It is not an explanation to assert that something happened as a result of magic or miracles. By definition, magic and miracles are not subject to explanations. Legitimate explanations are invitations to continue the investigation and the discussion using the scientific method. Asserting that Someone created the universe thus comes with the responsibilty to explain that Someone […]
This is part of the stinging verdict announced in the November 20, 2006 edition of The American Conservative: Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, […]
I am only through the first chapter of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives (2006). Nonetheless, this is a delightful and insightful work by experimental psychologist Cordelia Fine. So much so that the first chapter of the book, “The Vain Brain,” is well worth the price of the entire book. Fine […]
Oh, all right. I’ll say a few things about this Reverand Haggard thing, although what really there is to say I’m not sure. Those caught up in the spell of an evangelist community may not care–this is just another example of how rotten-to-the-core sinful human beings are and even the best of us just can’t […]
Here’s an interesting column by a staunch Republican Kevin Koehler, who is fed up that our single party government is doing everything that they have always dunned Democrats for doing. His Preface: I am a Southerner, a conservative, and what the press cynically labels a Bible-believing Christian. I’ve voted in every election since the day […]
“We resolve to grant Christians and all other men freedom to observe whatever religion they think fit, so that the divinity, who has his abode in heaven, be propitious and benevolent as well for us as for any of those living under our rule. It seemed to us a very good and very reasonable system […]
Who does more damage, A) mean-spirited people or B) “normal” people acting thoughtlessly? According to Hannah Arendt, the answer is clearly B. I would agree. Why? Because we serve as our own gate-keeper as to what what aspects of the world are relevant, usually oblivious to the fact that the “gate-keeper” of the flow of “relevant” facts is our sycophantic enabler, and that the gatekeeper is often willing to help us express our deepest darkest instincts.
How is it that “normal” people so often behave (and vote) as moral monsters? In Eichmann in Jerusalem (discussed below), Arendt has written that the “banality of evil,” the failure to think, leads to monstrous deeds–the road to hell is mostly paved with a lack of intentions. I largely concur with Arendt, but I would explain the source of most evil in terms of the psychological concept of attention: human animals have limited attentional capacities, and ghastly things can happen when this scarce human resource (the ability to attend) is diverted (often self-diverted). Moral monsters self-train themselves to pre-filter their sensory perceptions so that they don’t need to attend to anything in the world that challenges their preferred viewpoints.
The trick to becoming a banally evil person is to allow yourself to dwell on limited viewpoints and experience. To grow your evilness, stop being self-critical, stop being skeptical and stop exposing yourself to viewpoints that challenge the way you currently live your life. When you become a professional at selectively attending to the “things” of the world, you can feel the rush of becoming a self-certain–you’ll become so certain of your beliefs that you won’t hesitate to impose your narrow intellect onto everything and everyone you encounter. And even when you are incredibly wrong-headed, you won’t realize it, thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect. That is the great power of the ability to selectively attend to one’s favorite parts of the world.
It takes courage to expose one’s self to information that challenges one’s pre-existing beliefs. Humans are intrinsically able to be self-manipulative–being skeptical requires much more work than running with the types of believes and conclusions that have pleased us in the past. That is also the nature of the confirmation bias. Most of us, most of the time, sub-consciously (or semi-consciously) selectively expose ourselves mainly to the types of information that will substantiate our preconceived notions and motives. We’ve all seen this with the many dysfunctional people who use the Internet selectively. They seek out only web sites that are compatible with their pre-existing bigoted, consumerist or shallow life-styles.
If you put on blinders that allow you to see only a limited slice of the world around you, you can spare yourself the need of emotionally reacting to desperate needs of humans around you. Most of us constantly blind ourselves to the plight of starving children in Africa. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s merely a matter of diverting our attention to something else, something not so disturbing.
You might have to force yourself to work all the way through “America 101,” a recent article by Bill Moyers. Those who care about America’s future will make it all the way through, despite the bad news. The article is yet another well-researched and well-expressed piece of writing by Moyers, who cautions that it is […]
What a terrific resource! GodChecker.com. Who would you like to look up? The Aztec god HUITZILOPOCHTLI? The Mesopotamian gods TIAMAT or ENKI? The South American god PERIBORIWA? They are all here, complete with sassy yet informative descriptions. Here’s an example of the writing concerning the South American god “Sinaa”: SINAA: A large Jaguar God recognisable […]