about a year, but finally enough professionals in the field started investigating.  We now that a lot of innocent peoples' lives were destroyed by what we now, finally, recognize as "Junk Science".

Today, I saw that Texas and California now have laws which allow for an immediate hearing for anyone who was convicted solely on "Junk Science"; i.e., science which has since been shown to not be as reliable as we once thought.  This is a good thing and badly needed.  All jurors need to know about this possibility.

But, believe it or not, that's not what prompted this blog entry.  What prompted this blog entry was reading Dr. Carrier's article, "Did the Apostles Die for a Lie?".  Yes, the two are very much connected.  Just hear me out.  In this article, he discusses the question of whether the Apostles would have knowing died for what they knew at the time was a lie.  Read the article, as there are far too many ways this could, indeed, have happened (and has happened many times) for me to go into here.  The easiest, and simplest, explanation is simply that while they may have been totally convinced that what they "knew" as true, that doesn't mean it was true.  There are far more possibilities than simply, (1) they died for the truth, or (2) they died anyway, knowing it wasn't true.  If you don't know about The Law of the Excluded Middle, then you should learn about it.

But, that's just the beginning!  The brain is an amazing thing!  Always keep in your mind that what you know, what you see, what you hear, is totally within your brain.  If you brain says, "this is true", then it's true, for you, no matter what's happening outside!  I'll mention here that I had an experience once which really drove this home for me.  It was late morning.  (I love late morning.  I have the strangest dreams during late morning, and I usually remember them.  It's fascinating looking at how your brain is making sense of the random signals and random inputs (mostly from your ears)!  I dreamed a whole story line, which finally led up to an event which culminated in a loud noise.  That noise woke me up.  At that point, I realized the noise was a car horn.  Now, think about this.  My brain had no way to know that this car was going to blow its horn at that point, so it couldn't possibly create a story which led up to that, yet it did!  This means that in the instant when it heard the horn, it created the backstory to explain it, and I "knew" that story had happened, even though it couldn't possibly have done so!  Your brain totally controls your perception of time itself.  Amazing!

The brain is capable of many more things which of which many people are not aware.  I give you, the Selective Attention Test.  If you haven't taken the test, you should.  You will then become unfit for jury duty, because you will know too much about the lack of value of an eye witness.  (I was tossed off a jury for mentioning it last year!)

Now, do we even need to go into Confirmation Bias?  A good book on this is, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why we Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts".  Read it, especially if you work in the Judicial System.

There are many ways to alter your view or understanding of the world, even without drugs.  One of the more interesting ways, not mentioned in the above article, is to simply toss your head back and forth.  Do this for quite a while, even in time with music if you like, and you will produce a euphoric state.  Supposedly this is due to the large amount of endorphins which are released.  We know this today because studies have revealed it, however obviously many religions didn't know this at the time, which is why so many religious ceremonies involve this type of action and claim that it, "brings one closer to God!"  I'll also mention here that other studies have clearly shown that a magnetic field across the brain in just the right place can produce a sense of being in the presence of God.  (I don't have to make this stuff up!  The world is plenty interesting all by itself!)

So, now that we know all of the many ways in which the brain can be tricked in seeing, or not seeing, things which are there, producing whole stories around events which other actual explanations, even producing whole backstories to explain an occurrence, and producing mental states which clearly show we're in the presence of a divine being, simply because we're wearing a helmet(!), can we really continue to allow our children to be caught off guard by these things?!  Shouldn't we be teaching, in elementary, or high school at the latest, all of these known phenomena, so that when our kids end up having some strange experience during a camping trip when they were exhausted and hadn't eaten lately, they'll realize what's happening?  Wouldn't it be good to hear, just once, from someone that, "I had a really strange, other worldly experience, and it felt as though I had died and gone to heaven", only to have the next sentence be, "but I know what caused it, I know that it's rather typical of the state I was in, none-the-less it was interesting and fun!"

We need to educate our kids about all of the ways in which their perceptions can not necessarily be trusted.  If they know about these things, then they will be better prepared when (not if) the situations occur.  It's normal physiology, just like knowing how to lift a heavy load without hurting your back, just like understanding the causes of deja-vu (which can also be artificially produced).  People need to learn about these things, so they can stop hurting, and even destroying the lives of, others (as well as their own selves) by misinterpreting these things, when they happen.  (They always happen eventually.)

Don't trust your perceptions and stay safe out there!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why is everything close to 50-50?

I'm wondering, why are all matters of opinion these days always close to a 50-50 split?  It seems as if everything in this country is almost always 50/50; democrat vs republican, pro-life vs abortion rights, etc.  It's all 50 one way and 50 the other.  Are we always so even divided on everything?  I don't think so.  I think it's not normal for the country to always be so even divided.  I don't think we've always been this way.  I think at least some issues were previously (a few decades ago) 60/40 and some were even 70/30.  So, what's with the new 50/50 split on everything?

First, let me state that it's been shown that roughly 20% of the population will literally believe anything!  Yes, anything!  Look it up!  Look for studies where people have tried to get signatures on a proposal to ban "H20" because it causes a large number of deaths.  Look up how many people believe UFOs are real.  I can guarantee you that you'll always find at least 20% believing just about anything.  It's the other people, above the base 20% who have actually considered the claims, pros and cons, etc.  The base 20% will believe anything, so that doesn't really count.  When you hear 30% of the population believe "X", you should really think, "well 10% of the educated population believe 'X', because 20% will believe anything!"

But does that matter?  Does it matter that 20% of our population is uneducated enough to believe any claim which is made?  Well, ...  YES!  It matters because it shows we have a huge education problem to deal with and a Democracy can NOT have an education problem.  A Democracy absolutely MUST have an educated public, because it's that public which votes!  And whose interest is in having an educated public?  It's certainly not the government's interest.  It's easier to govern uneducated people than it is to govern the educated.  Ever heard the phrase, "it's like herding cats!"?  Trying to get educated people to follow you is hard, because they want to know "why" and also want to know your reasoning.  If you don't have a good argument behind your proposal, it won't be accepted. No, governing uneducated people is much easier!  So, it's not in the government's interest to educate people.  It's in the public's interest to educate people!

But, getting back to the original topic...  Why are we always split 50/50 on just about everything?  Well, think about it...  What other things that we know are always split 50/50?  A coin toss!  If there are two basic possibilities, then the probability of each is 50%.  Am I saying, then, that peoples' opinions are simply a coin toss?  Well, sorta, yes!  If a person is relatively uneducated on a matter, then what would they use to sway their opinion one way or the other?  They can't back up any reasoning with logic or understanding of the issue.  They're pretty much going to be swayed by their gut instinct.  Many people think their gut instinct is the the most reliable thing they have!  ("I just know what's right!")  Since their gut instinct isn't really grounded in anything scientific or logical, then it's pretty much a coin toss as to what their gut instinct will say!  Thus...  we end up with a bunch of people who are just going with their gut instinct instead of thinking things through.  Thus, we end up with a 50/50 split on just about everything!  50% is what you get then there's nothing to sway an opinion one way or the other.  50% is the base.  It's the starting point from which you must find reasoning or logical arguments to push one way or the other.  Lacking any real thinking, 50/50 is what you will always have!

Since we have a lack of real education in this country (evident by the large 20% who will believe anything at all!), we will always be lose to a 50/50 split on all topics until people decide they would like to be better educated and start thinking for a change.  Most people actively avoid thinking about deep topics.