Tuesday, August 5, 2008

About That Whole "Defining Reality" Thing ...

Remember this (emphasis added)?
(...) The (Bush) aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."


This of course brings to mind what I wrote last year:
It never ceases to amaze me to what levels of utter irrationality the fundamentalists, neocons and other right-wing madhaters are willing to descend into.

They lie, they misrepresent, they use decoy arguments and make ad hominem attacks. For them, the use of duplicity, of secrecy, of arguments of (non-existent) conspiracy, of fact (and non-fact) selectivity/cherry-picking, of quacks/fake experts, as well as putting forth logical fallacies, are simply means to an end.

And this "end" is the following: to promulgate, support and defend their beliefs or their ideologies.

Truth be told: these are the only things that truly matter to them.

Why else would they try to censor science, attempt to control it, seek to falsify it or rewrite it, quietly hide it, brazenly deny funding for it, attempt to change its mission/purpose, actually lie about it, use spin games to deny it, go to great lenghts to confuse people about it, attempt to dismiss it as a matter of differing beliefs or philosophies, or go as far as to demonize it?

Why else would they use the politics of fear, ignorance and lies?

Why else would anyone one of them (along with so many others of his ilk) have the gall to repudiate on television the very same President whom they supported relentlessly until a month or so ago - with the "ex-supporter" base even applauding such repudiation?

Why else would they still seek to implement a "missile defense shield" while tests keep proving that it is junk?

Why else would they be comfortable enough to advocate more renditions and more torture ... with the audience actually cheering and applauding?

Why else are they capable of scolding others about democracy while they have been proven as authoritarians by their own words and actions?

Why else do they disassemble so easily, obfuscate swiftly, or use disinformation and propaganda?

Why else do they use euphemisms to hide/conceal their true intentions ("surge" in lieu of escalation, "enhanced interrogation techniques" instead of torture, etc.)

Why else do they promulgate confrontation and war, using overt and duplicitous means, as the solutions for everything?

(And I could go on and on and on ...)
Well then - here's that whole "defining/creating reality" thingie in action again, folks (emphasis added):
Bush Cronies Tried To Redefine ‘Carbon Dioxide’ To Save Power Plants From Emissions Regulations

Earlier this month, former EPA official Jason Burnett wrote to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) with explosive revelations on how the White House has neutered climate change science to protect corporate interests. For example, OMB general counsel Jeffrey Rosen asked for multiple memos on whether carbon dioxide (CO2) from cars and plants could be regulated differently.

In a Senate hearing today, Burnett further explained that under the Clear Air Act, “after a pollutant is a regulated pollutant, controls are required on a variety of sources.” During the “inter-agency process,” Burnett said, OMB officials looked for ways to define CO2 from power plants as different from CO2 from automobiles, in order to shield industrial power plants from regulation under the landmark Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA:

BURNETT: There was quite a bit of effort and interest to see whether the Supreme Court case itself and regulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from automobiles be restricted to just automobiles. … So there’s an interest to determine whether we could define CO2 from automobiles as somehow different than CO2 from power plants, for example –

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Do you think that’s possible?

BURNETT: Clearly it wasn’t supportable.

It is common knowledge that carbon dioxide is the same chemical regardless of what source emits it. But for the White House, which unabashedly asserts its anti-environment agenda, the definition of CO2 can change to help big polluters.

“I must say that it was sometimes somewhat embarrassing,” Burnett admitted, “for me to return to EPA and ask for my colleagues to explain yet again that CO2 is a molecule and there is no scientific way of differentiating between CO2 from car and a power plant.

Talk about the ends justifying the means in order to promulgate, support and defend their beliefs and/or their ideologies.

Then again, what else can you expect from people who indulge in echo chamber legalese gymnastics in order to justify uncivilized barbarism and savagery, or who "reason" that simply buying a piece of paper saying "diploma" equals the same as, you know, actually studying and developing expertise to earn a bona fides degree? Indeed (emphasis added):
Report: White House Adviser, NSA Employees Bought Phony College Degrees

A senior military adviser working at the White House and two National Security Agency employees with top-secret security clearances were discovered among a list of nearly 10,000 people who purchased phony college degrees from a Washington state diploma mill, according to documents obtained by the Spokesman Review newspaper.

“William R. Church, a senior military adviser working in the White House, and George Michael Navadel, a U.S. State Department computer systems negotiator, who paid $5,400 for a doctorate in network engineering,” the Spokesman Review reported.

Information on Church could not be found on the White House website. An Internet search about Church’s military career and background also failed to turn up relevant information. A White House spokesperson did not return calls for comment.

The newspaper reported that the Department of Justice refused to publicly release the list once it completed an investigation. The Spokesman Review independently obtained the list of 9,612 individuals, who collectively spent $7.3 million on bogus degrees from a Spokane diploma mill, and posted the information on the newspaper’s website.

A preliminary analysis of the list by The Spokesman-Review shows 135 individuals with ties to the military, 39 with links to educational institutions and 17 employed by government agencies,” the newspaper reported. “Those numbers were derived from e-mail addresses that are part of the list obtained by the newspaper. However, the exact number of individuals with ties to the military, government and education is believed to be far greater because many of those buyers used their personal e-mail accounts.”
Now take the following for consideration (emphasis added):
(...) Stone Age people did have an understanding of simple cause and effect: I drink water and my thirst goes away; you hit me and I hurt; I sleep and I awake rested; I eat this root and I become sick. They were skilled in the techniques of hunting and gathering. Beyond these immediate realities they invented explanations as to how the world worked. It was through stories that people thought they understood the world around them - stories that passed from generation to generation. People, it seems, wondered about the world around them, as bright children do today. Stone Age people let their imaginations run. Stone Age people did not believe in skepticism or suspended judgment. They had no idea of progression in discovery and knowledge. They did not believe in progress.

Their stories merely changed. Their stories were often fanciful and impulsive rather than systematic. Within a tribe might be variations on the same story. With free imagination as the source of the stories, across generations their stories were embellished and altered. Stone Age people told their stories without demand for consistency or empirical verification. The element of free imagination would make their stories appear to people of later ages as childlike, incomplete or absurd. But Stone Age people accepted the stories as true because these were the explanations of their mothers, fathers, grandparents and clan or tribal leaders.

Stone Age people believed that they were living at the center of the universe, that the earth was a disk extending not far beyond known neighbors, mountains, or shorelines. They believed that all movement was the product of will. They saw insects as moving by will. They saw the sun, moon and stars closer than they were and as moving by will. For Stone Age people, will was spirit, and they saw their world as filled with many spirits. Or, to use another word: gods. This was the original polytheism.

When a person saw his reflection in the water he believed he was seeing his spirit - the invisible made visible by the magic of the water. (In modern times, Stone Age people might believe that a photographer had captured something of their spirit and for this reason object to being photographed.)

Seeing the lifeless bodies of those who had died, people believed the spirit of that person had left their body and gone to an invisible world where the spirits of the dead dwelled. And they believed that invisible spirits hovered around them.

People saw spirits as able to penetrate human bodies through the skin, nostrils, mouth, ears or other openings. Dreams, not being willed, were seen as invasions by a spirit during one's sleep. Sickness was seen as an invasion by an evil spirit, and cures were sought in the form of having the invading spirit exorcised from oneself - a practice that survived into modern times.

People saw spirits as able to invade things as well as persons. If a rock happened to have a shape that reminded one of a dead uncle it might be because the spirit of the uncle had invaded and become a part of that rock. Spirits were imagined to have taken up residence in stone or wooden idols. Spirit, they believed, was invisible and in everything.

Not yet interested in strict categories, people did not think about the difference between what they saw as spirit and what was later to be called materiality. And not having defined the difference between spirit and materiality, they believed that if one ate a portion of the body of a strong beast, such as a bear, one might acquire the spirit of the bear, or, if one ate a portion of the body of a deceased king one might acquire the special qualities of that king. The flesh of timid animals might be avoided in fear of ingesting timidity.

And not having defined a difference between spirit and materiality, Stone Age people believed that in preserving a corpse they were helping to preserve the spirit of one who had died. And they believed that they could nourish the spirit of the corpse by putting gifts of food alongside it (...)
This sounds disturbingly all too familiar with today's "modern world":
As much as we are fortunate to live in this modern era of ours, which is defined by the continuous technological and scientific advances that are meant to increase the chasm between us and our primitive, superstitious outlook of the world and the universe, the overwhelming prevalence of ignorance and irrationality in our supposedly civilized societies leaves us mired in tribalism, intellectual sloth and the constant search for instant gratification.

Indeed, and more than ever, too many among us prefer to wallow in superstition and the super-natural in order to sustain a so-called spiritual need for guidance in life – the sustained prevalence of seers, astrologers, mediums, and other quacks, illustrates well this tragic state of affairs. The same goes with regards to the belief in ghosts, haunts and spirits. Ditto for pseudo-sciences (e.g. homeopathy, crystals, pyramids, chelation, etc.) and the quacks who keep making a fortune in selling their placebo-remedies which are supposed to be miraculous. And let us not forget about everything related to "new age" religions and religious fundamentalism (whether Christian, Muslim, or any other).
Not quite convinced? Then try this on further for size while replacing "spirit" with "angel", "demon", "saint", "miracle", etc. (emphasis added):
(...) Not knowing how the world worked, Stone Age people attributed everything to the magic of the spirits. Birds flying or hovering on an updraft of air without falling to the ground was magic. Lightning, thunder, rain, the tides, and procreation were magic. Fire was magic and it was spirit, for it moved itself, and, when water was thrown upon it, it uttered a cry like a slain animal.

Seeing everything in nature as spirit they respected it in its many forms. Also, they recognized their dependence on some of what the spirits had to offer. They feared the power of the spirits and deprivation. People saw spirits as having emotion. Lightning, thunder, strong winds high seas and floods were anger. People feared the anger of the spirits and hoped to placate them with kind words and gifts through a magic of their own.

How the world came into being was explained in stories about the doings of the spirits, a common story being of a male god of sky and the mother god that was earth giving birth to gods that were atmosphere and other phenomena. The imagination of those who created the stories was limited to the world that they could understand. They spoke of gods having created humanity out of earth, tree bark and other ingredients. A god was described as having created plants, beasts and humans, and a story described why the spirits were immortal and humans merely mortal.

They believed that their gods had made the world what it is and that their society and the world would always be as the gods had made it. They had no sense of social progress or image of humanity's capabilities. The imagination of those who had a biological potential for genius, and others of normal intelligence, was limited by their culture. Had it been otherwise, modern times would have come much sooner than it did.

Limited in their view of the breadth of the world, people believed the gods had made their surroundings especially for them. The gods were their gods, and seeing their most powerful god as having their interests at heart they tended to see this god as good. When something went wrong, as in failures at hunting or sickness and death, a society might engage in a ritual to make things good again by waking up the Great Spirit. In another society, calamity might be believed to be the product of people disobeying their gods.

Unrestrained in self-confidence, they believed that if the gods could perform magic so too could they. The earliest form of religious ritual was an attempt at magic through imitation - such as painting a face on the belly of a pregnant woman in hope that the magic of the drawing would encourage birth. There were also ritual fasts or trances that were believed to invoke magic, done in order to receive from the spirits the skills needed to be a good hunter or warrior.

Also common were rituals that we call funerals (...)
Once again: sounds eerily and disturbingly familiar, no?

Hence, my previous conclusion that the fundamentalists, denialists, neocons and other assorted right-wing madhaters are the same ignorant, fearful and surperstitious primitives that our ancestors were, thousands upon thousands of years ago - except that they now use newspapers, magazines, television, radio, politics, and the internet, to spread their intellectual sloth-driven non-understanding of the world and, consequently, working hard at bringing us down to their level of ignorance.

That, coupled to their pathetic inhability to accept - or deal with - reality, along with their typical shameless hypocrisy in trying to justify any and all duplicity on their part in the face of whatever self-deluded moral ground du jour that they claim, make them not only nothing more than primitive minds, but utter incompetent modern human beings as well.

Q.E.D. - yet again.

In the meantime, perhaps it would be wise on the part of the rest of us to dwell seriously on how much overall "progress" exactly we have achieved with our "modern" religions and today's current "belief" systems ...


(Cross-posted at The Wild Wild Left, NetRoots, NION, The Peace Tree)

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