Society. Fixed. Done.

There is one solution that really solves all our problems.  It’s just two words.  In these two words there is no more hunger, no more war, no more cruelty, or rape.   There is equality amongst gender and races.  People can have guns and don’t have to have taxes imposed on them.  Everybody makes smart decisions about their health, about sex, about when to be a parent, about how to be a parent, and raise their children well.

You probably know people like this, and you know people who advocate it because it’s so obvious and easy.  It’s called Personal Responsibility.  I capitalized it because it’s so important and because it is the answer.  Alright, I’m done blogging.

…hang on…nope…I just remembered something.  We don’t live in a utopian fantasy.

  • You shouldn’t need to have a law that tells you to wear a seat belt or text while driving I know this is important so I drive safely
  • You shouldn’t need a law that forces you to get health insurance or makes you be a responsible employer and take care of your employees by giving them a living wage
  • You shouldn’t need to have laws that force you to hire women and minorities as it should be self evident that gender and race don’t matter and that ultimately it boils down to who is best for the job
  • You shouldn’t need to have gun control laws.  One can be trained how to use a gun and keep it in a safe place away from children
  • You shouldn’t need to impose regulations on corporations.
  • You shouldn’t have taxes imposed on you.  If something is important I’ll be happy to contribute some money to someone who will do what needs to be done.
  • You shouldn’t need to get welfare because you can work.
  • You shouldn’t need money as an incentive to work.
  • You shouldn’t get raped if you are personally responsible about what you wear and how you behave (umm…how about being personally responsible and not raping someone?)

These are just some of the common complaints you hear from people in regards to laws, governance, and “responsible” behavior.  Anyone can see how sensible these statements are, theoretically.  Yet one wonders why indeed do we have laws or talk about imposing such laws and regulations?  If everyone was as awesome as you, who feels so injured to have something imposed on you when you already know you should do it, what’s the point of government sticking its nose in your business? Why is society dictating my behavior when I already know better?  You know your business and conduct yourself responsibly.  Right?

For now I am going to pretend that nobody is willfully ignorant (which is also pretty utopian).  The problem of course is, that personal responsibility is kind of like the nature of God.  Everyone has a different definition of what it means.  If every citizen in the country had the same definition of personal responsibility things might be alright.  Although this in itself would be hard for a big country, in which everybody lives in different regions and by definition the regional disparity requires different needs.  It only takes a handful of farmers to feed a lot of people, yet those farmers are just as important as the whole lot of people they feed.  So the first step would be for all people to accept within a country at the very least that people in all parts of the country have value and we may have to contribute some of our income to them.  This might include roads, education, and protection.  Protection itself can come in the form of a police department, fire department, or military.  One could argue that if everyone was personally responsible the need for a police department kind of goes away.

A personally responsible society however also recognizes their place in the world and in nature, and so realizes that the decisions they make might adversely impact other countries and wants to make sure that it is nice to other countries.  They recognize the value of preserving wildlife and rare species and is responsible about what it hunts and where it builds.  They recognize the true cost, not only in monetary units of drilling, mining, extracting.   This type of responsibility also costs some money because sometimes we might have to do things a little more expensively to preserve ecosystems or protect the environment.  This personally responsible society doesn’t mind.

And accidents do happen.  There are infectious diseases, natural disasters, etc.  Society pays for things in which nobody is to blame.  It is the personally responsible thing to accept that and contribute to help mitigate damage and help rebuild and repair.

Most of the people in this personally responsible society don’t feel too much stress, because the very rich realize that they don’t really need all that money and are quite happy to use their massive wealth to help out the person who doesn’t make too much of his own.  As a successful head of corporation he is extremely happy to contribute more to society because he has a lot of excess.

What a great place to live, but of course it doesn’t exist.

So perhaps the first question we might ask,  “Is everybody capable of this broad set of requirements for personal responsibility?  Of course the answer is no.  Nurture plays a big role in this.  We have belief systems, disparity in education, disparity in resources.  Even if nurture could everywhere be equal, we still have genetic differences.  Some people have physical and mental disorders.  Trauma happens in people’s lives that impact their ability to function at a high capacity.  Even when it’s an accidental event, and not something like murder or rape.  The free market ends some businesses, causing people to lose jobs.  Theoretically new jobs are created, but those might be in some other location.  Another country even.  Also as time goes on we make new discoveries in science and technology.  The industrial revolution has brought about climate change, but it seems unlikely that we started building all these factories knowing the harm it would do in the future.  As we become aware of things, new areas of responsibility become apparent.  So there is going to be a natural evolution towards winners and losers, new problems to deal with as old ones become understood and more cost efficient, and the personally responsible thing to do would be work together to continue fighting that imbalance.  It requires vigilance.

The next question we need to ask is “What can be done to make people more personally responsible?”  There is no quick fix, and there is no one answer.  Education can make us better aware of problems that impact society.  Of course knowledge and wisdom are very different.  In Plato’s famous treatise on love he talked about agape and love of humanity; a brotherly love for all mankind.  We need more of this kind of love, but people fear (and perhaps with good reason) that it comes at the cost of a loss of individualism.  I’m not certain that is completely true, but it might be.  But this love must extend to more than just to our fellow human, but to life itself.  The planet.  Our home.  We must also be humble and lose our conceit.  It may have served us well in our evolutionary past, but now survival is not so difficult when we are working together.

Love for the humanity and the planet, however begins at the individual level.  It begins by showing compassion and love to those in our lives and those we meet.  Helping those who need help and also thinking about how best to help them.  Being personally responsible is a journey within our own lives and does not happen overnight.  It is journey that doesn’t end when you’re 30 or 40 or 50, but continues your entire life.  And it is everyone’s job to be personally responsible but always keeping in mind that some people simply don’t have the ability to contribute as much as you, often through no fault of their own, and when you help raise them up and show sincere concern for their well-being they are likely to reciprocate that generosity.  Finally we must value happiness over wealth.

And even after all that…it’s a struggle.  The great thing is though if we do a better job of keeping these virtues in our heart we will never struggle alone.

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Evidently it’s Evidence Part II

Part I, probably doesn’t provide too much pause for thought, but hopefully this one will.  I’ve been told my posts are long, so I’m trying to shorten things up. 🙂

Perhaps I should also preface before I begin that almost anything can count as evidence.  However it seems that people with little understanding of scientific investigation often make the mistake of delineating good evidence from bad.  Or being able to determine why one source of evidence is weaker than another.  Because after all I could argue that it is faith that I believe the sun will come up tomorrow, when the truth is I don’t really know for sure.  The fact that it has come up all the days of my life, is some pretty good evidence.  It’s even better evidence that it has come up for others.  And it seems as I look through historical evidence from before I was born it has been coming up pretty regularly.  And then there is the evidence that the Earth is rotating and that we are revolving around the sun.  It may be that all that changes tomorrow, but it seems unlikely. So at the very least, I can say that my faith has some pretty solid substance to it. (Also please be aware that I do know that the sun actually doesn’t come up, it is the Earth’s rotation that gives it the appearance of rising. lol)

Here are some of the things that many people seem to think of as evidence:

  • anecdotal evidence
  • a contrary opinion
  • a book
  • a “gut feeling”
  • a low probability event (a coincidence)
  • celebrities or other famous people
  • a documentary
  • a movie
  • media
  • even worse  – social media
  • the number of hits you search for something on the internet

There are probably more things that could be added but these are some of my favorite.  Part of the problem is that any one of these could be right.  I am not going to address each one, but there are times when your “gut” tells you, you are in danger and you are right.

From hm.dinofly.com

Anecdotal evidence can also be correct.  I could say “In my experience the sun comes up every morning” and I would be right.  Sometimes celebrities are correct, and documentaries are accurate.  Someone who is disagreeing with you may actually be doing so for good reason.  Because he/she knows more than you do. And occasionally a news story might even report actual information. 🙂

I am a fairly big food snob.  I’ll admit it.  I’m probably even more proud of that fact than I should, but tasty food is an important pleasure in life to me.  Not to mention sitting down to a good meal, can be romantic, social, and/or cultural.  One of my favorite things is to

Pad thai from myrecipes.com

introduce people to new food and new culinary experiences.  It has often been the case that someone will say they really don’t like a certain food.  Upon further investigation you find that the one time they tried it, the person didn’t know how to cook it properly so they had a bad experience, and then never tried it again.  Often if I get them to give what I have prepared a try, they find that they actually like it.  The point is that our own experiences are often flawed.  I am sure the person when they first tried badly cooked spinach they had no intentions on hating spinach, they simply didn’t like what they had, and assumed it was the fault of the spinach and not the cook.

While it is not surprising from an evolutionary standpoint why we would take our own experiences as truth, it is clear that as individuals we are prone to many biases.  If you know nothing about snakes, it is ALWAYS safer to stay away from snakes since a few can be deadly.  Surviving and being safe represents 99% of our evolution as a species, but if civilization has any true advantages, it is the ability to break free from the fearful uncertainty of the wild and to give us time for reflection and thought.  The lack of detailed knowledge about something is the birthplace of beliefs that are based on little or poor evidence.  This is why education is so important.  This is why understanding of science is important.  This is why critical thinking is important.

More importantly this is why humility is important.  One lifetime, at the very least in the length it is now, is never enough time to know all there is to know (if that is even possible).  But when you have true humility, not just humility before God, but humility before all existence, you accept that you don’t have all the answers.  You accept that there is still more for you to know, and to learn.  You can accept that you can be mistaken.  When you accept this, then you can delve into the next set of questions.  How is it that we can come to know things?  What are different ways of knowing?  How do they work?  What is their reliability?

from http://www.jasonwhowe.com

How boring would life be if you just decided on how everything works at the age of 30 and then just criticized everyone else the rest of your days? Keep asking yourself questions, and enjoy the experience of enlightenment that comes from a lifetime of learning.  The feeling of enlightenment is euphoric and is an edge that never dulls, no matter the age.

Evidently it’s Evidence Part I

It is a common message from atheists that ultimately faith and science are incompatible.  Science forms conclusions based on evidence, and faith forms conclusions despite evidence.  In various debates I’ve had with people of ‘faith’ it occurs to me that there might be a slight problem with this statement.  While it’s true that people who hold strong religious beliefs often do not bother trying to explain evidence that is contradictory to their views.  Sometimes they will simply rationalize contradictory evidence away as not being accurate, or say some blanket statement “well science doesn’t know everything” or “science isn’t always right”.  These always seem like strange arguments of course.  Science doesn’t claim to know everything, and while it is true that science isn’t always right, but in proving a current hypothesis or theory wrong the bonus is that you end up with something that is more correct than what you had before.  And of course it’s true to say that faith isn’t always right either.  If faith was unfailing in the results it provides, I would certainly be willing to submit that perhaps scientific investigation wasn’t always the way to go.

But I would like to look just beyond religion and talk more about belief in general.  People who hold strong beliefs whether it is about religion, their country, or even their sports team (okay being a little glib there about sports) all share something in common.  Not only do they ignore evidence to the contrary, they also seem to have a different idea than most scientists about what evidence actually is.

As a scientist it feels fairly obvious to me what I should count as evidence and what I should not.  In the so called “hard” sciences this is fairly easy to grasp.  As an atmospheric scientist I have often dealt with vast quantities of data, measured from some unfeeling

From images.bwbx.io

instrument.  It’s unlikely to have any personal bias.  Of course instruments are not perfect and they have errors.  As a scientist I always need to be aware of the errors in the evidence.  Then once I have those hopefully close to perfect measurements I must then analyze the data.  My interpretation is thus subjective, perhaps to my own biases.  I of course try to minimize my biases by being well aware of the body of knowledge that surrounds the particular problem I am trying to solve.  I try to be aware of conflicting perspectives and points of view from previous scientist to help me keep as open a mind as possible about what my results might mean.  But in the end, even in a field that is steeped in physical equations, I might present results that are biased.  Most likely I have just made a mistake, but bias is also a mistake. 🙂

So any one study can be biased, but ultimately my mistakes will be revealed by others who are using my conclusions as truth to their study.  If I am wrong, their study will fail, and someone will say, perhaps my conclusions were incorrect thus their experiment started with a faulty premise.  An important part of science is verification and repeatability.  When there is a lot of disagreement amongst researchers, this probably means we don’t understand the problem yet very well.

In the social sciences, disagreements are more frequent, because here data and valid evidence are harder to obtain because so much depends on effective sampling and dealing with imperfect forms of subject material (namely us!).  For instance let’s say I wanted to see how humans felt about death, and I only sampled people in the U.S. who were of a Christian faith.  Meanwhile somewhere in India somebody wanted to perform the same study, but only sampled Hindus.  Any conclusion either of us made about how humans feel about death is incorrect.  Because really all we’ve addressed is how Hindus feel about death, or how Christians feel about death.  At best maybe we could draw some conclusions about how Americans or Indians felt about death.  Someone looking at our studies would say, well there are a few similarities in the our study so perhaps together you are one step closer to answering your original question, but for the most part you have only illuminated cultural difference between Indians and Americans on how they view death.  And if we were responsible scientists we would at least admit at the end of our study that our sampling was biased and thus we can only make limited claims about what humans think about death.

So ultimately any good scientist, regardless of the field, is aware of the errors and uncertainty of their data, and the scope to which their evidence is able to support their

From cdn2.edutopia.org

hypothesis.  And it is through the body of evidence in a particular field that we can turn hypotheses into theories and be confident in our conclusions.  We have a peer-review process to evaluate our application of the scientific method, and we have the process of verification and repeatability to strengthen the findings of any one scientist.

What one should gather from this is that science is actually really hard.  It takes a long time to learn how to interpret results accurately, be familiar with the types of errors that can be made, and to understand to what degree of certainty you can attribute to your research.  Nevertheless no other system has found to work better.

In my next post, I will get back to my original idea, which is what many seem to view as evidence and how much certainty they associate with that evidence.

I’ve Got a Feeling

A few years back my wife and I had some trouble in our marriage.  I remember it being rather a shock to me that all of a sudden what seemed like a happy marriage seemed to be falling apart so quickly and was full of such heartache and pain.

But I am not here to talk about that.  It is in the past, and we have rebuilt and things are wonderful with our first child on the way.  What I would like to reflect on though is how feelings translate into actions.  The shock I felt was because I had this incredible amount of love in my heart.  But these feelings did not translate into a behavior that would have qualified me as a great husband.

I am sitting in on a wonderful class right now taught by a colleague in the Psychology Department on campus called Love, Lust and Attachment.  We were discussing in class how we go about measuring relationships.  Ultimately emotions cannot be measured, but behavior can and let me to thinking about why those two things are so often in a disconnect.

A must see documentary that will break your heart. From en.wikipedia.org

All of us have intense emotional experiences.  They can be intense sadness at a story on the news or a documentary; intense feelings of joy as a baby is born; intense anger at a betrayal, intense love for a partner and/or friend, intense fear when frightened by something.  It struck me that these intense emotional experiences have a real physical impact on us, and I began to wonder if this physical impact deludes into believing that it has more of an impact on our actions or behavior than it actually does.  Many people are often moved to tears by a sad story, but few act on that feeling to do something about it.   We may love someone deeply, but does that feeling of love translate into actions that make the other person feel loved?  Does our outrage over a defunct government move all of us to write our representatives?

The motivational speaker finds success in not so much giving us new things to think about, but rather tries to get people to direct their emotions, ideas, and thoughts into actions.  Few emotions in of themselves lead to immediate action without conscious thought.  Things like fear or disgust may be good examples of ones that do, for these emotions from an evolutionary standpoint impact our very survival.   But for the most part it seems that emotions are what motivate us, and yet only a small fraction of the emotions we feel actually lead us to a behavior that is the consequence of that emotion.   Furthermore we may simply lack the understanding of how to effectively behave to show how that emotion is affecting us.  I remember William H. Macy’s character in Magnolia’s words “I really do

From catdangle.com

have love to give, I just don’t know where to put it”.  I think many of us can identify with this character.  Acting on our emotions is often like wandering around in the dark, especially when we haven’t had positive examples in our lives.

Perhaps the only relevant answer in the end is that we live in a world with limits.  While I might be able to feel love for many different women, I only have the time, energy, and resources for a finite amount.  While I may feel deeply passionate about numerous social causes, once again those feelings cannot translate into an equal amount of actions.  There are only so many hours in the day.  We must rest and recharge to function adequately in our daily lives.  Of the many emotions we feel throughout the day we must pick and choose the actions we take.  And sometimes certain tasks are more important in the moment and we must let put intense emotions aside.

When I was young I felt like I was full all this emotion that was going to make me a great person, but I felt that none of it was coming out.  Emotions can be overwhelming and sometimes even paralyzing.  I felt like the real me was buried deep within myself.  I am proud to say that each day I’ve felt like that person was getting closer to the surface.  I am not sure if I’m the person I want to be yet, but I believe it is important to:

1) Let yourself feel what you feel.  Embrace the ones that make you feel good, and forgive yourself for the ones that frighten you or make you feel weak.  All emotions have value.  They teach you about yourself and raise awareness in your conscious mind about things you deem important in your environment.

2) Reflect on those emotions and choose a course of action that is according to your morality.  One that hopefully benefits you and the world around you.

3) Then reflect on the translation of emotion into action so that you can make adjustments if necessary.

Remember, no one is a natural, but we can all try to do more, and become better people.  We are changeable.  Accept it and don’t fight it, because then your emotions will never weigh you down and you will realize that you are learning and not making mistakes.

Skills and Value

Topics are building up in my head faster than I have time to write them, and so despite the fact that I swore I was going to write about numerous other topics, particularly in the area of psychology a Facebook conversation has led me down a different path.

The conversation was about a McDonalds worker who wanted her $8/hr salary to go up to

From money.cnn.com

the living wage of $15/hr.  Which is still not a terribly high wage.  The conversation that ensued went as you’d expect.  Most people (who are in good jobs and living comfortably) saying that working at McDonalds requires no skill and thus should be paid accordingly.  Or criticizing the person for not doing more with their life and thus have no one but themselves to blame.  One person did make the argument that no wage has kept pace with inflation, which is true, but minimum wage has gone up at an even slower rate.

I made numerous arguments in response, most importantly challenging the assumption that the person had all these choices in their life.   Most of the people reading this blog live in a position of privilege.   And it’s not your fault.  Your parents probably pushed you, help educate you, made you aware of different options for your life, encouraged you to do well in school.  You probably grew up in relatively safe neighborhoods.  You had friends that were similar to you.  You had good schools to go to, with a lot of skilled teachers.  But not all neighborhoods are safe.  Not all parents care enough to encourage your education.

From blog.volunteerspot.com

Not all schools are equal in the quality of education they provide.  Some environments make it easier to fall into a bad crowd.  Not everyone has the freedom to go for further training after they get out of high school.  Maybe they have to work to take care of a sick parent who has massive bills because they couldn’t afford health insurance.  There are a million scenarios that could limit the opportunities one has.

I also made the argument that I did not choose my career path as a meteorology professor because of the money.  It is because I loved it.  I am glad it pays well enough for me to live comfortably.  But should all of a sudden a McDonalds job become available that pays more.  I am not going to jump ship and say, “Yay more money, flipping burgers all day is going to be awesome!”.

An argument was made by someone that garbage men get paid a good wage so they

From nypost.com

could do that instead of working at McDonalds.  Okay true.  But we can’t all be sanitation workers let alone teachers, lawyers and doctors.  It’s also important to remember that at one time sanitation workers didn’t get paid very much.  Thanks to unions though they could organize, strike, and refuse to pick up garbage until they made a decent wage to live by.  Because picking up the trash and removing waste from our streets is actually an important and necessary part of our society.

I think education and teachers are extremely important.  But do I think that makes a job that doesn’t require as much knowledge and skill less important?  Of course not.  There is nothing inherently more valuable about my role in society than someone who picks up the garbage.  In fact someone could argue that picking up the trash is perhaps more important.  When trash was in the streets, things like the bubonic plague happened.  Hygiene and sanitation are extremely important.  So let’s go a step further.  Is there anything more inherently valuable about my job than a restaurant worker?  Arguably we can have a world without restaurants and everybody cooks their own food.  Might  not be a bad world, but that’s not ultimately our world.  People like to go out to eat.  There will always be restaurants.  So restaurants are just as much part of the fabric of society as anything else.  So should the required skill level in any job be what determines the wage.  The sanitation worker, from a skill level is just as demanding as a burger flipper and yet makes more.   Is that right?  I would further argue that an employee earning a living wage at any job has more loyalty to the company and stays longer thus becoming better at their job.  If you’ve had bad service at a McDonalds, maybe it’s because they are constantly having to train new people since the pay is so bad that people leave after a short time.  The money isn’t probably worth the level of abuse they get from customers.

Now there are even more good arguments to be made about a McDonalds worker making a living wage.  They would need less social programs saving the taxpayer money, they can perhaps afford to move to send their kids to a better school to break the cycle of poverty, not to mention they may now have more free time to better themselves or spend with their kids, which also helps break the cycle.  However what concerns me the most is the attitude towards the poor.  One commenter on this thread said that “it serves them right making a low wage for their self-inflicted wounds”.  I was like wow.  As I’ve just argued it is extremely judgmental to assume the wounds are self-inflicted, but basically this person is saying:

“Hey poor person, sucks about the mistakes you made in the past.  You deserve now to suffer the rest of your life because of that”.

How callous is that? I wonder if that person has ever had somebody so unforgiving to their mistakes. And how should the poor person respond?

” Thank a lot Captain Hindsight.  Now that I realize my mistakes I’ll go back in time and fix it.”

Furthermore we can see how materialistic our society is by people who would look down on poor people in such a way.  Because where is the condemnation to the rich owner of

From socialmarketbuzz.com

McDonalds or any corporation?  Why don’t we judge him just as harshly?  Because he has money of course.  And obviously he must be working really really hard in order to make all that money.  This is of course nonsense.  A single mother working two jobs to support her family is most definitely working harder than the CEO of McDonalds. And I doubt that mother is having fancy lunches on an expensive account and playing a round of golf out in the sun with business associates.  But even if they were equal, why is that CEO more valuable than the person working at minimum wage jobs?  The corporation itself made almost $30 billion last year in revenues.  And the CEO’s take home pay is $9 million a year.  Is that CEO that much more valuable than one of his employees?  Is he/she that much more skilled?

And if workers should get a living wage, many argue about how much everything will cost.  But there is a second option.  The company could make less money.  The CEO could make less money.  Is that likely?  Perhaps not, but in the free market there is always somebody who is going to take an advantage of an opportunity and will undercut the competition and take home only 2 million a year instead.  That CEO is still living a better life than 99.99% of the people in this world.  If we want to equate a monetary value to skill, a CEO still makes far beyond what his or her skill warrants.

The Great Pyramids, one of the 7 wonders of the world, was built on the backs of slave labor to entomb the rich and powerful.  When I look at the vast wealth of a few, at the expense of countless millions who can barely meet their daily nutritional needs for themselves and their families, I wonder how much things have really changed.  What’s clear is that by dehumanizing the poor as many do in this country it allows a system to continue that allows the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.  So it saddens and sickens me when I hear people idolize wealth and abhor the poor.  If the income gap continues to widen in this country I can tell you that statistically speaking one is more likely to find themselves in a poor man’s shoes.  Perhaps only then will people learn.

Questions

The human mind is amazing.  Think of things you can imagine.  Some are real.  Some are fantastical.  Some are not possible.  Some may be possible.  The range of what we are minds are capable of coming up with is astounding.

From http://www.daviddisalvo.org

Now humans are also curious.  Part of our imagination may be to visualize something and then ask ourselves.  How can I make this dream, this fantasy I have, real?  The fact that we can make any of these dreams real is impressive.  Any inventor though will probably have more failures than successes.

You may be questioning where am I going with this, and you’d be right to question me.  The truth is I don’t exactly know and luckily this is part of the point.

Given what are minds are capable of, and given that only a handful of our dreams ever can become reality, is it possible that we can dream up questions which have no answer?  I can ask a lot of questions that have no answer.  For instance I might ask “When we build a ship capable of traveling across the galaxy how many planets can one visit in a lifetime?”  Of course there are answers that you can give, but how much accuracy or value would such an answer have?  It is first contingent on a device we don’t have, asks us to know the number of planets in the galaxy which is something we don’t know, and we also are uncertain what our lifetimes might be at some future date when this device is available.  Such a question might have value.  If I cared enough about the answer I may devote my life to trying to see out into our galaxy more clearly, or build a faster than light speed spaceship, or perhaps try to increase our life expectancy, so that one day people can see lots of planets potentially.

The question is a loaded one because of all the uncertainties in the question, and it has no precise answer.  There are however grander questions we can ask.  What does God want from us?  There is uncertainty as to God’s existence so the answer becomes difficult.  And even if there was one, most cultures disagree on God’s nature, so trying to determine what God wants becomes rather challenging.

From library.sasaustin.org

But we can get even grander.  What is the meaning of life?   I would respond back with “whose life?” or “how do you define life?”  But let’s go a step further to a related question: Why are we here?  The simplest of all questions.  Not much ambiguity to it all.  Those who might have an answer have no evidence to back it up.  Many would simply say they don’t know.  And answers of course vary from person to person.  Of all the many questions we can ask, perhaps we can answer them all;  partly by answering some smaller questions first before getting to the bigger parent question.  But what if there are some questions like “Why are we here?”  that have no answer?  What if this question is a simply a product of our wonderful minds.  Nevertheless one of our inventions.  We invent machines, concepts, why not questions? And while the question “Why are we here?” seems a natural question to ask,  must every question have an answer?  Maybe our answers are inventions as well. What if the only answer to that question is “We just are”.  That seems quite unsatisfying because “Why” has not been addressed.  Making it not really the answer at all.  Just a truth which we might have to accept.

And if “Why are we here?” really has no answer, can’t existence still be wonderful? Does there have to be some grand plan in order for you to be happy?  Is there no value in a satisfying career, making the world a better place, raising your child to be happy and strong, bringing smiles to the faces of friends and family, giving to those who have less than you?  Maybe it is these smaller questions we should be trying to answer with our lives.  The bigger question has almost no value to the countless millions who live in abject poverty. If you are reading (or writing this blog) you have the privilege in life to ponder this big question more deeply.  Would the answer really change you all that much?  Is the answer preventing you from being a good person?  Do you need an answer to see that love is better than hate?  That peace is better than violence?  That generosity is better than greed?  Would an answer make learning physics, chemistry, or biology meaningless?  Would an answer make creating art, writing, or making music any less enjoyable or meaningful?

The only seems clear is that there are many questions to be asked, many questions that are important, and that we should never stop asking questions. 🙂