352

There is a conspiracy in this country to try to stop us from calling "dumb asses" dumb asses because supposedly it hurts their feelings too much. Well, they hurt my very sense of decency, so screw 'em.

The internet is the greatest tool ever invented by humanity in terms of readily available knowledge. It has done in thirty years what libraries have failed to accomplish in 4,000 years. And that is turn everyone into a veritable wealth of ingenious information.

However, it has one flaw that also makes it the worst thing to ever happen to civilization.

It has no means of filtering out false information from correct information, making it possible for every dumb ass in the world to pick and choose (or cherry pick) which information they FEEL is the right information, and giving them justification for ignoring all the rest. We are living in an age where the dumb ass, once ostracized for their stupidity, is made to feel that their ignorance is just as valid as the knowledge of the expert, the educated, and the informed--or simply better than any person with even a modicum of common sense.

And what is even worse, those in the middle who don't bother to check on facts take the dumb asses at their word, and every bit as seriously as those who have spent decades in their fields separating the facts from the nonsense. This is a part of what explains the last presidential election in the U.S.; Dumb asses and their non-fact-checking followers.

3,360 years ago, the Pharaoh Akhenaton wrote something that you would think would be a thing of the past by now, but is just as relevant today as it was then--because there are just as many dumb asses now per capita as there was in ancient Egypt:

True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.

351

"We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nation who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

The Ambassador (of Tripoli) answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever the could be found, and to make slave of all they could take as prisoners, and that every (Muslims) who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."

~ Thomas Jefferson, "Letters of Thomas Jefferson."

Not many people know the very first encounter America had with the Muslim world. It began in the early 1800s with the attacks on American ships by the North African Barbary States--Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli (Libya). American shipmen were kidnapped, tortured, and forced into hard labor by their captives. The attacks were an effort to force the United States to pay a tribute or ransom to the Barbary States in exchange for free passage through the Mediterranean, like many European coastal nations had become accustomed to doing, and release of American prisoners who would otherwise be sold into slavery. Thus began the hostile relationship between Islam and America two hundred years ago, and two hundred years after the first attacks on Europe by Barbary Pirates. Not that Europe didn't have it coming. But this would be the first time that Muslim terrorists made the mistake of waking the American Eagle. And with the subsequent outcomes of the two Barbary Wars, it didn't end well for them then, either. It also resulted in two ongoing policies of the American military: 1) A strong navy, and 2) The policy of never negotiating again with terrorists.

Keep in mind this is not an attack on all Muslims. Nor is it claiming the other religions are free from taint of one kind or another. But I have come to notice something about Muslims that I find annoying:

Christians will often show up and attack other religions. This is true. But I have also seen Christians coming to the defense of other religions that are being attacked by other people. I have also seen other people coming to the defense of Islam. I have myself done this and that and elsewhere on a number of occasions, to the point that I myself was attacked for defending the non-Islam.

But what I have almost never seen is a Muslim coming to the defense of another religion in an argument. In fact, religious discussions involving Muslims usually come in one of two forms: 1) Some Muslim claiming Islam is the one true religion or some form of Islamic apolgetics, or 2) Some Muslim attacking another religion directly.

I want to know why that is?

This is not about "my religion is better than yours." Personally I think this goes for all Abrahamic religions, who've done countless things in the name of God. That's how the God of Abraham and his teachings work. We can say Jews did it less but Jews are a minority. I'd argue all of the fundamentalists of the Abrahamic faiths are bigots and will find rationalizing and reason for attacking other faiths if they choose to. But I'd also argue that I still think most of them don't care to under normal circumstances. War or destruction of your country by foreign entitites I don't consider "normal circumstances" or oppression of the ignorant and brainwashing by religious scholars with support of the government.

I'm not gonna lie, rethoric that brushes all Muslims together is not just harming the fundamentalists. And I do know many mainstream muslims speaking out against it in my surroundings, but no cameras are generally pointed at them, and let's be real, they moderates are often scared of these extremists or fundamentalists too, either that or it never seems to be enough apologizing or distancing themselves from certain things, so some people just don't anymore.

As I said, I am not even that religious as a muslim, but I can understand the feeling why moderate believers can become more fundamentalist or aggressive about their ideology. Pushed into a corner on the climate in the western world. Long before even 9/11 and especially more and more muslims getting pushed away eventhough they wanted to belong to the "modern world" and they didn't know where to go, and part of them found refuge in the hands of the wrong people.

I see it often enough with the moderates, but admittedly in most cases it would be from countries like Jordan, or Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Singapore, and believe it or not, Syria and even Iraq. Before all the recent years mess. But many Muslims feel pushed into a corner in today's world and their response is clinging to their religion even harder and more firmly and more unreasonably than before. You know very well, unfortunately many people in this world do not have the mental and intelectual fortitude to stand by their own reasoning and logic in difficult times, and they seek to be herded like a bunch of sheep. Sorry if anyone takes offense, but that's literally how I see it unfolding in front of my eyes many times.

There's a lot of Muslims out there who are in constant defensive mode, and feel any questioning of their faith is a plot or a ploy to lure them to the enemy or "devil" or something. There's also a very active campaign for many years now by groups from especially the Gulf states to preach a Wahhabi and Salafi brand of Islam that is pretty much an absolutist/extremist form of Islam, not strictly based on the majority of Suni teaching but adds even more regressive bullshit. And there's no room for interpretation, it's messed up, and a very very big problem within Islam. There is a true war of the minds going on. And I am sorry to say, the Western countries do not seem to truthfully be fighting it, because they have and still are allowing these imams to come and preach all over the west. Open their schools, preach their intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and who actively try to prevent people from developing their mind on anything which is not related to their Islam.

Even us, the born-Muslim, had to deal with radical/fundamentalist Muslims, and in most cases wasn't pretty. And I too got seriously infuriated hearing how some normal Suni majority got persecuted, killed, and many other unspeakable things because their religious believes were too progressive, too "liberal," not "real Islam," aimed at education, the pursuit of knowledge, arts, etc. Which was a thorn in the eye of the more conservative Muslims. And I agree the number seems increasing, the number of Suni Muslim, my friends even, who think any violence or persecution had to endure was because they are a crazy sect or cult. They do not speak up against it in clear terms, at all, in general. Perhaps comparable to how Mormons are viewed by mainstream Christians. But with more violence and more discrimination. Regularly directly instigated by those imams and clerics of the mosques they visit. And blindly executed by some mentally challenged extremists.

350

Why there are humans who look like they do not have empathy? Can we measure empathy?

Ampathy is a product of brain chemistry. We even know where to find it in the brain. Chiefly the limbic system and supramarginal gyrus of the cerebral cortex. And we can measure and quantify the electro-chemical impulses of this part of the brain in fMRI by using external audio/visual stimuli designed to trigger responses from a subject in isolation. We've been doing this very successfully for about 30 years now.

Measuring the response time and intensity of cognitive activity in this manner is part of how anti-social personality types (sociopaths) are diagnosed.

Even no amount of abuse can erase empathy. It's genetic. You cannot erase innate genetic cognitive functions. If you could, there would likely be no way of getting them back. What we are often  describing is behavior disorder resulting from trauma, stupidity, ignorance, double standard.

There are cases where abuse of a child can result in them developing anti-social personality disorder and as a result a loss of empathy. But these are rare (1% of abuse victims). While this may have adverse affects on the child's emotional centers (the same places their empathy emerges from), it doesn't make empathy impossible for them. There are also cases where children can develop anti-social personality disorder due to genetics, and it is quite possible his mother was a psychopath. But psychopaths are not devoid of the ability to experience empathy. They are devoid of the ability to make connections with other human beings. Therefore, they never get the chance to empathize. This is why the activity of them limbic system remains lower than the baseline subjects. People confuse this with having no empathy at all.

None of this points to an inability on the part of researches and cognitive scientists to measure the empathy potential of an individual using the right tools. It's scientifically proven that we are born with the capacity for empathy. There is no point in even arguing this. A fact is a fact.

In the past, people would view anti-social personality types as monsters who were incapable on empathy and caring for others. It did a lot of damage to those individuals because if people thought this was not a skill they could learn, they didn't even try to rehabilitate them in the case of trauma or abuse. I see that mentality hasn't completely gone away yet.

One should consider that empathy is a human emotional response triggered by your experience of an event. You can't really have an emotional response to a million affected individuals you have no connection with no matter how you rationalize it. Perhaps Stalin best conclude it, "One death is a tragedy, a million is a mere statistic."

But we can only measure output but not the internal mechanics itself?

The output IS the empathy. To say that we cannot also measure the "internal mechanisms" is like saying we can measure the amount of each color used in a painting, but we can't measure the image. Is the image something that actually has a property that can be measured in the first place? What is the measurement of a bird painting compared to a dog painting or a person painting? How do we categorize the shapes so as to quantify one over the other.

Determining the origin of a thing has nothing to do with the actual nature of the thing itself. Knowing how empathy came will tell us little about how much empathy has arisen at any given moment. Just why it has arisen.

Will we ever be able to quantify the taste of a cup of coffee compared to other cups of coffee, for instance? Well, we can. We can measure precisely the chemical makeup of the coffee beans, the process used to make it, the temperature of the water, and even the minerals dissolved in that water from specific sources. This measurement doesn't tell us what the coffee may taste like because the cognitive agreement between human knowledge and human sense is not that precise.

You'd have to become an expert in coffee tasting in order to perfect this skill, and even then, it could be hit or miss. But what we can do is predict what the coffee SHOULD taste like within a given range based on the measurement of its ingredients and the process used to make it. The reason being that these are physical properties, and all physical properties, like all natural entities, are entirely predictable according to composition and pattern. We call this predictability physical or natural law.

Empathy also shares these conditions with all physical properties. While we may not entirely understand YET exactly how the brain produced empathy, we do know where it produces it and what the effect looks like. We can measure this brain activity with increasing accuracy and this measurement is categorical. We know that certain levels of brain activity indicate certain levels of empathy; and we can use that to determine the output of said activity. We can measure our degree of empathy. Empathy is not some magical ether in the air that is devoid of physicality.

Measuring how you feel about your empathy, however, is not measuring the empathy itself. It's measuring the subjective nature of thought. Which is an entirely different thing and may be impossible given that there is no linear scale I can think of where one subjective thought can be place in a different category than another. Even if we could read other people's minds, we can't even do this in our own minds, let alone someone else's.

Possibly a computer could do it at some point. Measure the nature of subjective thought. But that still leaves us with the task of figuring out a non-arbitrary, systematic scale for where some subjective thoughts fall as opposed to others. This, in any case, is my realist assessment of the question.

349

Karl Marx was saying religion is the opium of the masses in that it helps them to mentally escape the reality of their suffering. Not that it makes religious people stupid. It would probably help if you read the entire quote in context instead of just making stuff up.

Fear and ignorance is the opium of the people. And religion is often a tool used to celebrate that fear and ignorance. But not always. One of Marx's problems is that he was often an absolutist. As are all ideologists. Idealism is how logic dies in the mind.

Humans are governed by fear, attachments, ego, ignorance, and just plain old wickedness. But we don't like to admit this because it basically says that somewhere inside each of us is a animal with no self-control. So we try to avoid this realization by marginalizing the wicked. And for that, you need a scapegoat. And what we usually choose as a scapegoat is that which we have a bias against. That which is the focus of our bigotries.

Marx thought it was the Capitalists, so the capitalists were evil and the ruin of the world. Some think it is religion, so religion is evil and the ruin of the world. I think it is idealists, so idealists are evil and the ruin of the world. Some of the Muslim seems to thing it is gay people, so gay people are evil and the ruin of the world. Some Christians think it is the Muslims, so the Muslims are evil and the ruin of the world.

Voltaire used to say religion is the invention of clerics. Edgar Morin said that when and if human beings disappear, Gods will also face same destiny. Machiavelli believed that religion was what softened the people enough to allow for the rise of absolutism in his own time. Nietzsche said Christianity shackled the mind. In Sigmund Freud, religion could be a twisted view of reality to save people from neurosis inflicted by Marxism.

People and their passions do seem to be the common denominator here. Not religion. Everyone's got their own hatred picked out to brand as evil. When the only evil in the world is the one you see in the mirror.

There never was, is or will be utopia. As something to which people might aspire towards but which, by definition, could never be. There will always be a person or group of people who will seek to subvert the paradigm for power and/or wealth, just as there will always be the mass of people who prefer--whether consciously or subconsciously--to live subserviently under the the boot of authoritarianism.

People have to be unequal to effectively make up ones mind towards salvation which is the absolute aim of every human being. When everyone is equal there is no hope or struggle for survival which is necessary for human upliftment in the realm of mind. In the case of Karl Marx, he was someone who was just hyping one ideology over another.

By the way, there is nothing harmful about the ideas of Karl Marx, if you read his books that becomes perfectly clear. Perhaps you are confusing it with Stalinism, or some other ideology. Assuming that the two can somehow be compared like that, I would have to argue the following. Marxism is a somewhat incomplete political philosophy that many people say cannot stand by itself as far as a working system should can. Most of the proposals in the Communist Manifesto have already been implemented by most of the developed world; end child labor, public schools, government and public banks, a more equal distribution between towns and cities, etc.

Even the Quran says "Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." Rite?

Marx sees religion as agent of exploitation and oppression of masses. He regard it as opium and it does not to solve the problem of masses. Faith is not enough, you gotta work your ass off. Don't use religion as a dope; making you paralyzed in resignation without endeavor.

Religion isn't dangerous. Religion is just words on paper. It is the people who interpret those words who are potentially dangerous. So as always, it is people who are truly dangerous. Not religion. An Utopian society will be one without the presence of human beings.

348

Education is terrible every where because it does the opposite of what it means. It is derived from the Latin "educe" which means "to draw out" (ideas from students). We have been pumping information into children since hundreds of years as if they are empty pitchers to be filled, not vibrant souls with thinking minds.

Education has broadened my view of the world and continues to spark my curiosity. The more I learn the more I realize that I don't know and I really wish I could stick around a great deal longer to continue this educational journey. Even without the education, all it takes is determination. Most of what I've learned over the years happened after school, not during.

Self-education is the only education you can get. But being in the right environment, having someone push you to learn more makes you want to learn more. Learning on your own people (group) tend to glaze over parts they don't like or don't care about. Meanwhile an environment where someone challenges you, you will tend to learn more comprehensively.

Education enhances our ability to think better. Other things like knowledge, good behavior, manners, broaden viewpoint are just some of the byproducts of this better thinking. Even without schools, all it takes is steered to develop critical thinking. Not just feed the mind with facts. Education starts at birth, learning to be a human in a confused society. Education reveals who has the potential, and those without potential don't like it.

Feeding with the facts is not entirely wrong. Some said, "Memorizing is not an education, education is to educate the mind how to think."

Unintelligent students must memorize. No matter how good the education, no amount of learning is going to turn an unintelligent person smart. That needs to be done from the inside out. Education can't help everyone. Law of Averages dictates that some people are just going to remain idiots all their lives. Some people are expecting way too much from an education. You can't get the attention of any student unless that student is open to learning in the first place. And a few just aren't. You can't save every moron. Accept that.

It is kind a ridiculous to criticize schools for emphasizing memory. That is how intelligence works in the developing years. Children are not born with the capacity for higher projective reasoning. This is a latent skill that needs to be developed though practice and memory. Understanding the patterns and developing further pattern from templates of experience. No memory, no education.

Unless the notion is that somehow humans can recall information and structure new knowledge without the benefit of memory. How exactly does that work? Your minds are made up of less than 1% genetics, and 99% memory.

This is like when people say you can understand math without the benefit of an understanding of the history of math. No you can't. Without an understanding of math's past, you can't have any conception of its present. Math will hold no definition for such a person. It will be pretty much the same as anything else for them--science, spiritualism, magic. Which is why we often see a lot of people on the internet claiming to be discussing science but not knowing a damn thing about the subject. And then getting mad at everyone else because they failed to open up a science book at least once in their lifetime to figure out what it actually is.

No one smart ever takes a good education for granted. No one smart only ever relies on what a teacher tells them in order to learn something new. Actual smart people investigate on their own, and not even a bad education can keep intelligent people down. So ask yourself, who are these people who find no value in education and what is their true agenda? Education reveals who has the potential, and those without potential don't like it.

Education and indoctrination share a number of qualities and if we get into which qualities make education different from indoctrination we get into a Witgensteinian language game. So I think that what really differentiates the two is the purpose for which it is used.

Education in its purest form should be the training of the underdeveloped minds to explore possibilities that previously had not occured to them, provide empirically verifiable facts upon which to work and provide a rational framework within which those facts can be understood.

Indoctrination is a method of persuasion that intent is to get the underdeveloped mind to accept the view of the world that suits the indoctrinator, whether that be for good or bad purpose. Which surely is, our schools should not be operated like cults.

So my bottom line is that in practice of education that most of us experience is a combination of these two things. On the one hand there is the attempt to widen the students horizons and broaden their knowledge and on the other is the need to socialise students to be acceptable members of whichever society they happen to inhabit.

Children are naturally curious and you only have to put them in nurturing and information rich environments to have them learn organically, for the most part. But other skills must require structure and continuous training for solid amounts of time, like reading and mathematical skill development.

Technology has definitely change the role of parenting. As parents we have to try and keep up with the technology, use parental controls and keep an eye on and monitor their access. Times are changing. Right now, this feels like something rapidly changing which we need to manage. But soon, the fact that information is out of our control will become much more evident.

All this information surging at them about sex and violence isn't making them mature. It is disturbing them and confusing them because they are not mature yet. It doesn't speed up the maturing process.

There is this theory about the plasticity of the brain, where certain functions in the brain develop ONLY in response to stimuli. For example, a brain deprived of sight in the first few years fails to develop many of the areas of the visual system. These areas get co-opted for other functions. Similarly, other functions, like language, social processes also develop only in response to appropriate stimulus. It is little wonder that feral children would be drastically different from the "normal humans" growing up in a certain social context. And these differences go deep, exist at the physical level.

Happy National Education Day!

347

If you get right down to the science of it, love is produced by the part of the brain that is most concerned with the cognition of "trust." Love is therefore a specialized manifestation of the trust impulse. Trust somehow gets translated into the need to protect or preserve something other than oneself. In the evolutionary record, the development of this ability would have signaled the rise of the social animal. Social in a way that was not controlled by simple chemical commands like ants.

Trust is an emotion. An emotion because it is governed by a part of the brain that possesses no capacity to reason and therefore cannot be a product of our intelligence. It's counterpart is fear. Also produced in the same region, but not the same structure. Fear is likely older than trust, as the mechanism for fear, the amygdala is thought to biologically predate the formation of the mechanisms for love in the limbic region of the brain. Fear is also an emotion.

Trust and fear, however, are different than the other emotions produced in the limbic system. With the higher emotions like anger, jealousy, sadness, happiness, the emotion exists prior to its physical affects on the body. However, with trust and fear, or love, the emotion and its physical affects on the body occur simultaneously. As if in their case, there is no difference between physical and mental states.

So to say that love was either emotion or physical impulse would be erroneous either way. Love is obviously something that exists across the mind/body boundaries. It's more primitive and pervasive than the higher mind functions.

346

Fear is an emotional impulse originating in your limbic system and amygdala in response to threatening external stimuli or stressful situations. Get rid of fear? No. Suppress the power that fear has over your reasoning mind? Yes.

Intense fear is likely not a survival mechanism. Studies show that fearful animals, including humans, tend to experience more harm and death through panic than those experiencing less fear. This is because in situations involving intense fear, the frontal lobe, your reasoning and intuition center, experiences a reduction in activity as activity in the limbic system (the emoting brain) increases, resulting in you technically getting more stupid and slow as you get more afraid.

Some evolutionary biologists like Joseph E. LeDoux theorizes that fear was a way for weaker animals to get themselves removed from the gene pool by predators, allowing for stronger animals capable of resisting the fear impulse and engaging the "fight or flight" response through the frontal lobe to survive and breed. So it is most probably not fear that is good for survival, but an individual's natural resistance to fear.

You are well within your rights to embrace fear instead of avoiding. But I prefer to avoid fatalist perspectives such as the "need for fear." Especially when it comes to things proven to decrease my intelligence. I usually want less of that, not more.

345

Skepticism isn't a rejection of statements based on what you can observe, but based on what cannot be explained. It is not that you are philosophically skeptical of a belief because you have never seen it demonstrated in real terms, but rather because the explanation of such a belief is not falsifiable. 

Sometimes skeptics seems like dumb people who are too afraid to be wrong, so they apply skepticism to everything as to lower their chances of being wrong about unknowns. That's "denial" hindering you, not skepticism.

A skeptic should have no problem understanding that electrons are real if presented with the empirical scientific evidence that establishes its existence. Even if such knowledge is second hand (books, classes, lectures), in order to reject the knowledge, a true skeptic would have to ask why is that the second hand knowledge is invalid or unsound? Not just assume it is because it is not direct knowledge.

Rejection of anything other than what you can directly observe is a sort of naive realism, which oddly is closer related to idealism or objective idealism than any other branch of realism. It is a sort of superficial investigation into reality through direct sense. It's also closely related to phenomenology which makes claims of being scientific and analytical, but is also anti-reductionist and therefore not related to scientific realism or physicalism in any way. It's incompatible with physics.

Think of it this way: If some woman told you her breasts were real, but to you, they looked way too perfect to be real, and you told her they were fake ... that would be denialism.

But if some woman told you her breasts were real, but to you, they looked way too perfect to be real, so you told her you would have to feel them first to believe it ... that would be skepticism.