Monday, November 16, 2020

Which Goes Last, the Chicken or the Egg?

"Nature Is Cruel, But We Don't Have To Be" -- Temple Grandin

For generations people have bandied about the philosophical query, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" This colloquial question at its heart looks at infinite regression by assuming chickens as we know them have existed forever, notwithstanding the silly magical idea that they were created out of dust or some such. 

Science, of course, over the past two hundred years has definitively shown the egg came first way back in the ancestral evolutionary tree prior to todays factory-farm chicken species emerged. Thank you, Charles Darwin. 

Nevertheless, the conundrum of infinite regression in a wider sense remains, challenging us to imagine when we and the Universe we are part of came into being. Current astrophysics hypothesizes that we literally came from nothing. The Big Bang event 14 billion years ago currently prevents us from observing beyond that point, still evidence and theory to date show spontaneous energetic events can, albeit very very rarely, occur in the vacuum of space to initiate such a "beginning" point.

Chicken and egg paradox, in all forms more or less solved. Well, except infinite regression implies infinite progression, which is just as interesting to consider.

Which will go last, the chicken or the egg?

In the future, the undoubted extinction of the chicken along with all life in the universe shall come to pass eventually. Entropy has that covered. More interesting is the progress we as humans will make in the short term as to preserving the rich biodiversity of our planet as part of an ethic of civilization. 

The battle of rational ethics and irrational pleasure is at the heart of this contemplation. Take for one, the ongoing abuse that billions of chickens suffer each year due to the inhumane choice to raise and kill them for profit.  Our species thrives on the mass production of their flesh and eggs for no real reason. Plant based foods that mimic chicken flesh and egg are currently on the market and can lead us down a more ethical path.

Part of lifting civilization up to higher ethical standards is taking a step back and recognizing better choices exist.  Reducing and eliminating chicken slaughter is one step into that future. Good tasting, nutritional, environmental friendly animal meat alternatives available. Science informed policy needs to step in, not only to eliminate cruelty, but also to reduce the threat to our society. Importantly, animal husbandry has been integral to the inadvertent breeding super pathogens, like the Corona virus. This is a problem we need to solve for chicken and human well being alike.

Too often humans obsess over the absolute morals that our ancestors concocted from zany spiritual fantasies. What we need as a society is a concerted effort to look forward with positive and rational wherewithal. It won't be easy, but eliminating the nonsense we have be taught for generations as tradition needs to occur. All traditions should be evaluated and eliminated or at least refined. Global stability and the betterment of humanity depend on it!

 And so the chicken and the egg problem, looking forward, continues to be relevant to encourage us to overturn old ways for better new ones. We have some good solutions underway, but don't count those chickens before they hatch. LOL.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Making America Good Again?"

To be honest, the title of this piece feels as pretentious as the original MAGA moniker. The implication that there was some time when America was amazing or wholesome relative to today is corrupt at its core. If we are to be totally honest, the pursuit of goodness or greatness takes ongoing effort, and frankly such a pursuit by a single nation will always be lacking if we don't partner with the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, our nation has some particular challenges in front of us. Greatness of a nation is meaningless if we aren't pursuing goals that are good. Here is my shortlist of good things we as individuals, communities and civilization ought to be pursuing.

Information reliability. Sadly the idea that everyone has a right to ones (peacefully expressed) opinion has become equated with those opinions being equally valid. Religious, new age, and grand conspiracy magical thinking has degraded the reliability of information available on social media especially. Humankind depends on reliable information to inform our policy and decision making.  Scientific method, fact-checking algorithms, and individual questioning (with evidence to back it up) can begin us down a path of better information exchange.

Community and world service.  Market force driven motivation has corrupted the nature of pursuit in this world. The pursuit of money and power for the sake of said devices has turned much of our civilization into a system with a feedback loop that cares very little for final outcomes. Instead we should be driven more by end goals that include limiting human world population, preserving natural resources and reducing wildlife habitat destruction, as well as ensuring communities have access to services that improve quality of life for all.

Compassion and reason.  At the end of the day, traditions and old practices need to be examined. A two hundred year old constitution will have its flaws especially when interpreted by "originalists" who reinvent founding ideas to conform to their outcomes.  If we take a step back, and apply reason and compassion to our choices we can implement progressive policies that benefit all humans, the planet, and their future.  

Indeed, the months and years ahead of us will be challenging. If we can begin to put misinformation aside and realign our goals, while making an effort to be friendly with all involved, humankind can improve on the good in world. Not just for America, but for all nations, people and beings everywhere.

It begins with each of us reflecting on the good in ourselves and extending that goodness to others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Heal with Steel

For anyone who hasn't encountered steel and straw arguments, these correlate to the best and worst rationalizations we make of another's point of view. Perhaps taking a step back to earnestly evaluate steel and straw positions in the Blue vs. Red climate we live in, can help us understand, process, and, in the end, heal open wounds in our communities.

One straw rationalization for liberal positions seeks to equate the movement to the transformation from a strict, Christian nation into a land of degenerate, godless, socialism. 

A steel case for liberalism is to regard their efforts as a compassionate pursuit of prosperity and peaceful liberty for all. The positive implementation of science and policy can provide a path to a more peaceful society while building a greener environment.

On the other hand, a straw rationalization for conservative positions is to imagine their movement harbors the desire for theocratic rule with white supremacist undercurrents akin to the Handmaid's Tale. 

A steel argument for the conservative point of view involves the pursuit of a society that encourages learned, absolute moral behaviors. This includes the idea that liberty and economic success stem from traditional beliefs and adherence to the rule of law, which conservatives feel has become too lenient.

To be sure these are arguments are incomplete and comprise the mere beginning of a thought experiment to seed understanding. Indeed, each of us can learn something by extending this exercise to those around us that hold different political positions. If we are less in a hurry to label another's ideology as evil, we just might find where our causes overlap, and just maybe our leadership will step up to work to get us all involved in becoming part of imperfect remedies.

At the end of the day, this election day or otherwise, we are all human beings on a planet whose health is in question due to its occupation by billions of humans. Still, we can work together toward making the world a better place for both humans and the planetary ecosystem itself. No, we will never agree on every issue, and, in fact, we are all susceptible to seeking out scapegoats to cope with how we see the world going wrong. Sadly, these intolerant, misguided, black-and-white, (blue and red?) points of view are not fully real and no matter how much our social media silos tell us they are. 

If we can admit that reality is steel-gray, full of people who are a bit scared and a bit courageous, a bit wise and a a bit ignorant, a bit selfish and a bit selfless, we just might be able to come together.  Wielding compassion, education, effort, tolerance, that gray can become a pretty cool place to live for all.

Friday, October 30, 2020

My Secret Vampire

They say never to start a horror story at its end. 

Alas, malformed rules are meant to be broken, if only to challenge the elite status quo.

The anonymous memoir before you is being written with my very own blood. You are likely reading a digital version, but my vampire servant has assured me it will be published in an appropriately deep, red font. Ze does reserve the right to edit the manuscript after I am gone. (Ze, hir, and hirs are hir chosen pronouns, by the way)

So my end will arrive soon. My slit wrists serve as fitting inkwells to tell this tale, but those said-same gashes will limit the time I have to write. With the mortal ending secure you can now simmer in uncertainty as to whether you will learn the details of hir origin.

Enough of the premature postlude. For 42 years, I have lived a full life, even if I never mothered a child, nor written a literary tour de force. Still, I have played the role of near goddess. Even so, I ask no forgiveness for the crimes I perpetrated through my servant. Ze has been most obedient. Yet it is I who bear responsibility. In part, I am paying for those crimes with each bloody letter I write here. 

Even with the knowledge that undead creatures like my secret vampire exist, I remain a staunch atheist. Actually, given the events that have passed, I wonder if I've been riding a psilocybin fueled rocket for the past year.  Whatever the scenario, the rational fiend inside me sees no reason to worship, let alone believe in any deity that would stand idly by while September 11th, the Covid Pandemic, and the Trump-reich went down...not to mention the thousands of innocent children that die from cancer each year. It is beyond me how anyone could devote their life to an invisible god who allegedly sent his own son to death row, when it was in its unlimited power to serve up a more diplomatic solution.

Deathbed notwithstanding, I digress.

What are my so-called "sins?" Well, the least of them has been to be human, to have spent most of my lifetime upping my ethical game while implementing those convictions daily as best I could. In hindsight, those efforts were mostly "Zoomed in" with ineffective aplomb. Of course, matters changed drastically after the conjuring of my demon companion.   And so, my most egregious wrong doing, if my acid-dream recollections are indeed true, has been to command this undead creature who waits now at my bedside. My uncountable, Deathnote style directives, are by all measure quite unspeakable. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as it may be) for you, my virtual confessor, this recounting is not oral.

Without caveat, I outright admit the power I've had access to through hir has been both amazing and unnerving. Such power no one person ought to ever wield. For as Ramses, Stalin, and Musk demonstrated, absolute power absolutely results in history judging badly any unilateral pursuit of utopia. Quasi-omnipotent power should remain part and parcel to the tool kit that imagined gods unleash in their mythical tales. Only in that storybook fashion, can moral and immoral platitudes be assessed, that it might instruct we humans as a global community on the nature of good and evil.

However, in this instance, I am the responsible party. I had my demonic charge  assassinate the most corrupt world leaders, the most misguided judges and justices and secret away the most egotistic, corporate CEOs. No matter that these crimes will never be believed. In fact, I feel little guilt for their deaths. My intentions to improve the world were quite sincere, and remain so in my mind even now. Frankly, I feel much worse about having the noisy neighbor down the street taken out. 

If I'm being totally honest, I'm really only ashamed of controlling the demon servant who is my secret vampire. Ze has not only killed for me, but ze has dutifully carried out all my requests:  grand larcenies, cyber-infiltrations and nonconsensual sex acts included. Add to that the depravity of having hir pick up Thai take-out for me during rush hour. 

So, what have I learned as I approach the end of this solipsistic nightmare? In short, that no one should ever be the slave of another. Whether person, animal, plant or bacterium. In an ideal world all beings should be free to thrive throughout ones life. Nature, of course, won't allow that. As the products of evolution we are stuck with living within reality's constraints as best we can...somewhere between the realms of good and adequate. 

My secret vampire sits patiently, involuntarily drooling over all the blood I literally continue to spill. Before my vision grows too distorted let me finish with a plea to members of my species: 

Know, the world will always remain in modest turmoil.  

With that said, I ask only for acknowledgement that my overt and admittedly heinous acts, acts made through my servant, be incorporated into the world's body of knowledge. By the very integrity that seeps out of me, I undo the enchantment I wrought to bind you, my companion, my servant, my muse made real. With my dying breath, your spirit is now free to pursue good in this world. 

Listen to your mind and heart at every turn. 

Thrive of your own accord!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Eleven Reasons We Believe Dumb Things

Just Discovered: Flapjack Planet Beneath Our Very Feet!

The human intellect is celebrated for being superior to all our plant and animal cousins. Indeed, we do have the ability to discover hidden truths and learn from our mistakes much quicker than any other Earthling. Still, with nearly eight billion of us on the planet, groups and individuals continue to embrace false ideas that have no credible evidence. Here are my top eleven observations on why this is so.

#11 Lazy Thinking is Prolific. Humans have gotten so good at surviving that for centuries many have shifted a daily attitude to pursue ease and entertainment. Even when we're not laying back streaming fictional content, too often our daily tasks are repetitive and lacking in stimulating curious minds.

#10 "Black and White" Answers are Alluring. Modern multitasking and break neck speed lifestyles have humans doing so much that contemplating answers to scientific, philosophical and moral questions compacted into sound byte beliefs. Rather than considering compassionate and well-reasoned  spectrum of reality, many desire the absolute, confident, and often mistaken, answers provided by religion, ideology, and talk show hosts.

#9 Entertainment Reigns Supreme. Fictional storytelling tends to stimulate pleasure in our minds more than dry old scientific explanations. And so we are more willing to listen again and again to stories of miracles and anecdotal tales that defy logic. 

#8 Everyone Has a Right to Their Opinion. Humans have been sold such a high standard of individual liberty that we allow irrational points of view to go unchallenged. One should not be persecuted for weird beliefs that do no direct harm. Still to not confront misguided ideas with compassionate, critical thinking is to invite long term uninformed consequences.

#7 Predisposition Inertia. Children are very susceptible to believe whatever they're told without skepticism. Whether religious doctrine, cartoon physics, or playground street wisdom, false information can stick with individuals throughout their lifetime...often to be passed along generation to generation.
#6 Money is Motivation. Survival in the modern world no longer relies on individuals fighting nature, we need only find a mechanism to generate cash. Thus, our beliefs can be swayed both by tempting false advertisement and we can be lured into careers that hinge on misrepresenting truth, so long as the paycheck is large enough.

#5 Seeing is Believing Modern techniques that create deep fake video and audio clips are ever more convincing to our senses. Whether watching a sci-fi movie or a news animation, our brains can be fooled into a suspension of disbelief. It is one thing to keep in mind such virtual representations as entertaining stories and models, its another to be convinced something exists that is the creation of a social media guru.

#4 Magical Thinking. A conviction for good or ill can self-indoctrinate ourselves. The world can be so bleak sometimes that we cope by projecting that which we desire into reality without evidence. We want someone to be in control, even if Nature herself is random and unkind at times. We want a magical outcome to soothe our psyches. Whether for pseudoscience or mythical perfection humans often fall prey to the motto "I Want to Believe."

#3 Ambiguity is Annoying. In reality, our understanding of the world is a work in progress. The best answers will be part of long term research and even then may be filed with caveats. Accepting the world as subjective and on a spectrum takes effort. Remaining a touch agnostic can be a healthy attitude, but holding such a position too harshly can be misconstrued as holding scientific findings equally uncertain in comparison with outright falsehoods. 

#2 Cult of Personality In society we ought to consider truth separate from the personalities that present them. Too often we don't and if we have high esteem for a person, misinformation they share may be assessed as true in spite the idea's merit. Thus, celebrities, leaders, parents, teachers, lovers, and friends can add undeserved credibility to falsehoods if we don't take care to consider the idea on its own.

#1 Evolution Pre-programmed our Brains. Over millions of years, the flexible software of our minds has been tweaked to react to things that feel good or bad toward generation survival. These "gut" feelings persist, reinforcing ideas that may or may not be false. Just as we can be scared of the "tiger in the bushes" that was never there, we can be lured into believing something imaginary. 

Many of these overlap in our everyday experience. There is no magical path to truth, but scientific method, critical thinking, and compassionate understanding can come together to save the day. True wisdom and knowledge comes by effort, by seeking better answers to questions old and new, considering the veracity of evidence and dismissing preconceptions. It is a work in progress, but it is also a process worth pursuing!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Voting Compassion and Reason Every Day

Humans are born into a world full of variables. Where you were born. How you were raised. What education your school district afforded you. The genetic predispositions evolution dealt you. The random events that converged on your experience. What you have been taught to believe. Which beliefs you've overwritten with personal convictions. The feelings that rage and cower inside.

It's no wonder humans created gods in an attempt to bring order to this maelstrom of variables. They also created ethical systems and societal institutions and valuation principles. None of these are real. They are constructs of the human mind to aid us in being more successful, in reaching out to each other and the world to fend off failure inside and out.

In the end, if our mission is to attain improved health for all while experiencing a life full of discovery, integrity and care, then one path holds much promise. This path channels our human capacity for reason and compassion to maximize our true understanding of and to judicially act within that world. 

Yet it can take real courage to step away from evolutionary desire to control rather than to nurture. Subconsciously we can be enthralled by pleasure, privilege and pain. Yes, these primal drives are part of us, but if we want better for our world it is our duty to vote for a future that rises above, seeking health for all humans, all living things, and effectively the whole planet.

No one said it would be easy. Compassionate and well-reasoned resolve takes effort. Still, we have the wherewithal to vote with our hearts and minds every single day to make the world a better place.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Become The 99% Activist

There's a lot of room for improvement in the world we live in. Nevertheless, humans are in a place of such power that each of us has amazing potential to be part of progressive change toward a healthier planet! And yet we are susceptible to age old human foibles as well, to let ourselves, our community and our world down. Somehow we need to stay motivated amidst the many anecdotal and systemic challenges.

One starting point is assign yourself a 99% goal of personal effectiveness. Too often we're told to put 110% of our effort into a pursuit. Obviously, the math doesn't work there, still our psyches might take heed if we occasionally lie to ourselves that we can do better than perfect. Occasionally.

Most of the time, we need to give ourselves a pinch of forgiveness. As a vegan, I had to forgive myself for buying a car recently that had a leather-wrapped steering wheel. I felt torn, but then again the tires on most every car are not vegan, since they often use stearic acid derived from animal by-products. I won't even begin to assess the carnist auto assemblers, corporate CEOs and the whole industrial infrastructure that my purchase in part enabled.

So yes, one can certainly nit pick ones activism to the point of absurdity. Hell, as a progressive, we are used to many individuals and corporate "persons" challenging our mores with extreme one off examples and misinformation campaigns. This then is where we need to look our ideals in the mirror and face up to the fact that idealized dreams are fashioned from long term hopes upon the foundation of our understanding to date. To that end we must always keep a chin up, our learning caps on, and step forward to fight the good fight and make a difference where we can.

So no matter what your pursuit -- green space conservation, waterfront restoration, animal abuse elimination, citizen enfranchisement, universal health care, community strengthening, or any mission that has reason and compassion at its heart, stay the course! 

Be the creative, good-energy 99% activist that gets most of the job done, so we can hand off the dream to next generation that reaches for 99.9%!