Saturday, November 28, 2020

Taking the Cons out of our Constitution

In a recent Constitution Center podcast, The Constitution Drafting Project speculated what changes would be made if a modern American constitution were rewritten today. Three teams presented their positions on how it would differ from the 18th century document. Conservative, progressive and libertarian points of view were offered.

Although the positions shared were interesting, they varied very little from the original document, focusing on limiting the role of government, enfranchising all citizens and generally affirming the rights of conquesting humans and their descendants. Nothing truly radical or revolutionary was suggested, let alone a Green New Deal style mission statement.  All said, it was a sad report on modern creativity, wisdom and compassion.  Indeed, human leadership seems ultimately loyal to one thing, its own species.

The original constitutional document transcended ruling paradigms by designating "we the people" above kings and imaginary gods to self govern, alas that is old news today as so many countries have since adopted constitutional governments that imperfectly pursue that intermediate goal. All in all, these constitutions mostly empower conqueror cultures to power themselves with free market pyramid schemes, unconstrained human population growth, and general disregard for all things non-human.

A truly breakthrough, global inspired constitution would reroute power away from self-concerned humans to more perfect constructs that embrace the spirit and letter of truly egalitarian law.  Specifically, a new constitution could designate representatives for not only human society, but also for global environment, the many ecosystems therein, as well as each species, and each and every sentient creature that has inherited a right to live on Earth. Of course, the perception of human sacredness blinds us from planning such a truly transcendent planetary regime that takes all these into consideration. 

Sadly, if there is one thing we humans are good at, it's hiding from our own greater responsibility to the planet. A constitution drafted for all of Earth, straining to be as idealistic as possible, just might be the first true step toward a long-term positive future for the planet as a whole. 

Let's get writing, shall we?

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.