Have you grown weary of the Disciples of Certainty? I certainly did.
He who aspires to become a skeptic must first become a skeptic of himself
I have trudged through a life bearing 3 wars, two market crashes and inside at various times, 28 nations globally. I have witnessed our best and brightest in the financial markets abscond with our trust, pension, retirement and education funds. I bore a first row seat to the greed and incompetence of our highly educated, blessed and entitled suits. I have been chagrined by the irrational extrapolation of certainty wrought in the soul of one who has convinced them self that they are the science. I have worked with disadvantaged nations and measured the real reasons why poverty and suffering exist. I have been mentored by and observed the worst to best of humanity. I have spent time wallowing in the charade, the wishes of what others desired me to be, of both the religious theist and the arch skeptic atheist. My tier I education is the weakest of my qualification. I have begun numerous ventures and have grown to appreciate the provision of value, the keenness of understanding and the supreme nature of love. In all this, I finally came to conclude that people like the fools of absolute certainty are not qualified to instruct from such a claimed position of authority. I am not the only one, as key members of the Skeptical Atheist Movement (‘SAM’ as some call themselves) bristle at the direction and makeup of Social Skepticism even now; this from author and former Skeptical Inquirer contributor, Massimo Pigliucci:
The Harris-Chomsky exchange (April 2015), in my mind, summarizes a lot of what I find unpleasant about SAM: a community who worships celebrities who are often intellectual dilettantes, or at the very least have a tendency to talk about things of which they manifestly know very little; an ugly undertone of in-your-face confrontation and I’m-smarter-than-you-because-I-agree-with [insert your favorite New Atheist or equivalent]; loud proclamations about following reason and evidence wherever they may lead, accompanied by a degree of groupthink and unwillingness to change one’s mind that is trumped only by religious fundamentalists; and, lately, a willingness to engage in public shaming and other vicious social networking practices any time someone says something that doesn’t fit our own opinions, all the while of course claiming to protect “free speech” at all costs.¹
Well, one thing is clear. None of these priests of pseudo-philosophy bear qualification to advise me as to the reality of being, existence and non-existence; nor the nature and ontological basis of the universe. From experience, the more insistent they grow, the less I consider them credible.
I comprehend the capacity of human nature to be corrupt to its very core. We bear the enormous skill amongst all living creatures, of deceiving self as the prerequisite to deceiving others. That capacity is of no greater strength than in those who are impressed with their own credential.
Aver to me not what to believe, rather profess the innocent acumen of the desire to proactively find.
Proclaim not the absolute god, nor the reality of his non-existence. I could care less. I thirst to witness in your life the character of one who has overcome the god of himself.
Abuse me not even one moment with that which does or does not exist in your critical fantasy. You possess not the qualification to assume such a perch of infallibility with anyone.
Adorn not your self with that which is rational, or the degrees and money you have amassed, as that is a fool’s ensemble. Rather demonstrate to me the robust ethic of epoché.
Intimidate me not with your awesome institute of fellows, and the insistent urgency to instruct me about its truth. As if you were meaningless before its charade. I will see you when your title means ‘to suffer nothing but the quest.’ Only then will I regard you as my kindred.
And I will be your ally, and will walk calmly with you along this path of reason.
¹ Massimo Pigliucci, “Reflections on the skeptic and atheist movements;” Scientia Salon, May 11, 2015.
…or why living a trivial or socially scripted life is anathema to the mind and heart set free
When I matriculated my standardized examination, essay and referrals for admission to grad school I noticed something odd that spring. Despite having endured a rigorous mathematically focused undergraduate science curriculum, and in contrast to my SAT scores years beforehand, my Verbal and Abstract reasoning scores now marked in the 99th percentile, while my math score had slid from 99th to 97th percentile. Now set aide the reality that grad school entrants compose a more competitive domain of students, and standardized test scores will naturally shift in profile for any one individual. Nonetheless at the time, I failed to fully comprehend that my erstwhile educated mind had begun to alter its neural maps from that of a beta rote formulaic solution-making habit and onward to one of a mature intellectual nexus of creative problem solving. Again in a professional school, I scored a 99th percentile in abstract and spatial reasoning. The awareness of this on the part of those higher up resulted in significant alteration of my career path.
Later, when faced with the requirement to develop solutions for countries struggling with supply of food and medicine, abusive Chinese pirate businesses, the military charades of Western powers and the continued debilitating effect of teen pregnancy, I realized early in the process that my domesticated set of solutions were not going to apply to these nations. I could not simply approach those societies and begin to talk about investment, jobs, and market/trade economies; Western style mechanisms which are the foundations upon which we rely, but no longer acutely perceive as critical. Clean water, cheap energy, free expression, early education, family strength over gang strength, birth control, medicine and a variety of fresh foods. These were the things which afforded the mind the right environment in which to thrive. Shortfalls in these facets of an economy also do not stem from what appears at face value, to constitute the challenge. Generally there exists plenty of agri-field productivity. The problem is getting the food to the right place. Producing more field volume simply serves to increase loss on the way to the consumer. Generally there are ample medicines, the problem resides in diagnosis, mode form and dose expirations which assume a western style infrastructure exists, diagnosis in the local field at the critical time, or even resident knowledge that a solution exists. Oppressive mores concerning sexuality, ironically end up resulting in higher rates of teen pregnancy; approaching 40% in nations afflicted by these maladies. Mosques and churches costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars standing across the street from dilapidated, over capacity and ill equipped hospitals. Billion dollar power production systems which lose 70% of their production pre-termination. We’ve all heard the expression that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ but I have found that, in order to get the tide to rise you have to raise up a specific set of boats first. Then the tide itself will begin to follow these key boats. Corruption and intransigence, the skeptical delusion that we already know enough, the desire for power and enrichment through solely social tenure, these are the resistances which block the raising of these specific boats — which are the key to begin to raise the overall tide.
As an ignostic, before speaking of the philosophy of religious concepts, one demands a coherent definition of the elements in discussion. Indeed I have heard it said that sin is defined as ‘denial of the right to thrive.’ And in as much as I can gather in my decades of work overseas, it is manifestly this denial of the right, the obfuscation of those elements which enable a thriving population, which constitute the greatest evils on the part of mankind. Religions rarely solve any of this, nor do military powers, governing bodies, monetary supply, politics, transfer payments, mafia, charity, junta, nor the existence of a merchant class. In the end, each of those hammers surveys the entire domain of the challenge to constitute a room full of nails. Moreover, these same mechanisms have always existed, yet the problems these communities face have never been solved. In the end, these societal mechanisms only exist to benefit themselves.
I visited a village elder one evening and into the night. My habit was to join them for evening prayers to Allah, and then sit quietly with them in the dark, fighting the humidity and mosquitoes, silently hoping that the doxycyline would be enough to ward off malaria infection. This elder was 88 years old and sick with malaria. He held my hands in the dark and sobbed. No one had ever come to ask him, let him bear his heart of fear for his tribe, his children and their families. “You are American. You could go anywhere and make much money, but you listen; and you have come. No one else has done this.” He sobbed.
Sometimes it is not about how fancy-smart-pants Atheist I can be. That produces nothing but more hate and another religion employing it. I was not threatened by the making of prayers to Allah, and I have sat kneeling in front of shrines to Ganesha as well. It is about humbly meeting people in their darkest places – the times when their fears call upon them. The places where the hate formulates, …and listen. Understand what must happen to allow their people to thrive, what will break the hearts of the elders and sway the will of the junta member and the merchant alike.
I was weary from a long day of hard wilderness travel, covered in dirt and oil, and was afraid. I felt alone. What did I need that night? A glass of clean water, a full array of protein to ease my anxiety and allow my mind clarity, a light to read by, a free press of ideas shattering the skeptical certainty of all that was taught as factual and ‘rational;’ a cool soft airflow free of sand lighting in my teeth and nostrils, medicine to ease my pain and itching, a way to communicate with my friends, define plans and next steps. I needed the calmness and joy brought on through the vision of a thriving future for my grandchildren and tribe.
This we take for granted. This is the neglected link in the chain of pretense, the denial of humanity against which we anesthetize ourselves with assuredness, which comes back too roost with us all.
This reality must come, from changing the life of a child. From age 4 until age 14. It is these vital years, wherein a different idea must be inserted into the minds of the children; those who are to create this new world. The solution wound up in our advisement, and our subsequent work, was to encourage disenfranchised parties to think beyond. To begin to see that the hatreds biases and legacy they left to their children, were indeed socially debilitating and culturally fixated. If they learned to treat women as second class citizens for instance, their culture and society would as well. New thinking, breaking the old skepticism, sought to demonstrate why the denigration of women produced not only social and economic decline, but instilled a seething hate among that culture’s young men; shaping them into a ready planting field for radical Islam and violence. To encourage young adults to function as a young enterprising network of expertise centers in partnership. Rather than fish for one’s family, fish for the community. Rather than distribute the 4th tier food-to-waste to the poor, open a restaurant where odd jobs could be traded in exchange for food. Build small modular power plants, not $10 billion dams, which destroy Rift Valley ecosystems and which only serve to employ foreign technicians, operators, engineers and support. Technical train the older adults and develop early education for the young. We could not teach the old established dogmatic bricks the art of how to become a wall; nor much less, a building. They were many times simply static weight, trained to exist for themselves; full of the stylistic one liners and self-appreciation replete in our modern day SSkepticism. They were a self sustaining and fulfilling mechanism. God, their fathers, their science, their mafia had mandated that things were just this way. And in as much as an ignostic might bristle at the employment of the term, they were sin.
The problems of the world have not been solved by skeptical critical thinking. In fact, it is our intransigence and refusal to apply abstract and asymmetric thought, in examining problems anew, which is a primary cause of suffering.
In the same fashion, our society bears its own sets of skeptical intransigence. The delusion that we know enough, the desire to profit from effortless or valueless tenure and the overall resistance to observe the true causes of suffering. I grew up in a religious cocoon, mind heart and soul prepped to fight World War II all over again. Every day the TV raged with iconic westerns and each night the netted helmets of Marines dug into the sands of Iwo Jima. I was rushed from diapers to church to school to college to war and then to help others fight the war and bolster strong corporations which would equip the war. I made many many people wealthy. At 17, I had a car, rent and insurance bills, was being trained for field combat, taking advanced courses in physics and weaponry. It was a poverty of the grandest nature, belied by Western technological advancement. The starvation of the soul, reared by a society blighted with the same denial of the right to thrive which hampers those who suffer from the blunt end of an oppressor’s boot. Being on a war footing, desensitizes a society and causes its children to grow up fast, bids them never to think, and to adopt the de rigueur of one’s culture, hates, clique and fully rationalized set of skepticism.
Does the whisper of wonder cause thine eyes a glaze from a training long ago? Does the rearing of the ugly visage of the mysterious stir an anger inside you, for no good reason? Do you craft enemies of those who dare to think differently from you? From whence does this skeptical autonomous response then stem? Integrity I daresay not.
But I never gave up that desire to cherish the will to seek the unknown, the essential spirit of wonder – an abstract reasoned basis which afforded me a mental discipline of expressing “Wait, I am not ready to declare the science done on that yet. I don’t buy your pat answer.” The world is filled with deception, rife with methodical doubters and persons overconfident in their push to solve its grand puzzles before all the information is seen. Pseudoscience is not the only place where deceit resides. Sometimes our grandest institutions are founded on our most profound of lies. This is why I sat with the elders at night in their homes. This is why I prayed with them. I simply wanted to know.
Inside fake SSkepticism a neural nexus of creative problem solving is not requisite. SSkepticism pretends that the world is simple and any bumpkin can figure out the most likely answers if they simply apply critical thinking. This is false.
Unable to any longer bear the unethical adoption of formula, taught as authority, and spun as critical thought, I demoted myself from status as purveyor of truth. I enlisted into the service of defending that which could be known, not that which is enforced. The purveyors of truth all bear the same habits, only citing differing authorities. They mindlessly manifest the ten habits of a life spent on war footing; the social contrivances around a culture which has been taught it is the pinnacle of civilization. A fad set of activities which occupy one’s time with triviality and displace the humanity from one’s soul. As for me, I want to know. The extant solution is wrong. Gravely wrong. As a skeptic I will not settle for less.