Those who have studied physics, or have dabbled into chaos theory will already be familiar with something called “The Sensitive Dependence On Initial Conditions” which is often lovingly referred to as “The Butterfly Effect." It states, “The behaviors of all dynamic systems are dependent upon their initial conditions.” In other words, extremely small changes or influences can have a huge effect on the possible future of the system.
The creative image often presented to illustrate this, is that of a butterfly creating turbulence with a flap of its wings…this turbulence then grows, thus effecting it’s surroundings eventually creating a storm on the other side of the world. Of course, not every butterfly is going to create a storm. Perhaps there might actually be another butterfly whose wings will generate an opposite turbulence to cancel out the storm created by butterfly one. Butterfly one is creating what we will call a negative butterfly effect, and butterfly two we’ll say is creating a positive butterfly effect.
The education of a society, and the way in which its citizens communicate with each other are the initial conditions that will have an effect on the society (the dynamic system).
If a society foregoes teaching how to act through the skills of proper thinking (i.e. the skills of logic, reason and philosophy) in favor of teaching how to act out of indoctrination and training, then that society will be doing things for the wrong reason. They will simply be automatons of behavior, not thinking about what they do.
Furthermore, if they are trained or indoctrinated into behaving from corrupt, illogical or un-reasonable thinking, they will behave with disastrous effects, not only on their society and on the environment around them, but on the world as a whole.
First they will corrupt their immediate surroundings and then, with what I will call a negative butterfly effect, corrupt the world. This may look like a slippery-slope, and it very well may be. But if the laws of behavior are true, such as emotional contagion, or motor mimicry, spread of rumors, spread of lies, etc. , there seems to be evidence that the laws of behavior could tip in such a drastic way as to create an epidemic of irresponsiblity and destructive behavior that could hasten the end of life as we know it.
Even if it doesn't bring about the end, that society not only will be unable to learn anything because they haven’t been taught how to think, they will also be bound to make the same mistakes again and again for all eternity, or until their own destruction, whichever comes first.
Such is the state of the world today. It’s no wonder there exist so many doomsday religions, people acting with irresponsible behavior, crime and religious fanatics bullying the world.
Indoctrinated or rationalized beliefs lead to actions that do not come from logical thinking, but from programming. Religious programming leads to good behavior at times, but the behavior is still coming from programming, not thinking. The action is not sincere…it’s just a reflex. People operating on this foundation are walking knee-jerk reactions.
Furthermore, religious programming often includes the portrayal of the world in an illogical way…and it is also so rigid as to form, in one’s core identity, un-changeable opinions about the world for religious belief is often the very foundation of the person’s ego, identity and social well-being. I hear people define themselves by saying, “I am a Christian.” Well, to be a Christian, you are supposed to believe in God and the words in the bible. Furthermore, you are supposedly bound to obey the religious law.
The problem with the Bible and most other religious law is that was written centuries ago. However, people and their minds are evolving along with society. The world is changing, and yet the religious law remains un-changeable…bound to a time in history when humans had not yet had the chance to make the moral and ethical leaps and bounds we often take for granted today.
If you are able to show that a persons religious beliefs are illogical, if scientific proof or facts come to light to show that their belief system is flawed in any way, they can no longer believe in the religion’s doctrines as the ultimate truth, they can no-longer believe whole heartedly in that god. They then have to question whether they can any-longer call themselves a Christian, a Hebrew, a Catholic, a Muslim or whatever. This brings on a crisis. What do they believe now? Who are they?
So this is the rational, or rather, irrational fuel on which the world is running now. However, this isn’t to say that the world has
to be this way. We, as humans, the “rational animal” have the ability to change. We have the ability to find alternative sources of rational fuel.
If the initial conditions are such that a society has been built with a cornerstone of logic, reason and philosophy, then each citizen will be behaving from their very core with the foundation of proper thought, then that society will be able to learn and grow. The society will at least have a fighting chance to mature, because each citizen will be able to make logical and reasonable decisions for themselves.
Perhaps a society like this will be mature enough to accept responsibility for its mistakes instead of blaming someone or something else. They will be mature enough to take logical and reasonable steps to correct their mistakes and actually be able to improve their surroundings, thus having a positive butterfly effect on the world around them. Perhaps, they might be able to mature enough to surpass the archaic systems of law and punishment, greed, envy and all the other deadly things known in the religious world as “sins.”
I believe this paradigm shift in thought is possible. I believe that through teaching people how to be responsible, independent thinkers and decision makers, we can make the world a better place with people living in harmony. But the first stepping-stone, the seed that will sprout roots, is education.
A passage from Bertrand Russell supports this point. “An expansive and generous attitude towards other people not only gives happiness to others, but is an immense source of happiness to its possessor, since it causes him to be generally liked. But such an attitude is scarcely possible to the man haunted by a sense of sin. It is an outcome of poise and self-reliance, it demands what may be called mental integration, by which I mean that the various layers of a man’s nature, conscious, subconscious, and unconscious, work together harmoniously and are not engaged in perpetual battle. To produce such harmony is possible in most cases by a wise education, but where education has been unwise it is a more difficult process.”
Education of morals should not, and cannot continue to be left to the sole responsibility of churches or parents or even government who for reasons of convenience, expediency or just plain laziness, will rely on scare tactics and simple reward/punishment schemes to indoctrinate people into behaving. For example, religious indoctrination reduces morals to the concept of: good behavior=post-mortem utopia, bad behavior=post-mortem damnation…if you believe in God, you go to heaven, if you don’t, you go to hell.
The same is true for law. If you obey the law, you will be allowed to lead a “free” life, if you break the law, you shall be punished and stripped of this human right to liberty. This is very simple and easy to rationalize, but if we continue to rely on these methods, we will continue to have a society that acts from emotional reflexes, unable to change. Our decisions and our behavior will be dictated by our emotions (more than likely, fear) instead of logic. We will continue behaving no better than well-trained dogs.
We must start at the elementary level, teaching logic and reason at the first signs of it’s existence in the brain, and then slowly start bringing in philosophy at the start of puberty when minds and personalities are starting to truly take their own independent form. We must present young minds with broad knowledge of the world around them. We must teach them how to seek-out knowledge for themselves and how to divine the truth. They must become what Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Piont
, refers to as "Mavens."
"The word Maven
comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge...The critical thing about Mavens is that they aren't passive collectors of information...They are more socially motivated."
Our youths must be more than just receptacles of information…they must become connoisseurs of information...knowledgeable of what is worthy and unworthy of retaining and using. They must be taught the art of logical debate for the sake of seeking the truth…not the art of rhetoric for the sake of winning an argument. They must learn how to act upon the knowledge that they have earned for themselves.
In this way, the individuals within society will be making their decisions and opinions based on logic and reason with the solid rock of truth to stand on. They will be behaving for the right reasons, because their actions will come from opinions and information that they own. Their decisions and opinions will be formed by them, for themselves,. Not for them by someone else. Their decisions will not be being made out of context to the current time-frame. Their morals will not have been instilled in them from a society centuries old. Their decisions will be made in context to the present, with knowledge and truth about the world as it has evolved…knowledge that they have found for themselves. Therefore their thoughts and actions will be harmoniously sincere and be coming from sound logic...not emotion, which can blind.
If you have ever tried to reason with a two-year-old child, you will be able to understand and sympathize with the state of human affairs as it is today in the mid-western and southern, rural U.S.A. This area is commonly known as the "Bible-Belt". It is populated with people who are sheltered from information and cultures around the world because their sources to information have been severely limited and their exposure to other cultures is likewise. It is an area where the land has been passed down through families for generations. Likewise their ideals and morals have been passed down from the religions that act as a social hub within the community. But I digress. The comparison I really wish to draw is as follows:
A two-year-old child’s brain has not yet developed the faculty of logic or the ability to understand reason. Its sources of information are also very limited. If you try to use reason or logic with a 2 year old, they become confused and don’t know how to react.
What a two-year-old does understand is senses and emotions like pain or pleasure. So, in response to the confusion experienced having been confronted with something they don’t understand (logic) they respond in emotional or physical ways that often aggravate the situation. They will smile, scream, cry, laugh, fidget, walk away or even strike out.
This is similar to what anyone with logical facilities comes across when attempting to debate (and I stress the word attempting) with, for instance, a right-wing conservative American, a Marxist a religious fanatic (or any fundamentalist for that matter). What makes things worse in dealing with one of these people is that they have wrapped their entire identity and ego up in the indoctrinated reasoning they have come to worship. Their whole life has been founded upon it. So, if you prove their argument wrong with solid documented fact, scientific proof, or point out a blatant logical fallacy, they become confused. They respond with rationalized beliefs, more fallacies, regurgitated rhetoric, ad-homonyms or even violent aggression.
They simply can’t imagine that what they’ve been trained to believe might not be true, and since their education lacks philosophy (unless voluntarily taken in University), or logic (often taught in-tandem with philosophy or University level mathematics), they are unable to respond with logic…the faculty is buried, if it exists at all, under years of indoctrinated rationale. They can rationalize themselves out of a wet sack, but they can’t argue with logic.
At this point, having been proven wrong, and if they have allowed themselves to admit it, they have a number of choices. One of them is to start questioning their belief system…question everything they’ve been taught…re-educate themselves, re-examine and take responsibility for their behavior, make necessary changes to correct their education, become active in their information gathering, they have to check their facts, question the credibility of their current sources of information, question their family and friends who have supported and provided their mis-education, etc, etc.
Perhaps, by making these changes, they start losing friends and family members along the way. (Of course, this would be unfortunate, for a wise and logical person should be able to find a way to open their friends and families minds as well. They should be able to argue with logic…and logic should prevail, but indoctrination is a hard nut to crack.)
To make matters even more difficult, in a small society such as a rural community, making changes to your belief system is not an easy option, for you depend on your neighbors…isolating yourself from them in anyway can leave you stranded alone, or even worse, can make you the target of an an organized attack on you and your family. Often, these people take the easy choice and live in denial, or simply re-join the crowd and continue acting irrationally.
As Bertrand Russell states in The Conquest of Happiness
, “Owing to all these differences of outlook a person of given tastes and convictions may find himself practically an outcast while he lives in one set, although in another set he would be accepted as an entirely ordinary human being. A very great deal of unhappiness, especially among the young, arises in this way…this isolation is not only a source of pain; it also causes a great dissipation of energy in the unnecessary task of maintaining mental independence against hostile surroundings.” Sometimes, a denial comes about because facing the truth is just too scary. The truth is often ugly, and requires responsible action. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep the peace by keeping your mouth shut…even when you’re right. However, easy is not responsible.
Now, A person with the faculty of logic on their side, faced with being proven wrong, takes the pragmatic approach, and re-asses their beliefs and starts doing research, or whatever it takes to correct themselves. They will learn and grow from their mistakes. They will mature. The former, cannot for they have no interest in educating themselves to the truth. The later, armed with the teeth of logic and an agile tongue can launch into the un-programming and un-indoctrination of their neighbors. They can win them over, and in so doing, can win their respect, for logical people seldom forget who showed them the light. They can become what the Greeks called a parrhesiastes
, roughly translated as a "free-speaker of truth." This word comes from the Greek root parrhesia
, roughly meaning "freedom of Speech." Something we U.S. citizens supposedly
Consider this passage from Fear-less Speech
by Michel Foucault:
"...the decisive criterion which identifies the parrhesiastes is...found...in the harmony which exists between his logos and his bios...secondly, the target of this new parrhesia is...to convince someone that he must take care of himself and of others; and this means that he must change his life...conversion is not completely different from the change of mind that an orator, using his parrhesia, wished to bring about when he asked his fellow citizens to wake up, to refuse what they previously accepted, or to accept what they previously refused. But in philosophical practice the notion of changing one's mind takes on a more general and expanded meaning since it is no longer just a matter of altering one's belief or opinion, but of changing one's style of life, one's relation to others, and one's relation to oneself...these new parrhesiastic practices imply a complex set of connections between the self and truth. For not only are these practices supposed to endow the individual with self-knowledge, this self-knowledge in turn is supposed to grant access to truth and further knowledge."
The state of society today, unfortunately, is one in which it is largely functioning morally from a foundation of indoctrinated beliefs handed down through religious laws. Those laws were formed centuries before the human mind had a chance to evolve logically, with the help of reason and scientific discovery, to the point at which the modern brains exists today. Our societies are functioning on an out-dated program. Somewhat similar to an adult with the logic and reason of a two-year old child, or perhaps a better description would be like trying to run a state of the art computer on an operating system made 20 years ago with faulty programming.
We have narrow moral minds in society because they have not been fed the information that could allow them to be broad. We have been sheltered by the emotional reason that lies (spelling intended) within religious indoctrination…the fear and passion of religion has corrupted or clouded all proper thinking. Therefore, our decisions…our opinions and our world has been corrupted. Our growth is being stunted so we are unable to mature. We are being suffocated by a lack of education. Our informational diet is lacking nutrition. We have been trained to follow orders and have been indoctrinated into not questioning what we learn. We have been taught that rationalized, emotional reason overrides logical reason. For this we are doomed today, unless we can change tomorrow.
Some people have been taught or convinced that rational and logical thinking/reasoning are the same thing. The people in power and control have rationalized their right to that power and control, but it is not logical. Can it be logical that some people have a right to wealth and power while others don’t? Especially in a society where “all men are created equal?” This can be rationalized, but it’s not logical.
If one has power and wealth, while another does not, then they are not equal, and they never will be. If one is born rich, while another is born broke, they are not born equal, nor have the poor been given a fair and equal chance to change their situation or ability to achieve the “American Dream.” They don’t have an equal chance, because they don’t have equal access to an equal standard of education…schools with good teachers, state of the art computers, current textbooks, supplies, etc. The poor don’t have an equal chance to life, for they don’t have access to the same diet or health care afforded the wealthy.
The wealthy can rationalize their right to these things all they want, but they cannot make a logical argument in support of it...especially under the light of the American constitution.
So, here we see that the U.S. constitution is often in conflict with the economic system of capitalism. The economic system has been rationalized and indoctrinated into the people’s belief system. The result is an undermining of the logical statements made in the constitution, thus creating a split personality in the society.
There are the people who have rationalized their right to the greed of Capitalism in an Ayn Randian way. The people who have equally wrapped their identities and egos in the cloth of moral religious beliefs, and the morals that perpetuate the classist ecenomic system…willingly enslaving themselves to it. In the U.S., they are the G.O.P., the Republicans, the Conservative Right, who feel that their religious belief has given them priveledge over others. Their Christian God is right, therefore anyone who does not believe as they do is wrong. God made the world for them...not for others. There is no tolerance in their belief, because there is no room for it. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Therefore, there can only be world peace if they convert everyone to their religion, or destroy all those who don't believe. The extremists on their side possibly even wish to hasten the end of the world so they can (as the bumper sticker goes) "Let God Sort 'Em Out."They have no choice but to argue from rhetoric and indoctrination. Words most often used? "The Bible says..." Has anyone ever thought that the Bible might be out of date?
In the other corner of the ring are those who see the world logically, supporting the constitution, freedom and human rights over the economic system, for it's only logical (In the U.S., they are on the left and often called liberals). They fight for the liberty and justice for all, and tend to have logic on their side to support it. Unfortunately, they often resort to rhetoric as well..and this hurts their cause because they drag themselves down to the level of their oppontent.
On a side note, let it be said that those who attempt to straddle the fence between the two, trying to call themselves “moderates” are actually suffering from an identity crisis caused by their indoctrinated rationalizations over-weighing their logic on some issues, and vice-versa on others. This is where the famous flip-flop can happen.
We, as a people, have to decide which way we wish to take the world. Do we want to have a positive or negative butterfly effect on our existence? Do we wish to sacrifice our future to the will of those who are acting blindly out of obedience to rationalized rhetoric and indoctrination for the sake of only those who believe as they do? Do we wish to have a positive effect on securing the sustainability of our world through the power of logic and correct thinking…thus acting sincerely and responsibly for the sake of the whole world?
If history tells us anything, irresponsible behaviors toward the end of destruction and responsible behaviors toward the end of peace will tend to tip back and forth, I just hope they don't tip too far down the destructive path someday leading to our own extinction.
The thing to remember is that as human beings, we all have a choice. It’s high time we decide.