May 3, 2011

The Epistemology of Panic

I have a friend whom I have always considered sane. He’s a decent, useful member of society. He has a reasonable, practical mind in most respects. He can solve problems. He has religious beliefs, but has never struck me as a zealot. Nevertheless, my friend now believes that we are on the cusp of the biblical “end times”. He cites, as evidence, the words of a vague collection of Christian scholars he does not know. He accepts their authority not on the basis of their past reliability, but merely on the personal resonance of their claims.

At the same time, my friend shrugs off impending calamities for which there is good evidence. He believes that God can destroy America, but scoffs at the idea that anyone or anything else can. Climate and energy emergencies are as unreal to him as his religious apocalypse is to me. He clings to words and symbols, like “freedom” and the flag. It does not seem to register that in a universe at the whim of a vengeful deity the kind of freedom he imagines would be impossible. It does not seem to matter that the flag doesn’t have a place in scripture. Indeed, the world that I see as a collision of natural forces acting in a painful but still orderly way, he sees as a collection of emotional loci without any threads to connect them. I watch, in horror and fascination, what I can only describe as the functional collapse of a human mind.

I have long had a gnawing apprehension that faith has very dangerous potentials. If one begins to believe things undemonstrated by experience, it erodes the very basis of one’s understanding. It begins by ignoring the empirical world, and ends by denying it. I see this everywhere I turn now. It is not the sole province of the religious. It is abundantly clear that most economists, politicians and business people do not believe the physical world puts any limit of expansion. They believe we can grow the population and the economy at a few percent per annum forever, provided only that we balance the numbers correctly. That human ingenuity has no bounds. That we will solve all problems as needed, again, if we just manage to keep our organizational ducks in a row. If these beliefs are any better than scriptural dogmas, I challenge anyone to show me how.


  1. I believe that there must be a great many factors as to why people do this.
    Are these people just so damned impressionable that they may almost instantly and without any substantial doubts switch their beliefs? Like a train switching tracks, they are off in some entirely new direction just like that. Perhaps it is the societal malaise or atrophy that is/has been gradually taking place. Media media media. Critical thinking is a dying art. We got to have whatever "news" or information stat! Johnny on the spot news corporations play their cards almost too well in this sense. News is an ever-growing landslid of nonsensical entertainment, hearsay bullshit. Yeah, rationality is getting buried faster and faster. And these "news reports" are sprinkled with flecks of actual noteworthy tidbits here and there. I suppose there is just enough "real" news in there to keep most sheeples' minds quietly in line.
    I am quite certain that surreptitious agendas play a major role in turning the cogs of most of these corporate "news" (or as I think: shit) factories. They feed the masses with the same tired techniques that have been used throughout civilized times: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. I am not intending to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the "news" the masses get on a daily basis works great in gradually changing the minds of the many. Rationality is pushed aside to make room for irrelevant crap incessantly until, finally, irrelevant crap is most of what is going on up there in peoples' thinkers.
    The system is rigged. The house always ends up winning. Corporate interests, governmental interests, and the public interests are no longer "real." These ideas are given to the masses. They like it that way. It keeps things stable. And stability is something every human can't help but yearn for. Perhaps we are just stuck in a muddy field, trying to get some traction to get free, but only digging ourselves deeper with our attempts.

    I will tell you one thing: if one of the many particle accelerators actually succeeds in finding/understanding/detecting/deploying a "graviton," string theory may turn out to be a reality. And you know what that means... Many more dimensions exist. And their will be some fuckin Christian nut job throwing money to the scientists who can "find heaven."
    That's what I want to be doing. Getting rich off the idiot's fantasies! haha

  2. With due respect to my friend M.C. Planck, I am overjoyed to get a comment from someone I don't know. I don't share all of your views, but I emphatically agree about the general state of media decline. Thanks again for commenting!