I normally don't publish email corrispondence, but I put enough time into this, and the content might be interesting enough to others, that I thought I would in this case. Basic scenario: I recently got back into contact with someone I knew a very long time ago, and he's come to accept a number of ideas that are considered deeply "fringe" by mainstream society and science. I expressed concern - as many of you have probably thought, my ideas on "should" in society are unorthodox for an American, although I would hope you would grant me that my model for what "is" is fairly accurate and comprehensive. Given the variety possible in "should"s, I'm comfortable with not being mainstream there (although would be delighted if more people felt as I did), but I hold to the idea that "you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts".. sort of. Figuring out truth is sometimes a matter of judgement, but unlike in "should"s, there is presumably a right answer out there, and poor judgement is possible. I am bothered when people I know seem to have, from my perspective, a deeply flawed model of what is true as well as deeply flawed methods to decide what should be admitted there. A fair number of people I know, from my perspective, seem to have done this over the years, so I've had these kinds of conversations every so often. There is, of course, the possibility that some of them are right, but I don't believe they are. Why is this interesting? It shows my idea of the proper approach to what we admit into our notions of truth and how we respond to less rigourous approaches. On to the email, I mark his text with bullet points and mine is not.
- First, let me say that I am not joking around with regards to these subjects. I am quite aware that the content is often classified "tabloid-ish", but you also have to understand the level of betrayal, propaganda and psyOps perpetrated through the media on the American people everyday. The purpose of the tabloid is to formulate opinion for the people, so that the knee-jerk response from the ignorant public will be to turn their minds off when presented with the subject matters in a more serious context (like whistleblowers, data leaks, etc.)
I am aware that history is misrepresented, grossly at times, and that those in power in many cases are more than willing to advance their private interests at gross harm to the people, using lies, propoganda, and control of the media. However, I think academia has long acted as a guardian of truth in society, both against those who would manipulate the masses and against those who embrace paths to truth that are inadequate (such as faith, guesswork, and inadequate fringe science). I accuse the people you pointed me at on those websites of inadequate skepticism and a failure to adopt sufficiently rigorous paths to truth. There is another problem - of people I've met who are in that community, there actually are plenty of theem who will say they're in it for the amusement factor and company within the community - they mix with and share in the construction of the "canon of truth" equally with those who believe in it. In sum, I think they're replacing lies and misrepresentation with insanity, and that attempting to fit those elements carefully together into a larger framework would show that the pieces are incredibly inconsistent with each other.
- How likely do you think it is that they'll find an excuse to stay? (in response to his original claim that BushJr and Cheney may be preparing to never leave the Whitehouse)
- I can't say it is or isn't going to happen. What I will say is I don't put anything past these two anymore. The stage is set for martial law and dictatorship. Corporations like KBR, Bechtel, and Halliburton are completely above-the-law and out-of-control. They own the politicians. They privatize functions that should remain public. They are building prison camps and contracting MERCs through companies like Blackwater. Just follow the numbers...the USA is not a nation anymore...it is run like a corporation.
I don't think the stage is actually set for martial law or dictatorship here - we don't have a particularly heathy democracy because our populace is ignorant and because marketing techniques have been sufficiently adopted by politicians to prevent adequate discussion of matters of substance. Politicians must sacrifice too much of their principles to get the funding to become elected, and as you mention there are many atrocities being committed overseas by the military-industrial complex. Our domestic political system, however, is otherwise intact and it would take a lot to disrupt it. Domestic policy and foreign policy are entirely different matters and while the US has always had a free hand for abuse in the latter, the former is enough in the public eye that it inspires broad debate whenever anything changes.
- I can see you and I need to talk a lot...and I mean TONS. In the interests of time, let me ask your opinion on some questions which will give me a better idea of what I am dealing with here: (say as much or as little as you want)
- What is your opinion about UFOs / ETs / Ancient Astronauts?
I think there has been insufficient evidence for any of them, and that beyond occasional "what if" questions, they're flights of fancy.
- What is your opinion on Human origin?
I believe we evolved from other members of the great apes, tracing our evolutionary lineage back through the primate family all the way back to one-celled organisms that came from chemical compunds in primordeal Earth.
- What do think about Ancient cultures like Sumeria / Egypt? Are you open to possibility that humanity has destroyed itself and rebuilt itself over and over in cycles? Could ancient humans have been more technologically advanced than we are today?
Depends on what one means by cycles - there definitely were several cycles in history where a more advanced civilisation was replaced by a less advanced one, e.g. when Muslim Spain was retaken by the Europeans, when the Roman empire fled Britain (and eventually the rest of Europe) as Barbarians came, when the Kieven Rus was conquered by Mongol hordes, the Maya were conquered by various more warlike tribes of South-Central America, etc. All these happened, all these left very good evidence.
I don't think it's at all likely that we had societies more advanced than, say, 16th century western science, in the distant past - there are unmistakable signs in materials science that once one passes them they leave artefacts that are nearly impossible to hide. I don't think the ancient sumerians or egyptians can plausibly be said to have been much more advanced than the standard models historians use today.
- What do you think about the influence of cults on our society? (Religions...cults...call them what you want.)
I worry about Christian theocrats as well as the growth of radical Islam. I despise the Church of Scientology (and would like to see its practice made illegal), I consider Falun Gong to collect nutcases, and am extremely concerned about small survivalist cults in the less settled areas of the country.
- Do you trust the Federal Reserve banking system in America?
I trust them to attempt to provide a stable currency. Whether that's possible in the long term, and whether that's a good idea.. those are both other questions. I think the push for a return to the gold standard is idiocy - gold is just an ore we dig from the ground, and pinning things on it is just as arbitrary as a floating system.
- Who killed JFK? (and his brother?) Why?
I don't know about his brother. I believe Oswald did it, and while at present I have the assumption that he did it because of his Soviet sympathies and acted alone, I'm open to the possibility that he acted as part of a group - there are many possible groups that JFK might've been wanted for, from his being Roman Catholic onwards. Oswald's prior attempts to assassinate public officials are a big pointer though.
- What is your opinion of NASA? Why do they still use rockets?
I believe NASA is, by and large, an institution that attempts to advance the cause of science in the realm of space. If there are alternatives to rockets, they presumably have not been shown to be cost-effective and/or safe yet. The "space elevator" idea is tossed around every so often, although it has yet to be shown to be workable, if I remember correctly. By "rockets", I assume you're meaning to include shuttles and other systems based on similar technology...
- Why are we still using gasoline engines and burning coal for energy?
What are the alternatives? We're using some of them.
- Have you studied the life of Nikola Tesla?
I've read a fair bit on him - calling it study would be overstatement, but when I was younger, 2 or 3 books. Interesting guy. I still wonder if all his discoveries were eventually either published or rediscovered by someone else.
- Do you think energy should be free? What about anti-gravity systems?
On the first, is this a question on economics? My politics are socialist - I believe all basic necessities for life should be provided to those who are willing to contribute to society.
On the second, it'd be neat if we can get there some day.
- Are you aware of the many statements made by the "elite" about destroying most of humanity?
The elite are not a homogenous group. What are you talking about specifically? I don't believe destruction of most of humanity would be a good thing for most wealthy people's interests, and as they're as human as the rest of us, such an act would probably be beyond human capacity for almost all of them.
- Do you think AI robotics should be allowed to interact with humanity on all levels? Do you worry about a "Terminator" "war with the machines " scenario?
I am a transhumanist - if AI is developed and it can be made better than humans, I am comfortable seeing AI entities as our intellectual children and having them be the future face of humanity. I would worry about a "terminator" war scenario just as much as I worry about other types of war. I believe extending adequate legal protections to AIs when they come into beings would hopefully remove some incentive for such a war.
- Do you put any stock in witness testimony as evidence? or do you have to taste, touch, smell, and see for yourself before you believe it?
I believe academic paths to knowledge are the best way to understand history and science. When we must use testimony, we should do it carefully and skeptically, but sometimes we must, especially in courts of law, and we accept that sometimes this will lead us to error because not doing so would not give us a workable system.
- What do you think about ghosts, angels, and demons?
I think they're rubbish.
- Do you believe we live in a "Matrix"? Is this an artificial digital world?
I think it doesn't matter if it is or is not - we have no evidence that it is, and even if it were it would not change how we interact with it unless it changes from what it is now, so we may as well continue as we do now with science.
- Do you question everything? Even your own questions? Do you think you know what is reality and what isn't?
Beyond a certain point I think questioning becomes insanity, but I do try to question things that smell fishy to me. There's a quote I like to use here: "The trick is to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out" - at some point we have to be comfortable saying that we have the best path to knowledge, not that we're right. Academic notions of intellectual integrity and evidence are what I think provides that best path.
A question to the reader: Would you respond differently? Do you hold the broad categorisation of "Mainstream" versus "Academic" versus "Conspiracy Theory" type thinking? Which do you think you are, and would you like to be different?
Another question to the reader: Do you hold the distinction I draw between "is" and "should" in my foreword? Do you think there are right answers in the stronger sense for what "should be" (in which case you might be prepared to say I'm objectively wrong in what I want for society)? Do you percieve groups of people differently if they seem to have a poor notion of "what is" versus those who have a notion of "what should be" that is very different from yours?
A final question: Do you think these types of dialogues are worth having? Do you normally have the energy/time to do so? Has it often come up in your life?