The Problem of Knowledge and Intelligence

wellbutrin's picture
Joined: 2006-10-25
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The Problem of Knowledge and Intelligence

As humanity becomes better equip to understand the mysteries of nature, those who do not update their ideas or seek what the latest experiments in thought and observation suggest as credible if not certain, will find themselves without the most current discovery. To put it simply, if one is unaware of the most current discovery one may be playing with expired ideas. However fathoms of individuals appear completely uninterested in discovery and bastardly use only certain conclusions made by the discoverers when convenient. Or by some outrageous leap these otherwise uninterested individuals connect a real fact to some element of their own pseudoscience thereby validating it (this leap commonly requires an absence of complete, thorough investigation). Generally these individuals can be found identifying with otherwise ancient principals. Some of them relate to ideas that are scoff worthy, given they’ve had some exposure to elementary knowledge. Among the apex of ridiculous is the age of our planet being under five-hundred thousand years old. Some even purport it’s even less than that. No more than a million. Many popular authors even preach their own downright assurance that the planet is not much older than whatever year you may be reading this. The trouble is these authors are looked upon with esteem and even cherished for their steadfast idiocy by millions of citizens. In a society in which facts are valued, absurdum would give rise to extreme laughter and the very notion climaxing with an emotionless dismissal; deleted as if it were SPAM mail. However this is not the case.

The problem of knowledge and intelligence comes with the family. The initial notice of one’s intellectual advancement occurs rather unsettlingly when compared to the ideas of the household. For example, if you were nurtured in a strict religious background you would have no doubt come to believe that evolution is a fraud and an all powerful lord has designed mankind in his own likeness. Better yet the total of all mass, energy, dark matter, life, time, gravity, and even books were more or less the divine’s fault. After a bit elementary education the above looks more than silly. It’s embarrassing.

As a child of the late Twentieth Century I was excited to be entering a new time in human history. The 21st. A time of iPods and particle accelerators. Yes what an age to live in. Hopes were high to see advancement physics, cosmology (the study of the universe), and medicine especially as I come from a rather sickly genetic history and medical science’s advancement will have a direct connection to prolonging my lifespan. In the early years of this bright future I was rather shocked with the rest of the world to see a rather pointless attack made on my country. The most obvious destruction was that of the World Trade Center. When the terrorist’s motive boiled down to their religious convictions I thought, “If only these people had a textbook, they wouldn’t have to go to the trouble of genocide. If only they knew observation and science as suggested that there probably isn’t a god to kill for. If only they knew human sacrifices and martyrdom are passé outside of fiction and the Amazon Rainforest.” In the following years I noticed a spike in religious conviction and animosity even though all parties lacked evidence. I found myself not only embarrassed but ashamed of my peers, all of which were capable of thought, reasoning, and understanding the consequences of action and yet did little or no processing outside the conclusions of their favorite ancients. They employed terms like sacred and holy and evil and virtue, none of which could be viewed scientifically. They were conceptual terms of vague foundation. There was no glow around the sacred objects. And as for evil, it would seem that humanity too quickly forgot it’s primal hunting roots.
A combination of brainpower and violence is the only reason why humanity flourished and it seemed that bloody side, even in the 21st Century, had yet to be forgotten. How very embarrassing.

As a youth I brought my conclusions to my elder and head of the household. The talk was lively and memorable. The subject was my personal decision on practicing a conversational intolerance in all discourse when ideas were brought up that lacked proper evidence. It was that simple. It was an idea I had encountered from Sam Harris wherein he stated you either have good ideas for what you believe or you don’t. I was a surprised this wasn’t already practiced outside scientific or historical conversation. Father and I agreed.

The old man did have a wild card though. He told me of an event that happened to him in a church. A hallucination that came complete with a stone angel of deep psychic intellect, Hebrew letters, and a feeling of Christ in the air. I hadn’t expect this turn. He went on to tell me at the time he was looking for something in his life and had been fasting. A ha! I explained to him a brain’s reaction to fasting would no doubt induce a psychosis or at least a hallucination.
The brain needs food and glucose to carry out operation. If you don’t eat your brain isn’t going to function up to normal capacity. The event having taken place in a church, surrounded by supernatural images, no doubt influenced the experience. The brain can be altered in many ways to produce such experiences. Fasting changes the brain as does meditation or yoga or isolation etc. If one of these methods are taken to the extreme they impact you. Depending on where you are and the method of your introspection will alter the experience in varying degrees. These experiences aren’t divine, they are natural responses to the extreme. Fortunately the old man wasn’t strictly Christian and had practiced mediation as well. There he envisioned universal oneness, lotus flowers, bliss, and nothingness; these are Zen Buddhist concepts. Again the experience was based on the method. He was interested in my response but wary. When we approached the subject of evil the conversation was over.

My argument was humans are nasty. Animals are nasty. Miller was right. You have to be to survive with canine teeth. The problem is humans have an astounding memory and reason and many realize they are nasty and remember their mean and sometimes cruel behavior and the nice ones will do something about it. Who wants to be labeled as the asshole? Some do. These people are what you’d call evil, but really they are just more animal then you are. The typical primal acts are the evil ones: rape and murder. In the animal kingdom rape and murder are useful if you’re attempting to spread your DNA and wipe out the competition. But evil isn’t water. It has no basis other than conceptual, just like niceness. It’s better to be nice because it’s peaceful but you can’t see nice under a microscope. The old man disagreed. “You’ve never been in the presence of evil. You’ve never encountered an evil person.” No. I haven’t. I don’t think I’ll ever meet a demon or someone with pure uncut evil pumping through their veins. I told him evil is what we call assholes who push it to far thereby giving normally nice people the reason needed to execute them. Evil is a shortcut term used to remove investigation from the situation. Nobody feels the need to explain why something is acutely nasty when they can just call it evil. Humanity it seems has a difficult time dealing with what it is truly capable of. Here’s a couple quick ones: The Rape of Nanjing, Hiroshima and Nagaski’s destruction, The Great Purge, Jeffery Dhamer, etc. Some public school officials even attempt to write this stuff out of their books. Even though it’s true. One man did do this to another. It happened. There was blood everywhere. It was true. Sometimes the violence is even sponsored by government (this rarely give the acts justice). We don’t like these facts and we shouldn’t because if forces humanity to look into a reflection and ask of it’s self what is man and the answer is usually nasty.

Despite my best efforts father was unmoved. He subscribed to the substance of evil and it’s random supernatural flow. He said people embody evil and love it. He thought humans were mostly good moral animals and that’s how they survived. I told him that was one course of survival, but that it was also boring. Human’s were more likely suffer from greed and jealousy and plain nastiness. “Hell,” I said, “Western civilization is based on human greed and competition. Animal and Darwin. Not the nicest stuff on the planet.” No avail. The man had met evil men and I had not. I asked what it looked like. He called me a smartass.

If you love your father as I do and the man believes something without basis despite anyone’s most studious effort, it is a problem. You have mentally exceed your elders and how lucky society is to have you. For society to advance the children must at some point exceed it’s eldest and wisest. Otherwise the spawn simply carry out the same fundamental philosophies of the parent without investigation. Here we reach static and stagnant. If ideas and concepts don’t advance, they remain. They become tradition; an old man’s reach into the future snatching up youth and new thinking. I assume nothing is more frightening to the elders than to see their past slip into memory while the young hooligans reshape the planet into theirs. The problem having to accept the impact you will have simply by thinking differently than the elder before you. It is in deed a scary moment when you realize that you must choose between fact and tradition, which shouldn't even be an issue. Elders however will only model you after themselves and their limited knowledge. Otherwise you have an entire world facts, and truth, and reason, headed by father-figure professors whom wont throw you out if you prove them wrong and peers who admit they don’t know everything and actively search together for the truth, forever rethinking and reformulating and drawing astounding conclusions. Looking together into what others call evil and finding nothing but a nasty indoctrinated asshole.

JoshHickman's picture
Joined: 2006-11-14
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I know exactly where you

I know exactly where you come from. My dad believes in all that evil stuff, and uses the same excuses. Is it impossible for people to do bad things without obtaining a supernatural property?