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Posts Tagged ‘magical thinking’

 

Boy, has that a lot of meanings….

But consider this version of ‘cosmos’…

 

According to Lawrence Krauss of NEWScientist magazine, David Brook wrote in The New York Times in May that

 

“…while we moderns see space as a black, cold, mostly empty vastness, with planets and stars propelled by gravitational and other forces, Europeans in the Middle Ages saw a more intimate and magical place. The heavens, to them, were a ceiling of moving spheres, rippling with signs and symbols, and moved by the love of God… The modern view disenchants the universe and tends to make it ‘all fact and no meaning’.” 

 

YIKES!  This is a world-view a 5 year-old would not embrace.

 

Brooks’s article reflects a popular view of science and technology shared the world over.  For too many and for too long, the complexity and majesty of the inner workings of the universe, a cell phone  or a blender – robs some of the ghostliness and the mercurial wonder fulfilled by myth, superstition and religion.  

Only the hopelessly lost and the cynical would suggest that medieval banter, hallucinations, and fantasy are of greater value to man today and our future than the actual workings of the universe.

This romanticized fantasy and yearning for the “good ‘ol days” is more frequent and pervasive in times of great change and upheaval when all the absolutes are evaporating in a short course of accelerated science. 

On the opposite end, the spiritual and mythical universe is anchored among our fundamentalist religious myths, along with virgin births, booga-booga incantations and other intellectually lazy creations of simple minds where answers must be keep equally simple rather than accurate or non-existent.  Brooks’s column referenced Barack Obama’s much-maligned statement that – some people turn to religion and guns for refuge from the inequities that abound.   From the response, Obama must have struck a note that many people would rather not hear.

Science is not necessarily a comfortable place to hang out.  It certainly is not for everyone.  For those that do hang out in the library, lab, or field explorations, it is laughable to have naysayers poo-poo science while they are clogging their brain arteries with cholesterol, The Simpson’s and Brittany Spears.  When it comes to an emergency cure for clogged arteries, some neurosurgeon with 25 years of science philosophy, practice, and imagination will be paged to save his life.  There is no current cure for The Simpson’s and Brittany Spears brain clogged arteries.

A lot has happened since the discovery of the new world.  Sailors from those ancient times mentioned above learned that the constellations in the sky were a ‘tool’ to navigate and an aid to their survival.  Many could only wonder if the same star constellations existed in the other hemispheres around the globe.  The light from the stars of other galaxies takes billions of years to reach us.  Those sailors saw light that is ceased to glow since then.  It seems that surely expands the imagination more than incense, fables and war-lording that’s provoked by religions feuding over who are the ‘delivered’ people.

The skies are not inhabited by mythical beasts, nymphs or fairies.  But, yes, their may be life out there or a version of it that some of us can agree on. 

Worldwide superstition is based on fear and lack of understanding of the relationships between entities in the universe.   Until we learn to separate mythical thinking from a knowledge base developed empirically, we’ll continue to invent alternative realities to justify whatever is the current superstition.  Thus, for now it is important that we get an accelerated perspective on what is imaginary and what is real.

Why does it matter if people cling to myths for solace from the confusion?  

It matters because real-world problems such as hate, hunger, disease, genocide, and climate change can only be solved by real-world thinking. That will require that people get uncomfortable.  Our “raison d’être” is survival. Nature doesn’t exist to serve humanity. It is ruthless.  It knows nothing about accounting or retirement or children in religious sects.  While it is hard today to abandon silliness, it will become even harder when consequences of superstition are racking every thing on earth – especially when our own survival is at stake. 

Recounting myths and calling it ‘tradition’ does the world a disservice.  Myths put humans at the center of everything.  That is a big error.  Be suspicious of those that promote human based logic. By acquiescing to some ‘harmless’ superstitious practices the weary and confused are distracted from selections about the future that even doom their wishful thinking that is the staple of supernatural thought.  

None of this is easy so lets get started right away.

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On any given day in the US in 2008 an average of about 148,000 people will die. Yawn. As the population swells it will grow larger. Yawn. As the population struggles with food, water, disease, contamination and war, those numbers will fluctuate higher and higher. Yawn. For many of us the numbers are so staggering that they don’t matter: 1+ million dead this week. Hummmm

 

There are the wars. Yawn. The US Government stopped totaling the body count on each side toward the end of the Vietnam War. Bad press for politicians, I guess. For Afghanistan and Iraq – and wars to come – Iran, North Korea, etc., that policy is continued. Good thing too. It continues to get harder to tell who the ‘other side’ is.

 

There is the US auto accident problem (3500/mo). Yawn. The US smoking problem: (42000/mo). Yawn. The US cardiovascular disease problem: (120,000/mo). Yawn.

 

But wait! There is an unsafe rollercoaster in Orlando! An alligator eats a cocker spaniel near a receding swamp in Mississippi and, heavens forbid, say it isn’t so!…an asteroid will hit Earth in the next 24.4 thousand years! YIKES!

 

Did you hear that airplanes are not being inspected? Bridges are unsafe. Baby bottles are contaminated by the plastic being used and don’t even mention the Chinese-made ingredients in heparin, toys, air conditioning parts and auto break pads.

 

The examples above represent that paradox according to the statistical probabilities that have been kept for the last 52 years. Clearly many of the things that will kill us we don’t value as dangerous. Other things we fear have a miniscule chance of harming us.

 

You are 109 X more likely to be injured in a car wreck on the way to the airport than to be injured in the airplane if you don’t get bumped.

A few things lead to this distorted view of what we value as good and what isn’t good that we fear.

 

Fear is conditioned just like eating habits are conditioned. Fear is based on losing what we value. Fear is the ‘other’ half of ‘magical thinking’ that comes from not knowing how to evaluate relationships between what is real and what is not real.

 

There is a hierarchy to fear. Not everyone’s hierarchy is the same but a hierarchy exists both for what we value and what we fear. They are related.

 

Our set of fears reflects our values; we engage or focus on what we value. We value what we were trained to value in our home, country, school, street corner or office. We value children… Children trump adults, having resources trumps resource dependency, helplessness trumps risky business and things close to home trump an Austrian engineer’s bazaar behavior. Circumstances around losing those things that we have learned or been trained to value is part of [conditioned] fear.

 

As big as the numbers are above they represent someone else’s world. They are nothing new; they lack ‘spectacle’. That is also conditioned. You can hardly be focused on car accidents if that is the only way to get to a job that makes you the money that affords you the luxuries of life, family, etc. In time, you learn to adjust, accomidate, to level what you have to do to get what you want to get.

 

Many dangerous things get conditioned to ignore: cholesterol, nicotine, sugar, over-medication, cell phones on the freeway and drugs that take the ability away to attend to consequences. That list is only 0.00000000002 % of the total list you might have.

 

Here is what is known. You are human. Your were born and you will die. You are more complex than any other organism on Earth and you are conditioned to be who you are with the material you brought to the table when you were born. Actuarial numbers don’t matter to those alive or to those that are dead. They won’t protect you nor comfort those at your funeral.

 

You will live to be an average of 76 (male) or so years if you are white and 72 (male) or so years if you are black living in the US. Your numbers are smaller if you fit in any of the categories and are in denial. You live longer if you plan to live longer and don’t get hit by one of those driving while eating an ice cream cone while text messaging, etc.

 

Real time you can use this rule of thumb:

  1. figure out what you value
  2. question what you fear
  3. figure out the consequences for all your behavior
  4. determine who benefits from you doing or not doing something

 

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