Posts Tagged ‘scientific thought’

From the Editor’s Perch…

August 17, 2013

The Pyramid of Rational Thought & How It Leads to Extinction

 

My rational, well-informed, well-educated, scientifically minded, community minded, liberal leaning friends who apparently care more about people that I do, believe that the world would be a better place and our lives would be happier if run on a more ‘rational’ and ‘enlightened’ basis.

My rational friends bemoan the fact that people act ‘crazy’.  And my liberal friends are trying every method of persuasion, from ridicule to downright contempt and hatred, to ‘reason’ individuals out of their craziness, be it religion, politics, astrology, alchemy, naturopathy, or whatever asinine thing we might think of next, like enjoying a Big Mac.  But study this diagram:

The Pyramid of Rational Thought

The Pyramid of Rational Thought

The facts of these matters seem to say otherwise.  Study this Pyramid of Life (above).

We see that the greater the intelligence of the species, the smaller its population.  This is true for every species you might say, except for humans.  Humans seem to be the exception, multiplying at a crazy pace, and ever threatening the planet’s carrying capacity.

How do we do this?

My rational friends would say that of course, that we aren’t doing this; that we are, in fact, headed for extinction, or a grand apocalypse.  And their rational explanations end in a doomsday analysis, from planetary depletion of resources, to fouling of the ecosystem, to global warming… and on and on.  And that it’s crazy and irrational to think otherwise.

However, a rational person would have to note that these folks have been making these doomsday predictions for quite some time.  Malthus, the great vertebra of the doomsday scenario, published his Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, and rational thinkers have been predicting a Malthusian catastrophe ever since.  In my youthful years it was Paul Ehrlich who took up the banner.  He’s pretty passé currently and there are lots more youthful Cassandras out there now.  You won’t have any trouble locating them.

These people are always finding meaning in nature, and well they should.  Nature is very rational.  Everything out there is running around for a good reason.  And the more intelligent the animals have become, the more they begin running about for very, very good reasons… never wasting their resources.  Until, if you extend the side of the pyramid upwards – there is no one left… and for some very, good reason.  J

My own thinking is that my rational friends’ thinking, is a good recipe for extinction. Study the pyramid.

I contend that we are crazy.  As a species we are highly irrational.  And that it is the only thing saving us from extinction.  It is our craziness, as a species, which allows us to produce the unforeseeable – and not our reason.

At one time, imagining the earth as round was thought of as crazy.  Sailing off the edge of the world was surely a crazy undertaking.  Baboons don’t do it.  Why go to the moon?  Dogs don’t do it.  Why fly?  Why look into a microscope?  You ever see a chicken wasting its time doing that?  Why count the stars?   Why put bananas on your peanut butter sandwich?  Why not kill people and take what they have?  Why waste your time worshipping?  Why read?  It is our craziness which has expanded the carrying capacity or our predicament and allowed us to flourish to this unprecedented state.

We’re all crazy.  (And especially all these informed, rational people.)  Respect this.  That’s how we stay alive.

Nuf’ said.

Diagram by Carl Nelson – no rights reserved 🙂

From the Editor’s Perch

October 1, 2012

Does Christianity Help Us to Think Better?

(It’s what the evidence may say.)

 

It seemed to be a tradition of the Great Poets such as Blake and Yeats to fashion a personal cosmos of irrational actors and energies to describe underfuries of the real world; that is, the cosmological subtext.  And Poets various as Donne, Dickinson, Milton, Hopkins, and Elliot have used the testimony of religion to inspire and vivify their writing. And whereas we all expect of Poets a little irrationality, it’s little noted that the Great Sir Isaac Newton was a practicing Alchemist nearly all his life.  Or that Kepler, Voltaire, Paine, Washington, Franklin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Edison, Gandhi and Duchamp held beliefs quite at odds with the modernist society they helped to create.

Einstein is famously quoted to have said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”  All these personages held a belief in the irrational which is scorned in our scientific and atheistically oriented age.  But I wonder if such belief does not help us to realize on a grander scale and to orient our thinking towards what might be most successful?

Neurologists have found something contrary to what is nominally believed, which is that rational thought gives us our best decisions.  In fact, on the contrary, when the affective portion of our brains is severed from our rational thinking processes, the brain can reach no conclusions at all.  The person’s thinking is greatly impaired.  Apparently we need our emotions to orient and to direct us.  So, it would seem to follow, that some experience navigating irrational thoughts would be of benefit to the mind in its entirety.  So that rather than being just a useful tool to balance the checkbook, the mind can achieve its grander purpose, which is genius.

A lot of modern thinkers are repelled by the chaos of irrational thought and by the infinitely ambiguous quality of myth, as if it were contemptible to contemplate whatever is fanciful with a process less than ‘scientific’ and more than ambiguous.  But if we want our thinking to take us somewhere, doesn’t it make more sense to anchor our ‘vessel’ to a current, no matter how deceptive and inexplicable, than a fixed buoy?  How can we to travel to somewhere new, if we insist so upon knowing exactly where we are at each instant?

A Religion’s great benefit (aside from possibly being True J) is allowing the Believer to know where they are, even when their rational mind cannot identify any landmarks.  Religion lowers the anxiety threshold.  A strong faith helps us to endure when we find ourselves in strange terrain.  A great Religion is like a great river explorers follow, because they figure correctly that the river best knows the landscape.

It’s often said that all religions are the same, and so should be equally respected.  This is most often said, in my experience, by people who have very little respect for religion at all.  In truth, there are great differences between various religions; and some are better than others.  And how do we know which is which?  It is the age-old problem of locating the false prophets.  “By their fruits ye shall know them.”  What could be more practical – or even ‘scientifically minded’ for that matter – that to measure things by their results?

By this gage, Islam right now is looking like a few desiccated, blackened figs which smell of cordite.  Buddhism is still hunkered around its rice bowl in many poorer areas of the world, while pretending its mind is elsewhere.  And Christianity is looking for all intents and purposes to be in the lead.

Of course all of history is not yet written.  But if you want to use your mind to its best advantage, to gain the best life possible, it currently looks like Christianity is the best river from which to chart the landscape.  Why?

Don’t know for sure.  But it’s what the evidence may say.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Addendum:  After mulling the responses, I’m thinking…  Hey, conflict is fun.  But mostly, this tiny essay’s urge is just to toss this thought (which had occurred to me) out there:  That all of experience and happening is like rain falling on the landscape of our brains.  And the channels these experiences exploit and the rivers of thought they create say something about how the brain has found best to handle this overwhelming onslaught of experiential data which rains down upon it every day and night since time immemorial.  And the great religions might be thought of as the great rivers which move and channel this experience through our brains towards some productive end.  And if these religions mark the best way to drain these watersheds of experience; perhaps they also give us an insight into how best to follow a current of thought to its most successful conclusion… any thought.


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