Curiosity Didn’t Kill Schrodinger’s Cat

I believe God made me.Einstein-on-religion

I believe He used science-describable processes, such as evolution, to bring me – and the entirety of creation – into being.

I do not blindly follow everything I hear related to science. I do research, I find verifiable facts, I cross-reference data. Science does not yet have all the answers and I’m not sure they ever will. The more scientists dig, the more questions they find. I figure this is because God is really smart and he made the universe really complicated to keep us curious.

I do not blindly follow everything I hear about God and faith. I do research (by reading what others have written), I find verifiable facts (this might involve talking to others), I cross-reference data (this is usually through prayer). God does have all the answers, but I couldn’t ever understand them all: My brain is finite. Because of this, I don’t always have the answers when it comes to faith and God. I’m ok with that because God isn’t explainable by science any more than a blacksmith is explainable by the horseshoe he made. My faith in God isn’t dependent on being able to explain Him, but I’m sure grateful he gave us such a cool sandbox to play in!

God made me intelligent. I’m not bragging; he made almost every human intelligent to a lesser or greater degree. My personal IQ doesn’t matter. However, the fact that I’m curious and I don’t take everything at face value is part of who I am. You have your own particular qualities, as God made you.

PicassoBW-portrait-778x1024Some people are born to play baseball, or to organize business conferences, or to compose music. To tell Mozart that he shouldn’t compose because you don’t personally like what he’s composing is wrong. To tell Picasso that he shouldn’t paint because you don’t like what he’s painting is equally wrong.

It is, however, perfectly right and good to talk to that person about what they are doing so you can understand it – and them – better. You might learn from them, and they might learn from you. This is the nature of discourse; this is the way we’re supposed to be in relationship with each other.

I have some strong opinions. If you know me at all, you’re rolling your eyes right now. If you don’t, just understand my biggest personal flaw and my most dangerous sin is pride. Sometimes, more than I’d like, I come across as sounding like I’m right and any other views are wrong. In short, I sometimes sound like I’m judging others. I really hate that I come across that way. It is my desire to be kind and open to people, and to treat them with respect.

If they’d just stop spouting their stupid ideas and listen to me, they’d know what was right and wrong!

Ahem. Pride.

Please forgive me if I’ve been prideful to you. But understand this: If you think I’m being prideful or arrogant, if you feel I’ve judged you, then it’s just because I feel strongly about a topic. If I didn’t feel passionate, I wouldn’t get all up in your grill about it.

When I was going to church as a child, I had some interesting experiences. I lived in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and I attended St. Paul’s U.C.C. there in bucolic Kutztown. [Holy cow! I just discovered this church doesn’t seem to exist on the InterWebz at all! Not even a photo. And I was going to do a cool hyperlink to their non-existent website!]

Here's a random picture of Main Street in Kutztown, PA

Here’s a random picture of Main Street in Kutztown, PA

While there, I was told that the pastor was the one who could answer all of my questions. I was too intimidated by him to ask directly – and I could write a book on that topic alone, but I’m not paying you for a therapy session – so I asked my Sunday school teacher. After bringing her class to a halt one Sunday with “why, why, why?” she finally told me I couldn’t ask any more questions. I told her God made me curious, and she told me that curious children were dangerous children.

No kidding. No, I don’t remember the exact words 30 years later, but she told me curiosity was dangerous.

Perhaps you’ve read or been told the quote by Galileo regarding this topic. I’ll include it here for clarity and simplicity.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them [the above-listed faculties].”

So, I am curious. I am doubting. I am also sincere. If you don’t agree with my opinion on politics or abortion or religion or any other topic, talk to me about it. Don’t get angry at me because I don’t conform to your world-view. This is probably the single most horrible side-effect of the InterWebz on society. People have access to all the data accumulated by humanity over six thousand years, and what do we do? Ignore everything that doesn’t fit our world-view. This selective intake of information leads to self-fulfilled prophecies. When you only see what you want to see, everything else becomes scary. Everything else becomes dangerous.

diagnosis of curiosityThis is EXACTLY what the Catholic church was doing to Galileo, and to Copernicus before him. This is exactly what what led to World War II (the Jews are responsible for everything wrong today!) and to the Cold War. This is exactly what has led to the costly and failed War on Drugs. And this is exactly what caused nineteen men to kill themselves – and 3000 others – on 09/11/2001.

It is not by any means curiosity that is dangerous. It is the lack of curiosity, the lack of interest in questioning your world view, that is so very, very dangerous. There is nothing more terrifying to me.

I believe God made me. He made me curious.

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Lies, Damn Lies and #&*$@#*$ Statistics!

My younger brother and I don’t agree politically. I try not to get upset at him just because I see a smart man making poor decisions. It bothers me though because I believe he can do better. But that’s my admittedly subjective point of view. I have no problem with people holding different views than me. In fact, I’d be bored with a world where everyone thought as me. But if you hold a differing view than me, I expect you can defend it. My younger brother can’t. This is such an issue in my family that my older brother unfriended me on Facebook and we haven’t talked for eight months. I feel he’s made his feelings plain that he doesn’t want to accept his brother doesn’t agree with him. That makes me profoundly sad, but I can’t change his mind. He rejects me, and I’ll just have to live with it.

My younger brother is more willing to put up with my views, but he strongly disagrees with me. I keep asking him to defend his views as I do mine, but he doesn’t lift a mental finger. He just accepts what the right-leaning media tells him. But what he does actively do is post information he gets from somewhere in the InterWebs to his Facebook account. That’s his right, but my issue is he doesn’t verify any of the information. He just accepts it. That really bakes my beans! Here’s an example of what he posts. This chart below was up on his Facebook page when I sat down this evening. I knew at a glance it was wrong, so I did a little research. My findings – along with sources cited – are listed below.

obama economic record

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Actual Facts I found in less than 70 minutes of internet research. My apologies that the chart doesn’t fit my blog page right. I’ll try to correct it, but the data is still visible.

 

January 2009 Inauguration

Spring 2013

Notes

Source of Data

Unemployed Americans 9 million 11 million As high as 15 million in 2010 Research and Analysis Unit, Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development

[nidataplus.com/lfeus1.htm]

Unemployment Rate 7.8 % 7.5% As high as 10% October 2009 US department of Labor and Statistics [data.bls.gov/timeseries/ LNS14000000]
Gas Prices $1.86/ gal $3.62/ gal Was $4.10/ gal summer of 2008 and up to $3.90 May of 2011 GasBuddy.com [gasbuddy.com/gb_ retail_price_chart.aspx]
Federal Debt 11.9 trillion as of Sept 2009 16 trillion as of Sept 2012   TreasuryDirect [treasurydirect.gov/ govt/reports/pd/histdebt/ histdebt_histo5.htm]
Debt per Person $35,153 Dec 2008 $52,152 Dec 2012   Presidential Debt.org [http://www.PresidentialDebt.org]
Misery Index 7.83 8.56 Has come down from a high of 12.87 in Aug and Sept 2011 MiseryIndex.com [http://www.miseryindex.us/ indexbymonth.aspx]
Food Stamp Recipients 32 million 47.5 million   US Dept of Agriculture via Matt Trivisono’s blog [http://www.trivisonno.com/ food-stamps-charts]
Health Insurance Premiums     Unable to find good data on this. Not sure where they got their numbers as they site no sources.  
Home Values $210,000 $180,000 Average price was as high as $300,000 in 2006 and fell steadily until stabilizing under Obama JP’s [http://www.jparsons.net/ housingbubble/]
U.S. Global Competitiveness 1st (in 2008) 5th (2012)   http://neweconomist.blogs.com/ new_economist/growth_productivity _competitiveness/ and http://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress .com/2012/09/wef-ranking-2012.jpg
Americans in Poverty     Numbers listed in above chart are basically correct, but only through 2011. No more recent data was easily obtainable.  

[Disclaimer: I am not an economist, but I’d play one on TV if I had the chance]

The data I found is better in some cases, and worse in others. However, it’s obvious that the chart my brother found is trying to push an agenda. It minimizes subtlety in favor of bludgeoning you with numbers, hoping you’ll just agree and share it with your friends. Ugh! Really? Are Americans that stupid now that we can’t even think for a few minutes about what sounds right and what sounds like hogwash? Let’s talk about the economy for a minute, shall we?

Economists are well aware of something called economic lag. There is a period of up to four years in which changes made do not seem to have an impact, but up to four years later, changes can be seen. There are two types of lag; inside lag and outside lag. Inside lag occurs when a shock or boom occurs, until the governmental body actually takes action. Outside lag occurs once the policy changes have been made, until the changes actually affect the economy.

When President Obama was elected in November 2008, the US economy was already deep in the worst slump since the Great Depression. It wasn’t even known then just how bad it was. We were in the Inside Lag period as regulators and economists debated how to respond. Decisions were being made when he took office in January of 2009, and more were made in the first few months of his administration.

By late 2009 we were entering the Outside Lag phase, which lasted until well into 2012. The economy was a large part of the presidential election of 2012, and there were just enough positive indicators that Obama was re-elected. Since that time, despite some people crying that the sky is falling, the economy appears to be firmly in the midst of a recovery, although a very slow one. Most of the economic indicators above look worse than they actually are, as they were worse 1-2 years ago, and are now much better. They will likely continue to get better.

The chart at the top, the one that initially prompted me to write this post, is filled with errors and inaccuracies. Honestly, I don’t know who made it, but they were either incompetent or they were serving an agenda which caused them to fabricate answers that fit their motives. They were either idiots, or they were liars. There is no disputing that point.

If one wants to make a statement about the economy, the government, or frankly any other topic, please use actual facts. There is enough good data out there that we don’t need to lie. And if you feel the need to lie to serve your agenda, please consider the worthiness of that agenda. I don’t know if people are racist against Obama. I don’t know if Republicans are self-serving enough to do anything to reach their goals. I don’t pretend to understand the motives of either Republicans or Democrats or any other political creature out there. But I find it impossible to trust any political party that is so intimately tied to distortions of facts, and I don’t understand how others don’t see what I see.

However, I finally have some science to back up my admittedly subjective views. The Center For Media Affairs, a nonpartisan group, recently released a report analyzing truth-bending on both sides of the political landscape. Their findings were stark and unambiguous; Although both major parties were caught lying and telling the truth, Republicans in various platforms and situations have been more dishonest than Democrats, and by a great amount. Check it out yourself if you don’t believe me.

The good Lord gave us powerful minds with which to analyze and understand his creation. Let’s please use them. This is the solemn plea of the Technospiritualist!

Bye, Polar Thinking

Opposites. Thanks to whoever made this pic - I sure didn't!

This is a concept we are taught very early in our lives. The opposite of hot is cold. The opposite of up is down. The opposite of light is dark.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t always simple. Opposite thinking can be a very bad thing. In fact, I’m willing to bet this issue is at the root of many personal and societal issues we all face every day. And I find myself having to avoid this unintentional polarization when I write. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

First of all, let me say this is a normal way for a human to think. Our brains deal with vast, massive heaps of detail and must use some quick and dirty rules to even function. There is plenty of research on this on the InterWebs, and I encourage you to search on your own. There are also many shows, such as NPR’s Raidolab that deal with issues of how we think and how our minds/brains work. Just this Sunday they aired a fascinating story on how very fundamental language is to what we call ‘thought’. Check it out.

But back to the point. Our brains put things into categories as a way of managing the glut of data. If there is a bowl, a spoon and a container of milk on the kitchen table, then your mind will fill in some blanks and assume things like “breakfast” and “food” and perhaps “cereal” or “oatmeal” or “grits”. Nothing about the items on the table tell you that, and the assumption your brain makes could be wrong, but it helps you to make sense of random things. Think of it as a place marker for your brain: “I’ll assume cereal for breakfast until I have more data.”

Your brain does this with opposites as well. If you see a very heavy man walking down the street with a very skinny woman, you’re likely to think “opposites attract” when, in fact, this may not be a correct assumption of their relationship. Or it might. And we’re pretty good at guessing the right answer. The trouble comes in when we guess the wrong answer. That couple could be brother and sister, and he has a health condition that’s caused him to gain weight; he used to be a track star. The important take away is that you can’t be sure your brain is guessing the correct thing whenever its “auto-complete” feature is operating.

Corporations and political organizations know this. Religious organizations know this. Hollywood knows this. They know it better than you do, and they aren’t afraid to use it. The result of this knowledge – and the use/abuse of it – is the increasingly more polarized world we live in.

In politics, both major parties try to paint the other as the opposite of what they stand for. The opposite of Democrat is Republican. The opposite of political right is political left. Social organizations seek to do this as well. Radical Islam seems to say the opposite of of strict Islamic law is not having strict Islamic law. Pro- and anti-abortion groups do this; the opposite of making abortion illegal is allowing any abortions. And in business, the opposite of PC is Mac and the opposite of Abercrombie and Fitch clothing is any clothing that isn’t A & F.

I hope you see how dangerous this is.

An opposite is something that cannot exist in the same place or situation is something else. Night is opposite of day because night literally cannot exist when it’s day. They are antithetical. Wet is the opposite of dry because you cannot be wet and dry at the same time. But by having people play upon our concept of opposite, they are inducing us to make false assumptions. And when we make false assumptions, we make faulty decisions.

A democrat is NOT the opposite of a republican. I’m sorry, but they aren’t. This is clear to many people, and yet many of those same people still hold this view deep within their hearts. But most people who identify as democrat or republican – or tea party – don’t share every single view of that party’s platform. Being a democrat doesn’t automatically mean you want free abortions for every woman, and being a republican doesn’t mean you think firearms should be handed out in grade school. But let’s take a step away from politics and look at one of my biggest pet peeves.

Science is the opposite of faith. In other words, if you believe in God, you can’t believe in science, and vice versa.

So where did this come from and why, as a writer, do I care about it?

I do count myself among the faithful. Yes, I believe in a god. The God of Abraham and Moses and Jesus. I have also read and studied much science, and I accept that as the truth of reality. Where the two come into conflict – and I believe where the whole issue started – is when science seems to contradict or go against something written in the Bible.

As science began to mount in the 1800’s that life and the universe was much older than the Bible seemed to say, a fracture occurred. This fracture became a crack and – by the middle of the century – became a fissure so wide that people began to have trouble crossing back and forth. Camps began to form, shouting insults and math equations at each other. By the time of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859, the fissure became a canyon so wide that the two groups began to develop independently of each other. This has only become more pronounced through the present day, and it has now become part of common culture. This is an opposite fallacy.

And this applies to writing, I feel, very much. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s the villains in stories were easy to tell apart from the heroes. The villains wore black while the heroes wore white. The villains were ugly, and the heroes were handsome. The villains were craven and the heroes noble and good.Ah, a classic old silent film!

We have – for the most part – shed those melodramatic trappings, but not the fallacy. We as storytellers have become much better at hiding it, and I understand it may never fully go away. But many people can read a story or watch a movie and be fairly sure who the villains are before the end, even if that wasn’t the writers intention. It’s almost required, because the audience needs something to hang the dastardly deeds upon, and if the character meant to be a villain wears all white, then the revelation that they are the bad guy (or gal) doesn’t make sense, and our minds reject it.

I’m currently working on a novel where apparently “savage” people meet much more technologically advanced people. The opposite of “savage” is “civilized”, right? Wrong, of course.

So this fallacy exists in our lives pretty much everywhere. The term ‘opposite fallacy’ is made up by me (I think), but it’s really just a simple term for the False Dilemma Fallacy. This is dangerous because it can sneak up on you so you’re not aware of it, or it can be used by others to basically control your thinking. The phrase “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” is a perfect example of the danger, and I urge you to look for this in your daily lives. Don’t let it control your writing and your personal actions, and don’t let others use this against you.

Please join me in saying “Bye!” to polar thinking, and let’s get back to enjoying and enriching the world. Because if you don’t join me in this, then you’re against me. Right?