Certainty, Experiments & Facts

Reilly Jones (70544.1227@CompuServe.COM)
27 Sep 96 22:11:54 EDT

On 9/25/96, Sarah Marr had some comments on my post of 9/24/96. I didn't see
much worth responding to at the time, following Samuel Johnson's maxim that "It
is impossible to criticize unresisting imbecility." But, unfortunately, Mark
Crosby, in his post of 9/27/96 offered this assessment of Sarah's post: "Aside
from the fact that many things *do* happen at the same time (as Sarah Marr
pointed out in her incisive response to Reilly)." If her response is viewed as
incisive, and if someone else thinks many things happen at the same time, then I
will, altruistically, offer up some comments and suggestions of my own.

Sarah Marr: <If I'm right, then more than one thing can happen at any given
instant of time.>

If two utterly contradictory events occur at the exact same time, and at the
exact same place, then you must explain how there can be such a concept of truth
at all. How can there be unique history? What kind of a rational world would
you construct, that did not contain a law of non-contradiction? Why would you
expect a scientific experiment to ever be repeatable? How could anything be
intelligible at all? Most certainly, many different things happen with
frequency, but not in the same exact place, at the same exact time, this is
conceptual drivel. I didn't both send my post and not send it at the same time,
I, in fact, and in truth, sent it. Columbus didn't both discover America in
1492, and vacation on the French Rivieria at the same instant.

What I see here, in combination with your later comments on "feelings,"
"happiness," and "toleration" (which I will address down below), I take to be
the result of good dollops of scientific nihilism, historical revisionism, and
cultural relativism. Good scientists aren't really nihilists. Confused
scientists who mistake their models of random activity at the smallest scales
for an ontological primitive are nihilists. They mix up ontology with
epistemology. Scientific models built around the concept of randomness are
epistemological in nature, not ontological. Ontologically, random activity
equates to nothing. Yet here we are. Randomness resides strictly in our brain,
as a concept that has great utility to us by patching over our ignorance of
causes, but could hardly make sense ontologically.

I will recommend a good book to cure these conceptual diseases. "The Killing of
History: How a Discipline is Being Murdered By Literary Critics and Social
Theorists", by Keith Windschuttle (1996) was recently reviewed in the "The New
Criterion" (September 1996). Some blurbs from the review: "Having lived among
the natives, Mr. Windschuttle has sampled much local fare; he knows all about
curiosities like semiotics, and how they got to be that way; he understands the
chief local dialects, and can discriminate nicely between structuralism and
post-structuralism, deconstruction, post-colonialism, and social-constructivism;
he knows the best way across the desert of Michel Foucault's 'anti-humanism' and
is adept at extricating himself from the swamp of postmodern literary theory;
above all, he arms his readers against the cranks, charlatans, and intellectual
shysters that populate these environs: he has sage advice for dealing with
purveyors of radical skepticism and scientific relativism, as well as
commonsense tips for avoiding those who pretend that history is merely a species
of fiction." IMO, rational individuals should be armed against all these forms
of irrationality, such as Sarah's idea that contradictory events can occur

Mr. Windschuttle writes: "In the 1990s, the newly dominant theorists within the
humanities and social sciences assert that it is impossible to tell the truth
about the past or to use history to produce knowledge in any objective sense at
all. They claim that we can only see the past through the perspective of our
own culture and, hence, what we see in history are our own interests and
concerns reflected back at us. The central point upon which history was founded
no longer holds: there is no fundamental distinction any more between history
and myth.... [But] the study of history is essentially a search for the truth."
What these theorists say about history is also what they say about science.
That's why there's an increasing amount of pseudo-science being conducted today,
along with the overwhelming amount of pseudo-history. Those who think two
contradictory events can occur at the same place, and at the same time, in the
words of the reviewer: "...abandon the constraints of empirical truth in the
name of liberation. But what they wind up with is not freedom but a new and
more terrible servitude." We end up with tribes of gangsters hacking each other
over turf, in a will-to-power frenzy, what Mr. Windschuttle calls "charnal house

If truth is relative, and history is myth, then, of course, we are liberated to
fabricate identities for ourselves, fabricate cultures for our fellow travelers,
then demand recognition by the diverse cultures of the world at large for the
legitimacy of these made-up identities and cultures, and go after those cultures
who are not inclined to grant us legitimacy because to do so would be to deny
their own identity and their own culture. A big multicultural fight, concrete
anarchy, meaning destruction, not abstract anarchy, meaning freedom.

RJ: <Really, tolerance in practice is simply indifference. To tolerate
something is to be indifferent to it, meaning it does not threaten your person
or your way of life (which is nearly inseparable from your person) and holds no
interest to you.>

SM: <A lot of tolerance involves 'putting up with' something which does
affect your way of life, and which you are not indifferent to.>

I cannot understand this. If something, really I should say someone, affects
your life, they either a) help you, or b) hinder you. Neutral intentions or
actions have no effect on your life. Individuals tolerate neutral intentions or
actions, that is, they are indifferent to them, which is also a form of
disapproval or patronization. Individuals welcome intentions or actions which
help them, this is the basis for consensual moral polities, for approval or
respect, not tolerance. Individuals fight against intentions or actions which
hinder them, they do not tolerate them. Servility is not tolerance.

SM: <...toleration is based on the balancing of feelings of the individual, for
hir own personal happiness. These are personal decisions based on personal
feelings, they do not require recourse to the concept of group-worth.>

I am not an adherent of emotivism. If toleration is to be held up as a virtue,
as something of high worth, I cannot detect a coherent philosophy behind its
foundational "feelings" as pointing to the Good. I do know, that under a system
of cultural relativism, that the similar virtue of "justice" is the avoidance of
hurt feelings, and nothing more. It certainly is not the righting of wrongs,
since right and wrong don't exist, except insofar as you "feel" they do. What's
your definition of "justice," in such a "feeling" driven worldview? Why is
"happiness" important? Does "happiness" point to the Good also? Or is
"happiness" the Good itself? Why should we care about "feelings" or "happiness"
at all? If tolerance of others is based on "feelings," then is intolerance of
others equally acceptable, as long as it is equally based on "feelings"? Why or
why not?

SM: <...none of us has to agree to anything, do we?>

Only if we decide to opt completely out of social life. Are we still human
then? In what sense? This sounds like an expression of vacant freedom to me,
devoid of content.

SM: <It's not a question of a threat to the person or to one's way of life,
that's too simplistic. It's to do with the nature of that threat, and a
personal balancing of priorities and desires.>

I'm a simple kinda guy. Desires aren't balanced, they're indulged or denied.
Remember, only one thing at a time happens. Priorities are hierarchical, not
balanced at all. Priorities always point upwards to the Good, ultimately to the
highest Good. Different conceptions of the highest Good, that is, human ideals,
are quite often irreconcilable, "toleration" in such cases is conceptually
incoherent, if you tolerate your destroyers, there will soon be no way for you
to "honor diversity." There is no way to produce individuals who all aim for
reconcilable ideals, or harmonious worldviews, unless humanity's volitional
freedom is engineered out. This is the perennial utopian effort to reshape
humanity, that has led to such devastating effects this century.

RJ: <I get the creeps any time I see the word "tolerance" any more. The word
has been badly abused by the holier-than-thou politically correct brigades, who
virtually always mean "intolerance" when they use it. Likewise, when they say
"inclusive," they mean "exclusive"; when they say
"multicultural," they mean "monocultural"; when they say "open-minded," they
mean "closed-minded"; and when they say "diversity," they mean "perversity.">

SM: <I don't believe you. Please give some concrete examples to prove your

Well, since you think that it's possible for two contradictory events to occur
at the same place, and at the same time, I have no clue as to what you would
consider "proof" to be. I suppose, from your emphasis on "feelings" and
"happiness" above, that proof might be whatever you feel happy about. In the
presence of relative truth and mythological history, why bother with proof at
all? Why not just assert, and associate only with those who assert in harmony
with you? Do you ascribe to Richard Rorty's definition of truth, that it's
whatever our peers will let us get away with? What sources of proof do you give
authority to? To personal experience? Well, I have personally experienced what
I wrote, I understand that you have not, because you say "schools in the US are
not within my sphere of knowledge," and this has been where my primary
experience has been of this nasty cultural war. I offer my personal experience
as proof, but why should you believe me, especially after you've read this
unflattering post, which you may not "feel happy" about? On what basis do you
grant authority to individuals, in the area of proofs?

OK, personal experience is a feeble and lame source of proof, if we had to rely
on personal experience, no cumulative human knowledge would be possible. Let's
turn to reflection. The organically linked set of values encompassed by
tolerance, inclusive, multicultural, open-minded, and diversity, all are derived
from a worldview that says that all human ideals can be harmonized, that One
World universal rational cooperation is achievable. But this worldview is
utopian and deadly, because it is false. All human ideals are not compatible,
hence, such a worldview must push its adherents into crushing or remaking all
individuals with incompatible ideals. Hence, the true set of values for those
with this worldview, as opposed to the deceptive values, are intolerance,
monocultural, closed-minded, and perversity. These are the true values that the
politically correct brigades of utopian do-gooders consistently show in
practice, while mouthing their opposite for public relations purposes. The
individuals who have not been on the receiving end of the do-gooders' wrath and
hatred, often do not understand what the big deal is. They are sleep-walking,
as we are "slouching to Gomorrah," in the words of Robert Bork.

An excellent book on the conceptual development of this utopian worldview, and
its inherent irrationality, is "The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the
History of Ideas," by Isaiah Berlin (1990). I don't recommend many recent
history books, but this is a good one. Berlin is a champion of polycentrism (or
limited sovereignties), of individual liberty, of the uniqueness of human
consciousness, and an enemy of utopianism, of relativism, of revisionism, of One

Sarah again: <I don't believe theories predict what will happen, they only
predict what might happen. Otherwise they wouldn't be theoretical.>

Theories predict, not what "might" happen, which could be anything, but what the
experimenter *expects* to happen, with suitable definitions of what constitutes
an observation, rules for statistical inference spelled out, confidence
intervals, measurement accuracy, etc. Otherwise, the theory would be just a big
bag of nothing.

Sarah again: <To say observation needs a theory behind it is not true.
Observation often leads to discovery: it is an error of causality to say
observation _must_ have some theory behind it; it is quite possible for the
theory to evolve from the observation.>

You cannot observe anything at all without your brain performing some perceptual
categorization prior to pattern recognition. This is automatic theorizing on
the part of your brain. Your brain categorizes on value, that is, value to you
personally. Once you have recognized a pattern, because you associatively
connect your perceptual categorization to your memories, then you have made an
observation that you could possibly transmit to others, if you speak a common
language. If you are doing Western science, you belong to a common moral
polity, with consensual values and rules for behavior. When you observe
something in tandem with others, you must speak the same theory-laden language
and come to a consensus as to what you have observed. Scientific breakthroughs
often come because individuals have unique internal values, and have unique
theories or perceptual categorizations (think of qualia) even though observing
the same phenomenon; thus, different patterns may be recognized, even though the
external event is the same. One event at one time, that is, not two or more
contradictory events. See my "Consciousness" review-essay in Extropy #14 for
additional details and sources.

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology:
70544.1227@compuserve.com | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'