What is Just and Fair

"Truth, Justice, and the American Way"

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Nevada – the Men’s Den of the United States

You’ve all seen them, or possibly been responsible for them.  The den the wife leaves to the husband to decorate, with his sports trophies,  racy calendars, well-worn in lazy boy, and large screen tv.  Or the hunting cabin,  all dark wood carefully decorated with the heads of animals and that coffee table made from antlers.  Or the bachelor pad,  last cleaned before move-in not counting an abortive attempt before an even more abortive visit by a member of the opposite sex.   All of these have one thing in common,  interior decorating done by men.

This is Nevada.  The Men’s Den of the United States.  An entire state designed and decorated by men,  with an aesthetic sense beyond the comprehension of any woman. This is a state that has legalized gambling and prostitution,  and has produced Las Vegas as its highest cultural and most tasteful  achievement.

Some Nutty Religious Site

My father-in-law gave me some concise feedback about my blog. I directed him to this blog so that he could see a photo album from a family wedding. He didn’t manage to scroll down to the album. Instead he said the URL I had sent him to was “some nutty religious site about abortion.”

Sorry Bert, this is my site. And it’s not about abortion. Abortion was just one current example of the confusion between wisdom and knowledge. Perhaps I should have stuck with the example of nuclear bombs, much less controversial. And nuclear bombs have killed less people. Depending on which interpretation of abortion you buy into.

OK, in for a penny, in for a pound. Before I leave the subject of abortion, let me add one more observation. The pro-choice (read pro-abortion) position has become a litmus test for today’s Democratic party. Pro-life (read anti-abortion) Democrats are totally shut out of the national party. Democratic senators are willing to undermine the United States Constitution to block judges who they believe might be pro-life.

There is a reason for this. In Gangster movies, you have undoubtedly seen the rite-of-initiation shooting cliché. The bad guy hands the gun to the good guy, who is pretending to be a bad guy, and tells him to shoot a fellow good guy. Why, because if he shoots the good guy, then he establishes himself as a bad guy. Well, this rite-of-initiation also exists in real life, where gangs routinely require murder or some other heinous act as a requirement for acceptance into the gang.

Now think about this. Once a woman “chooses” to perform an abortion, for whatever reason, she must believe the pro-choice rhetoric. The alternative is to believe she has killed her own child. For her own mental health, she must accept the pro-choice view of the fetus as some inconsequential body part. Otherwise, she will go mad with guilt. The Democratic Party knows this, and they prey on it. By being the pro-choice party, they guarantee themselves lifelong members who are mentally unable to even consider the alternative.

This also means the Democratic Party profits from each abortion, and is therefore motivated to increase the number of abortions. Who’s right on the issue of abortion? See my previous blog. We just don’t know. Personally, I hope God made a loophole in there somewhere. Enough nutty religious stuff. I don’t consider it such. I am interested in language, logic, and intelligence. And I readily admit that Democrats possess at least one of these attributes.

(originally posted October 28, 2004 )

Knowledge and Wisdom

Wisdom is the power that enables us to use knowledge for the benefit of ourselves and others – Thomas J. Watson

A key failure in current political discourse is that many, if not most, people confuse knowledge and wisdom. The difference between knowledge and wisdom is quite simple. Scientific and technical knowledge tell us about the physical universe and how to manipulate it. Wisdom tells us how to use the knowledge to lead the good life.

That is, knowledge tells us how to build the atom bomb, wisdom tells us whether we should. Knowledge tells us how to extend our lifespans, wisdom tells us whether we should. Although the difference between knowledge and wisdom is simple and fundamental to our lives, it is not widely understood.

In America, it is confused by an educational system that teaches moral relativism and political correctness, while making a desperate attempt to not teach religion. The result translates into an attempt to not convey any wisdom at all, for religion may be defined as a formal system of wisdom. Yet American schools try to suppress religion and present that any set of values is equally as valid as any other set. They demean some of the wisest people in history for being white and male and make a deliberate attempt to belittle their teachings Knowledge, however, is esteemed and rewarded. The result is a generation that equates knowledge with wisdom.

This confusion causes people to look to scientists to answer moral questions, which is at least as bad as looking to religious leaders to answer scientific questions. For example, abortion is one of the most hotly debated topics in our society. Simply by the use of the labels fetus and baby, our society is heavily split. At present, we either abort a quarter of all fetuses or murder one out of every four babies. If the first label is correct, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. If the second label is correct, we live in one of the darkest and most cruel societies in the history of mankind. Which is it?

Many people look to scientists to answer the question. Yet scientists can’t provide the answer, only wisdom can. Scientists can make objective observations such as when the heart starts beating, when the brain waves start, when the fetus is possibly or probably viable outside the mother’s womb, and when the fetus is possibly or probably threatening to the mother’s life. All of these scientific measurements can be determined with some amount of objectivity. All of these measurements are used by people on both sides of the debate. Yet none of these scientific observations answer the question if abortion is right. No scientific measurement ever will.

Another group in our society looks to religion for answers to scientific questions. Take for instance the fundamentalist Christian sects who take everything in the Bible as scientific fact because they know the Bible to be True. Thus, the theory of evolution must be wrong. The Earth must be only a few thousand years old. And so on. If the Bible is not scientifically correct, can it be True? Again, we have confusion between truth in the realm of knowledge and Truth in the realm of wisdom. When a parent explains a basic Truth to a child using a simplified explanation, does this make it less true? If Jesus explained a truth with a parable, was it necessary for the parable to actually have happened for the parable to contain Truth? If God gave a simplified explanation to his children because they were not ready to understand quantum physics and DNA, does that make the Bible false? Especially since the lessons being taught were those of wisdom and not of knowledge.

If God had been interested in imparting knowledge, wouldn’t Moses have come down the mountain with the laws of motion and thermodynamics? Instead, he came down with the Ten Commandments, moral rules meant to impart wisdom on how people should live their lives.

Perhaps the worst effect of the confusion of knowledge and wisdom is that people are losing faith in the institutions of wisdom, the churches. Because of the advancement of knowledge, people feel that churches are outmoded. Yet wisdom is timeless. Are the Ten Commandments any less valid today than they were thousands of years ago? No, they are the basic minimum set of rules that make a civilization viable. Knowledge may make killing more efficient, but no amount of knowledge will make murder right. To have a legitimate political debate, people must understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. In knowledge, there are right and wrong answers about specific facts, but there is no concept of moral right and wrong, good and evil. For that, we need wisdom. For we live in a time of great knowledge and precious little wisdom.

Why Liberals don’t like Christianity: The Old Testament Version

“The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.” – Ecclesiastes 10:2

The Future

The Future

To look at the future, lets start in the past.

If you took your average common man from the Early Dynastic period of Egypt, about 3,000 B.C. and dropped him into the Egypt of the Roman Empire some three THOUSAND years later, he would not have noticed the difference. In fact, had you dropped the same poor Egyptian into the Egypt of 1900, almost five thousand years later, he would probably not have noticed much difference.

Let’s do it again, if we took a freeman from the Roman Empire and dropped him a thousand years later, he probably would have noticed the world had changed for the worse. Technologically and scientifically, the world had not advanced and had even gone backwards.

In both these cultures, change was frowned upon. If a son did things differently than the father, or the apprentice did things differently than the master, they were wrong. Change was bad.

Then, just a few hundred years ago, came the scientific revolution. Men started testing and refining their hypotheses with experiments. These men were the first true scientists, the people who used the scientific method. From this point on, change became fast and furious. And people resisted change, as people always have.

In early nineteenth century England, the Luddites appeared. These were bands of workers who went about destroying looms and knitting machines. They felt that the new machines were taking away jobs because one worker could now do the work of eight. They envisioned a world where the great mass of people would be unemployed and starving because of the new machines.

The Luddites existed before anyone ever had a job making telephones, automobiles, airplanes, movies, musical recordings, refrigerators, radios, or televisions. They existed before people spent money on electric power, batteries, frozen foods, or soft drinks.

In other words, the Luddites could only see the world as it existed in their time. The Luddites were guilty of static analysis. They assumed things were going to stay the same.

When trying to solve a problem, you can’t assume people’s behavior or their technology will stay the same. In history, you will find many of the mistakes governments make are because of static analysis.

Let’s do it again. In the 1960s, the new Luddites objected to automation. They felt they would take jobs away. This was before anyone had made the first microprocessor, the first personal computer, the first video game, the first digital watch, the first VCR, the first CD Player… you get the idea.

Let’s do it again. In the early 1990’s, many people felt the microcomputer revolution was topping out. That all that could be done had been done. This was before the world wide web, before the explosion in cellular phones, before DVD’s. Do you begin to detect a pattern?

All these time periods had their Luddites. The naysayers believed there was nothing new under the sun. They all did static analysis, and they were all wrong. Things changed, and the biggest thing to change is the rate of change itself. The first major changes of the agricultural revolution took thousands of years. The next major changes of the industrial revolution took hundreds of years. Now we are seeing incredible changes in the space of decades and even years.

The rate of change is exponentially growing. Recent decades have been governed by Moore’s law. Back in the mid-60’s, a computer scientist named Gordon Moore postulated that computing power would double every eighteen months. People scoffed at him. Now, thirty-five years later, Moore’s law is still holding true. In 1965, one thousand dollars of computing bought one hundred calculations per second. Today, one thousand dollars buys one hundred MILLION calculations per second. The computers on your desks at home are far more powerful than the multimillion dollar computers of the nineteen sixties. And as you all know, the world has changed.

So what does this mean to you. Has everything been invented? Is there nothing new under the sun? Are we done?

The answer is no! If we project the rate of change into the future, it means we will see more change in the next twenty years than we have in the past one hundred. Think about that. One hundred years ago, the airplane had not been invented and automobiles and electric lights were novelties. Yet we’re going to see greater change than that by the time you’re in your thirties. Which means many of you will be the ones making the discoveries and inventing the new technologies.

The real changes and discoveries will be in science and technology. Here are some projections, both my own and other futurists:

-Within ten years, computers will be invisible, and incredibly powerful. Screens will be heads-up displays on your eyeglasses, input will be via a natural language voice interface, audio will be through small earplugs or implanted transducers. (Think about how teachers will give pop quizzes in that environment.)

-Within thirty years, we will have practical fusion power and MHD generators.

-Within forty years, medical science will be adding almost a year to our lifespan for every year that goes by. Today’s medical science will seem unbelievably primitive.

-We’ll spend most of our time in the next century in virtual reality. Certainly most of our business time and probably most of our recreational time.

– Within fifty years, we’ll have nanobots , microscopic robots built with nanotechnology, in our bodies. They will keep us healthy and might also act as our interface to virtual reality systems. We might install a new computer by snorting a tube of self-replicating nanobots.

-Deep space probes will travel near the speed of light to distant worlds, carrying the DNA and complete brain scans of their crew, who will happily live out their lives on earth at the same time they make the journey to distant planets.

-Forward time travel will therefore be possible. Crew members from such probes may come back to earth five hundred years after their birth.

-People will have multiple avatars and identities, basically throwing away the last hundred years of work in psychology.

-Computers will surpass humans in most measures of intelligence.

-We will have Star Trek like remote sensors for finding everything from bacteria to mineral resources. Did anyone here realize we have already successfully tested remote sensors to find land mines in Yugoslavia?

-Robots will design and build other robots.
And we’re not talking only about science. Every field will have major discoveries and changes. Just look at some recent events.

No doubt, many of you plan to become lawyers. A great waste, but so be it. A month ago, the Napster case threw a major wrench into our two hundred year old model of intellectual property. Obviously, cloning and increased lifespan are going to cause major changes in estate law.

In the art world, advances in computer and chemical analyses are giving us a more complete look at the past. Twenty years ago, people wrote of Michelangelo’s somber pallet. Then in the early nineties, they found out there was a very old protective coating on the Sistine Chapel. They recently unveiled the renovation that shows extremely vivid and bright colors, especially the red on the faces of art historians.

We often talk about having ten thousand years of recorded history. What a joke. We have about five hundred years of recorded history and then about five thousand years of tantalizing glimpses into the past. Archaeologists using modern scientific techniques are making new discoveries every day.

Obviously, politicians, sociologists, and psychologists will be working full time to try to explain the changes. My guess is they won’t be able to keep up.

Let me leave you with one thought, When machines are advanced enough to have a sense of humor, will we get their jokes?

Thank you.

[ The original version of this talk was delivered to an assembly of junior high school students at the Pine View School for the Giftedin 2003.  Due to a teacher’s e-mail recommending the talk,  versions of it were given to a number of classes ranging from 5th to 11th grade]

Why are We here?

The Basics: Why are we here?

Welcome to the first post in my new blog. It seemed appropriate to start this blog with my current answer to a question that has troubled me since I was very young.

Why are we here? What is there in the human existence that isn’t in the eternal existence? What can we mortals do that an omnipotent, omniscient being cannot do? The first part of the answer has to do with love, and our growth in love.

The life of the human being starts with the love of a child for its mother. This is a very selfish kind of love. A baby loves its mother because she feeds it, protects it, takes care of it, and returns unconditional love. The baby need give nothing, it receives all. This type of love continues throughout childhood. A selfish, self-centered love, but a love nonetheless.

The second stage in love is the love of Eros, romantic love. This is the love motivated at first by the hormones and lust of adolescence. Again, it is a selfish love. The lover is at first motivated by the desires of the body and the fulfillment of these desires. Yet there is something more.

As love grows, it becomes a sharing of everything in life, not just a sharing of bodies. Shared dreams, shared goals, exploring the world together, having a companion, a friend, who can be trusted with your deepest secrets. The growth of this love results in a very deep caring for another, unlike anything experienced in childhood. This love is a willingness to sacrifice, to put someone else’s happiness before one’s own. This love can continue throughout a lifetime.

The third stage in love is having a family. Now love becomes making sacrifices for those who cannot give anything back beyond a child’s love. There are many sacrifices to make, many frightening times, many tragedies. It is a strange time in one’s life. The need to protect and provide for the children is dominant. This probably explains the Buddhist tradition that one cannot achieve enlightenment while one is being a father.

The final stage in love is after the children grow and leave home. Old age sets in. The unfulfilled hopes and dreams of a lifetime are likely to stay unfulfilled. Time is the enemy. The body disappoints. Yet, love remains, and because of the frailty and disappointments, there is more compassion for others

So life teaches us about love. In a brief moment of eternity, love migrates from love for self, to eros, to the love of your children, to the love of humanity. The lessons we learn in love would not be possible for an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being. Where would the sacrifice come from? Even God had to take human form in order to sacrifice himself.

What else can we do in this mortal form that eternal beings cannot? What about learning to have faith? Faith is simply defined as a belief in that which we cannot know. Again an omniscient being, by definition, would not need faith in anything. And what of hope? Again, the very definition of an omniscient being would make hope impossible. Except perhaps if you gave free will to your creations. Then you could have faith in them and hope for them.

So why are we here? Obviously not for the accumulation of material goods. What if there is a cosmic value system that values the development of certain virtues, and what if those virtues can only be learned as mortal beings? Faith, hope, and love seem to be the lessons we are to learn in this life.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corithians 13: 13

(Originally posted March 13, 2004)

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