“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.
- George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
I continue, today, with the second part of this drawn out series I have created to talk about the ideals that I believe create a necessary foundation that allows us to live in the present moment. That is not to say that in doing what I write about today, you are living in the present moment. Rather, it is a means by which doing so can be more fulfilling and rewarding.
We cannot always be in a state of living in the present moment. We must plan, we must exist and be a part of a chaotic society just by means of survival. What I am promoting is a means by which our state of mind is in the best place it can be moment to moment, even when ideal conditions are not available. I intend to look further into this in my final post of this series, but it is worth mentioning that living in the present moment, even when the right external conditions offer themselves, is a very difficult task. And for many, this task borders on impossible. That is why I believe a strong foundation of ideals, rather than just a single ethos, creates a path to peace and happiness that is much easier to connect with. Without further adieu, allow me to explain my thoughts on knowledge.
Like part one of this series, Honesty, where I argue that being honest is a method that intrinsically forces us to face what is, I think of knowledge as our pursuit for truth beyond ourselves. This creates a give and take system of sorts; provide truth to others and (this may not be obvious) ourselves, then compliment this by seeking truth elsewhere. Learn, grow, and seek to discover what is true about the nature of reality. Challenge yourself. Challenge your beliefs. Question everything. Leave your mind open to the possibilities of reality.
Now, what I have just said may sound far reaching. It may sound like I am priming you so that I can then provide you with an unsubstantiated claim about the nature of reality. You can rest easy knowing that this is not the case. Of course keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out. But I stand by what I said above because there is a lot about reality that does not make sense to us. We simply did not evolve to naturally understand and unlock the mysteries of reality. I will allow Lawrence Krauss to elaborate on this.
The universe doesn’t care about our common sense. We have to force our ideas to conform to the evidence of reality rather than the other way around. And if reality seems strange, that’s okay. In fact, that’s what makes science so wonderful. It expands our minds, because it forces us to accept possibilities which in advance we may never have thought was possible.
The quote above is my favorite portion of the video. This speaks to the nature and beauty of what is. As we continue to learn and grow from our experiences, eager and open to accept what is, our minds can be open to the astounding possibilities of the nature of reality.
Do Not Fear Truth
I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for a number of years. And one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved our old man’s hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said; “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.” And we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal. Somebody who had [almost a lifetime invested] into theory, and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong, and that scientific truth had been advanced.
– Richard Dawkins, The Root of All Evil
Link to video can be found here.
Too often, our hindrance to knowledge is our own fault. We can easily close ourselves off to the possibility that we are wrong. But here I want to argue that we should not fear being wrong.
Many people when in a debate, are trying to win, rather than to discover truth. In this scenario, nobody wins. It is why the religious seem so quick to offense. They aren’t in a real pursuit of truth and what is, they (and in many cases, ourselves) are seeking validation of their own beliefs. But if you instead take on these sorts of challenges honestly and with a desire for truth, not fearing being wrong, you will reach two possible conclusions, neither of which we should fear:
1.) You are “still” correct and thus your understanding of what is true of reality appears sound.
2.) You are proven wrong. But this is for but a moment in time because you have in fact won again. You now know what is. Your understanding of reality has been strengthened, you have grown, you have learned. How could this possibly be a bad thing?
As is shown in Richard Dawkins’ example, when we are eager to know the truth and what is with regard to the universe and reality, only good can come of it. There is no benefit to forcing reality to conform to our beliefs, rather, as Lawrence Krauss stated in the video above, our beliefs must conform to reality.
The Wonder of What Is
Knowledge is an honest pursuit of truth. This does not mean we allow our experience to mislead us to unjustified claims about the nature of the universe, and if that is what you take from this, reread this post. Perhaps the greatest aspect of learning and growing intellectually is that in many ways, knowledge is infinite. You will never learn everything. When we learn about what is, our minds will only expand and be made richer for the experience and further enlightened to new possible experiences.
There is nothing more fascinating to me than witnessing my intuition crumble, this is the moment when I allow my beliefs to conform to reality, which as Lawrence Krauss points out, is how it should be, and it is quite obviously true. This can occur everywhere we look. There is absolute wonder when we look at the night sky and observe a sliver of the majesty of our universe, meanwhile recognizing that we are every bit the universe as the awe which we are partaking of. We can consider the forces we understand intuitively, and yet, don’t understand at all– Gravity, for instance. And perhaps most beautiful of all, our minds. Do you understand the nature of consciousness? The inner workings and the depth of understanding left to be discovered at the dwellings of our skull is endless.
There is a universe and beyond of knowledge to be attained, and every bit that we grasp is more fulfilling and rewarding than any “selfie” or reality show, or follower on our twitter account. I urge you to connect with reality as you allow a pursuit of truth to be the rewarding experience I promise it will be. In closing, I will let Neil deGrasse Tyson send you off with a video I actually posted last week. I will put it here for convenience.
One of the primary reasons that I started this blog was to open the door to discussion. Prior to this blog, my only option was to post quick thoughts on my Facebook page, most of which came under ignorant scrutiny from a friends list far too full of rednecks and evangelicals. I was tired of my thoughts quickly turning into arguments about how offensive I was being and the comments of my friends’ friends telling me I was going to hell. I wasn’t offended by this, but this wasn’t what I was looking for either.
As a solution, I found myself here on WordPress using this space as my own personal outlet for an intellectual and honest discussion about ideas. If people came to this blog, it was like signing a contract acknowledging what they are getting into if they choose to comment or debate. Either way, this has been a great source and I enjoy it more today than I did when I started.
As fun as this is, I am not a master of marketing and I am still relatively new to the blogosphere. Hence, it is still rare that I find myself in fulfilling conversation discussing different ideas. Alas, I have found a place that fulfills a couple of my desires with respect to this blog and I believe that it is worth letting those of you who either follow my blog, or simply scroll by this, know about what I have found.
Versus on Google+
If you do not have a gmail account, I recommend that you get one. Doing so also gives you a Google+ account which is essentially Facebook minus the narcissism if you use it correctly. As you explore Google+, you will find a section called “Communities” and there you will find numerous pages that might relate to you and your various needs. If you are like me with regards to your blog, you hope for two things; A thought provoking and worthwhile discussion, and, in order to do this, you have to promote your blog. Google+ communities provide this platform. I have two communities that I am fond of here, my favorite being the community “Versus”.
On Versus, you can post a claim, followed by your stance and a couple of reasons why your stance is what it is. In my experience, within fifteen minutes a debate will begin, and it is usually quite time consuming if you want it to be. It is thrilling and for the most part rewarding. Now how exactly does this promote my blog? This is how I typically set up my posts: First, I state the topic, followed by my stance and justification. After doing so, I end with something like; “My full argument can be seen here: … ” and I link to my blog. This leads to much more traffic and more followers and most importantly, more discussion. I have utilized it twice thus far and have very pleased.
So lastly, if you are looking for a good place to promote your blog and/or continue or start a discussion, I highly recommend Versus on Google+. Hope you enjoy.
In my last post I reference the debate that unfolded on Real Time with Bill Maher. In the video, you will notice Sam Harris being interrupted several times, while he and Maher were simply not listened to. I have argued that the attacks they have received have come from a place of emotion rather than reason, and most would find that they actually agree with them more than they realize. As is pointed out in the video above, we all are on the same side on this topic, and it’s time to be honest. I like that this interview does a very good job of clearing up a lot of misunderstanding so I think that it is worth watching. Enjoy and feel free to share your thoughts.
The correlation between Islam and the terrorism we are witnessing progress at an alarming rate does not seem to hold a middle ground in the debate forum. People either fervently believe this is an unbreakable relationship while others believe that this is a war of politics and madmen, tugging on the strings of Islam and creating an irrelevant connection. Those who side with the latter appear to condemn those that even consider Islam may be at the epicenter of this problem. They become quite offended, hardly allow the debate or discussion to even occur as they batter their “opponent” with the slander of calling them a racist, Islamophobic, bigot, etc.
As a big fan of Sam Harris’ work to this point, I was motivated to write this when I first became aware of the scrutiny he had faced over his stance on this subject. I, without needing his persuasion to begin with, hold similar views as he does on this topic. However, I am no large voice in this society, and I had been very busy, so I refrained. I have been motivated once more however after seeing the video above as even Bill Maher has faced similar heat as Sam.
The biggest problem I have with the side opposing Maher and Harris are the common arguments that I have heard, they either appear to be invalid and full of emotion rather than reason, or hold some truth but still miss the point that the likes of Maher and Harris are trying to make. With that said, I don’t intend to make this a massive blog post. I don’t think I need to. But in hearing these debates for some time now, I think I have identified three main points that are misunderstood or not completely correct.
Being Critical of Islam is not Racist
The first thing to realize is that Islam is not a race, it is a religion. Yet somehow, being critical of this religion or correlating them to terrorism borders on journalist suicide and one is almost guaranteed to be labeled racist within the day of their publication. But to argue that this is racism is to fail to set emotions aside and look at the facts. This is a debate about ideas and the consequences of those ideas, and in no way does race play a role. Never have I or any of the people I follow that have been criticized for this said “beware of the race x Muslims, but if the Muslims are white you’re golden”. Need I define racism? I find it too cliche.
What about those who are doing good?
Muslims that are out promoting a moderate interpretation of Islam really do help in the fight against the extremists and we who are critical of Islam will admit that at this point they are a necessary piece to a better tomorrow in ridding ISIS and other jihadist groups. The path to a world rid of belief in various faiths is beyond my life, and most on my side that want a secular society would agree. The most visible path to this ultimate destination is through the growth of religious moderation, but this does not mean that I support religious moderation. I stand for reason and what is, and as long as faith exists, the potential for these cancerous expansions exists. So while I support religious moderation in this moment, it is worth admitting that it comes with a heavy caveat. So while we will concede that those who are working to reform Islam are beneficial to society currently, this is a point that shows you are missing the point.
We aren’t concerned about the moderates. We are concerned about the obvious consequences of not being able to criticize bad ideas. These consequences should not be taken lightly. Not only do we have good reason to fear another attack of the 9/11 scale, but even as you read this, women are facing gross inequality, gays are still in silence or being persecuted, and far too many are under a constant and very real threat of Islamist extremism. All this because we are trying to be accepting of other people’s culture. All of this because we are trying to be politically correct. Under no circumstances should any of these consequences be tolerated to the degree that the mainstream liberals have. To do this is to ignore the true reality of the suffering that is occurring right now to innocent victims. To be sensitive to what is going on in the middle east, not wanting to be critical of Islam, is to fail to care sufficiently about the true victims of in this tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes.
This isn’t about the religion, this is about politics
Politics plays a role without a doubt for many involved, but those on my side would argue that it is not at the center of this conflict. To play along, let’s suppose that the leaders are brainwashing their followers for their own political agenda, but how is this being done? It is being done through the filter of a belief in Islam. The ones who are willingly doing these evil acts are not psychopaths, but merely devout believers in the literal word of the Koran. If not for this, the leaders would have little to sell its followers but for the chance to be a psychopath with no reward. At bottom, politics is not what is driving the masses of the conflict.
As I have continually said, this is a conflict of ideas and what is. Trying to simply be politically correct will not get us far when we truly understand the magnitude of suffering that is being caused by this very real problem of Muslim extremism. This cannot be taken lightly, and those of you who are fighting us for being critical of Islam are not looking at the grand picture for what it is. We need to stop trying to bolster our ego by supposedly satisfying the masses by being politically correct and for once have an honest and open discussion about this problem. If you disagree, or agree, I give you the floor in the comments section.