Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'm still here.

I just wanted to post and let my readers (all two of you) know that I haven't been sucked into a black hole or anything, nor have I forgotten about this blog. I've actually had several articles planned, but due to having a lot on my plate and no reliable internet connection, I have failed to finish any of them thus far. In the past, I have forced myself to push through an article and get one out, but for right now, I'm taking my time to get my ducks in a row, work on some other projects (namely, a novel I've been meaning to sit down and write), and deal with other more mundane issues that are competing for my attention at the moment. I've also been spending some serious time and debt-based fiat currency in the area of prepping, something I've been meaning to do for some time. And no, Ebola didn't inspire me, I actually started before all that came to the forefront. I may do an article or two about that in the not-so-distant future.

I do, however, now have a semi-usable internet connection. It's slow, spotty, and occasionally just doesn't work, but it means I can actually get a few things done online. So, in honor of being mostly back up and running out here in the sticks, I thought I'd share a couple thoughts.

Thought #1
I rub elbows with several members of the tinfoil hat community online. I don't always agree with their take on things, but many of them are quite perceptive, catch things other people don't, and most that I know hold themselves to a decent standard of intellectual integrity. They make me think about things from a different angle, and that's a good thing. So, when I say what I'm about to say, I'm not saying it in application to everyone. Technically, I fall into the tinfoil hat category myself on some issues. Like 9-11.

But, some of the people in the conspiracy theory community are just plain nuts. It's fine to use inductive reasoning, intuition, and imagination to hypothesize about fringe possibilities. In fact, it's a good thing. Because sometimes those fringe possibilities turn out to be the truth. The problem comes when a hypothesis, because it sounds so good to you and there is some shred of evidence that correlates with it, becomes fact in your mind and is henceforth purported as such. If you have a hypothesis about lizard people, mind-controlling nanobots, alien overlords, or plans to massively depopulate the human race – well, awesome. All of those things, while they strain the bounds of probability and reason, still fall within the realm of plausibility.

If someone is interested, there is no harm and much good that can come from investigating these possibilities and discussing it with others. But when you start to declare something as fact (or worse, as a pre-assumed fact which goes without question), provide only shaky and circumstantial evidence, and label those who call it into question as 'sheeple' or 'asleep'... well, at that point you have lost my attention. I will entertain almost any idea, no matter how crazy. I learned from 9-11 not to dismiss something just because it 'sounds crazy'. But in the same way, I won't accept something just because it 'makes sense'. Before you can call something a fact, you must first eliminate the possibility that it is not true. And on that note...

Thought #2
We, as a society, have an addiction. And I blame the Ancient Greek philosophers for it. They did us a great disservice in that they ingrained into our culture a terrible, horrible concept called two-valued logic. For those not in the know, and too lazy to read the linked Wikipedia entry, two-valued logic basically means a logic system where a given statement can either be true or false, not both, and not some other third option. Everything is a zero or a one.

This works great in computer science, where everything is a zero or a one. But for the real world... not so much. We have to deal with things called unknown variables, which result in uncertainties, probabilities, and such. So from any individual's relative position there is inherently a third option besides 'true' and 'false', and that is 'indeterminate'. Someone will argue, "Hurr-durr, its still true or false, u jus dont know witch cuz yer igner'nt." Which makes me want to drop a crate of physics textbooks on their head. Three-valued logic is inherent to the universe, and one needs to look no further than quantum mechanics to see that. There, you find uncertainty encoded into the most fundamental mechanisms of the universe. In other words, the universe runs on three value logic, the same way a computer runs on binary logic. And all of you black-and-white, true-and-false determinists can get just over it. Because there is nothing you can do about it.

It is okay to be uncertain. It is okay to not know all of the answers. It is okay for your worldview to have unanswered questions, tricky conundrums, and loose ends that haven't been tied up. You will never have all of your ducks in a row. Your ideas and logic will never be perfectly watertight. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many lifetimes you spend, there will always be indeterminates, unknown variables, and unknown unknowns. That just comes with the territory of being a mere mortal.

But this makes many people very uncomfortable. We have been taught that, if an idea has loose ends or unknowns attached to it, it must be wrong or worthless. And we feel very uncomfortable when we can't put all of our observations and experiences into a neat box, because then we feel like we aren't in control. Which is okay, because we aren't. People, you need to let it go. (No singing!) In most cases, 'indeterminate' or 'I don't know' are just as acceptable answers to a question as 'yes' or 'no'. It doesn't mean the person saying it is stupid, or incompetent, or whatever. And if you don't know, it doesn't mean you are stupid or incompetent. We need to learn to live with uncertainty, to be honest about it with ourselves, with each other, and accepting of others (and not dismissive of their ideas) when they admit they are uncertain. False certainty is the fundamental unit of willful ignorance.

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