JR'S Free Thought Pages
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Let’s Get Real

You can fool most of the people most of the time, but you cannot fool reality anytime…an Abe Lincoln update

A Monday Morning Rant

By Johnny Reb, June 2020

The burden of proof for any claim always rests with the person making the claim and any proposition that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence .    

                                           

I’m sorry people, but reality is independent of what our defective brains believe or crave.

As has been said by more than one poet and philosopher, it would seem most people can handle only so much reality- which partly accounts for the widespread irrational delusions of religious belief, pseudoscience and the paranormal.

There is no invisible man in the sky who cares about your love life or hemorrhoids. Deal with it.

Reality bites and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your ailments, petty needs and desires. Many people, disturbingly including those holding corporate and state power, have been convinced that reality is whatever one believes it to be. Consider, for example, the rising stock markets in the face of nothing but dismal news, including widespread social unrest and record unemployment.

Critical realism can save us from the transcendental temptations of religious superstition and postmodernist nightmares, thus restoring our contact with reality. Moreover, despite pragmatists such as Richard Rorty who peddle truth as utility we cannot manage without a concept of truth as correspondence. There is, as most of us thought all along even as innately empiricist children, a pre-existing external reality about which it is the project of science to inform us. Naturally we must be cautious about claims to objective reality, alert to misperceptions and ideological distortions. The world is of course a lot messier and more complex than the accounts of what even physicists would suggest. Even eyewitness accounts of a crime, for example, can be often mistaken or misremembered. This does not mean that such claims cannot plausibly be made accurately. A central plank of critical realism is that science can no longer be considered as just another myth or story.

The never ending chaos and grotesque immorality of late stage capitalism and its mundane banalities reflect quite flawlessly what passes for rational thought for millions of uncritical credulous minds.

The illogicality of contemporary postmodernist philosophy [1] combined with endless flows of anti-Enlightenment anti-scientific intellectual rubbish is explicitly exemplified in the imbecility of know- nothing buffoons and moral degenerates such as Donald Trump. It is also revealed in numerous paradoxes and exposures of long-standing mythologies regarding the ideology of capitalism. The truth is that real existing capitalism is anti-democratic, hierarchical, monopolistic and “socialism for the billionaire and multi-millionaire capitalist oligarchs and wealthy elites, but dog-eat-dog competition for everyone else, including the working classes, masses of poor, homeless and permanently unemployed”. Moreover it is deeply immoral, even by the standards of minimalist ethical principles such as the Golden Rule.

And consider what has been rightly described as “the dismal science”, by which I mean economics and what is referred to as “the economy”. Free markets, for example, are a sham. Faux free trade agreements such as NAFTA, for example, have nothing to do with free trade and are rather blank checks for corporate plunder and exploitation of labor.

The underlying dogma of capitalist economics and what we call “the economy”’ serve the wealthy and billionaire classes and entail essentially manipulated markets, rampant exploitation of resources and labor, systemic corruption and what have become unprecedented contrived inequalities. The novel virus Covid-19 pales in comparison to the globalized capitalist world order and plague called neo-liberalism. The three wealthiest Americans have more wealth than half the country’s population and it has been claimed that some 265 of the wealthiest people have more wealth than 7 billion people on this pathetic overpopulated dying planet with ecosystems circling the drain.

The notion that reason is a myth or mere superstition and is inferior to subjective or intuitive feelings and emotions, that observation and other empirical apparatuses of sensory perception: observation, facts, tests, hypotheses,, experimentation, causation, discovery, theory and the scientific enterprise are synonymous with the supernatural and no more reliable than religious faith or voodoo rituals - or that acts have no consequences or causal force – is ludicrous.

And to the high priests of finance who run our mafia money laundering and offshore tax haven banking systems and deeply immoral entities such as hedge funds and reverse mortgages; they are no better than the Christian scholastics of medieval theology in an era appropriately labeled The Dark Ages.

That’s essentially where we’re at today but with the technology to manage, control and spy on everyone, declaring those people such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who reveal unpleasant truths such as the facts about our vile global dictatorship of capital and the never ending murderous dirty imperialist wars, as enemies of the state”.

As George Orwell wrote over seven decades ago, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.

"Mathematics and logic are the masters of reason, impervious to bullshit which spreads like an uncontrollable plague."

“2 + 2 = 5” and “Heaven is Real”…..

Notes:

[1] In their introduction to the take down of postmodernism in their book Intellectual Impostures (1999), Allan Sokal and Jean Bricmont write that “The goal of this book is to make a limited but original contribution to the critique of the admittedly nebulous Zeitgeist that we have called ‘postmodernism’.” Later, and more directly, they say they wish to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Their book is directed not so much at individual philosophers and other academics such as Jean Baudrillard, Jean-François Lyotard, Paul Feyerabend, Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty, but at the very tone of voice adopted by cultural and academic intellectuals over the last three or four decades. They are accused of appropriating or denigrating the concepts of the natural sciences in their writings and lectures without ever understanding these concepts in the first place.

As the book explains, the problems are not so much that of what these authors write is not only arcane, obscurantist and confused, but utterly meaningless. Nevertheless, specialized scientific and mathematical concepts however are abundantly peppered throughout the text in order to impress the reader with a superficial display of erudition and profundity. The conclusions reached are not established by diligent explanation and attention to argument and evidence but simply pronounced with the implication that the reasoning is axiomatic and palpable. The result is that many big name academics get bigger names while the rest of us are none the wiser.

Anyone familiar with contemporary writings in the fields of social science, cultural criticism and continental philosophy will recognize the pompous, verbose, self-important and entirely humorless style that Sokal and Bricmont criticize. These postmodern authors often seem to adopt the passive aggressive attitude of the angry or insecure; the incessant use of convoluted jargon, constant name-dropping, appeals to emotion or intuition - not rationality.

The authors argue that just because skepticism about the real world is irrefutable, this is therefore no good reason to believe the existence of the real world is justified. Conversely just because empirical information rests on unproven assumptions is no reason for not following it. They make some interesting points, which are all the better for being uninhibited by the protocols of professional philosophy. One feels they are saying explicitly what is implicit but unstated in the works of many professional philosophers. They point out that radical skepticism or solipsism is self defeating – not least because no one could live even for a few hours in accordance with it. They also remark that scientific reasoning is not really very different from the way anybody would set about solving an everyday problem. They compare the reasoning of science with the methods of detecting crimes – both develop theories by gathering evidence and facts to support them.

However, while trying to bring out the similarity of science and everyday reasoning, the authors are strongly against the conflation of the everyday uses of words and specific technical senses. Prime targets in their sights here are terms like “uncertainty” and “relativity”, which are used by scientists and mathematicians in a technical manner, but then adopted by those who wish to invoke their everyday sense. Thus Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem is trotted out to justify anarchist social and political theories and similarly Chaos Theory is assumed to prove that the world is fundamentally unknowable and chaotic rather than just complex.

A question which runs through the book, although expressly avoided, is perhaps the most philosophically important. How far can the social sciences achieve the same goals as the natural sciences? More bluntly are the social sciences “scientific” in any acceptable sense of the word? After reading the book, one is left with the nagging feeling that the wild world of human nature will never succumb to categorization and prediction. Perhaps simply mimicking the techniques of physics, biology and chemistry is not a productive way to proceed. The radical skeptical solution to this is to allow all systems of reasoning the same credibility as science is reduced to one “narrative” among many. Obviously, the problem with this is that it allows status to the most obscurantist and unpalatable ideas: creationist theory, religious faith, existence of deities and the supernatural, paranormal phenomena, racism and astrology, for example. They all must be allowed acceptability by the rigorous standards of scientific inquiry. However, it will still be necessary to evaluate and examine these hypotheses and to carry out rigorous standards of experimentation, argumentation and standards of scientific evidence.

                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                     

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