Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Anarchy is Unnatural

This idea that I keep hearing that anarchy is somehow "natural" is absurd. Anarchy, the absence of rulers, runs directly contrary to nature. It is not the point of least resistance, a default, or a natural state of humanity. It is the result of overcoming the base and egotistical elements of human nature which would compel you to dominate, subjugate, and exploit your fellow human beings.

Nature is full of rulers. The predator rules the prey. Members of the same species vie for dominance. Animals survive at one another's expense. Rape, theft, murder, and tyranny (if you can call them those things, since nature is amoral) are commonplace in nature and part of the natural order. Even slavery is practiced by some animals.

Sure, there is cooperation in nature. But this is something grown into, an example of overcoming the baser natural defaults. Great things happen when these defaults are overcome. But they, themselves, are the exception, not the rule.

Natural is not necessarily good. We are not like non-sapient animals with little to no moral agency. We can think about the consequences of our actions, both for ourselves and others. We can do better than the natural order. And, if you look around at the things we've built which are directly contrary to what typically occurs naturally – from cell phones to sewage systems – it's clear that's what humans do. We naturally resist the natural order, go against the point of least resistance, and create new, better orders out of the chaos.

Anarchism, a society without rulers, is the apex of social order. Humans have unwittingly strived for it for thousands of years, with numerous ups and downs along the way. It is a difficult thing to strive for, as it often comes into conflict with our other instincts – our pack mentality, our desire for security, our egos, and our need for things to feel under control. And yet, anarchy is the ultimate fulfillment of who we are – sentient, sapient, autonomous individuals. Therefore, we continue to crave it, just as we crave survival in a nature which constantly strives to snuff out our existence. And, thus, we work directly contrary to nature to fulfill our own nature against the natural order.

[Note: Before someone begins quibbling about the word "nature", I am using the term here in contrast to what is "artificial". That is, I am contrasting what is created through chance with what is created through thought and intent, or something close to it. I am aware that "nature" is used many different ways. If you don't like my use of the term here, simply substitute one of your own choosing with the meaning I have expressed above.]

Monday, November 28, 2016

Appeal to Deserving - A Fallacy

Note to the reader: Please read this entire article before jumping to conclusions. Your cooperation in this is much appreciated. Nobody deserves anything. Nothing at all, whether good or bad. You don't deserve food, water, or air. You don't deserve healthcare or charity. You don't deserve dignity, respect, or love. You don't deserve life, liberty, or property. You don't deserve rights, voluntary interaction, or non-aggression. Wrongdoers don't deserve punishment. Victims don't deserve restitution. Nobody owes you anything by default. Life grants you no automatic entitlements. On the contrary: You are in debt from the moment of your existence. You did not create yourself. You were created by forces which you did nothing to cause. Life was given to you unearned. You were raised, taught, empowered, and protected into adulthood by the effort of others. Every bit of matter and energy which makes you up came to you from external sources. And, some day, you will pay every bit of it back. Through all of your labor and efforts, you cannot create even a single electron-volt of new energy. You can only gather to yourself energy which previously existed using the energy which was given to you. Thus you accumulate what you did not create with what was leant to you. You cannot, therefore, earn anything. Your labor cannot make you deserve what you gain from it. If nobody deserves anything, then taking it from them cannot make you deserve any punishment or penalty. You do not deserve restitution when wronged. You do not deserve to be safe from harm or to be guaranteed voluntary or civil interactions with other people. You cannot destroy even a single electron-volt of energy, just as you cannot create it. By what virtue, then, would you argue that you or anyone else deserves anything at all? Whatever that virtue is, nature clearly does not recognize it, and nobody else is obligated to recognize it. "Deserve" is a fantasy we make up to make ourselves feel justified in our actions, to patch up our insecurities, to prop up our self-worth, and to give us an excuse to look down on others. It has no substance in the real world. "Deserve" simply does not exist. Therefore: All arguments which appeal to what we or others "deserve" as a rationale for how we or they should behave are fallacious – since we deserve nothing and "deserve" therefore becomes irrelevant to how we should treat one another or how they should treat us. If we are going to talk about how we ought to treat one another, those "oughts" must be derived from other factors besides what we do or do not deserve. This does not mean that there are no "oughts". If I value myself as a person and the personal dignity, autonomy, and self-integrity which makes me a person, and if I would have those things respected by others – then I ought to likewise value and respect them in others as well. If I don't, I undermine any claim I make that they should be respected in me. This has nothing to do with what I or they deserve. Therefore, this is not justification for apathy or treating people like dirt. Quite the opposite. It means that appealing to what someone deserves or doesn't deserve is not a justification for apathy or treating them like dirt. "Deserve" is a very sick concept if you think about it. It classifies people – sentient, sapient individuals with feelings, and desires, and hopes, and fears just like you – into categories of how much dignity and civility they should or should not receive based on merit. It reduces people to objects of utility. Seemingly universally benevolent statements such as "Everyone deserves dignity." might seem better – but these either tend to be so over-generalized as to prove too much, which leads to absurdities – or they end up being reduced to the aforementioned utilitarian view of people when put to the test. In conclusion: Appealing to what someone deserves is a fallacy. It is founded on broken reason which does not correspond to reality. It is not necessary for good ethics, and it inevitably leads to bad ethical conclusions. If we value what makes us people, then we ought not reduce ourselves or others to mere objects which deserve this or that based on utility, and to universalize "deserve" without consideration for utility causes it to lose all force and meaning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

F-Theory

Since I have recently been asked about it, and since I have never written it down anywhere, I wanted to write this out so it is recorded somewhere for posterity. This is a hypothesis I've been developing for a long time. It's something I've been very much interested in pursuing, trying to put the math to it, and trying to falsify it. I'm sure there are things about it that will turn out to be wrong. It is almost impossible that it is all correct. In fact, it's entirely possible that it's entirely wrong. But I have been encouraged that my every exposure to Quantum Mechanics seems to be consistent with my hypothesis, and I have yet to encounter any hard evidence that contradicts it. That, of course, does not mean that such evidence does not exist.

So, without further adieu, this is my crazy Hypothesis of Everything. For now, I'll nickname it "F-Theory".

The Stuff We're Made Of

The first thing you need to know is that I'm a monist, meaning that I believe everything that exists is comprised of a single substance. If I'm wrong about this it could change everything, but I don't see how two or more basic substances could even interact. It seems absurd to me that multiple base substances would even be affected by the other's existence. This is why I lean strongly towards monism, though my reasoning is admittedly subjective.

I haven't really settled on a name to call this base substance. Over the years that I've played with the idea I've called it "flux", "mana", "fluid", and various other things. For now, I will just abbreviate it as "F".

F has numerous significant properties. F is not inherently quantized in that it can be divided into infinitely small portions. F is conserved, as it cannot be created or destroyed. F is not inherently constrained by things like space, time, speed, etc; F is constantly vibrating, flowing, and changing. And because it is, by default, not constrained by time, space, and speed this means that F can take on many forms at once. A system comprised of F can seem to have everything happen at once because everything IS happening at once. This is where superposition arises from. It's also where properties like spin come from because F literally has no speed.

F vibrates at an arbitrary frequency. I say "arbitrary" but that isn't exactly right. Without time, space, or speed to give the concept of frequency any meaning it's vibrations are simply what they are. It is from these vibrations that time, space, speed, and even probability arise. Note that speed is just a function of time and space, so we arrive at 3 basic types of dimensions here: time dimensions, space dimensions, and probability dimensions. More on those and how they come about later.

Just as with any wave pattern, the vibrations of F form interference patterns. Where they meet, they form peaks and troughs, all of which take on lower frequencies than the original pattern, as the original pattern exists without speed and is unattainably high. This flow of F and F waves could be called an F-field.

F does not merely flow about willy-nilly but collects with other bits of F into clumps. These clumps become the particles we know and love and give rise to quantization. Each particle is something like a whirlpool in a body of water, except it's comprised of F. The F flows in and out of it freely, but the particle forms as the result of its movements. This also affects the wave patterns of F surrounding the particle.

Rise of Dimensions

The flow of F between the particles and the interference patterns which form between them is where we get space. This is the medium by which F particles interact with one another. The number of dimensions of space you have are determined by the dimensions the F is flowing and are possibly infinite in their potential number. Distance is given meaning by the wave patterns of F which exist between particles. The changing form of these wave patterns can create distortions in space. Note that, without these wave patterns defining the spatial dimension, things like "flat" or "curved" would have absolutely no meaning. Outside of these patterns, there is no space, no time, no dimension whatsoever. It's not even empty. It's null.

Time comes about by the particle's interactions with themselves and other adjacent particles. While F moves so fast as to appear static (where again, "fast" isn't even really the right word), as it flows in and out of particles it causes them to change, both internally and relative to the entire F field. This change creates both motion and the time dimension.

Probability arises because F can potentially be everywhere at once and do many things at once without the constraint of time. It can exist in many superposed states at one time. This is where the wave function comes from. It allows particles to have many types of indirect interactions at once, even with themselves. But when a quantized particle has a direct exchange with another quantized particle it causes them to "snap" to a specific and definite form for the interaction. This is what we call wave function collapse.

Note that, as a result of all of this, space, time, and probability exist relative to F. F, and the particles derived thereof, are not suspended in space, time, or probability as if they were some sort of medium. It is their existence and interactions which define space, time, and probability. F itself is its own medium.

Enter Relativity

The speed of light needs to be addressed at this point. "c", in this scheme, is a derived constant. It comes from what I call the "F constant". And the F constant is simply the frequency at which the underlying F-field vibrates. It is the vibrations of this field which create interactions, motion, space, time, probability, etc; This vibration rate could be compared to the frequency of a CPU and the universe thought of as a computer. "c" is simply a result of the fastest rate at which the F-field can process information at its frequency of vibration. Note that, while this frequency, as I said before, has no inherent meaning as far as speed, space, time, etc; now that we have derived space, time, and speed from it, we can potentially give it a relative measurement. Also note that, at this point in my hypothesizing, I have no idea how to calculate or even estimate this. Yeah, I know, there are holes.

Relativistic effects arise in a similar way. All dimensions, whether space, time, or probability, derive from F-field vibrations based on the F constant. As such, there is a limited amount of "processing power" to go around in any given physical system. The more of that processing power is devoted to movement through space, the less of it will be devoted to movement through time. That is, time will slow down as speed increases, and vice versa. Probability likely plays a role in here too, but I don't yet have the means to address it properly and with any hope of accuracy.

Force is, of course, simply the property of influence and interaction which F has on particles. Energy, which I define as what exists or happens, or the potential for something to exist or happen, is simply a base property of F which manifests in everything derived from it. It would be accurate to say that F is synonymous with energy, though in a broader sense than we know energy. As energy causes things to exist and happen in conventional physics models, so F does in this hypothesis. As energy is conserved, so is F, though energy as we know it can be created or destroyed through manipulation of F (this is consistent with observations of energy being "destroyed" through the expansion of space). And, as energy is carried in waves through frequency, and higher frequencies are associated with higher energy, so F transmits its influence through vibrations.

Different types of forces and fields arise as different patterns in the F-field. One set of patterns may account for electromagnetism, another for the strong force, and another for the weak force, but they are all vibrations in a single fundamental field. This is why forces unify at higher energy levels, because frequency increases as energy increases, and their varying vibrational patterns sync up and become similar at higher energy levels because the difference between them decreases as they all approach the same limit of the F constant. This is sort of like what you see when you take a bunch of different colors in graphical software and begin dialing up their brightness. The closer they approach to white (their upper limit), the less distinct they become until some hues that began as very distinct colors become completely indistinguishable. Gravity is the black sheep of the family of forces, which is why it has been so uncooperative in being unified with the other forces, but I will address that later.

Bosons, Fermions, and Gravity

Fermions and bosons arise as different types of particles because they are different types of "whirlpools" in the F-field. Changing the analogy to one of weather, a boson might be likened to a gust of wind while a fermion might be likened to a tornado or hurricane. The F within a boson is a directional burst which traverses the F-field at a speed as close to c as can be achieved as this is the natural speed at which F particles typically move unless something inhibits them.

Fermions, however, do not move at c because they are too busy doing other things. Recall what I said earlier about the vibrational rate of the F-field, the F constant, being likened to a CPU's processing rate. Fermions have mass, take up space, and are generally up to a lot of things that bosons are not. This is why I liken fermions more to a tornado or hurricane in the last analogy. The F within them is not directional, at least not outwardly. That F may be given a directional momentum through interactions, and, in fact, all fermions have such momentum as nothing is truly "still", but the sum of the vectors of the F within the fermion are not synchronized as they are in the boson. And, because the fermion is busy interacting with so many different fields, including the Higgs field, while pushing away other fermions through their own interactions, this means that accelerating one to the speed of light is impossible as there is no way for the F within it to process that level of motion as well as its other interactions.

Charge, such as electric charge and color charge, have to do with the vibrational patterns of these fermions and what ambient patterns in the F-field they interfere and interact with. Likewise, these patterns also determine what sorts of bosons these fermions can emit, just like the length of a string on an instrument determines what sorts of vibrations it will emit when plucked.

And this is where we need to bring up gravitons. They are unique compared to the other bosons, and this is why quantum gravity has been so problematic. Remember how I said some time back that space is formed by the flow of F between particles? Gravitons, I believe, are the primary conveyors of that flow. Remember, F doesn't just flow around willy-nilly, it clumps. Gravitons are the most basic clumps. And this also makes the graviton the fundamental boson associated with the F-field, which in turn makes the F-field synonymous with both the gravitational field and space itself. The difficulty in unifying gravity with the other fundamental forces lies in how different it is from those forces.

Since space, time, and probability are all linked together as dimensions, gravity becomes the fulcrum on which these dimensions rest. Gravity distorts space-time because gravity is space-time. Waves in the gravitational field amount to a distortion of space-time.

Miscellaneous Stuff

F-Theory provides a possible explanation for dark energy. Dark energy is caused by the interactions of the F-field pushing against itself within the universe, with nothing outside of the universe to push back. That is, it's like putting a filled balloon in a vacuum chamber. If what is external to the universe is null, then the null provides no resistance to the expansion of the universe. Thus, the pressures of the F-field cause the universe to expand. And for those concerned that the universe will someday "pop" like that balloon, I would suggest that this is the very end that our universe will eventually have. A big rip, when the fabric of the universe, the F-field, can no longer maintain its structural integrity and the connection between particles are severed. This is very hypothetical upon hypothetical, of course.

I do not know if F-theory will require the "curled up" dimensions which string theory demands, but it certainly leaves the possibility open. F-theory allows for an unlimited number of potential dimensions.

If anyone notices that I didn't mention symmetry in all of this, that was deliberate. While my conception of F-theory would give the F-field a property of symmetry, the question of "where's all the antimatter?" and some of the possible explanations that have been posed make me want to explore that subject further before trying to go into details on it.

The origin of the universe is something else I purposely didn't mention, and for three reasons. First, it really needs its own article to be addressed properly. Second, it gets into the subject of whether or not God exists, which again, needs its own article to be addressed properly, and I don't want that controversial topic to take away from anything I've said here thus far. And third, there is some new evidence, ideas, and possibilities that have come to my attention recently that I need to consider before I can properly address this.

Things I don't have a good explanation for, at least not yet, include dark matter, singularities, and the Higgs Field. I can see how explanations for these might potentially arise from F-Theory, but I have not found explanations for them that I find satisfactory enough to expound upon.

I need to emphasize that F-theory contrasts with typical thinking, both in physics and by the lay-person, in many ways. It is an emergentist and anti-hierarchical theory. It envisions a universe that is built from the bottom up, starting with the tiniest bits of stuff which, through their simple nature, cause all of the laws of physics, mathematics, and logic to come about as emergent properties. No laws are forced onto the universe from the top down, but neither is the whole merely the sum of its parts. F-theory means everything is connected, yet everything is individual. Everything is part of a whole and yet each part exists in its own right due to its own nature. F-theory contradicts both holistic and reductionist approaches to science and everything.

Final Thoughts

I want to reiterate that everything above is a hypothesis. It is untested. What's more, I lack the mathematical prowess to even quantify it properly. I am an amateur without formal training. Any "calculations" that have been done have been done in my mind through processes that could be called dynamically geometric at best. I am not claiming that this hypothesis is true. I am simply posing it as a very imprecise and incomplete hypothesis.

I would very much like to explore this hypothesis, but I currently lack the means to do so. Without a sufficient mastery of mathematics, I cannot even write it down in a proper format, calculate its implications formally, and compare the results to existing data. Without doing that, I cannot design experiments to test the hypothesis. And without doing that, my hypothesis is stuck in hypothesis hell.

But, if there is a possibility that even a fraction of what I've proposed here is accurate, I don't want it to be lost due to my inability to pursue it. Therefore, I've put it all down here. Perhaps someone will find someday that it was right. Perhaps it will be proven wrong. Perhaps it will inspire someone. Or, if nothing else, perhaps it will help someone see things from a different angle instead of being caught up in the same theories that have been tossed about by physicists. Maybe, 100 years from now when a unified field theory has been formulated, someone will find this and have a good laugh.

Feedback, as always, is welcome.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Anarchy - What it is and what it is not

"Anarchy" is a term loaded with connotations that vary considerably from person to person. The common connotation of anarchy among the general population is "chaos, confusion, disorder, violence, and lawlessness". Language is arbitrary and relative, so it is perfectly legitimate to assign the term "anarchy" this meaning. But, when discussing the philosophy of anarchy, it is important to distinguish that this is not how actual anarchists typically define and use the term, nor is it generally reflective of our philosophy. Without this understanding, conversations about philosophical anarchy can become very confusing and unproductive, riddled with fallacy and misunderstandings.

Anarchy as a social, economic, or political philosophy – sometimes referred to as "anarchism" – is not actually one philosophy but a collection of many diverse philosophies. But almost all anarchists agree that the common thread of anarchism, the central premise of these philosophies, is a society without rulers. The word "anarchy" literally comes from the Greek words "ἀν-" meaning "no, not" and "ἄρχων" or "ἀρχή" meaning "ruler, power, authority". A ruler is a person or group who imposes their will on another person or group unsolicitedly, depriving the latter of the free exercise of their own will. "Unsolicitedly" means that this imposition was not consented to and was not a defensive response to such an imposition by the ones being imposed on.

So, anarchy is a philosophy or a society characterized by the absence of rulers. That's it. Within those limitations many options and variations are possible. And, since chaos, confusion, violence, disorder, and lawlessness usually entail one party enforcing their will on another against their will, philosophical anarchism is practically the antithesis of the common connotation of the word "anarchy".

Just to clear this up further, I'm going to go over a few things that anarchism, as a philosophy, is not.

Anarchy is not disorder. It is a lack of the use of coercion to force an arbitrary order on those who don't want it. People still have the freedom to come together and create their own order. In our society today, people do this quite often. They form organizations, businesses, cooperatives, swap and shops, clubs, and community action groups which can range from minimal levels of organization to highly organized and formal operations. In many cases, they do this without a ruler coercing them into forming or joining these organizations. People can organize themselves just fine without coercion, and there are innumerable everyday examples which testify to this.

Anarchy is not lawlessness. The absence of laws or rules is called "anomy". Anarchy can be understood as the forbidding of rulers, making it a law against rulership, which would put it in opposition to anomy. You can have law within an anarchist framework, you simply cannot have a person or group making up laws arbitrarily and imposing them on people who do not agree to them  or who do not first impose themselves on others. Murder, theft, rape, fraud, and any number of other crimes which victimize others are impositions of this very sort, and therefore are naturally forbidden within anarchy. If these things were permitted you would no longer have anarchy. It is also perfectly legitimate within anarchy for a group of people to come together and voluntarily decide they want to live within a set of rules which they mutually agree to.

Anarchy is not the absence of government, although this depends on how you define government. If government is defined as synonymous with the state – an entity which claims or exercises ultimate authority to impose its will on others over a given region – then anarchy is the absence of government. But if government is understood as a mechanism to steer, guide, organize, or coordinate a society then it is by no means mutually exclusive with anarchy. Anarchy is only incompatible with government that uses force, threats, fraud, coercion, or other means to rule and force its agenda on people without their consent.

Anarchy is not "do whatever you want". Because if what you want to do involves forcing your wants, desires, or ideas on someone else against their will, then that's rulership, and that is not anarchy. Anarchy is closer to, "Do no harm, but take no crap." For anarchy to exist, respect for the autonomy of others must be maintained, and infringements on other people must be held accountable. There are, of course, plenty of edgy kids who sport the anarchist logo and like to pretend they're anarchists because they resent having to live in a world with other people where they cannot simply do whatever they want all the time. But that is sort of like children who pretend to be knights because they want to slay dragons – when they know nothing of actual medieval chivalry and dragons do not exist.

Anarchy is not warlordism. Somalia is not an example of philosophical anarchy. It is the polar opposite of anarchy. If you have outlaws, warlords, and thugs imposing their will on people with violence, then you have rulers. That is not anarchy. Of all modern examples, the society that perhaps most closely resembles anarchy are the Kurds in Iraq.


Anarchy is not a utopian fantasy. Very few anarchists have the illusion that an anarchist society will be free of problems, abuses, crimes, and failures. We don't see anarchy as a panacea to cure all of the world's social and economic ills. We don't deny that an anarchist society could fail, collapse, or devolve back into statism. What anarchy is is a framework to give human beings back their humanity. It restores back to people their fundamental autonomous nature and attempts to give them the freedom to use this autonomy to create new solutions, to find what works for them, and to simply be human. Because the state, many of us would assert, is immoral and dehumanizing because it takes away the autonomy, self-determination, and individuality which centrally defines our human nature. It is not foolproof or failproof, but the worst case scenario of failed anarchy is simply the norm of statism which we have now.

Anarchy is not homogeneous. It is not one single philosophy, but many different philosophies which can sometimes be diametrically opposed to one another on some issues. There are socialist anarchists, capitalist anarchists, communist anarchists, individualist anarchists, mutualist anarchists, primitivist anarchists, transhumanist anarchists, and many other sorts. Sometimes these groups get along, and sometimes they do not. Sort of like statist political parties, which actually have a great deal in common, but still have bitter feuds with each other over small differences in their philosophies. There are movements among anarchists such as panarchism and synthesism which aim to bring these factions into unity, if not agreement, to work towards their shared goal: that there should be no rulers. These movements have recently been gaining ground as the abuses of the state are becoming more apparent and people are demanding change.

Anarchists do not want to destroy society. Though there are some extremist exceptions, most anarchists do not want to tear down civilization brick by brick. We don't want violence in the streets. We don't want chaos, panic, disorder, and lawlessness. We want to live together with other people in peace, without having to worry about a violent state deciding it doesn't like what we are doing, extorting us of our resources, or invasively interfering in our lives. We want to live, as much as possible, without the threat of harm for doing something that someone else disapproves of. We want to be able to organize communities, build buildings, create enterprises, work in a trade, get married, choose what we consume, defend ourselves from harm, and make our own life choices without asking for permission – so long as we aren't harming or endangering anyone else in the process. I think that's a rather reasonable thing to want.

And finally, switching back to positive statements, anarchists are all around you. Our numbers are growing. No one is sure just how many of us there are, as no one has attempted to do an anarchist census. Be we are here. If you live in a town of any significant size, then you probably live or work close to some of us. We are influencing your culture, your politics, and your thinking. We create many of the memes, articles, and videos you share on social media. We have spearheaded movements and societal change, both past and present. And we are raising our voices loudly in light of the current abuses of the state, its wars of aggression, and its increasingly massive corruption – things which nearly everyone is currently upset about to one degree or another.

Whoever you are, you probably have a lot more common ground with us than you realize. We know that you aren't going to agree with us on everything, and that's okay. We don't want to force our will on you, either. What we hope for from you is to open-mindedly work together with us, and with anyone who is willing, to try and solve the very serious issues we are dealing with currently. Because the politicians are not going to solve it for us. We, the people, have a responsibility to make our society and our world better and to stand up against the corruption, the wars, and the infringements that affect us all. And that's really what anarchy is all about – people willingly working together to make things happen while respecting one another as people.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

God's Plan vs Free Will

I recently encountered a post on Facebook that posed the following conundrum: If God gave man free will, how can everything be part of God's plan? If everything is part of God's plan, how can we have free will?

Without getting into the messy discussions of the existence of God, free will, and so forth (all good topics for another time), I wanted to address this conundrum, as the solution is actually very simple. And it can be illustrated with a game of chess.

Let's say that I'm a super-genius chess player. My IQ is so high that my brain operates with the efficiency of a computer, even better than the ones that beat the various chess champions. I can literally think millions of moves ahead, projecting all of the possible moves that my opponent might make for millions of moves in advance, which allows me to imagine every single possible chess game that is every likely to ever be played.

As such, I can account for every possible choice that my opponent might make in any given game or situation. I can plan ahead for every possible scenario and iteration of a game of chess. Yet, my opponent still has free will to decide what move they will make. I do not control what move they make, but I have planned for every possible choice. So, regardless of what move they choose to make, it is all part of my plan. I will close my traps on them and have them in checkmate regardless of what they choose.

This illustrates clearly that a "divine plan" can coexist with free will just fine, and that one does not inherently preclude the other.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Falsifying Solipsism

The reason solipsism presents an inky philosophical problem boils down to the same reason that many other ridiculous dilemmas present problems. There is a (very common) fallacy going on where language is being given primacy over concepts, and concepts over what is existentially real. That is, we coin a word "X" based on some superficial observation or convention, then ask "what is X?". As if this word is somehow an existential thing. It isn't. Yet when we deal with philosophical problems we too often deal in words which we create, then try to backtrack and find some existential or objective conceptual substance to them. Or worse, we throw the words out there and assume they are objective and existential without even questioning it. But it just doesn't work that way. Many philosophical dilemmas, from Theseus' Ship to the entire field of Epistemology, are founded in this erroneous and fallacious way of thinking. And solipsism is no different. Solipsism, at its essence, is the idea that one's self, or one's mind, is the only thing you can be sure exists. And it's tricky to falsify only because the words "self" and "mind" are not objectively nailed down, but left open to interpretation. Therefore – when one attempts to put forth the obvious evidence that there appears to be an external world which cannot be directly manipulated by the mind, and from which the individual receives input which did not come from their own mind – the ambiguity in the definitions of 'self' and 'mind' allow the solipsism apologist to move the goalpost. They can claim that part of the mind is "locked" or "subconscious" or otherwise inaccessible to the direct experience or manipulation of the individual. And at this point we are stretching and expanding what a mind or self "is", because we started with the words, not existential things – yet we are treating those words as if they have intrinsic existential properties. If you start with things that can be empirically observed and objectively defined, assign those things terms, and use those terms to define solipsism, then falsifying it becomes trivially easy. I can observe that I have qualitative, phenomenal experiences. And I can observe that I react to those experiences, exerting an arbitrary will from what I experience. So from these observations I have empirically observed two things: 1) A function of qualitative and phenomenal input and arbitrary output which is experienced. I will define this as "consciousness". 2) That there is an object experiencing and participating in this function, which is me. I will define this as "self". So the self (as I have defined it here) has an input-output function called consciousness. From this, we will define an objective form of solipsism: ¬ there exists ¬self. Or, more plainly, nothing exists besides the self. To falsify solipsism, we need only to prove there exists ¬self, or that something besides the self exists.
For the input part of my consciousness to receive input (qualitative, phenomenal experience), there must be a source of that input. That is, an output. In a solipsistic universe, the only possible source of output would be the self. And the self does in fact have an output in the consciousness function in the form of an arbitrary will. The problem is that we receive input which is clearly not our own arbitrary will. We receive input which is different from and foreign to the output of our consciousness. We can observe this. You are observing it right now. Most of the sensory input you are currently experiencing is not being consciously willed into existence by you. You may be acting on it with your will, but it keeps acting on you regardless of your will, and it may behave in ways contrary to your will. Since we receive input which was not an output of the will – that is, of the self – that means this input must have been an output of something ¬self. This proves, empirically, logically, and undeniably there exists ¬self, that something other than the self exists. And this therefore disproves the original statement of solipsism: ¬ there exists ¬self.
You of course could revert back to some other statement of solipsism, or some other definition of the self, and proceed to move goalposts and create ambiguity. But if you do, then what are we even discussing? Anyone can make up a word and an idea and keep it vague enough to allow it to evade all analysis. But in doing so, you have removed all substance and validity from that idea itself. It may defy analysis, but it also defies usefulness and applicability. What, existentially, does a vague definition of solipsism even imply? What force does it carry? Exactly none.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lessons in Bias from 9-11 and Dihydrogen Monoxide

Well, it's September 11th again. If you didn't look at your calendar, you could probably tell easily enough from glancing at any social media feed. Today is the day everyone makes sure we never forget what happened on September 11th, 2001. And rightly so. What happened that day is infamous for a reason. 2996 people prematurely lost their lives on that day, and thousands upon thousands more have perished since then as a direct result of what happened that day. We should remember that day. And, just as importantly, we should have a thorough understanding of what happened.

Most people are at least vaguely aware of the conspiracy theories surrounding the 9-11 attacks and the 9-11 truth movements that have brought them to light. For a very long time, I didn't take those movements and theories seriously. They seemed completely bonkers, like complete hogwash. But when I learned that someone I respected held to those theories, I decided to at least hear their case out. I didn't make it past re-watching the video footage before I knew something wasn't right. Back in 2001 when the attacks happened, I wasn't as well versed in physics as I am now. Simply watching the way the towers fell within the context of what happened offended my understanding of physics so much that I was compelled to start asking questions. And I quickly found myself unable to believe the official story anymore.

To be clear, I don't know what happened on 9-11. Was it an "inside job"? And if so, who was involved? I don't know. What I do know is that the official story is impossible, and there is a lot of evidence to support that those airplanes had a lot of help in the form of demolition equipment in order to bring down those buildings. Beyond that, I refuse to jump to any conclusions without hard evidence. But there is some compelling evidence that suggests various culprits, including some within government.

If you want to see why I disbelieve the official 9-11 narrative, I would refer you to the mini-documentary 9/11 - Echos of Darkness by StormCloudsGathering, as well as his latest video which was released today. I also encourage you to check out the YouTube channel Physics and Reason, which addresses the issue from a straightforward and easy to follow scientific perspective using experimentation and empirical evidence. But convincing you that the 9-11 story we've all been told is bullcrap was not my main reason for this article. There is something even more important that I want to address.

In addition to 9-11, there is no shortage of causes and conspiracy theories out there. Some of these are legitimate, and some of them are not. And it's become quite apparent to me that, whether it's the official narratives or less mainstream accounts, people do not choose what to believe based on evidence, reason, or fact. Rather, people choose what to believe based on what they want to believe, and based on the biases they embrace in order to protect what they believe from any evidence to the contrary.

Those who are dissatisfied with the status quo, the government, the corporate dominated economy, and the system as a whole tend to be more inclined to believe things which would incriminate that system and the entities which comprise it. Those who believe in that system, however, tend to be more inclined to dismiss anything which might incriminate it. Liberals are more likely to believe a narrative that paints conservatives in a bad light or incriminates their policies. Conservatives are more likely to believe any narrative which does this to liberals. Whatever cause or ideology someone believes in, they will almost always accept information which upholds what they believe and reject information that doesn't. This is called confirmation bias.

There is a satire/troll page on Facebook which centers around a campaign against a chemical called dihydrogen monoxide, also known as hydric acid. This chemical is rightly cited as being the cause of untold deaths in the US and around the world, and as being present in everything from acid rain to industrial runoff. It is also known more commonly by a different name: water. The point of the dihydrogen monoxide page is to illustrate how easy it is to take true facts and present them in such a way that it produces misleading information. I'm a big fan of the page myself. It's obvious satire, but apparently not obvious enough for some.

Recently, dihydrogen monoxide memes have been showing up on the pages of various March Against Monsanto pages and other non-GMO and pro-natural pages. They seem to be posting them in all seriousness, taken in by this troll campaign against water just because it sounds like something that supports their worldview. I find this both hilarious and sad. Sad because it is an example of information being accepted and held on to without scrutiny or thought on the part of those accepting it, simply because it suits their confirmation bias.

Please note that I'm not trying to discredit March Against Monsanto or the non-GMO movement. I have many sympathies with their cause, I support GMO labeling, and I have a lot of concerns over GMO foods. I'm merely using March Against Monsanto as an example. This phenomenon is not limited to them by any means. It's all over the place, spanning all ideologies, movements, and cultures. Whether a cause can be considered good or not, chances are good that many within it accept information that supports their worldview with minimal scrutiny. The ideas they are accepting may not even be wrong. But, because of their biases, they have no defense against any that are. And, as a result, many stupidities are able to creep in to otherwise sound movements, derail their intellectual integrity, and ultimately destroy their credibility.

This is a huge problem. And I'm not immune to it myself. It was my own bias that made me dismiss claims that the official story about what happened on September 11, 2001 is bogus. Before I could examine those claims objectively, I had to tear down those biases. And I have tried my best to make a conscious effort to identify and confront my own biases on every front. It's an ongoing effort that is by no means complete. Often, the problem with bias is that we are blind to our own. And it can be a very uncomfortable and humbling process to expose your own biases so you can see them, admit to them, and ultimately part with them.

But it is the problem of confirmation bias that prevents so many people from being objective about so many situations. It has led to a lot of ridiculous conspiracy theories and ridiculous official stories alike. It's the type of thinking that produces the crazy, way out there tinfoil-hat types and the sheeplike fools who accept what their television tells them without question. They are one and the same in their way of thinking, they just differ in the content.

So, this September 11th, with the world slowly marching towards disaster and sanity running in short supply on all of the various sides, I want to encourage you to do one thing: question yourself. Question your thought process and your conclusions. Question why you believe what you believe. And question deeply. And don't ever stop. Even when you feel satisfied that you have seen past your own biases, when you are certain of your own objectivity, that is the time to be questioning yourself the most aggressively. A little bit of self-doubt is healthy when it spurs you to more self-awareness, so long as it doesn't prevent you from being certain and assertive when you need to be. In fact, such doubt and questioning can ultimately lead to greater certainty as the biases are refined from your thinking.

With the world becoming increasingly like tinder, ready to go ablaze both at home and abroad, I cannot emphasize how important it is to think beyond the polarizing narratives and biases that are driving the various sides in conflict. It might be our only hope for averting disaster. Revolution begins within, with the overthrow of our own broken mindset. We cannot change the world until we first change ourselves.