I feel as though I've suddenly been dropped into Orwell's 1984, where actions are masked by words whose meanings have been carefully contorted to match a hidden PC standard. Any subject matter that does not fit the purposes of the puppet masters is excluded via marginalization.
My central thesis, part A:
There are ways and means to get at the truth in nearly every situation.
First, you have to be free to consider the possibilities regardless of how you feel about them, not biasing your search by ruling things out without examination.
Second, you must recognize your own limitations - that you could be wrong, in any and all respects. You've been wrong before - right? And yet, at the time, you were just as convinced as now about being right. You may think that you have it nailed, because you trust your own thoughts, but you know that you can only hold just a few variables in conscious focus, so you're depending on prior reasoning, aren't you? Did you get it right - two minutes ago... five years ago... five decades ago??
Third, how should you weight different hypotheses? There can be a certain level of desireable feedback, which can easily generate false positives if not handled effectively. Consider the big old regenerative radio receivers that had a vernier knob to adjust the level that the input signal would be fed back into itself. Often they had a second knob for adjusting bandwidth. Or the problems with regeneration exemplified by the screech of mic too close to speaker. But then consider orgasm, which is probably impossible without the positive feedback loop.
To get at the truth effectively, there are stratagems and perspectives that may help. Scientific epistemology has a good track record - it led to walking on the moon, which involved getting billions of things right - as opposed to the mess (e.g., endless wars and mass starvation) that "political science" or religion have engendered. And, decision theory has produced some nice work as well.
My central thesis, part B:
There are ways and means to prevent people from discovering the truth, and they are so commonly used as to almost be the rule.
Take the belief in God. Whether or not there is a God, there is clearly, on the part of many religions, a campaign to either force belief (or force people to lie about it) or make it very uncomfortable to deny. "God" himself is even called into the fray, secretly spying on our innermost thought and feelings, presumably recording everything at a resolution that the NSA should envy. Thus, with eternal damnation as the alternative to infinite bliss in paradise, depending upon what one secretly believes, the scales are weighted, regardless of the truth.
The false assumption of truth from authority can also be a matter of life and death. Under Stalin's rule, unlimited atrocities were committed upon innocent people on a simple basis:
If you were accused of a crime, then you must be guilty, based on the assumption that the People's justice systems were inherently infallible, having thrown off the chains and blinders from the evil capitalist past. To suggest otherwise was to challenge the entire system and label one's self a suspect. It didn't help that the authorities effectively had quotas. If crime dropped off then what could one do but arrest those who might possibly be perps?
(See the XLNT movie, "Child 44" for a reasonably accurate depiction of how thoroughly such systems eradicate any semblance of actual truth, and result in societies in which survival is based on being a being the last one standing in a tournament of deception. The movie, BTW, is an XLNT adaptation of the best-selling book, and bears strong resemblances to the "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" Series, right down to the leading lady - Noomi Rapace. You might want to read the book first, just because the detail and quantity of information, the complexity of maintaining ones survival via an unending, probably ultimately doomed, series of lies, can be overwhelming.)
Then there are the problems related to hypnosis, which I'm attempting to cover in a separate blog here, the problem being that there is so much material to digest. The core of hypnosis is the suspension of critical thinking, which is not a good start if one is seeking truth, for sure. Hypnosis in practice ranges from the stage or therapeutic professions to the street con artiste to major politicians and religious leaders, to the individuals seeking to evade uncomfortable truths. It is often claimed that one cannot hypnotized against the will of the subject, but one has to recognize in many cases what is going on to begin with.
Bottom Line: There is an epistemological battle royale in play and all you need to become a target or join the fray is to have an important truth and to speak it.
I've covered some of the main points of my discussion before - altho from somewhat different angles, such as my 2005 blog here:
http://forums.joeuser.com/93471/page/1/#1948300 (and note how much stuff I got right!)
And, for most of a decade, to provide an ongoing example, my massive essay "On Morals" has sat on the JoeUser blog site. http://philosborn.joeuser.com/article/301081/On_Morals
In "On Morals," I claim to have provided a reasonable and clear (if overly verbose) answer to the question, "Why be good?" - one that does not require external justification, sacrifice, or collectivism. In the past nine years, I have had a few readers who disagreed, but no one who has actually brought forward a concrete argument to support their disagreement. I have no way to get inside their heads to dredge out what that argument might be, so I can only note that some people don't accept my position.
I have successfully argued that position against the combined intellectual weight of the local Christian Apologetics and won my case, hands down, forcing them into the fallback position that determinism forbids knowledge anyway, without the grace of God (and FAITH!). But they couldn't shake my position on morals, as such, without also bringing down their whole house of Augustinian cards. (The Christian Apologetics are widely regarded as the intellectual pinnacle of Christianity (aside from the Divinity, of course ;-> - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_apologetics)
So, having defeated the heavyweights, I went public - or tried to. I was given a slot at the local OC philosophy group, despite reservations on both my part and those of the organizers. Their reservations had to do with my attributions to Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Brandon. Juan, the co-sponsor of the group, mentioned that they had had one previous "follower" of Rand - who "didn't last." My reservations toward the group were similar, but in as much as my own argument in moral philosophy was largely independent and went beyond what either Rand or Branden had published, I felt that there was a chance, at least, to practice my presentation skills and maybe get some useful feedback. Heck, I might even be proven wrong!
(For those who missed the past six decades or are of foreign - non US born or raised - extraction, I grant a waiver, as neither Rand's nor Branden's work had much of an impact beyond the U.S. borders, so far as I know.* Very briefly, Rand challenged the entire Judeo-Christian value standard with her philosophy of "objectivism," while Branden is best known for his "Bio-Centric" school of psychology and his own monumental book "The Psychology of Self Esteem." For a good into to them, check out the links:
*When the Smithsonian commissioned the "Readers Digest" to do a survey of the U.S. asking what books had most influenced people's lives, Rand's monumental "Atlas Shrugged" came in at number two, right after the Bible. Most younger people in the U.S. have at least heard of Rand, if only in connection with the libertarian-leaning politicians, such as Rand Paul or his dad, Ron.
So, I attempted to present my argument, and a local sociopath (IMHO), arriving late to her first meeting, decided within about a minute that she didn't want to talk about morals anyway (understandably) and cut in, talking over me about what she wanted to voice. I have a weak voice and cannot out-shout anyone, and the usual moderator for the group, a huge man who maintained order with an iron fist, was not able to make it that night.
So, it was a disaster, with which the lady was naturally quite pleased. Nothing of my argument ever got presented, and, surprise, surprise... three of the Apologetics also showed up, having apparently tracked me via the internet after their earlier abject failure, with the clear intent of further harping on the necessity of GOD! to make free will possible, thus enabling their version of morality. Got it?
The woman did get it, in spades, eagerly cheering on the apologetics' fervent attempts to SAVE us all via an alleged proof of the existence of God, while internally, I am certain, laughing her head off at the complete and utter destruction of anything of value to the "discussion," (which degenerated into a one person shouting match by the intellectual star of the Apologetics - maybe he was shouting at the devil?) consequent to her skillful manipulation of the group, including what appeared to be subtly playing the sex card to the benighted leader of the apologetics. What a circus!
So, next I tried a new local atheists group. This time, the host had clearly been approached by someone.* He had promised me an hour and a half, which was perfect for me, as I am a lousy didactic presenter, but do very well in discussion and Q & A. Then he deliberately brought up endless announcements and discussion until it was twenty minutes from the restaurant's closing, then chastised me afterwards for not having done a ten minute summary - which I could have done if that had been specified.
*(I'm pretty sure who. One of my old nemeses from the '70's libertarian movement showed up, a lady who attended all the available libertarian events back in the day, and used the deference paid by males to the scarce female libs to consistently take statist, altruistic or simply irrational positions, with a special high pitched voice for those occasions - roughly one per meeting - that lent gravitas to the idea that she actually had the moral high ground and was not just another ego-tripper.
Since she demonstrably could not parse more that a simple syllogism (if that) she exhibited hostility toward anyone who was her intellectual superior, and since she looked so bad by comparison, she used her technique of breaking into the discussion on her moral high horse to ensure that no serious intellectual threats could materialize. I.e., one could confidently write off any meeting that she attended.)
So, one win, two disasters, both losses attributable to the simple failure to allow me to present my case.
Attempt the fourth was a presentation of my moral theory before the OC Humanists, a group of mostly elderly people who are well educated, usually retired professionals from academia or the sciences. Probably about a third of them at least are also members of the various atheist or skeptic groups, and if you were to hang out in the OC, looking for intellectual discussions, you would likelymeet the same people again at philosophy meetups or "progressive" political events.
The Humanist meeting, whose attendees included members of the crew that attended the OC Philosophy group, went relatively well. I announced the talk at the previous OC Occupy meeting, and a crew of the more intellectual Occupiers showed up, skewing the average age by about two decades.
However, the Humanist leadership took precautions against my alien presence exerting some kind of dire impact on the group. One of them took up a seat right in front of the podium and informed me that he would moderate and limit questions to one-liners. I informed him that I would be happy to take complex questions and was not afraid of arguments. Later, he announced on his own that he had never heard of anything like my theory, which he could not understand to begin with (can't imagine why...), and since he was a professional consulting psychologist, that settled the matter.
Actually, I suspect that most of the attendees would have been unable to reproduce a reasonable overview or synopsis of what I presented. My impression is that in this group as well as the related groups that the same core shows up at, the goal is social interaction - mainly feeling as though they belong to a group with shared values (and filling time). Forget complex ideas or anything that challenges their progressive left-wing status quo or demands objectivity.
Since my talk, the OC Humanists has had some good speakers, but also quite a few complete duds, yet no one - other than moi - will typically challenge obvious problems with the typical presentation, such as using the forum to promote political positions under the guise of discussing what should be objective facts, or treating us like idiots. However, the Occupy group that attended the Humanist meeting seemed to get it.
Q? Why is there such an intellectual dessert in the OC, or Southern California in general? Northern California, especially the Bay area, is a relative intellectual free-fire zone. I recall walking the Haight/Ashbury district in the mid'90's, cooling down from attending the Meckler VR conference in San Jose as press rep for "Amiga User International" and getting into a serious discussion of the development possibilities for different VR platforms - with a black street lady who was running a street sale of used clothing, to pay for her next meal. I.e., the average person living on the street in San Francisco was probably more hip than the typical corporate MBA of the OC. (This may have changed - in degree. The internet has raised the consciousness of a lot of unlikely people - even some of the corporate MBAs.)
And when I came to Long Beach in '76, searching for a real action hotbed for the coming libertarian revolution, I biked down to CSULB, assuming that I could find the endless intellectual discussions that every East Coast college is super-saturated with. (On the East Coast there is this pervasive myth that the West Coast is where all the radical thought and action are - which is why I moved out here. Sad.) I went to the student union and the cafeteria to no avail. It took me a month to find the one and only serious discussion on the entire campus, de facto led by Phil Alvin, lead of the Blasters, and also known years later for his work on set theory. http://articles.latimes.com/1993-12-10/news/va-231_1_phil-alvin
Ironically, I could use this tale about Alvin for more than one line of argument. As I recall Phil telling me, years later, he had taken the game of LIFE that was the craze at Yale to the next level, demonstrating that order would self-select even from purely random beginnings. His thesis was rejected by both the Math and the Computer Sciences departments as well as being roundly rejected, I think, by the Physics people. (I could be getting some of this slightly wrong, but the gist is accurate.)
The math people felt that using computers - typically by some method of approximations - was cheating! Thus, they wanted no truck with this sullied pragmatic approach. The physics people saw it as a violation of the rule of Entropy - utter nonsense! Thus, Alvin turned to music.
Parties on the East Coast follow the Woody Allen mode: If there isn't at least one knock-down, drag-out political or religious or philosophical argument, then the party was a failure.
On the Southern West Coast, to my surprise, even at a party of a particular political orientation, try to start on intense intellectual discussion and the hostess will hurry over in embarrassment to break it up before it ruins the mood. Loud pounding music is played to ensure that real discussions are limited to two or three people who can shout in each other's ears. The same is true for public venues, such as the current local Santa Ana Art Walk, where enormous speakers typically pound out rock or rap, while dazed patrons of the arts hold their ears in dismay, giving up on the art they wanted to focus on. Why these irrational behaviors are virtually universal is another matter.
Castaneda, to my best recollection, does not focus on the impact or change induced in Southern Californa by the influx and increase in the Hispanic component of SoCal, but rather on the inappropriate behaviors that his compadres have carried with them as cultural baggage evolving from the old small village hacienda system, where the Jefe set the rules and whoever had the cash to pay for musicians was the Big Man, permitted - even encouraged - to be as LOUD as possible, regardless of the disruption to other people's lives. Castaneda concludes that his countrymen are learning and adapting to the dominant Anglo culture by generations. I agree, having lived in Santa Ana for most of 30 years. However, the impact goes both ways.
I can take the same highly detailed facts and polls that Castaneda references and turn them around to the implications for the Anglo culture...
More to come. Corruption in computer club circles...