How to think about weird things

There’s no such thing as objective truth. We make our own truth. There’s no such thing as objective reality. We make our own reality. There are spiritual, mystical, or inner ways of knowing that are superior to our ordinary ways of knowing. If an experience seems real, it is real. If an idea feels right to you, it is right. We are incapable of acquiring knowledge of the true nature of reality. Science itself is irrational or mystical. It’s just another faith or belief system or myth, with no more justification than any other. It doesn’t matter whether beliefs are true or not, as long as they’re meaningful to you.

a summary of New Age beliefs, from Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn
How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age
(Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995)


WTF!!!  I usually try to post quotes I agree with, but there is a lot of crazy … stuff … out there.  The mind is fully capable of fooling itself and experiencing things that are not real, i.e. hallucinations.  If I’m on a long road trip and I’ve been driving too long, let’s say 20 hours, and I start seeing mermaids swimming in the road and I swerve to avoid them and crash my car.  Can I honestly state that the experience which seemed real was real?

I had a friend drop acid in high school.  The school band was playing and he could see blue music notes coming out of the conductors wand.  I of course couldn’t.  Were they really there?  No.  I had a co-worker that people just didn’t like, when told this, his response was, “Well, in my internal reality…”   WTF!

While our perceptions of reality are different, the mind is capable of fooling itself.  What is perceived is not always reality.  Reality exists external to us and we have only our perceptions by which to interpret and interact with it.  The last sentence I can almost agree with, I can’t agree with granting carte blanche to everything we think.  “What’s the harm in crazy beliefs?” you might be saying.  Well, Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, and numerous other doomsday cults, think of the wealth of cataclysmic prophesies (remember the Mayan calendar), just to name a few.  What if a loved one, or your child, fell for one of these and spent all their money trying to find a way to survive the coming catastrophe, or killed themselves to hitch a ride on an alien ship?  Would you mock them the way you might mock a stranger?  I think not.

Things can be meaningful to you, and that will influence you, but you cannot let them control you.

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Word of the Day: charivari

Noun
a noisy mock serenade (made by banging pans and kettles) to a newly married couple
synonym: shivaree, chivaree, callithump, callathump, belling
Etymology

Note: It was at first performed before the house of any person of advanced age who married a second time.

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Word of the Day: theory

noun
1: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; “theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses”
2: a tentative insight into the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena; “a scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory”
synonym: hypothesis, possibility
3: a belief that can guide behavior
Etymology

While I won’t normally pick an “ordinary” word, I picked this because of the abuse surrounding this word, particularly surrounding the Theory of Evolution.  People who do not like evolution, deride it stating that it’s not fact, it’s only a theory.  They are correct, but, by their tone, they using the wrong word, they mean guess.  A guess is forming an opinion without knowledge or means of knowledge, judging at random; while a theory is well-substantiated, based more on fact, supported by evidence.  So when people deride the theory of evolution, by saying, “It’s only a theory.”  They are in fact supporting it, because, yes, it is a theory that explains the observable facts.

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The Ethics of Belief

A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and refitted, even though this should put him to great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms, that it was idle to suppose that she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.

What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in nowise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts …

William K. Clifford,

The Ethics of Belief (1874)

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The Phrontistery

The Phrontistery is a source for unusual and interesting words.

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Word of the Day: antebellum

adjective
1: belonging to a period before a war especially the American Civil War

Etymology

Sounds like something in the brain.  “He died from a blow to the posterior antebellum.”

On a different note, I’ve heard it said that Lincoln wasn’t actually concerned with freeing the slaves.  Don’t know if that’s true or not.  I’ll have to add it to the list of things to investigate.

A quick look at Wikipedia (and Striner, Richard (2006). Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery. Oxford University Press. pp. 2–4) indicates that what I’ve heard wasn’t true.  No surprise there.  A lot of people will confabulate a lot of crap to make point.  That’s why I’m a skeptic.

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Gabriel Gacia Marquez Quote

True memories seemed like phantoms, while false memories were so convincing that they replaced reality. – Gabriel García Márquez Phantoms

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Francis Bacon Quote

The human understanding is no dry light, but receives infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.”  For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes.  Therefore he rejects difficult things, because they narrow hope; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar.  Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptibles, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon Novum Organon (1620)

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Sherlock Holmes Quote

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.  Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. – Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia

If only the police today were more like this.  I think back on the tragic death of JonBenét Ramsey ad how the police botched it badly.  I read on a British paper how they investigated it and hired the same private detective the police hired to help build a case against the family.  He told them that their evidence pointed away from the family.  They thanked him and sent him on his way.  Sad, if true.  Sad that they pursued the family for so long before admitting they were wrong.

And that is why you always have an attorney if you even have and inkling of a suspicion that the police may think you are guilty.  They do not have to read you your Miranda rights until you are a suspect in the case.  Of course in the trial by media, if you get a lawyer, you’re guilty, because only guilty people get lawyers.  No!  Smart people get lawyers.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to help the police, but be careful.  A jury will put you away for a careless, misconstrued word, despite innocence.

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Word of the Day: tendentious

adjective
1: having or marked by a strong tendency especially a controversial one; “a tendentious account of recent elections”; “distinguishing between verifiable fact and tendentious assertion”

Etymology

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