We all laugh when we read studies saying that most people rate themselves as above average in some category. Intelligence, thoughtfulness, honesty, and driving.

Driving home this morning I realized something. Most people *are*  good drivers. Maybe not super-courteous, or following speed limits, but they do stay in their lanes, they don’t cut out in front of you (except the twerp who did that to me last fall, drat her), and they stop at stop signs.

Think about it. We rely on people following the basic rules. When someone turns left in front of you and you have the right of way, why are you angry? Because that’s abnormal. Not just that it’s illegal, but that you expect them to follow the rules.

We assume that people will drive respectfully. Sure, we look both ways even when the light is green — we know we can’t trust everyone to be alert or rational. But we can assume they will be.

It doesn’t require any particular religion, or any religion at all. It has nothing to do with race, or age, or gender. Most people don’t steal. Most people don’t lie — excluding social lies, or course. Most people are kind most of the time.

We notice the exceptions.

We need to remind ourselves just why we notice bad behavior.

We notice it because most people are good drivers, of cars and in life.

And I thank you all.

I’ve been speculating on denialism as one attribute that is distinctly human. Learn to deny mortality so you can live. From that, you learn that denying anything you dislike or don’t want to admit will allow you to live as if that weren’t reality.

We live in unreality most of the time, I think. Remembering the past, anticipating the future, denying what we don’t like, emphasizing what we do. Not much mental space left for reality to fill.

This video / takes these speculations back a step. What is language? Why did we develop this tool? What benefits did it offer, and what harm can it cause?

I was intrigued by the chart at 12:16 showing the geographic spread of Homo sapiens after language arose. Looks like social learning added to linguistic exchange really did enable us to spread out and survive in myriad environments.

At 15:13 he shows a map of Facebook connections. Not a world map, just electronic friends. And those connections recreate the geographic map.

I agree that having one language for international communication is beneficial, perhaps essential for further development. But which one? Will we rationally choose the language that offers the most flexibility, adaptability, as well as ease of learning and of writing? Or will wars or economic conquest make the determination?

History shows… well, yes, but in my unreality, I keep hoping that reasonable thinking will come to the fore.

Gotta love it.

Wish people could figure out belief has nothing to do with it. Facts, people. They are not beliefs.

Incredible power.  How can one conceive the force behind an explosion that produces these clouds?

Overwhelming beauty. How can one describe the magnificence of these clouds?

The evening and night images of the cloud show it no longer softly billowing ash, but a fiery column.

Nature: so tame, so friendly. When Nature reveals its other side, we remember how vulnerable we truly are; whether during the short-term, like this volcano or earthquakes and tsunamis; or during long-term world-altering events such as climate shift.

When Nature speaks, we can only listen and struggle to survive.

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/06/chiles-puyehue-volcano-erupts/100081/ 

And now for the final three comics in Non Sequitur’s week long exploration of Argumentative Reasoning  (first three here)  or: why we have so many problems understanding facts.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if politicians and media were required to state facts clearly, without spin? And cite their sources, and list consequences of the advocated actions? Of course, it would be so boring to most people that no one would pay any attention.

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Argumentative reasoning is a hot topic just now.

Essentially it is the idea that we make our decisions based on immediate, unconscious emotional reaction; then, equally unconsciously, we select arguments or proofs that support our emotional bias.

As far as I can tell, this idea explains all of the global warming controversy in this country. If people actually looked at the facts… well, let’s not get optimistic.

Cherry-picking evidence is the great boon of the internet. Instead of being alone in your head, you can click away until you find myriads of like-emotioned people to support any ol’ whacky premise you can devise.  And plenty of political groups who are pretending to agree with your views so they get your votes.

What would happen if people actually analyzed the track records of the people they vote for? But then, I keep wondering why any woman would support fundamentalists, of any religion. Do they really think their whole purpose of living is to be a slave? Domestic servitude, domestic prostitution,and a brood-mare to boot. What sane person would *choose* that life for themselves and their daughters? And yet, women follow fundamentalism and its political arms, such as the tea party.

I cannot see a good argumentative reasoning for that. Which, of course, exposes my confirmation bias. But I will keep trying. I want to understand how people come to the conclusions they do, and what would convince someone their life is *systematically*  without any value.

If the tea party got into control, how long do you think women would be allowed to hold public office, let alone have the vote?

Humor can sometimes open a crack in a closed mind. With that faint, wistful, wishful hope, here’s three comics from Non Sequitur:

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Poignant Art

May 14, 2011

She was in / Eurovision /. I was amazed. But this  – the music, the emotions of the audience:  what powerful feelings this art encapsulates. Perhaps its ephemeral, constantly changing nature reminds us how ephemeral and changing our lives are, for good or ill.

/ Kseniya Simonova – Sand Animation /

I live on the edge. A keen ever-present sense that the ‘worst’ could fall at any moment. One tiny instant of time irrevocably alters life’s path. It can be global, such as a shooting that triggers global war; or local, such as an earthquake; or individual: a heart attack.

It can be sudden, but so often it’s a matter of a tipping point. We rock back and forth, and suddenly, we don’t come right again. Instead, we fall into whatever awaits below.

Global warming. Overpopulation. Ignorant populace. Religious domination of a supposedly free state. All too easily we could topple into a new dark ages – after massive violence and decimation. Not pretty.

How does one live, knowing how close horror is to us – just the other side of a thin veil that both is, and is not reality.

Reality is what actually happens. We aren’t at war today. But it could so easily have been that reality was war.

I could not wake up tomorrow. I could die at any moment, from any miraculous connivance of autos, meteorites, fire, slippings – any number of things could end my life in an instant.

So far, reality has been that I have woken up. I have made it through each day.

Humans, alas, cling to patterns like this and make assumptions off them. If I always have woken up, I always will. Oh, I know I’ll die, but – I DON’T BELIEVE IT. I don’t live according to that reality, but according to the alternative reality I’ve constructed – I, and every other human. I will not die. At least, not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not this year.

The world will not change such that my life will be inconvenienced. Why should I inconvenience myself today to prevent something I DON’T BELIEVE will happen. Science? Data? Tests? Wtf? Why should I believe something that makes me uncomfortable?

How do we survive? Mostly, we wrap ourselves in a comfy blanket of beliefs. The more we fear, the thicker our blankets. Hence the violent, vehement reaction when someone’s blanket is tugged. Religious outrage to atheism, for example. Or worse.

If we are at all aware of others, and of our very real inter-connectivity to the rest of our species and our planet, we carefully select a few causes to support, and feel we have done what we can. But again, if anyone tries to point out we aren’t actually doing any good, or are creating more problems – at the very least wars of rhetoric erupt.  / George Monbiot’s posts  / on the green movement’s blindness to the real issues around energy production are a perfect example.

I’m not criticizing. Just the other day I was telling my sister that I couldn’t think about something, because I’m spread too thin already. There’s only so much I can focus on, and only so much potential disaster my mind can cope with. I am but human.

So what can we do? At best, try to keep the blanket as thin as you can, so you aren’t impervious to the needs of others. The republican budget that devastates aid to women and children is a perfect example of a way-too insulating blanket.

Accept that you can’t change everything you’d like to. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not being active for everything you know is critical to our survival (am I listening to myself here? I am way too prone to guilt).

Mostly, though, just check yourself occasionally. Ask yourself why you’ve chosen to care actively about this and not that. Have you actually investigated the consequences of your choices? Are you trying to keep improving your awareness and your responses?

And always, always, be wary of your own confirmation biases. They’re calling it all sorts of other fancy names now – but whatever they call it, it boils down to: we accept as true what we want to believe, and ignore all else.

Don’t do that. Try your hardest to see both sides of an issue. Recognize that what’s  important for you, personally, might not be in the best interest for most people, so don’t let your decisions be too personalized  (corporations not being taxed? prayer in school? Good for you, maybe, but what about all the people you hurt?).  Take a stand, but do it on evidence, not belief. Beliefs save us – we can’t live without them, but they are so very dangerous.

Always, always, examine your beliefs.

Don’t let what you believe hurt anyone else.

Don’t let what you want to believe control anyone else.

Only take actions based on facts. Do the research – don’t ignore global warming because your political party tells you not to. Look at the evidence. All over the world farmers – down home good old boys country folk – are noticing the effects of shifting climate. I’d rather listen to someone who actually lives off the land than some bureaucrat who lives off his hands being deep in corporate pockets.

Think. It’s our only hope. As an individual, as a species.

Think. For all our sakes.

Disheartening To Be #1

April 21, 2011

We live in a land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. We have incredible universities, fascinating cities, and wonderful people.

But let us never forget to look at all the facts, even the ones we aren’t proud of.

from graphjam:  http://graphjam.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/usano1.jpg

There’s None So Blind

April 8, 2011

Many thanks to Guardian blogger / Martin Robbins / for / this link /  In his post today he writes:   “‘Storm’ tells the story of Tim’s encounter with an alternative medicine supporter at a dinner party.”

The video is great fun, and makes that all important point: “the world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

We don’t need to create beliefs.

We need only open our eyes and look around us to be spell-bound in wonder, curiosity, amazement, and filled with a compelling desire to understand and learn more and more and more about this amazing universe.

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