Why we accept absurdities

A facebook friend wrote,

“[POLITICS] I will not share the original video discussion or who it was, but the topic of conversation was whether we are at a “singularity” in history. That is, whether we have zero idea how the future of humanity will play out from here. I believe this is correct. This is perhaps one of the greatest moments of uncertainty experienced in the lives of almost all people reading this. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. This could explain why some of you are acting out so badly. This could explain why many of us are all over the map with the wildest political guesses, guesstimates, second-guessings, and hindsight biases. Why not hindsight when the future is now a black hole in our imaginations?

This is a political post. Go for it, but remain civil.”

I responded, ” Trying to give answers when the right response is to stick with a question. While we need answers to act correctly, be quick to see an error and quicker to correct. Doubling down from personal bias is the factor leading to misapplying countless poor remedies to an unknown disease … and there I’m considering the economic as well as the medical absurdities we live with each and every day.
Tragically, to know means something different than what most people think it means.

She came back, “I am not sure I know what you mean.”

Thins is my reply … after a good bit of rumination …

Sorry for not being clear and so this somewhat elaborate explanation …

From the late Robert LeChevalier
… I’m irritated by explanations from astronomers expressing absolute certainty about things that are absolutely uncertain.

And the late Richard Feynman
We need to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.”

Both above quotes were saved as food for thought in a file I refer to when writing about CAGW, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. I was skeptical toward global warming from the inception because I was subscribed to a newsletter, Access to Energy, written by Petr Beckmann, who stated words to the effect, “it stretches credibility to believe that CO2 at less than 0.04 %, such a minor component of air, could have such a drastic impact.”

And finally, From Atlas shrugged, “Cherryl, How did you manage to remain unmangled?
Dagny, By holding to just one rule. To place nothing – nothing – above the verdict of my own mind.”

My own philosophical conclusions … we each form knowledge in our own minds.

The inputs to our minds are just information that becomes knowledge through our own evaluative process. Richard Feynman’s Cargo Cult speech elaborates we need to do the experiment ourselves before we can have absolute certainty.

The great lesson from history, simply because one or even many persons believe something, does not make it true.

The human propensity to act first and evaluate later is the proper response in an emergency A fire, a flood, a moving train are all examples of an absence of time when immediate action will save one’s life but a viral threat is not that kind of emergency. We are being mislead, panicked if you will and that is our first clue that skepticism is in order.

Can we assume that the words from our leaders are accurate? Are we prepared to bestow infallibility on any other human being? Are we convinced of the sincerity of the individual speaking? And is sincerity a measure of accuracy? Be it words from a misguided fool, a manipulative charlatan, or an accurate scientist, we have no reason to believe them without further evaluation. Certainty requires that we surround an idea with its full context.

Have we truly lost all common sense? Do we accept the idea that a man’s life can continue without taking the actions necessary to support that life? Is the economic ignorance that underlies the mandatory shutdown of our ability to take self-supporting actions so thorough that we will die without protest?

On the surface, there appear to be a large number of people that answer the above question in the affirmative Leaving those of us who question and judge a shutdown to be an insane belief in black magic to wonder if recovery is even possible given that both wiser leadership and majority of skeptical individuals is necessary in order to restore a free market economic system.

The root of the problem, as I see it, there is widespread acceptance that knowledge is taught when in fact information is presented and each mind, in turn, must turn that into knowledge. When information is presented and we accept it as knowledge we undermine our internal sense of reasoning. Assuming that a disconnected bit of information is true is a reliance on faith, not thinking.

I actually divide the population into those who assume and those who think. Ayn Rand brilliantly summed it up, “The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.”

While that describes what will happen when absurdities are accepted, it doesn’t say why they are accepted. Really the absurd can only be accepted on faith for a reasoning individual will stumble over the truth by leaving the unproven open to challenges.

The strength of one’s convictions often appears misguidedly placed on false beliefs rather than those that are true. That normal. A mind doesn’t need to defend a false challenge for reality will sort things out in the end. It is the challenge to an assumption that irritates the soul, for it causes a person to retroactively think where they had blindly accepted that thing previously. A challenge to one’s entire belief system if you will, usually the result of accepting that others can think for oneself, the ultimate absurdity.

As to the broader question, is it possible to predict what our future will look like after COVID 19, be very cautious about believing the voices that hold the stage today. Those who speak are notoriously not those who act. The future will be built by those who act and act correctly, not those who speak, or may I say, impolitely, publicly babble senselessly.

A culture, a society, a people act in accordance with the combination of restriction and freedoms they enjoy, a social pendulum that gently swings in an ever-changing tempo. America was built by fierce defenders of freedom. The question to end with … does that blood still pump in the hearts of their decedents?

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