Archive for the ‘knowledge’ Tag

Knowledge Illuminates   6 comments

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

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Good heavens! Just ONE? The world is way more complicated than that and you never know what long-term negative consequences even one small change might have.

It’s tempting as a Christian to say I would go back and have Eve not believe the Liar in the garden. Think of the untold pain we would have avoided if she’d chosen to listen to God instead of Satan. But if she hadn’t of disobeyed God, Adam would have … or one of their children. That’s the thing about free will — it is the capacity to do really stupid things and sooner or later, someone would have disobeyed God because it was the only choice (obey or disobey) they had under freewill, so we’d still be exactly where we are. So, I’m not going to waste my fairy wand moment on betting against humans being humanly stupid.

So, I googled the question and found this is a topic and people have a lot of ideas about what “one thing” they think would fix the world. And as I scanned through those lists most of them were either ridiculous (fix time and gravity, really?) or tyrannical (get rid of guns, free speech, political parties, parents raising children, force everyone to send their kids to public school, etc.) or they had severe unintended consequences that immediately leaped into my mind. These are the sorts of ideas that alternative speculative fiction writers eat up – the stuff of shows like “Sliders”. Change one thing and the world we live in might be utterly different. The difference might be good, and those proposing the change always think it will be, but some of us become speculative fiction writers because we can see the negative consequences nobody else wants to acknowledge. Even if things remain pretty much the same, that’s not a beneficial change, so why do it? Because you can and you’d like to control a few billion people? That’s not a sufficient reason to me. And, then there’s always the reminder that the Alaskan butterfly moves its wings and it causes a hurricane in Puerto Rico. I learned there were a lot of tyrants thinking tyrannical thoughts believing they would make a better world if they could just coerce others to their way of thinking, but I really didn’t come up with what one thing I would change if I could.

I made my own list and I kept crossing things out as unworkable, fraught with unintended consequences or tyrannical. As a freewill and natural rights advocate, I kept running up against the notion that I was violating my own principles with this list. I can’t force other people to do what I want and unless I know what the butterfly’s wings will wrought, I have no business with the power to change the universe. I can play around in my fictional worlds as much as I want, but where there are real-world consequences – take the fairy wand away from me and don’t give it to anyone else.

Still, I agreed to write this topic, so …. If there were one thing I would really want to change in the world it would be ….

I’d turn on the intellectual light bulb for people. I’d make them aware of a few simple principles – actually understand them.

  • There is a higher power above your own personal desires – call Him Jesus-God as I do, or something else, but Man (individual and collectivized into governments) is not the highest order in the universe. We will one day be held accountable by the higher power.
  • Only individuals make decisions and, therefore, are responsible for their actions. We exercise rights and have responsibilities. These are not granted by groups. They belong to the individual. Groups are merely a collection of individuals. There’s nothing special about an idea just because more than one person at a time agrees with it.
  • Order does not need to be imposed by a central authority (individuals acting in groups). Groups have no greater rights than the individuals that compose them. The only rules (as in rule of law) we need are those that protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way so long as they are not injuring others. (This is termed “the non-aggression principle” for those who would like to study it further.)
  • Recognize that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. Yes, there will sometimes be conflict among individual choices that will require individuals to adjust their plans so as not to aggress upon their neighbors. Individuals in conflict can work that out among themselves with reference to a higher power and the rule of law and so long as they are working it out peacefully, it’s none of their neighbors’ business.
  • Individuals must consistently apply these principles in order for a peaceful and just society to work. You can’t hold two principles to be correct at the same time and you can’t force other people to agree with you simply because you believe you’re “right”.

Okay, so that sounds like five things, but they all five must work together, so they’re really one thing. And I merely propose to turn on the light bulb – to grant the knowledge. The knowledge of those principles doesn’t force anyone to follow them, but once the light illuminates your interior spaces, it’s hard not to see the natural outcomes of tyrannical and inconsistent thinking and start acting to adjust your behavior. I’m speaking from personal experience here. It’s how I moved from political moderate, to conservative, to libertarian, to admiring voluntaryists/anarchists. When you become aware of your cognitive dissonance, you modify your behavior to align with the reality you’ve become aware of.

And, that knowledge, without any coercion or force required, I believe, would make a huge difference in our world without a lot of unintended negative consequences. People with the knowledge that they act as individuals and are personally responsible for their decisions and cannot rely on groups to enforce their wills on the unwilling would change their thinking and that thinking would change their actions and those actions would be peaceful because the initiation of aggression is disallowed. And right there – everybody refraining from acts of aggression (even the ones we currently don’t acknowledge as aggression) would change the world completely and for the better. It wouldn’t stop all conflict, but it would require us to negotiate compromise rather than force it.

Ah, can you feel the stress lifting from the world? I sure can!

Now, I’m really curious about what “one thing” my fellow blog hoppers would change.

Introduction to Mass Media Influence   1 comment

My friend Joe Attanasio suggested that my next big theme should be how media influences the whole of society (morality, fashion, racism, politics, spending habits, economics, parenting, etc) and how we can learn to think for ourselves and disseminate truth from hpe and lies.”

Wow, what a great topic and one that I am actually qualified to discuss. Often when I go researching a topic, my only expertise comes from reading and researching, but I was a journalism major in college and I wrote my Masters on a similar subject. Not that I think you need a degree to express an opinion or even to become an expert on a subject, but I actually do have a degree in this stuff.

The influence of mass media on society has grown exponentially with the advance of technology over the last half millennia.

It’s really hard for us today to imagine a time when news was the town crier who got it from the traveling minstrel, who got it from a castle bard, who maybe overheard it being discussed by his lord and another over cups of mead. We are so saturated in media that we struggle to conceive of a time when there were few books, no newspapers, magazines, photography, recordings, films, radio, television, the Internet or social media.

Today, our whole lives and the lives of almost everyone in the developed and many of the developing nations depend information and communication to keep us moving through daily activities like work, education, health care, leisure activities, entertainment, traveling, personal relationships, and shopping.

A lot of people I know wake up, check the cellphone for messages and notifications, look at the TV or newspaper for news, commute to work listening to the radio where they read emails, take meetings and makes phone calls, eat meals recommended on websites, and make decisions based on the information that we gather from those mass media and interpersonal media sources.

What does it matter?

We are so saturated in media that we may not even be aware that the values we hold, the beliefs we espouse and the decision we make are based on assumptions and information largely gathered from media sources rather than on our own experiences and what we know for a fact.

Think about it. We rely on mass media for the current news and facts about what is important. We trust the media as an authority for news, information, education and entertainment. Considering that powerful influence, then, we should know how it really works.

Faith is Clinging to What Is Known   3 comments

Faith is a complex experience, so it is hard to address the whole of it in a blog post. I’m not even attempting that.

The early Christian believers had knowledge as well as faith. Peter, John and Mary saw the empty tomb. Thomas was offered the opportunity to touch the nail scars. Paul met Jesus face-to-face in the road. They KNEW that Jesus was risen again because they’d seen and talked with Him. It was such a powerful experience that Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, who were greatly opposed to His ministry during His lifetime, became believers who were willing to die for their faith. The knowledge that He was risen so convinced that them Jesus was God incarnate that it gave the early believers the courage to speak the gospel even under persecution and most of them would die for their faith. Even when everyone around them said they were wrong, they held fast to the KNOWLEDGE of what they had actually experienced and that gave them faith that God would keep His promises for the future.

Modern Christians do not KNOW God in the same way that early Christians did. We must exercise faith more than they did. Yet that does not mean we do not have some knowledge to support our faith.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods “where they get off” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.

For Lewis faith is the determination of the mind to cling to what is known in the face of what is felt. Though it involves trust it’s all about knowledge: trusting that what one knows to be true remains true even when it does not feel true.

The early Christians had every reason to desire to recant their story. Their culture made it uncomfortable and eventually fatal to believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Their faith in Him didn’t bring them power or prestige. It brought them death, and yet they held to it even as the sword hung over their necks. Clearly, they had no doubts about what they believed.

They KNEW Jesus.

I may not know Him in the same tangible way they did, but that does not mean I don’t KNOW Him.

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