JR'S Free Thought Pages
The Dumb and Dumber World
A Monday Morning Diatribe
By JR, May 16, 2022
Motivated by an article emailed to me by a friend....
There seems to be little doubt about the seemingly widespread perception that people are getting dumber and dumber every year. The average global IQ, once considered to be 100, must be about 85 today; in fact a study of a few years ago by a group of German psychologists argued just that. As the late George Carlin remarked in one of his skits, “Imagine how dumb the average person is and then contemplate on the fact that half are even dumber than that”.
With the election of bozos, buffoons and neo-fascist bible thumping morons to presidents and prime ministers of countries throughout the world, the evidence seems irrefutable. That’s not to say we haven’t had fascist demagogues and other forms of authoritarianism in the past but fascism has returned with a vengeance. We humans seem to understand little about real bottom up history and many people I talk to know nothing but the whitewashed versions or simply don’t want to deal with unpleasant facts such as those about certified asshole Winston Churchill who we were informed at school was some sort of moral exemplar and hero. After all, knowing the truth about history might interfere with their golf game or the most recent obsession endlessly peddled on TV, online gambling and betting on pro sports – a colossal waste of time and money that is now obviously been declared legal, like the equally immoral and scams of lotteries. The reality is “democracy” and the so-called “American Dream” (nightmare?) is a delusion. With respect to the American Dream, Carlin rightly said “it’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
However, some bright young people I have spoken with have figured out that we do not have real democracy anywhere, never will and moreover have accepted the inevitability of complete ecosystem collapse due to global warming and other existential threats. Then there are the financial swindles, telephone scammers and inevitable stock market booms and bubbles - the most bloated and overvalued I’ve seen in my lifetime. We appear to be in the early stages of a stock market meltdown which will result in the predictable bailouts of corporate crooks and banking mafia by their enablers in our so-called government “democracies”.
This pervasive global idiocy also includes our racist trigger happy police forces such as the infamous RCMP in Canada for example which was not only created as a racist entity, it is plagued by corruption and incompetence like any other cops in our global corporatist police states. Let’s be honest; the farcical laws of our representative governments were drafted by power elites. The real “golden rule” is not a minimalist ethical principle, but rather an adage that means “those with the gold make the rules”. These laws and their biased corrupt courts serve the interests of ruling elites which are the real criminals - bankers, financial parasites such as hedge funds, billionaire creeps like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk Ox and the careerist war mongering politicians who are free to do whatever they please with total impunity. The bought and paid for Elections every four years, like our phoney “democracy”, are of mere exercises in tragedy and farce which is why half of people eligible to vote don’t show up at the polls. But of course most people today suffer from alienation, atomization, chronic depression, anomie and various degrees of ADHD and OCD and likely don’t even know an election has been called.
For example, the typical mother I see walking down the sidewalk in front of our home has two or three huge dogs in tow while pushing a baby carriage, completely oblivious to the child or dogs that deposit coiled turds on other people’s property – all the while staring at her 7 inch cell phone screen 24-7. They will clean up the mess if they think no one is looking, picking up the smelly slime and depositing it in a plastic bag. T But what do they do with this upon arriving home? Often the bag with the dog dung from their Irish Wolf hound or other massive canine is dropped on the sidewalk or on someone else’s property. We’ve produced a whole generation of walking dead solipsists and zombies. Literacy and writing skills are in free fall and innumeracy is rampant. In Canada it’s a national disgrace but particularly appalling is the United States where over half the population is functionally illiterate. Ironically a country like Cuba that the US once controlled as a dictatorial colonial master while the American mafia controlled Havana until the revolution of 1959 after which it has been subjected to embargoes to the present time has a literacy rate that’s 5th in the world as opposed to the USA which is 22nd. Economic sanctions and embargoes are typical ploys by the USA for governments that don’t follow their orders as is currently happening to Russia with the war in Ukraine. Failing that they bomb the targeted country into oblivion.
On TV people are sadly but rightly portrayed as inept unthinking bumbling fools who with their undisciplined kids and multiple pets, behave in a similar cavalier, uncaring and irrational manner. You’ve likely seen, for example, the ads for Scott Towels in which we’re told are a necessity in order to clean up the messes and home disasters that would be avoidable for any properly parented person before attending grade school.
Then there are the inane non-stop TV ads for totally useless products and activities that in a more “civilized” prior world were illegal – such as the aforementioned lotteries, waste of time and money online gambling that involve betting on pro sports, payday loan sharks and reverse mortgages peddled by pathetic know nothing serpents like Bill Good, Wayne Gretzky and other shameless celebrities lacking a moral compass. The list is endless because in today’s world of illogic, postmodernist notions of epistemic and moral relativism, disinformation, misinformation, deceit, fake news, propaganda, mindless patriotism and nationalism, endless bullshit and non-stop entertainment - ANYTHING GOES, justified by the capitalist vile maxim of “profit before all else”. The truth is capitalists and their conservative neo-fascist government subsidized system of greed don’t give a rat’s ass about the poor or ordinary working wage slaves other than their utility value when they hire for them for chump change with no benefits such as holiday pay or health care. And where is much of your tax money being deployed today? Billions of dollars of financing for mercenaries, military training and murderous weapons are being sent to Ukraine to kill Russians, most of whom are ordinary deluded working class young men, like the ones the USA and their killing arm NATO send to countries that they think need to be trashed because their leaders are too left wing.
To update the Johnny Paycheck song – “Take this world and shove it”.
Notwithstanding the irrationalities and fairy tales of organized religion, anti-intellectualism, credulity, refusal to think and willed ignorance have always been with us throughout human history. Currently our so-called capitalist “democracies” and Western liberal “civilizations” are undergoing serious moral and cognitive crises. These crises have been exacerbated by a multiplicity of causes, not the least of which is the denigration of classical liberalism, the philosophy of postmodernism, identity politics, dubious assumptions of multiculturalism, conspiracy fantasies and the conflation of fact and opinion and knowledge and belief that are promoted by various cyberspace platforms of misinformation and disinformation. When combined with modern communications technology, this critique lands us in a cognitive and moral abyss in which nothing is true, pretty much anything is possible and anything goes as long as there is a profit to be made. The aforementioned lotteries and online gambling madness are two of the latest irrational obsessions, activities that, not unlike rigged Vegas casinos, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of probability and statistics would never waste their time and money with such mindless “entertainment”. As the late philosopher of education Neil Postman argued over three decades ago in one of his books with the title Amusing Ourselves to Death, our anti-intellectual world is becoming dumber and dumber. His analysis was spot on and his words prophetic; if only he were alive today to witness the cyberspace automatons and cell phone addicted zombies with their faces glaring into 7” screen 24-7?
The approaches taken to facts, truth and theory that arose from the Renaissance, Humanist Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution that sparked advances in mathematics, science and the notions of freedom and democracy of classical liberalism was grounded in trust in a socio-economic system of freedom of thought and exchange that accepted two basic rules. First, since science is tentative, no one gets the final say because knowledge must be based on empirical evidence, experimentation, fact and theory and not the authority of any one person. Added to this we need to adhere to principles of logic supplemented by a series of rational techniques and methodologies that seek either to verify empirical propositions through causation, inductive reasoning and propositions that are falsifiable by the conditions advocated by the late philosopher of science Karl Popper. These various techniques are generally known as the scientific method. Knowledge about the external world is a cumulative collaborative process and peer review by which those methodologies are applied. The process is very likely to be open-ended since its conclusions and theories are never more than probable and therefore tentatively true. For many scientific theories such as Newton’s Universal Gravitation and Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory, study of modern Physics and Biology would be impossible. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that some of our beliefs and theories about how the world beyond our subjective consciousness works are not more plausible or more explanatory than others. We can speculate about the ideas embedded in the supernatural assumptions of theism, movies such as The Matrix or paranormal hypotheses such as a non-physical world of ghosts, goblins or gods, bizarre hypothesis such as panpsychism or solipsism, but we have no good reason to believe in these ideas than existing in a simulated netherworld controlled by a super-intelligence or any other wild conjecture conjured up by our wild and crazy dream world brains.
Unfortunately with the growth of technology and medical advances that have cured many former killer diseases and the dark side of destructive weapons inventions that led to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the numerous mushroom cloud toxic radioactive testing that took place in the post World War II era of the phony Cold War, science has increasing been associated with corporate and state power. The compelling clever arguments of postmodernist such as Theodore Adorno, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, Jacques Derrida and others have claimed that the philosophy and language of modern science have contributed to overpopulation, desecration of the natural world, weapons of mass destruction and an instrument of power and control over the masses by corporate and political elites. Michel Foucault, in a series of exceptional books, argued that the language of modern natural science was invoked to conceal the exercise of power. To cite just a few, consider the definition of madness and mental illness (graphically exemplified in the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the use of mass incarceration to punish certain groups of undesirables including racial profiling, political dissenters and other forms of counter-culture behavior, medical categorizations of sexual deviancy and other practices that were not based on unbiased dispassionate empirical observation. Rather, they reflected the interests of broader power structures that desired the control and subordination of different classes of people, often the poor and other oppressed people. This included dissenters and counter-culture groups such as SDS, peace and environmental activists and the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 70s. The supposedly objective language of modern natural science shrouded these interests in ways that concealed the influence of the power elites and their enablers in the state apparatus. Citizens were thereby unconsciously manipulated into assimilating and affirming the dominance of certain ideas and the powerful groups that endorsed and promoted them.
The overlying premise of the Enlightenment liberal project is that if you erase all the customs and accumulated cultural baggage that each of us carries, you’ll find an underlying axiomatic moral principal that we all share and can recognize in one another. It is this mutual recognition of fairness and justice that most preschool children seem to understand that enable democratic deliberation and reciprocation. However, this idea has been challenged with the growing awareness of our identity’s complexities. Individuals are not the innate autonomous agents of liberal theory but are rather shaped by broader social, cultural and political influences over which they have little or no control. Knowledge is not an abstract cognitive undertaking, but is intimately bound up with learning, indoctrination, propaganda, doing, acting and being acted on. As the existentialist philosopher of freedom and human agency, Jean Paul Sartre, one said, “Freedom is what we do with what has been done to us”. It is difficult, even impossible for many, to reject many of these inculcated ideas, because they begin from early childhood. Consider the indoctrination of many children into the superstitions and obscurantism of organized religions such as Christianity and Islam. Most rarely, if ever, question these doctrines that have been pounded into their craniums since they emerged from the womb.
The transcendental temptation, most exemplified in mainstream monotheisms and other supernatural religious fantasies, have always been with us. But trans-humanism, AI and other wild quasi-religious secular speculations related to our digitalized and computerized world are slowly encroaching on and even replacing religious faith. In first year philosophy courses most students for the first time will be typically exposed to an invaluable segment on logic and critical thinking. Attempts to introduce students to such courses in the public schools have been thwarted at every step by conservative powers in the community, particularly mainstream religions such as Christianity who shudder at the thought that their kids may come to question their inculcated superstitions - for which the evidence is zero. But the conservative secular power elites fear the same, that people might challenge their fraudulent claims to moral and intellectual superiority and justifiable power.
Moreover, in most freshman philosophy courses the student will also be exposed to wild metaphysical hypotheses about what will include trite and oft-repeated thought experiments like Plato's Cave, Zhuangzi's dream of the butterfly, to question physical reality as we experience it and to decide whether it is real and true - or rather false or hallucinatory. One of the most common examples is the inane claims of Bishop Berkeley that physical reality does not exist- but not to fret since the Christian sky daddy is merely providing the illusion of physicality. So when you fall down a flight of stairs, the pain is not “real” because the fictitious deity is controlling everything, including the illusion of pain. I can recall friends who took LSD back in the 1960s who claimed they had crossed over to another dimension of “reality”; one friend in particular wanted to kill himself on one of these “trips”. Perhaps in the dark days of the covid-19 plague if you fantasize about some decadent Caribbean cruise, you might instead consider saving thousands of dollars by dropping a couple of tabs of acid. The same can be said about the obsession with and proliferation of pets, especially dogs which are incredibly large and/or ugly that defecate anywhere and everywhere (including my precious lawn), eating people out of house and home while incurring outrageous veterinarian bills; after all, dogs don’t have health plans but they get sick and die just like humans. I suggest simplifying your life on the cheap by considering a pet rock which was an idea spun out by some clever “entrepreneur” who never underestimated the credulity and stupidity of most people. But hey, they don’t pee or crap on your carpet, don’t eat much, don’t smell and are very low maintenance. You also might consider a simulacrum canine. I admit to a few biases rational or not, regarding unpredictable dogs which after being attacked as a kid several times and more than once jogging through our neighborhood, I’m still terrified of them.
On a related issue of the parallel universes and the simulacrum, the often heard ludicrous claim that everything is a simulation or that we are mere brains in a vat controlled by an omnipotent super mind are logically incoherent. Conceptual difficulties notwithstanding, how can notions such as fake, simulation, virtual reality or counterfeit have any meaning without some accepted truths regarding phenomena such as the physically real, authentic and genuine. For example, without collapsing into incoherence and conceptual confusion, how can counterfeit money be conceived without acknowledging pre-existing genuine currency? In order to maintain logical consistency, anyone assuming an alternative simulacrum or virtual reality world would require REALITY as a major premise. Fake news assumes that there must be news that is true, although there’s precious little of the latter from our ass kissing sycophantic echo chamber corporate media.
But religion and pseudoscientific rubbish are not the only irrational global beliefs that have mesmerized the masses. Consider the entire edifice and hegemony of neoclassical economics and its various mutations that have taken us to the current dogmas of neo-fascist neo-liberal capitalism that destroys the natural environment and exploits the masses like a totalitarian Godzilla over the entire planet, what one dissenting economist called techno-feudalism. Yet the neo-liberal doctrines of privatization of everything, exploitation of wage labor, plunder of the natural world which is rapidly disappearing and profit that takes precedence over everything, global warming and ecosystem destruction, shocking species extinction, obscene glaring economic disparities, monopolization and financial predation are presented as inevitable and immutable. This is dogmatism that equals or surpasses the most harsh, anti-liberal and calcified religion. Moreover this moral degeneracy of capitalism and its economic hocus pocus with its mathematical mysticism and mumbo jumbo is presented as a neutral objective application of mathematics and the scientific method to the study of economics about which renown economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote,”The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable” and as for his phony self-described liberal - but calcified capitalist conservative colleagues - he remarked, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” Among social “scientists”, economists have gone the farthest in attempting to justify their highly dubious hypotheses (certainly they are not “theories” in the scientific sense) with abstract arcane mathematical models, and in developing a rigorous empirical methodology such as “the invisible hand of the market” (the capitalist deity) and absurdities such as “the efficient market hypothesis” (EMH) to validate their nefarious machinations and manipulated deceptions. In an excellent book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winning cognitive scientist and economist Daniel Kahneman, he had a little more than contempt for stock market analysts and stock pickers are no more accurate than monkeys throwing feces at one another.
Even the three mainstream religions of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism have endorsed the principle of “greed is good” and god wants you to be rich with their so-called prosperity gospel sermons. Deregulation, privatization and a strict defense of physical and intellectual property rights are relentlessly peddled by wealthy corporations and so-called enterprising “entrepreneurs” (vulture capitalists), self-described individualists who flourish with the endorsement of lobbyists (aka bribery experts), “think” tanks and hired gun big-name Ivy League economist alchemists hacks to write bogus academic theses justifying policies of plunder for the billionaire CEOs and banking mafia dons.
A recent book now in paperback by Irish physicist David Robert Grimes titled Good Thinking: Why Flawed Logic puts us all at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World is one of the best on logic, logical fallacies and critical thought I’ve read in years. Check it out.
Listen to the late Carl Sagan, one of my intellectual heroes and his prophetic words from 25 years ago on the Johnny Carson Show. If you read only one book by Sagan, make it The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Sagan died of cancer about 10 months after this interview.
Original Article from my friend:
Teaching Mathematics from World War II to the Current Postmodern FUBAR World
Math in 1950...
Teaching Math in 1970...
Math in 1990...
4. Teaching Math in 2000...
A logger sells a truckload of timber for $100.
5. Teaching Math in 2015...